Report: Making Germany’s Space Sector Fit for the Future: the Space Strategy of the German Federal Government (GFG 2010)

Source: German Federal Government


A paradigm shift has occurred within space: once a symbol of the technology race and a contest between opposing systems, it is now, in every sense, a part of our everyday lives and an essential instrument for the achievement of economic, scientific, political and social goals. Today space makes a vital contribution when it comes to promoting research and devel-opment, education and innovation, economic growth, providing highly qualified jobs, improving our quality of life, protecting the Earth, ensuring our security and defence and furthering international coopera-tion. Space activities, as the European Commission put it in its Europe 2020 communication, provide us with “the tools to address some of the key global chal-lenges”

In the last decade, the German space sector has achieved a number of significant successes. Each time an Ariane launcher lifts off from the launch pad, it does so with a substantial amount of vital hardware on board made in Germany. At the same time, German satellite technology enables us to see with greater clarity what is happening on Earth and in space, while Germany’s space scientists are among the very best the world has to offer. Today, Germany can lay claim to competitive industrial and research structures in the space domain.

Space activities form a central plank of the German Federal Government’s high-tech policy. In the framework of its High-Tech Initiative, the Federal Government has increased the amount it spends on space by approximately 10% per year. In addition to continuing our high level of contributions to ESA, the national space budget in particular has been substantially increased. The aim of promoting the continuing development of Germany’s technological skills, partly through the country’s unique strengths in specific areas, has enabled Germany, both within ESA and in other international cooperation, to assume leading positions as is the case in Earth observation, for exam-ple, or in the new field of laser communications.

As we enter a new decade, the German space sector is facing a fresh set of challenges:

  • International competition in space is set to in-crease. Leading spacefaring nations such as the United States, Russia, France and Japan will seek to defend their positions while, in addition, coun tries such as China, India and South Korea are driving ahead in specific areas, thereby bringing increased competition. Against this background, Germany’s space sector will be forced, more than ever, to focus on its key strengths of reliability, quality and price, and on those areas where technologically it has something unique to offer. In this respect, SMEs have, in addition to the large system integrators, an absolutely essential role to play.
  • At the same time, the environment in Europe with regard to space has changed dramatically. In addition to ESA, the EU too is now developing its own space policy initiatives, having obtained explicit powers in this area under the Lisbon Treaty. The current major projects, Galileo (for satellite navigation) and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) mark the start of EU involvement in the exploitation of space. In future, collaboration between ESA and the EU will require a clear division of roles and responsibilities.

President Obama’s announcement in spring 2010 on the reorientation of his country’s space activities and, in particular, the new US Space Policy point to a new set of priorities. In addition to, in future, stepping up the intensity of ISS exploitation, the United States will strengthen its civil space development activities through ambitious technology applications and unmanned robotic research. At the same time, the United States is calling for greater international cooperation with the aim of ensuring a safe, sustainable and peaceful exploitation of space. The new cooperative approach is wide-ranging and, with the exception of the launcher field, touches on all the important space science, technological and space policy themes. Europe should approach this as a constructive chal-lenge, both within joint projects as well as in competition among partners. Germany, with Europe’s second-biggest space sector, has the opportunity to contribute its specific strengths to this endeavour.

  • The dependence of many areas of our daily lives as well as governmental activities on space applications makes them a potential target of hostile governmental and non-governmental entities. As the number of spacefaring nations grows, it is also becoming increasingly clear that, for terrestrial applications, space merely appears endless, while in fact it is becoming ever more crowded This raises new questions in areas ranging from sustainability to the regulation of access and exploitation, protection of space systems, arms control and verification.
  • Both at home and abroad, new markets are opening up for space services. Private enterprise business models are growing in importance, especially in the United States, where for some time they have been advanced systematically as a means to fulfil governmental Earth observation data needs. In the future, these models will be extended to the procurement of launch services from US commercial providers, with the additional aim of making commercial US launch service providers more competitive in the global market. With the steady build-up of space capabilities in the emerging economies, competition is increasing in the global market for high technology in the space infrastructure field.

To meet these challenges, German space policy must focus even more strongly on its strategic objectives.

In his August 2009 report, the Federal Government coordinator for the German aerospace industry gave an assessment of Germany’s positioning with regard to space activities and made a number of recommendations concerning space policy. The space strategy follows on from those recommendations.

The Federal Government’s space strategy presents the plans and milestones already in place while also forming the basis for future German activities in space. In particular, it serves to facilitate coordination within the Federal Government and sets out guidelines for a consistent representation of the national interest across government departments and in the international sphere.

Space technologies and projects have long development cycles. Due notably to the decisions taken at the 2008 ESA ministerial conference, government funding for space in the next few years is largely tied up in ongoing projects and programmes. Our aim must be to begin setting out, as of now, the direction of travel for the period subsequent to that. The focus will not be on individual projects as such but, above all, on the general orientation and long-term strategic options, which must also form a central plank in the Federal Government’s ongoing high-tech strategy.

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