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EU Space Surveillance and Tracking Partnership drives innovation, investment and growth

EU Space Surveillance and Tracking Partnership drives innovation, investment and growth

A lack of vital space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities is holding back Europe’s strategic autonomy in the domain of Space Situational Awareness.

That’s according to Dr Pascal Faucher, Chair of the European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking Partnership (EU SST) at the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) in Paris. Speaking ahead of this year’s Software Defined Space Conference in Tallinn, Estonia, where he is a keynote speaker, Dr Faucher said, “The space around Earth is becoming increasingly congested as nations and private companies alike launch their own orbital satellites and other spacecraft. As a result, there is a need to ensure the safety and sustainability of space operations in the long run. EU SST intends to contribute to ensuring a minimum level of spaceflight safety through providing public SSA services, relying of course on our competitive European commercial ecosystem.” Faucher continued, “Here at EU SST, we are tackling this issue by bringing together our 15 Member States of the European Union through a unique dual governance model in which civil bodies and national military agencies cooperate and collaborate to provide public services in collision avoidance (CA), re-entry analysis (RE) and fragmentation analysis (FG), relying on national capabilities of the EU SST Member States.

“One of EU SST’s strategic priorities is to enhance the level of European strategic autonomy in the SSA domain, in all orbit regimes, relying first on military and civil sensors, but also increasingly on commercial sensors which can contribute to strategic autonomy. Our objective is to reach an ideal balance of approximately 50%-50% between military and commercial data used in EU SST.”

“Another key priority for EU SST is to foster the competitiveness of the European industry and start-ups. EU SST acts as a public anchor customer for European commercial SSA data and as a public investor for the development of innovative commercial sensors. Space-focused start-ups and private companies have the agility and flexibility to explore new and possible risky ideas – as a result, they innovate much faster. However, support from public institutions is crucial for them to sustain innovation in the long run.”

“That’s why earlier this month, the EU SST Partnership published a call for commercial data provision with a dedicated budget of 18M euros. [AS1] Shortly, we will publish a call for the development of innovative commercial sensors supported by a budget of 30M euros, as well as a call for new SSA-related R&D projects supported by a budget of 22M euros.”

“At EU SST, we seek to shape the SSA data market by distinguishing the civil market from the military market. Civil and military actors do not have the same requirements when it comes to SSA data. Military customers need a lot of data, at high-frequency, on a small number of objects of interest, while civil customers need fewer data on a maximum number of objects, mostly on space debris. This segmentation of the market, that is already beginning to materialize to some extent, will create more opportunities for commercial SSA companies.”

“EU SST also acts as a public facilitator for commercial services,” he explained. “Indeed, companies can rely on the basic services provided by EU SST to provide value-added, tailor-made, advanced services to commercial space operators.” “At the moment, the amount of public funding available to the SSA sector is simply not sufficient to reach the ambitioned level of strategic autonomy in Europe. EU SST therefore seeks to exploit synergies between civil and defence on the SSA domain at the sensor level. We need to coordinate resources between civil and military actors to enhance both national and commercial capabilities, thereby strengthening European strategic autonomy and enabling Europe to make a valuable contribution to raising levels of space safety, security and sustainability of space activities.”

Dr Faucher will be speaking at 10.15 EET on Day One (Wednesday 1 November) of this year’s Software Defined Space Conference, on the strategic priorities of the EU SST Partnership as well as its dual governance model for cooperation and collaboration between civil, military and national security authorities.

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