Agreement on launchers, Italy on board too. The ministerial Esa

An agreement has been reached between Italy, France and Germany for the future of European launchers. It is just one of the novelties in the context of the long-awaited ESA Ministerial Conference, the CM22. An opportunity to rethink the next initiatives, allocate the necessary budget, and rethink the European ambitions in orbit. Can Europe be a protagonist of the Space, if not now when?

One of the most important space events of the year – the Ministerial Conference of the European Space Agency (ESA) – started off on the right foot, even for Italy. The ministers of Italy, France and Germany have in fact signed a joint declaration on the future framework for the use of European launchers, during a meeting held on the sidelines of the magistrate. To affix the signature, the Minister of Enterprise and made in Italy, to which the delegations to Space, Adolfo Ursotogether with the French minister Bruno Le Maire and the German minister Robert Habeck. This is just one of the many innovations for the space sector that will come out of this ministerial, which met in a very complex moment for the Old Continent, between war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and the risks resulting from climate change. As the director general of ESA hopes, Josef Ascbacher, “Europe is in crisis today, but we can come out of it stronger. We have to do it. An investment in CM22 is an investment in a greener, safer and more competitive future” and can thus bring Europe back to the forefront of space projects, with a strengthened ambition in the space race led by the US and China.

Agreement on European launchers

In the current scenario, which has seen the Russian invasion of Ukraine also have repercussions in orbit, with Russia withdrawing from various collaborative programs and losing the possibility of relying on Russian Soyuz rockets due to the break with the agency Roscosmos space station, ESA member states are now called upon to take critical decisions that will allow Europe to be guaranteed safe and reliable access to space. As noted by Urso, “the declaration hopes for a more reasonable distribution of ESA funding which takes into account the risks assumed by the Vega C ‘prime contractor’ and which guarantees the ‘fair return’ to the entire Italian space supply chain and to the other States members who contribute to the success of the two launchers”. In this way also the Italian industry will be able to have the right return for the contribution spent on the European launchers Ariane 6 and Vega C. The reflections among the three ministers also focused on a greater opening of the European commercial market to small and mini launchers, one of the most promising new space frontiers, not only commercially but also strategically, which could benefit from ad hoc commissions from ESA. Thus, according to the Italian minister, “European strategic autonomy is being built” on a sector in which future global balances are decided and in which it is important to maintain a collaborative approach. “Space adventure is a European space adventure. We have to team up, we have to be united”, Le Maire in fact hoped at the opening of the ministerial meeting.


The Ministerial Council of ESA 2022, the so-called Cm22, is therefore held in Paris on 22 and 23 November. The Italian delegation, in addition to Adolfo Urso, saw the participation of the president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), George Saccocciaand the ambassador Luca Sabbatucci, permanent representative of Italy to the international organizations in Paris. On the occasion of CM22, there are not only the statements and reflections of the delegates of the ESA countries, but also 14 independent socio-economic studies are presented, ready to support the decision-making process of the European Agency, providing evidence of the value generated by Space in Europe. One of ESA’s programmes, called “Future Earth observation”, for example, could generate a contribution to European economic growth of up to 3.2 billion euros in the period 2023-2030. It was the German Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck, who guided the work of the summit and rang the traditional “bell”. On the other hand, the presence of Slovakia is new, which took part for the first time in the ministerial meeting as an associated member state. Finally, we cannot talk about Space without astronauts, and therefore the 2009 class of ESA astronauts are also present in Paris, including the Italians Samantha Cristoforetti (lately back from the Minerva mission) e Luke Parmitano. Ready to become even more numerous thanks to the colleagues of the new class of ESA astronauts who will be presented on the occasion of the ministerial.

The ministerial Esa

The ministerial represents an occasion in which ESA member states and partner states are invited to jointly strengthen Europe’s space ambitions. ESA ministerial councils meet every two or three years to decide on new proposals and funding for the European space sector for the following years. And the activities are financed with the contribution of all 22 member states, calculated on the basis of each country’s GDP. ESA is now ready to reform to adapt to the new evolving space ecosystem, thus responding to its Agenda 2025 which sets the goal of strengthening the Agency’s position as a global space leader by 2035.

A complex picture for Space

“Europe is excellent and some of the best talents in space engineering and science are Europeans” – explained Ascbacher – “in these difficult times I hope that from the world of Space there is hope and job opportunities and the possibility to participate in such a rapidly expanding sector as the space sector”. The Europe of Space resulting from this first day of ministerial appeared cohesive, projected to the future and ambitious in terms of space missions, first of all those to the Moon – and the construction of the Gateway cislunar space station – and Mars. Particular importance was also given to participation in activities on the International Space Station (ISS) and in projects concerning Earth Observation and the study of the impact of climate change on our planet. “In these very difficult times, times of crisis and financial difficulties, we need to invest more in space to bet on the future,” said the ESA director general. In fact, space missions stimulate technological innovation and scientific discovery and represent an excellent way for Europe to ride the expanding space economy. The exponential increase in the commercial use of Space, which has occurred in recent years, is transforming industry around the world, including the European one. For this reason, the Agency will have to continue its commitment to supporting the space industry of the Old Continent in all its forms and dimensions, providing access to expertise, technologies, funding and customers that allow the EU to remain competitive in the space sector.

The role of Italy

Italy, thanks to its complete production chain in the space sector, can play a leading role in this context. An intention also underlined by the astronaut Parmitano in a tweet: “Collaboration with the EU, the will to be on the front line. Italy is ready to support ESA programs”. Among the main programs of interest for Italy and its industry, there is certainly the Artemis lunar program, in which Italian technologies have been protagonistsEarth Observation activities, and finally the launchers – it should be remembered that the Vega C was built in the Avio factories in Colleferro, near Rome.

Agreement on launchers, Italy on board too. The ministerial Esa