Europe must, as a matter of priority, establish a space situational awareness system to monitor orbiting debris, solar radiation and asteroids, according to a "reinforced" space policy set out by the European Commission.

Brussels is anxious to reduce the €332 million ($475 million) annual damage done to European assets by radiation and debris collisions, and to mitigate the unquantifiable but potentially massive problems caused by complete loss of a satellite or Earth impact of an asteroid.

Other key priorities are completion of the Galileo navigation constellation and implementation of the GMES Earth monitoring programme.

Underlining its belief in the social and economic value of space - and the need to preserve Europe's independent access to Earth orbit and beyond - the EC also sees as a priority the support of research and development to increase European technological non-dependence to ensure that innovation benefits both citizens and non-space sectors. Communication satellites will be key to this effort.

Other priorities include working with European Union member states to identify EU-level action that can be taken in space exploration and to develop a space industrial policy with member states and the European Space Agency.

Internationally, the EC wants to continue working with the USA and Russia, and initiate dialogue with other space-faring nations, such as China. It says space should be an "integral part of the EU's external policy, in particular to the benefit of Africa".

EC vice-president for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani stresses: "Space activities create highly skilled jobs, innovation, new commercial opportunities and improve citizens' well-being and security."

Source: Flight International