PARIS — France expects to increase its contribution to the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) by 3.7 percent in 2013, a figure that should allow France to maintain its position in agreed-to ESA programs while continuing to pay down French debt to the agency, the French Research Ministry announced Sept. 28.
In budget documents sent Sept. 28 to the French parliament as part of the government’s overall spending plan for 2013, the Research Ministry said France would be directing 799 million euros ($1.04 billion) to ESA in 2013, an increase of 3.7 percent compared to 2012.
The investment “will guarantee both France’s commitments [to ESA programs] and will help pay down debt,” the ministry said in its statement.
The French space agency, CNES, ran up a large debt to ESA nearly 10 years ago following a failure of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket that required a large unforeseen bailout of the system by ESA governments, led by France.
As of last January, the debt had been reduced to 376 million euros. CNES officials said that they should be able to reduce it by at least 17 million euros by the end of 2012, and perhaps by as much as 51 million euros.
The French Ministry of Defense, which also contributes to the annual CNES budget but in a lesser measure than the Research Ministry, said Sept. 28 that its funding for dual-use technologies, mainly space and security, would total 193 million euros in 2013.
It was not immediately clear from the Research Ministry’s budget document what CNES’s 2013 budget would be for non-ESA programs, meaning French national space efforts and those conducted multilaterally but outside of the ESA context. That budget is usually about equal to the ESA contribution.