Josef Aschbache – Director General at ESA prioritizes future plans for his tenure
In the opinion of ESA Director General – Josef Aschbacher, Europe requires a serious debate on the future plans of space in order to maintain a role as a global leader. The new director at ESA (European Space Agency) outlines a list of his priorities for the next couple of years. The priorities range from better relations with the European Union along with the improvement in commercial activities.
On 7th April, the agency released the ESA Agenda 2025 document. The document expresses the new director general’s wish to use ESA to strengthen relations with Europe with an aim to retain his role as a global leader in space.
Josef Aschbacher, “It is my personal view that Europe needs to have a serious debate on where it sees itself in the next 10 – 15 years in space.” The statement is said during a call with the reporters to understand the document which is 17 pages long. It also includes space’s roles in the economic and strategic plans in order to bring new energy, excitement, and inspiration via newer space programs.
Priorities listed by ESA’s new Director-General for the next 5 years of his tenure include:
- Strengthen ties with the European Union
- Increase in commercialization activities
- To develop strong security programs for space
- Identify solutions in order to resolve critical system challenges
- Transformation of ESA’s internal processes so that efficiency is maintained
Strengthening ties with the European Union is the topmost on the priority list because the ties in recent years are strained due to higher space ambitions by the EU. Cooperation from the EU with ESA is in association with Galileo’s satellite navigation program and Copernicus series of Earth observation satellites. However, the EU does have an interest in newer efforts like a broadband satellite constellation and to create a European Union Space Program Agency to supervise its activities.
Mr. Aschbacher ensures his desire of ESA being the “go-to space agency” for EU activities earlier this year. He said, “An immediate priority is to finalize Financial Framework Partnership Agreement (FFPA) between EU and ESA which is pending for a long.” However, Josef negates to share further details on the reasons for the delay of the deal. He added, “So far, the progress is positive, and both organizations have a strong intention to progress ahead smoothly. We hope to complete the agreement mid this year and get necessary approvals.”
A part of the effort in order to improve the EU and ESA relations is because of the proposal. The proposal is for a Space Summit conference in 2022 spring. This proposal can bring together the European nations for a head of state-level meeting to discuss Europe’s space plan. The meeting can be a forum to release information about a new European flagship space program.
Another priority is to support commercial space activities in Europe. This priority is in response to the growth of American space startups. The investment by private players in the US is much higher than that in Europe. The agenda outlines 3 ways to support the commercial space activities in Europe which are as follows:
- Encouraging talent to stay in Europe
- To improve contracting mechanisms and partnerships in order to provide demand for European space startups
- To speed up internal processes of ESA’s working with other companies
In conclusion, he believes that it is vital to improving relations between the United States and the EU. It is best under the Biden administration which may also offer newer space opportunities.