EU to target satellite observation in space race
By Honor Mahony
Europe's plans to become a space power will see it install a fully-functioning global observation system consisting of 30 satellites by 2014.
This system, known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), will supply the EU with independent environment, climate change and security information reducing the bloc's dependence on outside sources for information.
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Once up and running, GMES will be able to detect information such as illegal clearing in rain forests or the exact number of people in need of aid in a refugee camp.
Speaking at an EU conference on the satellite system in Munich on Tuesday (17 April), EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen said he expected the whole system to cost around €2.4 billion.
As a first step three surveillance services covering land use, natural disasters and marine information will all be brought under the GMES roof, said Mr Verheugen according to German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Continuing his preview of the policy - set to be formally unveiled next week in Brussels - Mr Verheugen said that five new satellites should be launched by 2011 to join the existing 25 satellites and measuring systems closer to the ground, located on ships and in aircraft.
The commissioner said the EU needed the system so it could make decisions based on its own information.
Mr Verheugen also indicated that the EU needed to hurry up and develop its space policy more quickly.
He noted that despite it being a world leader in the technology, it is being put on the defensive by the US and Russia and that it only has about a 10 year technological advantage on China and India, which are racing to catch up.
GMES will be the first and the most important application of Europe's space policy, according to the commissioner, adding that it will give Europe the right to be treated equally "where global issues are concerned."
"Europe needs a European space policy if it wants to secure its economic and political future."