A European Vision
The idea of creating an independent space organisation in Europe dates back to the early 1960s when six European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, associated with Australia – formed ELDO (the European Launcher Development Organisation) to develop and build a heavy launcher called ‘Europa’.
In 1962, those same countries – plus Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – formed ESRO (the European Space Research Organisation) to undertake mainly scientific satellite programmes.
In 1975, a Convention was endorsed at political level to set up the European Space Agency (ESA), effectively merging ESRO and ELDO, and broadening the scope of the agency’s remit to include operational space applications systems such as telecommunications satellites.
In the same year, Ireland became a member of ESA and in 1979 the first in a series of Cooperation Agreements was signed to allow Canada to participate in certain ESA programmes.
The ESA Convention entered into force on 30 October 1980. Since then, the founding members have been joined by Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Romania and most recently Poland, Hungary and Estonia. Several other European countries have also expressed interest in joining ESA in the near future.