European Commission agrees to reduced space budget

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The accepted budget is 2.8 billion euros less than what was sought in 2018 and 2019.

WASHINGTON — The European Commission slashed its space budget for the next seven years, agreeing to a maximum of 13.2 billion ($15.2 billion) focused mainly on continuing the Galileo and Copernicus satellite programs. 

The budget cut for space came as part of extensive four-day negotiations in Brussels over a 1.8-trillion-euro budget for the entire European Union designed in large part to offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The 27-nation bloc agreed July 21 to a baseline budget of 1.07 trillion euros, which includes the space budget, coupled with a 750-billion-euro recovery package of grants and loans. The budget goes into effect Jan. 1, but must first be approved by the European Parliament. 

The EC had pushed in 2018 and 2019 for member states to finance a space budget totaling 16 billion euros, a nearly 50% increase over the budget from 2014 to 2020

In May, as discussions shifted toward a pandemic recovery package, the EC issued a revised budget proposal with 15.2 billion euros for space. That reduction reflected a push by some member states, notably Finland, for a smaller budget to account for the loss of British funding after the U.K. left the bloc in January, Luigi Scatteia, head of PwC’s Space Practice, told SpaceNews

A second cut resulting in the current 13.2-billion-euro was surprising, he said in a July 21 interview. 

“Clearly it was to be expected that a reduction in spending would impact space as well, but to me it’s a little bit more than I was expecting,” he said. 

The approved EC budget allocates 8 billion euros for Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system, and 4.81 billion for Copernicus environmental monitoring satellites. 

The remaining 392 million euros will likely be split between GovSatCom, an initiative aimed at providing secure satellite communications for EC members, and on European space situational awareness (SSA) investments, experts said.

“GovSatCom and SSA are suffering the most in this proposal, then Copernicus,” said Pierre Lionnet, research director at Eurospace, a trade group representing European space companies. “Basically they are saving Galileo as much as they can.”

Europeans are more aware of Galileo and its benefits than of Copernicus, Lionnet said, which may have made it difficult to justify increased investment for the latter. 

Earlier this month the European Space Agency selected manufacturers for six future Copernicus missions funded with 2.55 billion euros from the agency. The funding is enough for Airbus, Thales Alenia Space and OHB to start building satellites, but a full go-ahead decision is not expected until the second half of 2021 when ESA and the European Union decide how to co-finance the program.