ESA science missions continue in overtime
20 June 2013ESA has extended the productive lives of 10 of its operating space science missions. This decision secures funding for ESA's world-class science missions until at least the end of 2014, and provides a framework for planning until end of 2016.
Meeting in Paris on 18-19 June, ESA’s Science Programme Committee (SPC) gave the go-ahead to continue funding science operations for 10 remarkably productive science missions, all of them working beyond their planned lifetimes and all of them nevertheless continuing to deliver exceptional science.
Decisions to extend missions are made on average every twenty-four months. A comprehensive evaluation is made of those missions approaching the end of their funding, and a decision on an extension is made, based on the value of the additional science to be done.
In November last year, the SPC confirmed the previously agreed extensions for nine science missions (Cassini-Huygens, Cluster, Hinode, Hubble Space Telescope, INTEGRAL, Mars Express, SOHO, Venus Express and XMM-Newton) until 2014. The Planck mission was granted a 6.5 month extension (ending in mid-August 2013) to operate with the LFI instrument only. PROBA2 was granted an extension for science and mission operations until 30 June 2013.
On 19 June, the SPC approved new extensions – until 31 December 2016 - for Cassini-Huygens, Cluster, Hinode, Hubble Space Telescope, INTEGRAL, Mars Express, SOHO and XMM-Newton. Consistent with previous cycles, these are subject to mid-term confirmation, in late 2014.
In addition, funding for science operations of PROBA2 was approved for the period 1 July 2013 to 31 December 2016. In July 2013, PROBA2 will be handed over to ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme. SSA will provide the mission operations, while the science programme will continue to contribute for the science operations.
An extension to the operations of Venus Express until 2015 was also approved, subject to a mid-term review and confirmation by SPC in 2014. This extension will allow an aerobraking campaign to be carried out within the timescale permitted by the remaining fuel on board.
The next mission extension cycle will begin in mid-2014.