France and Europe: what space policies?

According to the Ministry of Armies’ Defense Space Strategy report, the space sector has long been reserved for a few nations, their space agencies and publicly funded companies. The strategic nature of space activitiesheavy investments and long development cycles explain these balances until recently.

the new spaceprepared and born in the United States, has upset these balances since the 2010s:

  • by leaving more room for private actors;
  • significantly reducing costs;
  • using the methods, technologies and financial engineering of the new economy.

A delay in the new space

Four industrial groups are at the head of the European space industry:

  • a prime contractor for launchersArianeGroup;
  • three competing master builders for the satellite systems :
    • Airbus Defense and Space;
    • Thales Alenia Space;
    • Orbital Hochtechnologie Bremen.

According to the 2022 space report, the model of these companies is traditional :

  • they come from aeronautical or defense sector ;
  • they work with a lot of suppliers spread across Europe ;
  • them activities are clearly separated :
    • construction of satellites;
    • launch services;
    • apps.

After initial skepticism, European authorities have not yet taken over the American model support for the financing of new space (public aid to start-up). A sign that France is trying to catch up on the new spacethe supervision of the space sector passed in 2020, for the first time in 60 years, from ministry of research to Ministry of Economy. This change has worried many researchers.

the space component of the France 2030 recovery plan provides:

According to the Defense Space Strategy report, France displays a certain delay in the design and production of very small satellitesessential for new space.

The French space sector

According to one analysis by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee)the space sector in France represents in 2020:

  • 1,704 companiesincluding about sixty, say pure-playersexclusively active in the space sector;
  • 33,200 employees ;
  • a turnover of €10.8 billion ;
  • a space activity intended for foreign customers at 43%.

Militarization and weaponization of space

According to the report on the defense space sector, the weaponization of spacethat is, its military use, is an old phenomenon. L’weaponization of space is the placing weapons in orbit.

According to the 2022 space report, the weaponization of space arose during the Cold War from the confrontation between the two blocs. After a suspension, it increases again in a context of global geostrategic environmental degradation. The offensive means are:

  • them co-orbital capacities (space systems capable of maneuvering and interacting with other satellites, even disrupting or destroying them);
  • them abilities by direct ascent (intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBM] and anti-satellite missiles [ASAT]);
  • them directed energy weapons (AED) (High Intensity Microwave [HPM] and laser);
  • them electronic means (radio frequency jammers and cyberattacks).

The United States, Russia and China are investing heavily in these projects. The arsenalisation was revealed in 2007 during the destructive launch of a Chinese anti-satellite missile.

Military satellite fleets have become very large (the United States has nearly 300 active government-use satellites).

France is developing ability to protect its interests in space (active defense). Two YODA patrol satellites (eyes in orbit for an agile demonstrator) will be placed in geostationary orbit in 2023. They can be equipped with jammers, articulated arms, AED. An improved version will enter service in 2030.

Space law has been carefully drafted by the space powers. It does not prohibit the weaponization of space but prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit (however not their transit).

What spatial strategy?

In a speech on February 16, 2022, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, recalls the challenges of European and French space sovereignty. It determines the four pillars of spatial action.

the first pillar aims to ensure a competitiveness and scientific and industrial sovereignty founded:

  • on the launchers via :
    • the program Ariadne 6 and the application of the European preference for the launch of institutional satellites;
    • reusable mini- and micro-launchers;
  • of the investments public and private in the disruptive technologies ;
  • the development of constellationwhich are at the heart of many daily issues and services (military networks and objects, connected, emergency services, autonomous vehicles, telesurgery, but also economic prosperity, etc.).

the second pillar is here military power. With a space defense strategy of almost 5 billion euros of investment until 2025, France has added a capacity for action in exo-atmospheric space to conventional missions (observation, telecommunications, listening). The air force has also become that of space. Europe must move forward on the road to a european military space strategy.

the third pillar is to make space a place of protection of a common good by promoting regulatory standards. A European model of space traffic management will be defined. One of the challenges is to no longer allow attacks to hide behind satellite collisions.

the fourth pillar to the very nature of the space adventure: a fundamental project of research and scientific exploration. Space is a lever for fundamental and applied research, for example with the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and the state of the biosphere.

Before the International Astronautical Congress (held in Paris from September 18 to 22, 2022), Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced an investment of 9 billion euros in the space sector over the next three years.

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France and Europe: what space policies?


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