Space Briefing: Space sustainability must take centre stage
September 15, 2023

In his latest post, MEP Niklas Nienass is discussing space sustainability. The theme was illustrated in multiple ways, such as (a) at the exhibition entitled “Out of sight-out of mind?” featuring artwork by British photographer Max Alexander, (b) at the Space Dinner that followed, as well as, (c) at the Space Forum. 

At the exhibition opening in early July, the speakers emphasized how important it is to discuss space sustainability publicly. Aarti Holla-Maini (soon to be Director of UNOOSA) and Sara Lucatello (Vice-President European Astronomical Society) explained there is a global need to catch up on this issue. The subsequent panel discussion with Sara Lucatello, John Janka (Chief Officer, Global Government Affairs & Regulatory at Viasat Inc.) and Nikas Nienass focused on how space debris will jeopardize future space projects – with consequences for our infrastructure. As Sara Lucatello said, “The proliferation of satellites and space debris significantly limits our ability to explore and develop space” And John Janka added “Politicians must act now. I am enthused that there are initiatives like the European Space Law that address this challenge”. 

Further, at the Space Dinner, the topic of space sustainability was at the top of the agenda as well. At the dinner, which was hosted by Mr. Niklass and GSOA (Global Satellite Operators Association), particular emphasis was placed on the criteria for a leading role for Europe in the sustainable development of space and the budgets and policies required for achieving this. What became clear is that space sustainability must take center stage – but we also need to be bolder, more innovative, and create space for the innovative SMEs and start-ups to flourish. That can only be achieved through European cooperation. 

What is more, the need for European cooperation was addressed during the panel discussion at the Space Forum as well. It is noted that space is being used up as quickly as possible, without limits. Given that, we shall need clear rules, which can be achieved with the implementation of the European Space Law Initiative.

Additionally, MEP Niklas Nienass mentioned that clear limits are being set for the funding of the European Space Programme. Specifically, COPERNICUS is currently €721 million short, and it is still unclear whether this gap will be covered, or by whom. Negotiations have recently taken place with Great Britain, but it is already certain that they alone will not pay for the remaining amount. If the member states do not find a common denominator in the negotiations, COPERNICUS will be shut down for years. Mr. Niklass stated that we also need COPERNICUS to monitor climate change, atmospheric fluctuations and natural disasters, the reason why he is advocating for a hearing on COPERNICUS in committee after the summer break. 

Consequently, he stated that on Wednesday 19 July 2023 the implementation of IRIS is on the agenda including proposals in the field of sustainability. 

For more information about the live streaming, please follow the link.