— The European Space Agency (ESA) is asking its 18 member governments to spend 340 million euros ($433 million) for early development of a restartable upper-stage engine for
‘s Ariane 5 rocket as part of a 10-billion-euro, 3-year spending package to be presented for approval Nov. 25-26, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said Nov. 10.

ESA also will ask for 240 million euros to develop a data-relay satellite system to include three identical optical and Ka-band payloads to be placed on one dedicated data-relay satellite and as piggyback passengers on two commercial telecommunications satellites.

ESA governments are scheduled to meet Nov. 25-26 in
The Hague
, to vote on a multiyear ESA spending package, a meeting that occurs about every three years.

In a briefing here with journalists, Dordain said he already has had to trim numerous program proposals and that even now, he is not certain the agency will be able to win support for the full 10-billion-euro package.

One example: Dordain said he wanted ESA’s space science budget to be given a 5 percent annual increase. Science is one of the few ESA programs that depend on mandatory contributions from ESA governments, based on national economic output, and it requires unanimity among all 18 nations.

Several nations said 5 percent is too much, and Dordain is asking for the science budget to increase by 3.5 percent a year, with no adjustment for inflation. In 2008, ESA’s space science budget is 396.3 million euros.

said the proposed restartable cryogenic engine for Ariane 5’s upper stage would not be in service before 2017 at the earliest. ESA has been working on this Vinci engine for several years, and the 340 million euros to be requested this time will not be enough to complete development.

said it will cost “a lot more” than 340 million euros to get the Vinci-powered stage into operational status. How much more, he said, is unknown and will await a design review to be made around 2011.

ESA is asking that its governments approve a data-relay satellite system that would use a future Inmarsat satellite being developed with ESA funds, and one yet unselected commercial telecommunications satellite to carry a laser-optical intersatellite communications terminal and two Ka-band antennas.

A third payload would be placed on a dedicated data-relay satellite to be built by ESA, with the system to be in service by 2012.

The principal mission would be to speed delivery of Earth observation data from low-orbiting observation satellites to users via the data-relay spacecraft in geostationary orbit. System development costs for ESA are estimated at 240 million euros, Dordain said.

The agency also is asking its governments to fund three so-called Sentinel Earth observation satellites as part of the Kopernikus/GMES program of Earth observation. Three Sentinel satellites are under construction; each would have a nearly identical backup under the ESA proposal.

But because some ESA governments have balked at building the same satellite twice, saying a research agency should not be in the recurrent model business, Dordain has agreed to ask the Commission of the 27-nation European Union to launch the three duplicate Sentinels.

On ESA’s side, the budget request for Kopernikus/GMES, including the construction of the three additional Sentinels, is 850 million euros. The second-model Sentinels would be launched after 2013, meaning they would be taken from a European Commission budget that has not yet been voted. The commission votes seven-year budget periods, with the current period ending in 2013.

said he cannot pass up the opportunity to order a second model of each of the three Sentinels because they are necessary for Kopernikus/GMES to fulfill its goal of being an operational system, not a research exercise.

One of the biggest budget lines to be proposed by ESA relates to the use of the international space station between now and 2012. Dordain said the agency is asking for 1.4 billion euros for this period, with the budget including not just experiments for the station but also the construction of three more Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) unmanned cargo carriers, and early construction work on a fourth.

also wants 30 million euros to fund early design work on enhancing the ATV design to enable it to return cargo from the station. As currently designed, ATV is destroyed during a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

ESA will decide in 2011 whether to proceed with full-scale development of an ATV with a cargo return capability. Dordain said by then the international space station partners should have made a clear decision on whether the station will remain operational beyond 2015, the current, tentative station retirement date.

“If I asked for money to develop the ATV for cargo return from a space station that is being retired in 2015, my delegations could accuse me of not being serious,” Dordain said.

The 1.4 billion euros for station utilization, while including ATV development costs, does not include their launch aboard Ariane 5 rockets.