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European Space Agency (ESA) ECSAT

ECSAT is the European Space Agency’s new centre in the United Kingdom. It is based in the Harwell Science, Innovation and Business Campus.

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The expansion of ESA matches the increased importance given to space by the UK.

  • The UK space industry turnover has been growing at an annual average of 7.3% as recorded in 2012/2013*
  • It is worth £11.3 billion to the UK economy, employing over 34,000 people and supporting a further 65,000 jobs in other sectors
  • 70% of the UK space industry’s production is exported

Facts and figures 

ECSAT is the most recent addition to the Agency’s operational sites across Europe, which together provide the working base for a total of about 2200 staff and a similar number of contractors in support capacities. First opened in 2009, ESA is developing ECSAT following agreements reached between the UK and ESA in November 2012.

In accordance with these agreements, 100 ESA employees will be based in Harwell by 2015. ECSAT supports activities related to telecommunications, integrated applications, climate change, technology and science. ECSAT focuses on the development of commercial space-based products and services, downstream applications and the ‘spin-out’ of space into non-space sectors.

Activities at ECSAT 

Telecommunications and Integrated Applications (TIA) focus on industry competitiveness and growth. The entire Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme is managed from ECSAT with staff from all departments collaborating with their colleagues at ESTEC. Special emphasis is put on the development of new markets for satellite-based services and applications. In addition, new satellite, ground infrastructure and product developments are being initiated through original schemes of public–private partnerships with world-class operators. The resulting projects are run at ECSAT.

The Earth Observation Climate Office develops climate data records and information, standards and algorithms. It liaises with international climate research communities and programmes on their user needs. It works with various agencies to implement an architecture of  Essential Climate Variables, as well as the Climate Control Initiative.

Science and Exploration activitiesdevelop autonomous systems, planetary protection and contamination control, and nuclear power for space. They support the initial development phase of simulation and validation environment for autonomous planetary exploration.

Technology and Quality Management support ESA’s TRP and GSTP research and development programmes in the UK. Special attention is given to ‘game-changing’ technologies and capabilities.

ECSAT offices

A dedicated building is being erected on the campus to host the ESA teams from 2015, and named after ESA’s first Director General, Roy Gibson. ECSAT’s current home is the Atlas building. The Atlas building also hosts business incubation initiatives operated by the UK Science & Technologies Facility Council, one of which is in cooperation with ESA. The building also features a Concurrent Design Facility and a robotics test laboratory, both operated by RAL Space, a leading UK player in the space domain and a traditional partner in ESA’s science and Earth observation programmes.


ECSAT draws maximum benefit from cooperation with organisations located on or linked to the Harwell Oxford Campus. As with all ESA centres, it works with communities in all ESA Member States. In addition, it helps to move ESA and the UK closer together by maintaining close links to the UK Space Agency and Technology Strategy Board as well as to space and non-space communities throughout the UK and on the Harwell Oxford campus. ECSAT has excellent relations with organisations within the campus, such as the RAL Space Group and the Satellite Applications Catapult.

ESA Business Incubation Centre Harwell complements ESA’s presence on the campus, bridging the gap between an idea and getting the technology transfer project off the ground, while assisting its development into a viable business.

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