Commissioner Bretton had announced the 2 legislative space proposals for a) a space-based connectivity infrastructure with a dual use and b) a European strategy for Space Traffic Management with the objective to ensure Europe’s autonomy, independence and security at a global level. According to the proposals, the initiatives will help safeguard the efficiency and security of the current assets; develop European cutting-edge space technology to the benefit of citizens and economy, and respond to governmental user needs satellite communication solutions.
More specifically, the implementation of a space-based connectivity infrastructure has the objective to ensure the long-term availability of worldwide uninterrupted access to secure and cost-effective satellite communication services and support the protection of critical infrastructures amongst others. The first services are scheduled to be deployed by 2024. The total cost is estimated at €6 billion. Following the press release, The Union’s contribution to the Programme from 2022 until 2027 is €2.4 billion at current prices. The funding will come from different sources of the public sector (EU budget, Member States, European Space Agency’s (ESA) contributions) and private sector investments. This is important given that there is an increasing demand from users such as public authorities to respond to civil challenges. NEREUS is already planning to organise a series of events associated with the issue of critical infrastructures that will be announced soon.
Further, a European strategy for Space Traffic Management will develop concrete initiatives, including operations and legislation, to promote the safe, secure and sustainable use of space while preserving the EU’s strategic autonomy and industry‘s competitiveness. It is considered as a priority public policy issue. In support of this, Josef Aschbacher, director general at the European Space Agency, underlined that “The weather forecast from space contributes €61 billion in economic benefits to the European economy… Telecommunication, stockmarkets – everything is dependent on satellites today. So, yes we’re absolutely dependent already and this dependence will increase in the future.” In the same vein, Timo Pesonen from the Commission highlighted that the “notion of resilience and strategic autonomy increased in view of COVID. Space is an enabler.”
As far as NEREUS is concerned both proposals are critical because they are seen in the context of space security within the EU space programmes.
Innovation, entrepreneurship, using space
In accordance with Breton’s proposal for a strategy to spur innovation in space, the Cassini Space investment fund of 1 billion (complemented by a debt instrument from the European Investment Bank; private investments/venture capital, equity investment ) aims at boosting EU start-ups in the space industry; developing new technologies and attracting private investments. At the conference, Breton, Kris Peeters, the vice president in charge of the European Investment Bank, and Alain Godard, the European Investment Fund’s CEO, signed a joint statement formalizing their Cassini relationship. Cassini’s goal is to offer European assistance and mentorship for those businesses in order to prevent them from looking for capital elsewhere, particularly in the United States, which could lead to them leaving Europe. “In order to release private funding for the space sector, European public financing tools are critical” said Peeters. The fund will make its initial investments in the second half of 2022. Clearly this is relevant to the mission of NEREUS given the new funding opportunities arising for the downstream sector which could be explored within the Network.
In the context of using space, the Destination Earth initiative by ESA, under the leadership of the European Commission, along with its key European partners, develops high precision digital models of Earth to monitor and simulate both natural and human activity, to enable more sustainable development and support European environmental policies. By 2024 the first two digital twins (platforms) on extreme natural events and climate change adaptation there will be available. The second Accelerator will tightly link with the secure connectivity initiative proposed by the European Commission; The third accelerator is ESA’s response to more safety in space: to contribute to safeguarding and protecting European assets from space debris and from space weather interferences. With a tight focus on environmental degradation and the effects of the climate change, it has the potential to guide not only future EU policymaking, but implementation of ongoing adaptation and mitigation strategies in many different areas, said Commissioner Sinkevicius.
In light of the above, one of the key themes underlined during the conference was the provision of solutions to many challenges through the use of space technology. As European Parliament MEP Cristian-Silviu Buşoi (Chair of ITRE Committee) pointed out “the EP is looking into proposing a new space market up-take strategy maximising the socio-economic benefits by fostering an innovative up-stream and downstream sector to promote as wide as possible uptake and use of data and services enabling growth and job creation”.