Europe hosted its Space Summit in Toulouse, France.
Leaders in the space sector from across Europe gathered to discuss the state of the industry. The summit is part of the ESA Agenda 2025, which outlines the agency’s priorities—and a roadmap for greater EU space sovereignty—over the next few years. Taking the wide view, we heard a lot about the EU and ESA’s efforts to accelerate Europe’s presence in space, to use LEO constellations for climate change mitigation, and to make progress towards ambitious human spaceflight missions. Here’s the lowdown on our major takeaways: Another constellation: The ESA doubled down on its intention to send another constellation of broadband satellites into LEO. On Tuesday, the day before the summit began, the EU introduced the Union Secure Connectivity Programme initiative, which would allot €2.4B ($2.73B) between 2022 and 2027 to create a secure connectivity constellation for civilian and government use.
- The legislation is proceeding with the program despite two negative impact assessments, SpaceNews reports. An initiative with two negative impact assessments would normally be dropped, per EU rules. The commission’s VP for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight chose to continue with the initiative anyway due to its political importance.
Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market in charge of space, spoke about the proposed constellation and emphasized the need for Europe to become a global space power. Breton also discussed the need for a space traffic management system to protect European on-orbit assets.Human spaceflight: In a speech, French President Emmanual Macron emphasized the need for Europe to develop independent and indigenous human spaceflight capabilities. Josef Aschbacher, director general of ESA, followed up by announcing that the agency would establish a “high-level advisory group” for human spaceflight. The group will include experts in the humanities, including philosophers, historians, and economists, rather than solely space experts. Aschbacher said this will ensure the advice that comes from the group is “independent and unbiased.” Sample return: Aschbacher brought up an “inspirator” mission to collect samples from one of the icy moons orbiting Jupiter or Saturn in search of life. The space ministers supported the idea. The ministers are planning on more meetings that will take concrete steps to nail down funding commitments. Europe will host another space summit in 2023 to give updates on its agenda and progress toward its goals in human spaceflight, constellation development, and beyond.