How many countries send astronauts into space

The ESA: facts and figures


What is the ESA?

The European Space Agency ESA is Europe's gateway to space. It coordinates and promotes the development of European space travel - and ensures that investments in this area bring lasting benefits to all Europeans.

The ESA currently has 22 member states. By bundling the financial resources and know-how of the individual countries, it enables the implementation of programs and projects that none of the member states could ever set up on its own. In this context, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) represents the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany at ESA. Switzerland's interests are represented by the Swiss Space Office (SSO). The aerospace agency of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG represents Austria's interests at ESA on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.

What does the ESA do?

The ESA's task is to design and implement the joint European space program. The objectives of their projects are accordingly diverse - from the exploration of the earth, its immediate surroundings, the solar system and the universe to the development of satellite-based technologies and services to the promotion of various European high-tech industries. In order to ensure that the knowledge and inventions gained not only benefit Europe, but also all of humanity, ESA also works intensively with non-European space organizations and other space institutions.

Who is part of the ESA??

The 22 member states of the ESA are: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Canada participates in various projects through a cooperation agreement. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia are "European Cooperation States".

From this list it quickly becomes clear: Not all EU member states also belong to the ESA - and vice versa. In fact, the ESA is a completely autonomous and independent organization. However, it naturally maintains close relations with the EU through an ESA / EC framework agreement. Among other things, the two organizations share a common European space strategy and jointly develop European space policy.

Where is ESA located?

The ESA is headquartered in Paris, where decisions for future projects are made. In addition, however, the ESA has other centers throughout Europe, each with different areas of responsibility:

  • The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC), based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, is the development and test center for most ESA spacecraft.
  • The European Satellite Control Center ESOC (European Space Operations Center) is responsible for monitoring the ESA satellites in near-earth or interplanetary orbit and is located in Darmstadt, Germany. ESA's space security program, which includes activities in the space debris, space weather and asteroids, is also located within ESOC.
  • The European Astronaut Center EAC (European Astronauts Center) trains astronauts for future missions and is located in Cologne, Germany.
  • The European Space Research Institute ESRIN is located in Frascati near Rome in Italy. Its tasks include the collection, storage and distribution of satellite data to the ESA partners and the function as the information technology center of the organization.
  • At the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Villafranca, Spain, the scientific data of all astronomical and planetary ESA missions converge in so-called "science operation centers" and are archived there.
  • The European Center for Space Applications and Telecommunications ECSAT in Harwell, Oxfordshire, UK specializes in partnerships and commercialization of space activities.
  • The European Space Security and Education Center ESEC in Redu, Belgium, is a competence center for cyber security services in space. It also houses the Proba mission control centers, the space weather data center, the ESA education center and part of the ESA ground station network.

ESA also maintains liaison offices in the USA, Russia and Belgium, a spaceport in French Guiana and ground stations (“tracking stations”) for communication with the ESA satellites and probes in various parts of the world.

How many people does ESA employ?

In 2019, ESA employs around 2,300 highly qualified employees from all member states - scientists, engineers, IT specialists and administrative employees.

How is the ESA funded?

The ESA activities can be divided into a "compulsory program" and a number of optional programs. The compulsory program, which includes the space research programs and the general budget, is financed jointly by all member states. The proportional contribution of the individual states is based on the respective gross domestic product. With regard to the optional programs, however, it is up to each individual state whether and to what extent it participates.

How big is the ESA budget?

The ESA's estimated budget for 2020 is 6.7 billion euros. The ESA works according to the principle of a geographic return flow, i.e. it invests through industrial contracts for space programs in each member state amounts that roughly correspond to the contribution monies of the respective country.

How much do EU citizens spend on ESA each year?

European per capita investment in space is comparatively low. Every citizen of an ESA member state pays taxpayers' money around the amount of a visit to the cinema for space travel expenses. In the United States, investment in civil space is nearly four times as high.

How is the ESA structured?

The ESA's steering body is the ESA Council. This takes the fundamental decisions that define the framework for the development of the European space program. Regardless of the size and contribution made, each member state is represented with one vote on the ESA Council.

The ESA is headed by a Director General who is elected every four years by the ESA Council. Each research division also has its own directorate, which reports to the general director. Acting General Director of ESA is Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johann-Dietrich Woerner.

Contacts to ESA

ESA HQ Bertrand
24 rue du Général Bertrand
CS 30798
75345 Paris CEDEX 7

ESA HQ thumbnails
52 rue Jacques Hillairet
5012 Paris

European Satellite Control Center (ESOC)
European Space Agency / European Space Operations Center
Robert-Bosch-Str. 5
D - 64293 Darmstadt
Tel .: +49 - 6151 - 900

European Astronauts Center (EAC)
Linder height
D-51147 Cologne
Tel .: +49 - 2203 600 1-0

ESA communication offices

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