Air and Space Policy > Belgian Air and Space Policy

Belgian Space Policy: objectives

The exploitation of space - defined as the area surrounding the Earth above the upper strata of the atmosphere (200 km) - comprises four main aspects:

  • Scientific: space is an advantageous point from which to observe the Earth and the Universe, and the weightlessness in space is useful for experiments within a whole series of scientific disciplines. It therefore allows considerable progress to be made in Man's knowledge;
  • Public: space allows global monitoring of the environment and a considerable extension of general-interest services such as meteorology, telecommunications, prevention of natural risks, harvest monitoring and navigational aids for land, sea and air transport;
  • Industrial: space offers industries an opportunity to develop the most advanced technologies in a wide range of fields (electronics, computers, automatic systems, materials, aerodynamics, etc.) and to initiate themselves in the integrated management of complex systems. The skills acquired in these fields can then often be transposed to non-space applications;
  • Commercial: space has gradually become a market, now a rapidly expanding one. Its products - launchers, satellites, ground equipment, satellite pictures, telecommunications, broadcasting and multimedia services - can all now be negotiated.

Thirty years ago, when Belgium decided to back up the efforts by its scientists and companies to find a place in space research and space applications, it opted straight away for integration into a European framework, thus ruling out the idea, deemed to be too ambitious, of creating a national space agency and setting up an exclusively national programme. However, the country was aware that it was placing a long-term wager on the growth of a sector totally or largely dependent on public funds to finance research and development.

Since those days, management of Belgium's participation in European Space has been entrusted to the government department responsible for national science policy. Belgium played an active part in the creation of the European Space Agency and the pursuit of its main objective: making Europe sufficiently independent in access to space to preserve its sovereignty and essential scientific and economic interests.

Our country was involved in all the main decisions leading to the development of the series of Ariane launchers and the Spacelab space laboratory, the start-up of a major European space science programme and the principle of cooperation with North America and Japan in the construction of a common scientific infrastructure in orbit, the International Space Station. .

When, back in the sixties, it joined in a strategy allowing Europe to assert itself as a major player in the use of space, Belgium set itself the following objectives:

  • demonstrating its solidarity with its partners in the pursuit of a grand design favouring European integration;
  • offering its scientists the opportunity of observation and experimentation in orbit in order to broaden the scope of their research and enable them to participate in the design of complex instruments;
  • helping its companies to diversify into space markets, firstly by becoming involved in the creation of orbital infrastructures and means for access to space and then, more recently, in the development of space applications (such as telecommunications) and the services related to these applications.

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