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Let's go! ESA's Future Science missions get full approval

13 October 2000

At its 92nd meeting, on 11-12 October 2000, ESA's Science Programme Committee took the final step to consolidate the future of the science programme by unanimously endorsing the recommendations of the Space Science Advisory Committee of 15 September, which proposed a package to be implemented in the years 2008-2013.

The package consists of five missions and one reserve, namely:

  • The Cornerstone BepiColombo to explore the planet Mercury, which will be the fifth Cornerstone of Horizons 2000, to be launched in 2009 in collaboration with Japan;
  • The Cornerstone Gaia, which will analyse the composition, formation and evolution of our Galaxy by mapping with unprecedented precision one billion stars, to be launched no later than 2012;
  • The Cornerstone LISA, the first gravitational waves space observatory, in collaboration with NASA, at the cost of one Flexi-mission
  • The Flexi-mission NGST, the Next Generation Space Telescope, again in collaboration with NASA;
  • The Flexi-mission Solar Orbiter, the successor of the SOHO and Ulysses missions
  • The "reserve" Flexi-mission Eddington, a mission to map stellar evolution and find habitable planets, which could be implemented depending on the NGST and LISA schedules or provision of further resources.

The SSAC recommended a package instead of a limited number of missions, because the schedule of both NGST and LISA is outside of the control of ESA. These are all exciting missions, which could be implemented between 2008 and 2013 if the yearly budget were to remain at the present level, albeit with a yearly compensation for inflation.

The SPC , while endorsing the SSAC recommendations, added the following resolution:

The SPC supports the recommendation of the SSAC regarding the decision on future Cornerstones and the selection of F2/F3 missions (SSAC(2000)4).
The SPC reiterates the need to revisit the implementation of the selected missions at each decision on the Level of Resources.
The SPC emphasises the need to maintain flexibility for new ideas and the earliest appropriate implementation of Gaia.

With the choices made, by around 2013, ESA will also substantially contribute to creating a catalogue of dangerous NEO's.

The SPC also approved the other recommendations of the SSAC: - a support costing up to 2 MEuro to the mission COROT (COnvection, ROtation and planetary Transits ) of CNES; - a support costing up to 5 Meuro to the mission MICROSCOPE: MICROSatellite "` trannie COmpensie" pour l'Observation du Principe d'Equivalence.

In return for the support, both missions will be "europeanised", the details are yet to be worked out.

These missions will also fill the foreseen "gap" in launches of ESA scientific missions, which will extend from 2003 to 2007.

In 2004 the IR mission ASTRO-F, of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) of Japan will also be launched. The SPC recommended the collaboration between ESA and ISAS on this mission, for a total cost to ESA of approximately 3.8 Meuro.

Finally, the SPC will decide the implementation of SMART-2, a technological mission supporting future cornerstones, at an extraordinary meeting to be held on 8 November 2000.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Hugo Marie
ESA Science Programme Communication Service
Tel: +33 (0)1 5369 7106
Fax: +31 (0)1 5369 7236

Mr. Franco Bonacina
Media Relations Office
Tel: +33 (0) 1 53 69 7155
Fax: +33 (0) 1 53 69 7690


Last Update: 10 June 2003

For further information please contact: SciTech.editorial@esa.int

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