The space strategy for Europe comes at the perfect time, as policymakers prepare the post-2020 period. It’s time for the EU to maximise economic benefits and encourage the global space sector’s competitiveness.
The European geostationary navigation overlay service (EGNOS), Galileo and Copernicus programmes will play a key role in energy, climate, environment, security, agriculture, transport and the digital single market. They also have huge potential for border management and sustainable development.
EGNOS brings precision, resilience, safety and financial benefits to airports where it is used; it must be deployed to the EU’s eastern and southern extremities as soon as possible.
Galileo could transform air traffic control, shifting from our current radar-based systems to satellite surveillance. This transition will ensure accuracy and reliability when tracking planes.
Europe needs to invest in the next generation of satellites to ensure uninterrupted connectivity, particularly in the outermost regions. This is essential for the development of 5G networks, enabling services in intelligent transport, eGovernance, eLearning and eHealth.
Additionally, Europe depends on Copernicus for reliable, verified information services for a range of environmental, security and transport applications.
When it comes to the fight against climate change at global level, Copernicus will provide measurements of atmospheric concentrations of aerosols and greenhouse gases as well as the state of the ozone layer.
Copernicus, which will be the most efficient satellite programme in the world, is also Europe’s contribution to the global earth observation system of systems (GEOSS).
Copernicus has many important uses: monitoring borders and maritime traffic, managing humanitarian disasters, agricultural monitoring, estimating food production, environmental assessments of forest ecosystems, biodiversity and biomass and early warning for floods, forest fi res and earthquakes.
I am convinced that Copernicus will be able to bring concrete solutions to the transport sector and will help the EU achieve its objectives. It will also support decision-making at EU level.
For maritime transport, the information on currents and sea ice provided by Copernicus can already support ship routing services. It can also quickly detect oil spills. In infrastructure it can identify areas exposed to ground movements likely to destabilise buildings, bridges or roads.
However, we must bear in mind that R&D financing is crucial. Galileo and Copernicus cannot continue without future technological improvements, which must be taken up more quickly. New satellites must provide greater precision, higher resolution as well as space and signal security.
A new chapter in European space research began only a few days ago, when the Commission and EUROSPACE, which represents the space industry, signed the STEPP agreement. This saw the launch of a two-year pilot project to develop space technologies for Europe.
I am honoured that this pilot project, which I drafted and initiated, was taken on by the European Commission in its space strategy. The success of this pilot project on deorbiting and innovative space materials deployed over the next two years will become the foundation for a joint technology initiative. In my opinion, this is the most important tool for innovation in the space industry.
This project aims to strengthen private sector R&D investments and its objective is to test the viability of the joint technology initiative (JTI) and the long-term public-private partnerships, ensuring the achievement of a crucial technology for the independent space capability of the European Union.