Out of this world: three things to know about Europe's space policy 

One of the sentinel satellites used to monitor Earth ©ESA 2016 

From conducting search and rescue operations to monitoring sea borders and the state of agricultural crops, it has all been made easier thanks to data from satellites. Europe's space initiatives are helping to create new opportunities for European companies as well as making it easier to protect people. On Tuesday MEPs discuss ways to make better use of these programmes. Read our glossary of terms related to the EU's space policy ahead of the debate.

The EU's competence in space was established by the Lisbon Treaty (Article 189 TFEU). The following initiatives are already being worked on:


Copernicus is the European system for observing our planet, keeping an eye on the atmosphere, climate change, emergencies and civil security. For example, it can monitor gas and oil pipelines from space to detect any threat or incident.

The data is collected through satellites known as Sentinels, which are run by the European Space Agency. The Copernicus budget for 2014-2020 is €4.3 billion.


Thee Namib Naukluft Park in western Namibia seen from space ©ESA 2016 

Galileo is Europe's own navigation satellite system. It starts operating by the end of this year and becomes fully operational by 2020, when it will consist of 30 satellites. It could be used for in-vehicle satnav and for location-based services, such as for smartphones.

It will be interoperable with the American GPS and the Russian GLONASS systems, but unlike them it will be under civilian control and is also expected to be more reliable and precise, within one metre.

The budget for 2014-2020 is €7 billion.


EGNOS stands for European Geostationary Naviation Overlay Service, which the accuracy of GPS to within two metres instead of the ten metres normally provided by GPS. It is Europe's first venture into satellite navigation.