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23rd Jul 2019

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EU wants more co-operation with China in space

  • Galileo is still a 3D model, while rivals are developing fast (Photo: S. Corvaja, European Space Agency)

The EU wants to improve its co-operation with China in space technology and "share open frequencies in satellite navigation", just as the Asian giant is developing its own rival system.

Not wanting to be on the losing side as American, Russian and Chinese satellite navigation systems advance, the EU on Monday (4 April) launched its first EU Space Strategy, presented by industry commissioner Antonio Tajani.

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"The EU will also propose that space dialogue, the scope and objectives of which will be set out in appropriate bilateral arrangements, be established with other existing and emerging space powers, in particular the People's Republic of China," says the document.

"The EU will seek constructive solutions to issues of cooperation and sharing open frequencies in the field of satellite navigation," it adds.

China in 2003 joined as an investment partner the EU's own satellite navigation project, Galileo, which should have been already operational this year, and whose costs are likely to surpass the initial budget by over €1.5 billion.

Although "China Galileo Industries" still exists and held its sixth board meeting in January, Beijing has meanwhile started its own project, Beidou, planned to offer satellite navigation to South Asian countries next year and to expand to a global service by 2020.

"Galileo is one of the Union's flagship programmes and the first satellite navigation system in the world designed for civilian use. It will enable the Union to remain independent in a strategically important field, at a time when reliance on global navigation systems continues to grow," the Tajani paper reads, without any specific reference to Beidou.

His calls to step up and complete the Galileo project are also valid for EU's other project - the European Earth Monitoring Programme (GMES) designed for land, ocean, atmosphere, air quality and climate change monitoring, but also emergency response and security. GMES should be operational by 2014.

A European Space Situation Awareness system, protecting space stations and satellites from debris, solar radiations and asteroids is also mentioned in the paper.

"Space should become an integral part of the EU's external policy in particular to the benefit of Africa," the document reads, adding that Brussels may propose an EU space programme in 2011, depending on the bloc's next multi-annual budget.

Currently, European space manufacturing industry represents a turnover of €5.4 billion and employs over 30,000 highly qualified professionals. There are 11 major satellite operators in Europe using 153 communication satellites, with a turnover of €6 billion and representing some 6,000 employees.

If Galileo and GMES were to be implemented, Tajani projects "economic and social benefits worth around €60-90 billion over the next 20 years."

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