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Global Challenges

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Space systems and space-based technologies are a critical part of the daily life of all European citizens and businesses. From telecommunications to television, weather forecasting to global financial systems, most of the key services that we all take for granted in the modern world depend on space technologies in order to function properly. It is not only important for Europe but many other countries around the world.

Consequently, many developing countries are already attempting to monitor their territories more closely, driven by concern for transnational challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation and the spread of infectious diseases.  Brazil and China are now collaborating on the design of Earth Observation satellites, while space is a key focus of the 8th partnership in the Joint EU-Africa Strategy.

As a result, the European Union has become increasingly involved in space activities and the need for a comprehensive space policy has become widely recognised. The strategic mission of the European Space Policy, jointly developed by the European Union, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Member States, is based on the peaceful exploration and exploitation of outer space.

One of the most used space applications is Earth observation to allow weather forecasts for up to 9 days. Only the use of Metosat satellites has made such progress possible over the last three decades.

Satellite communications began almost 60 years ago with the launch of the first dedicated satellites and has since become a very important economic sector. In our daily life we make constant use of satellite communications through television, internet, telephone and other communication means. Telecommunications is the most developed satellite-enabled service and generates a worldwide turnover of about €55 billion/year. Today, the largest application for satellite communication systems in Europe is television distribution. More than 3,000 channels are available via European satellite operators. Satellites are also the vital link for 'live' broadcasting of news, sports and other major events.

The main aim of the EU’s space policy is to use space-related technology to tackle some of the most pressing challenges today, such as fighting climate change, helping to stimulate technological innovation, and providing socio-economic benefits to citizens.

Between 2014 and 2020, over €12 billion will be spent on the implementation of the EU’s three space programmes:

  1. Satellite navigation: The Galileo and EGNOS programmes which provide positioning, navigation, and timing information worldwide.
  2. Earth observation: The Copernicus programme which provides Earth observation data and information.
  3. Space research: Part of the Horizon 2020 programme focuses specifically on space technologies, applications (e.g. GNSS and Earth observation), weather, sciences, exploration, and other space related topics.

The EU needs its own space programmes because they assist EU citizens and help with the implementation of EU policies through:

  1. Jobs and industrial growth: The space sector provides over 320 000 jobs in the EU from manufacturing to space operations and downstream services. It is worth about EUR 52 billion to the EU economy.
  2. Meeting key challenges: The space industry helps the EU to deal with and plan for a number of difficult challenges including: industrial competitiveness, technological innovation and research, space security, space exploration, and international cooperation
  3. Investment in the future: The security, environmental, technological, knowledge and other benefits of EU space programmes will continue to provide benefits for future generations.

Europe needs an effective space policy that will allow the EU to take the global lead in selected strategic policy areas. Space can provide the tools to address many of the global challenges that face society in the twenty-first century: challenges that Europe must take a leading role in addressing.