The European Union is stepping up its efforts to catch up with other global powers on space policy after the temporary collapse of its flagship project for satellite navigation, Galileo.
The EU executive is expected to publish new guidelines in the coming weeks to improve satellite monitoring of the Earth’s climate.
With rising temperatures, ice melting at the poles and seas threatening to submerge islands, keeping a close eye on the planet is increasingly seen as paramount.
Satellites can play a crucial role in this field. The European Commission is exploiting their potential through a programme called GMESexternal (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), a project for earth observation designed to forecast environmental threats. It represents the second most important EU initiative in space policy after Galileo.
The EU document outlining future actions for GMES follows a draft regulationexternal laying down the details of its operations up until 2013, which the Commission put forward last April.
But the main challenge remains satellite navigation. Europeans are still waiting for Galileo, the EU’s alternative to the USA’s leading Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s GLONASS. While Europeans were still fighting over the details of Galileo, China also began to develop an alternative system, which goes further than Europe’s, according to many experts.
Contrary to its American and Russian counterparts, which are both financed and controlled by the army, Galileo has been designed specifically for civilian and commercial purposes.
This is expected to give it an edge, but no commercially-available applications are expected within the next five years …