ESA, EU Look for New Partnership with Space Security in Sight

On 25 October during the intermediate ministerial council, the European Space Agency adopted new four pillar guidelines for its activities and granted its Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner a mandate to negotiate a new Financial Framework Partnership Agreement with the European Union for the 2021-2027 period. The announcements come as the European Union continues to move on its plans to establish the EU Agency for Space Program in Prague, Czech Republic.

The new agreement is expected to address several areas between ESA as an independent intergovernmental implementation body and the EU spanning across adopting adequate security protocols and procedures, democratic control by the European Parliament, general oversight by the EU or an appropriate funding process through the new €16bn Multiannual Financial Framework.

The EU has moved to assume more responsibilities in space with the prepared MFF, including space security topics like Space Surveillance and Tracking, Space Weather or Near-Earth Objects (NEO) detection and its mitigation under the guidance of the European Commission. In this regard, ESA has as one of its four guiding pillars Safety and Security consisting on ensuring security in space and using space to provide security on the ground. To provide Europe with NEO detection, the Italian Space Agency and ESA are developing the FlyEye telescope to become operational in 2019. ESA is also working on the HERA mission to map the impact of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test expected to impact Didymoon, a 170-meter object orbiting the 800-meter Didymos asteroid, by 2023.

Other three pillars consist of space exploration, applications (earth observation, navigation or telecommunication) and enabling and support (launch capacities, technologies). Mirroring the 2016 EU Space Strategy and recent discussions in the European Parliament, five countries (Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain) pledged to use exclusively European Ariane 62, 64 and Vega C launch vehicles. Austria signaled interest in joining the pledge while the European Commission supported the initiative amid its legal obligation for EU space assets to be launched within its jurisdiction.

These developments fall in line with growing ambitions of the European Union in the field of space policy.

About author: Petr Boháček

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