January 2013 – three events in Brussels (report)

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Between the 29th and 31st of January 2013 three important events related to the European space sector were held in Brussels. These events were the following: EU Space Policy, EC Space Technology Workshop and a debate about Poland entering ESA. Kosmonauta.net representatives were present at all of these events.

29th/30th of January – EU Space Policy
This event was already held for the fifth time. The European Commission (EC) organised a conference, during which the current status of the European space policy was presented. Moreover, talks about the Galileo and GMES Copernicus programmes were also given by European Parliament members and experts. Both of these programmes are very expensive, and in times of economic trouble in Europe some reductions are probable. How significant will these reductions be? It is important to note, as some experts pointed out, that reductions below a certain level would result in dramatic decrease, if not in total loss of capability of either Galileo or GMES Copernicus. Thus, it is important to preserve required funding and support further development of these systems.

At the EU Space policy numerous representatives from Poland were present, including the Polish Parliamentary Space Group, specialists from the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Science and Higher Eductation, Ministry of Administration and Digitalisation, Polish National Contact Point for Research Programmes in the Eu and the Chancellery of the Sejm (Polish Parliament). There were also representatives from the Space Research Center and several Polish companies from the space sector. Their presence clearly indicate that Polish officials understand the necessity of participation in both Galileo and GMES Copernicus, which aim for a wide range of practical terrestrial applications.

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30th/31st of January – EC Space Technology Workshop
In 2014 the successor of the Seventh Framework Programme will begin. The name of this programme is “Horizon 2020” (H2020) and will devote over 80 billion EUR to European R&D projects. The space theme can count on over 1,5 billion EUR of funds for various space projects. How will these funds be allocated in order to maximize the effect? Which general directions of development will be supported? Does the industry and small/medium enterprises (SME) have its own vision of European space sector development?

To answer these questions, the EC organised an event called the EC Space Technology Workshop. During this event, EC representatives consulted the representatives from the European space sector for their opinion on the H2020 programme. This workshop was divided into 9 thematic sessions. In the author’s opinion, the most important one was the “competitiveness and non-dependence” session, which focused on the development of European sector and rising competition from other manufacturers.

The competitiveness issue is an important one, as in recent months significant changes in the global space sector have been observed. For example, the ITAR regulations for space components have been changed, which improve the situation of American companies. Moreover, new technologies are being introduced (e.g. electric propulsion for satcoms), which are not created in Europe. Finally, at the same time, an expansion of China has been noted, especially in new markets (e.g. South America), which also can impact the European space component
manufacturers.

At the same time, Europe is increasingly dependent on the foreign components. During this workshop a few examples of components were presented, which are not produced in Europe for the space sector (e.g. FPGA circuits). Some of these technologies are said to become very popular in next generation of satellites, overtaking the position of current solutions. It is obvious that the European space sector needs such components, produced by the industry from Europe.

Will H2020 assist the European space sector? It is possible, especially if technology development directions are properly identified. With the help of H2020 funding, several bigger project focusing on the competitiveness will be probably initiated. At least a part of them should succeed.

Do Polish entities have a chance to participate in such projects? Since the Polish space sector and hi-tech industry is not yet well developed, there is a risk that it might be difficult for them to join projects aiming at the development of new products in short-term. In case of projects, where the goal is more distant, the participation is more probable.

A very interesting session was the one devoted to the “alternative access to space”. During that session it was noted that in comparison to USA, suborbital access in Europe is limited. This in turn limits the prospects for technology demonstration of validation. Such suborbital programs could be relatively easy to be available in Europe in relatively short term. What’s more – there is a lack of small-size orbital programs, which would allow for testing or demonstration of new technologies as a payload. Some participants of this event think that several technology demonstrator(s) in form of small-size satellite missions, created by Europe between 2014 and 2020, could help in the development of new European technological solutions.

The conclusion from the EC Space Technology Workshop is as following – the H2020 has the potential to offer opportunities for technology development, also for Polish entities. However, the industry or SMEs have to be active to find projects and join consortia/clusters. It is also important for Polish entities to show a substantial degree of flexibility in order to become a part of European space sector, creating new products and solutions – at least during the first few calls.

30th of January – Poland in ESA – a panel discussion
In between these two events, another one was held at the Polish permanent representation to the EU. On the 30th of January 2013, an informal panel discussion was organised by the Secure World Foundation (SWC) on the topic of Poland in ESA. During this meeting opinions were given from Polish representatives to the European Parliament, space sector companies, ESA representatives, CNES experts, the SWC organisation as well as several Polish ministries.

During this event opinions were presented on Poland’s entering ESA as well as development perspectives for the next few years. A big problem is for sure the lack of an adequate industry base in Poland, which limits the production capabilities of advanced components in the country. Another thing is to find a local specialization for ESA, aiming to become an European leader for some technologies.

Summary
During the last years one can see a growing interest of the EU in the space sector, which is one of the most profitable and innovative branches of the economy. For further development of the EU countries development, a coordinated program is needed, which will support the European industry and the SME sector. H2020 has a chance to be an important tool, which could heavily influence the further development of the European space industry and other branches of the industry, which H2020 is aimed at.

It is important for countries like Poland – which do not yet have a developed space industry – to not be forgotten in this program. Thus, it is important for Polish representatives to actively take part in organized events related to H2020. They have to be creative and try to lead new directions for European space technologies as soon as possible.

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