Although ESA has undergone a cost cutting exercise over the past two years, it is still looking for new sources of revenue. Rodota hopes to open up additional sources of finance by increasing the number of commercial programmes at the agency. He has targeted three areas in particular: telecommunications, multimedia and Earth observation.

Battle also announced funding for three new initiatives in space: £6.7 million over three years for the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES-3) programme; £8.1 million over two years for the European Remote Sensing (ERS-2) programme; and £6.4 million over five years to the Earth Observation Preparatory Programme (EOPP). However, the £21 million is not 'new' money.

Rodota also announced the findings of the Ariane-5 investigation panel. Last year the agency was embarrassed by its inability to explain a severe roll in its flagship launcher. The problem turned out to be cooling tubes inside the nozzle. The pipes caused turbulence in the exhaust, making the craft difficult to navigate.

Further details of ESA's plans will be in a special report in the In Depth section later this month.