In the past two years, several key European stakeholders have started multiple initiatives and published multiple policy-related documents addressing STM, space safety and space sustainability.
November 2020 – The EU-ESA Space Council on ‘the European contribution in establishing key principles for the global space economy’ proposed all relevant actors to engage in a European dialogue together with the industry and academia and map the existing European regulatory framework in a dedicated European conference, in order to preserve and protect its public and private investments in space in a sustainable manner. 
February 2021 – Space Traffic Management (STM) was identified as one of the three flagship projects in the action plan, on synergies between civil, defence and space industries, which was communicated by the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the committee of the regions. The following has been stated about the flagship project ‘EU strategy for Space Traffic Management (STM)’- This flagship project will develop STM rules and standards, which are needed to circumvent collision events that may result from the exponential growth of satellites and space debris and could lead to catastrophic events for European assets in space.1 A dedicated European STM will also avoid the risk of non-EU rules or standards becoming the de facto norm, as this dependence would have an adverse effect on European efforts to achieve sovereignty in terms of technological advancements..’
In the same month, Feb 2021, Eurospace, the trade association of the European Space Industry with member companies that represent 90% of the total turnover of the European Space Industry, pointed out the two intertwined rationale for action required in regards to Space Traffic Management (STM) at European level: (1) Proliferation in the number of space objects around Earth’s orbit, (2) Some countries paving the way for a national STM regulation that will eventually have an impact on European actors and jeopardise European sovereignty.2 Based on these rationales, Eurospace pointed out that there may be potential consequences for the European space industry which will likely create a challenging environment for European actors. Eurospace further states that ‘the EU has an opportunity to seize to be at the forefront of the discussions on the topic of Space Traffic Management and provide the ground to protect key European space infrastructures and their associated services.’
July 2021 – Several key European stakeholders from the EU, ESA, European Commission and the European External Action Service met at the European Space Traffic Management (STM) Conference which took place during the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Several key topics relating to Space Traffic Management (STM) were discussed and debated during the conference including the importance of Space Traffic Management (STM) for Europe, the multi-dimensional aspects of STM such as regulatory, legal, policy, innovation, research, development of operational and legal elements; various actors and their inclusive involvement to contribute to a European approach to STM, and possible steps in the future in order to develop an EU roadmap to contribute to the European position on STM.
August 2021– ‘Towards a common EU approach on STM’, a consultation platform on STM was launched by the European Commission which included ESA, relevant EU agencies (EDA, EUSPA, EASA), Member states, EEAS, EU industry (including start-ups), EU standardisation bodies as well the EUSST Consortium. The European space industry orients itself with this approach and recommends the Commission use a similar approach of consolidating inputs from multiple commercial stakeholders when it sets up its future ‘process of consultation and discussion with relevant EU stakeholders’.
September 2021 – EMEA Satellite Operator Association (ESOA), which has now renamed itself as Global Satellite Operators’ Association (GSOA), published a report outlining ‘The growing interest in space and accelerating pace of launches in the recent years highlights the need for action to deal with space debris and collisions and to ensure safe and sustainable access to space for all’. The director of Government and Regulatory Affairs (UK & Europe) welcomed the report with an appreciation for the proactive position of the stakeholders from the industry and wants to work together to ensure the sustainability of space.
November 2021 – Due to the ever-growing number of space objects around Earth, as many as 87% of which are not actively controlled, the importance of monitoring and protecting European space assets cannot be debated. To develop technologies that will contribute to monitoring and protecting EU space assets, ESA proposed the ‘Protect Accelerator’ to help shape Europe’s future in space. With this, ESA aims to develop a new European commercial capacity to provide next-gen in-orbit services such as repairing, refuelling, and deorbiting satellites, thus helping to create a circular economy in space. ESA member states have acknowledged the idea and have given ESA DG the mandate to further explore various aspects of the implementation of the three accelerators.
Various commercial stakeholders such as Airbus, OneWeb, and Amazon among others were given the opportunity to provide input on the EU’s effort to develop a European strategy for sustainable space. Airbus calls on the immediate need to act on developing the highest global standards of sustainability for space activities, for the benefit of all. OneWeb commended the EUSST initiative and its important role in providing data to manage orbital risks, however, it urged coordination with international counterparts in order to develop a harmonised approach on STM.  Additionally, Amazon also stressed the importance of the availability of timely and actionable SSA data in order to ensure safe space operations and the importance of space vehicles operating at 400 km or more having manoeuvring capabilities to ensure long-term sustainability.
February 2022 – In light of the growing concern about the growing number of uncontrolled space objects and the sustainability of the space environment, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a joint communication ‘An EU Approach for Space Traffic Management’ The joint publication stated that the EU approach to STM will build on four avenues developed in parallel:
- Assessing the STM requirements and impacts on the EU:
The European Union requires a comprehensible understanding of the needs and the potential impact of STM developments on various European stakeholders, both public and private. To ensure fostering of cooperation between the different actors and authorities, a transparent and inclusive consultation mechanism is aimed to be established to understand the positions of the involved stakeholders, including the European Union space industry.
2. Upgrading EU operational capabilities to support Space Traffic Management (STM):
The EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) accounts for the operational pillar of the EU STM approach. The EU SST Consortium provides services, data and information related to the tracking and surveillance of space assets and objects in space orbiting the Earth. The cooperation model for EU SST is evolving and will be replaced by the EU SST Partnership in compliance with the regulation establishing the Union Space Programme (‘Space Regulation’). The current EU SST consortium of 7 member states will be expanded to a partnership constituting up to 15 member states of the EU. EU SST will evolve from a framework into a full-fledged programme as a part of the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) component of the new EU Space Programme and will expand its services to international users. The renewed EU SST consortium/partnership will also focus on developing its activities to prepare for future space safety services, in the domain of space debris mitigation and management. In order to enhance EU operational capabilities to support STM, the following measures have been outlined as crucial:
- Developing autonomous EU SST capabilities
- Improving and extending EU SST services
- Developing new technologies to tackle STM challenges
- Utilizing the EU industrial ecosystem to the most
3. Fostering the STM regulatory aspects:
The EU STM approach will encompass non-binding measures (guidelines and standards) as well as binding measures (legislations) at the European Union level. The European Commission outlines the following steps to foster the EU STM regulatory aspects:
- Monitor the development of STM guidelines and standards
- Develop and promote STM guidelines and standards
- Incentivise STM guidelines and standards
- Proceed towards STM obligations
4. Promoting the EU STM approach at an international level:
The EU STM approach aims to promote practical solutions toward a global STM by pairing existing European capabilities and tools with an overall goal for global cooperation. The following have been identified as ways to promote a global STM:
- promote a multilateral STM
- consolidate regional STM contributions to a global STM
- discuss and cooperate with the US
- organize dialogues with other non-European countries
March 2022 – European Union member states continue negotiating the Council Conclusions while the first draft of Council Conclusions on ‘an EU approach on space traffic management has been published.
In the same month, DG DEFIS organised a conference dedicated to ‘Building a common EU approach on STM’ which was hosted by MEP Marian Jean Marinescu. The conference brought together key stakeholders in regard to space traffic management and provided the opportunity to showcase key proposed actions. The conference took place in context to the STM pilot project launched by the European Parliament.
April 2022 – European Space Agency (ESA)’s new Space Safety Centre, a dedicated facility for the teams monitoring and responding to space weather was inaugurated. By observing space weather, ESA can actively mitigate the damage caused to active satellites, astronauts and terrestrial infrastructure such as power grids, power stations, etc. Space Safety Centre will also provide a dynamic environment to develop the next-generation space-weather observational capabilities, models and tools in close collaboration with other European public and private institutes.
In the same month, April 2022, Eurospace reacted to the joint communication by EC: an EU approach for Space Traffic Management. Eurospace, which represents the European space manufacturing industry, strongly supports the development of the EU approach on STM with capability and regulatory pillars. The measures to act on developing an EU STM approach are stated to be in line with the European space industry’s expectations, however, the proposed timeline to tackle the challenge is too lengthy and undervalues the urgency of the situation. Eurospace further believes that involving the European industry in the consultation mechanism for the definition of STM requirements is the key. Eurospace also acknowledged that work done in the frame of H2020 projects EUSTM and Spaceways are crucial inputs that the EU institutions can rely on. Going forward, Eurospace recommends that the EC should refrain from duplicating consultation mechanisms to ensure the timely emergence of a consensus and to speed up the implementation of concrete actions rather than the repetition of assessment studies. Eurospace also welcomes the development of a legal framework for STM at a European level, however, also states that the proposed deadlines of late 2023 might be too late to preserve European interests. Eurospace completely supports a proactive role for the EU in advancing its EU STM approach worldwide, which implies using agreed procedures and rules to its advantage and avoiding a potential loss of competitive edge on a global scale. In order to monitor and enforce a global STM regulation, Eurospace speculates if a potential enforcement solution such as establishing a central licensing authority for the use of outer space might help develop a common EU STM approach. On 26th April 2022, the inaugural event of the EU industry and start-up forum took place during which ‘DG DEFIS in collaboration with the European Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST) Consortium aimed to establish a forum to foster the innovation and competitiveness of the SSA’s commercial sector to achieve a higher level of strategic autonomy in Europe’
|This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004319.
This article reflects the author’s view and not necessarily the views of the European Commission or of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency
 The EU SST Consortium established by Decision 541/2014/EU is the entity delivering the EU SST services. It is composed of seven Member States, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
 Regulation (EU) 2021/696 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing the Union Space Programme and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme and repealing Regulations (EU) No 912/2010, (EU) No 1285/2013 and (EU) No 377/2014 and Decision No 541/2014/EU, OJ L 170, 12.5.2021, p. 69–148.