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Frequently asked questions to ESA


About the ESA

1. What tasks does the space agency ESA have and which countries are involved?

The ESA's task is to design and implement the joint European space program. The objectives of their projects are accordingly diverse - from the exploration of the earth, its immediate surroundings, the solar system and the universe to the development of satellite-based technologies and services to the promotion of various European high-tech industries.

The 22 member states of the ESA are: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Canada participates in a number of projects through a cooperation agreement. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia are "European Cooperation States".

Further information about the ESA can be found on the website:

2. Where can I find the ESA or the individual ESA centers?

The main ESA headquarters are in Paris, where policies and programs are decided. Addresses and phone numbers can be found on our ESA facts and figures page.

ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, is the largest development and test center for satellites in Europe and at the same time the largest facility of ESA.

The satellite control center ESOC, located in Darmstadt, has been responsible for the operation of all ESA satellites and the necessary global network of ground stations since 1967. In addition to taking care of its own missions, the center has so far supported numerous missions from other national and international organizations. You can find the contact details for ESOC here.

The European Astronaut Center EAC in Cologne is the European competence center for the training of astronauts and space medicine.

The European space research institute ESRIN, based in Frascati, Italy, is the headquarters of ESA for earth observation missions, where data obtained is collected, processed and forwarded to end users.

The European Center for Space Applications and Telecommunications, ECSAT, is based on the Harwell campus in Oxfordshire, UK and focuses on telecommunications and business applications, but also supports teams working in the fields of climate change, technology and science.

The European Space Security and Education Center ESEC in Redu, Belgium, is a competence center for cyber security services in space. It also houses the Proba mission control centers, the space weather data center, the ESA education center and part of the ESA ground station network.

The Guiana Space Center near Kourou in French Guiana is the European spaceport from which the launch vehicles Vega, Soyuz and the Ariane of the space transport company Arianespace take off.

ESA also maintains close international relations with other space states and political institutions through liaison offices in Washington, Moscow and Brussels.

3. What is ESA doing in Germany?

The European Satellite Control Center - European Space Operations Center (ESOC) has so far taken care of over 80 ESA satellites, such as BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter, Mars Express, CHEOPS and many more. In addition, ESOC has supported numerous missions from other national and international organizations. Due to its highly developed technology and its specialist teams, the ESOC is able to control over 15 satellites in routine and further satellites in the first phase of their mission, the so-called LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) or to carry out world-renowned rescue operations . The ESA space security program, which includes activities in the area of ​​space debris, space weather and low-earth objects, is also located in ESOC.

You can find more information on the website: What is ESOC doing in Darmstadt? An overview

The European Astronaut Center (EAC) is a competence center for the selection, training and medical care of astronauts. It also looks after astronauts and their relatives during the preparation and implementation of space missions.

You can find more information about the EAC here.

The ESA is also in contact with various national space players and partners.

ESA activities

4. What types of missions are there and what missions are currently being carried out by ESA?

The following types of missions are carried out at ESA: Scientific satellite missions in the fields of solar system and planetary research, space astronomy, earth observation as well as navigation and telecommunications. There are also missions in the field of space security and astronautical missions for research in weightlessness. Here you can find information about the individual mission types and missions.

5. Where can I find out about past ESA projects and upcoming missions?

In our Mission History you will find information about past missions. For future missions go to the launch schedule.

6. How long is the lifespan of a satellite?

The lifespan of a satellite depends on the mission it has to accomplish and the events it encounters during its “life”. Meteosat 2 - a meteorological satellite - was planned to operate for 2 years. ESA / ESOC's good handling extended its service life to 10 years. ERS-1, the first European earth observation satellite based on radar technology, had an expected lifespan of 2 years when it was commissioned on July 17, 1991. Ultimately, it was in operation for 9 years. The cluster satellites for researching the effects of solar activity on the earth's magnetic field, originally designed for three years, will look back on 20 years of groundbreaking research in 2020. Details on the duration of a mission can be found here.

7. What is required to keep a satellite in operation?

First of all, human know-how and teamwork in many areas, such as data processing, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics or telecommunications. Commands are sent to the satellite via a ground station. The satellite reacts to this and sends back information about its functions as well as scientific data, which are then analyzed and preprocessed in the ESOC. The scientific data is then forwarded to the responsible ESA center or to the research institutions involved in the mission. The data on the state of the satellite, its orbit, position in space, etc. are used by the flight dynamics experts and flight engineers at ESOC to plan and carry out any corrections or maneuvers. More about satellite operation here.

8. How many ground stations do you need to control a satellite?

Depending on the orbit of the satellite, this is quite different. At least one station is necessary. The early phases of satellite control, i.e. during and after the launch, require a few more stations. An overview of the ground stations of the ESA network, called Estrack, can be found here.

9. Is ESA / ESOC responsible for the operation of all satellites in Europe?

No. ESA / ESOC was originally created to control ESA's experimental satellites and science missions. Many organizations or commercial companies now have their own control centers after the experimental technology was shown to be reliable. Nevertheless, the ESOC also works closely with other actors in that it can temporarily take control of their missions if necessary. So far, numerous missions from other national and international organizations have been supported.

10. Does ESA also deal with space security?

Yes. The ESOC in Darmstadt is responsible for the ESA space security program, which includes activities in the field of space junk, space weather and asteroids. For example, the ESA commissioned the world's first space debris disposal in order to make a contribution to safety in space and to ensure the most sustainable use possible. Information about the individual areas can be found here.

11. Who do I contact if I have seen an unknown object in the sky?

The analysis of celestial spectacles or the sighting of objects in the sky is not part of our work area; there are other organizations and institutes for this. You are welcome to contact an astronomy association in your area, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy or the International Meteor Organization.

12. What news is there about ESA's Ariane family of launch vehicles?

All current information about Ariane 5 or 6 can be found on our Space Transportation page and the links there.

We also recommend a visit to the Arianespace Homepage and the homepage of the Guiana Space Center.

Job and education

13. What professional career opportunities does the ESA offer me?

On our website you will find all job descriptions and dates as well as reports from our colleagues.

On the following website you will find the various career and educational opportunities initiated by ESA as well as internships for young people in their member and partner countries.

14. Where can I find information about ESA educational initiatives for children and adults?

The education department of ESA (ESA Education) coordinates all educational measures proposed by the various ESA directorates and the education department itself. The aim is to stimulate the interest of young Europeans between the ages of 6-28 years in science and technology by organizing specific educational activities and providing teaching material for their age group. A special focus is placed on the further training of teachers. There is a separate page for children, esa kids, in different languages.

In various member states, ESA maintains a constantly growing network for teacher training, ESERO. ESERO offers an annual series of national or regional in-service training events for both primary and secondary school teachers. These are offered in cooperation with national partners who are already active in STEM training.

15. How do I become an astronaut?

Becoming an astronaut is not an easy endeavor, but not impossible. A high level of education in scientific or technical disciplines, coupled with an outstanding professional background in research, application or educational areas, possibly supported by the use of computer systems and applications, is essential. Previous experience with the operation of aircraft is an advantage, especially when it comes to responsible tasks such as that of a test pilot or flight engineer. In short, the more skills and experience applicants have, the better it is, as it increases their ability to take on a wide variety of tasks.

Further information can be found at:

16. How can I get information / photos from ESA astronauts?

The biographies of the ESA astronauts can be found on our Astronauts Page. If you are interested in the German astronauts, you will find information about their biographies here.

The biography of the Swiss ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier can be found here.


17. How can my company apply for ESA contracts?

You can find out more about this on our Industry Portal. There you will find information on business opportunities, instructions for participating in a tendering process, and information for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Another option is the ESA Downstream Gateway, an ESA-wide service that offers a single interface to new external actors in the downstream sector. Through a joint outreach action towards new actors, the downstream gateway increases awareness of the possibilities of commercial research and applications related to space, creates new connections between new and emerging economic sectors and the downstream skills developed in ESA programs, thus facilitating access to ESA-wide funding sources.

Visit and contact

18. Can I visit ESOC?

The ESOC can under the direction of the Darmstadt tourism company Science City Darmstadt Marketing can be visited on Monday mornings, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

For more information, see Guided Tours of the ESA Satellite Control Center Darmstadt or Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt Marketing GmbH.

19. I would like information on upcoming events / conferences. Where can i look?

You can find a list of upcoming space related events on the calendar page of our newsroom.

20. I'm trying to get in touch with someone at ESA. How can I proceed here?

Please inquire by email (in English, including all details):

Does your request relate to educational content: [email protected]

Please direct media inquiries to: [email protected]

For employment and training opportunities: [email protected]

For conference inquiries, please contact: [email protected]

For inquiries regarding images, please contact: [email protected]

Inquiries about videos: [email protected]

Inquiries for media interviews with or presentations by ESA astronauts:

Suggestions for new research ideas to be carried out with ESA: 

21. I would like to buy an ESA T-shirt. Is there an online shop?

ESA merchandising products can be purchased via the ESA online shop.

Publications / media / news

22. Where can I get photos, videos and animations from ESA and the individual missions?

Photos and graphics, films and animations can be downloaded free of charge for private use.

Live broadcasts and programs in the respective languages ​​of the member states can be found on ESA Web TV.

Stay in touch with us via our ESA social media channels!

23. I want to use ESA material and photos. How do I proceed with regard to copyright?

The ESA image gallery contains images that are used throughout the ESA portal. The images are offered on this website in the highest available resolution.

Images published under ESA standard license

Most of the images have been publicly released by ESA. You may use ESA images or videos for educational or informational purposes. ESA's publicly shared images can be reproduced free of charge under the following conditions:

  • State the ESA as the source of the images.
    Examples: Photo: ESA; Photo: ESA / Cluster; Image: ESA / NASA - SOHO / LASCO
  • ESA images must not be used to convey or suggest the recommendation of ESA or any ESA employee for a commercial product, process or service, or in any other way that could be misleading.
  • If an image contains an identifiable person, commercial use of that image may violate that person's right to privacy and separate permission should be obtained from the person.
  • Some of the images on this website are from other sources and this is indicated in the copyright notice. For the reuse of images that do not come from ESA, please contact the responsible organization
  • If ESA images are to be used for advertising or other promotional activities, the layout and text must be sent to ESA in advance for approval: [email protected]
  • If ESA video material is to be used for advertising or other promotional activities, the layout and text must be sent to ESA for approval: [email protected]

Further information on our terms of use and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO) license can be found here.


24. How can I subscribe to ESA press releases?

Click here to go to the ESA Newsroom with press releases in various languages, the calendar and the contact form for media representatives. You can subscribe to the press releases here.

25. I'm looking for an ESA publication. Where can i find it?

ESA publications and publications can be found on the Publications website, including ESA Highlights, the quarterly ESA Impact and various posters and brochures.

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