European Space Agency Jan Woerner NASA News

ESA’s leader gets extra time for his vision of European space

ESA Director General Jan Woerner at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on July 25 as an Ariane 5 lifts off in the background with four Galileo navigation satellites onboard. Credit: ESA via Twitter

This text initially appeared within the Sept. 24, 2018 concern of SpaceNews journal.

In July, the European Space Company introduced, with surprisingly little fanfare, that it was extending the time period of its present director common, Jan Woerner, by two years. Woerner’s four-year time period was set to run out subsequent July, simply months earlier than the company’s subsequent triennial ministerial assembly the place member states determine what packages to fund and at what ranges.

With that extension, Woerner has the arrogance that he will probably be in workplace for that ministerial assembly, in search of approval for packages to information ESA’s future. That future accommodates a quantity of questions, from the destiny of the Worldwide Space Station and planning for a return to the moon to rising challenges like reusable launch automobiles and rising considerations concerning the security of the space surroundings.

Woerner spoke with SpaceNews senior employees author Jeff Foust in late August about his extension, the company’s actions, and its relationship with others, from the EU to NASA. A condensed model of that interview is under.


Why did you search a two-year extension?

In ESA, the director common and the administrators are elected and confirmed for four-year phrases, however the ministerials are each three years. They don’t match to one another. Subsequently, I stated it’s higher to have a three-year logic for the director common in addition to for the administrators. I proposed to not give me one other 4 years however as an alternative give me two years to the 4 years which I had already. Then we will see whether or not I can get one other extension for one other three years, and three years after that.

Some members stated no initially as a result of the ministerial is all the time altering. We had another discussions about some points of extension and non-extension and so forth, after which in July I got here again to my proposal early this yr.

What do you need to obtain with this extension?

What I want to do is construct on what was finished already in my interval as director basic after which to have some vision about what might be accomplished sooner or later. Should you look into what was achieved by way of my first time period, we had so much of spaceflights: six missions with astronauts from totally different nationalities. We had so much of Earth statement actions. We’ve 26 Galileo satellites in orbit, and the event of Ariane 6 and Vega C is nicely underway.

The vision of the longer term has two important elements. One is to reinforce day by day life, and we’re doing this by shaping our space actions in 4 pillars: science and exploration, security and safety, all of the purposes and what you would name enabling and help. The contents of these 4 pillars, with Earth remark, telecommunications, navigation, all of this, ought to be enhancing our day by day lives.

However we try to not overlook it’s not simply to reinforce particular person human life, but in addition enabling a shiny future of our planet. And the way can we do that? We’d like totally different actions. We’d like technological approaches however, greater than that, we’d like additionally what I name a sequence of motivation. Space has the facility to fascinate individuals, and everybody may be fascinated by space missions. Individuals are motivated to create one thing once we are doing one thing for the longer term of our planet, so it’s necessary that this motivation goes in the proper path.

The subsequent ministerial is in late 2019. Is planning for it already underway?

Sure, we’re already underway. In October, we have now what is known as an intermediate ministers’ assembly. We’re discussing strategic tips of the packages. We’re internally getting ready the subsequent ministeral by formulating proposals — and the 4 pillars I discussed are half of this. As a way to have a great narrative for what we’re doing we created these 4 pillars, during which we at the moment are creating the totally different proposals that could possibly be given to the member states.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on July 25 as an Ariane 5 lifts off in the background with four Galileo navigation satellites onboard. Credit: ESA via TwitterESA Director Common Jan Woerner on the Guiana Space Middle in Kourou, French Guiana, on July 25 as an Ariane 5 lifts off within the background with 4 Galileo navigation satellites onboard. Credit score: ESA by way of Twitter

What’s ESA’s future on the Worldwide Space Station given NASA’s plans to finish direct funding of it within the mid-2020s?

The Worldwide Space Station is the one and solely laboratory we now have in space proper now. It’s absolutely outfitted, it could ship wonderful outcomes and we should always use it so long as attainable. However, of course, we aren’t blind. We now have to additionally look to the longer term. We should always look into two issues. One is what ISS is offering, first of all microgravity analysis prospects and subsequently we’ve got to offer the likelihood for persevering with that. The opposite factor is worldwide collaboration. The Worldwide Space Station can be a mannequin of tips on how to cooperate internationally and subsequently this half ought to be continued.

We consider that the Worldwide Space Station must be used so long as it’s reasonably priced and, of course, is technically possible. There’s, for positive, a date the place we’ve to consider stopping these actions and go to the moon with the Moon Village, which incorporates the Gateway.

Have you ever had discussions with NASA about collaborating within the Gateway?

Sure, we’re in discussions with NASA about what we might present. The very first thing is to ship the Orion service module for additional missions. We had some dialogue with our member states and with NASA about creating and producing some elements of the Gateway.

Are there any particular elements of the Gateway that you simply’re fascinated by?

There are a number of. We eager about the habitat facet, however this isn’t finalized. We’re additionally fascinated with how we will put together robotic missions from the Lunar Gateway right down to the floor of the moon.

Are you planning robotic missions to the lunar floor?

We’re, along with the Russians. ESA is part of Russia’s Luna-Resurs. We’re additionally supporting the Chinese language for their missions with some operational help. We’re in discussions with some of the smaller corporations, offering them with some payloads to be transferred to the floor of the moon.

This goes again to the query of the Moon Village. The Moon Village isn’t a venture. It’s a multipartner open idea and that signifies that we’re enjoying a task of dealer: we’re accumulating worldwide gives to do one thing on the moon and we try to hyperlink the totally different gives.

How would you describe ESA’s cooperation with China? ESA astronauts have educated in China, so might they fly to China’s future space station?

To date we had some scientific experiments along with the Chinese language. We’ve got a mission deliberate referred to as SMILE [Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer] which is concerning the magnetosphere of the solar.

Relating to astronauts, we had some astronauts going for coaching in China. However there’s nothing determined up to now. We should always look into it as a result of it might make an enormous distinction for the longer term to have some cooperation with the Chinese language in human spaceflight. We should always not exclude the Chinese language from our international cooperation in space.

What’s your relationship with new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine?

I’ve recognized him for a number of years. I met him in Colorado Springs on the Space Symposium some years in the past. We had our assembly within the U.Okay. on the time of the Farnborough Airshow [in July]. We went via all of the totally different packages and for me it’s clear Jim can also be very a lot concerned with persevering with our cooperation on totally different space actions. And, of course, NASA is for us the premium associate, a dependable associate, and I consider Jim Bridenstine as the brand new NASA administrator will proceed this partnership from his aspect.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner, right, with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst at the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s launch pad before Gerst’s June 6 launch to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz. Credit: ESA–S. CORVAJA ESA Director Basic Jan Woerner, proper, with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s launch pad earlier than Gerst’s June 6 launch to the Worldwide Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz. Credit score: ESA–S. CORVAJA

ESA has been working quite a bit with the EU on packages like Galileo and Copernicus. Because the EU takes a much bigger position in space actions, how is that relationship evolving? Are you involved that the EU will overshadow ESA in space?

The competencies and capabilities of ESA and the European Union are fairly totally different. ESA has a really particular space-oriented objective and goal. We’ve the technical experience, we’ve the procurement experience, we’ve our infrastructure for space, our international community for space.

The European Union is a political physique, so their place is sort of complementary to that of ESA and subsequently it is sensible to work collectively. It’s good to work collectively as a result of our competence and our capabilities for space are mixed with a extra politically oriented competence and prospects of the European Union.

Do you see alternatives for expanded cooperation with the EU sooner or later?

Proper now, the very first thing is continuation for Galileo, Copernicus and EGNOS [European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service]; these are the large packages. There’s some dialogue about different packages. There’s the query of space security, for instance, however that is nonetheless within the dialogue part proper now. So we’ll see how a lot cash the member states in the EU are able to pay for it. The EU is our companion and buyer.

How a lot of a complication does Britain’s exit from the EU, whereas remaining a member of ESA, pose for ESA’s packages and cooperation with the EU?

First of all, I nonetheless hope that Brexit won’t occur. I’m an optimist and in that respect the final day isn’t there. For us the state of affairs is a bit totally different to the EU one as a result of the U.Okay. will stay a traditional member state, which is sweet for us. In fact, in some of our packages there may be some points the place the EU is concerned. I hope and I consider that if Brexit actually occurs, the U.Okay. may have some type of settlement with the European Union with the way to cope with the European space packages, like Norway and Switzerland, each member states of ESA however not members of the European Union. And that works completely.

You talked about ESA’s new launch car packages, the Ariane 6 and the Vega C. What do you see as the longer term for these packages given the more and more aggressive international launch market and quite a bit of actions by, for instance, SpaceX and Blue Origin to develop low-cost reusable launch automobiles?

It’s a very good query however it’s not straightforward to reply. Launch shouldn’t be a mass-market. Should you look to a every day product, your water bottle, you’d say the bottle is produced within the tens of millions per day. Is it outlined worldwide that reusability is the most cost effective technique? It’s not. Yow will discover reusable bottles, you’ll find recyclable bottles, and also you even discover bottles that are simply destroyed.

It’s not clear that reusability is the one and solely answer. Reusability is ok from an ecological level of view. From an financial level of view, I don’t know. We’re creating in ESA applied sciences for reusable launchers, however personally I’m not satisfied that that is the one answer. I consider we’ve got to enter extra disruptive options for launches sooner or later.

However, of course, you’re proper that the competitors could be very fierce. We try to develop a really environment friendly, dependable launcher household with Vega C, Ariane 62 and Ariane 64. Our hope is to be as aggressive out there as we have been up to now with Ariane 5. Additionally, Ariane 5 itself was not one of the most cost effective launchers, however reliability counts, too.

You speak about wanting into disruptive options. Do you might have something particular in thoughts in phrases of know-how?

Any disruption is welcome. We’re taking a look at winged our bodies, we’re wanting into new propulsion methods, hybrid propulsion methods, air-breathing methods and so forth. We want to all of the totally different prospects as a result of it’s not clear what’s the most promising answer for the longer term.

The chief government of Arianespace, Stéphane Israël, has advised he’d wish to see Europe pursue a human spaceflight program utilizing the Ariane 6. Is there any curiosity in ESA in such an effort?

The event of Ariane 6 is in distinction to Ariane 5 as it isn’t being developed for human spaceflight. Ariane 5 was developed initially for Hermes [a crewed spaceplane]. For Ariane 6 we aren’t trying to this, however I might not say by no means, which means who is aware of what comes up sooner or later? Perhaps at some point Europe begins once more to enter into human spaceflight. That’s attainable.

What different priorities do you’ve?

Space security is for me essential. We’ve orbital particles, space climate and close to Earth objects endangering life on Earth. We’ll ask for concepts. We want to put public cash into doing one thing, but in addition a personal funding to transcend, so meaning not solely removing of particles and previous satellites but in addition perhaps recycling or enhancing the operation time of some spacecraft by doing upkeep. That is one thing we try to help very a lot with actions in space security.

This looks like an space notably well-suited to worldwide cooperation.

Sure, however one shouldn’t cover behind that. Some individuals are saying as a result of that’s for worldwide cooperation, we wait till the others are saying sure. That is the flawed conduct. In fact, it’s greatest if we do it collectively, however because the director common of ESA, I might suggest to the member states to ESA to go forward proper now.

When do you assume you’ll have the ability to get approval from the member states?

I don’t know. You must witness a ministerial. It’s a miracle. It’s a bazaar. You begin on the primary day with an enormous bunch of proposals for totally different elements after which you need to see which proposal is supported by the member states and which one just isn’t supported, and the funding of the member states is restricted. You need to withdraw one proposal to be able to get the cash for one other proposal. What I can inform you is that I might suggest one thing subsequent yr for the ministerial.

When your time as ESA director common ends, what do you need to be recognized for?

Once I was presenting myself to turn into a director common, anyone requested me, “In 10 years’ time, what would people say about your term as director general?” I consider what I’ve tried to do is that I actually was capable of provoke a shift of paradigm, particularly with regard to participation of many, as a result of it’s very clear that two brains are higher than one mind, three brains are higher than two brains, 4 brains are higher than three brains. Involving everyone seems to be one thing that I consider is basically essential for the longer term of space.