Ariane 5. Photo ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organisation made up of 22 Member States dedicated to the research and development of space programmes, whereby the coordination of the economic and intellectual resources of its members makes it possible to carry out programmes and activities of greater scope than could be undertaken by any individual European country.

Spain is one of the initial signatories of ESA's founding Convention, and its participation as a member state involves an annual commitment based on mandatory and optional programmes. Long-term binding commitments to participate in certain programmes are made at Ministerial Councils held every three or four years. The most recent Ministerial Council was held in Paris on 22 and 23 November 2022.

Spain's contribution to the 2022 Ministerial Council in Paris once again reaffirmed the importance and strategic nature of space in Spain. Spain's annual contribution to the organisation increased by 20%, following the 25% increase of the previous Ministerial Council held in Seville in 2019.

The ESA Ministerial Council was held in Paris in November 2022, building on the successful Ministerial Council hosted by Spain in 2019 (Space19+). A total of €16.9 billion was pledged at this meeting, a new all-time record, exceeding by 17% the amount pledged in 2019. As regards Spain, the new commitments amounted to €932 million, 9% more than in 2019. Overall, since 2018, Spain has increased its annual contribution by 50%, from €200 million to the current €300 million.

Over the last 20 years, the Spanish space industry has advanced from a secondary position in the value chain to leadership in subsystems with high technological content and added value and in the development and integration of instruments, platforms, satellites and complete ground segments.

This has been possible by progressively increasing its contribution to the ESA, the main source of training for Spanish entities, which seeks to bring it closer to levels proportional to Spain's relative GDP. This is helping the Spanish sector to increase its technological capacity and boost its competitiveness in institutional programmes with no "geographical return" (EU and EUMETSAT) as well as in the commercial market.

In addition, for the first time since 1992, the ESA Ministerial Council selected two Spanish astronauts to join the new ESA astronaut corps: Pablo Álvarez and Sara García.

The most significant projects and programmes led by Spain during these years of growth include (non-exhaustive list):

  • AmerHis telecommunications payload. Main Contractor (TAS-E).
  • Earth observation satellite, SMOS. Payload main contractor (ADS España), responsible for data processing subsystem (INDRA) and scientific co-lead (CSIC).
  • Small-Geo telecommunications satellite. Payload main contractor (TAS-E).
  • Proba 3 technology satellite. Main training flight contractor (SENER) and main platform contractor (ADS España).
  • CHEOPS satellite for the detection of exoplanets. Main contractor ADS España.
  • Leadership (ADS España) of the ICI instrument of the meteorological satellite MetOp-SG of the European body operating meteorological satellites (EUMETSAT).
  • Leadership of the TAS-E communications system, the MWR instrument of the Sentinel-3 satellite (ADS España), the Sentinel-3 satellite archive processing centre (INDRA), the precise orbit control centre (GMV) and the download station (INTA), all under the EU-led Copernicus programme.
  • Leadership of the European part of the SMILE mission in cooperation with China (ADS España).
  • Leadership for the first time of an EU mission of the Copernicus LSTM (Land Surface Temperature Monitoring) programme by ADS España.
  • Leadership of the Ka-band and X-band payload of the Spainsat NG national communications mission.
  • Maintenance and development of the Galileo Ground Control Segment (GCS), a major contractor agreement in the EU environment.
  • CPF (Corrections Processing Facility) and GCC (Ground Control Centre) elements of the SouthPAN System in Australia and New Zealand, commercial contract for more than €180 million.
  • European GNSS Evolution Programme (EGEP), aiming to research, develop and verify technologies related to regional space-based augmentation systems (SBAS) and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). The European SBAS system is EGNOS.

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