Since the 1960s, space research discoveries have considerably broadened our understanding of the universe. Through the achievements of ESA's scientific programme, Europe now plays a major role in infrared astronomy, x-ray astronomy and astrometry as well as in solar system research and observation of the Sun. In its long-term programme Cosmic Vision 2030, ESA established an objective of maintaining, or even strengthening, Europe's key role in space research.
Swiss contributions to ESA science missions
The Swiss scientific community is deeply involved in the definition of ESA’s science programme. Working with Swiss industry, Swiss scientists contribute significantly to the design and development of complex payloads for major space research missions. Such space projects not only push the envelope of physics and astronomy, but also inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The missions in the ESA science programmes are selected based on scientific excellence. While the spacecraft development and operations as well as the launch services are funded by ESA, the scientific payloads (instruments) are typically under the responsibility of the ESA Member States. Researchers from Switzerland have contributed to and led many instruments, starting from the Giotto mission in the 1980s to missions like Rosetta, BepiColombo, or Solar Orbiter. One example is the BepiColombo Laser Altimeter BELA, which will investigate the global Topology of the planet Mercury. Switzerland is also well represented in future missions such as JUICE, Euclid or Comet Interceptor. Important infrastructure such as the INTEGRAL Science Data Centre (ISDC) and the University of Geneva or the World Radiation Center at the Physikalsich-meteorlogisches Observatorium Davos (PMOD) are also located in Switzerland. The International Space Science Institute in Bern also plays a central role at the international level in the area of data analysis and the definition of new missions.
Internationally competitive, Swiss industry holds a solid position in the technologies required in numerous projects to develop science satellites and space probes, ensuring a strong position of Switzerland in such projects.
With CHEOPS Switzerland is for the first time in the driver seat for a space based science mission. The mission was launched in December 2019 and has recently started its scientific operations, which are planned for 3.5 years.
A complete overview of over 60 Swiss space research activities can be found in the publications of the Swiss Committee on Space Research (CSR) and the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT).