Julian Moxon/PARIS

The European Space Agency (ESA) intends to "shape the future of the space sector in Europe" at the forthcoming ministerial meeting in Brussels on 11 and 12 May. It has set the Galileo global navigation satellite system as the principal target for its new way of doing business.

Ministers of the 14 ESA states will be asked to endorse the agency's strategy and to decide on new programmes for 1999-2006. ESA director for strategy and technical assessment Jacques Dordain says that the "new ESA" will implement improvements, including "more co-operation with our European partners, and development of public/private partnerships to help fund major programmes".

ESA director-general Antonio Rodota wants the agency to work towards a "more market oriented, competitive approach" that will achieve savings by introducing more competition at industry level. He admits, however, that there are no plans to modify significantly the policy of "just returns", under which each contributor to a programme has to receive work in proportion to its financial input.

The Galileo system will be the first example of such a partnership, although Dordain says the details of how it will work will not be known until the definition phase is completed in December next year. "One thing is for sure, it will not be 90% public. We expect private interests to take a major role in Galileo once we can be more clear about the potential returns on investment," he says.

ESA is requesting 1.85 billion euros ($2 billion) for the science programme - its main activity. This includes funding for missions under way, such as the Hubble space telescope and the Huygens/ Cassini flight to Saturn, and for those under development, including the XMM X-Ray Multimirror and Cluster II magnetosphere missions, the Integral international gamma ray laboratory and the Rosetta comet analysis mission. The new Mars Express mission has been approved, but on condition that resources are available.

A further 759 million euros is being requested for the optional earth observation programme.

Source: Flight International