Sweden really has a space minister

"It was the first opportunity to build bridges"

25/10/2017538 views3 likes

Space always shines a little in the colors red-white-red. It has been 30 years since Austria was accepted as a full member of the European Space Agency. Today Austrian scientists and technology “Made in Austria” are an important part of ESA. A look back and a look ahead to the anniversary.

"Important Member State"


When “Cassini-Huygens” set out on its way to Saturn in 1997, the probe had Austrian instruments on board. In the “Cluster” mission, measuring devices from the Alpine country have been exploring the effects of the sun on the earth since 2000. The Austrian Rudolf Schmidt was project manager at “Mars Express” in 2003, and the globally recognized comet mission “Rosetta” also started with red-white-red technology in its luggage. Know-how from the Alpine region from Vienna to Graz has flown into space with around 50 satellites since 1987, and the list of Austrian scientists in European space travel could be extended at will. In 2016, for example, the Tyrolean geophysicist Josef Aschbacher became ESA Director for Earth Observation.

“ESA would be poorer without Austria,” emphasizes Johann-Dietrich Wörner. Companies and research institutions from Austria, according to the General Director of the European Space Agency, have repeatedly demonstrated their outstanding expertise in space matters since 1987. "You have positioned yourself in the whole spectrum - from earth observation, navigation for satellites, scientific instruments to carrier technology - with very important contributions," emphasizes the ESA boss. Austria is "an important member state" for the European Space Agency.

Important for the domestic economy


Jörg Leichtfried, Austria's Minister of Infrastructure from 2016 to autumn 2017, described his country as a “space nation” at the anniversary celebrations in Graz. Today 120 companies with more than a thousand employees are active in the domestic space sector, the total turnover of the industry is around 125 million euros. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) is currently investing around 70 million euros in the development of new space technologies. Much of it goes to ESA.

In 2016 Austria made contributions of 48 million euros to the European Space Agency. Of this around 18 million for the ESA compulsory program and 30 million for ESA elective programs. In return, national companies can apply for contracts. The economic return is great. According to the BMVIT, around 800 million euros in ESA contracts have been acquired from domestic industry in the past 30 years.

There is hardly an ESA mission without technology "Made in Austria"


"The voice of Austria is heard and valued very well," Klaus Pseiner is convinced. He is the managing director of the research promotion company FFG, based in Vienna, which, together with the aerospace agency, is the contact point for international aviation The FFG boss, who studied mechanical engineering and biotechnology, worked for ten years at the technical center of the Dutch ESA center ESTEC and was vice-chairman of the ESA council until 2017. Today, Austria's role is far greater financially, he says. "We participate very specifically in ESA missions and concentrate on the priorities of earth observation, telecommunications and navigation."

Specialization is the key word: researchers and developers from Austrian industrial companies and 20 scientific institutes focus on high-tech areas. "We have achieved a very high degree of specialization," says Klaus Pseiner. The spectrum includes materials and components for space transport systems such as low-temperature fuel lines for the European Ariane 5 launch vehicle, engine positioning mechanisms, system components for temperature control, hardware and software for signal processing on board satellites, satellite mechanisms and insulation for thermal protection of satellites, software systems for the Operation of satellites and the fully automatic monitoring of their signal quality or innovative satellite communication systems. “When it comes to signal processing, Austrian technology is a major European and international player. There is hardly an ESA mission without our malware isolation - that is, the isolation of malware, ”emphasizes the FFG managing director. "We are also world leaders in magnetosphere research."

A piece of Europe before the EU


Peter Jankowitsch is someone who personally helped shape the beginnings more than 30 years ago. The now 85-year-old politician and diplomat was Austria's Foreign Minister in the 1980s. Before that he was permanent representative of his country to the United Nations in New York and later also to the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation, in Paris. He experienced the entry into the space age live with the Sputnik launch of the Soviet Union and the landing of the Americans on the moon. For him, however, the ESA was never just the union of nations for the exploration and conquest of space or the connection to the high-tech era. “It was actually the first opportunity to build bridges,” he says.

Austria's first agreement with ESA was signed back in 1975 - Peter Jankowitsch was present at the talks at the time. For the committed European, who also became Austria's European Secretary from 1990 to 1992, joining the ESA was “a piece of Austrian European policy. The ESA was open to us even before the EU. ”In 1981 Austria became an associative member of the European Space Agency, and in 1987 full membership followed.

Austria also built bridges to the former Soviet Union and its space program. There were numerous bilateral cooperation projects in the 1980s and 90s. Austrian instruments were developed for the Venus probes Venera 13 and 14 (1981-1982), the flights Vega 1 and 2 (1984-1986) to Halley's comet and the PHOBOS Mars probes (1988-1989). The highlight of the cooperation was the AUSTOMIR-91 mission, the flight of the first and to this day only Austrian cosmonaut, Franz Viehböck, to the MIR space station in 1991. 14 Austrian experiments were successfully carried out on board MIR.

Success story

For Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch and FFG boss Klaus Pseiner, space technology “Made in Austria” and ESA membership are a 30-year success story. Austria, they say, is “visible worldwide” in the scientific community - with its researchers, suppliers and, last but not least, with the Institute for Space Research (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz. The IMF cooperates two-thirds with the ESA and one-third with other space agencies. With around 100 employees, the workforce has more than doubled since 2000. Without ESA membership, says its director Wolfgang Baumjohann, “the institute would not be what it is now”. The institute's scientists have their sights set on the next major ESA mission: The 2018 Mercury flight BepiColombo, in which the IWF is involved with three measuring devices (magnetometer and ion spectrometer).

Austrians in space


The Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology has one wish for the next 30 years of ESA membership: That Franz Viehböck not remain the only Austrian who has flown into space. “Our space services must be given a face again,” pleaded the outgoing Federal Minister for Austrian involvement in manned space travel.

The most important data at a glance:

The most important dates in Austrian space history can be found in this timeline.

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