March 18, 2021


ESA Council convened by videoconference for its 296th session on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 March, the first for the new Director General, Josef Aschbacher, who was appointed for a four-year term in December 2020 and took up his post on 1 March. ESA is an intergovernmental organization of 22 member states.

This 296th session addressed two major issues: the mechanism designed to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on Europe’s space industry and measures to maintain the launch industry base over the 2020-2022 period.

On the basis of several audits conducted from July to October 2020 to assess the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on Europe’s space sector, a draft Act in Council was tabled not only to address additional incurred costs but also to stabilize ESA’s industrial costs and firm up its project schedules. Discussions on this matter will be pursued up to the next session of Council in June, where member states will be able to ratify the Act in Council and confirm their funding contributions in support of industry stakeholders, on top of the exceptional measures already adopted to sustain and protect the European space industry ecosystem. In France, Thales Alenia Space in Cannes and Toulouse, ArianeGroup in Les Mureaux and Airbus Defence & Space in Toulouse are among the 14 main industrial facilities affected.

For launchers, the ESA Executive proposed a production plan for Ariane 6 and P120C engines. With Vega-C’s and Ariane 6’s maiden flights now slated for next year, the industry base needs to be preserved in the intervening period to create the right conditions for the transition and operation phases of Europe’s launchers.

Lastly, looking ahead to the entry into force of the Space regulation streamlining governance of the EU’s space programmes, the Executive recalled its intention to quickly reach agreement with the European Commission on the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement (FFPA) setting out how the Commission, its future agency in charge of EU space programmes (EU SPA) and ESA will work together.

Pascale Bresson     Press Officer     Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39
Raphaël Sart    Head of Media    Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 74 51