Scheideweg. Europas Zukunft im Weltraum

July 5 2023 | 6 - 7:30 p.m. | Lecture Hall VII, Main Building University of Bonn

Ninth event of the lecture series „Nach den Sternen greifen. Der Weltraum als Wirtschafts-, Lebens- und Wettbewerbsraum im 21. Jahrhundert“ (Summer semester 2023) with Dr. Gilles Rabin.

European space flight today stands at a strategic crossroads. The race for the stars between the United States and Soviet Russia during the Cold War years has been replaced by a duel between Washington and Beijing that can hardly be underestimated. At the same time, new ambitious countries such as India, Japan and the United Arab Emirates have also entered the scene, building and operating technological infrastructures in space alongside a weakened but still capable Russia. Given this mix, the members of the European Union have to face the question of their ambitions as well as the institutional and industrial organization of the EU in space matters in order to survive in the current environment between state but also private ambitious space actors.

Old certainties are being challenged in the process. The core issue of actual leadership in space matters is still sensitive between the European Space Agency Esa and the European Union, as recently demonstrated by the Iris² project to establish a European satellite constellation in low-Earth orbit for high-speed Internet and secure connectivity. Human spaceflight too, while a legitimate European goal for many years, has repeatedly failed due to limited budgets and a lack of political will among EU members. It is difficult to have a clear conductor when there is also a lack of solid funding and political disagreement regarding this strategic field.

At the same time, political actors should understand that when they invest politically and financially in European spaceflight, they are ultimately providing resources for the entire European industrial ecosystem. Without satellite data, for example, there would be no electric vehicles, no autonomy in transportation, or hardly any possibility of producing biomolecules thanks to microgravity. Following the example of the American Apollo program, European space research could become a tremendous accelerator for the entire industry of the EU members.

Unfortunately, Germany and France have so far found it difficult to strike a balance between sovereignty and competitiveness in these projects, which create structures for the European economic and industrial area. Although formally close partners, each country is developing, for example, its own space strategy and its own space law - without purposefully producing a common European ambition. There is thus a great danger that the renationalization of industrial space policy will ultimately lead to European industry being sidelined in the medium and long term and losing touch with the more ambitious space powers in other parts of the world, which can more independently exploit the economic advantages that space-based technologies offer, especially for other economic sectors. In order not to repeat the past European experience with its own failures in the field of microelectronics and the digital economy, Europe should not want to afford again to be foreseeably degraded to a techno-industrial junior partner through strategic inactivity, which in the future will be primarily dependent on foreign actors for essential space services and technologies.



Opening remarks:

Dr. Enrico Fels
Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies, University of Bonn


Dr. Gilles Rabin
Counsellor for Space, French Embassy in Berlin


Iris Müller
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for freedom

In close cooperation of:

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