European Space Agency
November 3, 2006 10:12pm CST
The European Space Agency (ESA) is a multinational organization formed to develop space technology and to conduct research. ESA members are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Canada participates with observer status. ESA came into legal existence in 1980 when the decision to merge the European Space Research Organization (established in 1962) and the European Launcher Development Organization (1964) was ratified. Each member determines its own contribution and the projects it supports, and no member undertakes a project without inviting ESA to take part. ESA issues contracts on a pro rata basis.Major facilities of ESA are its headquarters in Paris; the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) at Noordwijk, the Netherlands; the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) for satellite control in Darmstadt, Germany; the European Space Research Institute and the Space Documentation service (ESRIN) at Frascati, Italy; the European Astronaut Center (EAC) at Cologne, Germany; two European Space Range sounding rocket launch stations in Norway and Sweden; the Meteorological Program Office in Toulon, France; and tracking stations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain.Most ESA space payloads are launched by Ariane rockets from a pad at Kourou, French Guiana. Besides producing communications, geophysics, and astronomy satellites, ESA owns and operates Spacelab, a workshop that has been flown several times on NASA's Space Shuttle. In 1985, ESA sent the spacecraft Giotto toward a successful flyby of Halley's comet. In the 1990s, it had to cancel projects such as Hermes, a space plane, but it developed the large booster rocket Ariane 5. It continues to upgrade its reusable science satellite, Eureca (European Retrievable Carrier), and a Crew Transfer Vehicle for use with the future NASA space station.
22 Jul 07
This information is quite outdated, a few years actually. I live and work in Portugal and we have been a member of ESA since 2001. I travel quite frequently to ESTEC in Noordwijk (I will be there in two days). Today, even Greece is already a member of ESA ...