Josef Aschbacher

Director General at European Space Agency (ESA)

Josef Aschbacher became the ESA Director General on 1 March 2021. Born in Austria, Josef Aschbacher studied at the University of Innsbruck, graduating with a Master’s degree and a PhD in natural sciences. He has had an accomplished international career in space, combining more than 35 years’ work experience at ESA, the European Commission, the Austrian Space Agency, the Asian Institute of Technology and the University of Innsbruck. As Head of ESA, Dr Aschbacher is responsible for an annual budget of €7 billion and a workforce of 5500 distributed across several ESAestablishments, principally in Europe.

From 2016–21, he was ESA Director for Earth Observation Programmes and Head of ESA’s ESRIN establishment in Frascati, Italy. He has been a key leader of the European Copernicus programme, which has grown beyond all expectations and is now considered to be one of the most ambitious and successful Earth observation programmes in the world.

He worked in various functions within ESA from 2001 onwards both in Paris and Frascati. From 1994–2000, he worked at the European Commission’s JRC, in his latest position serving as Scientific Assistant to the Director of the Space Applications Institute. From 1991–93 he was stationed as ESA Representative in Southeast Asia, where he developed projects in the Asian region while, at the same time, working in a full-time academic teaching capacity as Associate Professor at AIT Bangkok.

In 2021, Dr Aschbacher became ‘Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’. 

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