The EU’s Space Policy – an Overview
(Source: European Commission; issued Feb. 17, 2005)
BRUSSELS --- Space provides a source of unique and essential tools, enabling governments and international bodies to tackle critical social and political issues.

The European space industry is a key actor in the world-wide commercial market of satellite manufacturing, launch services, and satellite operators. Sustaining a competitive industry (including manufacturers, service providers and operators) requires new research and technologies. International co-operation has been of primary importance in reaching this position. Space applications bring important benefits to the citizens (e.g. radio navigation, communication by satellite, earth observation for monitoring in case of natural disasters or humanitarian aid).

The Commission has been involved in this field for many years through its research programmes, but its role has recently been reinforced.

Responsibility for space policy and space applications has been transferred from the Research Directorate-General to that for Enterprise and Industry under the responsibility of Vice-President Verheugen.

The decision reflects the Commission’s intention to look beyond the purely research aspects of space policy and recognition of the sector’s strategic value for European industry as a whole. The sector offers prime opportunities for developing international partnerships.

At the ‘Winning through co-operation: sharing the benefits of space’ conference, in Brussels, over 40 nations and around 20 international organisations have come together to discuss international cooperation in space. The conference has provided a forum between those States capable of providing space technology – the supply side – and those willing to make use of it – the demand side. In inviting attendees, the European Commission responded to a perceived need to initiate a platform for dialogue between the two sides.

The ‘Winning through co-operation: sharing the benefits of space’ conference provides a forum for space players to exchange views on international co-operation and to discuss models for increasing collaboration in all space-related fields.

The Conference takes place within the context of Earth & Space Week, a major EU-ESA sponsored event comprising nine days of public exhibitions and events, showcasing Earth Observation (EO) and Space activities. The Conference will follow the Third Earth Observation Summit on16 February 2004.

Over 50 nations and more than 30 international organisations have come to Brussels to exchange views on policies related to Earth observation and international cooperation in space.

EU-Wide Cooperation on Space and Security

The Commission has established a group consisting of high-level representatives from Member States, which investigate the issue Space and Security (SPASEC-group). This Panel of experts recently came to the main following recommendations:

--the establishment in 2005 of a platform for consolidating the security related user needs for space across different user categories;

--the securing of interoperability between current space systems in Europe in the fields of earth observation and communication;

--the implementation of new projects for example in the area of space surveillance

--Space research at the service of the citizen

--Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES)

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative represents, in simple terms, a concerted effort to bring data and information providers together with users, so they can better understand each other and agree on how to make environmental information and security services available to the people who need it. A challenge for GMES is to gather relevant data and provide innovative, cost-effective, sustainable and user-friendly services, which will enable decision-makers to better anticipate or integrate crisis situations issues relating to the management of the environment and security.

The service areas covered by GMES include:

--marine and coastal environment and maritime security (pollution, ecosystems)
--risk management, with the improvement of alert systems (e.g. flood early warning),
--air pollution through steps to implement better air quality monitoring systems, from local to continental scales
--land use/land cover state (including soil sealing), to help for land planning, water quality and resource monitoring
--forest monitoring, in support to international conventions (Kyoto)
--food security and early warning systems, in order to improve the organisation of food supply
--global change issues, emphasising the major contribution from space observations contributing to a coordinated effort in the frame of international conventions
--maritime security (including maritime transport and coastal area surveillance, with sea ice monitoring)
--humanitarian aid, with delivery of new information for better decision making and
--planning, as well as to support relief operations and post-crisis reconstruction.

Background Information on GMES

“Global Monitoring for Environment and Security” (GMES) is a joint initiative of the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) following a recommendation by the Council of 15 May 2001 in Gothenburg: “The Community should contribute to establishing by 2008 a European capacity for global monitoring of environment and security”.

Support for R&D projects – Call for proposals

The current action plan for GMES is based on a number of EC and ESA supported R&D projects, aiming at demonstrating (pre)operational services for the benefit of relevant user communities. The current funding envelope is around 100 Mio Euro for FP6-Space supported actions (without counting other related upstream R&D actions elsewhere in FP6) and a similar figure for ESA supported actions. A joint EC-ESA structure, the GMES Programme Office, has been set up to facilitate the co-ordinated management of such actions, in the time frame 2004-2006. It includes staff from a variety of Commission services (from DG RTD ENV, JRC, INFSO), as well as from the European Environment Agency, EUMETSAT and the European Union Satellite Centre.

Beyond such time frame, the implementation of GMES rests on the availability of considerable funding sources, both at EC and ESA level, and the total of which is estimated in the billions of Euro. The benefit will be twofold: a better protected environment and a European information service industry which is competitive on the world market. European environment standards for production are the highest in the world. They have to be accompanied by such for environment information.

The Space part of the “Aeronautics & Space” priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) part has two main themes, which are:

--Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and

--GMES and Satellite Telecommunications (see below).

The next call for proposals, to be published in March 2005, will set out new topics and will encourage applicants to make provision for international cooperation in their project proposals.

I. Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)

At the Third EO Summit in Brussels, ministers from around the world endorsed a 10-year Implementation Plan for the creation of a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

The GMES initiative (see above) will be the European contribution to the development of a GEOSS. The GEO was created at the first Earth Observation (EO) Summit in Washington in July 2003, with the primary goal of developing a Ten-Year Implementation Plan for creating the GEOSS.

The emerging GEOSS system will focus on nine key societal benefit areas:

--Improve weather forecasting
--Reduce loss of life and property from disasters
--Protect and monitor our ocean resource
--Understand, assess, predict, mitigate and adapt to climate variability and change
--Support sustainable agriculture and forestry and combat land degradation
--Understand the effect of environmental factors on human health and well-being
--Develop the capacity to make ecological forecasts
--Protect and monitor water resources
--Monitor and manage energy resources

The benefits of building a global observing architecture are enormous...... We could more accurately know how severe next winter’s weather, with strong implications for emergency managers, transportation, energy and medically personnel, farmers, families, manufacturers, storeowners, etc.

We could forecast weather with just one degree more accuracy, with a substantial savings in energy costs. We could better predict severe storms and thus be more prepared when disaster strikes.

Benefits from more effective air quality monitoring could provide real-time information as well as accurate forecasts that, days in advance, could enable us to mitigate the effects of poor quality through proper transportation and energy use.

Benefits from ocean instrumentation that, combined with improved satellite Earth observing coverage, could provide revolutionary accuracy worldwide and regional climate forecasts, enabling us, for example, to predict years of drought.

Benefits from real-time monitoring and forecasting of the water quality in every watershed and accompanying coastal areas could provide agricultural interests with immediate feedback and forecasts of the correct amount of fertilizers and pesticides to apply to maximize crop generation at minimum cost, helping to support both healthy eco-systems and greatly increased fishery output and value from coastal tourism.

Globally, an estimated 300-500 million people worldwide are infected with malaria each year -- with a linked international system, we could pinpoint where the next outbreak of SARS or West Nile virus, or malaria is likely to hit.

II. Earth observation technologies for African countries

AMESD, the African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development, is the African reply to the European offer to open GMES to developing countries. The objective of the AMESD programme is to help the African countries to improve the management of their natural resources by providing them with appropriate information on their environment using state-of-the-art technologies, including Earth Observation and Information and Communication Technologies. AMESD will also assist them in better defining their needs and identifying the potential beneficiaries. The AMESD project follows the PUMA project (Meteorological Transition to Africa), which assisted all 53 African countries and four regional centres in Africa with equipment, training and application support to obtain and use data for a multitude of purposes.

III. Galileo: Satellite radio navigation

Satellite radio navigation allows the possessor of a transmitter/receiver to determine and communicate his position very precisely in longitude, latitude and altitude at any moment, by picking up signals emitted by a number of satellites. This continuously available 'guardian angel' from space is revolutionising:

--air traffic control;
--the management of ship and lorry fleets;
--road and rail traffic monitoring;
--the mobilisation of emergency services;
--the tracking of goods carried by multimodal transport.

Together with the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS Galileo will become a global infrastructure accessible to everybody.

IV. Ariane - Access to space

The successful qualification of the upgraded version of Ariane-5 on 12 February is a key contribution to Europe’s guaranteed and competitive access to space for the years to come.

This new version will restore full Arianespace’s competitiveness by providing, for the next 10 years, a capability for systematic dual launches of the heaviest telecom satellites of the market.

The current basic version of Ariane-5 will be progressively phased out. The European launcher industry is now in a position to focus on a single model, reducing costs and improving efficiency of production.

While this new Ariane-5 will remain the central pillar of the European space launch capability, ESA complementary efforts, like the co-operation on Soyuz and the new VEGA small launcher, will provide additional flexibility.

V. Cassini-Huygens spacecraft explores Saturn

On 14 January 2005, the Huygens space probe, one half of the Cassini-Huygens space mission, roared through the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, in a fireball. It then ejected its protective heat shield and landed safely on Titan’s surface.

Huygens is first Earth space probe to land on a world in the outer Solar System. The Cassini-Huygens mission, jointly developed by NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian Space Agency, began in October 1997. More than seven years later, on 25 December 2004, Huygens was released from the Cassini mothership. It then cruised for 20 days and four million kilometres before reaching Titan’s outer atmosphere

Cassini-Huygens is designed to shed light on many of the unsolved mysteries arising from previous observations, such as:

--what is the source of heat inside Saturn that produces 87% more energy than the planet absorbs from sunlight?
--what is the origin of Saturn’s rings?
--where do the subtle colours in the rings come from?
--are there any more moons? why has the moon Enceladus such an abnormally smooth surface? (Has recent melting erased craters?)
--what is the origin of the dark organic material covering one side of the moon Iapetus?
--which chemical reactions are occurring in Titan’s atmosphere?
--what is the source of methane, a compound associated to biological activity on Earth, which is so abundant in Titan’s atmosphere?
--are there any oceans on Titan?
--do more complex organic compounds and ‘pre-biotic’ molecules exist on Titan?


prev next

Official reports See all