Twenty Actions for Year 2001

The following Action Plan proposes twenty initiatives aimed at providing a first response to the Three Challenges, elaborated in this Report, that Europe will have to face in the 21st Century. These Twenty Actions are modest first steps, which can be implemented immediately, directed towards a more space-minded Europe, proud of its past achievements and confident in its future. They will send a clear signal that Europe is on the move, they will stimulate interest, and attract new talents. Each Action is a building block in a strategically important field and their cost is so affordable that inaction cannot be justified on financial grounds. It is up to decision-makers to decide whether they want to be among those who helped open new and promising areas of space applications worthy of Europe's destiny. The Committee is pleased to recognise that in a number of areas, major new initiatives are already starting - in navigation, Space Station utilisation, education and public awareness - and stresses the need to bring them to fruition, as the proposed actions do not in any way replace, but complement, these initiatives. The Committee also emphasises that many of these new initiatives rely on solid programmes in basic science. Both the consolidation of traditional fields and support to the new ones are required to provide Europe with a leading position in the face of fierce international competition. Finally, the Committee requests that ESA organise an assessment Conference in 2001, to analyse the results of the implementation of the ‘first steps’ as well as general progress on the Action Plan. The Committee therefore recommends that the Executive prepare an Implementation Plan enabling these first steps to start quickly and efficiently, and report regularly on their progress.

The Challenge of Independence

  1. Search for Earth-like Planets
  2. Cheaper Access to Space
  3. Innovative Space Station Utilisation
  4. Future Navigation Services
  5. European Space Systems for Security and Peacekeeping
  6. Creation of a European Telecommunications Regulatory Body
  7. Small Business Innovation Initiative
  8. Micro-miniaturisation Technology Initiative

The Challenge of Planetary Management

  1. Space Monitoring of Compliance with Environmental Regulations
  2. Disaster Warning from Space
  3. Space Weather
  4. Space Debris
  5. Threat of Cosmic Collision

The Challenge Beyond

  1. Telepresence Demonstration Project
  2. European Lunar Initiative
  3. Space Energy and Resources
  4. Weather Modification from Space

Reaching Out

  1. European Space Education Programme
  2. Public-Awareness Initiative
  3. European Space Policy Institute

Annex: Action Plan


ACTION 1

Search for Earth-like Planets

Purpose:

Involve Europe in the search for Earth-like planets and the detection of extraterrestrial life forms. Enormous progress has been made in assessing the fundamental question of whether Earth and life are exceptions in an otherwise lifeless Universe. The existence of star-orbiting planets has been demonstrated and the basic ingredients of life – water and organic molecules – are almost ubiquitous in the Universe. Present observation techniques do not yet permit the detection of Earth-sized or Earth-like planets, but there is growing evidence that basic conditions for the evolution of life elsewhere are fulfilled much more frequently than previously assumed. This area of scientific research has enormous public appeal and far-reaching implications for everyone. Europe must take part in this fundamentally interdisciplinary endeavour by contributing innovative concepts and appropriate scientific tools.

Strategy:

  1. Assessment of current knowledge about Earth-like planets and the probability of extraterrestrial life.
  2. Identification of areas for innovative European contributions, with a particular emphasis on synergies between different disciplines.
  3. Study of a European or European-led space mission, with breakthrough potential, to substantially advance basic knowledge, including the search for the origin of life.

First Step:

ESA to convene an interdisciplinary Symposium on the subject and on state-of-the-art detection techniques. Funding needed: 0.2 ME.


ACTION 2

Cheaper Access to Space

Purpose:

Put Europe among the winners in the competition to achieve substantial launch-cost reduction. This action is complementary to ESA’s proposed Future Launcher Technology Programme (FLTP), aiming at strengthening European competitiveness and massive cost reductions for large payloads. This action is focussed on low- to medium-mass payloads, particularly for the constellation market, and is based upon using proven technologies in new and innovative ways. The emphasis is on minimising both cost and time to first launch.

Strategy:

  1. Detailed study of current American, Russian and Ukrainian plans for achieving drastic cost reductions for launching 1 tonne-class payloads to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  2. Identification of the most promising fully and partly reusable launcher technologies.
  3. Detailed study of an air-launch system, in which the first stage is aircraft-based, the third stage is expendable, and the second stage is reusable, demonstrating technologies and operations applicable to future reusable launch systems for large payloads.

First Step:

Take an initiative towards a joint venture with international partners for an air-launch space-transportation system. Funding needed: 2 ME.


ACTION 3

Innovative Space Station Utilisation

Purpose:

Ensure that Europe participates fully in the utilisation of the International Space Station. Europe is taking part in the International Space Station, but this project will only succeed fully if an adequate level of utilisation is assured. This utilisation should not be limited to microgravity research, but should also include technology development, disciplines benefiting from the remote sensing of terrestrial and celestial targets, and the preparation of long-duration manned space flights.

Strategy:

  1. Identification of the technologies needed for future large-scale space applications, such as energy transfer in space, and for long-duration space flights to the Moon or Mars, which could be tested and qualified on the Space Station.
  2. Promotion of the utilisation of the Space Station by other scientific disciplines, such as physics.
  3. Use of the Space Station for other operations, such as the assembly of large structures in space, the servicing of free-flyers, and as a launching base for missions beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

First Step:

Hold a Workshop on ‘Unusual Potential Uses of the International Space Station’. Organise a contest on innovative uses of the Space Station, with the results to be presented at the Workshop. Funding needed: 0.2 ME.

 


ACTION 4

Future Navigation Services

Purpose:

Secure Europe’s position in the field of satellite navigation and prepare for future space navigation services, thereby strengthening Europe’s position when negotiating with potential partners for the development of an international system, and its technology and system-engineering capability for an autonomous system.

Strategy:

  1. Endorsement of the decisions taken on GNSS-2 and rapid implementation of EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) as the first step towards an autonomous European development.
  2. Support to the rapid setting-up of a European Navigation Satellite Organisation.
  3. Identification of novel future space-navigation applications with large commercial potential.

First Step:

Based on a Call for Ideas, initiate novel space-navigation applications via a partnership between the European Union and ESA, and possibly national agencies and industry. Funding needed: 5 ME.


ACTION 5

European Space Systems for Security and Peacekeeping

Purpose:

Ensure that Europe has those space systems that are essential to meet its security and peacekeeping needs. Space defence applications and technologies are not yet intensively developed in Europe. Europe’s need for these systems is, however, of such growing importance, both for its own future defence and to be able to make an effective contribution to worldwide peacekeeping, that the reticence of many European nations to address this issue must be overcome.

Strategy:

  1. Catalogue European technologies suitable for dual use, and identify missing technologies that still need to be developed.
  2. Promotion of security applications of future European observation and telecommunications systems.
  3. Benefit from technological progress achieved in ESA programmes, in particular miniaturisation, for the development of dual-use constellations.

First Step:

Identify and organise the proper interfaces between ESAand security-related bodies. In particular, ESA should make contact with the Western European Union and the OCCAR (European organisation for the procurement of armaments), and jointly define and fund technological developments for security applications as part of ESA’s Technology Programme. Funding needed: 5 ME.


ACTION 6

Creation of a European Telecommunications Regulatory Body

Purpose:

Create a European body that can negotiate the allocation of orbits and frequencies for satellite communications, licence satellite services and strengthen Europe’s negotiating power at international level. European regulatory authorities operate at national level and thus have an inferior negotiating position vis--vis the USA, whose FCC dominates the international allocation process. Pressure from ESA and its Member States should be exercised towards the European Union and national authorities to correct this situation. Immediate action is required in order to put arrangements in place before the target date of 2005.

Strategy:

  1. Drafting of a position paper on the importance and urgency of the problem.
  2. Setting up of a permanent conference for European regulatory agencies.
  3. Implementation of the necessary delegation.

First Step:

Initiate negotiations between the European Commission and national regulatory authorities for the implementation of such delegation, by proposing and preparing a first Conference on European regulatory matters. Funding needed: 0.2 ME.


ACTION 7

Small Business Innovation Initiative

Purpose:

Stimulate and encourage small businesses as a source of innovation for technologies, architectures, equipment, processes and services, in order to promote the potential multi-utilisation of technologies developed within space programmes.

Strategy:

Initiate at European level a system to encourage innovation via: 1. Regular issuing of requests for proposals on innovative-type subjects. 2. Establishment of an Evaluation Board to select the best proposals, for an initial funding of 60 kEuro. 3. Selection of the most promising ideas, for further funding to a maximum of 600 kEuro for 18 months, to demonstrate their feasibility and to establish an implementation plan.

First Step:

Implement this initiative in Europe together with the European Commission, industry and national agencies. Organise Workshops and Seminars to encourage innovative ideas. Funding needed: 15 ME per year, shared among the various players, with an ESA contribution of 3-5 ME per year.

 


ACTION 8

Micro-miniaturisation Technology Initiative

Purpose:

Improve the European micro-miniaturisation capability and promote its space application. Micro-miniaturisation has huge application potential, as demonstrated by the current Information Society infrastructure, with powerful, portable but cheap personal products. Nano-satellites, with masses of just a few kilograms, are nearing production and are expected to grow in importance in the longer term. In the shorter term, micro-technologies are facilitating small scientific satellites with interesting applications for human exploration missions.

Strategy:

1. Identification of innovative micro-technology areas that can provide greater redundancy as well as increased performance, and study of missions that can profit from such technologies. 2. Evaluation of existing and required technological developments. 3. Initiation of relevant developments in close co-ordination with universities and industry.

First Step:

Assessment studies and a two-year demonstration programme, including technological pre-developments. Funding needed: 7 ME.

 


ACTION 9

Space Monitoring of Compliance with Environmental Regulations

Purpose:

Determine the potential contribution of space systems to the enforcement of international regulations on environment and climate, in particular the release of greenhouse gases. Definition of regulations for environment and climate monitoring is not yet sufficiently advanced. Once defined, these regulations must be monitored in a way that is both transparent and global, and agreed to by all participants. Only space means can provide such transparency and global coverage.

Strategy:

  1. Establishment of the feasibility of detection from space and the specifications for spaceborne sensors able to provide the necessary detection capability.
  2. Study of the relationship between the distribution of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere and their origin, including their transport and loss mechanisms.
  3. Definition of the architecture for a global system, including possibly ground-based, air-based and space-based elements, capable of performing adequate monitoring of compliance with international regulations.

First Step:

ESA to initiate a two-year feasibility study involving the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, national agencies, the scientific community and industry. Funding needed: 2 ME.


ACTION 10

Disaster Warning from Space

Purpose:

Evaluate the feasibility of spaceborne early-warning systems, especially for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes are among the most damaging natural events in terms of human devastation. An early-warning system would require the regular monitoring and detection of anomalies in geophysical parameters. Ground-based observation networks are only available in a few places, because their installation and maintenance is very costly, especially in remote environments. Many parameters may be obtained directly from space observation, such as ground motion, gas emission, thermal anomalies, gravity anomalies and electromagnetic signals. Early warning capabilities would benefit from space-based data-collection systems with their wide geographical coverage.

Strategy:

  1. Evaluation of the feasibility of space-based early-warning systems, particularly for volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
  2. Assessment of the technologies – existing or yet to be developed – required for such forecasting and early warning by space means.
  3. Definition of the specifications for a dedicated disaster-warning mission and performance of a preliminary mission-definition phase.

First Step:

Two-year feasibility study and preliminary definition of a disaster-warning mission. Funding needed: 2 ME.


ACTION 11

Space Weather

Purpose:

Improve the understanding of space weather and the early warning of hazardous conditions. ‘Space weather’ refers to conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems, and can endanger human health or even life. Their ultimate effects include electronics upsets, immediate and long-term hazards to astronauts and air crews, radiation damage, electrostatic charges/discharges, and disruptions to communications, GPS and terrestrial power systems. A Space Weather Programme would lead both to an understanding of the physical processes involved and to an ability to predict and assess hazardous conditions.

Strategy:

  1. Assessment of the threat posed and damage caused by space-weather events in daily life.
  2. Development and flight of co-ordinated instrumentation, and establishment of large databases on environmental variations over space and time using advanced modelling and simulation methods.
  3. Evaluation of improvements in warning and protection, and elaboration of a proposal for an operational European Space Weather Service, as part of a worldwide Space Weather effort, but with an independent warning capability.

First Step:

ESA to initiate a two-year effort involving national agencies and the scientific community, to prepare a programme proposal contributing to a potential worldwide Space Weather Watch effort. Funding needed: 2 ME.


ACTION 12

Space Debris

Purpose:

Improve Europe’s knowledge of space debris, its forecasting, modelling and removal. The growth in space activities, with current technologies and aggravated by the use of disposable launchers, leads to a considerable amount of debris in orbit. The problem is made worse by collisions between the debris items themselves, and it represents a severe threat to the long-term growth of space activities. Most of the information on space debris is currently obtained from the US Space Surveillance Network. Its as yet incomplete catalogue comprises about 10 000 objects larger than 10 cm in orbit around the Earth, each with catastrophic destruction potential.

Strategy:

  1. Definition of the most suitable tools for providing Europe with an independent capability for the description, tracking and forecasting of space debris.
  2. Review debris control, avoidance and destruction technologies.
  3. Define a policy, including a suitable regulatory approach and long-term strategy, for Europe’s role in a global effort for the preservation of the near-Earth environment.

First Step:

ESA to initiate a two-year effort involving national agencies, the scientific community and university research groups. Funding needed: 2 ME.


ACTION 13

Threat of Cosmic Collision

Purpose:

Assess the risk of collision with near-Earth objects and possible countermeasures. There is a risk of collision between the Earth and asteroids or comets in near-Earth orbits. Collision with bodies 1 km in size or larger could have global catastrophic consequences. Smaller bodies could produce local or regional devastation. There are estimated to be about 2000 objects larger than 1 km, of which only about 12% are known today. Appropriate avoiding actions and countermeasures have yet to be devised.

Strategy:

  1. Characterisation of the population of near-Earth objects within the next 15 to 20 years, with the objective of a 90%-complete catalogue for objects larger than 100 m. Innovative approaches to systematic detection should be sought.
  2. Risk assessment: analysis of atmospheric, oceanic and solid-Earth effects, depending on the composition of the objects.
  3. Analysis and definition of mitigation and countermeasure actions such as deflection techniques.

First Step:

ESA, together with the Spaceguard Foundation, to define a European observation programme for near-Earth objects. An annual contest for European astronomers for the detection of the largest and nearest object should be envisaged. ESA should also establish contact with international partners in order to coordinate efforts. Funding needed: 2 ME.

 


ACTION 14

Telepresence Demonstration Project

Purpose:

Establish a European robotic presence on the Moon, and prepare for a future extraterrestrial outpost. Much of the detailed exploration of the Moon and Mars can be done by robots, thereby reducing that to be done by humans. In addition, most of the Solar System is so inhospitable to man that its exploration can only be undertaken by robots. It is therefore important that Europe improve its robotics capability in preparation for future exploration missions.

Strategy:

1. Development of human-like exploratory capabilities for tele-operated robotics based on micro-miniaturisation, as key technologies for a very broad range of applications. 2. Demonstration of the application of these technologies on the Moon for exploration, construction and maintenance of facilities like telescopes and even manufacturing. 3. Establishment of a permanent presence on the Moon, in preparation for a future industrialisation phase.

First Step:

Establish an initial two-year technology programme for robotics and micro-miniaturisation, and define a demonstration programme, possibly via a European contest. Funding needed: 5 ME.


ACTION 15

European Lunar Initiative

Purpose:

Take the initiative and leadership in a worldwide effort for an updated international lunar programme. ESA has already defined a global programme aiming at exploration and utilisation of the Moon. This work culminated in the Beatenberg Symposium in 1994, where Europe proposed a stepped, four-phase programme leading to the establishment of a first outpost on the Moon. Since then, considerable progress has been made in lunar scientific knowledge, thanks to orbiting missions, as well as in the infrastructure and technologies required. This programme needs updating and Europe should take the initiative in a worldwide effort involving all space powers.

Strategy:

  1. Updating of the main characteristics of the programme in terms of phases, scientific goals, applications, human involvement, cost, and international work-sharing.
  2. Definition of a mission rationale and an implementation plan for the end of 2001.
  3. Initiation of negotiations with the international partners, in order to start the first phase of the programme.

First Step:

Perform the necessary preparatory work within ESA leading to an International Workshop in 2000. Funding needed: 0.2 ME.

 


ACTION 16

Space Energy and Resources

Purpose:

Assess the economic viability of collecting solar energy on Earth, in space and on the Moon, as well as of asteroid mining. For the time being, terrestrial resources, especially energy, are available at lower cost than any space solution can offer. The balance might change as launch costs fall and Earth’s resources become depleted. Space Solar Power (SSP) has the potential to provide an ecologically acceptable response to climate change, by greatly reducing reliance on fossil fuels and thereby reducing the pace of greenhouse-effect buildup. Another space resource with potentially enormous revenues is the exploitation and mining of near-Earth objects, for precious metals and semi-conductor materials, and materials for construction and propulsion in near-Earth space.

Strategy:

  1. Assessment study of SSP technology development and market perspectives in Europe, and comparison with terrestrial solutions.
  2. Assessment study of the exploitation of the resources of near-Earth objects, including their benefit in the context of SSP i n -orbit infrastructure build-up.
  3. Study (at Phase-A/B level) of an SSP technology-demonstration mission.

First Step:

Detailed assessment study of energy and resources from space. Funding needed: 2 ME.

 


ACTION 17

Weather Modification from Space

Purpose:

Increase European awareness of space-based weather-modification concepts in order to be prepared and able to avoid dangerous dependencies and consequences. It is conceivable that the weather can be influenced by space means. Options for geo-engineering from space mainly concern major environmental problem areas, i.e. severe weather, climate change, and stratospheric ozone depletion. Weather control from space also has considerable security implications.

Strategy:

  1. Study of options and potential for artificial manipulation of the weather by use of future space technology, and improvement of the understanding of weather and climate dynamics, in order to determine the effectiveness and potential risks of geo-engineering intervention.
  2. Assessment of scientific, political, legal and financial problems associated with potential options for geo-engineering from space.
  3. Proposal of a plan for further action in both scientific and technological R&D.

First Step:

ESA to convene an International Workshop on space-based weather control. Funding needed: 0.2 ME.


ACTION 18

European Space Education Programme

Purpose:

Contribute to the creation of the talented work force needed for the 21st Century by providing a European focus for education on space matters, and stimulating interest in science and technology. There is a pressing need to increase the outreach of space to youth, and to motivate further learning in science and technology. Education must be improved in these fields and space provides a high-profile focus and is one of the few areas able to capture young people’s imagination. Stimulating and sustaining such interest is vitally important, and utilising space to advance Europe’s education in these important areas will bring wide and lasting benefits.

Strategy:

  1. Consultation with educators to establish requirements for all age groups.
  2. Production of innovative packages, events and competitions which can be readily accessed via the Internet and used and participated in by both educators and students.
  3. Provision of on-line, real-time access to special space events, together with complementary packages for further study.

First Step:

Setting up a European Space Education Programme within ESA. Funding needed: 5 ME.


ACTION 19

Public-Awareness Initiative

Purpose:

Increase the public’s knowledge of Europe’s space institutions, policies and programmes, as well as awareness in the political world of space activities. Public awareness is in flagrant disproportion to the real potential of space. The current situation in Europe is particularly dramatic, with only a small minority of Europeans knowing about ESA and its activities. Ariane is the only European space programme that is relatively widely known. At Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, nine out of ten taxi drivers know UNESCO, while only one in ten has heard of ESA.

Strategy:

  1. Overhaul of ESA’s public-relations activities, with classical public relations to be integrated into a much broader approach. Outreach to the public must be built into every programme.
  2. Definition of a common European approach to the massive enhancement of the public’s space awareness.
  3. Integration of space awareness into European media networks.

First Step:

Elaboration of a public-awareness initiative concept and first moves towards reform of ESA’s PR activities. Choice of one ESA mission (science or application) as a public-involvement prototype, via publicly funded experiment(s), or an open channel to the mission as well as other activities inducing public participation. Funding needed: 0.5 ME.


ACTION 20

European Space Policy Institute

Purpose:

Create a European focal point for the analysis and academic discussion of European needs, capabilities and long-term prospects in space.

Strategy:

  1. Support and stimulation of academic and research work on space economics, law, history, long-term scenarios regarding the value of space for energy, exploration, management of our planet, communication, security, peacekeeping, geo-politics, etc.
  2. Stimulation of the emergence of a common vision for the long-term future of space in Europe.
  3. Promotion of innovative ideas and reflections to support and stimulate European Space Policy decisions.

First Step:

Set up a small expert group to present a detailed project within 6 months. A Foundation could be set up as a legal basis for the Institute. Funding needed: 6-8 ME per year, shared between ESA, the European Commission, national agencies and industry.