by Douglas Messier
The European Union (EU) is consolidating its space programs under an existing agency that is being given an expanded mandate.
The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), which will be renamed the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUASP), will take on managing the use of the Copernicus Earth observation satellite system and oversee new initiatives in satellite communications named GOVSATCOM and space situational awareness (SSA).
The Prague-based agency will continue to manages use of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Systems (EGNOS) and Galileo satellite navigation programs.
EUASP “will increasingly support the exploitation and market uptake of EU space activities and play an increased role in ensuring the security of all the components of the programme,” the European Commission (EC) said in a press release.
EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, praised the reorganization of the union’s space programs.
“Europe is the second space power in the world. But the global race is on. With this agreement, we now have the means to develop our leadership in space by consolidating our flagships – Galileo and Copernicus – and exploring new initiatives that will enhance Europe’s resilience, notably in secure connectivity,” Breton said.
The EU has a seven-year space budget of €13.2 billion ($16 billion) for 2021-27. Most of the funds are focused on operating and expanding the Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems. The European Space Agency oversees development of the spacecraft.
“The intergovernmental European Space Agency (ESA), given its unmatched expertise, will remain a major partner in the technical and operational implementation of the EU space programme,” the EC said.
In addition to its existing duties, EUASP will oversee the new GOVSATCOM that is designed to provide reliable, secure and cost-effective satellite communications for the EU and its member state governments.
The expanded agency will manage a new SSA program that will help prevent collisions of objects in and uncontrolled reentries from the increasingly crowded environment of Earth orbit. The program will also focus on monitoring space weather and near Earth objects.