EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST) welcomes the Joint Communication of the European Commission and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy “An EU Approach for Space Traffic Management”, presented on 15 February 2022 by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton. The text highlights that EU SST “constitutes the operational pillar for the EU STM approach”. EU SST already provides space safety services to more than 130 organisations and is developing new services to support space debris mitigation and remediation.
The Joint Communication stresses that EU SST “has paved the way for the development of an effective and reliable protection of space assets of the EU” and that, as part of the Space Situational Awareness component of the EU Space Programme, EU SST “is the key operational capability” for the EU’s future approach to STM. In the text it is also mentioned that, in order to ensure its resilience and strategic autonomy, the EU “needs to increase the performance of its SST operational capabilities” by developing new SST assets, having access to more assets located outside continental Europe and developing new services “to support mitigation operations, and complement remediation and in-orbit servicing operations”.
The proposal also acknowledges the key role of the EU industry in the development of the current SST operational capabilities, remarking that “up to 75% of the funds provided by the EU to the EU SST Consortium are sub-contracted to EU industry” and stating that the dialogue with the EU industry needs to be intensified to “make the best use of the EU’s capabilities and innovation in the field of SST”. Furthermore, an action plan to implement these points by the Commission and the future EU SST Partnership is established in the Joint Communication.
What is EU SST already doing in the context of STM?
EU SST already provides space safety services to more than 130 organisations and contributes to the coordination of space traffic by protecting more than 260 European satellites from the risk of collision with space debris or other operational satellites, as well as detecting and monitoring break-ups in space and the uncontrolled re-entry of space objects into Earth’s atmosphere. It contributes to protecting the safety and security of European economies, societies and citizens through its sensor and processing capabilities and the provision of collision avoidance, fragmentation analysis and re-entry analysis services, and fosters international cooperation in support of the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, involving public, private and academic sectors in particular through R&D activities. In this context, EU SST recently signed the Net Zero Space Declaration, endorsed by UNOOSA, hence showing its commitment to the global goal of ensuring safe space operations and protecting Earth’s orbital environment.
What is EU SST working on for the future?
EU SST is working on improving its sensors network and data processing capabilities as well as on developing new services to support space debris mitigation and remediation. In the coming years, and as part of the EU Space Programme, it is foreseen that EU SST’s services will become accessible to international organisations as well as to countries and entities outside of the EU. EU SST is committed to ensure that these services will enhance the safety, security and sustainability of space operations, enabling a higher coordination among space operators and partners. EU SST is also closely involving the European industry and start-ups in building the future of Space Surveillance and Tracking in Europe, hosting dedicated workshops in the coming weeks.