The Foreign and Science Ministries have opened negotiations with the European Space Agency (ESA) for cooperation on projects for the peaceful use of outer space, the Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday.
The talks took place at the Israel Space Agency offices, with a visiting team from the ESA.
ISA Director-General Dr. Zvi Kaplan headed the Israeli negotiating team, which was made up of legal and technical experts from the diplomatic corps and Science Ministry.
The negotiations are meant to find ways to integrate Israeli research and development institutes, as well as the Israeli space industry, into the European space program in the fields of satellite communications, earth observation, early warning for natural disasters, life sciences research, and astronomy.
The ESA was established in 1975 and currently includes 17 nations in what has become the world's largest civilian space agency. The sides hope to reach an agreement by the first half of 2008.
Raphael Morav, Director of the Foreign Ministry's European Department Economic Division, said Israel had a lot of unique qualities to offer the ESA, and that as it stands now, Israeli firms were already doing business with the space agency. "The talks are going well and we hope to formalize an agreement sometime after next April," Morav told The Jerusalem Post.
While not excluding the possibility that the framework cooperation agreement could include Israeli astronauts, Morav said Israel had other unique offerings for the ESA. "The agreement opens the doors for it [Israeli astronauts taking part in ESA manned spaceflight missions] but it's not a priority for us right now. There are other unique things we can offer the ESA other than astronauts, even though it could be possible at some stage," Morav added.