The ESA Council has appointed three new ESA directors for Commercialization, Industry and Procurement, for Earth Observation Programs as well as for Navigation. This occurs in a context where boosting commercialization for a green and digital Europe is one of the agency’s highest priorities.
Commercial space activities are growing quickly. New Space approaches have led to smaller, narrowly focused satellites and reduced launch costs. This has opened up space to new players and has led to lower prices of space products and services, and faster innovation. To assist European companies succeed in space, ESA has established a Directorate of Commercialization, Industry and Procurement.
The Commercialization inaugural Director is Ms. Géraldine Naja. She will be responsible for helping to enable European space companies to be among the biggest and best, strongly contributing to a greener and more digital economic recovery. She will take up her duties on November 1, 2021.
Ms. Naja was made acting Director for Commercialization, Industry and Procurement at ESA in June of 2021. A French national, she has held various roles at ESA since joining the agency more than three decades ago, including: Head of the Industrial Policy and Audit Department; Head of ESA’s EU Relations Office; and Head of Strategic and Institutional Matters in the Director General’s Policy Office. Educated in political science, where she specialized in international relations and European matters at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Ms. Naja holds a master’s degree in propulsion and chemistry from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées (ENSTA) and was a graduate engineer at Ecole Polytechnique prior to joining ESA. Between 2003 and 2004, she was seconded by ESA to be an advisor in charge of strategy in the Cabinet of the French Minister of Research and Higher Education.
Ms. Simonetta Cheli has been appointed as Director of Earth Observation Programs, succeeding Josef Aschbacher, who became ESA Director General in March of 2021. She will take up duty on January 1, 2022.
An Italian national, Ms Cheli has worked at ESA for three decades in various roles within the Directorate of Earth Observation Programs, including: Head of the Strategy, Program and Coordination Office; Head of Coordination Office; and Head of the Public and Institutional Relations Office. She studied law and economics at Yale University before taking a degree in political sciences with a focus on international law at the University “Cesare Alfieri” in Florence, Italy. Ms Cheli holds a diploma of advanced studies (DEA), which she gained from the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques (CEDS) in Paris.
Mr. Francisco-Javier Benedicto Ruiz has been appointed as Director of Navigation and he will start his position on February 16, 2022. He is currently Head of the Galileo Program Department within the Directorate of Navigation at ESA.
A Spanish national, Mr. Benedicto Ruiz spent his early career in academia, working as a microwave engineer at the Polytechnical University Catalonia in Barcelona and as a telecommunications engineer at MIER Comunicaciones, also in Barcelona, before joining ESA in 1990. He holds a master’s degree in science and telecommunications engineering from the Polytechnic University Catalonia and has more than 100 publications in technical journals and conferences, holds three international ESA patents, and has five honors and awards.