The European Commission has tabled two new initiatives aimed at making the EU space ecosystem more competitive. Here’s why this is good news for Luxembourg.
Since launching its SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, Luxembourg has done a lot of work to attract space activities to Europe. The European Commission is now taking up the baton to further secure and drive innovation in space communications and space traffic management from the EU.
Last week, it presented its €6b plan for a secure, space-based, EU communications system. In a press release dated 15 February, the Commission said that it wants to ensure uninterrupted access to “secure and cost-effective” worldwide satellite communication services. To achieve that goal, it will “support the protection of critical infrastructures, surveillance, external actions, crisis management and applications that are critical for Member States’ economy, security and defence.”
The plan also pledges to allow commercial players in the European private sector to access fast connections across Europe, including in “communication dead zones” in member states. In addition, communications will be shored up in strategic areas of interest such as the African continent and the Arctic, in-line with the EU Global Gateway strategy.
Björn Ottersten, director of SnT, an interdisciplinary centre based in Luxembourg working on space innovations, among other things, called the news an “exciting development for Luxembourg”. He also said it bode well for Luxembourg’s future in the European space sector.
“With an established satellite industry, and a growing number of companies developing applications for small, low Earth orbit satellites, we can reasonably expect the Grand Duchy to be involved in future developments of the EU space package,” he commented.
“We are glad to see that the European Commission is committing, even more than before, to supporting the development of the space sector.,”
More Funding, More Jobs
A key source of funding for the programme will be the EU which, from 2022 to 2027, will invest €2.4b. Finance will also come from member states, the ESA and private sector investments.
The Commission estimated the package’s gross value added at €17-24b. Other benefits include job creation, spillover effects on the economy through downstream sectors using the innovative connectivity services and for consumers, access to satellite communication services and high speed internet across the EU.
Luxembourg counts roughly 22 actors in the communications and navigation segment of the space sector which stand to benefit, among them major operators like SES. As part of its strategy to diversify into space activities, the Luxembourg Space Agency has also developed training and new legislation with major repercussions for space activities. The latter offers strong foundations for this new EU-wide policy approach.
“We are glad to see that the European Commission is committing, even more than before, to supporting the development of the space sector. This proves Luxembourg’s foresight in investing in the industry,” said Professor Ottersten.
The second thrust of the package focuses on an EU public policy for space traffic management to manage the exponential increase in satellites, and debris, in orbit.
“The goal is to develop concrete initiatives, including operations and legislation, to promote the safe, secure and sustainable use of space while preserving the EU’s strategic autonomy and industry‘s competitiveness,” the Commission wrote.
Based around four elements, the approach examines civilian and military requirements, technology for identifying and tracking spacecraft and space debris, establishing a legislative framework and forging international partnerships. Luxembourg hosts initiatives focused on space debris monitoring and removal, including Spacety, which collaborates with the SnT.