EU adopts space package to boost satellite-based connectivity and manage space traffic
With a significant increase in the number of satellites in orbit due to new developments in reusable launchers, small satellites and private initiatives in space, the resilience and safety of EU and Member States’ space infrastructure must be protected in the long-term. This makes Space Traffic Management (STM) a priority public policy issue, which requires the EU to act now, collectively and at a multilateral level to ensure a safe, secure and sustainable use of space for the generations to come.
The Commission and the EU High Representative/Vice President, Josep Borrell, are proposing an EU approach on Space Traffic Management. Its goal is to develop concrete initiatives, including operations and regulation to promote a multilateral Space Traffic Management framework while preserving the EU's strategic autonomy and industry‘s competitiveness.
The Space Traffic Management proposal focuses on three elements:
- Strengthening our capability to identify and track space objects and avoid collisions;
- Setting out the appropriate normative and legislative framework;
- Establishing international partnerships on Space Traffic Management and engaging at a multilateral level.
Space Traffic Management affects and involves a diverse community of actors in an environment considered a global commons. The EU’s Space Traffic Management approach pairs regional contributions to Space Traffic Management – including the EU’s own contribution – with an overall ambition for global cooperation.
Space infrastructure is also important for the EU’s security and defence, in particular for the planning and conduct of our CSDP missions and operations. Although Space Traffic Management is primarily civilian and addresses the safety of space operations, it also protects military satellites, and security aspects will therefore be taken into account.
Space technology, data and services have become indispensable in our daily lives. We rely on them when using mobile phones, car navigation systems, or withdrawing money. Satellites provide immediate information when disasters strike, such as earthquakes, forest fires or floods, enabling better emergency response.
Space is also increasingly important for geopolitics and for our security and defence. The EU’s freedom of action depends on a safe, secure and autonomous access to space. Today, there are around 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1cm orbiting Earth, and approximately 900,000 pieces between 1 and 10cm, which pose serious danger to space traffic.