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European Space Agency sets up shop on Cooper's Island

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Cooper's Island is returning to its former use as a tracking station this year, with the European Space Agency (ESA) setting up temporary facilities at the site.

According to a Government spokeswoman the ESA has completed the first stage of setting up the site and will return to carry out final tests in advance of the launch of the Soyuz rocket later this year.

Should the mission prove successful, the agency could become a more permanent fixture at the location, staying for as long as five years.

The spokeswoman said: “The ESA has requested and has been invited by the Bermuda Government to set up the transportable tracking and telemetry facilities station at the Cooper's Island location.

“They have completed the first phase of setting up the station and their operational tests.

“They will return to complete their final tests of validation and to standby for the launch of the Soyuz rocket from French Guiana sometime in late November early December 2011.

“However, depending on the success of the mission they may stay for a period from six months up to five years.”

The ESA is a governmental organisation established by the European Council with 18 European countries, including the UK, involved.

A scientific enterprise, the ESA's missions are dedicated to the exploration of space, including Earth observations.

While past missions by the agency have used a geostationary orbit, in which the satellite remains over the same area of the Earth, the agency has now commenced polar trajectories, placing Bermuda in prime tracking position.

For more than 35 years, Cooper's Island hosted a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) radar tracking system, monitoring the progress of spacecraft lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

However on March 31, 1999, the site shut down after its role was replaced by a tracking-relay satellite.

Since NASA abandoned the site, it has been adapted into a nature reserve with large sections of the Island opened to the public in 2008.

Last October, it was announced that the Government was in talks with NASA to establish a mobile tracking facility on Cooper's Island, but no further announcements have been made about the outcome of the talks.

Government said that hosting the ESA on the Island will give the Island access to any projects of common interest, while also providing educational opportunities for Bermuda's students.

“This may include the provision by ESA of scholarships or the organisation of lectures involving European experts or of special events covering space activities,” the Government spokeswoman said.

“This basically puts Bermuda on the map as a participant in space exploration without the associated costs to the country.”

The European Space Agency has constructed a temporary rocket tracking facility on Cooper?s Island in St George?s.
This communications dish has been erected on Cooper?s Island.
ESA is dedicated to scientific research

The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to use Cooper's Island as the site of a temporary tracking station.

While not as well known as its American cousin NASA, the ESA has been involved in research missions since its formation in 1975.

Formed by the merger of the European Launch Development Organisation (OLDO) and the European Space Research Organisation (ERSO), the ESA is dedicated to scientific research.

An intergovernmental organisation, the ESA has a budget of around $5.56 billion and has 18 European member countries and one associate member, Canada.

While its headquarters is located in Paris, France, the agency has bases of operation in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Spain, and maintains a major spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Working alongside NASA, the agency launched the world's first high-orbit telescope in 1978, and in 1986 the organisation launched Giotto, its first deep-space mission aimed at studying the Halley and Grigg-Skjellerup comets.

It was also involved with NASA in the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

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Published September 30, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 30, 2011 at 9:36 am)

European Space Agency sets up shop on Cooper's Island

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