IN FOCUS: ESA's key green-light projects for 2013-2017

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Some of the main programmes European Space Agency member states meeting in Naples have agreed to fund for the 2013-2017 period include:

*Ariane 6: detailed definition study, development approval slated for 2014. This modular system is intended as a more flexible, more capable and more economical replacement for Ariane 5; first flight 2021.

*Ariane 5 ME: continued development; further approval slated for 2014. A 20% payload boost to 12t at no added launch cost should bridge the gap to Ariane 6; first flight 2017.

*Service module for NASA's Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: ESA's contribution to International Space Station running costs will build on technology developed for its Automated Transfer Vehicle, and mark Europe's first foray into manned vehicles; first flight 2017.

*Vega: the new small launcher's Consolidation and Evolution Preparation Programme (VECEP) will concentrate on robustness and cost reduction.

*Future Launchers Preparatory Programme: technology development to support all launchers, including hybrid propulsion and propellant storage.

*Re-entry vehicle: IXV programme aims to develop a small, reusable spaceplane; first test launch 2014.

*Guyana Space Centre: continued funding of Europe's Kourou spaceport.

*Earth observation: new Earth Explorer missions to follow up work done by gravity, soil and icecap monitoring satellites such as GOCE, SMOS and CryoSat.

*MetOp: new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites; for operation from 2020.

*GMES: with planned missions including Jason-CS and Sentinel-5, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme will maintain data on sea level and atmospheric composition; first launches 2013-2014.

*Mars: two-mission ExoMars landings to proceed (launches 2016 and 2018), along with Mars Robotic Exploration Programme preparation for international sample return mission.

*Deep space exploration: Gaia (charting our galaxy, launch 2013), LISA Pathfinder (attempt to detect gravity waves, launch 2014), BepiColombo (mission to Mercury, launch 2015), Euclid (dark matter study, launch 2020), JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), launch 2022, Solar Orbiter (close-up Sun study, launch 2017).