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Exploring ESA: culmination of BSBF’s European Research Infrastructures visits

On March 15th a delegation of industry leaders had the opportunity to visit ESA in the Netherlands.

With the visit to ESA, the series of BSBF visits to major European research infrastructures comes to a close. Following visits to Fusion4 Energy at ITER Organization in France, the European XFEL in Germany, and CERN in Switzerland, on March 15th a delegation of industry leaders had the opportunity to visit ESA in theNetherlands. The European Space Agency (ESA) operates sites across several European countries, with ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, being the largest. Serving as ESA’s technical hub, ESTEC is where most ESA projects originate and progress through various development phases.

At ESTEC, activities include developing and managing all types of ESA missions, from science to exploration, telecommunications, human spaceflight, satellite navigation, and Earth observation. The center provides the managerial and technical expertise and facilities necessary for initiating and overseeing development of space systems and technologies. Additionally, it houses an environmental test center for spacecraft and specialised engineering laboratories for systems engineering, components, and materials. 

The visit, in which Ketty Segatti, Central Director for Special Functions participated on behalf of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, was characterized by a comprehensive exploration of the ESTEC hub and its collaborative initiatives. The agenda for the visit included a welcome from Claire Regus, Head of Contracts for Science and Exploration in the Commercialisation, Industry and Competitiveness Directorate in ESA, and Dario Grasso, Scientific Advisor of the Embassy of Italy, The Hague, and a presentation by Paolo Acunzo, Head of the ILO Network Italia Service at ENEA and Director of BSBF Trieste 2024, who provided insights into the upcoming BSBF event.

Additionally, attendees were treated to an overview of ESA and a 360-degree virtual tour of the ESTEC Satellite Test Centre facilities led by Robert Willemsen, Communication Specialist. Highlights of the visit also included tours of the Planetary Robotics Lab by Time Wiese, Automation and Robotics Engineer at HE Space Operations for ESA, focusing on autonomous driving research for celestial bodies like the Moon and Mars, and of the Concurrent Design Facility by Massimo Bandecchi, Independent Consultant, former Space Systems & Concurrent Engineering at ESA/ESTEC, which showcased ESA’s innovative approach to designing future space missions.

The “BSBF visits Big Science Organizations” scheme underscores BSBF’s commitment to fostering collaboration between cutting-edge research infrastructures and industry across Europe. By providing a platform for industry representatives to engage directly with leading scientific institutions, BSBF aims to stimulate innovation and drive economic growth in the European market.