Five European countries have this week (16 June 2015) agreed to do more to monitor and track space objects and detect their uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Consortium Agreement, signed by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, will see its members cooperating to provide an EU-wide Space Surveillance and Tracking Framework to help protect European space infrastructure, facilities and services which are essential for the safety and security of the economies and citizens of Europe.
The Consortium will exploit existing national infrastructures and sensors to provide a service to monitor and track space objects and debris; support and help spacecraft operators and users by providing a service for collision avoidance; create surveys for fragmentation detection; and monitor uncontrolled re-entry of space objects into Earth’s atmosphere. Beside the information provided by the US, such a service will give more autonomy to Europe in this crucial field.
The agreement was signed by Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES (French Space Agency), Dr Gerd Gruppe, Executive Board Member of DLR (German Space Agency), Professor Roberto Battiston, President of ASI (Italian Space Agency), Mr Francisco Marìn, General Director of CDTI (Spanish Centre for the Technology and Industrial development) and Dr David Parker, CEO of the UK Space Agency.
The consortium agreement is in response to the decision 541/2014/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union taken on 16 April 2014.
The 5 European Union member states will cooperate with the European Union Satellite Centre (SATCEN), established by the Council Joint Action, to implement the provision of the SST services. Inside the member states, the national space agencies will collaborate closely with their ministries of defence, both having a vested interest in the monitoring of the space environment.
The European Commission has foreseen some budget in the period 2015-2020 for space surveillance and tracking services, upgrading of the existing European infrastructure and sensors, as well as the development of new assets.