The Ministry of Science provides 932 million to support ESA programmes in which national industry is participating

These are the baskets in which Spain has placed the eggs for its new space effort

photo_camera PHOTO/MICI - The Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, the Secretary General for Science, Teresa Riesgo, and the President of the Space Council, Miguel Belló, have set Spain's investments in ESA for 2023-2025 in Paris

While the entire national space community is expectant about the imminent creation of the Spanish Space Agency, the Ministry of Science and Innovation has already committed its main investments during the three-year period 2023-2025. 

This will amount to 932 million euros, at a rate of just over 310 million per year, which will be executed within the framework of the European Space Agency (ESA), the priority area of cooperation in which Spain focuses most of its scientific, industrial and technological interests related to the outer space sector.  

This was signed by the Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, at the ministerial meeting held in Paris at the end of November by the 22 ESA nations. Minister Morant was accompanied by the Secretary General for Science, Teresa Riesgo, and the president of the Space Council, Spain's permanent delegate to ESA and commissioner of the Aerospace PERTE, Miguel Bell贸. With them, a small team from the Centre for Technical Development and Innovation (CDTI) headed by Juan Carlos Cort茅s, Director of Space, Large Installations and Dual Programmes. 

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The 932 million already committed represents a 9.4% increase over the investment made in November 2019 during the Seville summit, which was 852 million. For 2023 and the following two years, the nearly 1 billion is divided into a dozen baskets, grouped into two major capitals.  

One is mandatory, to which each country contributes according to its GDP: the scientific programme, to which Spain contributes 239 million and leads the main component of the Arrakihs satellite, which aims to decipher the formation of dark matter; basic activities (121 million); and the maintenance of the Kourou space base (37), in French Guiana. This amounts to 497 million, 43% of the government's total commitment. 

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First steps towards a second PNOTS

The second chapter is made up of a variety of optional programmes, to which each country subscribes or not on a voluntary basis with the volume of investment it deems appropriate. Of all of them, the basket in which Spain has put the most eggs is the one dedicated to Earth observation, with 172.4 million euros, 18.5% of the national total. 

This is because the capacities of the national industry in this field are "exceptional, both in strictly space terms and in terms of ground equipment and applications", stresses Miguel Bell贸. The largest contribution (75 million) is allocated to the new Sentinel environmental surveillance and security satellites in the Copernicus constellation. The second largest (40 million) goes to the development of Aeolus-2, a satellite to measure winds around the world and improve weather forecasting. 

The remaining six programmes share 57.4 million. One of them is Truths, a UK-led platform to measure incoming and reflected solar radiation from Earth to space. Several Spanish industries are already involved and have agreed to contribute 2.4 million, 10% of its budget. Another is a new programme that, according to Miguel Bell贸, "is of great interest": developing a digital twin of the Earth, in which Spain is putting 5 million euros on the table.

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It is appropriate to point out that, because of its strategic importance, space-based observation is an area of activity closely linked to the Aerospace PERTE. That is why Spain has allocated 10 million to ESA to pursue a feasibility study to define a national high-resolution electro-optical space system.  

The Ministry of Science and Innovation does not want to abandon the development of an observation system, preferably for commercial and military use, to give continuity to the already concluded National Programme for Earth Observation by Satellite (PNOTS). It was signed in 2007 between the Ministries of Industry and Defence, and originally consisted of the Paz satellite (radar technology) and the electro-optical satellite called Ingenio.

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A major stake in the evolution of the Galileo constellation

Paz has been in orbit since February 2018 and Defence is already working on its replacement. But Ingenio was destroyed in November 2020, along with the French Taranis, when the European Vega rocket suffered an anomaly in mid-ascent flight after take-off from the Kourou space base. Once ESA is established, the government is likely to take the decision to launch a PNOTS II or equivalent. 

Second in terms of investment volume are cosmos exploration programmes, to which Spain allocates 103 million euros. Of this, 47 million is for manned missions to the International Space Station and to lunar orbit, in cooperation with the United States (Lunar Gateway). And robotic missions to Mars continue, such as Mars Sample Return, in collaboration with NASA, to bring samples of Martian soil back to Earth. And ExoMars, which, due to the suspension of cooperation with Russia, forces ESA to try to reach an agreement with NASA to take off in 2028.

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Third place goes to space transport systems, to which 91 million euros have been earmarked, a notable increase on the 59 million allocated in Seville. Spanish industry has an important role to play in the European launchers Ariane 6, to which 41.1 million is earmarked, and Vega (18 million), both in terms of their structures (Airbus Space Systems Espa帽a) and their on-board electronic equipment (Airbus CRISA and Sener Aeroespacial) "whose responsibilities we want to increase". 

It is also committed to being present in programmes that deal with new technologies: continuing with the Themis reusable launcher project (6.5 million) and taking part in Boost (6 million), both micro-launcher programmes in which several Spanish companies, including PLD, are already involved. And the project for the future European Space Rider space plane demonstrator is continuing, for which 5 million is being awarded. 

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The Spanish delegation at the ESA ministers' meeting in Paris described the new satellite communications and navigation programmes as "very important". One is Leo PNT, a low orbit constellation which, according to the president of the Space Council, "is the future of Galileo", the so-called European GPS. Spanish industry has significant capabilities in this field and, with 45 million euros, is committed to leading or co-leading the project.  

Another is Moonlight, to which Spain is earmarking 10 million - 5% of the programme - and which, with public-private funding, aims to offer communications and positioning services to institutional, commercial and private projects to return to the moon. NASA and the Japanese space agency (JAXA) have already shown interest in the project.

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