ESA Gives Spain Mid-January Deadline to Confirm Funding

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With Spain mired in economic crisis, the European Space Agency (ESA) is seeking reassurance that Madrid can put its money where its mouth is.

In a Nov. 30 document detailing planned financial contributions to ESA from its 20 member states, the agency gives Spain until Jan. 15 to confirm voluntary commitments to key space programs agreed to in November, when ESA's ruling council met to decide a new multiyear spending plan.

Spain's voluntary contributions to the €10 billion ($13 billion) in new spending ESA approved last month comprise little more than €80 million, excluding mandatory contributions to the agency's science program and funding agreed to before the ministerial meeting. Of that amount, Spain subscribed €52 million to a 10-year development of Europe's €780-million MetOp second-generation weather- and climate-monitoring satellite, while another €6 million would help support Europe's participation in the International Space Station, for which ESA member states agreed to spend more than €1 billion through 2014.

Spain also committed €13 million over the next two years to two launch vehicle initiatives, including €4 million for a €187-million effort that will continue work on the Ariane 5 Midlife Evolution (Ariane 5 ME), an upgrade of Europe's Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle. Another €9 million would help pad a €244-million funding pot earmarked for a common upper stage that could power both the Ariane 5 ME and the next-generation Ariane 6, which ESA hopes to begin building in 2014.

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