The Commission adopted the space strategy for Europe in October 2016. The Commission noted that ‘space technologies, data and services can support numerous EU policies and key political priorities’. The strategy clearly states the EU’s ambitions in space and asserts that space is becoming an increasing priority for the Union. The Commission proposed four strategic goals:
• Maximising the benefits of space for society and the EU economy. This includes support for the uptake of space services and data, especially from EU space programmes, by improving access to the data, launching enabling platform services and ensuring that EU legislation supports the uptake.
• Fostering a globally competitive and innovative European space sector. The Commission aims to support space research, skills development, entrepreneurship and new business activities. It plans to establish space-hubs between the space, digital and user sectors, to open up space to non-space industries.
• Reinforcing Europe’s autonomy in accessing and using space in a secure and safe environment. The Commission is committed to supporting and maintaining ‘autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space’. This includes support for launcher activities, access to radio frequency spectrum for space systems, protection and resilience of critical European space infrastructures, and synergies between civil and security space activities.
• Strengthening Europe’s role as a global actor and promoting international cooperation. The Commission expects the EU to take ‘a much stronger role on the world stage’.
If these priorities seem similar to those of previous communications (see Table 1), the Commission was more explicit about strategy regarding autonomy, support for launchers, and the defence dimension of space activities. The topic of space exploration was omitted, demonstrating that space strategy is centred on the actions and activities of the Union in space (exploration falls under the ESA remit).