Breton: “EU needs a more offensive and aggressive space strategy”

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner designate for Internal Market (photo: Lukasz Kobus)

Yesterday,  the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, launched the  “European Launcher alliance”. In order to keep up with superpowers such as the United States and China, the EU needs a more offensive and aggressive space-strategy, Breton said. The recently formed alliance with the space industry is accompanied by a €1 billion European space fund.

Breton was very clear at the European Space Conference held on Tuesday: “We must ask ourselves: will our current approach successfully get us to 2050, considering the disruptions in the sector that we all observe? I strongly doubt it, and I believe we need a more offensive and aggressive strategy.”

The newly created Cassini space fund, a joint venture by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Fund (EIF), needs to stimulate the space industry, and is meant for both established companies and upcoming startups. The new fund is a massive scale up compared to the €100m Space Equity Pilot launched last year. Between 2014 and 2020 the EU invested roughly €12 billion in space related activities. For the period 2021-2027, the plan is to add another €15 billion. Breton promised the European Commission will play an active role in stimulating the new initiative:

 “I will therefore gather in the next months all the actors to initiate a European Launcher alliance so to be able to jointly define, with ESA, the Member States, the European Parliament, the industry, a common roadmap for the next generation of launchers and technologies relevant to ensure autonomous access to space”. The Commission is ready to and will play its role. As the first institutional customer, but also being in charge of space policy at large and space industrial competitiveness specifically”.

Breton’s space strategy builds on four pillars: first a consolidation of Galileo and Copernicus, with a second Galileo generation in 2024 and six new Copernicus missions. Second the “rapid” development of a “third infrastructure” for broadband connectivity, “designed as a multi-orbital initiative”, combining LEO and other orbits like GEO. Thirdly, autonomy in launchers – supported by the new EU Commission-led alliance – as well as Space Traffic Management (STM). Finally, the positioning of Europe as a hub for space entrepreneurship.

The commissioner was very clear in the direction the EU is taking: “I see the future of the European space industry as a combination of strong institutional leadership and European approach to New Space, one that is not a mere copy past of the US.” The firm words were embraced by the French president Emmanuel Macon, and not just symbolically; during a visit at ArianeGroup’s French production site in Vernon yesterday, Macron confirmed the French government will invest €500 million to the space sector.