Press Release

EU space policy takes off: EU decision-makers discuss the future of space technology

By SpaceRef Editor
May 22, 2003
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Key decision-makers responsible for shaping Europe’s future in space
gathered in London yesterday, to discuss how to enhance Europe’s leading
position in developing space technology. Philippe Busquin, European
Research Commissioner, Lord Sainsbury, UK Minister for Science and
Innovation, and Antonio Rodotà, Director-General of the European Space
Agency, addressed over 350 representatives from government, industry and
research. This meeting was part of a series of consultation events on
European space policy, following the publication of the EU Green Paper
on Space[1]. The consultation will be closed by a major conference in
Paris on 23-24 June, paving the way for a White Paper and detailed
Action Plan to be presented by the end of 2003. Yesterday’s conference
specifically focused on how space R&D can lead to concrete applications
and commercial products in a wide range of areas, such as
telecommunications, navigation and localisation, and earth observation.

“Space and the way we exploit its potential can bring many benefits to
the lives of all Europeans,” said Commissioner Busquin. “We should turn
space research into an engine that fuels Europe’s economic fortunes and
improves the quality of life of our citizens. Without investments in
space R&D, we would not have many products that we take for granted
today, such as internet by satellite and early warning systems for
natural disasters. I urge everyone to participate in this debate on
Europe’s role in space before it concludes next month. I am confident
Europe wants to be a region ready to explore new frontiers.”

Lord Sainsbury said: “Working with our European partners is critical to
the success of the UK’s space ambitions. This is clearly demonstrated by
the outstanding achievements Europe has made collectively in the last
decade, particularly in satellite technologies. I am determined that the
UK will continue to play an active role in driving forward European
advances in space, participating fully in key activities such as
Galileo, Europe’s satellite navigation system, and Global Monitoring for
the Environment and Security (GMES). We are also contributing to the
consultation on the Green Paper on Space, to help define the future
blueprint for EU space policy.”

Mr Rodotà added: “In the last three decades the European Space Agency
has been widely involved in space applications and has helped place
Europe at the forefront of the fast-moving world of telecommunications,
internet and multimedia business. ESA has invested in new technologies
and system concepts and has been the catalyst for European industry —
including SMEs — to develop and exploit emerging products, services and
markets. Our role has also been instrumental in sowing the seeds and
fostering the growth of international organisations such as Eumetsat for
weather forecasts and companies such as Eutelsat in the field of
satellite telecommunications and Arianespace in that of launchers.”

Space at the top of EU agenda

Also intervening at the London event were Eryl McNally, Member of the
European Parliament, Romain Bausch, President and CEO of SES Global, M.
Giuliano Berretta, CEO and Chairman of Eutelsat S.A and President of the
European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA), and Frank De Winne,
Belgian-born ESA astronaut.

European institutions are bringing fresh momentum to the development of
a European Space policy. On 13 May, the EU Competitiveness Ministers
adopted a key resolution supporting reinforced co-operation between the
European Commission and ESA to this end.

This resolution calls for a rapid conclusion of a framework agreement
between ESA and the European Commission, and for urgent actions to be
taken at the EU level to answer the challenges faced by Europe’s space
sector, notably in launch services and commercial satellite markets. On
15 May, the European Parliament adopted a similar resolution, insisting
that space be a shared competence in the new EU Treaty. Next week, on 27
May, the ESA ministerial meeting will address a series of key issues,
notably, the future developments of the Ariane launcher.

Europe’s cutting-edge space research

The idea of applying space technologies for Earth applications is not
new. The European Union, with its extensive programmes of space-based
scientific research, earth observation and telecommunications, has a
strong tradition of producing beneficial spin-offs. Today, business
opportunities related to space applications remain enormous.

The EU space industry has developed numerous technologies now being used
in ground-based applications. The investment made in space research is
thus directly resulting in concrete improvements in the quality of life
and security of citizens in Europe. Space programmes have raised
technologies to new levels of performance, reliability and capacity,
perfecting them to unprecedented levels, resulting in many new and
beneficial applications back here on Earth.

The Galileo project and the GMES (Global Monitoring for the Environment
and Security) initiative illustrate this new approach and underline the
need for an enhanced role for the Union in space matters. They show how
industrial and technological successes achieved by ESA can be maximised
through joint space initiatives. The Commission has developed effective
satellite-based environmental monitoring systems, to detect and help
prevent offshore oil spills and other hazards.

Another example of EU-sponsored space projects concerns satellite
mapping of remote regions, such as in Afghanistan, where EU aid and
rescue teams have been able to reach isolated villages in the aftermath
of the 2001 earthquake thanks to accurate satellite positioning and
mapping services.

Space technology for serving citizens

Space has been at the forefront of technology trends for decades. The
demand for smaller and lighter materials and systems, for example, was
largely stimulated by the space industry. The need to produce small,
powerful, self-contained computers for space-related applications
ultimately led to the development of PCs, as well as many other
intelligent devices in areas such as cars and medical technologies.

Beyond computer technologies, space research has contributed to a wealth
of concrete applications for scientists as well as citizens. The same
technologies used in space-borne telescopes to study the cosmos are also
helping to understand the workings of the human cell. Materials
developed to protect space instrumentation from the heat of launcher
engines can now be found in theatre seat upholstery, reducing the risk
of fire.

Business opportunities beyond the space industry

Space technologies represent opportunities for players other than those
within the “traditional” space industry — including SMEs, service
providers, content providers and private and public users. Digital
television, third generation mobile communications and
satellite-delivered Internet are good examples of service platforms to
which space-systems contribute.

Transferring space technologies from research to industry and shifting
from “blue sky” research to commercial applications and from
space-specific to other sectors, are top priorities for Europe. One of
the key questions raised by the Green Paper on European Space Policy and
discussed in London, is to assess “What are the conditions for the
emergence of economically viable and competitive applications and space
services for citizens and industries?”

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Examples of “down to Earth” space technologies serving research,
industry and European citizens

* Electro-optic sensors for meteorological satellites such as ESA’s
ENVISAT and ERS missions to monitor the Earth’s environment are now
being used on cameras in the offshore drilling sector to take pictures
through oil inside wells.

* The SPADD (Smart Passive Damping Device) used to protect satellites
and space structures from vibrations during launch is now also used to
reduce the noise of concrete mixers caused by mechanical shocks in the
gear mechanism.

* Guidance & INto the Ground Exploration Radar (GINGER), developed for
planetary missions, e.g. to investigate the Martian surface, is now
being used in various earth-based applications such as geophysical
investigations, the search for buried objects, measurements of thickness
or properties of non-metallic materials and detection of

* A computer algorithm that can extract meaningful information from
X-ray data gathered by the ROSAT satellite can powerfully assist the
physician in the diagnosis of initial malignant melanomas.

* The European Simulation Language (ESL) software package, used for
modelling highly complex systems, is currently employed by water
utilities to help ensure that drinking water is kept free from unwanted

* Measurement systems and test procedures to quantify the performance of
a robot and generate improvements through calibration is now being
applied to robots in production lines, such as those used in automobile

* The ‘Mamagoose’ baby pyjamas applies technology developed for a suit
to study the respiration of astronauts in space to a suit for monitoring
infants during sleep, sounding an alarm at the first symptoms of cot death.

* Other concrete, daily life examples include space radar systems
adapted to detect cracks in the roofs and walls of mine shafts;
spectrographic systems that can recognise and colour-match over 30,000
different colours and shades in fabrics and textiles; “non stick” frying
pans, and even a packaging machine that can drop a potato crisp into a
bag without breaking it.

[1] COM (2003) 17/5, 21 January 2003

SpaceRef staff editor.