Julian Moxon/PARIS

A report into the future of the European Space Agency (ESA) concludes that there is an "urgent need" to commit to major space infrastructure programmes such as the Galileo global navigation satellite system and new broadband telecommunications satellites to prevent US domination in the two sectors.

Failure to do so could see Europe become dependent on US infrastructure developments, says the panel, composed of former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, Credit Lyonnaise president Jean Peyrelevade and Jenoptik chairman Lothar Spath. "The window is now, or the moment will be lost", says Spath.

The report, Towards a Space Agency for the European Union, insists that "the challenges are urgent". Released on 9 November, it identifies a "need for a process of institutional convergence", and says this "does not exclude" bringing ESA into the treaty framework of the EU.

It adds that the European Commission (EC), which it says should become a member of the ESA Council, "should define the regulatory framework under which space activities are conducted, and should represent Europe for allocating frequencies and defining market rules", while the European Parliament should "regularly discuss and review European space policy".

Bildt says ESA's work to-date has been "very impressive", but that there is "more need for integration between European institutions to merge space policy, especially as space becomes increasingly vital to other fields of activity".

The report says ESA should play an increased role in European security and defence policy, particularly as environmental monitoring becomes a factor in global political and security developments.

While the European Transport Council is expected to approve the development of Galileo (which will rival the US GPS system) at a meeting on 20 December, Europe lags badly in developing broadband networks, and Bildt warns that it could be "out of the game of setting standards for the infrastructure of the future". He adds that co-operation between ESA and the telecoms industry "must be extended, and development funding increased".

Source: Flight International