Avoiding costly space crashes: European Parliament approves space
surveillance and tracking programme
The growing number of satellites and amounts of debris in the space
surrounding our planet makes the risk of collision a serious threat to the
sustainable operation of EU space infrastructure.
Today the European Commission welcomed the European Parliament vote in favour
of a proposal to create a European Space Surveillance and tracking (SST)
The purpose of the service is to provide alerts to help reduce the risk of
collisions between spacecraft, between spacecraft and space debris, and
collisions due to the uncontrolled re-entry of non-operational spacecraft or
The Commission's proposal aims to encourage Member States with relevant space
surveillance abilities to work together and pool their means in order to provide
the EU with space surveillance and tracking services.
European Commission Vice-President @AntonioTajaniEU, Commissioner for
Industry and Entrepreneurship commented:
"The space surveillance and tracking proposal envisages the pooling of
resources to protect our investments in space infrastructure from damage.
Avoiding space collisions could save up to €210 million per year and remove a
serious risk to the delivery of economic gains expected from the EU's space
I welcome the approval of the Parliament for the Commission's SST proposal
and hope for its swift adoption by the Council."
The Commission proposes a programme to support EU Member States that own
radars and telescopes capable of monitoring satellites and space debris, or
relevant data centres, to combine their capacities and offer for the first time
a European space surveillance and tracking service.
The proposal will now be submitted to the Council for its final approval.
Around 16 000 objects which orbit the Earth are larger than 10 cm, and
between 300 000 and 600 000 are larger than 1 cm.
An object larger than 1 cm hitting a satellite will at least damage or
destroy sub-systems or instruments on board, and a collision with an object
larger than 10 cm will destroy the satellite.
There is also a risk to ground-based infrastructures and citizens security
from the re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere of in-active satellites and
discarded sections of rockets.
The most conservative estimates put the potential economic loss for European
satellite operators due to collisions - or costly and risky manoeuvres to move
their satellites out of the way - at €210 million per year.
The economic loss on the ground due to the disruption of applications and
services that rely on the data of lost or damaged satellites cannot be
quantified, but implies a significantly higher figure.
In order to mitigate the risks of collision and uncontrolled re-entries it is
necessary to monitor satellites and space debris so that satellite operators and
public authorities can be alerted in good time.