Enlargement of the European Space Agency

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The European Space Agency (ESA) in its current form was founded in 1975 when the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) merged with the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO). The ESA Convention was signed by the ESRO and ELDO members on 30 May 1975 and by Ireland on 31 December 1975. Canada signed the ESA Convention as an associate member on 9 December 1978. The Convention entered into force on 30 October 1980 after the ratification procedures in the 10 ESRO/ELDO members were finalised.

Organization Belgium France Germany Italy Netherlands United Kingdom Spain Switzerland Sweden Denmark Australia Ireland Austria Canada
ESRO member member member member member member member member member member
ELDO member member member member member member associate member
ESA in 1980 member member member member member member member member member member member associate member associate member
ESA initial members and associates in 1980
  ELDO, ESRO and ESA 1980 members
  ESRO and ESA 1980 members
  ESA 1980 members

  ELDO associate members
  ESA 1980 associate members


The current membership of the European Space Agency includes 20 member states and one associate member as follows:

esa  Founding members[1] Signature Ratification National Program
 Sweden 30 May 1975 6 April 1976 SNSB
  Switzerland 30 May 1975 19 November 1976 SSO
 Germany 30 May 1975 26 July 1977 DLR
 Denmark 30 May 1975 15 September 1977 DNSC
 Italy 30 May 1975 20 February 1978 ASI
 United Kingdom 30 May 1975 28 March 1978 BNSC
 Belgium 30 May 1975 3 October 1978 BIRA
 Netherlands 30 May 1975 6 February 1979 SRON
 Spain 30 May 1975 7 February 1979 INTA
 France 30 May 1975 30 October 1980 CNES
 Ireland[2] 31 December 1975 10 December 1980 SI
Associate members[3] Signature Entry into force National Program
 Canada 9 December 1978[4] 1 January 1979 CSA
ESA Convention entry into force: 30 October 1980
Acceded members [5] Cooperation Agreement ESA membership National Program
 Austria 1979 for associate membership 30 December 1986 ASA
 Norway 1981 for associate membership 30 December 1986 NSC
 Finland 1987 for associate membership 1 January 1995 TEKES
 Portugal 1996 14 November 2000 CEP
 Greece January 2001 9 March 2005 ISARS
 Luxembourg September 2000 30 June 2005 through MoHER
 Czech Republic 1996 8 July 2008 CSO
 Romania December 1992 23 December 2011 ROSA
 Poland 28 January 1994 19 November 2012 CBK-PAN

Associate members[edit]

The ESA Convention does not require acquisition of the associate membership status in order for a state to become full member. The association status is envisaged to allow associate member states to take part in ESA's deliberative bodies and decision-making and also in ESA's programmes and activities. Associate member state firms can bid for and receive contracts to work on programmes. The accord has a provision ensuring a fair industrial return to the associate members.[6][7]

Previously, associate members were Austria, Norway and Finland (through its Ministry of Trade and Industry[8]), all of which later joined ESA as full members.[5] Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg skipped associate membership and moved from Cooperation Agreements to full ESA membership. The Czech Republic also skipped associate membership, but it went through the new enlargement process via Cooperation Agreement, ECS Agreement and PECS Charter implementation.

Currently the only associate member of ESA is Canada.[3]

Despite that the provisions in the ESA Convention do not show restrictions that only European states can join,[1] the ESA Council implements such rule de facto and that is why Canada has only the status of associate member.[3] However, it is as tightly integrated with the ESA institutions as possible for a non-member state.

The ELDO associate member Australia (CSIRO) decided not to continue as an associate member of ESA. Nevertheless, on 5 March 2003 the first of ESA's deep space ground stations in the world opened in western Australia in an inauguration ceremony.[9]


  ESA member countries
  2nd stage: ECS states
  1st stage: signed Cooperation Agreement
  Observer state negotiating cooperation agreement
  ESA associate members

After the decision of the ESA Council of 21/22 March 2001 the procedure for accession of the European states was detailed as described here.[10] Nations who want to become a full member of ESA do so in 3 stages. First a Cooperation Agreement is signed between the country and ESA. In this stage the country has very limited financial responsibilities. If a country wants to cooperate more fully with ESA it signs a European Cooperating State (ECS) agreement.

The ECS Agreement makes companies based in the country eligible for participation in ESA procurements. The country can also participate in all ESA programmes, except for the Basic Technology Research Programme. While the financial contribution of the country concerned increases, it is still much lower than that of a full member state. The agreement is normally followed by a Plan for European Cooperating State (or PECS Charter).

This is a 5-year program of basic research and development activities aimed at improving the nations' space industry capacity. At the end of the 5-year period, the country can either begin negotiations to become a full member state or an associated state or sign a new PECS Charter.[11] ESA is likely to expand quite rapidly in the coming years. Many countries, most of which joined the EU in both 2004 and 2007, have started to cooperate with ESA on various levels.

Completed enlargements[edit]

Applicant state Cooperation Agreement ECS Agreement PECS Charter ESA Convention signature Full Membership National Program
 Austria 1979 for associate membership 30 December 1986 ASA
 Norway 1981 for associate membership 30 December 1986 NSC
 Finland 1987 for associate membership 1 January 1995 TEKES
 Portugal 1996 NA NA 14 November 2000 CEP
 Greece January 2001 NA NA 9 March 2005 ISARS
 Luxembourg September 2000 NA NA 30 June 2005 through MoHER
 Czech Republic 1996 24 November 2003 24 November 2004 8 July 2008 CSO
 Romania December 1992[12][13] 17 February 2006[13] 16 February 2007[14] 20 January 2011[15][16] 23 December 2011[17] ROSA
 Poland 28 January 1994[12] 27 April 2007[18] 28 April 2008[19] 13 September 2012 [20] 19 November 2012[21] CBK-PAN

Current progress[edit]

Applicant state Cooperation Agreement ECS Agreement PECS Charter(s) ESA Convention signature National Program
 Hungary April 1991[22][12] 7 April 2003[23] 1st: 5 November 2003[24]
2nd: 26 September 2008[25]
3rd: 17 October 2013[26]
2014 or 2015[27][28] HSO
 Turkey 15 July 2004[29] TÜBİTAK
 Estonia 26 June 2007[30] 10 November 2009[31] 22 September 2010 [32] through MoEC
 Ukraine 25 January 2008[33] SSAU
 Slovenia 28 May 2008[34] 22 January 2010[35] 30 November 2010[36] through MoHEST
 Latvia 23 July 2009[37] 19 March 2013[38] through MoES
 Cyprus 27 August 2009[39] through MoCW
 Slovakia 28 April 2010[40] through MoE
 Lithuania 7 October 2010[41] through MoE[42]
 Israel 30 January 2011[43] ISA
 Malta 20 February 2012[44][45] through MCfST.[46]

Possible future cooperation[edit]

The political perspective of the European Union (EU) is to make ESA an agency of the EU by 2014,[47] although this date may not be met. The EU is already the largest single donor to ESA's budget and non-ESA EU states are observers at ESA.

The only EU member states that have not signed an ESA Cooperation Agreement are Bulgaria and Croatia. Bulgaria however, has announced its intention to participate in the activities of ESA and is in the process of negotiations.[48]

  •  Bulgaria on 9 April 2009 announced their intention to participate in the activities of ESA [49] through IKI-BAN.[50] Bulgaria along with the other EU members that are not ESA members have started to participate as observers since 12 October 2011.[51]

Besides EU countries, the EFTA members Norway and Switzerland are also members of ESA. Neither the remaining EFTA member states of Iceland and Liechtenstein nor the EU candidates not listed above have publicly expressed their intention to participate in the European Space Agency's activities.


  1. ^ a b ESA Convention
  2. ^ Ireland is considered initial signatory, but since it was not member of neither ESRO nor ELDO (the precursor organisations to ESA) the convention entered into force when the last of the other 10 founders ratified it.
  3. ^ a b c Canada and ESA: Three Decades of Cooperation
  4. ^ Canada and ESA: 20 Years of Cooperation
  5. ^ a b Enlargement of ESA
  6. ^ Esa Press release 21 June 2000
  7. ^ ESA and Canada long term partnership ESA to participate in Canadian programmes and vice-versa.
  8. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-44557417.html
  9. ^ http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMACK2A6BD_index_0.html
  10. ^ The Plan for European Co-operating States (PECS)
  11. ^ PECS: General Overview
  12. ^ a b c "ESA/Poland cooperation agreement" (Press release). European Space Agency. 28 January 1994. 
  13. ^ a b "Romania becomes third ESA European Cooperating State". European Space Agency. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  14. ^ "Romania". ESA PECS. European Space Agency. Archived from the original on 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  15. ^ Actmedia.eu - Romania is to sign agreement on joining European Space Agency Convention
  16. ^ esa.int - Romania accedes to ESA Convention
  17. ^ "About ESA - Romania accedes to ESA Convention". ESA. Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "Poland becomes the fourth ESA European Cooperating State". European Space Agency. 4 May 2007. 
  19. ^ "Poland and ESA sign the Plan for European Cooperating State". European Space Agency. 5 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-17. [dead link]
  20. ^ http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=38535
  21. ^ "Poland accedes to ESA Convention". esa.int. esa. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  22. ^ "Hungary and ESA sign PECS Agreement for another five years". European Space Agency. 11 November 2008. 
  23. ^ "Agreements 2003" (PDF). ESA Annual Report 2003. European Space Agency. pp. 112–113. 
  24. ^ "Hungary and the Czech Republic sign ECS agreements with ESA". European Space Agency. 4 December 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2008. 
  25. ^ "Hungary and ESA sign PECS Agreement for another five years". European Space Agency. 11 November 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "Extension of ECS Agreement between ESA and Hungary". National Innovation Office. 11 November 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  27. ^ Kosmonauta.net – Űrbázis Etyeken – a határ a csillagos ég
  28. ^ Importance of Space Domain Within Visegrad Defense and Security Cooperation
  29. ^ "ESA signs Cooperation Agreement with Turkey". European Space Agency. 6 September 2004. 
  30. ^ "Estonia signs Cooperation Agreement with ESA". European Space Agency. 26 June 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-17. 
  31. ^ "Estonia becomes fifth ESA European Cooperating State". European Space Agency. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  32. ^ http://www.investinestonia.com/en/news/dozen-estonian-companies-to-create-solutions-for-european-space-agency
  33. ^ "A cooperation agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the European Space Agency was signed in Paris". State Space Agency of Ukraine. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  34. ^ "Slovenian Government and ESA Sign Cooperation Agreement". Slovenian Government Communication Office. 28 May 2008. Archived from the original on 8 June 2008. 
  35. ^ "Slovenia becomes sixth ESA European Cooperating State". ESA. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  36. ^ "European Space Agency selects and confirms ten Slovenian proposals". Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology of Slovenia. 3 December 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  37. ^ "Līgums ar Kosmosa aģentūru liks tiekties pēc augstākiem rezultātiem". Diena.lv (in Latvian). 23 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  38. ^ http://www.esa.int/About_Us/Welcome_to_ESA/Latvia_becomes_seventh_ESA_European_Cooperating_State.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ "Cyprus signs space agreement". Famagusta Gazette Online. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  40. ^ http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/About_ESA/SEMYC1KPO8G_0.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/Technology/?doc=32461.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  42. ^ Previously participation was announced by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science. Lietuva stoja į Europos kosmoso agentūrą (Lithuanian)
  43. ^ "Israel signs Cooperation Agreement". ESA.int. 31 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  44. ^ "Malta signs Cooperation Agreement". ESA. 23 February 2012. 
  45. ^ "ESA Web-TV: ESA Director General meets the press in Paris - English (between 15 and 20 min in)". ESA online videos. esa. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  46. ^ "Malta exploring ways of collaborating with European Space Agency". EARSC. 20 June 2009. 
  47. ^ http://www.esa.int/esapub/br/br268/br268.pdf
  48. ^ http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMXCD3S18H_index_0.html
  49. ^ "Bulgaria Slated to Join European Space Community". Novinite. April 9, 2009. 
  51. ^ http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/11/21/esa-opens-up-to-ten-eu-nations-eyes-poland-as-newest-member/