European Commission President Eyes Space Surveillance Network

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BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Oct. 15 said the European Union needed its own space surveillance network to protect the investment it is making in satellite systems for climate monitoring, security, navigation and other purposes.

In what aides said was his first speech on space policy, Barroso, recently re-elected to a five-year term as commission president, said: “We need more security in space and from space. Our space assets and infrastructure are indispensable for our economy and security and we need to protect them. The EU should develop an independent capacity to monitor satellites and debris orbiting the Earth and the space environment, and tackle possible hazards.”

Addressing a space policy conference organized by Business Bridge Europe, Barroso said the commission, which is the executive arm of the 27-nation European Union, is spending an average of 700 million euros ($1 billion) per year on space projects during the seven-year budget period that ends in 2013.

The commission is expanding its reach in space and is likely to spend several times that amount during the seven-year budget starting in 2013 that is now being crafted. At times it co-invests with the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA), and at times it hires ESA as a program manager to take advantage of the space agency’s technical expertise. ESA’s budget is about 3 billion euros per year.

Up to now the commission’s main space interest has been in programs that have direct economic benefit and affect policies already pursued by the European Union such as environmental monitoring, safety of hazardous transport and maritime surveillance.

Barroso, whose re-election campaign included space policy as an area to be developed, said the commission expects to broaden its space interest to include space exploration. He said he will use his new term of office to “launch discussions about the role of the EU in this international endeavor.”

“From the commission viewpoint, important issues will have to be addressed, including: how to assure independent access to space; the issue of independent human spaceflight activity in the context of an international partnership; and, finally, how to support the international space station,” he said.