Portugal Space plays a significant role in promoting Portugal in the international scene and strengthening the country’s collaboration on the world stages.
The Portuguese Space Agency assumed the role formerly held by the Foundation for Science and Technology in the representation of Portugal in the European Space Agency (ESA), Europe South Observatory (ESO) and in all space-related programs of the European Union (EU).
Portugal is a full member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since November 2000, when it became the 15th member of the intergovernmental organisation. By that time, the country was already involved in some of ESA’s optional programmes, namely in the field of satellite navigation, through a bilateral agreement signed in 1996.
Currently comprising 22 members, ESA coordinates the financial and intellectual resources of its members-states, engaging in programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
For 45 years, ESA has been outlining and executing the European space programme, focus on finding out more about Earth, its space environment, our solar system and the universe. Concentrated on the development of satellite-based technologies and services, the European Space Agency also works in the promotion of European industries and the wider space ecosystem through its industrial policy.
Portugal is engaged in several of ESA’s programmes, namely:
- Earth Observation
- Space Safety
- Telecommunications – ARTES
- Space Transportation
- Space Exploration
- Mandatory Activities, including the Basic Activities and the Scientific Programme
The 22 member states endorsed, in November 2019, the most ambitious plan in the history of ESA, accounting for 14.4 billion euros over five years. The Portuguese contribution has also increased significantly from 73 million euro subscribed in 2016 to 102 million for the next years.
The European Union space policy intends to address some of the planet’s most pressing problems, such as fighting climate change, helping to stimulate technological innovation, and providing socio-economic benefits to citizens. Space technology, data and services are vital in the lives of Europeans, helping them carry out everyday activities.
The Space Strategy defined by the European Commission on 2016 aims to maximise the benefits of space for society and the EU economy; ensure a globally competitive and innovative European space sector; reinforce Europe’s autonomy in accessing space in a safe and secure environment, and finally, strengthen Europe’s role as a global actor and promote international cooperation.
EU space programmes already deliver services that benefit millions of people
- EUSST – European Space Surveillance and Tracking (operates under the Ministry of National Defence)
With almost 60 years of existence, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a leading intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy. The organisation, to which Portugal belongs since 2000, carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities for astronomy.
Portuguese engagement at ESO happens in several domains:
- Research using ESO infrastructure, awarded after competitive international calls;
- Contracts awarded to Portuguese industry following competitive calls;
- Development of advanced instrumentation for ESO;
- Science communication, education and outreach;
- Training of Portuguese engineers at ESO.
Portugal currently contributes 1.2% of ESO’s annual revenue, amounting for around €2.7 million.
Portugal has also established links with NASA and leading American universities, mainly through projects in cooperation with Portuguese space companies and universities. The country has also signed a protocol for hosting Portuguese students to complete traineeships at NASA premises and establishing dedicated university programmes in Portugal in collaboration with the American universities.
Partnerships with MIT and UT Austin allow financing of space-related research projects while, at the same, time promoting international cooperation on the topic, as well as the relevant transfer of knowledge.