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Space Research Road-mapping and Planning for Europe

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A wider horizon in space exploration

Outer space has provided new exploration frontiers for humanity since the 1950s. An EU-funded initiative has recently offered the first independent, international roadmap on key areas of future human and science exploration.

Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies
Fundamental Research icon Fundamental Research
Space icon Space

The current desire to explore space is stronger than ever. Past space powers are joined by a flurry of new countries eager to demonstrate their technologies and contribute to a continuously increasing body of knowledge. Commercial endeavours also have eyes on space. Lack of coordination among the European Space Agency (ESA) or national space agencies has resulted in space missions being duplicated and not benefitting from technological developments in other parts of Europe. Moreover, academia and small to medium-sized enterprises are underrepresented in technology road-mapping. The EU-funded project SPACEPLAN 2020 (Space research road-mapping and planning for Europe) was initiated to identify key developments that will be of importance in the near future. A bottom-up approach was adopted for the assessment of guidance, navigation and control technologies as well as robotics. In-person workshops brought together academic centres of excellence, industry, government and funding bodies to assess different technological developments in terms of meeting growing needs. The findings were presented in the form of white papers and a roadmap. The SPACEPLAN 2020 roadmap is intended to serve as a basis for future activities, engaging the wider community as well as policy makers in assessing the potential social and economic benefit of space exploration. It was the consortium’s plan to indicate trends that deserve further debate and in-depth analysis. To realise sustainable programmes of space exploration and utilisation, a suite of transformational system concepts need be developed in the coming decade. The technical objectives pursued should be drawn from a broad, forward-looking view of supporting technologies, but must be sufficiently focused to allow tangible progress. SPACEPLAN 2020 cannot compare with ESA’s and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) harmonisation programmes. However, a small and yet valuable contribution has been achieved to roadmapping critical technologies and space applications for Europe. Importantly, a core part of the recommendations for launch vehicles has been harmonised with ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme that began in 2001, while others are defined to feed into the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.


Space exploration, space mission, SPACEPLAN 2020, technological development, roadmap

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