The new EU Agency for the Space Program (EUSPA) will be based in the Czech Republic starting in January 2021. The agency will be created by expanding the GNSS Agency (GSA), which has been managing the EU’s Galileo satellite system in Prague for seven years. The agency staff will increase from the current 100 to around 700 people.
In addition to the development of Galileo operations, the Czech Republic will manage the use of the Copernicus Earth observation satellite system, prepare the Governmental Satellite Communications (Govsatcom) program, and concentrate EU capacities to monitor the Earth’s near surroundings. This year, the EU has proposed to increase its space program budget by 30 percent to €16 billion in the next seven-year budget period.
The expansion fits in with the Czech Ministry of Transport’s National Space Plan and the objectives that the Czech Republic has in space activities. “Space activities such as satellite systems, launchers, space technology and applications are of key importance to many industries today — transport, logistics, agriculture, energy and more. If we do not want to ‘miss the train’ and want to be in touch with European and global trends, we, as the Czech Republic, have to focus on this sector to a much wider extent, just like other developed European countries,” the ministry said in a press release.
In 2020, the Czech Republic will invest 1.205 billion CZK a year in space activities, which is 275 million CZK more than before. “We support space activities with high added value and economic, strategic, security and scientific potential,” the ministry said, adding that the goal is to become a high-tech economy.The Czech Republic’s goal in the coming years is to further strengthen the Czech space industry, focusing on promising technologies and applications such as flexible solar panels for satellites, rocket parts, advanced materials, and use of satellite data in transport and agriculture.
The country wants to be able to prepare and manufacture more complex satellite systems or small satellites in the Czech Republic, and engage more in international cooperation and supply chains. GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides in a panel discussion in November commented on the economic impact of European space programs.
“According to our recent GNSS Market Report, the global downstream market revenue from both GNSS devices and services will grow from €150 billion in 2019 to €325 billion in 2029. These figures show us that space already plays a major role in the EU economy, creating opportunities for business and jobs for European citizens,” des Dorides said.
Around 50 companies participate in the space program in the Czech Republic. Space production includes rolling solar panels for satellites, an adapter for launching dozens of small satellites from the Vega launcher, optical systems, a new air traffic control system, satellite control software, and aluminum and titanium launcher parts for the Ariane 6 rocket.
The ESA Business Incubator Center (BIC) in Prague has helped over 20 other companies that typically use space technologies on Earth to develop in the Czech Republic. According to the Ministry of Transport, the return on space investment in the economy is more than eight-fold.