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01/07/2021 – Aerospace / Space Programme / EU / European / Thierry Breton

EU launches new space programme with largest ever budget
EU launches new space programme with largest ever budget

With the EU’s largest ever space budget, the new integrated European Union Space Programme will be the instrument to deliver on the bloc’s space ambition for the continent, according to Thierry Breton, EU Internal Market Commissioner, who spoke at the launch event for the new programme.

“Europe has all it takes to continue being a global space power. We have talents, the industrial capacity, and the technological leadership. We have the experience of ambitious space missions and world-class programmes like Copernicus and Galileo. We can rely on the excellence and expertise of our space agency, ESA. We are at the centre of among the best space-based scientific projects, such as on gravitational waves.

“Yet, space is going through massive transformation and rapid industrialisation all around the world.

“For Europe to maintain its leadership, we must rethink the way we do space in Europe. We must adapt to fast developments and anticipate new ones.

“We must set an ambitious – and disruptive - space agenda for the future: Be more dynamic, more innovative, more risk-taking! And this is what we will do.”

Modernising space infrastructures

“Rethinking how we ‘do’ space means first modernising our current space infrastructures.

Galileo and Copernicus are European success stories. But this is not enough. We need to anticipate future demands and look ahead for the next 10 to 20 years.

“This is why I decided to accelerate the launch of the second generation of Galileo satellites, with a first launch of Galileo 2nd generation scheduled by end 2024. This is the only way to keep pace with the new reality of space business and stay ahead of the technological curve.

“With this new generation, Galileo will operate real technological breakthroughs with high innovative satellites and technologies – such as digitally configurable antennas, inter- satellites links, new atomic clocks technologies, and the use of full electric propulsion systems.

“Modernisation is also a necessity for Copernicus. Besides the new missions, which are under preparation by ESA, Copernicus will need to adapt to new competition in the dynamic field of Earth observation. I want to be clear: we cannot proceed with business as usual. Defining the future of Copernicus will be one of my priorities for the months to come.


“All this will entail potentially more risks, but this is the new reality of space business. In Europe, we must learn to take more risk, to anticipate them, to mitigate them.”


Addressing future challenges

“The second element of our approach is to address future challenges, such as the one of connectivity.

“The power to connect is – and will remain – essential. This is why Europe must position itself and build a European state-of-the-art, autonomous and secured space-based connectivity system. 

“We have four objectives: 

• Put an end to dead zones, giving access to high speed broadband to everyone in Europe, but also potentially in Africa;

• Avoid dependency on the non-EU initiatives under development;

• Project Europe into the quantum security era, with protection against cyber- and hybrid threats, ensuring quantum encrypted communication;

• Keep the continent connected in a reliable, cost-effective, ultra-secure manner whatever happens, including massive attacks on the terrestrial infrastructure.

“This project is envisaged as a multi-orbital initiative, combining the LEO infrastructures with GEO and MEO capabilities; and, very importantly, it needs to put Europe ahead by integrating cutting-edge technology and security features. This will be our differentiating factor.

“While we are still designing the potential architecture, I want to hear everyone – traditional established industrial actors, as well as start-ups. We will move fast on this project, building on the GovSatCom initiative planned in the Space Programme, as well as the EuroQCI initiative.

“Besides connectivity, we must project Europe towards an autonomous European Space Traffic Management system.

“With more than a million space debris in orbit, and thousands of satellites to be launched in the years to come, space is more and more crowded, with increasing risks of collisions.

“Europe must be able to monitor space by its own. This is a question of strategic autonomy, both for the security of our critical infrastructure, but also for Europe’s access to space. We will build on the current Space Situational and Tracking system and its anti-collision system, which today serves more than European 220 satellites.”

Access to space strategy

“The third dimension of our space strategy, supported by the EU space programme, is about access to space.

“There is no space policy, without autonomous access to space. However, it is also a segment under massive business and technological changes, accompanied by a decrease in the commercial prices from non EU launchers due – we all know it – to massive governmental subsidies.

“Europe needs to have a forward-looking strategy, going beyond national interests.

“For the first time, we will be able to use the EU budget to support the European launcher industry in the full chain: from earliest research on new propulsion technologies to long-term contracts for the launches of our EU satellites.

“It is not the time for complacency. Yes, we have fantastic EU launchers, competitive on the global stage. But the standards for launchers are currently being redefined outside of Europe. I believe we need a more offensive and aggressive strategy.

“Europe cannot afford to be divided on these strategic questions. We need to be able to go beyond the national interests, break the taboos of this debate, seat and discuss all together, and define a new set-up for Europe to design a true and genuine European strategy for launchers.

“This is why I proposed an ‘Alliance for Launchers’ to have a shared roadmap for the next generation of EU launchers – a roadmap building on both traditional and New Space actors.

“The initiative will involve all Member States, national space agencies, ESA and industry. It will explore new ways of access to space, allowing Europe to have the full range of launchers: from micro – and small lifts to medium and heavy lifts. It will accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies, fostering competition and innovation.”

Europe as THE space entrepreneurship hub

“The forth objective is to position Europe as THE hub of space entrepreneurship in the world.

“We have in Europe the creativity, the start-ups, the entrepreneurs, the research and innovation capacity. But we do not have a coherent approach – rather, a scattered and inefficient one.

“I see the future of the European space industry as a combination of strong institutional leadership and European approach to New Space – not one that is not a mere ‘copy and paste’ of the US.

“This calls on all of us – industry and public authorities - to adapt.

“Now is the time to seek alternative business models and funding schemes. I will therefore soon launch the European New Space entrepreneurship initiative, CASSINI, with a €1bn European Space Fund to boost start-ups and space innovation. It will hopefully help entrepreneurs to start and scale in Europe. I also want to organise a true European space incubators network.

“I am also determined to enable the EU to act as a major anchor customer or first client (first contract approach) through an innovative procurement strategy, including for the upcoming connectivity project.

“Finally, I intend to put forward a large-scale European in-orbit technology validation programme – joining forces with ESA – so as to provide regular access to space to the most promising technologies to test them. This will be a strong accelerator to innovation in Europe.”

New modern, agile governance

“Finally, a modernised and agile European space policy requires a modernised and agile governance.

“I am glad that we managed to find an agreement on the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement, which in a nutshell, fixes the way we are working all together.

“I would like to thank here especially Josef Aschbacher and ESA for the good co-operation and drive in concluding this agreement.

“The new governance is now clearer on the role of each actors: Commission, ESA and EUSPA.

“This was necessary. However, in Europe we spend too much time discussing who does what instead of doing. So, I really trust that now, after today’s signature of the FFPA, we will start implementing jointly our strategy. 

“In conclusion, with the EU Space Programme, we have the best launching pad towards our ambition in space.

“Before the ink is dry, let’s get to work! We need to be innovative and go fast, as the global space race is not going to slow down.

“We have no time to lose.”

To access on-demand video footage of the EU Space Programme launch, go to:

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