The European Ministers responsible for Space met on Wednesday in Toulouse to clarify the space ambitions of the European Union. Emmanuel Macron will give a speech at 2:30 p.m.
European space ministers met on Wednesday in Toulouse to clarify the EU’s space ambitions, including a constellation of secure communications satellites and the management of space debris.
These two subjects will be at the heart of the so-called informal meeting of European Union ministers, under the chairmanship of the French Minister for the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. It will be followed by a working lunch devoted to space exploration and climate change.
Emmanuel Macron, who is less than two months away from a presidential election for which he is not yet a candidate, will then set out in a speech (2:30 p.m.) France’s positions and its ambitions for Europe on these subjects. He will underline, according to the Elysée, that “space is once again becoming an issue of conquest”, in particular with “the emergence of private actors” in the forefront of the American SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk.
Finally, the ministers meet for an informal council of the European Space Agency (ESA), which brings together 18 EU countries and four that are not part of it (Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland).
The European Commission took the lead on Tuesday by presenting its initiatives on the constellation of satellites and the management of space traffic, two subjects with a strong dimension of sovereignty and security for the EU.
They are part of his “strategic compass” project, the adoption of which is scheduled for March, and which aims to give the European Union “the capacity to react autonomously to threats”, recently summed up the head of the European diplomacy Josep Borrell.
Good use of space
The constellation of satellites, the first of which are due to be operational in 2024, will provide an EU-specific internet network, ensuring secure government communications, and commercial communications coverage across the EU and Africa.
The cost of this constellation has been estimated at between 5 and 6 billion euros by the Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton. One third will be financed by the Commission, one third by the private sector and the last third by the States.
For the management of space traffic, it is a question of drawing up regulations for the proper use of space, which the EU could bring to the international level. With the objective of guaranteeing, among other things, the security of European space infrastructures, such as the Galileo satellite positioning system, against the threat of space debris or hostile acts.
The meeting invalidated by Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday morning will be an opportunity for “the ministers of the European Union to react to the ambitions of the European Commission” in these areas, according to the press kit published on Tuesday by the French Ministry of the Economy. . In particular by discussing the financial contribution of the States to the constellation, and the common rules for the proper use of space.
The ESA meeting provided its Josef Aschbacher the opportunity to set out his vision on the issues of climate change and space exploration.
This is to address the after Copernicus, the flagship Earth observation program piloted by ESA, beyond 2030. And to discuss the opportunity for European autonomy for manned flights, whereas today European astronauts are only passengers on flights on Russian or American rockets.
Or, as indicated by a French source on the eve of the Toulouse meetings, there is no clear consensus on the subject among Europeans. The ESA meeting should make it possible to put on the table the range of possible scenarios for exploring space beyond Earth orbit.