On 22 and 23 November 2022, the ministers and government representatives of the 22 member states of the European Space Agency ESA met at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris to set the course for joint space programmes "made in Europe". The Council at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, which sets the content and financial framework for ESA's space programmes on average every three years.
The German delegation was headed by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, and the Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, Anna Christmann. They were accompanied and supported by representatives from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action ( Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz; BMWK) and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr; BMDV). Walther Pelzer, German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board member and Director General of the German Space Agency at DLR, also participated in the negotiations. Together with his team in Bonn, Pelzer prepared working-level German position papers for the meeting in consultation with Federal Government officials.
Germany took over the chairmanship of the ESA Council from France in Paris and will host the next conference in 2025.
"Whether it's the Ukraine war, the energy crisis or the climate crisis, spaceflight makes important strategic contributions to solving these global challenges. That is why I am glad that we have succeeded in providing four billion euros from Germany (economic conditions 2022, which is about 3.5 billion euros when calculated on mixed economic conditions) to shape European space activities in the coming years. Climate protection, competition and New Space as well as Europe's independence in space are our focus here," says Anna Christmann, Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy. "A particular success for Germany is that we have achieved more competition in launchers. As a result, private suppliers of mini- and micro-launchers will be able to participate in ESA tenders in future. This is a paradigm shift with which we are giving new impetus to New Space and private activities."
She adds: "Space is more than science fiction. With our contribution, Germany is strengthening ESA – as agreed in the coalition agreement – and living up to its leading role for a strong European space industry and scientific landscape.”
DLR Executive Board member Walther Pelzer emphasises that spaceflight is only possible with international cooperation: "In addition to climate protection and competitiveness, especially in the launcher sector and in the development of innovative technologies, our the third focus of the negotiations was exploration. Continuing this commitment also means strengthening international cooperation. Large-scale space exploration projects require European and global cooperation. This not only ensures success, but such 'space diplomacy' also makes space itself an important area of international collaboration."
In total, the ESA member states concluded on a budget of 16.9 billion euros. Of this total, Germany is contributing 4 billion (economic conditions 2022, around 3.5 billion euros mixed economic conditions). Amounting to 20.8 percent of the total contributions, it is ESA's strongest partner along with France (18.9 percent) and Italy (18.2 percent).
Germany will provide 1.15 billion euros (current economic conditions) for the ESA mandatory programmes: In addition to the General Budget, these include the Science Programme and the European Spaceport in French Guiana. About 2.37 billion euros of the German contribution will go to the optional programmes: these include about 669 million euros for Earth observation, about 365 million euros for telecommunications, 50 million euros for technology programmes, 155 million euros for space situational awareness and space security, 368 million euros for space transport and operations, and about 726 million euros for human spaceflight, research in microgravity and exploration.
Germany's main contributions in detail:
From the end of 2023, Ariane 6 will be the new European launcher to carry payloads into space. The industrial prime contractors are ArianeGroup, in Germany with sites in Bremen and Ottobrunn, and MT Aerospace in Augsburg and Bremen. Germany is contributing a total of about 162 million euros to the further development of Ariane 6 and its market introduction. Germany is investing around 52 million euros in the optional LEAP (Launchers Exploitation Accompaniment) programme, which also includes the operation of DLR's test facility for rocket engines in Lampoldshausen. This is now considered essential infrastructure, as was previously only the case with the European Spaceport in French Guiana.
Germany is contributing around 123 million euros to the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). Focal points are the development of a low-cost and lightweight upper stage, the improvement of the performance of existing and new engines as well as the implementation of new processes and methods.
Germany is also a strong partner in the programme for commercial space transport services – BOOST! for short – which focuses on promoting SMEs and start-ups. Thanks to the German initiative, it was also possible to include microlaunchers for use as launchers for ESA payloads.
Earth observation and climate protection
Germany is a global leader in Earth observation – both scientifically, technologically and in the processing and use of data to analyse the Earth system. With around 185 million euros (30 percent), the Federal Republic is maintaining its leading role in the European Earth observation programme Copernicus. This involves the further development and expansion of the system to include new Sentinel satellites and services for climate monitoring and protection, agriculture, mobility, security and disaster prevention. The programme provides essential data for the implementation of the European Green Deal, the Paris Climate Agreement and for climate mitigation measures. Germany represents the largest group of Copernicus users.
The new programme 'Climate-Space' focuses on satellite-based climate research, including at the regional and local level. With a focus on climate and atmosphere, the results from Climate-Space will be integrated, among other things, into the Copernicus services, which are currently being established in Bonn at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Together with another new programme, Digital Twin Earth, Germany is supporting the simulation of climate data with a total of around 23 million euros.
In addition, Germany is contributing around 347 million euros to the FutureEO programme. In addition to the scientific Earth Explorer satellites, the weather satellites of the European Organisation for Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and most of its measuring instruments, as well as the Sentinel satellites of the Copernicus programme, also have their origins here. The programme also opens the door to new markets by increasing the use of NewSpace approaches as well as innovative technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This also gives small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups the chance to access global markets with services.
The ESA satellite 'Aeolus' is the first satellite to measure and record wind fields and their global movement at different altitudes in the entire atmosphere, and has been doing so with its dual LiDAR instrument since August 2018. With Aeolus 2, this test satellite is now to become a programme. Two satellites are to routinely measure global 3D wind fields between 2030 and 2040 in order to improve the accuracy of our weather forecasts significantly. In the Aeolus 2 preparatory programme, Germany is involved in the development of the laser transmitter with national funding from the BMDV.
The 'InCubed-2' programme is aimed at short term private commercial Earth observation activities – Germany is participating here with around 10 million euros. InCubed-2 (Investing in Industrial Innovation 2) provides a framework for flexible and agile cooperation with the European Earth observation industry. InCubed-2 thus aims to increase the competitiveness of European industry in component manufacturing, mission operations, platform and ground segment technologies, and data access, so that innovative approaches by European suppliers can compete globally. Programme content will be selected in response to industrial proposals.
Satellite communications (ARTES programmes) involve the support of innovative technologies and products for the globally growing commercial market of telecommunications satellites. A key focus in Germany is on the Competitiveness Framework Programme (Core Competitiveness, 50 million euros), and thus on supporting industry and suppliers in a rapidly changing market environment. Other German priorities are in the strategically relevant key technology of (laser) communication (around 41 million euros) and in developments for the future market of satellite-based security solutions including quantum key distribution (QKD) with around 39 million euros.
For the promotion of commercial applications both in space itself and in non-space sectors (BASS 4.0), Germany contributed about 19 million euros (WB 22), and 21 million euros for the support of satellites in the mobile communications network of the future.
The EU Connectivity Initiative
Secure and reliable communication is indispensable, especially in times of crisis, to ensure the state's ability to act. Germany is supporting the EU's Secure Connectivity Initiative and ESA's accompanying programme with 189 million euros.
Space security and safety
In the areas of space weather, near-Earth object observation and space debris avoidance and mitigation, Germany is contributing around €24 million (WB 22) to the COSMIC element of the programme. Here, these topics will be further researched and instruments will be developed to, for example, monitor space weather.
In addition, the Federal Republic is participating in missions implemented in the programme. The German contribution of around 72 million euros to the asteroid defence mission Hera will enable the launch of the probe built in Bremen to the asteroid Didymos, which is scheduled for autumn 2024. NASA's DART spacecraft impacted on its small companion Dimorphos on 27 September 2022 to investigate the feasibility of altering an asteroid's trajectory. Upon its arrival in 2026, Hera will carry out observations and analyses of the effect of DART's impact on Dimorphos. The findings will be used both for fundamental research and to plan possible asteroid defence missions.
Germany is also participating in the Clearspace-1 mission for the active removal of space debris and the in-orbit servicing programme with a total of around 28 million euros.
With 'Vigil' ESA wants to provide operational observation data of the Sun from the Lagrange point L5 and contribute to improved forecasting of space weather events. The German contribution of 30 million euros (WB 22) to the Vigil mission will go towards developing the Photospheric Magnetic Field Imager (PMI) for observing the magnetic field on the surface of the Sun.
German participation in the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) aims to maintain, expand and strengthen the industrial competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially start-ups. They are given the chance to strengthen the technological maturity of their developments - a very costly and lengthy process without assistance. The programme also benefits companies that do not originally come from the space sector and have identified an opportunity to establish a foothold here. As a further optional technology programme, the focus was on digitalisation, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies and NewSpace approaches. The development of electrical, electronic and electromechanical (EEE) components is being advanced in the programme's own EEE components. Germany has allocated 50 million euros to the GSTP programme.
Improving market opportunities for start-ups
Germany has also contributed 22 million euros to the new Scale-Up programme. As part of this programme, which is explicitly designed to promote commercialisation in space, Germany is continuing its commitment to the ESA Business Incubation Centres (BIC). In addition, Germany's participation will support start-ups in new activities to improve their market opportunities. Last but not least, the Federal Government is actively promoting the 'Market Place' to provide start-up funding to commercial services for test and demonstration missions in space.
All robotic and astronautical exploration activities are grouped together in the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). This brings together the European research and technology programme for the use of low-Earth orbit, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars. Sub-programmes here are the operation of the International Space Station ISS and its utilisation (German share: around 529 million euros). Germany is taking the lead here and is also the main provider and cost bearer of the European Service Module, the supply module for the US Orion spacecraft, an indispensable part of NASA's Artemis lunar programme. In addition, the Federal Republic of Germany is playing a leading role in the SciSpace research programme. Germany is contributing 110 million euros to lunar exploration activities, primarily within the framework of the European lander 'Argonaut'. For Mars exploration, the Federal Republic has allocated 60 million euros.
As a compulsory programme, the science programme is the backbone of ESA. As such, it makes a significant contribution to expanding and maintaining Europe's role in international space research. It is used to finance the research satellites, their launch and operation. The scientific instruments are developed by the member states themselves. By the end of the 2030s, 12 new missions are to be launched to explore and analyse the Solar System and various galaxies. Germany is the largest contributor to this programme with 21.13 percent, which means a total contribution of around 684 million euros for five years. Large and medium-sized missions with significant German participation are: JUICE (Jupiter mission, planned launch April 2023), EUCLID (dark energy/dark matter, planned launch 2024), PLATO (exoplanet mission, 2027) and LISA (gravitational wave observatory, 2037).