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European Space Ministers Meet, Set Agenda for 2019 Confab

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 29, 2018

MADRID (ESA PR) — European ministers in charge of space activities met last week at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid, Spain, to preview ESA’s vision for the future of Europe in space.

Called the Intermediate Ministerial Meeting, this was a milestone on the road to ESA’s next Ministerial Council, called ‘Space19+’, which will be held in November 2019. This week, the ministers from ESA Member States were presented with the strategic guidelines that will shape ESA Director General Jan Wörner’s proposal for Europe’s future in space, to be submitted at Space19+.

Ministerial Councils bring together ESA’s Member States and observers every two to three years to decide on new proposals and funding for ESA’s next years of work. The last one was in 2016, and this week’s Intermediate Ministerial Meeting was an important step towards Space19+.

The road to Space19+

Space19+ will be an opportunity to direct Europe’s ‘next generation’ ambitions in space, and address the challenges facing not only the European space sector but also European society as a whole.

Director General Jan Wörner’s endorsed proposal contains a roadmap for ESA and the EU to continue to finance and implement space programmes in Europe in a sustainable and efficient way, and also lays out a vision for the internal functioning of the agency, adapting to changes in the space sector.

This proposal includes the Director General’s plan for space programmes to be carried out by the Agency beyond 2019, and covers all aspects of space activities: science and exploration, applications, access to space, operations, research and development. It also puts ESA in a world-leading position in the emerging field of space safety and security.

This new sector is dedicated to the protection of our infrastructure by tackling challenges such as space weather, planetary defence from near-Earth objects and space debris management. In addition, it foresees using space technology for concrete applications in the domain of safety and security (such as food control, maritime security, disaster management, border security, hazards and migration) as well as cybersecurity.

A new era of global space exploration

Among other issues to be addressed at Space19+, some of the most important are the restoration of ESA’s science programme as the world leader in the physics of the Universe, and making Europe central to the new era of global space exploration, working with new and existing partners to go to the Moon and on to Mars.

ESA wants to reinforce technical innovation spin-in and spin-offs, and to partner with industry to achieve economic growth and societal benefit in traditional applications fields, as well as in the new emerging domain of space safety and security. These include satellites in global 5G communications, managing threats from extreme space weather, and enabling new opportunities and markets in space such as in-orbit servicing. This would be achieved through both traditional partnerships and projects, as well as ones pushing for more industrial involvement and responsibility.

ESA will also build on common developments in a solid ESA/EU partnership, to secure the continuity and evolution of the Copernicus Space Component and to secure activities in navigation to be seen as a precursor for the next generation of European GNSS.

ESA’s industrial policy will be enhanced to allow faster decision-making and leaner processes, with processes tailored to activity and project type, and the Agency will support European competitiveness in the field of access to space by engaging in a fly-European policy for ESA missions.