The Science Programme is a mandatory Programme of ESA. This means that all Member States of ESA are automatically participating and this with a budget pro rata their GNI. The Belgian contribution at this moment is fixed at 2.80 % of the total budget which amounts to approximately 520 million euro per year.
This Programme studies the so-called 'Space Sciences' by means of satellites from space. Space Sciences incorporates the study of everything that is situated above the Earth's atmosphere, starting from the magnetosphere of the Earth. Three separate fields can be distinguished: our Solar System, astrophysics and fundamental physics.
The content of this Programme is entirely determined by the members of the relevant European scientific community, who submit proposals for new space missions via a regularly ESA-organised competitive consultation process (calls).
The Programme contains the development, launch and operations of F(ast), M(edium) and L(arge) satellites, as well as a cooperative participation in several missions which are led by other space agencies or other directorates of ESA (Missions of Opportunity).
Some examples of satellite missions with a strong Belgian participation that have been developed in this Programme are HERSCHELL (infrared astronomy), SOLAR ORBITER (solar physics), VENUS EXPRESS (atmospheric chemistry), ROSETTA (cometary science) and GAIA (astrometry).
The budget of the Science Programme does not finance the development of the instrumentation on-board of the satellites. Belgium uses the PRODEX Programme for this purpose.