The European Space Agency has had many missions over its life span from the 1960’s to present, starting out as part of the European Space Research Organization as mentioned in the article, History of the European Space Agency.
There have been over 40 spacecraft put into orbit by ESA/ESRO. ESRO-1 and 2 were the first. These were small experimental spacecraft used for studying aurora phenomena and solar astronomy respectively. On May 17, 1968 they launched ESRO 2B which is stated as being the first successful satellite launch and studied cosmic rays and solar x-rays. HEOS-A was used to study plasma, magnetic fields and cosmic ray particles.
The TD “programme" was next. The TD programme launched three satellites obviously named TD-1, which studied stellar astronomy, TD-2 studied solar astronomy and TD-3 studied the ionosphere. In 1975 the European Space Agency was established at the United Kingdom Convention that was held in Belgium on May 30.
On August 9 of that year COS-B was the first ESA mission. COS-B was to study gamma ray sources. During its 6 years of service COS-B successfully mapped out the galaxy in gamma-rays.
Meteosat 1 was launched successfully on November 23 from Cape Canaveral. It was used for meteorological observations.
OTS-2 was launched in May 11, 1978 marking its first comsat. The fist attempt to launch OTS failed a year earlier. It was used for telecommunications at first and in its later years it was used for experiments involving control and orbiting around the earth.
The 1980’s was a great decade for the ESA starting July 3, 1980 with the upgrade of Ariane to Ariane 3 designed to launch two satellites into orbit.
The first ESA astronaut, Ulf Merbold of Germany, and space lab were launched November 28, 1983 from the US Space Shuttle.
In 1986 Giotto encountered Hailey’s Comet at a distance of about 596 km. Giotto’s purpose was to gather information about Hailey’s comet and was very successful.
1988 NASA and ESA signed an agreement to a cooperation to design and build the Space Station Freedom.