PARIS — The European Space Agency (ESA) has been granted a 10 percent budget increase for 2005 to finance continued investment in launch vehicles and to pay for large new bills coming from its space-station program.
Disclosing the spending plan here Jan. 21, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said that despite the budget increase, 2005 would be a year of belt-tightening to help clear away a deficit that has accumulated in the past several years and now exceeds 600 million euros ($780 million).
Topping the line items for 2005 will be the agency’s launcher program, which accounts for some 22 percent of the total budget. Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to fly in its new, more-powerful version in February. That flight was funded by ESA, and thecommercial-launch consortium has been granted a five-year, $1 billion financial-aid package that starts this year.
The agency also is financing a launch pad for Russia’s Soyuz rocket at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, and development of the Vega small launch vehicle. Both programs are scheduled to conduct launches starting in 2007.
At 663.5 million euros, the launcher program budget has been increased by nearly 45 percent compared to 2004.
Spending on ESA’s human spaceflight program, centered on participation in the U.S.-led international space station, is increasing by 22 percent in 2005 as payments come due to complete Europe’s Columbus laboratory module and the unmanned space tug, called the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).
The ATV, designed to dock with the space station, deliver supplies and raise the station’s orbit, may make its first flight in late 2005 depending on the overall space-station schedule and ATV’s readiness, Dordain said.
ESA’s science program budget will have less money to work with this year, mainly because it must repay a loan to the agency’s general fund. Totaling about 30 million euros, the loan paid for expenses associated with the year-long delay in the launch of ESA’s Rosetta comet-chaser satellite, which was launched in March 2004.
The loan repayment means the science program budget will have 5.6 percent less money this year than last.
ESA’s 2.977 billion euro spending plan for 2005 is aided in part by a contribution of 172.7 million euros coming from the Commission of the 25-nation European Union (EU). The commission’s funding mainly pays for the Galileo satellite-navigation program. The budget also is aided by a total of 2.2 million euros contributed by Hungary and the Czech Republic, both new ESA cooperating states.
That program’s delays have forced ESA managers to shift money allocated for 2004 into 2005. But the previous year’s allocation does not show up on the budget charts. That is why the navigation budget line, at 314.4 million euros, shows a decrease from 2004 despite the substantial spending expected in 2005.
Dordain still must find ESA’s 50 percent share of the unplanned new costs for Galileo that are expected to total around 300 million euros. ESA and the EU Commission have yet to agree formally on how to divide these additional charges — due in part to delays in the program’s approval by European governments.
Securing these new funds for Galileo may not be easy.
Sergio Vetrella, president of the Italian Space Agency — ESA’s third-largest contributor after France and Germany — said he would be skeptical of any major new funding requests for Galileo. “Programs have budgets and should stay within them,” Vetrella said in an interview.
Dordain has said he needs to reduce the financial risk associated with Galileo, the new Ariane 5 rocket and the international space station this year so that ESA can propose new initiatives to its member governments’ ministers at a conference now scheduled for December.
The agency’s first priority is ESA governments’ endorsement of a broad Earth observation program called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, to be run jointly with the EU Commission. A second priority for the ministerial conference, he said, is a space-exploration program to assure Europe’s participation in a global space exploration effort, perhaps led by the United States.
A third priority, he said, is a technology-development program to assure European access to certain satellite electronics, gyroscope and other technologies deemed critical. “The program would be to avoid a strategic dependence on some technologies for which there is no European source, or for which the European source is not competitive,” Dordain said.
The agency is spending about 3 million euros this year to start a technology-autonomy program, he said.