Born in Austria, he studied at the University of Innsbruck, graduating with a Master’s and a Doctoral Degree in Natural Sciences. He became a Research Scientist at the university’s Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, 1985–89.
Josef Aschbacher began his career in ESA in 1990 as a Young Graduate at ESRIN. From 1991 to 1993 he was seconded as ESA Representative to Southeast Asia to the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand.
From 1994 to 2001 he worked at the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, where he was, in his last post, the Scientific Assistant to the Director of the Space Applications Institute. He returned to ESA headquarters, in Paris, in 2001 as Programme Coordinator, where he was primarily responsible for advancing Copernicus activities within ESA.
In 2006 he became Head of the Copernicus Space Office, where he led all activities for Copernicus within the Agency and with external partners, in particular the European Commission.
In 2014, he was promoted to Head of Programme Planning and Coordination at ESRIN, where he was responsible for planning ESA’s Earth Observation programmes and for formulating and implementing programmatic and strategic decisions across the Directorate.