A New Force at a New Frontier

Europe’s development in the space field in the light of its main actors, policies, law and activities from its beginnings up to the present.

by Dr Kevin Madders

Published by Cambridge University Press
ISBN 0 521 57096 4 (hardback)

To order visit Cambridge University Press

Publisher’s abstract:

This is the first comprehensive work on the European space sector. Written by an acknowledged expert and former space agency official, the work opens up a vital component of Europe’s technostructure and the world’s space programmes. Its mass of information will serve the insider as a handy reference while its lively analysis will assist public judgement of European space efforts.

The book first explores the Space Age’s origins and Europe’s response up to the 1970s. It then devotes its bulk to the present scene by investigating ESA, Eutelsat, Arianespace, Eumetsat, ASTRA, national agencies and other bodies. How this scene works, what has been achieved, how space technology is made and used and how policy is formed are main concerns, but of interest too are various crises, including recently in connection with Europe’s man-in-space programmes. The book identifies challenges for the space community, business, and the EU and how they may be met.


About the Author

1 Introduction: Space, A Tale of Several Europes
A Space Phenomenon on Earth


2 Rockets, the Cold War and Sputnik’s Civilian Legacy
3 Blue Streak’s Fate and the End of British Trilateralism
4 Going from The Very Small to the Very Big: The Impulse towards Space Research in Europe


5 Parallel Paths into Space
6 The Building of Europe’s Early Space Capacity
7 The Advent of International Satellite Telecommunications and Europe
8 Now Let’s Play Launcher Redesign — ELDO’s Early Tribulations and Attempts at Reform
9 A Forum for Crisis — The European Space Conference
10 Metamorphosis: The Transformation of ESRO, ELDO’s Downfall and a Franco-German Pact


11 The ESA Convention
12 ESA’s First Generation and Continuation Programmes
13 Second Generation Programmes: Man in Space and the Long-Term Plan
14 Infrastructure
15 Selected Aspects of ESA Practice
16 International Cooperation


17 The Role of National Space Programmes
18 The Operational and Commercial Sector
19 Issues of Utilization and Competition
20 La Grande Europe and Space


21 Synthesis and Conclusions


Preface (extracts)

Each age is shaped by particular expressions of power and by particular tools. The Athenian city-state’s galleys and the Greek mastery of metals and alphabetic script gave rise to a vibrant maritime civilization whose gifts we still cherish. Later, coalescing nations, the Church, guns and the vessels of that time opened a period of unrelenting expansion that Europeans have labelled the Age of Discovery. That era’s legacy of worldwide dominions would, in the industrial epoch, be joined together by ship and military might but also by commerce, aircraft and the telephone. As for our own age, this is still being defined by contexts of power and technology whose significance only our descendents will fully be able to gauge. But prominent among them must count two developments — the opening of a new and this time truly boundless realm, space, and the arrival of a new polyglot, polyform polity, « Europe ».

It is the intersection of these contexts that provides the subject for this book: Europe, as it has dealt with the challenge of space.


The aim is to provide within these covers the first reasonably comprehensive reference work on Europe’s space field, an aim which deserves both explanation and qualification.

By way of explanation, it is common experience that lack of easy access to details concerning who does what in the field, let alone why, is a hindrance to insiders; and those outside have surprisingly little access at all. My goal is therefore to build up a sufficient picture of the main players and their activities, of how they are organized and have evolved, and of the principal issues currently facing the sector. This involves presenting a basic story of general interest but also the analysis of policy, legal and institutional aspects and the provision of information on infrastructure, programmes and international relations. Most of this subject matter has hitherto escaped treatment in a single source, and a good part has eluded research altogether.

Such a wide subject matter requires qualification firstly as to the depth of treatment. My goal calls for sufficiency — not exhaustiveness — and, while a concentration on policy and institutional issues gives the inquiry its backbone, I have been alive to the fact that the space field rests on the sum of many specializations, some technical, some scientific and some legal and administrative. My approach to selection in this context has been influenced both by the relevance of information to a broad presentation and by my own limitations as a generalist. I confine my presentation of technologies in particular to the level of programmes, and even there I felt it necessary to seek the help of experts in the technical and scientific domains concerned. A physicist or engineer would certainly be keen to add more detail, but it is also worth saying that an established journal literature does exist for several of the relevant areas. Similarly, an adademic or administrative historian would include a more extensive and sophisticated historical analysis than I have attempted. But, for those seeking a detailed history, one is currently being prepared, in my estimation to the highest academic standards, by a team at the European University Institute in Florence. Reference is made to the team’s work to the extent that it was available; if in doubt, I have also normally preferred its evidence.


A book of wide scope about a field lends itself to serving the interested layperson — and it is my first concern that the general reader will find the bulk of the material accessible — but such a book’s analysis and information should also cater for the insider’s main points of interest. Here, it is the space policy-maker and manager in the broadest sense whom I bore most in mind, then those in the space industry more broadly including the commercial/operational sectors, and finally those providing assistance to the space sector, among whom lawyers and other advisers benefit from a depth of discussion dealing with fundamental texts and aspects of practice. The format and extent of the content should, in addition, permit the book’s working use in the academic sector. It is not, on the other hand, designed with any particular teaching curriculum in mind.


For developments prior to the creation of the European Space Agency (Chapters 2 to 10), I have relied to a considerable extent on published sources, including official reports, contemporary monographs, journal and some newspaper material, together with a limited amount of interview or correspondence research. I also had access to some ministry and ESA archive material, but by no means to the extent now being made available to researchers at the European University Institute archives. I have used material from Florence to fill remaining gaps and to verify my account, along with the published findings of the Institute team, as mentioned earlier.

For later developments, some published primary material is available, including in database form; otherwise, one has a fragmentary quantity of journal material and the occasional monograph or unpublished thesis. I have relied on these sources, my earlier writings (which were mainly based on unpublished material), my own experience from practice and more recent sources in or close to the public domain, as well as on the comments and materials provided by reviewers.


I wish to make clear that this book has been prepared on an entirely independent basis, with the aim of impartial analysis, and without funding support from any interested party or interference from any source. The views expressed herein are therefore my own and are not intended to represent those of any other person or entity. The independent nature of the project was also explicitly referred to when I requested information or comments. Moreover, on no occasion was an attempt made to exercise undue influence regarding my critique, despite differences of opinion. Those persons and bodies I approached were instead almost uniformly helpful, and only in one case was cooperation officially denied (as it happened, after I had already completed research on the relevant centre). Lastly, while I have not violated confidences, especially through the citation of documents to which public access is strictly denied, I have not on the other hand portrayed situations other than I know them to be.

Finally, in opening such a work, I would like to offer a word of homage to those whose courage has made the space field in Europe and elsewhere a reality. Some have paid a heavy personal price. Their dedication and idealism remind us that the conquest of space is no ordinary activity, but a noble challenge, one that can bring out the best in humankind.