Policy Blog: What to look forward in the incoming EU space regulation

Policy blog by Sandra Cabrera ALVARADO and Aaron SCORSA

In 2021 something good has to happen, right? If everything goes smoothly, we can dare to look forward to the new Regulation establishing the EU Space Programme and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA).[1] In 2018, the European Commission took this initiative by proposing an umbrella legislation harmonising almost all convergent rules of the EU space programmes (including Galileo, EGNOS, Copernicus and SST). [2] Where are we today? What can we now look forward to?

In the Copernicus Chapter, the proposal preserves several elements of the previous law but includes other interesting elements such as integration of data services,[3] however, the legislative process did not end there. Following the proposal’s submission, Member States and the European Parliament made several amendments to the proposal, including the Copernicus Chapter, which it seems to have strengthened even if it is slightly weaker financially.

This post takes a closer look at some of the amendments coming as a result of the discussions with Member States and the European Parliament from 2019 to December 2020. Taking a look at some of the proposed amendments is of interest to see what’s new, what will be or not included that might impact the industry sector relationship, and to see where cooperation is most likely with its adoption this year.

Reduction of the Copernicus budget

After several negotiations between the institutions, the EU Space Programme budget allocation ended up at 14.8 B EUR.  A slight reduction of €1.2B from what was sought in the Commission’s original proposal (16 B EUR). It seems that unprecedented events, such as the BREXIT negotiations, the planning of a new Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) with one less Member State (MS) and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, influenced the institutions’ decision-making.

To recall, the Copernicus budget was proposed by the Commission at 5.8 B EUR[4], later raised by the Parliament’s proposal[5] to 6B EUR[6] but reduced again by the Finnish Presidency’s[7] proposal to 4.6 B EUR.  Finally, on February 2020 the last Council’s proposal won with a total budget of 14.8 B EUR, in which Copernicus’ rollercoaster budget ended up with 5.4 B EUR.[8] However, uncertainties still prevail, and we still wait to see the budget allocation between upstream and downstream services including the Copernicus Contributing Missions, Copernicus Services, components and EO market uptake efforts. For example, in 2020, six high-priority candidate missions[9] have secured ESA funding of 2.5 B EUR[10], but these await, yet the approval of the MS and budget allocation from the MFF as well.[11]

It is crucial to consider that the EO landscape is and not be the same as seven years ago. As a reminder, the past MFF Copernicus budget of 2014-2020 was 4.3 B, of which 3.5 B was for the space component (comprising satellites and ground segments) and the remaining 20% for the service and in-situ components.[12] We understand the budget split being discussed is 4,1B EUR for data i.e. upstream satellites, launch and CCM, 1.1. B EUR for the services and 200 M EUR for cross cutting measures including market development and part of Cassini. In any case, for this incoming budget, decision makers should bear in mind that Copernicus data demand is increasing, along with the emerging of SMEs and applications development.

Novel elements: Archiving and user friendly manner access

In the Commission’s proposal, the scope of Copernicus states the data access and distribution components which shall include infrastructure and services, but the Parliament and the Council added a long-term archiving option for users.[13]  If this amendment passes, it could be that other public entities or the DIAS undertake this obligation of archiving the vast quantity of Copernicus data to assist the Commission’s obligation.

Another element is the addition of access to data and information in ain a user-friendly manner”. [14] This addition sets the tone for a future enhancement of user experience or satisfaction, which may influence in the development of exploitation platforms design. Even though this term is relatively ambiguous, possibly subject to interpretation on what standards does “friendly access” have?

Promotion of EO downstream applications

The Parliament and Council gave importance in the EO downstream applications promotions in the Copernicus Chapter by adding the obligation to “support the development of relevant Copernicus downstream applications and services” under the Copernicus’ Data acquisition Article 49.[15] In the role of EUSPA this task can be found already, however, drafted in a general way referring to implementing activities “relating to the development of downstream applications and services based on the components of the Programme”. [16]

This action is essential if the European EO downstream sector is to build a competitive advantage based around Copernicus. It is to be hoped that budgets for this activity will be maintained in the face of these competing spending priorities. The enhanced role of the EUSPA will be crucial as was discussed with them recently.[17]

In conclusion

Let’s wait for the adoption of the final legislative text to have a detailed idea on which weight the downstream sector will have in the programme, role of new players in the governance and possibly new developments on user’s needs, EO market uptakes and applications. If the EU space regulation adopts these amendments, Copernicus would be experiencing a change towards a new generation stimulating downstream activities in a landscape where more companies will be likely to emerge and more data demand, easier ways of finding services and managing data while improving the user experience. The budget could play a significant role in this new developments, depending on its allocation and priorities on downstream/upstream. All being well, by end of March or at the latest early April we should know.

[1] Regulation establishing the EU space programme of the Union and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme and repealing Regulations (EU) No 912/2010, (EU) No 1285/2013, (EU) No 377/2014 and Decision 541/2014/EU

[2] 2018 is the reference year taken by the Commission for its proposal.

[3] https://earsc.org/2020/12/21/eu-space-programme-2021-2027/

[4] €9.7 billion for Galileo and EGNOS; for Copernicus; and €0.5 billion for SSA and GOVSATCOM.


[6] The Parliament’s proposal was an increase of the EU space budget from the Commission’s 16 B EUR to 16.9 B EUR

[7] In December 2019, the Finnish presidency presented a proposal for the space programme budget of 12.7 B EUR (in constant 2018 prices) of which €7.7 billion dedicated to Galileo and €4.6 billion to Copernicus.


[9] CHIME: Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission, CIMR: Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer, CO2M: Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Monitoring, CRISTAL: Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter, LSTM: Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring, ROSE-L: L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar

[10] Those contracts will go to Thales Alenia Space, will lead three, Airbus will lead two, and OHB will lead one. See https://spacenews.com/esa-selects-prime-contractors-for-six-new-copernicus-missions/  

[11] https://www.esa.int/Applications/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Contracts_awarded_for_development_of_six_new_Copernicus_missions

[12] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2019/637925/EPRS_BRI(2019)637925_EN.pdf

[13]Article 48 of the Regulation proposal at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52018AP0520

[14]Article 48 of the Regulation proposal at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52018AP0520

[15] Article 49 of the Regulation proposal at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM%3A2018%3A447%3AFIN

[16] Article 30 of the Regulation proposal

[17] See https://earsc.org/2021/01/27/new-year-new-euspa-bespoke-synergies-with-multiple-space-users/ 

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