Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe European Space Research Organization (ESRO) was an international organization that was founded by 10 European nations(Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). It had the sole purpose of pursuing scientific research in space. It was founded in 1964 and was merged with the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) in 1975 to form the European Space Agency.
While the ESRO was operational it encompassed several facilities and fields of study which included:
The European Space Research and Technology Center(ESTEC) was designed for the engineering and testing of satellites and their payloads, the integration of scientific instruments in these payloads, and making arrangements for their launch. In reality, the individual national organizations simply used ESTEC as a service organization. After 1966, the facility gained executive authority for spacecraft development and merged with ESLAB.
ESLAB was to be the major design and testing facility of ESRO. Due to a lack of staff, it was unable to function independently. Eventually, ESLAB’s role expanded to be the interface between national scientific groups and ESTEC engineering groups, while conducting its own research. This was prior to integration with ESTEC.
ESRANGE was established as an sounding rocket launching range in 1964. The range was located in Sweden because it was important to carry out a sounding rocket test program in the auroral zone and because Kiruna, Sweden had the Kiruna Geophysical Observatory (now the Swedish Institute of Space Physics).
Space science data handling had to be established. That required two separate venues. First a network of tracking and telemetry stations which can receive signals from spacecraft had to be established. This network was called ESTRACK and was comprised of four stations, one each at locations: Redu, Belgium, Fairbanks, Alaska(U.S.A), Spitsbergen, Norway, and in the Falkland Islands. The second aspect of data handling required a central facility for editing and processing. This facility was called ESDAC(European Space Data Acquisition Center) before becoming ESOC(European Space Operations Center).
ESLAR was established as a laboratory for advanced research. It later became known as ESRIN(European Space Research Institute) and was located in Frascati, Italy.
The ESRO began its studies with sounding rockets because they are relatively inexpensive, have a short lead time, provide a test bed for other projects, and have a low risk of failure. The first of these rockets were launched Sardinia in July of 1964. The next launches did not occur until November 1966, but the launch rate increased quite substantially after that. British Skylark and French Centaure were the main launch vehicles used by the program. Other rockets used were the American Arca, the French Bélier and Dragon, the British Petrel, and the German/Swiss Zenit. The ESRO launched a total of 168 sounding rockets with a 75% success rate. Half were dedicated to ionospheric and auroral studies, a quarter to atmospheric physics, with the rest dedicated to solar, stellar and gamma-ray studies.
The European Space Research Organization was constantly plagued by financial issues which eliminated many of its initial goals. Despite these troubles the ESRO was able to launch two small, non-stabilized satellites ESRO I and ESRO II in 1968, two small satellites HEOS-A and HEOS-A2, the medium sized satellite TD-1, and the small satellite ESRO IV in addition to the sounding rocket program.
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