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Space Policy - European Commission

on 30 June 2014

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Europe needs an effective space policy to enable the European Union to take a leading position worldwide in selected areas of strategic policy. Space can provide the necessary tools to meet the many challenges the society is facing in the 21th century: in order to do better with the challenges, Europe must take a leadership role.

Space systems and aerospace technologies are part of everyday life of all the European citizens and businesses. From telecommunications to television, weather forecast, international financial systems, most of the key services for our society depend on space to work properly.

The strategic mission of the European Space Policy, jointly developed by the European Union, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Member States, is based on the peaceful exploration and exploitation of outer space. In 2009, when the latest EU treaties entered into force, Member States conferred to the EU a stronger role in space matters. The Treaty of Lisbon introduced for the first time a specific space competence for the European Union, enshrining space policy as an EU policy in its own right.

On 4 April 2011 the European Commission released the Communication "Towards a space strategy for the European Union that benefits its citizens", which reflects the crucial role of space for the economy and society. The Communication sets out the main priorities for the EU space policy, which include ensuring the success of the EU's two flagship space programmes Galileo and Copernicus (previously known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security - GMES), the protection of space infrastructures, and space exploration. The Communication calls also for the development of an industrial space policy in close cooperation with EU Member States and the European Space Agency. The European space policy aims to bring space truly 'down to Earth' by clearly demonstrating its relevance and direct application for growing services to society. The range of applications which provide daily benefits and rely on space technologies is so vast (over 30 000) that a satellite signal failure or disruption would dramatically affect our daily lives.

Sectorial policies:

This information was taken from the European Commission website, where additional information can be found.

Satellite navigation — Galileo
Earth observation — Copernicus
Access to space
Other European programmes — EUMETSAT, ESOA, Horizon 2020
Space security
Space exploration
Research and development

Relations between the EU and ESA are currently based on a Framework Agreement which entered into force in May 2004 and renewed until 2016. This agreement provides the legal framework for the increasing cooperation between the two organisations and sets up the instruments for this cooperation. It is aimed at providing a common basis and appropriate operational arrangements for efficient and mutually beneficial relations.

The shared space competence conferred on the EU by the Treaty of Lisbon goes hand in hand with a reinforced partnership with the Member States in the form of policy dialogue and coordination. Such coordination is essential given that the EU competence does not prevent Member States from exercising their own.

A Council Working Party on Space and a space formation of the EU Competitiveness Council has been created as the first tangible expressions of that strengthened cooperation. This cooperation aims to foster consistency of political objectives and reinforce the synergy between the Union's space policy with other policies that use the EU's or the Member States' space resources (such as transport, environment, research and innovation).
In the same spirit of enhancing dialogue and cooperation with the Member States, the Commission has created a Space Policy Expert Group.

Galileo will be Europe's own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civil control. It is financed by the EU and implemented by ESA. Galileo will introduce a new level of sophistication, accuracy and reliability.

The services that people in the street will use most in their domestic navigation systems will be free of charge ('Open Service'), but there will also be services requiring authorisation ('Public Regulated Service' - PRS) which will provide special satellite signals, notably for the use of public authorities, services to be used in situations of distress or imminent danger ('Search & Rescue Service'), services which will allow commercial developments, and finally services with a guaranteed satellite signal accuracy at every moment ('Safety-of-Life Service'), which will be used, for example, in aviation.

The full system will consist of 30 satellites as well as associated ground stations worldwide.
Social and economic benefits of around €90 billion are expected over the next 20 years.

  • Earth observation — Copernicus

The Copernicus programme, formerly known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security – GMES, is the European Union's response to the increasing demands for accurate, reliable environmental data. Copernicus will permanently monitor and forecast the state of the Earth at regional and global levels. It covers six main areas: marine environment, land, atmosphere, emergency management, security and climate change monitoring. Copernicus combines data and images obtained through satellites as well as through sensors in air and ground stations (the so-called 'in situ' data) and delivers it through a set of environmental and security-related services.

Copernicus is expected to lead to benefits of up to €70 billion over the period 2014-30.

Following the signing of the Delegation Agreement between the European Commission and ESA on 28 February 2008, a set of satellites for Copernicus are being developed and delivered by the ESA.

  • Access to space

Europe needs to maintain an efficient autonomous fleet of launchers and the infrastructure to access space. Without this, it would be impossible to pursue a truly European space policy. The Ariane family of launchers (Ariane 4 and 5) is one of Europe's major space technological successes and has provided independent access to space for the last 30 years. More than 300 satellites have been launched successfully from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

  • Other European programmes


EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organisation and was founded in 1986. Our purpose is to supply weather and climate-related satellite data, images and products – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – to the National Meteorological Services of our Member and Cooperating States in Europe, and other users worldwide.
Romania is a member state of EUMETSAT since 2010. The main beneficiary is the National Meteorological Administration of Romania


The European Satellite Operators' Association (ESOA) was formed in March 2002 to represent the interests of the industry with key European organisations, including the European Commission, Parliament, Council and the European Space Agency as well as other international organisations. ESOA's goals include ensuring that satellites benefit from the appropriate political, industrial and regulatory environment to fulfil their vital role in the delivery of communications. 

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness.

Seen as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs, Horizon 2020 has the political backing of Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament. They agreed that research is an investment in our future and so put it at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

  • Space security

Space-based systems are making an increasingly important contribution to the security of Europe, and to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), in particular. Europe faces constantly evolving security threats that are now more diverse, less visible and less predictable than in previous decades. Europe needs therefore to have access to the best affordable capabilities for autonomous political assessment, sound decision-making, prevention policies and the effective conduct of actions. Space assets provide a significant contribution to confronting these threats through global monitoring, communication and positioning capabilities.

Satellites are essential for our economy and our well-being. They need therefore to be protected from collision with other satellites or 'space debris' (leftover materials from launch activities and obsolete space objects) and from 'space weather' phenomena (changes in environmental conditions such as the Earth magnetic field or radiation due to solar winds, 'space storms' made of particles or electromagnetic radiation).To protect Europe's satellites having information on the situation in space – referred to as Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is therefore important. The EU is actively involved in European efforts to develop a European SSA system to acquire and process such information and pass it on to satellite operators. 

  • Space exploration

Space exploration is perhaps the most captivating of all space activities and satisfies the natural human desire to discover new frontiers beyond our planet. It generates very tangible benefits for citizens: mobile phones, medical equipment that we find in hospitals' intensive care units and airbags all trace their origin back to technologies developed in the early days of space exploration. Space exploration is a motor for innovation, technological development and scientific knowledge.

Europe, through ESA and individual Member States, has already made significant contributions to space exploration. European involvement with the International Space Station (ISS), in particular the development of the Columbus laboratory module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, together with the presence of European astronauts onboard ISS, secures a continuing visible European presence in space. Other prominent European achievements are the Huygens lander on Titan that has marked the farthest landing in the Solar System so far. The future ExoMars rover, that will be the first rover ever to probe directly the Martian sub-surface for extinct and extant life before the end of this decade is the next major European robotic exploration mission.

  • Research and development

The European Commission's Space Research and Development activities are coordinated within the framework of the overall European Space Policy, complementing the efforts of Member States and of other key players, including ESA.

Over the period 2007-13, the EU is investing €1.4 billion in research and innovation in the space sector through its current research and development framework programme (the seventh framework programme that is often referred to as 'FP7'). Future funding for space research and innovation in Horizon 2020 will continue to support scientific excellence, contribute to tackling societal challenges, and promote industrial leadership and competitiveness.