European Space Agency ‘not working on military projects’

By Nina Massey, PA Science Correspondent

The European Space Agency is not working towards any military projects but member states are free to create their own space forces, the ESA’s head has said.

Johann-Dietrich Worner explained that ESA’s convention sets out the organisation is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

However he added that this does not mean that the agency does not discuss matters of defence.

Speaking at the EU Space week in Helsinki, ESA director general Dr Worner said: “Now you can say defence is peaceful, I would normally agree with that.

“But the member states of ESA have a rather radical interpretation of what means peaceful purposes and therefore we are not working on any military project at all.

“So, therefore, we are not working in defence as such, but we have relations and discuss it.”

Asked whether member states are free to create their own space forces, he said “yes”.

In September, Will Whitehorn, the president of UK space – the space trade association – said a space force will become necessary as the industrial revolution in space gathers pace.

The director general at the European Commission, Pierre Delsaux, who is in charge of space policy and defence, said: “We are also now trying to work on defence, but not mixing it – just simply we want to reinforce cooperation is a feat of defence between member states and between companies from member states, that is all.

“And space force is for the member states to decide.”