Ireland has committed €90 million in spending to the European Space Agency (ESA) over the next five years, at a meeting of the organisation's ministerial council in Switzerland.

The money will assist the continued expansion of the space sector in Ireland.

Among the programmes which the Government has pledged further investment to are Earth Observation, Satellite Communications, Next Generation Launchers including Ariane 6 and Vega C, and Satellite Navigation, among others.

Twenty-two ministers from ESA's member countries and Canada are taking part in the gathering in Lucerne, which takes place every two-to-three years.

The event gives member states, including Ireland, the opportunity to feed into the policies and strategic direction of Europe's space organisation, as well as decide on budgets.

The space sector in Ireland is growing rapidly, with the number of companies set to grow to over 80 by the end of the decade, and 1,000 high value technology jobs expected to be created.

In total, the ESA is seeking €11bn in fresh funding commitments from members in order to ensure programmes such as the International Space Station and the ExoMars mission continue.

ESA's investments over the coming years are to focus on a shift to what the agency calls "Space 4.0" in which big data becomes a key part of missions and privately-owned space startups shake up the sector.

A large portion of funding, at €1.6bn, is to be earmarked for earth observation programmes, while another €1.2bn is to be for telecommunications projects.

Europe launched four more Galileo satellites recently, moving a step closer to having its own navigation system and marking the first time it has sent up so many satellites at once.

ESA is asking for €800m for Europe's participation in the International Space Station through 2021 and wants approval to extend Europe's commitment to the space station through 2024.

The space agency also needs its member states to approve another €400m of funding for the ExoMars programme, which is to send a rover to the Red Planet's surface in 2020.

As part of ExoMars, Europe sent a gas-sniffing orbiter and a test lander to Mars this year, but the lander crashed due to a sensor failure last month.