Portugal is to assume, together with France, the next presidency of the ministerial council of the European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation for which it proposes to increase its contribution to €20 million per year

The information was released by the science minister, Manuel Heitor, who is participating in the meeting of the ESA Ministerial Council in Seville, Spain, where the ministers responsible for space activities in the 22 member states of the agency sit.

The minister told Lusa that Portugal will take advantage of the ministerial council of Seville to propose a plan to diversify the mechanisms for contracting services by ESA so that small companies like Portuguese ones can more easily access the agency’s various space programmes.

In Portugal, more specifically on the Azores island of Santa Maria, the construction of a space base to launch microsatellites for Earth observation from 2021 is planned.

Manuel Heitor said that the present moment is an opportunity to attract multinational companies to Portugal, notably from Germany and France, to diversify the industrial base and boost employment in the space sector, for which the government has set a target of 1,000 skilled jobs by 2030, in areas such as telecommunications and the construction of small satellites.

The minister reiterated the ambition for Portuguese companies in the sector to increase their turnover from the current €40-50 million a year to €400-500 million a year in 2030, by raising European funds and private investment.