Almost a year and a half since the first announcement of its creation, the Hellenic Space Agency was officially launched on Monday, by Minister for Digital Policy Nikos Pappas and General Secretary for Telecommunications and Post Vassilis Maglaras.

Entering into the space sector can make the country stronger and more productive, increasing its standing in many ways, Greek digital policy and media minister Nikos Pappas said during the presentation, stressing that “investment in space technology is a international industry with an turnover of 200 billion euros per year, while according to the European Space Agencys latest report, space shows a return on investment ratio of 1 to 7, one of the largest in any industry”.

Minister Pappas outlined the multiple benefits that Greece expects to gain from the new agency, among them, telecommunications infrastructure, defense, medical applications, agriculture, environmental monitoring, fire prevention and control.

Greece does not intend to start a space exploration program, anytime soon. “The Greek Space Agency is committed to promoting scientific advancement in space technologies, via collaboration with local and international industry and academia, while ensuring the realization of economic, industrial and social benefits for Greece,” reads the HSA’s mission statement on its website, which has yet to feature its newly appointed chairman, Dr Stamatios “Tom” Krimigis.

Hailed by NASA as a “Space Exploration Pioneer”, Tom Krimigis  is  Head Emeritus of the Space Department Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in the US, whose storied professional career has closely paralleled American space exploration. “Our vision is the strengthening of Greece’s competitiveness in both the public and private sector,” Dr Krimigis said, speaking at the launch, when his appointment at the helm of the new organisation was officially announced.

A space-focused agency has been a longtime dream for the Greek scientific community, at least since the Institute for Space Applications and Remote Sensing was founded under the name “Ionospheric Institute” in 1955. For decades, scientists interested in working in space programs have been looking for work abroad. Greece officially joined the European Space Agency in 2004 and has since invested millions of euros in ESA’s research programs, despite being one of the few member states lacking a national institution. . The country has had a satellite program operating since 2001, when the first Hellas Sat was launched into orbit. A cooperation between Greece and Cyprus, Hellas Sat 3 was launched into orbit last June, adding to Greece’s network which comprises of six transponders, three ground-based satellite hubs and 200 terminals, covering areas of defence, security and civil protection.

The launch of a national space agency is seen as a way to further establish this activity and showcase the scientific excellence in Greece, attracting investment and reversing the ‘brain-drain’ phenomenon.

“The establishment and operation of the Hellenic Space Organisation will be one of the most dynamic features of our course towards the modern digital economy of the future,” secretary general of Telecommunications and Post Vassilis Maglaras said on Monday speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.