The 14th European Space Conference from January 25 to 26, 2022, focused on the theme ‘A New Era for European Space: Turning Vision into Action’. It was organised by key European space actors from politics, the public sector, science and industry. At the conference, Martina Hirayama, State Secretary for Education Research and Innovation, offered Switzerland’s point of view as a founding member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and mentioned the contribution Swiss academic and research institutions as well as industry have made and intend to make in the future to the success of promising European space ventures.
These days space-based applications are essential for everyday life: weather forecasts, navigation instruments, global climate and environmental monitoring, disaster and crisis management and, in particular, global communications would not be possible without space infrastructure. Satellite data and applications are increasingly used in Switzerland, too – in science, navigation, telecommunications, earth observation and natural disaster prevention and control.
Switzerland participates in institutional space activities in particular as a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and through participation in its programmes. This ensures it access to acquisitions, data and services. At the same time, it has an extensive network of competitive space actors from science, industry and small and medium-sized enterprises.
At the conference in Brussels, which was held as a hybrid event, State Secretary Hirayama emphasised Switzerland’s desire to continue its longstanding contribution to European space exploration in cooperation with ESA and the European Union. She pledged Switzerland’s commitment to future ESA programmes and to the implementation of the ‘Matosinhos Manifesto’ unanimously adopted by the ESA member states at their Intermediate Ministerial Meeting in Portugal in November 2021. The manifesto defines three priority areas for ESA in the coming years: space for a green future, rapid and resilient crisis response, and the protection of space assets.
Referring to the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope by a European Ariane 5 launcher, Ms Hirayama noted that “success unites and connectsˮ. She further said that Switzerland was a reliable partner in European space exploration, contributing to its success with its expertise. It intended to continue this commitment in the future.
Switzerland is a founding member of ESA and contributes CHF 185 million annually to its programmes and activities. These investments enable Swiss universities and industry to participate in space missions at various levels. Scientific excellence and technical innovation in the national space sector, as well as close cooperation between research institutes and industry are essential for economic growth. Thanks to its membership in ESA from the beginning and its participation in EU programmes, Switzerland makes a significant contribution to European space exploration and can compete in this field on the international stage.