GMES Chief Tallies Tab for Earth-monitoring System

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While most speakers at the Living Planet Symposium June 28 to July 2 were able to focus on the occasionally stunning data sets they hoped to produce from their missions, it was left to Josef Aschbacher to present the bill.

Aschbacher, head of the GMES Space Office at the European Space Agency (ESA), is well-placed to forecast the cost of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security program because future funding for the most part is expected to come from the executive commission of the 27-nation European Union.

The last time the commission made its own cost estimates for a future space system — Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation project — it badly underestimated the price of rocket launches, in part because facing launch-price realities would have obliged the commission to admit its Galileo budget was unrealistically low from the start.

ESA presumably does not have a stake in making the numbers look prettier than they are. ESA has been responsible for GMES development and is now transferring most future funding responsibility to the European Commission, which leads GMES operations.

In a June 29 presentation, Aschbacher said ESA governments spent 790 million euros for Segment 1 of the GMES space component, or about $970 million at current exchange rates. Segment 2 GMES financing from ESA totaled 830 million euros.

The European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program for Research, known as FP7, which covers the period from 2007 to 2013, has already financed 630 million euros for the GMES development phase.

The grand total of funds committed so far by the two organizations: 2.25 billion euros.

Estimates of how much additional money is needed before the next seven-year financial program at the European Commission is voted and takes effect, in principle sometime in 2014, vary because they presume prices for contracts not yet negotiated.

Aschbacher’s estimate is that the European Commission needs to find 560 million euros to be used for GMES between 2011 and 2014.

Starting with its next seven-year financial commitment in 2014, the commission will need to find an average of 430 million euros per year for GMES operations and maintenance, including the purchase of new Sentinel satellites as needed to ensure service continuity.

ESA’s role in GMES starting in 2014 will be limited to research and development activities, which Aschbacher said should average 170 million euros per year.