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Space

Space

EU space policy aims to tackle some of the most pressing challenges today, such as fighting climate change, helping to stimulate technological innovation, and providing socio-economic benefits to citizens. Space technology, data and services have become indispensable in the lives of Europeans. We rely on them when using mobile phones and car navigation systems, watching satellite TV, and withdrawing money. Satellites also provide immediate information when disasters, such as earthquakes, forest fires or floods strike, enabling better coordination between emergency and rescue teams.

EU space programmes already deliver services that benefit millions of people. The EU has three flagship space programmes:

  • Copernicus is a leading provider of Earth observation data. It helps save lives at sea, improves our response to natural disasters, and allows farmers to better manage their crops.
  • Galileo is Europe's global satellite navigation system. It provides more accurate and reliable positioning and timing information for autonomous and connected cars, railways, aviation and other sectors. Galileo has been operational since December 2016 when it started offering initial services to public authorities, businesses and citizens.
  • EGNOS (the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) provides “safety of life” navigation services to aviation, maritime and land-based users over most of Europe. This positioning information is so precise that aircraft can use it to land safely. All services provided by EGNOS are fully operational and the number of users is growing.

Now that the infrastructure of EU space programmes is well advanced, the focus has shifted to ensuring a strong market uptake of space data and services by the public and private sectors.

Why do we need an EU space policy?

The EU needs its own space programmes because they assist Europeans and help with the implementation of EU policies through:

  1. Meeting key societal challenges: EU space programmes provide public services to EU public authorities, companies and citizens. Space data is essential to answering societal challenges such as the sustainable consumption of natural resources, safety and security, and climate change.
  2. Jobs and industrial growth: The space sector provides over 230,000 jobs in the EU from manufacturing to space operations and downstream services. It is worth between €46-54 billion to the EU economy.
  3. Ensuring EU autonomy: Europe's access to space underpins the implementation of many EU policies, the competitiveness of European industry and businesses, as well as its security, defence and strategic autonomy. Space reinforces the role of Europe as a stronger global actor.

A Space Strategy for Europe

In the new Space Strategy for Europe, the European Commission proposes a range of actions to:

  1. Maximise the benefits of space for society and the EU economy, by promoting the use of Galileo services in mobile phones, cars and for timing and synchronisation of European critical infrastructure, as well as by improving access to space data for start-ups
  2. Ensure a globally competitive and innovative European space sector, by making it easier for companies and start-ups to access space data via dedicated industry-led platforms so that they can develop services and applications; by promoting more private investment for start-ups, in particular in the context of the Investment Plan for Europe and the Pan-European Venture Capital Fund-of-Funds
  3. Reinforce Europe's autonomy in accessing space in a safe and secure environment, by supporting the development of cost-effective, reliable and competitive European launchers
  4. Strengthen Europe’s role as a global actor and promoting international cooperation.

Press release and frequently asked questions

Space Strategy video

Benefits from space-based applications

Space-based applications and services support many economic sectors. Specifically, they:

  • Increase efficiency in agriculture and fisheries: satellite-enabled applications improve the mapping of cropland in need of irrigation, harvest forecasts, and fisheries control. This guarantees better food quality and security while safeguarding the environment.
  • Help regions access knowledge and information: satellites support communication when Earth-based solutions are limited. This reduces regional imbalances by serving communities in remote areas without internet access.
  • Improve crisis response: satellite services help shorten response times in emergencies. Swift damage images and assessment maps contribute to more efficient planning and relief efforts, and help guide rescue services.
  • Protect the environment and help tackle climate change: environment monitoring provides crucial information on vegetation, ocean currents, water quality, natural resources, atmospheric pollutants, greenhouse gases, and the ozone layer.
  • Increase security: satellite positioning, satellite communications, and Earth observation contribute to detecting illegal immigration, preventing cross-border organised crime, and combating piracy at sea.
  • Improve citizens’ health: space-based applications can significantly improve healthcare and the health education of patients through remote medical support. They also help in preventing or mitigating the outbreak of disease.
  • Optimise transport: when combined with enhanced communication capabilities, highly accurate satellite positioning contributes to a modern and reliable transport sector for cars, planes, and ships. It optimises fleet management, vessel traceability, collision prevention, speed control, assistance for ship manoeuvres, etc.

Space research and Horizon 2020

The EU is funding space research through the Horizon 2020 programme.

Funded projects use space generated data for Earth applications, for instance to:

  • monitor the sustainability of agriculture: SIGMA and AGRICAB projects
  • analyse the chemical composition of our oceans: OSS2015
  • support urban planners to coordinate city resources: DECUMANOS

Space surveillance and tracking support

The EU contributes to the space surveillance and tracking support framework (SST).

Operational since July 2016, the SST services detect and warn against possible collisions in Space and monitor the re-entry of space debris into Earth’s atmosphere.

A new GOVSATCOM initiative will ensure reliable, secured and cost-effective satellite communication services for EU and national public authorities managing security critical missions and infrastructures.

The EU space programmes are implemented in close cooperation with EU countries, the European Space Agency (ESA), EUMETSAT, the European GNSS Agency and many other stakeholders. Ensuring effective and efficient cooperation and coordination between these actors is essential to optimise the impact of European policies and investment in space.

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