ESA gives online access to its digital Historical Archives with a first release this week


A new decade added to our space timeline!


The ECSR’s picture collections – a window on 60 years of space heritage


20 years of the European Centre for Space Records

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ESA Archives

The ESA archives both preserves ESA’s institutional memory and promotes and exploits Europe’s scientific and technical legacy in space. An important part of our work, and the purpose of this website, is making our vast resources available online to anyone with an interest in the story and benefits of European endeavours and cooperation in space.

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Search the SHIP database of images from the picture collections hosted in the ESA Archives, currently covering the years 1964 to 1973.

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ESA’s ‘new’ Headquarters under construction in 1976

After almost three years of construction, the opening of ESA’s new Headquarters building in 8-10 Rue Mario Nikis, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, is imminent. But this won’t be the first Head Office building on this site – here you can see works in May 1976 to prepare the original HQ building in rue Nikis for the arrival of staff in October of that year.

However, Rue Nikis wasn’t the first home for ESA’s Headquarters. After starting life in various Paris locations, ESA’s predecessors - the European Space Research Organisation and European Launcher Development Organisation - came together in 1967 in rented accommodation at 114 Avenue Charles de Gaulle in Neuilly-sur-Seine. And it was at this address that ESA came into being in 1975, with the merger of ESRO and ELDO, and where the search began for suitable office space for ESA’s own building.

The right location was found in former electronic components laboratories in a street named after Mario Nikis (1908-1944). We think Nikis was an alumnus of the nearby Ecole Supérieure d’Electricité (in Rue Germaine de Staël) who went on to work for French national radio, and was Director of the Nikis Laboratories in Clermont-Ferrand and a French Resistance fighter. Staff had the chance to see the renovation works to the site on a visit in July 1976 and the works were completed by the autumn. ESA Bulletin No. 7 announced in November 1976 that staff had moved in on 18 October.

Assembling the Skylark sounding rocket payload in August 1965

Skylark was a family of British sounding rockets and the UK’s first space rocket. In the 1960s and 1970s ESA’s predecessor ESRO used two types of Skylark sounding rockets to conduct investigations as part of its operational programme (Raven VI/Cuckoo and Raven VI/Goldfinch), launching seven Skylark rockets from the Salto di Quirra range in Sardinia, Italy, between 1964 and 1965.

This photo appears to show the S.03 or S.04  payload being assembled at ESTEC. Generally, rocket-borne payloads were constructed in duplicate, both payloads being launched in succession: two boosted Skylark rockets carrying this payload were launched at sunrise in Sardinia on 30 September and 2 October 1965, to investigate atmospheric parameters using release experiments. Both launches were successful and all emissions were observed. One of the experiments, R-33: Barium release, was undertaken by Professor Reimar Lüst of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, who would go on to become ESA’s third Director General in 1984. We can’t be sure but we think he could be the man in the middle!

Edoardo Amaldi visits ESTEC in 1979

The Italian physicist Amaldi is one of ESA’s founding fathers. A key advocate of the establishment of a European organisation for space from the very start, his open letter of 1959, urging the creation of a European organisation for space, set in motion the process that led to the founding of ESA’s predecessors, ESRO and ELDO in 1962.

In the wake of this, ESRO’s European Space Research Institute in Frascati (ESRIN), was established in 1966 and is home today to the ESA Archives at the European Centre for Space Records. Ironically, one of the gaps in our holdings is any photo of Amaldi from these early years, particularly as we have his signature in the ESRIN guest books!

Following the merger of ESRO and ELDO to form ESA in 1975, Amaldi became Chair of its Science Programme Committee in July 1979. He is seen here in that same year, visiting ESTEC, ESA’s technical hub in the Netherlands, 20 years after it all began. (Amaldi is on the right, on the left is Massimo Trella, ESA Technical Director.)