On 16 January 2015, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met the press to provide an overview of ESA’s achievements in 2014 and the opportunities ahead in 2015. The event took place at ESA headquarters in Paris, France.
After a successful Council meeting at Ministerial level, held on 2 December, 2015 will be another year when ESA launches missions that cover all the domains of the space sector, in partnership and cooperation with other European institutions and industry, demonstrating the strength of the European space programme.
Within human spaceflight, the year will start with the undocking from the International Space Station of ATV Georges Lemaître and reentry into the atmosphere. ATV-5 is the last of the series of five, completing the highly successful programme.
The Space Station will see three European astronauts this year. Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian female astronaut, is already working on the orbiting research complex and will return to Earth in May. ESA’s Danish astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, will join the Station in September for a 10-day mission, followed by his British colleague, Tim Peake, who will lift off in November for a long-duration flight of six months.
Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana will see several launches through the year on Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega for commercial and governmental customers.
A highlight is the launch of the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), scheduled for 11 February. The suborbital mission will test the technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future autonomous controlled re-entry missions from low orbit.
Rosetta captured the world’s imagination in 2014, and will continue to hold our attention in 2015 as the mission unveils some of its discoveries. Scientists are also eagerly awaiting the launch of a new mission, LISA Pathfinder, that aims at improving our knowledge of the Universe by demonstrating the technology for detecting gravitational waves, paving the way for a future full LISA mission.
ESA’s many strong partnerships will result in several launches during the year.
Within telecommunications, the year will see two new public–private partnerships projects launched into space.
The European Data Relay System, a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus Defence & Space, will have its first payload (EDRS-A) launched before summer, hosted on a satellite operated by Eutelsat. EDRS, relaying data from satellites in non-geostationary orbit, will dramatically increase the speed of transmission, allowing for near-realtime services on a global scale.
It will be followed by the launch of SmallGEO in the second half of 2015. SmallGEO is a general-purpose modular geostationary platform that is giving European industry the opportunity to play a significant role in the commercial telecom market.
SmallGEO’s first use is for Hispasat’s Advanced Generation 1 (AG1) satellite, a public–private partnership between ESA and the Spanish operator which will provide Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands and the Americas with faster multimedia services.
2015 will also be an important year in the deployment of the Copernicus and Galileo satellite constellations, developed by ESA in cooperation with the EU.
The year will see the launches of the next six Galileo satellites, bringing the total to 12 navigation satellites in orbit.
The Copernicus Earth observation programme will see the launches of Sentinel‑2A and Sentinel-3A. Sentinel-2A will deliver high-resolution optical images, while Sentinel-3A will monitor land and ocean surfaces.
Earth observation will also see a launch under another important cooperation: Eumetsat’s Meteosat weather satellite fleet will be strengthened by the launch of MSG-4.