The European Space Agency (ESA) is allocating $545 million of its $2.13 billion 2000/1 budget to launchers, mainly upgrades to the Ariane 5.

For the first time, the ESA budget also features funding for Europe's two-stage satellite navigation programme - the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System and Galileo. Much of the $82 million will go towards the independent Galileo system.

Although the Italian-led Vega low-Earth orbit launcher programme is not included in ESA's budget, the agency could still go ahead with the project. Further talks are to continue with France, which has withdrawn from the programme, and Italy, which threatens to pull out from Ariane 5 upgrade work if the Vega is ignored.

Funding for Earth observation work has dropped by more than 20%, to $664 million, now most of the work on the Envisat 1 polar platform has been completed and ESA moves towards its Living Planet programme.

Meanwhile, ESA has given final approval to the design of the 1,070kg (2,350lb) Mars Express orbiter, which will be launched in June 2003 with a $41 million, 60kg piggyback payload, the UK's Beagle 2 lander.

Source: Flight International