The European Space Agency was established in 1975. Its aims are to shape opportunities of space technology development in Europe and the exploitation and utilization of outer space. ESA programs cover such areas of space industry, as manned space flight (mostly in collaboration with the International Space Station program), unmanned exploratory missions, Earth observation, satellite navigation, telecommunications development, launchers design.
Moreover, the Agency conducts and finances large-scale education and research, which can then be used by the industry. Thanks to coordination of financial area and intellectual and scientific background of its members (in 2013 the budget of ESA was € 4.2821 billion) the European Space Agency may take action that go far beyond the capacity of any single country.
ESA brings together 20 European countries, including Poland, which has been a member of it since 19 November 2012. Additionally, with several European countries (such as: Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia) the Agency signed an agreement about European cooperating country (called PECS). ESA has also signed an cooperation agreement with Canada, which can thus participate in some projects.
ESA Headquarters in Paris, but its affiliates, research centers and training are situated all over the Europe among such places as Cologne, Madrid, Darmstadt, Frascati near Rome or in Noordwijk in Netherlands.
ESA’s budget is distributed as part of its ongoing programs. This programs are divided into “mandatory” and “optional”. All members of Agency are obligated to participate in mandatory programs. This programs are funded by membership fees size of which depends on the national income of each country.
These programs cover space project research and Space exploration, that is thanks to the construction of specialized equipment, astronomy, physics, technology research, educational programs and mediation in the flow of information about the space programs of the Member States. On the other hand, the’optional’ programs are funded only by the state, which declared to participate in them. The amount of the contribution of each country is determined during the negotiations, separately for each program.
Range of optional programs includes the construction of a European rocket, manned flights, as well as programs for utilitarian uses of space technology such as Earth observation, navigation, satellite communications.
One of the ESA main action is to improve the competitiveness of enterprises, especially small and medium-sized. To achieve this ESA has introduced a range of facilities for companies in the SME sector including the creation of programs targeted at them.
Businesses can get help in area of technical and business consulting, the use of the Agency’s laboratories, and projects funding. SME Office, established for this purpose, dispose of SineQuaNet platform, which provides an access to technical equipment, offers expert support and training services. to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, ESA created several programs that offer grants to businesses working with industry space or specializing in high technologies.
Among Polish companies and R & D institutes working in the space sector and cooperating with ESA, we can enumerate : Adaptronica Sp. z o.o. Astri Poland Sp. z o.o. Astronika Sp. z oo, Centrub Space Research, Creotech Instruments SA, GMV, Herz Systems Sp. z o.o. Foundry Research Institute, ITTI Sp. z o.o. KenBIT Sp. z o.o. PikTime Systems Sp. z oo, Wroclaw University of Technology, Robotics Inventions Sp. z o.o. Sener Sp. z o.o. TopGaN Sp. z oo, University of Warmia and Mazury, Vigo System SA, Vratis Sp. z o.o. and Wasat Sp. z o.o.