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Taking on endless possibilities, € 114 million for space research

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The European Commission has today published its third call for proposals for space under the Space Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), with a budget of EUR 114 million. The call supports research in the areas of space science and exploration (EUR 58 million) with a view to exploring neighbouring planets, and Earth observation (EUR 47 million) through the continued development of Europe's Global Monitoring system for Environment and Security (GMES). The call also aims at enhancing Europe's cooperation with other major space powers, taking the form of support for cross cutting activities with a budget of EUR 8 million.

The EU considers space as a strategic domain as it contributes to the implementation of a range of policy objectives, including sustainable development, the fight against climate change, economic recovery and the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy.

This call, with a total budget of EUR 114 million, consists of three parts of which the first two are particularly worth noting:

  • EUR 58 million to support space exploration, space science, space propulsion and the security of space assets under the Strengthening Space Foundation (SSF) theme, and
  • EUR 47 million to support the development of new GMES services under the heading space-based applications at the service of European society.
  • Cross cutting activities with a budget of EUR 8 million.

1. Strengthening Space Foundations

The call focuses on developing Europe's capacity to explore space, protect its space assets and reduce its dependence on critical technologies from outside Europe. Space exploration projects supported are expected:

    to enable robotic missions to other planets such as Mars, pave the way for future human exploration of the solar system.

It is of paramount importance to reduce journey time to a minimum and bring down the cost and mass of spacecraft to secure faster, cheaper and optimised future European space missions that bring a higher scientific return.

Securing European assets in space is also a key concern for Europe, which is why the call includes a new focus on the protection of space infrastructure from natural hazards such as solar storms, and the impact of collisions with space debris. The call will also support enhanced European strategic non-dependence in the area of critical space technologies.

2. Global Monitoring for Environment and Security

The call aims to stimulate the development of Earth observation services in new areas, such as water management, biodiversity monitoring, forest monitoring and agri-environment observation. Policy makers and the public require reliable information on the state of the environment in order to monitor the implementation of efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change such as the Kyoto protocol, and its successor, which may be agreed at the UN climate conference COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009. Global monitoring of CO2 and deforestationis becoming extremely important in the context of reducing emissions and quantifying carbon credits in such a post-2012 effort on fighting climate change.

3. Support for cross cutting activities

The EU continues to be committed to international cooperation in space, and the establishment of closer links with other major space powers such as the US and Russia, and third countries including South Africa is a strategic priority. The call aims at facilitating the establishment of such links, introducing Specific International Cooperation Actions (SICA) in the space domain for the first time.

The call deadline is 8 December 2009 at 17.00 Brussels time.

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