european space agency
The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space with 17 current member states. Its headquarters are in Paris, France. ESA has a staff (excluding sub-contractors and national space agencies) of about 1900 with a budget of about €3 billion in 2006.
ESA's spaceport is the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, a site chosen because it is close to the equator from which commercially important orbits are easier to access. During the era of Ariane 4 ESA gained the position of market leader in commercial space launches and in recent years ESA has established itself as the major competitor of NASA in space exploration.