German federal parliamentary elections and their consequences
On 22 September 2013, two events significant to DLR took place – the German federal parliamentary elections and 'German Aerospace Day', held in Cologne. By opening up our research labs and offering a wide-ranging programme of events, we were able to, together with our partners, the European Space Agency (ESA), Cologne/Bonn Airport and the German Air Force, welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Cologne-Porz. It was great to see that the research being conducted at DLR was met with such an enthusiastic response on the part of the general public; even long lines did not discourage visitors, both young and old, from taking part. The federal parliamentary elections were held on the same day and, in addition to polling voters about their party preferences, it would have been interesting to find out where they stood on issues relating to research and development.
In my last blog I addressed science, science management and science policy, and attempted to 'sort out' each of these respective areas. This sorting operation can – when public policy aspects are properly taken into account – have direct consequences for scientific research activities.
More than 30,000 people attended the DLR site in Cologne during German Aerospace Day 2013. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
On the evening that the parliamentary election was being held, I flew to Beijing, where this year's International Astronautical Congress (IAC) was taking place. Suspense about the outcome of the election was palpable even in Beijing – so naturally it was one of the topics of conversation at the reception organised jointly by the German Embassy in China and DLR. As at previous IAC conferences, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the presentation of creative ideas on various issues (innovation, collaboration, communication) and to converse with participants from around the world. To briefly summarise the impressions acquired – DLR is highly regarded worldwide, and many participants are very keen to hear our opinions on a range of issues and eager to work closely with us in a number of areas.
ESA council meeting at ministerial level in The Hague, November 2008. Image: ESA
Of particular interest was the question of global developments in launcher systems. In addition to confirming our view that future satellites are likely to be heavier and that delivery vehicles must, therefore, be able to carry greater payloads, we also discussed the special nature of the satellite market, which is characterised by the expectation of a relatively stable number of satellites per year. This expectation and the entry of more companies in the global market for launch systems will have consequences for strategic planning. The call, clearly articulated in numerous discussions, for new propulsion concepts and greater attention to aspects of sustainability (for example, reusability) confirms our view with respect to the need for innovative approaches for European launch vehicle policy. Simply seeking to cut costs will not turn competition in Europe's favour.
Ariane 5ES rocket during rollout. Image: DLR/Thilo Kranz (CC-BY 3.0)
And just what does this have to do with parliamentary elections in Germany? We are now just 14 months from the next ESA Ministerial Council and need to quickly cut straight to the heart of the matter in our discussions about the principal issues at hand. This requires a clearly defined path for negotiation, to coherently represent the various issues involved in accordance with German interests. With all due respect for the difficulties related to the deliberations associated with forming a governing coalition, we should not neglect the issues that need addressing. Until the new governing body is in office, the previous governing body remains responsible and fully empowered to take action. In the ESA Ministerial Council, the German Federal Government is represented by the minister or the secretary of state competent in this area of policy. During the preparations, the authority granted to DLR as defined by the law delegating jurisdiction over space matters, the space delegation act (Raumfahrtaufgabenübertragungsgesetz; RAÜG), provides a sound basis for ensuring that German interests are adequately represented.