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Brussels wants to increase management of space traffic

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By Gregoire Lory
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European Vega rocket flight VV18, lifting off from its launchpad in Kourou, at the European Space Center in French Guiana,
European Vega rocket flight VV18, lifting off from its launchpad in Kourou, at the European Space Center in French Guiana,   -   Copyright  JM GUILLON, HANDOUT / CNES / AFP

The EU wants to increase the management of space traffic, according to the bloc's responsible commissioner, as more and more players get involved in the area beyond the earth's atmosphere.

In an interview with Euronews, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, said that space traffic, which is largely made up of satellite constellations, needs to be managed and protected.

"Space is an area that is increasingly contested. It is a strategic area. It is an area that must be protected, that must be defended, also for us Europeans," Breton said.

"We saw it recently with what happened during the Russian satellite launch which left debris everywhere and which could jeopardise our own constellations, our own sovereign constellations, and I think, in particular, about those [constellations] which are so useful for our daily life, like Galileo and Copernicus."

The commissioner was speaking at the 14th European Space Conference in Brussels on Tuesday, where he said that Brussels is looking to maintain and strengthen its place in space.

According to Florence Parly, France's minister of the armed forces, some rivals are trying to prevent this from happening, including Russia.

Despite this, dozens of satellites are sent into space every year, meaning that management of space traffic is a major issue since the risk of satellite collisions is gradually increasing.

Josef Aschbacher, director general at the European Space Agency, said that the loss of a satellite would have serious consequences on Earth.

"Just imagine that satellites would be switched off for one day. That would be a disaster. The weather forecast would be very bad...ok...one can say we can live with rain and sunshine, but it has a huge implication on the economy," Aschbacher told Euronews.

"The weather forecast from space contributes €61 billion in economic benefits to the European economy. So, enormous economic impacts on the weather forecast. Navigation - if you switch off navigation satellites, of course, navigation doesn't work anymore. Telecommunication, stockmarkets - everything is dependent on satellites today. So, yes we're absolutely dependent already and this dependence will increase in the future."

To respond to this risk and to ensure the security of the EU, the European Commission will present a proposal for the management of space traffic next month.