Looking at EU space assets

What do we associate space with? Star wars? It can be, we actually had a “cold” one, years ago. Star Trek ? Yeeeees,  people that are always late (including me) have literally dreamt of being instantly (and successfully if possible!) teleported. More down to earth, we can also consider space as being a sector of top research and innovation. The hostile laws of physics to reach space and its great scientific and technological potential have motivated human intelligence and skills to create new materials and technologies, and understand better THE earth environment. Some European countries have acquired a relatively solid experience, France, Germany, Italy… The European Space Agency (ESA) has been performing an efficient cooperation for peaceful space activities between many more European countries. Now the EU wants to encourage and benefits from such activities.

It’s true that “downstream” space applications are important and growing: thanks to the satellites we can have internet connexion, broadcasting, navigation system and earth observation services.  Of course, the root of this industry is still defence-oriented with old and active military satellites covering the orbits and whose reign reached its peak during the last decades of the Cold War. Also the main activities such as the launching and manufacturing of space crafts are entirely or partly under national, military assets.  But the civil sector is surely taking more “room” in space, and the fact that the EU wants to better diffuse social and economic benefits of space activities is welcomed. After all, most of the money in space comes from the public.

For example, the investments of the EU into space research and new capacities such as Galileo and Copernicus, are key tools that will need our support. Galileo, Europe’s own navigation system, will gather 30 satellites, under civil control, and will enable the EU economy to be independent from the military-ruled, American “GPS”.  Copernicus will cover a bunch of satellites to observe the earth.

The details of these two main programs and the global EU strategy would need to be taken care of, in particular as regards the data available. Space data will need to be easily accessible because of a high downstream potential, and also because it mostly comes from tax payers' money.

Avoiding the collision of spacecrafts with space debris or with other spacecrafts will also be needed in the mid-long term. The EU wants to set-up a service of “alert” sent to the satellite owner or operator in order for him to avoid the collision of its spacecraft in time. Such service should result in substantial time and money saving for the satellite operator while preserving the integrity of all  the downstream applications depending on it.


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