On 21 October, the ESA Council appointed three new ESA directors, for Commercialisation, Industry and Procurement, for Earth Observation Programmes as well as for Navigation.

his occurs in a context where boosting commercialisation for a green and digital Europe is one of the agency’s highest priorities.

Commercial space activities are growing quickly. New Space approaches have led to smaller, narrowly focused satellites and reduced launch costs. This has opened up space to new players and has led to lower prices of space products and services, and faster innovation.

To help European companies succeed in space, ESA has established a Directorate of Commercialisation, Industry and Procurement.

Its inaugural Director was named today as Ms Géraldine Naja. She will be responsible for helping to enable European space companies to be among the biggest and best, strongly contributing to a greener and more digital economic recovery. Ms Naja will take up duty on 1 November 2021.

Ms Naja was made acting Director for Commercialisation, Industry and Procurement at ESA in June 2021. A French national, she has held various roles at ESA since joining the agency more than three decades ago, including: Head of the Industrial Policy and Audit Department; Head of ESA’s EU Relations Office; and Head of Strategic and Institutional Matters in the Director General’s Policy Office.

Educated in political science, where she specialised in international relations and European matters at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Ms Naja holds a master’s degree in propulsion and chemistry from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées (ENSTA) and was a graduate engineer at Ecole Polytechnique prior to joining ESA. Between 2003 and 2004, she was seconded by ESA to be an advisor in charge of strategy in the Cabinet of the French Minister of Research and Higher Education.

Ms Simonetta Cheli has been appointed as Director of Earth Observation Programmes, succeeding Josef Aschbacher, who became ESA Director General in March 2021. She will take up duty on 1 January 2022.

An Italian national, Ms Cheli has worked at ESA for three decades in various roles within the Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, including: Head of the Strategy, Programme and Coordination Office; Head of Coordination Office; and Head of the Public and Institutional Relations Office.

She studied law and economics at Yale University before taking a degree in political sciences with a focus on international law at the University “Cesare Alfieri” in Florence, Italy. Ms Cheli holds a diploma of advanced studies (DEA), which she gained from the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques (CEDS) in Paris.

Mr Francisco-Javier Benedicto Ruiz has been appointed as Director of Navigation. He will take up duty on 16 February 2022. He is currently Head of the Galileo Programme Department within the Directorate of Navigation at ESA. A Spanish national, Mr Benedicto Ruiz spent his early career in academia, working as a microwave engineer at the Polytechnical University Catalonia in Barcelona and as a telecommunications engineer at MIER Comunicaciones, also in Barcelona, before joining ESA in 1990.

He holds a master’s degree in science and telecommunications engineering from the Polytechnic University Catalonia and has more than 100 publications in technical journals and conferences, holds three international ESA patents, and has five honours and awards.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are Associate Members.

ESA has established formal cooperation with five Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int