European Space Agency director-general says British political and funding arrangements are an 'anomaly' 

In the next few weeks European Space Agency director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain plans to meet the UK government minister responsible for space Malcolm Wicks.

Dordain will discuss many topics, but wants specifically to raise the issue of UK involvement in the European Union and ESA Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme.

At the space policy review session of the UK parliamentary science and technology committee held last week Dordain called on the UK to get more involved in GMES, which will be part of the new joint EU/ESA space policy to be announced in May.

© ESA   
The ERS-2 spaceflight will feed environmental data to GMES

"I would like more UK support for Earth observation, environment and security. The UK does not have its place there [yet]. The UK has the second largest GDP [of member states], but is only fifth or sixth in [ESA membership] contributions," says Dordain, adding that it would be weeks not months before he meets Wicks.

The UK government department that has been expected to provide substantial GMES funds is the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

During the parliamentary meeting ESA space science chief David Southwood expressed the view that there was a "confidence deficit" about GMES within DEFRA and a "failure" on the part of ESA and others to change that.

In a wider discussion about how the UK space policy relates to projects like GMES and how it organises its budget, Dordain referred to the UK political and funding arrangement for space as an "anomaly" among ESA member states that largely have space agencies with their own budgets.

The UK has a national space centre, membership of which is voluntary for the government departments that make it up.

UKSPACE, the UK space industry body, told Flight International that a perception problem within UK government departments occured because of an inherent conflict in the UK's policy of being a user of space-based systems while its industry is trying to win contracts to help develop space-based infrastructure. GMES will use existing scientific satellites to provide data to users but also envisages a constellation of new Sentinel spacecraft.

At the end of the parliamentary committee meeting its chairman commended Dordain when he pointed out that the UK launcher policy was to buy from the market, but due to political decisions by launch-capable states the UK was left with only European rockets, the launch services for which are all managed by Arianespace.

Source: Flight International