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ESA boosts science, delays Kliper


The European Space Agency’s (ESA) ministerial council has agreed to increase its mandatory science spending by 2.5% a year until 2010, but delayed a decision to co-operate on Russia’s Kliper spacecraft.

The 2006-2010 budget meeting, held in Berlin on 5-6 December, allocated €3.1 billion ($3.6 billion) to the science programmes, restoring their buying power, which had been whittled away by inflation.

But the agency dealt a blow to co-operation hopes for Russia’s reusable spacecraft. Of its 17 member states, only Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands provided money for Kliper, totalling €8 million.

ESA required €30 million from member states, to start what had been proposed as a two-year, €50 million project. “We will keep the money of the states that have contributed. The decision has been postponed by several months. It has never been an important issue for ministers. Launchers and the ISS [International Space Station] were the important issues,” says ESA human spaceflight, exploration and microgravity director Daniel Sacotte.

The meeting approved budgets for new programmes or those that needed to be renewed. ESA’s proposed budget for 2006-10 was €8.4 billion, but the ministers approved only €8.25 billion. Although this equates to €2.06 billion a year, the inclusion of ongoing approved programmes means the agency´s annual budget will remain at about €3 billion.

The ministers also agreed to make the European Ariane 5 and Vega launchers and French Guiana-launched Soyuz the first choice for ESA payloads.

ROB COPPINGER / BERLIN

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