Bild aus der ISS symbolisch für die Schlüsseltechnologie Raumfahrt; Quelle: ESA/NASA


On 16 February 2022, the Space Summit of the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) was held in Toulouse, France. At the summit meeting of European ministers responsible for space, the EU Commission and ESA Director General Mr Aschbacher presented proposals for new European space initiatives.

The German delegation at the summit was headed by Dr Anna Christmann, Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. She said: "I am delighted with the new ideas and input on the future of European space activities put forward by Thierry Breton and Josef Aschbacher. I will ensure that Germany plays an active role in the upcoming deliberations of the Member States. We can only solve the challenges ahead by joining forces and facilitating a debate on an equal footing between ESA and the EU”.

The initiatives presented by Mr Breton and Mr Aschbacher made it clear that space is increasingly becoming a key enabling technology for important challenges such as the climate crisis or cyber security. Europe already has Copernicus, a first-rate earth observation programme, and it is essential to maintain this programme even in the difficult post-Brexit period. It is a joint project of the EU and ESA and crucial for effective environmental protection and climate change mitigation. The ESA initiative on an accelerator entitled "Space for Green Future" aims at linking existing and future European data and capabilities to be able to model and predict climate changes more accurately in the future. The accelerator also fits in with the Commission's priority project of the European Green Deal aimed at making Europe climate-neutral by 2050 as the first continent ever to do so.

The initiative on space-based secure communication launched by Mr Breton, the EU Internal Market Commissioner, is intended to contribute to the digital transformation. Europe’s industry has a competitive and highly innovative satellite communications sector, which is not least due to developments achieved by ESA. At the same time, the European commercial satellite communications market is being challenged by the novel private satellite constellations from overseas.

Dr Anna Christmann highlighted the following: "Germany is highly interested in the launching of an initiative on secure communications via satellite geared towards strengthening Europe's sovereignty in this important field of technology. To do this, the initiative must focus on generating added value for the people and on promoting economic and environmental sustainability. It further needs to exploit and at the same time fuel the innovative capacity of the New Space sector. Together with other Member States, Germany will actively participate in the necessary process of shaping the focus of the initiative. Going forward, new findings – including those expected from pending Commission studies in New Space – need to be fed into the process."

In addition to the challenges on Earth, the Space Summit also addressed the prospects for space exploration. The moon is becoming increasingly attractive as an object of research, including as a destination for astronautical spaceflight. In addition, a large number of startups and private initiatives are adding to the circle of players in space exploration.

Dr Christmann stated: "I support the ESA Director General in initiating a positioning exercise on the future of European space exploration within the context of the current highly dynamic space exploration environment. Europe's expertise is critical to enabling ambitious missions through international cooperation. Especially in times like these, space travel is also a symbol of peaceful international cooperation far beyond alliance borders".