The European Space Agency (ESA), founded in 1975, brings together 22 member states: Austria, Belgium, 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.
Canada also takes part in some projects under a Cooperation Agreement and Slovenia and Latvia are Associate Members.
Six other EU states have Cooperation Agreements with ESA: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia.
ESA is one of the most important intergovernmental European organizations with a scientific and technological character that assures the elaboration and implementation of the space programme in Europe, having a current budget of approximately 6.6 billion euros.
Romania became a European Space Agency Cooperating State in 2006, a status acknowledged by the Law no. 1/2007 and the 19th member of the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2011. It is the second member state of the ex-socialist regime accepted with full rights, after the Czech Republic.
The Law no. 262 from 07.12.2011 ratifies the agreement between Romania and the European Space Agency (ESA), concerning the accession of Romania to the Convention for the establishment of the European Space Agency. According to the same Law, the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) is Romania's designated authority for the implementation of the Agreement between Romania and the European Space Agency (ESA), while the state authority for research and development – The Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalisation is responsible for the financial contribution of Romania to ESA.
The allocation by Romania of the research, development and innovation funds through ESA has the following major advantages:
1. Ensuring activities for the Romanian entities in the highest technology programmes;
2. Access to ESA technologies for Romanian entities;
3. Obtaining clear and quantifiable research results, through ESA space standards;
4. Ensuring high level technological viability for research and industry in Romania;
5. Training of specialists and the creation of highly skilled jobs.
ESA works on the principle of fair return, which is stipulated in the ESA Convention. Moreover, ESA regulations and contracts stipulate that, in general, the IPR shall remain with the Contractor that developed them.
The investment in ESA Programmes is considered the most efficient use of the funding due to the principle of fair return and its multiplying factor in economy.
Participation of Romania in ESA programmes
Following the ESA Ministerial Space19+, Romania confirmed its participation in several optional ESA programmes for which capacities at national level have been identified. The contributions were distributed taking into account the operational objectives of these programmes and the Romanian industrial and scientific capacity to meet these requirements and to efficiently use the allocated budget in order to obtain the maximum industrial return coefficient.
For the Science and Exploration group of programmes, Romania expressed interest in the European Exploration Envelop Programme (E3P), in the mission to investigate the Moon – the Lunar Lander, in the SciSpacE and ExPeRT Programmes, which will prepare proposals for robotic and manned exploration. For the Space Safety and Security group of programmes, Romania subscribed to both the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Programme and the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM – renamed to HERA), a mission that may be the first attempt to change the trajectory of an asteroid. Moreover, Romania continued to subscribe to the General Technology Support Programme (GSTP).
Regarding the group of Space Applications programs, Romania expressed its interest in the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP-5), in the Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Programme (ARTES) and in the Navigation Programme (NAVISP). Furthermore, Romania expressed its interest in participating in the Space Rider and Vega Programmes.
ESA’s strategy is centered around the four programmatic pillars:
• Science and Exploration: comprising Space Science and Human and Robotic Exploration;
• Safety and Security: comprising Space Safety, Safety and Security Applications, and Cybersecurity;
• Applications: comprising Telecommunication, Earth Observation, Navigation; and
• Enabling and Support – comprising Technology, Space Transportation and Operations.
The ESA website https://www.esa.int provides detailed information about every programme.
ESA's four programmatic pillars
Romanian involvement in ESA’s Space Missions
The Romanian space industry follows a growth pattern due to its participation in ESA programmes and implementation of the Romanian Industry Incentive Scheme and STAR programme. Romanian entities are involved in consortiums as prime or subcontractors across Europe or can collaborate as external services. Romanian entities have provided or are about to deliver components and sub-assemblies for a number of ESA missions such as Juice, Metop-SG, PROBA 3, Euclid, Copernicus, BIOMASS and Hera. Notable mention, Romania has contributed to the development of the Ariane 6 launcher, and also joined the European efforts of financing the International Space Station.
How to work in ESA’s Space Missions
To be able to participate in competitions organized by ESA, an entity should first register in the EMITS / STAR register managed by ESA https://esastar-emr.sso.esa.int, a register in which the legal entity provides identification information, information on the level of competence and also human resources and financial data. All this data requires validation by ESA before concluding any financing contracts. Only a registered legal entity has access to the documents needed for submitting a project proposal.
ESA finances projects, in a competitive system, through the ITT mechanism (Open Invitation to Tender, http://emits.sso.esa.int). On average, ESA organizes approximately 240 competitions annually to fund activities in projects / programs / missions in the area of interest. The competitions are open to all legal persons in the EU or ESA Member States, those participating in a specific program or a specific group of countries.