National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.
Since that time, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program(LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic spacecraft missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space, with 22 member states. Established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, France, ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,000 and an annual budget of about €5.25 billion / US$5.77 billion (2016).
ESA’s space flight programme includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station programme, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. The main European launch vehicleAriane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle.
Its facilities are distributed among the following 5 research centres:
- ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands;
- Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy;
- ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany;
- the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany;
- and the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Co.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (Chinese: 中国航天科技集团公司)(CASC) is the main contractor for the Chinese space program. It is state-owned and has a number of subordinate entities which design, develop and manufacture a range of spacecraft, launch vehicles, strategic and tactical missile systems, and ground equipment. It was officially established in July 1999 as part of a Chinese government reform drive, having previously been one part of the former China Aerospace Corporation. Various incarnations of the program date back to 1956.
Along with space and defence manufacture, CASC also produces a number of high-end civilian products such as machinery, chemicals, communications equipment, transportation equipment, computers, medical care products and environmental protection equipment. CASC provides commercial launch services to the international market and is one of the world’s most advanced organizations in the development and deployment of high energy propellant technology, strap-on boosters, and launching multiple satellites atop a single rocket. By the end of 2013, the corporation has registered capital of CN￥294.02 billion and employs 170,000 people.
Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities
The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (Russian: Государственная корпорация по космической деятельности “Роскосмос”), commonly known as Roscosmos (Russian: Роскосмос), is the governmental body responsible for the space science program of Russia and general aerospace research.
The Corporation was established on the basis of the now-defunct Federal Space Agency on December 28, 2015. Roscosmos was previously known as the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Russian: Российское авиационно-космическое агентство, Rossiyskoe aviatsionno-kosmicheskoe agentstvo, commonly known as Rosaviakosmos).
The headquarters of Roscosmos are located in Moscow, while the main Mission Control space center is located in the nearby city of Korolev. The Cosmonauts Training Centre (GCTC) is in Star City. The Launch facilities used are Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (with most launches taking place there, both manned and unmanned) and Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia which is used primarily for unmanned, military flights. A third spaceport, intended to gradually replace Baikonur, called Vostochny Cosmodrome, is being built in the Russian Far East in Amur Oblast.
The current Director since August 2015 is Alexander Ivanov. In 2015 the Russian government merged Roscosmos with the United Rocket and Space Corporation, the re-nationalised Russian space industry, to create the Roscosmos State Corporation.
Indian Space Research Organisation
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is the space agency of the Indian governmentheadquartered in the city of Bengaluru. Its vision is to “harness space technology for national development, while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration”.
Formed in 1969, ISRO superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), which was established in 1962 by the efforts of independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai. The establishment of ISRO thus institutionalised space activities in India. It is managed by the Department of Space, which reports to the Prime Minister of India.
ISRO built India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April in 1975. In 1980, Rohini became the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle, SLV-3. ISRO subsequently developed two other rockets: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for launching satellites into polar orbits and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for placing satellites intogeostationary orbits. These rockets have launched numerous communications satellites and earth observation satellites. Satellite navigation systems like GAGAN and IRNSS have been deployed. In January 2014, ISRO successfully used an indigenous cryogenic engine in a GSLV-D5 launch of the GSAT-14.
ISRO sent one lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008 and one Mars orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, which successfully entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first nation to succeed on its first attempt, and ISRO the fourth space agency in the world as well as the first space agency in Asia to successfully reach Mars orbit. Future plans include development of GSLV Mk III (for launch of heavier satellites), development of a reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight, further lunar exploration, interplanetary probes, a solar spacecraft mission, etc. ISRO has carried out 75 spacecraft missions, 46 launch missions. 51 foreign satellites have been launched by ISRO’s launch vehicles, and 28 ISRO satellites have been launched by foreign launch vehicles. As of October 2015, ISRO has agreed to launch 23 foreign satellites of nine different nations including Algeria, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and the US.
National Observatory of Athens (NOA)
The National Observatory of Athens (NOA) was established in 1842 by the Vienna-based national benefactor George Sinas. It carries out state-of-the-art basic and applied research in collaboration with other world-leading research centers. The activities of NOA are organized in 3 institutes staffed with high quality scientific, research and technical personnel: the Institute of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications and Remote Sensing, the Institute of Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, and the Geodynamics Institute.
NOA’s research activities are focused on the terrestrial interior, the atmospheric environment and Space, from the interplanetary medium to the astronomical Universe. Basic and applied research is conducted by using observational data from hundreds of ground based stations and several modern space probes. The Centre, with its rich scientific outcomes and activities, is linked to entrepreneurship, culture, education and the popularization of science. NOA offers critical social services, such as a daily monitoring of seismicity and issuing earthquake alerts to the Greek State Authorities on a 24/7 basis, weather forecasting, forest fires monitoring, ionospheric activity recording, continuation of a 150 years long climatic dataset and operation of one of the largest European telescopes. It also provides the national gate to the European Space Agency. The research centre has also an important contribution to public outreach via its popular visitors centers at Penteli, Thission and the Geoastrophysics Museum.