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ESA previews next year's budget amid tight economy

Posted: September 28, 2010

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PRAGUE -- Europe's top space official says his space agency is preparing for the same budget next year as this year, telling reporters he has received no indications that member states will reduce their contributions during an ongoing financial crisis.

ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain meets with the media in Prague. Credit: ESA/Stephane Corvaja
"We are proposing a budget for 2011 which is calling for the same contributions from the member states as the budget for 2010," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency. "There is not a reduction in our demand from member states."

Dordain also said ESA's 18 member states have not said they need to cut their space funding beyond the levels agreed to in a spending freeze announced early this year.

ESA limited itself to 3.35 billion euros, or $4.5 billion, in spending this year. Its budget remains higher, but the space agency committed to reshuffling its programs and contracts to stretch out industrial payments and save money.

So far, none of ESA's approved programs have suffered delays or cancellations due to the spending freeze.

Dordain said he has prepared contingency plans in case further budget cuts are necessary, but he did not provide details on the potential measures.

In a June interview with Spaceflight Now, ESA's senior financial officer said the agency's member states held ultimate accountability for the budget. If they could not afford continued funding, he said, ESA would have to reduce its budget.

But Dordain painted a rosier picture Monday, saying he is going into 2011 assuming ESA will operate under the same profile as 2010 -- a constrained budget, but one without significant cuts.

"I am not expecting a different budget for 2011," Dordain said. "What we are doing is different from the activities we are doing to control costs."

Dordain said ESA is in the middle of a major cost-cutting effort, the first monetary audit of the agency since 1995.

Financial experts have produced a 20-page outline of actions to decrease operating costs, not only inside ESA's departments but also among member states.