ESRO and ELDO: science vs. technology

The initial talks started by CERN scientists led to two international treaties in 1962: the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) and the European Space Research Organization (ESRO). As its name suggests, ELDO was formed to organize technical co-operation on a "launcher" (that is, a rocket) for sending items and possibly people into space.

ESRO, on the other hand, was all about scientific co-operation: making plans for space and interplanetary exploration, as well as the development of test satellites. ESRO soon linked well-known laboratories such as The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in the Dutch town of Noordwijk; ESRANGE, the launching site in Kiruna, Sweden; and the ESLAR (later renamed ESRIN) laboratory in Frascati, Italy; all of which became key sites of development.

ELDO proved more controversial. On the one hand, it attracted the interest of many businesses in Europe wanting to capitalize on the high technologies being developed. On the other hand, many countries did not find the project attractive. Austria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey all opted out of the convention.

Neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland cited worries that the program was developing a "dual-use" technology – there being a small difference between a rocket and a missile. Others were worried about the high costs of the program.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'ESRO and ELDO: science vs. technology', Inventing Europe,


  1. Trischler, Helmuth and Kohlrausch,Martin. The Politics of Expertise in Europe: Creating, Organizing, Sharing Knowledge. Basingstoke: Palgrave, forthcoming.

About this tour


ELDO: the European space flop

After Sputnik woke up the world to spaceflight in 1957, several Western European countries joined the US in the race for space. A number of international collaborations were formed, including the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) that was set up in 1962. However, their lofty goals did not achieve such high-flying results.

What's like this?

Euardo Amaldi, one of the 'founding fathers'

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