Press Releases Speech by President von der Leyen at the inauguration of the Esrange Spaceport

Speech by President von der Leyen at the inauguration of the Esrange Spaceport

Prime Minister,

Your Majesty,

Colleagues from the College,

Dear Ministers,

Distinguished guests,

President of the Swedish Space Corporation,

Director-General of the European Space Agency,

I am delighted to be here with you today to join this inauguration. It is a big moment. It is a big moment for Europe. It is a big moment for Europe’s space industry. The first orbital launch site on European mainland. This spaceport offers an independent European gateway to space. It is exactly the infrastructure we need, not only to continue to innovate but also to further explore the final frontier. I was fascinated to listen to the scientists who introduced us to the different topics and possibilities that are here.

The important work you have been doing here for many years is a shining example of the enormous potential of space-based research to indeed improve our daily life. Galileo, Copernicus, the new IRIS system have been cited a lot today. And if you look at the green transition for example – one of the topics we have been discussing here –, climate change: If we want to efficiently track the effects of climate change, space provides 60% of the measurements we need. Just look from space and you have the majority of data that you need to understand what is going on. Or take civil protection or traffic management. I will never forget the help we got from Copernicus amidst the pandemic, when we had to establish our green lanes to manage at best in a very critical situation. It was Copernicus which helped us and gave us the data that were necessary on a daily basis to really make crucial decisions.

This leading-edge spaceport gives Europe the capabilities to address this growing demand. The benefits of small satellites, that can be launched from here, are immense. We have just heard that it is important to launch theses satellites over and over, to have the reusability, to test them. And I was thrilled to hear that what is necessary is not so much the investment – yes, this is also necessary – but it is the political will. So I say it to my audience: Let us take this as a strong message to show the political will.

I have spoken about climate mitigation, but adaptation is equally important. For example, we can track natural disasters in real time. We will never forget and we have all seen the terrible droughts, floods and forest fires. And yes, they are horrible, but you have to act instantly. And more eyes in the sky are then crucial to help save lives, in Europe and around the world.

Small satellites, as we have heard, are also of importance for our security. Today, we know that the brave Ukrainian forces effectively use small satellites to track the movements of Russian troops. Because of this growing importance overall, along with many topics that I could not touch upon today, the Commission will make a proposal for an EU space strategy for security and defence. The aim is to improve the resilience of the European space infrastructure and strengthen our shared European capabilities.

Finally, we are working tirelessly to change the way we ‘do space’ in Europe. This means encouraging the involvement of SMEs and start-ups in EU flagship initiatives. There is a lot to do, we need you. For example, the Copernicus Dynamic Purchasing System. It also means promoting access to finance for space entrepreneurs in Europe. There are so many good reasons why we need to accelerate the European space programme. You show us the shining example for it today. I would like to thank everyone involved in this project. Europe has its foothold in space, and we will keep it.

Thank you very much.

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