Poland Tripling Space Spending

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PARIS — The Polish government plans to more than triple its spending on European Commission-led space programs in the coming years as it attempts to use technology investment to spur its economy, according to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Addressing a space policy forum held Sept. 13 in Brussels — the same day that Poland signed an accession agreement that will make it the 20th member of the European Space Agency (ESA) — the ministry said it expects to spend 495 million euros ($619 million) in the European Commission’s space effort planned between 2014 and 2020.

That compares with some 157 million euros that Poland spent on space research in the commission’s current seven-year financial program, which is ending in 2013.

A final overall 2014-2020 budget for the European Commission, including its space spending, is still being negotiated by the European Union’s 27 member states.

Maciej Staniak, a senior expert at the ministry’s department of foreign policy, said in his presentation to the Brussels forum that Poland believes in the value of space spending for both its “wow factor,” meaning its ability to spur public enthusiasm for science, and for its expected boost to economic growth.

The presentation to the forum, organized by the Secure World Foundation and the France-based IFRI Space Policy Program — think tanks based, respectively, in the United States and France — was co-authored by Jakub Ryzenko, a space policy adviser to the Polish Ministry of Economy.

The ESA accession agreement is expected to be ratified by the Polish government in the coming weeks. ESA said ratification should occur in time for Poland to take a full seat as ESA’s 20th member at a late-November conference of ESA government ministers to set the agency’s budget and policy direction.

Poland expects to pay 19.2 million euros in 2013 for its share of ESA mandatory programs, which are mainly the organization’s general administrative costs and its science programs. How much it will spend on ESA’s optional programs, which account for most of what the agency does, is uncertain, but is likely to be around 50 percent of the mandatory program investment.

In addition to its investment in ESA activities, Poland will be paying a one-time entrance fee estimated at around 11 million euros, according to ESA officials. ESA managers hope to use these funds, plus the 3.6 million-euro entrance fee paid by ESA’s 19th member, Romania, to shore up the financing for Europe’s ExoMars program.

ExoMars is a two-part mission, with launches in 2016 and 2018, expected to be a partnership with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. Confirmation of the Roscosmos role, whose core element is the provision of two launches aboard Russian Proton rockets, is also expected at the November meeting of ESA ministers.

ESA’s ruling council is expected to vote in October, a month before the ministerial conference, on whether to approve what ESA officials concede is an unusual use of entry-fee monies.

ESA expects to use 55 percent of the total contribution of Romania and Poland to ESA’s mandatory program between 2013 and 2017 for ExoMars, providing another 70 million euros for the Mars program, which will launch a telecommunications orbiter, a descent module and a rover to Mars.