Space: EU budgets €16 billion for space programme
We live in a new space age with an explosion of space-based services offered by multiple start-ups and more mature companies. These benefit land management, urban planning, port traffic optimization, earth observation, telecommunications, navigation and positioning, to name a few.
In a more unpredictable geopolitical context space activities are increasingly a strategic game changer. Space is a question of science, exploration and international cooperation (as underpins the International Space Station) and plays a very practical role in terms of boosting innovation, economic growth and security on the other.
Lower launching costs and infinite internet expansion are making space more congested, contested and competitive.
The EU is already a global leader in space. The European space sector employs over 231 000 professionals, with an estimated value of €53-62 billion in 2017. Europe manufactures one third of all the world's satellites. In 2016, according to Eurospace, the space manufacturing industry posted sales worth €8.2 billion.
The benefits to the EU of investing in space are therefore clear.
With this in mind, the EU's new space programme will build on the experience of two decades of the Copernicus and Galileo programmes, while seeking to boost innovation and maintain the EU's strategic autonomy in space.
It will improve access for space start-ups to risk finance, creating innovation partnerships to develop and purchase cutting-edge products and thereby fostering a strong and innovative European space industry.
The new programme will also prioritise maintaining the EU's autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space, particularly important as regards critical infrastructure, technology, security.
Here are some examples of how EU space programmes are transforming our lives:
Responding to natural disasters: In 2017, Copernicus maps showing the extent and magnitude of damage helped rescue teams deal with forest fires (Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal), earthquakes (Mexico), hurricanes (countries hit by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria), and floods (Ireland, Germany), amongst others.
Saving lives at sea: The Copernicus programme supports the European Coast and Border Guard Agency's work in the Mediterranean. The satellite data helps the agency to spot unsafe vessels and rescue vulnerable people. Galileo can be used on all the merchant vessels worldwide, bringing increased accuracy and more resilient positioning for safer navigation.
Search and Rescue: A new Galileo service reduces the time it takes to detect a person equipped with a distress beacon to less than 10 minutes in a variety of locations including at sea, in mountains or deserts, and in urban areas. It confirms to the person that help is on the way.
Monitoring oil spills: The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) uses Copernicus data for oil spill and vessel monitoring.
Landing of airplanes: 350 airports in almost all EU countries are currently using EGNOS, making landing in difficult weather conditions more secure, thus avoiding delays and re-routing.
Road safety: From April 2018, Galileo is integrated in every car model sold in Europe, supporting the eCall emergency response system. From 2019, it will be integrated in digital tachographs of lorries to ensure the respect of driving time rules and improve road safety.
Agriculture: 80% of farmers using satellite navigation for precision farming are EGNOS users. Copernicus data is also used for crop monitoring and yield forecasting.
Photo: European Space Agency