According to Raymond Johnston, the Czech Republic has become a key country in the European Union’s growing space research. Since May 12, 2021, the new European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) has been based in Prague, the Czech capital. The importance of the new agency will continue to grow as space-related technology increasingly becomes a part of everyday life.
The decision to place the new center in Prague was in part due to the Czech government’s investments into the Czech aerospace sector, which proved the country was ready to become a major player in the high-tech field.
“More and more, our economies, our society, and our safety depend on space. Europe has incredible opportunities ahead that cannot be missed. By creating EUSPA, the European Union will further increase the return on investment made by the EU citizen in the EU Space Programme by strengthening its contribution to the priorities of the Union,” EUSPA Executive Director Rodrigo da Costa said when the agency opened.
“We will achieve this primarily by leveraging synergies between the various programme components, particularly navigation, Earth observation, and secure communications, to drive innovation across a broad range of sectors,” he added.
Entering the space race
Placing the new agency here was not a decision made out of the blue. It was the culmination of years of effort from partners on the Czech side to work with the European Union.
A negotiating team that included Vladimír Remek, the first Czech cosmonaut to go into space helped to bring the European GNSS Agency (GSA) to Prague from Brussels in 2012. The Czech team had to convince France and Britain, then the leaders in space research in the EU, that Prague had suitable facilities as well as promising space projects from Czech companies.
GSA was responsible for overseeing the Galileo navigation satellite system, which was created by the EU with the help of ESA. Galileo competes with America’s GPS, Russia’s Glonass, and China’s Bei Dou navigation systems.
Aerospace and IT boost
EUSPA essentially expands on GSA, so placing it in Prague, where GSA was already located made logical sense. In addition to taking over GSA’s role of managing Galileo and related navigation services, EUSPA also coordinates other satellite systems and related projects. It is responsible for 26 satellites in orbit. Two more will be launched at the end of 2021 and four over the course of next year. Their task will be to improve the Galileo navigation system.
It manages the EGNOS navigation system, used at airports. The system improves the accuracy of existing navigation systems and assists with landings. EGNOS also supports farmers, who can use satellite imagery to check on their crops and adjust the use of fertilizers and chemicals.
EUSPA is now taking over the new European Copernicus project for remote Earth observation. It monitors natural disasters, security crises, and the construction of infrastructure. The agency also newly manages the GOVSATCOM platform intended for secure satellite communication.
EUSPA actively collaborates with all the startups, which it motivates to use the Copernicus, EGNOS, and Galileo systems, so IT sphere in the Czech Republic also received a huge motivation to grow, to learn IT and to use more resources of existing data centers.