The EU’s new €14.8bn space programme is ready to take off

30 Apr 2021

The ESA Vega flight VV16 lifting off in September 2020. Image: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Vidéo du CSG

European leaders have signed off on the EU’s largest ever budget for space, which focuses on security, connectivity and entrepreneurship.

The EU has adopted an “ambitious space strategy” in a bid to become a global leader in this sector.

A €14.8bn programme for the years 2021 to 2027 – the largest ever budget for space – was finalised this week. It will bring together all EU space activities under one programme, with the aim of supporting different aspects of the space industry and fostering tech leadership and resilience.

“Space technology is essential for our everyday life and security,” said EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe fit for the digital age.

“The [new strategy] will enable modernisation of our flagship programmes and access to develop new European space activities. Together, we can accelerate and transform our space policy.”

‘The global race is on’

The European Commission, Parliament and EU member states came to an agreement on the policy last December. The new regulation will be published in the coming days and will retroactively apply from 1 January 2021.

It will support the modernisation of the EU’s flagship space programmes – the Galileo and Copernicus satellite and Earth observation systems and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, or EGNOS.

It is also looking to enhance Europe’s autonomy in space and support new initiatives in space surveillance and satellite communications.

This will include tapping into the potential of space-related data and services, which could lead to job creation and socioeconomic benefits, but is also expected to contribute to digital transformation and the green transition in Europe.

The EU is also looking to promote entrepreneurship in the European space sector. A new €1bn space fund called Cassini will be established to boost start-ups and innovation.

EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, outlined the key elements of Europe’s space strategy earlier this year and called for a “fundamental overhaul” in policy. 

“Europe has all it takes to be a global space leader,” Breton said this week. “It has talents. It has industrial capacity. It has technological leadership. It has the experience of ambitious space missions and programmes.

“But there is no time to lose. The space sector is under massive transformation. The global race is on. If we want Europe to maintain its position as global space power, we need to act now. And the space regulation will support an ambitious space strategy for Europe.”

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic