Press Release

Bo Andersen and Jostein Rønneberg – Norway in space

By SpaceRef Editor
June 6, 2003
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The Space Green Paper has highlighted some important issues as Europe moves towards a common space policy, but it has also introduced a number of key personalities and organisations to a larger audience. Jostein Rønneberg and Bo Andersen of the Norwegian Space Agency (NSA) have been among the most articulate advocates of a coherent European approach to space – surprising to some, as they come from a country that is not an EU Member.

Norway’s small population has long necessitated an international co-operative orientation, especially in research. Long-standing bonds with leading space powers and an influential role within the European Space Agency (ESA) have now made Norway a major player in space.

According to Bo Andersen, NSA’s Head of Space and Earth Sciences, “Norway needs space more than most other countries in Europe. Its large area is thinly populated, it controls the largest fraction of European ocean and it acquires most of its wealth from harvesting natural resources. All of these make the efficient use of space infrastructure and applications very important to us.”

Norway has been involved in space activities since the early 1960s, gaining important insight into the potential benefits of the peaceful use of outer space. It participated under a special arrangement in ESA’s Maritime Orbit Test Satellite programme, which helped prepare the ground for European mobile satellite communications. In 1987 it became a full member of ESA. Since then it has played an important role in shaping Europe’s space legacy.

“As a small country,” says Andersen, “we are fully aware that co-operation with other nations towards common objectives is the only way forward.”

EU outsider inside

For NSA Head of Application Development Jostein Rønneberg, the fact that Norway is not an EU member does not mean is has no stake in European space policy. “Norway’s need for space-based applications is linked to our national challenges and not tied to the question of being a EU member or not,” he says, “but the availability of the space tools we require is strongly linked to the boundary conditions for space in Europe. And this again is linked to the stance and policies of the European governments as well as the EU. In addition, through our inclusion in the European Economic Area, Norway also participates in the research framework programmes and is thereby very interested in the research priorities of the EU.

“The use of space is important for all European nations, but especially for Norway. In many ways you could say that Norway is a ‘space country on earth’. Therefore we welcome the opportunity to help shape EU space policy, and we are taking an active role in the Green Paper process.”

Up-front contributors

Few will dispute that Norway’s role has been active. Norwegians have been highly visible participants at all of the Green Paper consultation events, often surprising audience members with their clear and incisive comments.

“A fundamental obstacle for a working European Space Policy,” says Andersen, “is getting the EU and European national governments to realise that strength in space is a prerequisite for being a leading knowledge-based society. This is clearly evident in the gross under-funding of all space activities in Europe. We must realise that space is not just an expenditure but a public investment for the common good. Perhaps we should remove space from the sole grasp of research, technology and industrial ministries.

“The benefits of space are so multifaceted and diverse that it is difficult to identify in a straightforward way the revenue streams and thus to determine the return on investment for the public. Unfortunately, the majority of capitals in Europe suffer under the illusion that space is a fully functioning market and that private investment can replace a strong and continuous public participation. The discussions concerning the financing of the deployment and operation of GALILEO illustrate just how much energy is being expended trying to escape this reality.”

“If Europe wants to compete with the US in the important strategic areas,” says Rønneberg, “meaning space science, launchers and applications, the playing field has to be more level. Public funding should be significantly increased, at least by a factor of two. This would create a stable institutional market for European industry and allow for global competition on more equal terms. Until we are willing to scale our funding to our ambitions we will have no credible European Space Policy.

“The Green Paper process is an important step in the right direction, but only if it does not degenerate into a simple structural fight, be it between the EC and the EU, between ESA and the EU, within the different governments or between countries.”

ESA or EU?

Many observers continue to see the resolution of institutional issues as central to the emergence of a strong European space policy. What will be the future role of the EU, the Commission and ESA?
“We must not take the easy way out,” says Bo Andersen, “in seeking structural and organizational solutions that are political and financial. If we, as Europeans, are so foolish, we will destroy any possibility of being a significant beneficiary of space opportunities. ESA’s public money, roughly €3 billion per year, is the backbone of European Space. No one will want to jeopardise this. Rather, we must focus on to how to strengthen this backbone. But of course ESA, like any organisation, will need to develop and adapt to changing needs and objectives, as the organisation has continuously done throughout its existence.

“Europe’s ambition to be autonomous in space will require increasing strength and expertise as well as political commitment. Therefore we need both ESA and the EU. We do believe that reason will prevail in both organisations, leading to more co-operation.”

Yes to change

As an ESA member that is not an EU member, Norway remains in an unusual position. Will a changing institutional landscape pose a threat to Norway’s place in the space world?
“Rather than fearing change,” says Rønneberg, “we would be more concerned if institutional roles did not change to meet the new challenges. But any change that does not build on what ESA has achieved is doomed to fail. It would be like playing Russian roulette with all chambers loaded. Likewise, we have not seen any proposed structural change that excludes Norway and we are confident that, whatever the future may bring, we will continue to play an active role. We believe that we have proved ourselves to be valuable and constructive partners and we hope that this has been evident throughout the Green Paper process.”

ESA Council moves Europe forward on key issues

5 June 2003

European ministers in charge of space affairs, meeting in Paris on 27 May 2003, agreed on steps to strengthen relations between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union, to free funds for the International Space Station, to put Ariane 5 back on track and to develop future launchers within a reorganised launcher sector. This includes approval to launch Russian Soyuz rockets from ESA’s Kourou site in French Guyana. All of this as the GALILEO satellite navigation programme has become a reality for Europe.

Speaking to the Ministers responsible for space within ESA’s fifteen Member States and Canada, ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà said, “This is a great day for Europe in general and its space community in particular. Conscious of the economic, industrial and strategic importance of guaranteed access to space and applications, such as satellite navigation, our Member States have given fresh momentum to European space activities, demonstrating Europe’s continued resolve to remain on top.”

The Ministers noted that Europe is now in a position to finalise the conditions for participation in the GALILEO programme . The agreement reached among ESA Member States on 26 May clears the way for the official launch of the ‘Joint Undertaking’ between ESA and the European Union, the legal entity that will have the task of coordinating work on GALILEO.

Describing the outcome of the meeting of the ESA Council, Mrs Edelgard Bulmahn, who chaired the conference, said, “The decisions we’ve reached are among the most important in years.”

SpaceRef staff editor.