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EU eyes 16-billion-euro space program for navigation systems, Earth observation, components

WARSAW, Poland — The European Commission has unveiled plans to spend 16 billion euros, or $18.6 billion, on a space program to boost the EU’s space capabilities in the years 2021 to 2027.

Of these, 9.7 billion euros are to be allocated to the Galileo and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) satellite navigation systems, 5.8 billion euros to the Copernicus Earth-observation program, and a further 500 million eurowto the development of new security components.

“We need to up our game. Space data can help our industries lead on the. Internet of Things and automated driving, and help us more accurately monitor greenhouse gas emissions to make our climate action more effective than ever before,” Maros Sefcovic, the vice president of the European Commission, was quoted in a statement.

The EC claims that a swift agreement on the EU’s overall long-term budget is crucial to ensure that funds for space-related projects deliver results.

“Delays similar to the ones experienced at the beginning of the current 2014-2020 budgetary period would mean that investments in the EU’s space activities – Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus – would be put at risk and new services would be delayed,” the statement said.

EU security concerns drive space programs

Meanwhile, local observers say that the spending hike is partly due to the increasing security concerns amid EU policymakers.

“The European Commission is starting to invest in the means of securing its infrastructure. What is on the table now is financing for the full deployment of Galileo, the continuation of Copernicus, meeting new challenges in the field of security, and R&D activities to develop a new generation of satellites for Galileo and Copernicus,” Jean-Jacques Tortora, the director of the Vienna-based European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), told Space News.

This said, the ongoing Brexit talks with the U.K. could present new challenges ahead of the EU’s space efforts, according to Tortora.

Determined to maintain the U.K.’s access to the program, Brexit negotiators have warned the EC that pushing London and U.K. businesses out of Galileo could force the British authorities to seek reimbursement of their spending.

“Galileo is definitely an EU program, and with Brexit, the U.K. becomes a third-party. Some public services are embedded within Galileo, and third-parties are not eligible to be involved in the security-related dimensions of this program,” Tortora said. “The U.K. can still be the EU’s partner on this program, but with some restrictions on the use of security-related services, and the U.K. industry cannot be involved in its core activities, according to the current regulations of the program.”

Meanwhile, in a technical note on the country’s participation in Galileo, the U.K. government says its exclusion could result in delays and additional costs to the program.

“U.K. entities have played an integral part in designing, developing and managing Galileo to date, particularly the delivery of payloads for satellites, the ground control segment and the development of the PRS software. Excluding industrial participation by U.K. industry in security-related areas risks delays of up to three years and additional costs of up to €1 billion to the programme. It will not be straightforward to effectively fulfil all Galileo security work elsewhere,” the document says.