ESA to hire more staff after budget increase

WASHINGTON — After securing a significant increase in its budget, the European Space Agency plans to hire 200 new employees in 2023 to help it implement new projects.

In a Dec. 15 briefing after an ESA Council meeting, agency officials announced that ESA would increase its staff, currently around 6,000, by 200 next year to support projects funded by its members at the November Ministerial meeting.

“We have new projects to launch thanks to very good and strong subscriptions from Member States, so we need additional staff to do this,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

Vacancy notices for the new positions will be published in early 2023, he said. ESA expects to hire about 400 people in total in 2023, both for new positions and for replacements of existing positions. The new staff will be “strategically” placed in various parts of the agency to support new or growing programs, but he went into detail.

This hiring will be a key part of what Aschbacher called “the transformation of ESA as an institution”, which he described as encompassing strategic issues within ESA as well as the reform of its bureaucracy. . The agency will, with this new set of employees, attempt to reduce the hiring time by 40%.

ESA’s decision to hire more staff came after its member states agreed on Nov. 23 to provide 16.9 billion euros ($18 billion) to the agency over the next three years, an increase of almost 17% compared to the previous meeting of the Ministerial Council in 2019. The amount, while a significant increase, was below the agency’s proposal of €18.5 billion.

Aschbacher and Anna Rathsman, Chair of the ESA Council, celebrated the increase in funding during the briefing. “Everyone is really happy with the results of the ministerial meeting,” Rathsman said, concluding that the increase in funding “really shows the importance of space as we go through this very difficult time.”

Aschbacher underlined a point that was not clarified immediately after the ministerial meeting, namely that the increase in funding will incorporate adjustments for inflation over the next three years. “Inflation comes first,” he said. This explains why some countries announced larger funding commitments than what ESA reported, taking into account inflation.

ESA is still evaluating how to handle under-subscriptions or funding for programs that have not lived up to its proposal, as well as, in a few cases, over-subscriptions where countries have pledged more funding than ESA. hadn’t asked. Each ESA director is working with member states on how to allocate the funds they have received, Aschbacher said, developing work plans that will be considered by program boards in February.

These plans will determine which projects go forward and at what level. “We all want to move very quickly to contractual implementation” of programs, he said, such as government procurement.

The ESA Council also approved at the meeting the hiring of two new administrators. Carole Mundell, a British astrophysicist, will be ESA’s next scientific director, succeeding retired Günther Hasinger. ESA has also hired Dietmar Pilz, an Airbus Defense and Space executive, to be its next director of technology, engineering and quality, replacing acting director Torben Henriksen. Both are expected to start working in early 2023.

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