RIGA - Latvia has so far supported 27 space exploration projects as a result of three tenders, investing more than EUR 3.2 million in total in these projects, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Greens/Farmers) said at the European Planetary Science Congress today.
The minister said that in order to earn full member in the European Space Agency (ESA), Latvia has to contribute a certain percentage of its GDP to ESA projects over a period of several years. The total amount of these investments is EUR 4 million.
In Latvia, space exploration projects are supported not only by research institutions but also the private sector, Reizniece-Ozola said, noting that companies like Balti Scientific Instruments, Eventech and RD Alfa make equipment that is used in space exploration projects.
The minister also mentioned an insulation material project developed by the Latvian State Institute of Wood Chemistry and an image simulation software project developed for Sentinel satellites by the Institute for Environmental Solutions. "These are major projects. Venta-1 [satellite] may not be that big, but it is a high profile project of a great emotional and educational significance," the minister said.
Arguing for Latvia's involvement in space exploration projects, Reizniece-Ozola said in her presentation that low-technology goods make up around 60 percent of products made in Latvia and that Latvia's first satellite project Venta-1 therefore can be regarded as the "first impulse for Latvia's involvement in the space exploration industry".
Latvia signed a cooperation agreement with the ESA in 2009. In 2013, Latvia signed an agreement of cooperating state.
Latvia became an official ESA member on January 30, 2015 by signing the Plan for European Cooperating State (PECS) charter with the ESA.
ESA projects include space science (astronomy, astrophysics, research of the Solar System), including Earth observation, for instance, environmental monitoring and meteorology, telecommunications and navigation, life sciences and physics, as well as ground segment engineering.