Spain bolsters space ambitions with statute for new agency
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain has approved a statute regulating the functions of its recently launched state space agency amid a push by European countries to keep pace with global rivals, Science Minister Diana Morant said on Tuesday.
"Space is considered a space for opportunities, and it is a national priority for us," Morant told reporters. "That is why we're creating this agency."
The Spanish Space Agency (AEE), based in the southern city of Seville, will have a budget of 700 million euros ($746.4 million) in its first year and a staff of 75, the minister said.
In November, European nations agreed to boost spending on space by 17% to stay on the heels of the United States and China.
While the AEE was given a one-year deadline since its official creation in September to kick off, it already started operating last month. "We're six months ahead of schedule," Morant said.
She added that Spain's international position in the aerospace sector had been bolstered not only by increased public spending but by the European Space Agency's recruitment of the first two Spanish astronauts in 30 years, Pablo Alvarez and Sara Garcia.
Morant also highlighted the 45 million-euro open tender for the development of a microsatellite launcher. "The future of space lies in microsatellites, a technology that does not yet exist in Europe," she said.
($1 = 0.9378 euros)
(Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Charlie Devereux and Christina Fincher)