Discovery and competitiveness: the keywords in Europe's policies and programmes for space

November 29, 2005

Paris, 28 Nov 2005

Objectives and priorities for Europe in space will soon be discussed at a Ministerial meeting in Berlin. On 5 and 6 December next, the Ministers in charge of space activities within the 17 Member States of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada will meet in Berlin to deliberate on a plan for discovery and competitiveness for Europe in space, and to decide on the relevant future programmes. Space has become a common feature of all our daily lives, while still leaving room for discovery and dreams. In Europe alone, ESA has marked 30 years of great achievements. In parallel, space has risen up the political agenda, and the European Community has increased its interest in space as an instrument for its policies. This takes place in a challenging and difficult commercial and industrial context, with strong competition stressing the need for increased competitiveness. Ministers will therefore be invited to take decisions that will provide Europe and its citizens with a competitive space sector able to lead the search for new discoveries, guarantee access to strategic data and new services, and consolidate its share of the worldwide commercial market. An exploration mission to the red planet will be discussed With that aim in mind, they will be invited to decide on the continuation of programmes in Space and Earth sciences, but also regarding launchers, Europe's contribution to the International Space Station, and telecommunications; they will also be asked to embark on new activities, most notably a system for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), space exploration, in particular with an exploration mission to Mars, and new technology programmes, especially in the fields of telecommunications, future launchers and in-orbit demonstrations.

These programmes taken together constitute a coherent set of activities, from launchers to satellites, from technology to development and from science to applications. The flexibility provided by optional programmes, which allows Member States to reflect their varying levels of interest in each individual programme, has to remain consistent with the coherence between the different programmes and activities. Only this way is it possible to meet the general objectives set for an efficient and successful European Space Policy. Since 2000, the commercial market for space has experienced a sharp decline, while, at the same time, public spending has increased in the USA, Russia, China and India. A significant revision of US space policy has recently taken place, focusing on two priorities: space exploration, with emphasis on a human mission to the Moon from 2018 onwards; and space in support of homeland security and defence. This revision is associated with an increase in budgets both for NASA ($16 bn in 2004) and for the Department of Defense ($18.6 bn in 2004).

Russia is still launching more spacecraft than any other space power in the world. Its space budget is increasing and Russia is looking to forge alliances with other space powers, in particular with Europe.

Space activities are booming in China and India. China has achieved mastery of all space technologies, including human spaceflight, and is developing a number of scientific and application satellites for Earth observation, telecommunications and navigation. India is already at the leading edge of environment monitoring and has developed a large variety of services, in particular for education. ESA and the EU: the building-up of a European space policy In recent years, ESA and the EU have established a closer relationship. In May 2004, a Framework Agreement between the European Community and ESA entered into force and a "Space Council" (a joint and concomitant meeting of the ESA Council at ministerial level and of the Council of the European Union) has already convened twice, in November 2004 and in June 2005, and is scheduled to meet again on 28 November 2005.

Exploration of space, as well as the basic tools on which all space activities depend, i.e. access to space/launchers, scientific knowledge and space technologies, shall continue to be driven by ESA and its Member States. The use of space systems and infrastructures to deliver services for citizens, society and markets, such as telecommunications, navigation and positioning, meteorology, environmental monitoring, should increasingly become also a responsibility of the European Union. However, due to the current political and budget situation of the European Union, the implementation of the first steps of the European Space Policy will be slower than was expected at the time of the first Space Council. Ministers will meet on 5 and 6 December 2005
Objectives and priorities for the ESA Council at ministerial level of December 2005 The Space Councils have emphasized that space systems and infrastructures have become strategic assets for Europe to act as a global player on the international scene. The objective for the overall European Space Policy and Programme is thus to make sure that Europe makes full use of space technologies, infrastructures and services in support for its policies and objectives. Furthermore, European security policy is developing rapidly, and space-based systems allowing situation awareness and reaction capability are expected to play a substantial role in this policy.

According to the roles and responsibilities defined in the preliminary elements of this European Space Policy, ESA and its Member States drive space exploration, science, access to space, space technologies, and the relevant basic infrastructure, and support the technological preparation and validation of space systems responding to user needs, including those relevant to EU policies.

The Member States of ESA have expressed consensus on the following objectives:

  • completion of approved programmes and their necessary continuation,

  • the importance of science, in particular Space and Earth science,

  • the need to start new activities on:
    • Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), to define and develop the necessary space component to ensure data continuity for existing services and to enable definition, preparation and operational capabilities for the new ones,

    • exploration, with strong support for a robotic mission to Mars, also including preparatory activities for future exploration missions,

    • technology, according to a Technology Strategy and Long-Term Plan, coordinated and harmonised at European level, including telecommunication technologies and application demonstrations, future launcher technologies, new system concepts and relevant security elements.

Further decisions will be necessary at the beginning of 2008, when ESA's Columbus laboratory will have been launched to the ISS, NASA exploration architecture consolidated and funded, and EU political and budget uncertainties cleared up. At that stage, decisions will be confirmed, in particular on ISS relevant programmes, exploration preparation activities, Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, and launcher scenarios.

The 2008 milestone will also be used to consolidate new activities which require preparatory activities before full development can be decided. This is the case in particular for new and advanced technology programmes, including the preparation of activities of strategic interest for Europe and to which the European Commission could contribute in the future. As for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Evolution (i.e. the "post Galileo" era), a specific programme shall be proposed for decision in the course of 2006. For detailed information on programmes and expected levels of resources, please see INFO 02-2005

European Space Agency
http:///www.esa.int/export/esaCP/index.ht ml
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