EU’s ‘initial frontier’

ANP JERRY LAMPEN

The European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-2B satellite of the European Commission's Copernicus Earth Observation Program in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, November 15, 2016.

Space technology to help improve EU’s energy, climate, transport, digital policies


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The European Union must ensure the continuity and evolution of Europe’s space programmes and back them up with sufficient resources, European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said.

He noted that Commission is currently preparing a set of legislative proposals and guidelines on connected and automated mobility, which will tackle issues from connectivity, data management and cybersecurity to infrastructure, road safety and liability.

The EU’s space programmes are an important tool for measuring gas emissions as well as the impact of the EU’s environmental policies and climate action, Šefčovič said.

“Our work on autonomous driving, therefore, leverages on Galileo’s past and future accomplishments. While some global players are about to send cars into space, we prefer to send satellites that help cars navigate here on the ground,” he said at his speech at the 10th annual conference on European Space Policy in Brussels on January 23.

The European space market is worth about €50 billion, employing over 230,000 Europeans.

“The digital market depends on Galileo’s geo-localisation services; Copernicus tracks the shipment of goods along European highways thanks to satellite imagery. The result is that it enhances the integration of the internal market.

The safety of our aviation industry owes much of its success to the EGNOS technology,” Šefčovič said, adding that 2017 was the safest year in aviation history despite difficult weather conditions.

“Our security and the way we defend our borders, track migration patterns, and provide emergency aid in remote areas – are all significantly reinforced by space services,” he said.

Space boosts Energy Union

Šefčovič cited Copernicus as an example of a critical tool “for measuring our gas emissions as well as the impact of the EU’s environmental policies and climate action”.

“The Copernicus Sentinel Satellites supply precious information on our energy sources, including renewables, fuel consumption savings and mining activities. The satellite images allow us to monitor the changes of the oceans, deserts, and the atmosphere,” Šefčovič added that Copernicus data that showed that 2017 was the second warmest year on record.“

After NASA confirmed the increase in Methane emissions (due to fossil fuels), I hope that Copernicus with Sentinel-5P will give us more details,” he said.

This space technology serves the entire global community, which is constantly seeking new tools and measures for improving air quality and fighting climate change.

“At a time when more and more countries look up to Europe as the global leader of the energy transition, this is yet another European contribution to the rest of the world. It moves the centre of gravity closer to us because there is no competition for the quality and accuracy of the Copernicus data. In recent years, this was even a question of life and death for rescue teams during complex operations like Hurricane Harvey in the US,” said Šefčovič .

Galileo is also a critical building block for the Energy Union. “I can tell you that it comes up not only in my meetings about space but more and more with the energy industry – especially since the initial services were launched – just over a year ago. For example, Galileo’s signals contribute to the synchronisation of energy grids, to more sustainable agriculture which can map croplands in need of irrigation, forecast harvest and control fisheries, to the geo-localisation of more modern and cleaner mobility solutions. As you know, Galileo will make geo-localisation much more precise than it is today (from 10m to 20cm precision). This will have a tremendous impact on connected and autonomous driving, which can amount to yet another tectonic shift – not only in one sector but to our societies at large,” Šefčovič said.

“As you can see, space is not the ‘final frontier’ as we used to hear on Star Trek when we were young. It is the initial frontier for the entire economy! That is why it was so important for us to come forward with the first EU Space Strategy at the end of 2016 and to ensure we have a clear foresight for the next decades,” Šefčovič said, explaining that is why the role of the space industry must be properly reflected in EU’s future policies – not only fostering new synergies, but also boosting respective EU programmes and investing sufficient EU resources.

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