December 2, 2016

ESA Council meeting at ministerial level in Lucerne – Germany awards approximately two billion euro to space projects

The highest decision-making body of the European Space Agency (ESA) met this year on 1 and 2 December at the Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) in Lucerne, Switzerland, to set the financial and programme-based course for European space travel for the coming years. Ministers in charge of space in Europe last came together exactly two years ago on 2 December 2014 in Luxembourg.

The German Federal Government was represented by Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Brigitte Zypries, who is also aerospace coordinator, was supported by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board and Gerd Gruppe, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for the Space Administration, which, in close collaboration with the BMWi, prepared the German position for the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level.

"Our commitment to the application programmes, in particular, leads to concrete benefits for people. Satellite-based Earth observation is the basis for improved climate protection. In addition, innovative business models are created for German companies through the use of satellite data," emphasised Brigitte Zypries. "We have also succeeded in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in space investment." At the same time, from a German perspective, the focus was on the ESA programmes, which, with excellent research, fundamentally expand the understanding of the Universe and Earth and are the basis for strategic international cooperation. Germany also wants to make further use of the International Space Station: "We are taking responsibility for a central global project at the ISS, and the Space Station offers excellent opportunities for research under space conditions, and the German industry is also benefiting from results, for example in the field of materials research. And we are looking forward to Alexander Gerst’s mission in 2018,” added Zypries.

“With our investments in the programme, we are ensuring the necessary continuity, but are also placing new emphasis on particularly future-oriented topics. The German contribution has succeeded in establishing the European participation in the ISS reliably and in the long term by 2024. With 29 million euro for ExoMars, Germany has maintained its commitments and is thus a strong partner in this international cooperation with the US and Russia,” adds DLR Chair Pascale Ehrenfreund, and emphasises: "With our scientific and technological expertise and our stakeholders in programmes such as Earth observation, we can make a decisive contribution to international development assistance and the implementation of the global sustainability and environmental targets of the United Nations."

At the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level, financial resources totalling around 10.3 billion euro were awarded. Germany provided two billion euro and is thus one of the largest ESA contributors. More specifically, Germany accounted for around 903 million euro for the ESA compulsory programmes, which in addition to the general budget, include the science programme and the European spaceport in French Guiana. Around 1.2 billion euro of the German contribution was allocated to the so-called optional programmes: more specifically, around 300 million euro to Earth observation, some 160 million euro to telecommunications, around 63 million euro to technology programmes and around 346 million euro to continuing operation of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2019 and about 88 million for research under space conditions. In addition, Germany is supporting the extension of ISS operation until 2024 in the form of a political declaration.

German financial contributions in detail:

E3P – new framework programme for research and exploration

All robotic and astronautical activities for exploration are combined in the new European Exploration Envelope (framework) Programme (E3P). This combines the European science and technology programme for use of near-Earth orbit for space research with exploration of the Moon and Mars. Subprogrammes here include the ISS (German share: 346 million euro) and its utilisation programme SciSpacE (German share: 88 million euro) in low Earth orbit. Germany is thereby taking on the leading role. For the continuation of the ExoMars mission the member countries contributed a further 339 million euro, of which Germany's share was about 28 million. In addition, Germany is investing 21 million euro in ExPeRT (exploration, preparation, research and technology), a programme for mission studies and technology development for further exploration, including a commercial approach.


In terms of launchers, the central decisions lay with the ‘Launchers Exploitation Accompaniment’ (LEAP) and Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) operating programmes. Germany contributed 155 million euro here and is the strongest partner after France.

From 2020, Ariane 6 will be the new launcher to transport payloads into space. Germany is contributing with a share of around 23 percent in the total costs of Ariane 6 development; the principal industrial contractors are Airbus Safran Launchers (in Germany with sites in Bremen and Ottobrunn) and MT Aerospace in Augsburg and Bremen.

To remain competitive over the long term, too, innovative technologies, processes and system concepts need to be developed and made market ready. These New Economic Opportunities (NEOs) are set to drastically reduce development and subsequent production costs while at the same time decreasing the development risk. Germany has contributed 52 million euro to this Future Launchers Preparation Programme (FLPP).


By 2035, seven average-sized and three large-scale exploration missions, along with further analyses of the Solar System and galaxies, are set to begin within the ESA science programme. Financing of this programme depends on the economic power of the Member States. At 20 percent, Germany is the largest contributor to this programme, contributing 542 million euro.

Of particular German interest is the PLATO mission, which is set to survey large portions of the sky for exoplanets and bright stars from 2025. The DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin is taking the scientific lead here and also developing the payload for the mission. The German aerospace industry, and in particular OHB and Airbus Defence & Space, are playing a particularly decisive role. The data centre is being built to a significant degree at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen. The DLR Space Administration has primary responsibility to ESA for delivery of the payload.

Germany is contributing to six out of a total of 11 instruments for the Jupiter moon mission JUICE (planned launch date: 2022), two of which are being managed by Germany.

BepiColombo, the European–Japanese mission to the closest planet to the sun, Mercury, is set to launch in April 2018, bringing new insights into the formation of the Solar System. German research institutes are contributing to the mission with six instruments.

At the end of 2020, the Euclid mission is set to explore the question of ‘dark matter’ and dark energy in the Universe. German partners include the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, the University Observatory Munich and the University of Bonn.

Earth observation

From climate research and global environmental monitoring to increasingly precise weather forecasts and satellite-based disaster relief, Germany, together with the UK, is the largest contributor to Earth observation programmes, contributing 300 million euro, and wants to retain its leading international position in this field. German industry and research groups have been, and are to a large extent, involved in successful missions such as GOCE, Cryosat 2, SWARM and SMOS as well as in the future missions ADM / Aeolus, BIOMASS, FLEX and EarthCARE. The ESA Climate Initiative (GMECV +) is currently providing 12 essential climate variables and was extended at the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level.

Satellite communications

In the field of satellite communications (ARTES programme), the main goal is to support innovative technologies and products for the global commercial market. Germany contributed around 160 million euro. Here, German industry has made a several-year head start with the development of laser communication terminals. Germany has therefore contributed 26 million euro to the new Skylight programme to further develop optical technologies. Furthermore, Germany is financing commercially focused integrated applications (‘NewSpace’ activities) with around 18 million euro. A further 64 million euro have been awarded to develop ‘Electra’, one of the small satellite buses with electric motors led by Bremen-based company OHB. The SmallGEO platform built in Germany for the smaller telecommunications satellites market segment is being further developed. On 27 January 2017, the first SmallGEO satellite will be launched from French Guiana.

Space situational awareness

Germany awarded 16 million euro to the ‘Space Situational Awareness’ (SSA) programme, with a focus on space weather. Better knowledge of space weather makes a valuable contribution to the preservation and sustainable use of space-based and terrestrial infrastructures, such as in the case of global navigation satellite systems and for science. It also represents important data for the German Space Situational Awareness Centre.

Technological development

The German programme contribution to the so-called General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) aims in particular to maintain, expand and strengthen the industrial competitiveness of German SMEs, particularly start-ups. The German contribution is around 63 million euro.


Sabine Hoffmann

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Public Affairs and Communications, Teamleader Communications

Andreas Schütz

Head of Corporate Communications, DLR Spokesperson
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-2474

Elisabeth Mittelbach

Me­dia in­quiries Ger­man Space Agen­cy
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Ger­man Space Agen­cy at DLR
Königswinterer Str. 522-524, 53227 Bonn