The move comes amid growing concerns over Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches.
The European Commission has set out a $6.8bn satellite communications plan, part of a push to cut the European Union’s dependence on foreign companies and protect key communications services and surveillance data against any outside interference.
The past few years have seen a large increase in satellite launches, particularly by China, while also being witness to military expansion in space by both China and Russia. Increased deployment of satellites by private players have also populated Earths orbits, predominantly the region known as Low Earth Orbit (LEO). While the EU has been welcoming of increased participation in space by private entities, the resulting space debris has been a matter of concern to it.
In the backdrop of an escalating space race, the European Union (EU) has tabled two initiatives: the first being a proposal for a regulation on space-based secure connectivity and the other being a joint communication on an EU approach on Space Traffic Management (STM).
Commercial operators such as SpaceX and its Starlink network that aims to launch tens of thousands of satellites to supply global space-based wifi have also contributed to a fast-growing satellite population and resulting debris.
Speaking about the announcement of the two initiatives, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market said: “Space plays a growing role in our daily lives, our economic growth, our security, and our geopolitical weight. Our new connectivity infrastructure will deliver high-speed internet access, serve as a back-up to our current internet infrastructure, increase our resilience and cyber security, and provide connectivity to the whole of Europe and Africa. It will be a truly pan-European project allowing our many start-ups and Europe as a whole to be at the forefront of technological innovation.”
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, added: “Space has become more crowded than ever, increasing the complexity and the risks related to space operations. To address this global challenge, we propose today an EU approach to Space Traffic Management. We will develop concrete capabilities, set norms and engage with key partners and in multilateral fora to ensure safe, secure and sustainable use of space. While STM is a civilian endeavour, European security and defence depend on safe, secure and autonomous access to space.”
The EU proposal aims to build and operate a space-based state-of-the-art connectivity system, help to counter cyber and electromagnetic threats and improve the resilience of EU telecommunication infrastructures
The $6.8bn cost will be funded by a $2.71bn contribution from the EU from 2022 until 2027, the EU budget, EU countries, the European Space Agency and private investments.
The EU aims to launch the programme next year.