Tim Furniss / London

Commission white paper spells out long-term decline unless members are prepared to ramp up their annual spending

Europe should increase its spending on space, or risk declining as a space power, says a policy paper presented by the European Commission. The white paper, developed in close co-operation with the European Space Agency, proposes increasing space spending by 4.6% a year from the 2003 level of €5.38 billion ($6.41 billion).

The policy paper proposes two other options: increasing space spending by 3.4% a year, which is still higher than the growth rate of the overall EU economy; and by 2.3%, which the paper says "would not be sufficient to guarantee EU independence with respect to technology and access to space".

The action plan adopted by the EC proposes a multi-year European space programme that would "determine priorities, set objectives, allocate roles and responsibility and define annual budgets". The plan would be reviewed and updated every five years, and identify priorities for research, infrastructure development, services and technology. Space applications could include broadband communication, Earth observation and positioning systems, says the EC.

The first multi-year plan would cover 2004-8 and implement activities covered by the framework agreement between the EC and ESA, which includes the Galileo navigation satellite system and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) system.

Galileo and GMES, as well as a launch pad in French Guiana for Russian Soyuz boosters, are among Quick-start programmes under the European Growth Initiative to restart the region's economy, unveiled by the EC at the same time as its space policy paper. The EC proposes investing about €62 billion in the growth initiative between now and 2010, with around 40% coming from the private sector.

Asia-Pacific nations plan to set up a space co-operation organisation, APSCO, next year. Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea and Ukraine attended a meeting in Beijing, where APSCO will be headquartered, to formalise the plan.

Source: Flight International