ROSA Enabling Excellence in Space Research

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The Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) is an independent, self-funded, yet public organisation, in charge with Romania’s national and international space activities. Internationally recognised space leader and scientist, Dr. Phys. Marius-Ioan Piso, ROSA’s President and CEO, discussed with The Global Research about the opportunities and the advantages that Romanian space industry has to offer.

Global Research: How can the space sector make Romania more attractive to foreign investors?

Marius Ioan-Piso: The space sector allows one to look into the future, to be part of the future and, for the past 20-30 years, it has become the best investment destination within the technology sector, offering long term return on investment. Being a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and several other international organisations, Romania has become an important player in the space and aeronautical industries, on both regional and global levels. I expect a 10-fold growth of investments in the next 10 years in these industries also due to the contribution of such sectors to the defence and security industry. We are happy that in the national strategy of the Romanian Government, one of the four smart specialization priorities is called “ITC, Space and Security”.

The space industry also has an important role in the educational sector and ROSA is dedicated to supporting STEM education. We have recruiters and programs for students in most technical universities. In partnership with the European Space Agency we are running a program called YGT – Young Graduate Trainee – through which we send 5 people to ESA for two years to work in a highly specialized area.

Global Research: What are some of the most important space projects ROSA is currently running?

Marius Ioan-Piso: There are more than 100 projects developed under ESA programmes or under the national Research, Development and Innovation Program for Space Technology and Advanced Research (STAR). I would mention the 9 niche-oriented competence centres with high specialization in areas such as: nanosatellites, smart sensors and big data, radiation hardeness testing, remote sensing. In our programs with ESA our focus is on micro-nano-satellites developed in a bilateral program with the UK under ESA, which will be a common presence in the context of mega-constellations such as OneWeb. This will allow direct communication with the satellites as they are on a low orbit, therefore avoiding the delays and providing access to internet on every corner of the globe, without much ground infrastructure. We are also working on a micro-launcher of 50kg for low orbits in order to take these satellites to space. We proposed the project, we will also partially fund it and we intend to set-up a launching station on the shore of the Black Sea.

We are also involved in The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) project, a candidate mission currently undergoing preliminary design work within ESA, where Luxembourg and Romania are the main players. The project aims to influence the orbit of the smaller body (the ‘moon’) of a binary asteroid system called Didymos, which will come a comparatively close 16 million km to Earth in 2022. This would be the first human intervention in planetary defence. The launch window is very tight, we have only about three months in 2020, however, I’m confident we’ll make it despite Germany withdrawing the funding for this project.

Another very important future project is to develop a national communications satellite within GovSatCom – Governmental Satellite Communications program – initiated through close cooperation between the Member States, the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Global Research: What is the impact of your funding on Romanian space industry?

Marius Ioan-Piso: Through the national Research, Development and Innovation Program for Space Technology and Advanced Research, STAR, that ROSA is coordinating, we are supporting Romanian space industry to develop the know-how and the capabilities, as well as to meet certain quality criteria and technology readiness levels, in order to access ESA calls for tender. For example, now in our contractor database we have a number of 150 entities, both private and public, which passed evaluations in order to participate in projects with ESA and ROSA. The impact on industry is extensive, there are many large international companies that opened subsidiaries in Romania like AIRBUS, OHB, Thales Alenia Space and others. Our priorities right now are to support Romanian industry to obtain contracts with ESA, by consolidating our country expertise in several niche space areas.

Global Research: How do you ensure visibility of ROSA’s activities on international and national levels?

Marius Ioan-Piso: In 2017 I was invited to the National Space Symposium, the US-hosted conference in Colorado Springs that gathers 14,000 attendees — the largest space conference in the world. Romania was one of the 14 participating countries that had a speaker slot in the opening session. I had the honour to present our new 3S Strategy to the international space community: Science and technology, Services and Security. In the European area, we are part of ESA and we support the ESA strategy to which we contributed as well, called Space 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. On a national level, we encourage niche development, setting-up centres of competence including development of independent centres.

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