Space research is something few people would associate with Slovakia.
Although Slovak scientists are playing a key role in some cutting-edge projects – for example, observations from the High Tatras are crucial to the development of the future European Solar Telescope – it might best be described as a niche activity in the country.
One of the reasons for this is that Slovakia is not a full member of the European Space Agency (ESA).
But that is set to change after President Zuzana Čaputová earlier this month signed Slovakia's associate membership of the ESA.
Experts are already predicting the move will bring with it new projects, strengthen Slovakia’s research potential and open up new markets for companies, with the first project calls to be announced by the end of the year.
"This step significantly expands Slovakia's options,” the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO), which is responsible for developing local and international partnerships in Slovakia’s space research sector, said in a statement after the signing on October 13.
“Technology companies in the country will get the opportunity to participate in new contracts in the field of space technology, space research and ESA programs, and be directly involved in ESA supply chains, which will enable businesses to diversify their portfolios," it added.
The road to ESA so far