Aug 25, 2008

ESA's View on Private Suborbital Spaceflights

In our blog post Government Support for Future Lunar Missions published in July, White Label Space agreed on the necessity of governments to show interest in privately funded space projects like lunar landers.

Now, the European Space Agency has communicated it's view on space tourism, a similar topic, underlining the difficult balance of contributing to activities with available experience on the one hand, while not interfering in competitive markets on the other hand. Below, a quotation of ESA's position on space tourism.
"ESA is taking a position of cautious interest and informed support, with the following guidelines:
  1. ESA should monitor the relevant technology activities and assess whether spin-ins and spin-offs could be envisaged for/from European space programmes.
  2. While avoiding interfering in the development of a fully competitive market, ESA should further reflect on possible partnership with European ventures or support actions, based on mutual interest and demonstrated technical and commercial maturity, without nevertheless exposing ESA to any liabilities related to business exploitation. To this end, legal schemes should be defined to allow for such activities, as allowed within the principles laid out in the ESA Convention.
  3. Provision of services by ESA in the domain of human spaceflight, in particular ‘astronaut training’, i.e. provision of expertise for developing dedicated training programmes and/or facilities for specific tourist flight opportunities, and ‘space medicine’, i.e. provision of expertise to develop dedicated medical preparation programmes of space tourists, should also be explored for mutual benefit, making available ESA’s competences under conditions to be defined.
  4. ESA should contribute in the development of a regulatory frame for space tourism in Europe, involving both civil aviation regulatory authorities and competent bodies from the EC, aiming also at a ‘more level playing field’ for all parties around the world, and supporting the interests of European industry.
  5. ESA should facilitate the free flow of ideas among all interested European parties, e.g. by establishing a platform for voluntary information exchange."
The full article Space Tourism as well as the complete ESA Bulletin (No. 13, August 2008) in which the article appeared can be downloaded for free from ESA's website.

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