EU Space Budget Request Slashed

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Commission (EC) has slashed its space budget for 2021-27 from a proposed €16 billion ($18.8 billion) to €13.2 billion ($15.1 billion) due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU).

Under terms worked out last week by EU leaders, the space budget will devote €8 billion ($9.4 billion) on the Galileo satellite navigation system and €4.8 billion ($5.65 billion) to the Copernicus constellation of environmental satellites.

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‘Primo Space’ has Lift-off: First Italian Fund to Invest in Space Economy

  • Primomiglio SGR launches first Italian venture capital fund – ‘Primo Space’ – focusing on space investments, with first closing at €58 million and target size of €80 million.
  • European Investment Fund (EIF) and CDP Venture Capital SGR act as cornerstone investors in the fund, which was developed with the support of the Italian Space Agency.
  • €30 million EIF commitment backed by the new InnovFin Space initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe of the European Commission.

BRUSSELS (European Commission PR) — Italian fund manager Primomiglio  announces the first closing of Primo Space, an early stage venture fund focused on space start-ups.

The first closing of Primo Space reached an initial amount of €58 million with contributions of the European Investment Fund (EIB group), CDP Venture Capital SGR through the VenturItaly Fund of Funds, Compagnia di Sanpaolo, Luigi Rossi Luciani S.a.p.a., Banca Sella, in addition to the SGR itself and its key men.

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EUMETSAT Shifts Weather Satellites to Ariane 6

DARMSTADT, Germany — Meeting on 30 June in virtual configuration, the Council of Europe’s operational satellite agency for weather and climate, EUMETSAT, approved the transition plan from the second to the third generation of Meteosat geostationary satellites for 2022-2026.

As part of this plan, EUMETSAT will move Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) spacecraft Meteosat-9 over the Indian Ocean in 2022 to replace the ageing Meteosat-8 and continue MSG observations of that region until at least 2025. Meteosat observations of the Indian Ocean started in 1998 with a first-generation satellite, Meteosat-5.

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ESA Selects Thales Alenia Space Proposals for Copernicus Project

Copernicus Sentinel-3 (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

CANNES, July 2, 2020 (Thales Alenia Space PR) — Thales Alenia Space, a Joint Venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %), has recently been selected  by the European Space Agency (ESA) in coordination and with the agreement of the European Commission, for major Copernicus missions.

Copernicus is the core satellite Earth observation program of the European Commission and the European Space Agency ESA. It provides Earth observation data for environmental protection, climate monitoring, natural disaster assessment and other social tasks.

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Six New Missions for the European Copernicus Earth Observation Program

Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will map up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days in order to monitor sea level variability. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)
  • On 1 July 2020, the European Space Agency awarded contracts for the development and construction of six further Copernicus satellites.
  • Contracts with a value of more than 800 million euro are being awarded to space companies in Germany, a high percentage of which are SMEs.
  • The new satellites are intended to help find answers to the global challenges posed by climate change, population growth and environmental problems.

BONN, Germany (DLR PR) — Sentinel satellites are at the heart of Copernicus, Europe’s largest Earth observation programme. Sentinels are already reliably and continuously providing large amounts of data on the state of the climate, vegetation and oceans. Now, six more ‘Earth Guardians’, the High Priority Candidate Missions (HPCM), are being added.

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ESA Approves €2.55 billion in Contracts for 6 Copernicus Satellite Missions

Copernicus Sentinel-3 (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Following the financial commitment from ESA Member States at last November’s Council at Ministerial Level Space19+, ESA’s industrial policy committee has approved contracts totalling €2.55 billion [$2.87 million] to forward the development of six new Copernicus satellite missions, each mission comprising two satellites, a development and a recurrent unit. 

The overall package is co-funded by the EU and ESA Member States, and relies on future funding from the EU Multiannual financial framework.

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New International Ocean Satellite Completes Testing

Mission team members perform acoustic tests of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in a chamber outfitted with giant speakers that blast the spacecraft with sound. This is to ensure that the high decibels associated with liftoff won’t damage the spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

A team of engineers in the U.S. and Europe subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft to a battery of trials to ready it for liftoff later this year.


Once the state-of-the-art Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches in November, it will collect the most accurate data yet on sea level – a key indicator of how Earth’s warming climate is affecting the oceans, weather and coastlines. But first, engineers need to ensure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of launch and of operating in the harsh environment of space. That’s where meticulous testing comes in.

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COVID-19: How Can Satellites Help?

Normally busy, Frankfurt airport stands still amid the COVID-19 crisis. The image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 30 March 2020. (Credits: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data – 2020, processed by ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has virtually paralysed daily life as we know it. Even when the spread of this highly infectious disease has been stemmed, the world will face huge challenges getting back to normal. To help support experts working in Europe’s research centres and technical organisations during these unprecedented times, ESA has issued two new initiatives related to understanding the effects that COVID-19 is imposing on society, the economy and the environment.

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European Commission Approves UTC’s Acquisition of Raytheon

BRUSSELS (European Commission PR) — The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of Raytheon by United Technologies Corporation (UTC). The approval is conditional on the divestiture of a remedy package.

The transaction combines UTC’s aerospace businesses and Raytheon’s defence business. Both companies are global suppliers of military systems and equipment to aircraft and guided munition producers, as well as armed forces.

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Europlanet Launches 10 Million Euro Research Infrastructure Supporting Planetary Science

The Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research – a laboratory for the spectroscopic investigation of planetary simulants (terrestrial rocks ground into rock dust, such as those found on the Earth-like planets of the Solar System) – offers globally unique research opportunities. Here, the reflection properties and emissions of samples can be measured under extremely high temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius, as is the case on Venus and Mercury. Europlanet, a European platform for planetary research, is now providing 10 million euro for the ‘Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure’ project, which will provide open access to facilities for planetary simulation and analysis for scientists from Europe, Asia and Africa, including two DLR laboratories. The image shows PSL Manager Jörn Helbert with a sample chamber. (Credit: Europlanet / madebygravity.co)
  • Europlanet 2024 RI will provide open access to the world’s largest group of facilities for planetary simulation and analysis, as well as a global network of small telescopes, data services and support for the scientific community.
  • Since 2005, Europlanet has been providing Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.
  • DLR participates in the programme with a spectroscopy laboratory and a laboratory for simulating atmospheric conditions on various planetary bodies.

BERLIN (DLR PR) — Solar System exploration benefits primarily from the ability of robotic spacecraft to visit planetary bodies, carrying cameras and experiments. In addition, much research is carried out in laboratories on Earth, and during field studies on volcanoes or in arid and cold polar regions.

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin has two laboratories for planetary research with globally unique capabilities. These are a spectroscopy laboratory for emissivity measurements of planetary simulants under extremely high temperatures, and a laboratory for simulating atmospheric conditions on a wide range of planetary bodies. Now, Europlanet, a European platform for planetary science, has launched ‘Europlanet 2024 RI‘, a 10 million euro project.

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ESA, European Commission Pre-order Four More Ariane 6 Launches

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (Arianespace PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has finalized its preorder for four more launches on Ariane 6, along with an initial payment.

Using Ariane 62, the light version of the new European launcher, these missions will be carried out on behalf of the European Commission to continue the deployment and operational ramp-up of the high-performance Galileo satellite navigation system.

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Qarman CubeSat: Falling Into a Fireball

ESA’s next CubeSat mission seen enduring the scorching heat of simulated atmospheric reentry inside the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s latest mission will enter the vacuum of space, not aboard a rocket but by being released from the International Space Station. The first task of the shoebox-sized Qarman CubeSat is simply to fall. While typical space missions resist orbital decay, Qarman will drift down month by month until it reenters the atmosphere, at which point it will gather a wealth of data on the fiery physics of reentry.

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European Commission, EIB Group Invest EUR 200 Million in Space Sector

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)
  • EUR 100 million contingent loan for the new Ariane 6 launcher programme, a European Space Agency programme with ArianeGroup as Industrial lead contractor and design authority
  • First EUR 100 million venture capital programme under InnovFin to support innovation and growth of European smaller and medium-sized space technology companies

LUXEMBOURG (EIB PR) — The European Commission is partnering with the European Investment Bank Group, announcing EUR 200 million of investments into the EU space sector, supporting ground-breaking innovation in the industry. During the European Space Policy Conference  in Brussels, EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle is signing an agreement with André-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup, confirming a EUR 100 million loan for the new Ariane 6 launcher programme.

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Thales Alenia Space Wins ESA EGNOS Contract

Cannes, December 5, 2019 (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced today that it has signed a new contract with the European Space Agency (ESA), on behalf of the European Commission, to upgrade Europe’s EGNOS satellite navigation system. Via this contract Thales Alenia Space will develop a new version of EGNOS (version V242B), incorporating new advanced functionalities.

Worth a total of about 78 million euros, this contract includes the following:

  • expansion of the EGNOS SBAS coverage zone;
  • installation of a new generation of reference stations (RIMS);
  • improved algorithms in the computation center (CPF) to boost system performance;
  • enhanced system security.
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DLR Teams with 5 European Companies to Develop Reusable Launch Vehicles

conceptual sketch of RETALT1 (Credit: DLR)

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center  (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and five European companies have teamed up in the RETro Propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies (RETALT) project to jointly advance the research and development of key technologies for European vertical-landing launch vehicles. The consortium will spend three years examining the aerodynamics, aerothermodynamics – that is, in-flight surface temperatures – flight dynamics during both the outward and return flight phases, and navigation and control, as well as structural components, materials and mechanisms.

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