As the European Commission prepares its space policy, politicians and manufacturers are demanding better co-ordination of national efforts. Speakers at the first of seven workshops on the forthcoming EC white paper described space as a strategic asset vital to European security.

Six more workshops will be held in various European capitals up to the end of June, with players from industry, academia and government debating the medium- and long-term future use of space and on policy options available.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin warns that Europe "will not stay at the leading edge of space if we do not get support for research and innovation" and stresses that it is "imperative to make our politicians understand that space is essential".

Former European Space Agency (ESA) director of science Roger-Maurice Bonnet points to "poor co-ordination between ESA and national agencies which generates useless competition", adding that some national research laboratories, notably the French CNRS, "are not supporting ESA or even their own national space science strategy because they are not involved in the decision process".

Jean-Marie Luton, president of Arianespace, stresses that if Europe wants an independent space capacity it must be able to access space with its own launch vehicle system, "but this has a cost".

"A minimum launch rate of six a year for a dedicated launch vehicle system is mandatory to maintain its operational availability and reliability," says Luton.

Source: Flight International