European Space Policy 2015 – conference summary

In the last few years there is a growing interest in the space sector by the European Union. Three of the most visible manifestations of its will to strive in this industry are the Copernicus and Galileo program, and…the “space” segment from the Horizon 2020 research and development program.

The EU Space Policy conference happens once every year at the end of January. It’s a time when representatives from the European Commission, other countries and large European companies announce their objectives for the upcoming year and discuss about many other fields of concern.

Opening speech by Jerzy Buzek

This year’s edition happened the 27th and 28th in Brussels. The conference had a well pronounced polish aura to it due to the presence of some Polish politicians. Among them where Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, which delivered the closing speech and summarized the conference. Apart from this, one of the first speeches were made by professor Jerzy Buzek – head of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE).

On the opening day were discussed such topics as the direction in which the European space industry is developing, about the integration of the Horizon 2020 program with the space industry and the use of satellite data to solve issues such as the detection and monitoring of environmental changes. Some interesting speeches from this year brought up the topic of placing the total of 10 European satellites in space, from which most are units from the Galileo constellation (two will be Sentinel satellites from the Copernicus constellation).

Many representatives of the industry and commerce sector made it very clear, that the European Committee until present has done too little and took the wrong turn, in the effort of growing the space industry. The Committee’s response to it was to change the character of the Horizon 2020 program, a program that totally differs from the passed projects (stronger SME participation).

Head of the German Aerospace Center delivers his speech

ESA’s next general director Johann-Dietrich Woerner speech was a marking moment of the first day. ESA’s new general director congratulated SpaceX (which representative attended the conference) for the activity and changes brought by them to the space industry and admitted that in many cases, Europe has flaws in conditions and infrastructures needed to implement future possibilities to the fullest. For instance, at present Europe hasn’t any IT back-office able to manage satellite data from the Copernicus constellation.

On the second day the main subjects of matter were telecommunication and the defense/security sector. Europe is among the leaders of the telecommunication industry, however the USA’s competitive advantage has significantly increased(electric drive). With this, in Europe raises the risk of losing contracts in the telecommunication industry. At the same time, Europe has a significantly small amount of orders coming from the government/military comparing to the US, which limits the chances of development in our continent.

The last speech was made by Elżbieta Bieńkowska. She discussed the need of launching three rockets with Galileo satellites onboard this year and run operations in 2016. This means that by next year there will be at least 10 operating Galileo satellites .

Apart from that Elżbieta Bieńkowska talked negotiating with EU countries about access to data from Earth Observation(EO) satellites in high definition. In her opinion some EU countries despite having good EO resources their activities are not always transparent towards others, and particularly those who don’t have EO satellites. This includes governmental and private recipients.

Some sources say that Bieńkowska’s speech was subject to commentaries after the conference, which can mean that there’s still a long way to go with the negotiations for satellite data access, excluding military.

This year’s EU Space Policy had a record high number of participants from many countries, company representatives, not only from Europe.

The conference room, capable of hosting 400 people was not enough to accommodate all participants. With that, some were obligated to use the reserve room prepared for this event. Unlike the past editions, this year’s conference hosted also SpaceX representative, who delivered his speech. From Poland there were important ministry, parliament, science institute and company representatives.