History and Governance

Our Institute was created following a decision made by the Council of the European Space Agency in December 2002. We are an association under Austrian Law, and our certificate of foundation and initial statutes were signed in November 2003 by representatives of our founding members, ESA and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the legal successor of the Austrian Space Agency. Our current statutes can be found here.

We are funded and supported by our two founding members and our regular members. The latter includes various institutions drawn from European agencies, operators and private companies, as well as the European Commission.

Founding members

Our Certificate of Foundation and original statutes were signed in November 2003 by representatives of our founding members, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). We are funded and supported by our two founding members and our regular members.


Our membership includes various institutions drawn from European agencies, operators and private companies.

General Assembly

We are governed by a General Assembly which defines our general long-term guidelines and approves our annual work plan. Each member organisation has a representative on the General Assembly. The General Assembly is chaired by the departmental head of the Aeronautics and Space Agency (ALR) of Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). The Financial Committee of the General Assembly is chaired by Ersilia Vaudo from the European Space Agency (ESA). Member of our General Assembly include:

Supported by

Our efforts and activities are supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology.

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Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is made up of experts from across Europe’s space sector. The Advisory Council provides advice on our medium-term activities The current chair of the Advisory Council is Ms. Genevieve Fioraso, the former French Minister of Higher Education and Research. Eric Morel from the European Space Agency attends meetings as an observer.

Genevieve Fioraso

Former French Minister of Higher Education and Research

Professional background 2003-2007, CEO of Minatec entreprises, a public-private company welcoming in clean rooms start ups in the field of micro and nanotechnologies and biotechnologies, created via partnerships between private companies and public research laboratories, mainly CEA-Tech…

From 2001 to 2004, part time expert for a telecom operator (Orange) in the field of innovative services for health and social applications. In 1999, creation and general management for 2 years of the Rhône-Alpes agency for the diffusion of digital in regional SMEs (ARN, Agence Régionale du Numérique). From 1995 to 1999, director of cabinet of the mayor of Grenoble. From 1989 to 1995, deputy general manager of a start-up, CORYS, spin-off from the French Energy commission (CEA), specialized in the design of simulators for training operators in the field of energy (nuclear, thermal, electric networks) and transportation (trains and tramways). In charge of institutional relations and European RandT projects (Eurêka, Phare and Tacis programmes). From 1979 to 1986 : collaborator of Hubert Dubedout, Mayor of Grenoble and member of the French Parliament, successively in charge of press and documentation, communication and Parliament relations.

Teacher during 2 years in Amiens from 1975 to 1977, then moved to Grenoble in 1978. Political commitment Since 2015, Member of scientific boards of Marseilles Infectiology IHU (Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire) and Clinatec in Grenoble, of Paris Imagine Health Scientific Foundation and of the University Grenoble Alpes Foundation. From January to July 2016: missioned by French Minister Manuel Valls for a report on space “Open Space, the opening as answer to the challenges of the space sector” (www.genevieve-fioraso.com). April 2015: Back to the French Parliament, member of the Defence Commission and parliamentary space group.

2014-2015: Secretary of state for higher education and research, including space, within Manuel Valls 1 and 2 governments. Resignation in March, 2015, for personal reasons. As minister, government’s representative and contributor for Ministerial Conference of the European Space Agency in Napoli, 2012, and Luxembourg, 2014 where Ariane 6 launcher was decided by ESA state-members 2012-2014: Minister for higher education and research, including space, within Jean-Marc Ayrault government 2007-2012: member of the French Parliament and of the Parliament Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices (OPECST), member of the commission for economic development and energy.

Publication of 3 reports on industry and energy budgets, 1 report on synthetic biology and 1 report on technological transfer from research to industry 2001-2012: deputy mayor of the City of Grenoble and 1st vice-president of the Grenoble urban area, in charge of economic development, universities, research and innovation.

Gerd Gruppe

Former Member of DLR Executive Board

Since 1 April 2011, Gerd Gruppe is Member of the DLR Executive Board, responsible for the German Space Admin istration. Born in 1952, he grew up near Aachen in the very Western part of Germany.

He received a degree in mining from RWTH Aachen University. Upon completion of an internship at the Bureau of Mines in Munich, he obta ined a doctorate degree in Energy Marketing at Augsburg wh ile continuing to pursue his career. He then transferred to the Bavarian State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology. Initially, he was responsible for promoting research and for technology transfer, and later had his first professional experience with space.

In the late 1980s he was involved in the establishment of the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) at DLR’s Oberpfaffenhofen site. Later, as Head of the Department of Research, Innovation and Technology at the same ministry, he greatly advanced the development of Bavaria as a location for space activities, particular ly with his involvement in the Galileo Control Centre and the world-renowned Robotics and Mechatronics Center – both based at DLR Oberpfaffen hofen.

Sinéad O’Sullivan

Professor of Aerospace Engineering

Sinéad O’Sullivan formerly led  Strategy at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness with Prof. Michael Porter. Additionally, she is a Professor and Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. She teaches Macroeconomics, the Business and Economics of Space and the Future of Aerospace Design.

Formerly a Research Fellow at MIT’s College of Computing and MIT Sloan as well as a Human Spaceflight mission designer for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, her work focuses on the intersection of technology, innovation, geopolitics and complexity science. She sits on the board of 2RN, Ireland’s leading telecommunications infrastructure company, as well as the Advisory Board of many deep tech companies in the aviation, space and semiconductor sectors. She is a frequent writer for the Financial Times on the business and financing of space.

Sinead holds a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from the Queen’s University of Belfast, a Masters of Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Sergio Marchisio

Full Professor of International Law at Sapienza University

Since 1997, Sergio Marchisio is full professor of international law at the Sapienza University of Rome. He started his academic career in the Seventies as assistant professor and chargé de cours of international law at the Universities of Florence and Camerino. In 1979, following a concourse at the national level, he gained the title of full professor and was called firstly at the University of Camerino and then at the University of Perugia, until his appointment at the University Sapienza of Rome in 1997. He is Director of the 2nd Level Master Course in International Protection of Human Rights and of the Training Course on Refugees and Migrants. Member of the Scientific Board of the PhD in “Public, Comparative and International Law” and Member of the Academic Board of the Sapienza School for Advanced Studies. His main scientific interests are, among others, the formation of general international law, the law of international organisations, international environmental law, human rights and disarmament, space law, development cooperation law.

Author of around 200 publications, among which: “Diritto ambientale. Profili internazionali, europei, comparati, Torino, 2017”; “Disarmo, limitazione degli armamenti e diritti umani”, Napoli, 2016; “Corso di diritto internazionale”, Torino, 2014; “L’ONU. Il diritto delle Nazioni Unite”, Bologna 2012; “ “Rio 1992. Vertice per la Terra”, Milano, 1993; “Le basi militari nel diritto internazionale”, Milano, 1984; “La cooperazione per lo sviluppo nel diritto delle Nazioni Unite”, Napoli, 1977. In 2016, he was called at the Hague Academy of International Law to give a special course on “Les activités spatiales internationales entre droit public et droit privé”. Member of the Editorial Board of “I diritti dell’uomo. Cronache e battaglie”, “Ordine internazionale e diritti umani”, “The Aviation and Space Journal” and “Chinese Society of Astronautics Journal”.

Founder and Former Director of the Institute for International Legal Studies of the National Research Council (1995-2011), he is now Associate Professor to the Institute. During ten years, he supervised and edited the research on the “Italian Practice of International Law”, published in 1995 by the CNR (I-VIII volumes). Member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Society for International Organization and Member of the Italian Human Rights Committee. Member of the Scientific Committee of the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR); Correspondent Member of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT); Italian Correspondent of the TMC Asser Institute, The Hague. During ten years (2001-2011), he acted as Secretary General of the Italian Society of International Law (SIDI). From 1995 to 2015, he was also adjunct professor of European Union Law at Faculty of Law of the LUISS G. Carli University.

He is an internationally recognized expert on space law, field that he covered with several publications, starting from “Lezioni di diritto aerospaziale” in 2000. Co-Director of the Master Course in Space Policy and Institutions, organized by the CNR, the Italian Society for International Organization (SIOI) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Member of the Scientific Committee of the Master IDEST “Droit des telecommunications et des nouvelles technologies” of Paris Saclay, Faculté de droit Jean Monnet. He is Member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute for Space law (IISL), confirmed in September 2016. Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). Member of the Académie de l’air et l’espace (ANAE), the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, and the Chinese Academy of Astronautics. Since 2015, he is member of The Hague Space Resources Governance Working Group.

In 2011, he received the Award IAA for Social Sciences for his contribution on space law. In 2015, he received the IISL Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in the development of international law and institutions and his leading role for advancing international space law in the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies. Since 2007 he is Chairman of the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL) within the European Space Agency (ESA). Since 2017 is Member of the Advisory Council of the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI).

Beside his scientific achievements, he also carried out a number of functions as Legal Advisor at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Italian Delegate to many international diplomatic conferences, such as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992); the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court (Rome, 1998); the Diplomatic Conference to Adopt a Mobile Equipment Convention and an Aircraft Protocol (Cape Town, 2001).

Since 1997, he is Italian Delegate to the UN Committee on the peaceful uses of outer space (COPUOS, Vienna), where he served as Chairman of the Legal Subcommittee (2004-2006). In 2010, he was elected co-chair of the Expert Group D of the Working Group of the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) on the Long term Sustainability of the Outer Space Activities (LTSSA). Italian Delegate to the European Union Council’s committes on space and disarmament, he was member of the task force of the EEAS-EU for the International Draft International Code of Conduct on Space Activities (ICoC). In 2015, he was appointed by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as chair of the multilateral negotiations on an ICoC held at the United Nations in New York. In 2012, he was appointed by the UN Secretary General member of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Outer Space Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures established by UN General Assembly resolution 65/68. Between 2001 and 2012, he chaired the Committee of Governmental Experts entrusted to negotiate the UNIDROIT Space Assets Protocol to the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. In 2012, he was elected Chair of the Commission of the Whole of the Berlin Diplomatic Conference, which adopted the Protocol. He is member of the Specialized Panel of Arbitrators of the Permanent Court of Arbitration established pursuant to the Optional Rules for Arbitrations of disputes dealing with spacer matters.

In 2009, he was appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) as member of the Task-Force for setting up the Italian Register of the Objects launched in Outer Space. Since 2014, he is Member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Space Agency.

Dominique Tilmans

President of Eurisy & Former Member of the Belgian Parliament

2016 – now

Chair of Eurisy

Acting collectively to bridge Space & Society

2014 – now

Chair of YouSpace

Platform to improve interaction between Universities & Professionals of Space

2007 – 2014


– Vice-President of the Social Affairs Commission

– Full Member of the Foreign Relations and Defense Commission

– Full Member at the Advisory Committee of the Senate for Gender Equality

– President of the “Space” Workgroup at the Senate

– President of the European Interparliamentary Conference of Space (2013)

– Full Member of the Finance and Economic Affairs Commission

– “Woman of Peace” Prize by the Belgian Council of Women (2011)

– MR President at the Senate (2009-2010)

Benelux Parliament

– Member of Benelux Parliament

Interparliamentary Union – Belgian group

– Vice-President at the UIP in the bilateral sections of Portugal, Azerbaijan and Georgia

– Member of the bilateral section of Armenia

President of « La paix passe par les femmes » Association

The aim is to bring women of South Caucasus to get involved in the process of peace and reconciliation.

2003 – 2007

Federal Deputy

Full Member of

– The Comission of Economy, Scientific Policy, Education, National Scientific and Cultural Institutions, Middle Classes and Agriculture

– The Commission in charge of Commercial and Economic law issues

– The Advisory Committee for scientific and technological matters

Alternate member of

– the Commission of Space at the Senate

2000 – 2003

Provincial Deputy

Economic Affairs and Preventive Health Care and Health Centers

President of the Economic Development Agency IDELUX

1993 – 1999

Full Deputy in Finances and Tourism

1973 – 1982

Employed by Sybetra as a Project Manager for the construction of a phosphate’s factory in Iraq (Akashat and Alkaim)


1971 – 1975

Master’s Degree in Political Science at « Université Libre de Bruxelles »

Stefania Giannini

Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO and former Italian Minister for Education, Universities and Research

Ms Stefania Giannini was appointed UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education in May 2018, becoming the top UN official in the field. In this position, she provides strategic vision and leadership for UNESCO in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda, encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4.

With an academic background in the Humanities, Ms Giannini has served as Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia (2004 – 2012), being one of the first and youngest women to hold this position in Italy. As Senator of the Republic of Italy (2013 – 2018) and Minister of Education, Universities and Research (2014 – 2016), she developed and implemented a structural reform of the Italian education system, centred on social inclusion and cultural awareness. She has also been closely involved in an advisory capacity with the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation.

Margit Mischkulnig

Head of Department for Space Affairs at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology

Since September 2017, Margit Mischkulnig is serving as Head of Department for Space Affairs at the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility,
Innovation and Technology. The Ministry is also the “space ministry” of Austria and supports the Austrian space sector through a national space applications programme, programmes and missions in the framework of ESA and of the European Union. The department is also responsible for the implementation of the national space act and contributes to the work of UNCOPUOS.

Ms Mischkulnig’s areas of specialization include macro- and micro-economics with special focus on industrial policy and unlocking the potential of strategic innovative sectors. She joined the Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology in 2015, after working in the Ministry of Finance, the European Commission and the World Bank Group. She served in ministers` cabinet responsible for innovation and technology. Margit Mischkulnig holds a master degree in economics from the University of Vienna.

Samantha Cristoforetti

ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Astronauts

In 2001, Samantha joined the Italian Air Force. She was admitted to the Air Force Academy as an officer candidate, and served as class leader for four years. Following her graduation in 2005, she attended the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard Air Force Base in the United States, where she earned her fighter pilot wings in 2006. Upon her return to Italy, she was assigned to fly the AM-X ground attack fighter at the 51st Bomber Wing in Istrana.

Samantha was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009. She joined ESA in September 2009, and completed her basic astronaut training in November 2010. She was then assigned to the role of ESA reserve astronaut, which allowed her to earn her initial qualifications in EVA and robotics, as well as certification as flight engineer of the Russian spacecraft Soyuz.

After completing post-flight tasks for her Futura Mission, Samantha was given technical and management duties at the European Astronaut Centre, which included serving on technical evaluation boards for exploration-related projects. For several years she led the Spaceship EAC initiative, a student-centred team working on the technological challenges of future missions to the Moon. She then served for two years as crew representative for ESA in the Gateway project to establish a staging post around the Moon, providing expertise on crew systems and habitability aspects for the ESA-provided I-Hab module.

In 2019, Samantha served as commander for NASA’s 23rd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO23) mission during a 10-day stay in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius.

Max Kowatsch

Former Managing Director Beyond Gravity Austria (formerly RUAG Space Austria)

Max Kowatsch was born on January 11, 1953, in Bad St. Leonhard (Kärnten), Austria. He studied Electrical Engineering at the Vienna University of Technology and graduated with a Master Degree (Dipl. Ing.) in 1978. Graduation to Dr. techn. at the same university followed in 1981, while he was working as an Assistant Professor. In 1985 he became academic lecturer at the Institute of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, Vienna University of Technology.

In 1987 Max Kowatsch joined Schrack Aerospace, Vienna, as manager of a signal processing department. In this position he was responsible for the first space electronics development activities of the company, including the implementation of the necessary infrastructure and processes. After the merger of Schrack Aerospace and ORS into Austrian Aerospace in 1997, he became Technical Director of the new company. In July 2000 he was appointed Managing Director of Austrian Aerospace, a subsidiary of Saab Space AB. Since the acquisition of Saab Space by RUAG in September 2008, Max Kowatsch acted as Managing Director of RUAG Space Austria (now Beyond Gravity Austria), until his retirement in January 2019. Currently, he serves as Senior Advisor of Beyond Gravity Austria, with special focus on the European institutional space market.

Until 2022 Max Kowatsch was President of AUSTROSPACE, the association of Austrian space industries. He is Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Member of the Austrian Physical Society, and Member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

Fritz Merkle

Former Chief Technical Officer at OHB

Fritz Merkle was born 1950 in Heidelberg, Germany. Diploma Degree and Doctorate in Applied Physics from the University of Heidelberg.

Professional Career:

June 30, 2018 Retirement. Consulting / Representative of the Executive Board of OHB SE.

Since August 2014 Member of the Executive Board of the OHB SE – responsible for business development and strategy.

Since 2006 Member of the Executive Board of OHB System AG – responsible for defense programs, advanced studies and business development.

September 2000 Joined OHB-System AG.

1993 – 2000 Vice-President of Carl Zeiss, Oberkochen and Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH, Jena, Germany and member of the management team of the Carl Zeiss Group.

1985 – 1992 Systems Engineer with European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany – responsible for the optical system, active and adaptive optics and long baseline interferometry of the European Very Large Telescope (ESO-VLT).

1983 and 1984 Visiting Scientist at IBM Almaden Research, San Jose, CA, USA.

1980 – 1985 Assistant Professor for Applied Physics at University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Member of the DLR Senate, Boards of Trustees of Max Planck and Fraunhofer Institues and Board of Directors of the US Space Foundation. Full member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), Member of AIAA, SPIE, DGaO (German Society for Applied Optics), and DPG (German Physical Society).

More than 100 refereed and contributed papers to national and international journals, conference proceedings, etc. and co-author of several books.

Marek Banaszkiewicz

Former Head of the Polish Space Agency

Born 1.12.1950. Nationality: Polish. 1973, MSc; 1982, PhD – Theoretical Physics, Warsaw University.


1973, MSc; 1982, PhD – Theoretical Physics, Warsaw University.

2000 – DrSci (habilitation), Astrophysics, Copernicus Astronomical Centre.

2011 – Professor. Research activity: solid state physics, planetary science, interplanetary medium, space technology.


since 1977 employed in Space Research Centre PAS as Assistant, Assistant Professor, Professor.

2001 – 2006 Deputy Director for Science.

2006 – 2014 Director, 2019 – leads Space Robotics Lab of SRC in Zielona Góra.

2014 – 2016, First President of Polish Space Agency.

Currently employed in Space Research Centre PAS and in Hertz Systems Ltd. in Zielona Góra as Director for International Relations and for Space Research and Technology Development. Experience: scholarships and contracts in Max- Planck- Institute for Aeronomy (now MPS in Goettingen).

1988 – 2000 (altogether 4 years), EC scholarship in University of Kent at Canterbury.

1993 employed in Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucía.

2000 – 2001 delegated national expert in Joint Research Centre, Ispra.

2004 – 2006 as GMES (now Copernicus) representing person in New Member States.

Research visits to Sweden, Germany, France.

1995 – 2019 Member of Polish Committee for Space Research.

1995 – 2001 President of the Polish Astronautical Society.

2007 – 2015 expert to Parliamentary Group on Space.

2007 – 2012 Member of IAF since 2015, Member of EURISY Council.

2010 – 2014 Polish Representative in GMES/Copernicus Committee.

Niklas Nienass

Member of the European Parliament for The Greens/EFA

Niklas Nienass, born 1992 in Marl/Germany, is Member of the European Parliament for The Greens/EFA. He grew up in Aachen, only a few kilometers away from the Belgium and Dutch border. Since 2013 he lives in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – the northeastern seaside state that shares an island with Poland. For his party, he is responsible for European space policy. A strong supporter of the European new space economy, he is committed to establish a European space law and set international standards for space traffic management. He has a seat in the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), where he negotiates space related legislative files on behalf of the Greens/EFA group. In 2020 he graduated with a Master’s degree on Good Governance with a thesis on international space law.

In addition, Niklas is also member of the Committees on Regional Development (REGI), Culture and Education (CULT) and Constitutional Affairs (AFCO). He is co-founder of the Cultural Creators Friendship Group, the RUMRA & Smart Village Intergroup and the Youth Interest Group. Last but not least, he is also a member of the European Parliament Delegations for Central Asia and Mongolia and Afghanistan.

Members & Governance

We are governed by a General Assembly which defines our general long-term guidelines and approves our annual work plan. The Advisory Council is made up of experts from across Europe’s space sector.

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