On the 13th of September 2023, in the framework of the State of the Union, President von der Leyen presented Commission priorities for 2024.
The Letter of Intent includes an initiative for an EU Space Law (EUSL). The legislative proposal could be adopted by the Commission in the first trimester of 2024. It envisages common EU rules addressing the safety, resilience and sustainability of space activities and operations. It intends to avoid and remove fragmentation and barriers across the single market caused by the heterogeneity or lack of national space legislations while ensuring the competitiveness of the European space sector in an international trade context.
The EUSL will cover three pillars attached to the following objectives:
- Ensure safe satellite traffic that tackles the increasing risk of collisions and damages by space debris: EUSL safety pillar.
- Coherently protect the EU and national space infrastructures and assets against harmful threats (notably cyberattacks): EUSL resilience pillar.
- Guarantee the long-term sustainability of space operations, ensuring the ability of the EU to rely on space as an important enabler of services and economic growth: EUSL sustainability pillar.
Introduction to the targeted consultation
Space-related services and space-derived data are increasingly used in many different economic sectors. They support the implementation of public policies the operation of commercial businesses and facilitate the lives and activities of EU citizens. Space-related services and data equally support the areas of security and defence and contribute to achieving the EU’s political agenda, enabling the digital and green transitions and enhancing its resilience. Space is equally critical to support the strategic autonomy of the EU and its Member States.
Opportunities offered to businesses, citizens and policymakers by space-based services have created significant economic opportunities which have resulted in the era of a “new space” economy. This has also allowed for decreasing costs of sending satellites into space (e.g., due to the use of reusable launchers and the development of micro-launchers). Yet, it also contributed to the increase in the number of satellites in orbit, notably with the development of mega-constellations. The changing economic environment of space activities, the emergence of new space actors, the progressive congestion of space, and the rise of technological/cyber risks threaten the safety, security/resilience and sustainability of space operations.
These challenges raise important questions on how to fully and best ensure the safety and sustainability of space activities and how to increase the resilience of space infrastructures, notably of satellites. Increased resilience cannot be achieved unless all relevant segments for the space infrastructures (ground, space, links and connections to user segment) are covered in a coherent manner without gaps and ambiguities.
The 2021 ‘Action Plan on Synergies between Civil, Defence and Space Industries’ announced the development of an EU strategy for Space Traffic Management (STM). Several Council conclusions have recognised the need for the EU to take action for the development of STM, most recently the 2022 Council conclusions on an EU approach to STM. In the latter, Member States recognised the role that the Commission could play in facilitating coordination of Member States’ efforts to address STM legislation and standardisation to foster the convergence of national positions on an EU STM approach. These efforts should be carried out without prejudice to national competencies and preserving in particular the role of Member States in the development, supervision and enforcement of STM rules. The 2022 Joint Communication on ‘An EU approach for Space Traffic Management’ put forward a set of actions on an EU contribution to this global public policy challenge.
The Joint Communication on the EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence, adopted on 10 March 2023, stresses the need to protect and enhance the resilience of EU space systems and services. The Strategy calls for an EU-wide coherent security framework that complements the recently enacted pieces of legislation at the EU level addressing the resilience of critical entities (CER Directive) and cybersecurity (NIS2 Directive). The Strategy in this context considers an EU Space Law to enhance the collective level of resilience of space systems and services in the Union and set up coordination mechanisms between Member States, including in remote strategic ground infrastructure locations such as the EU outermost regions.
As a result, the Commission is exploring the possibility of proposing an EU Space Law that would envisage common EU rules for the safety, resilience and sustainability of space activities and operations. While this initiative is rooted in several approaches and ideas (the 2022 Joint Communication on an EU approach to Space Traffic Management and the 2023 EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence) already discussed with Member States, the initiative would integrate the outcome of a series of targeted consultations and workshops aiming at gathering stakeholders views on aspects to be covered and impacts of the options considered, in line with the Better Regulation rules.
The general objective is to ensure a safe, resilient/secure and sustainable use of space. Overall, the law would accelerate the pathway to building a European resilient space infrastructure which our societies and economies depend on. A coherent legal framework would bring legal certainty for space market operators and would support the competitiveness of the European industry.
In essence, the EUSL key measures would combine a set of space safety-related measures (including collision avoidance measures and debris removal), resilience-related measures (risk management rules covering cybersecurity and physical protection of space assets) and sustainability measures (space-specific life cycle assessment methodology to allow measuring and reduction of the environmental impact of the space activities on Earth). Development of possible standards could be envisaged alongside the promotion of a space-safe label. Such measures would apply to EU-owned assets and Member States’ assets (whether public or operated/owned by commercial entities) delivering space services in the EU.
In order to achieve the general objective, specific objectives include:
- Limiting the risk of collisions and interferences between space objects and their surroundings;
- Fostering climate-neutral space activities and ensuring fair and equal use of space;
- Increasing the EU’s collective level of resilience by protecting space systems and securing space-based services;
- Ensuring the competitiveness of the EU industry and research.
The European Commission is carrying out this targeted stakeholder consultation to help assess the current situation and problems and to substantiate with public feedback the analysis of the problems.
The survey aims at gathering views, opinions and input from policymakers and space experts (at European, international and Member States levels), representatives of the space industry (upstream sector – satellite operators, downstream sector, and users), NGOs, astronomers and citizens about the policy initiative of the EU Space Law.
The online questionnaire will be available until 2 November 2023.
Source: European Commission
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