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New EU Space Programme

07 June 2018
by eub2 -- last modified 07 June 2018

For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to devote EUR 16 billion to help maintain and further enhance the EU's leadership in space.


Space technology, data and services have become indispensable in the daily lives of Europeans and play an essential role in preserving many strategic interests.

The European space industry is one of the most competitive in the world. It employs over 231 000 professionals and generates a value added estimated at €53-62 billion. Europe manufactures one third of all the world's satellites. In 2016, according to Eurospace, the space manufacturing industry posted sales worth €8,2 billion. 41333 people for employed in the space manufacturing sector in Europe.

Major investments by the EU have enabled progress that no Member State could have achieved on its own. Galileo and Copernicus have become global references in satellite positioning and earth observation. With 29 satellites currently in orbit and over 30 planned in the next 10 to 15 years, the EU is also the largest institutional customer for launch services in Europe.

The emergence of new players and the development of new technologies are revolutionising traditional industrial models, and EU space activities have further untapped potential to help meet our changing security and policy needs. 

What are the activities covered by the new EU Space Programme?

The Space Programme that the Commission proposes for 2021-2027 aims to ensure that the EU remains a global leader in the space domain. It will ensure investment continuity in EU space activities, encourage scientific and technical progress and support the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the European space industry, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and innovative businesses. It will also exploit the growing possibilities that space offers for the security of Europeans, including by capitalising on synergies between the civil and defence sectors.

It will consolidate all space-related activities of the EU into a single Regulation, namely:

  • Satellite navigation systems, with a budget of €9.7 billion:

    • Galileo, Europe's own global satellite navigation system, provides accurate and reliable positioning and timing information for autonomous and connected cars, railways, aviation and other sectors. The Galileo Services will gradually improve as more satellites are deployed and other services (e.g high accuracy service) will be made available.

    • The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) provides "safety of life" navigation services to aviation, maritime and land-based users over most of Europe. Safety of life means that the positioning information is so precise that, for example, an aircraft can safely land using it. All services provided by EGNOS are already fully operational and the number of users is growing (already 350 airports using it). The system needs constant maintenance and will also be improved to provide better quality services.

  • Earth observation, with a budget of €5.8 billion:

    • Copernicus, a leading provider of Earth observation data across the globe, already helps save lives at sea, improves our response to natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires or floods, and allows farmers to better manage their crops. Copernicus covers six thematic areas: land monitoring, marine monitoring, atmosphere monitoring, climate change, emergency management response and security. Over 2021-2027 Copernicus will expand these existing services to meet emerging needs, adding new observation capacities for CO2, and other greenhouse gas emissions monitoring, land use monitoring in support of agriculture, observations of the Polar regions, as well as security needs to improve detection of small vessels in support of border and maritime surveillance, the fight against illegal trafficking or the needs for EU external actions.

  • New security components, with a budget of €500 million:

    • The new Governmental Satellite Communication (GOVSATCOM) initiative will provide Member States and EU security actors with guaranteed access to secure satellite communications.

    • The Space Situational Awareness (SSA) initiative will support the long-term sustainability and security of space activities by ensuring protection against space hazards. The pilot project on surveillance of space and tracking of objects will be further developed to increase its performance and autonomy when it comes to preventing collisions in space and un-controlled re-entry of objects to earth. Complementary activities will address other space hazards threatening critical infrastructures (space weather, comets, and asteroids).

When will we start to see EU space policy deliver in practice? 

We already do! Some examples where European space policy is already providing practical support are:

  • Responding to natural disasters: In 2017, Copernicus maps showing the extent and magnitude of damage have helped rescue teams deal with forest fires (Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal), earthquakes (Mexico), hurricanes (countries hit by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria), and floods (Ireland, Germany), amongst others.

  • Saving lives at sea: Copernicus supports the European Border and Coast Guard Agency's missions in the Mediterranean, helping spot unsafe vessels and rescuing people. Galileo can be used on all the merchant vessels worldwide, bringing increased accuracy and more resilient positioning for safer navigation.

  • Search and Rescue: A new Galileo service reduces the time it takes to detect a person equipped with a distress beacon to less than 10 minutes in a variety of locations including at sea, in mountains or deserts, and in urban areas.

  • Monitoring oil spills: The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) uses Copernicus data for oil spill and vessel monitoring.

  • Landing of airplanes: 350 airports in almost all EU countries are currently using EGNOS, making landing in difficult weather conditions more secure, thus avoiding delays and re-routing.

  • Road safety: From April 2018, Galileo will be integrated in every new car model sold in Europe, supporting the eCall emergency response system. From 2019, it will be integrated in digital tachographs of lorries to ensure the respect of driving time rules and improve road safety.

  • Agriculture: 80% of farmers using satellite navigation for precision farming are EGNOS users. And Copernicus data is used for crop monitoring and yield forecasting.

  • Protecting satellites: In May 2018, there were 111 satellites registered to the space surveillance and tracking (SST) collision avoidance services.

Is Galileo fully operational already?

The Galileo navigation system is already operational and provides high-precision and reliable positioning and timing information. With 22 satellites now in orbit, ground infrastructure operational and following extensive testing, Galileo "initial services" became available in December 2016. Anyone with a Galileo enabled device is able to use its signals for positioning, navigation and timing. Galileo Initial Services are based on highly accurate signals, though these will at first not be available all the time. That's why during the initial phase, the first Galileo signals will be used in combination with other satellite navigation systems such as GPS. In the coming years, new satellites will be launched to enlarge the constellation, which will gradually improve Galileo availability worldwide. The next launch of 4 satellites is planned on the 25th of July from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Full operational capacity with a completed constellation is expected by 2020. The exact accuracy and availability of Galileo services have been published on the website of the European GNSS Service Centre.

What is the Galileo Public Regulated Service? 

Galileo provides different services – one of them is an encrypted service called Public Regulated Service (PRS), which is designed for security sensitive applications, including for military operations. It aims at ensuring service continuity for its participants, even in the most adverse environment. Galileo will support public authorities such as civil protection services, humanitarian aid services, customs officers, the police and if the Member States wish so, the military personnel through the Public Regulated Service. It will offer a particularly robust and fully encrypted service for government users during national emergencies or crisis situations, such as terrorist attacks. Initial PRS services have been launched in December 2016. Its performance is being improved with the on-going deployment of the Galileo satellites and Earth stations. 

Is Copernicus fully operational? 

All Copernicus services are already operational with data from seven Copernicus Sentinel satellites, as well as a number of contribution missions from other public and private operators. It is already the third largest provider of Earth observation data in the world 

The free, full and open Copernicus data is being used by thousands of users in the public sector, the research and scientific community, SMEs and start-ups to create satellite-enabled products and services. These businesses are creating highly qualified jobs in Europe. 

The seventh satellite was successfully launched on 25 April 2018. More satellites will be launched by 2021. 

Why does the EU need to invest in SSA and GOVSATCOMM? 

The SSA and GOVSATCOM components of the Space Programme are important for sustainable EU's space activities and security. 

Space waste (also known as space debris) orbiting around Earth threatens the life of satellites and continuity of their missions. The number of space debris larger than 1 cm is estimated to 780.000. The initiative 'space surveillance tracking' under the SSA monitors space objects with sensors (telescopes, radars and lasers) to detect a risk of collision or re-entry to Earth. Satellites operators and civil protection authorities are informed accordingly to protect satellites. Other space hazards, such as extreme space weather events resulting from solar activities and asteroids or comets (so called near Earth objects) can threaten critical infrastructures and consequently impact our daily life. The Space Programme proposes new complementary activities to monitor those events with the aim to build an autonomous European capacity in these critical capacities. 

GOVSATCOM is designed to ensure an autonomous European service of secured satellites communication by pooling Member States capacities. Satellite communication services through GOVSATCOM will significantly strengthen the operational capacities of public authorities:

  • At national level, it will help security actors such as border guards, police forces, the entire maritime community, civil protection missions, and the services in charge of monitoring critical infrastructures

  • At EU level, corresponding Union Agencies, such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), as well as world-wide humanitarian interventions – will be the main beneficiaries. Civilian and military EU Crisis Management operations will see a strengthening of their capacities, while both national diplomatic services and the External Action can use more secure communication connections to our Embassies and Delegations around the globe.

Who is responsible for the EU Space Programme?

The EU fully finances, owns and manages Copernicus, Galileo and EGNOS. The Commission is the programme manager of the EU Space programme and has overall responsibility for its implementation, including in the field of security. It determines the priorities and long-term evolution of the Programme and supervises its implementation.

The Commission has currently delegated the development and deployment of the space infrastructure to the European Space Agency (ESA), an international organisation undertaking space research, development and exploration activities. ESA is responsible for the deployment of Galileo infrastructure, while the EU Agency located in Prague (Global Navigation Satellites Systems – the GSA) is responsible for Galileo's market uptake. ESA also manages part of Copernicus operations, while some Copernicus satellites operations are managed by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and Copernicus services are delegated to the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Mercator Ocean, the EU Satellite Centre and the Commission's Joint Research Centre.

The new EU Space Programme proposes streamlined and simpler ways of cooperation between all institutional actors, without fundamentally altering the balance of responsibilities between all actors involved. All the existing space programmes will be consolidated in a single EU Space Programme with different components.  The three key actors – the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the future EU Agency for the Space Programme (currently the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency) – will have clearly defined roles.

The Commission will coordinate and supervise the different components, define the high-level objectives (budget, security and schedule) and long-term evolution of the programme, and will be in charge of the adoption of regulatory activities.

The ESA, given its unmatched expertise, will remain the main partner and will be responsible for:

  • Copernicus: development, design and construction of the Copernicus space infrastructure, including the operations of that infrastructure;

  • Galileo and EGNOS: systems evolution, development of the ground segment and the design and development of satellites;

  • All the components of the Space Programme with research and development activities in its fields of expertise.

The EU Agency for the Space Programme will be responsible for:

  • Galileo/EGNOS: The management of operations and ground maintenance; communication, promotion and market uptake;

  • Security Accreditation by the Security Accreditation Board (SAB) for all the components of the Space Programme;

  • Possibility to carry out the market development and users' coordination potentially for all the components of the Space programme.

Is space data available for free? And how can it be accessed? 

Copernicus offers free, full and open access to all data and services through the Copernicus website and dedicated data hubs. The number of Copernicus users has experienced an unprecedented growth: more than 150,000 registered users (in 2015, the registered users were 7870!). As of June 2018, Copernicus users – citizens, public authorities and companies – will benefit from new Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) so they can directly use the data in a cloud computing environment, set up their services and innovate on top of these data with new services and applications. Users will also be able to process and store the data under commercial conditions. The aim of the DIAS activity is to prevent costly and unnecessary data download and build user communities. 

Both Galileo and EGNOS provide signals that are extremely useful for European citizens. The Galileo signal is free and allows users to benefit from Galileo services for positioning, navigation and timing that can be used by Galileo enabled chipsets in smartphones or in-car navigation systems.  The EGNOS signal is also free of charge and can be used for the safe landing of aircraft or for precision farming. 

What is the market uptake for EU space activities?

The market uptake of Galileo has been a great success (see also factsheet). Currently, 95% of the global market produces Galileo-enabled chipsets, mostly used in the automotive, consumer, telecommunication, agriculture and surveying sectors. All the latest models of the biggest smartphone brands are Galileo-enabled. In agriculture, almost 80% of farmers benefit of the enhanced accuracy of EGNOS satellite navigation for precision farming. 

Copernicus data is used in many products and services. For example:

  • Fishery: The Asimuth project helps fish and mussel farmers optimise their harvesting schedules to reduce losses from algal blooms by at least 12.5%.

  • Health: HappySun helps prevent sunburn with an app providing UV radiation forecasts and personal sun protection advice based on the user's skin type and location.

  • Wine production: Terranis has developed an app which provides information in the weeks before harvest time so that wine makers can adjust cultivation methods.

What measures are foreseen to foster the European space sector?

While supporting the user uptake and market development of the Space programme components, the Commission will foster the demand and supply side of innovation in the space sector. The EU will improve access to risk finance by space start-ups with the potential to scale up and explore the creation of an EU Space Equity Fund through the InvestEU programme. The Commission will facilitate the establishment of space innovation partnerships to develop and subsequently purchase innovative products, services or infrastructure.

In addition, the programme will underpin skills for the space sector by promoting education and training, and will support cross-cutting actions that can help overcome obstacles to innovation, such as facilitate access to testing and processing facilities for start-ups or promoting certification and standardisation. A business- and innovation-friendly ecosystem will also be supported at European, regional and national levels by establishing space hubs that bring together the space, digital and user sectors.

These actions will be rolled out in synergies with space research activities to be financed under the Horizon Europe Programme.

How is the EU supporting the development of European launchers?

As announced in the Space Strategy for Europe, the Commission will aggregate the launch service needs of EU programmes and act as a smart customer of European reliable and cost-effective launch solutions building on actions started under the current budget period.

It is crucial that Europe continues to have modern, efficient and flexible launch infrastructure facilities. In addition to measures taken by Member States and ESA, the Commission will consider ways to support such facilities within its areas of competence, especially when it comes to the adaptation of the space ground infrastructures.

In the future, Ariane 6 and Vega C will progressively replace the current fleet, with a substantial cost reduction for access to space foreseen.

The EU will also continue to support research and innovation efforts, in particular to ensure Europe's ability to react and anticipate disruptive changes such as low-cost access to space for small satellites; advanced manufacturing; breakthrough concepts such as in-orbit servicing, re-usability and small launchers. The Commission has already announced an inducement prize of €10 million on "low-cost space launch" as part of the Horizon 2020 European Innovation Council. The challenge is to find a commercially viable solution for dedicated low-cost launch of light satellites and optimising European technological non-dependence.

More information:

The new EU Space Programme: press release

Legal texts and factsheets:

  • Proposal for a Regulation
  • Impact assessment
  • Executive summary
  • Factsheet: space policy and activities beyond 2020

Space strategy for Europe

Source: European Commission