CIESIN Reproduced, with permission, from:

Box 3-B--ESA and Eumetsat

The European Space Agency (ESA), a consortium of 13 member states,[1] has been in existence since 1975. ESA has developed and launched weather satellites and Earth remote sensing satellites. ESA has developed two experimental Meteosat spacecraft and an operational series of Meteosats. It is the primary agency responsible for developing remote sensing spacecraft in Europe and plays a major role in coordinating European remote sensing efforts. ESA develops and operates weather monitoring satellites on behalf of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat).[2] Eumetsat is an intergovernmental organization, established by an international convention that states its primary objective:

. . . to establish, maintain and exploit European systems of operational meteorological satellites, taking into account as far as possible the recommendations of the World Meteorological Organization.[3]

Some of the same issues that confront NASA and NOM challenge ESA and Eumetsat. For example, Eumetsat has struggled to clarify its mission with regard to weather forecasting and research. ESA has recently decided to split its payloads between two different copies of a modular polar orbiting spacecraft, one in 1998 for scientific research and a second in 2000 for weather forecasting. Eumetsat heralds this decision, which has extended the organization's mission to environmental research, as leading to a clearer distinction between environmental experimentation and operational meteorology.[4]


1 Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; Canada and Finland are associate members.

2 Eumetsat has 16 members, including Finland, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, and the ESA members excluding Austria.

3 EUMETSAT Convention, Article 2, 1986.

4 "Eumetsat Likes Idea of Separate Polar Satellites," Space News, June 22, 1992, p. 23. SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment, 1993.