1. The Challenge of Independence

Europe was the cradle of modern science and technology, and has shaped the modern World. Today, as in earlier times, it is scientifically and culturally powerful, and it has become the economic equal of the USA in terms of Gross National Product (GNP). Yet, total European Government spending on space is at least five times less.

The continuing massive public investments in space by the USA, together with the technological harvest from previous pioneering space feats, are responsible for Europe’s absence today from key strategic areas. As a result, highly sophisticated services have been made available to Europe, in some cases at no cost for the space segment, especially in key strategic areas such as surveillance, intelligence, military and civil navigation. A comfortable but dangerous dependence has developed, inhibiting any initiative to even catch up, let alone take the lead.

Much more is at stake here than just independence. It is Europe’s sustained prosperity, enhanced quality of life and creative cultural identity. This is the legacy that must be handed down to the young Europeans of the next century. Proud of their past and confident in their future, they must have the freedom to express their ideas, develop their talents and implement their convictions in all economic, political, strategic and cultural domains. The vitality of today is the heritage of tomorrow. The question "Has Space a Future?" is obsolete: without space there will be no future!

Europe is widely respected in a number of space fields and the acknowledged World leader in some areas, such as space science and launchers. In a number of key space technology and applications areas, however, Europe’s presence certainly does not reflect its current power and f u t u re potential. Urgent action in these areas, which include navigation, security and peacekeeping, and information services, is therefore needed to secure Europe’s stake in World society in the 21st Century.

Much more is at stake than just independence. It is Europe’s sustained Prosperity, enhanced quality of life and creative cultural identity.

The vitality of today is the heritage of tomorrow. The question "Has Space a Future?" is obsolete: without space there will be no future!


The success of ESA’s Scientific Programme is an excellent example of what an ambitious and organized Europe can achieve. This success relies on wise long-term planning, a multi-year funding commitment and mission selection based on scientific excellence. This success should not, however, be taken for granted and support to this Programme should be reinforced to enable the inclusion of new fields like fundamental physics, and to safeguard European scientific competence in new fields.

The big issues of the coming century range from management of the Earth’s ecosystem, to reaching out towards planets and asteroids. Science is at the root of technological progress as well as economic prosperity, and it carries strong cultural values for young Europeans. An increase in the basic European Space Science Programme and its extension to wider fields would be beneficial to the long-term competitiveness of most of the European space effort.

Curtailment of its participation in Space Science programmes, on the other hand, would damage Europe’s competitiveness and shift the focus of interest in fundamental knowledge elsewhere, with dire consequences for both its culture and technical capabilities. Space Science has revolutionised the understanding of planet Earth, the Solar System and the Universe; in the 21st Century it will unravel many remaining mysteries such as the long-term interaction between the Earth and the Sun, and it may provide the ultimate key to the most intriguing and far-reaching mystery of them all - the origin of life itself and its evolution in the Universe (see Action 1).

Science is at the root of technological progress as well as economic prosperity, and it carries strong cultural values for young Europeans.



















Action 1. Involve Europe in the search for Earth-like planets and the detection of extraterrestrial life forms.

Space Access and Infrastructure

The highly successful Ariane Programme and the Guiana Space Centre have secured independent access to space for Europe. However, Europe’s presently strong position for launches to geostationary orbit is being vigorously attacked from many sides, using either the same ideas and technology as Europe - standardised and modular expendable rockets - or else radically new concepts and architectures that are fully or partly reusable. In order to safeguard its long-term strategic and economic interests, it is of crucial importance for Europe to maintain and enhance its position in the space-transportation market.

In the longer term, strong support should be given to research into materials and combustion processes, as the breakthroughs in launcher design may well come from there. Improvements in lightweight structures, engine efficiencies and hypersonic aerodynamic design will be the key to the development of a reusable system. Today, a dangerous disparity in effort is evident.

In the USA, at least a dozen publicly or privately funded projects are underway – in Europe there are none. Most or all might fail, but one of them just might be the breakthrough that leads to the long sought after low-cost, routine access to space.

In addition to the vigorous pursuit of cost reduction and improved performance, a new generation of low-cost smaller systems should complement the heavy launcher Ariane-5 and its growth versions (see Action 2). Several options can be studied, including an air-launched, partially reusable system that would be particularly competitive for the satellite-constellation launch market.

Cheap access to space is still the most essential step towards reaping the full potential of space. If Europe does not invest now in future launcher technology, it will lose this vitally important and expanding market, as well as the basic prerequisite for strategic independence in all other areas of space.

The Columbus laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle are Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station and its entry ticket to human space flight in the 21st Century. More than ten years of operation for the first permanent international outpost and scientific complex in space will offer unprecedented opportunities. Europe should maximise its benefits from this development with a full and active utilisation programme (see Action 3). Space Station operations will dramatically improve our understanding of the effects of long space flights on humans and of the logistic support required for any potential extension of man’s activities beyond the Earth, such as travel to Mars or extended stays on the Moon.

If Europe does not invest now in future launcher technology, it will lose this vitally important market, as well as strategic independence in all other areas of space.








Action 2. Put Europe among the winners in the competition to achieve substantial launch-cost reduction.






Action 3. Ensure that Europe participates fully in the utilisation of the International Space Station.


Europe is at present entirely dependent for its navigation and positioning services on the Global Positioning System (GPS) built and operated by the US Department of Defense and, so far, made available free of charge to users worldwide. This ranks among the greatest threats to Europe’s strategic independence, as well as to European industry.

The provider of the space segment sets the standards, guides its use and secures for itself the lion’s share of derived commercial benefits, which vastly surpass the initial investments. It is therefore a matter of urgency for Europe to promote a Global Navigation Satellite System and to prepare for the development of the associated future services (see Action 4). Europe will have to choose very shortly between participation in a globally managed system, the development of a system in cooperation with international partners, or the development of its own system.

Whichever option it eventually selects, Europe must play a full role in the development, operation and control of the future system. Europe has to acquire its own technological and operational capability as a prerequisite for true partnership.





Action 4. Secure Europe’s position in the field of satellite navigation and prepare for future space navigation services.

Security and Peacekeeping

Unfortunately, the 21st Century is unlikely to see an end to human conflict. Ethnic differences, tensions arising from the denial of fundamental human rights, unsettled aspirations for territory and resources, population increases and rising demands in per capita consumption, as well as competition between political and religious ideologies, will continue to fuel the multi-dimensional confrontations of tomorrow. Security and peacekeeping forces depend on surveillance, communications and command systems. Hence, space systems for defence requirements are essential components of a European security architecture and its contribution to global peacekeeping efforts. Despite present political and institutional barriers, Europe urgently needs to face up to its responsibilities in this field (see Action 5).

Space systems for defence requirements are essential components of a European security architecture and its contribution to global peacekeeping efforts.

Action 5. Ensure that Europe has those space systems that are essential to meet its security and peacekeeping needs.

Information Services

Telecommunications is the largest and most rapidly expanding market for space products, be they in-orbit, ground hardware and software, or derived services. This rapid growth is providing substantial opportunities for service providers , operators and infrastructure suppliers in the more classical market areas of mobile communications and broadcasting, as well as in the new and fast-growing areas of information services such as interactive multimedia. The inherent commercial potential of the space-derived information technology is such that new products and services are being conceived, developed and marketed at an ever more rapid pace. Despite strong capabilities in these areas, it is difficult for E u ropean companies to remain competitive vis--vis American companies, who benefit from a much larger home market, a huge baseload of defence and other public investments, as well as a decisive influence in regulatory matters.

If European industry is to succeed in this field, an improvement in regulatory mechanisms and the establishment of international standards are essential prerequisites. As individual nations will be unable to create an equitable regulatory environment, a European Union authority should be created to take responsibility for such regulatory aspects as frequency allocation and related matters (see Action 6).

The wave of mergers and acquisitions in the USA is creating overpowering conglomerates offering the complete range of products and services with an unprecedented competitive advantage. It is therefore essential that initiatives taken in response by European industry in the 10 Growth in satellite telecommunications (Euroconsult) field of telecommunications and multimedia satellite systems be fully supported.

Action 6. Create a European body to negotiate orbits and frequencies for satellite communications services and strengthen Europe’s negotiating power at international level.

European space industry is itself being transformed in response to the challenges of the new and fast-expanding markets. Besides a vigorous and healthy space industry, Europe also needs a strong institutional focus for public i n t e rests in space. Industry must further consolidate and change from a laboratory-type approach to a more production oriented approach.

This is an area where the European Union has an important role to play, through its programmes and policies, in supporting the competitiveness of European industry. But industry also has a major responsibility which ESA should support: it is to ensure that today’s space systems benefit from technological progress being made in other areas, and to exploit this synergy in order to achieve productivity gains, thereby improving the cost/efficiency ratios of space systems.

Finally, in all fields - whether science, launchers, information services, or other domains - the emergence of new ideas must be stimulated, particularly within small businesses, research laboratories and university groups (see Action 7). Full advantage needs to be taken of commercial technologies, which are often as advanced and as reliable as space technologies. Developments in small satellite technology and micro-miniaturisation are beginning to provide quick, low-cost access to space for a range of research and business purposes, and Europe must not be absent from this important technological field (see Action 8). Satellite and launch-service market shares (Euroconsult)







Action 7. Stimulate and encourage small businesses as a source of innovation in order to promote the potential multi-utilisation of technologies developed within space programmes.

Action 8. Improve the European micro-miniaturisation capability and promote its space application.