The next chief of the European Space Agency states that strengthening the Agency’s partnership with the European Union and encouraging commercial space operations in Europe are his primary concerns. The ESA confirmed on December 17 that the ESA Council had appointed Josef Aschbacher as the new Director-General, valid for 4 years at the end of June 2021. Since 2016, Aschbacher has been Chief of Earth Observation Programs of ESA as well as Head of the ESRIN Research Center of ESA in Italy.
Aschbacher was the leading candidate to replace the outgoing director-general, Jan Wörner, as well as was celebrated on getting the role last month when news got out that he was the ESA’s 22 member states’ first candidate. He said that at a media briefing, “I’m much honored, but this is a major challenge.” “A lot of space is at stake in Europe, and I definitely look forward more to addressing these issues to the best of my ability.”
He said he would issue a paper titled ‘ESA Agenda 2025’ shortly after taking over as the director-general, detailing his vision and goals. He refused to share that paper’s content, stating that he would postpone until he assumed office, but he did address those goals for ESA that he sees. One is a more accurate description of the relationship between ESA and the European Union, which has been mainly involved in space, as well as funded the Galileo satellite navigation program and most of the Copernicus Earth observation system. In the short future, that implies concluding discussions between ESA as well as the EU on a new Financial Framework Partnership Arrangement (FFPA).
“I guess, it does seem that the ESA-EU collaboration is a very important component,” Aschbacher said. “Defines the potential of the ESA. The relationship between the ESA as well as the European Union would be very important as to how the ESA places itself in the long run, not just over the next year or two. It is something I want to tackle.” For Aschbacher, a second goal is a commercialization.
He stated that the efforts begun by Wörner to encourage the development of the European space program would be ‘intensified.’ People often think, ‘Why doesn’t Europe have SpaceX?’ And why doesn’t Europe have a planet? “‘” he stated.” That is what we need to look at. I do have ideas about how this can be achieved, but at this stage, I would not want to go deeper. A third goal is the reliability of the ESA itself which minimizes the expense of running the Agency. “This is a set of remnants that he said it would be conducted in-house,” he said. “That would say almost any new DG.”