Thierry Breton, Internal Market Commissioner said on Sunday EU is planning to invest in rocket launches, satellite communication and space exploration, in light of rapid progress by the US and China.
“Space is one of Europe’s strong points, and we’re giving ourselves the means to speed up,” Breton told Reuters in an interview, on Sunday.
The historic launch of two NASA astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in late May, was a wake-up call for the EU. The human spaceflight, which was a joint effort between NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, marked a new era for the space industry, being the first time humans travelled into orbit from US soil since NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
Although the Union has its SpaceX-equivalent, the Arianespace, a rocket launcher developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), it’s first flight was pushed back to 2021, due to the new needs arising from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7,” the Commissioner said.
He added that the deployment of EU’s Galileo navigation satellites will be moved ahead by three years, to 2024, and that the new satnav system will be “the most modern in the world”, as satellites could interact with each other and provide a more precise signal.
The Industry chief also expressed his hopes that the bloc’s long-term budget, namely the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 will include a significant amount of funds for the space sector, adding that he will propose a €1 billion European Space Fund to boost startups.
Yet, investing in the future of the space industry seems unpromising, with the Union focusing most of its attention on mitigating the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the bloc’s ravaged economies.