The Space Congress brings together nearly 600 professionals from the sector with their sights set on the next ministerial meeting of the ESA

5th November 2019

The successful first edition of this congress promoted by TEDAE highlights the strategic nature of the sector in Spain as well as its contribution to societal progress

On 9-10 October, Madrid hosted the first edition of the Space Congress which brought together nearly 600 professionals and researchers from the Spanish and European space sectors, featuring world-class presenters, to debate the future challenges of domestic and European space activity.

The congress is an important event for the Spanish space industry in anticipation of the European Space Agency's ministerial meeting set to be held in November in Seville. The event highlighted the consolidation in the sector as a driver for the economy and innovation in Spain, as well as its strategic position in matters of national defence, profiling the goals and challenges that the sector will face in the future.

Organised by TEDAE (the Spanish Association of Technological Companies for Defence, Security, Aeronautics, and Space), the opening ceremony of the event was led by Eugenia Carballedo, the delegate of the Madrid Regional Council. Ms Carballedo highlighted "Madrid's commitment and special relationship with space activities since the very beginnings. Madrid currently hosts important space facilities such as ESAC, the EGNOS and Galileo control centres, the NASA installations in Robledo de Chavela, and the EU satellite centres", among others. Ms Carballedo added that "the Community of Madrid has the third largest aerospace presence in terms of surface area in Europe after Toulouse in France and Hamburg in Germany". For his part, Jaime de Rábago, the president of TEDAE, claimed that "space activity provides technology at the limits of knowledge, high-quality employment, economic growth, international prestige, and practical and effective solution to many of the challenges modern society faces. These issues help to better understand the need to truly promote the Spanish space sector".

The speakers

The first presentation at the congress -Spain and Space, a success story- was given by Rafael Rodrigo, Secretary General of the Coordination of Scientific Policy at the Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities, in which he explained how Spain's participation in the biggest space missions has evolved in recent decades. "Over the last 20 years, Spain has gone from not participating at all in the space sector to boasting a noteworthy presence, both in instrumentation as well as in navigation and communications", he summarised. Likewise, Mr Rodrigo highlighted the fact that Spain is one of the few countries that has its own satellite operators, Hispasat and Hisdesat. The successful advances in the Spanish space sector are due in part to Spain's participation in the ESA and the collaboration between sectors, as he mentioned. "If Spain were not a member of the ESA, it would not have accomplished all this, but the ESA would not have gotten to where it is without Spain", Mr Rodrigo noted.

Furthermore, ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner informed the audience during his presentation -Towards Space19+- of the European Space Agency's objectives for the upcoming ministerial conference, which will be held in Seville in November, as well as the programmes and missions the ESA will conduct in the next few years. The Director General highlighted that the Spanish industry is very strong in certain fields and participates in all the programmes led by ESA "and I'm certain that its role will increase in the future", he stated. Mr Wörner also agreed on the importance of understanding the past "to prepare for the future" and on strengthening the European space sector to face the challenges that will arise in upcoming years. He even listed the idea of returning to the Moon and establishing a permanent base there, as well as travelling to Mars, a project which is further off in the future.

Carlos des Dorides, Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency (GSA), spoke of Galileo, the European navigation system which, unlike other systems, "is the only civil system". He stressed that "although it has an encrypted signal and serves users from the defence sector, the system still remains focused on civil matters".

Finally, Javier Ponce, the General Director of the CDTI, stated that "in recent years the economy that encompasses the space sector has grown at almost twice the general rate, reinvesting more than 10% of its turnover in R+D, creating 4,000 direct jobs with its activities". Ponce highlighted that on this stage "it's important to integrate the space sector better into the economy and society. It's impossible to think of an economic activity today that does not use data provided by the space industry".

Round table discussions

The discussion on Space exploration: from the solar system to the confines of the cosmos was moderated by Diego Rodríguez, Director General of Business Development at SENER Aeroespacial. The discussion highlighted how Spain has an important role in the biggest projects and missions to explore the universe. This role has been growing over the years, seeing Spain has reach the same level as other countries, with important contributions to missions like the Rosetta probe and the Cheops space observatory, which was built in Spain. The speakers went over some of the future international projects of the ESA, NASA, and other agencies, like the upcoming space station close to the Moon, which could be the intermediate base for an expedition to Mars.

The interest in the planet and geospatial information as a fundamental source to understand what is happening on Earth were the topics of debate in the Observing Earth: caring for the planet from space, moderated by Eduardo Bellido, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain. Knowing what happens and where allows us to adopt measures to correct problems like water or land pollution, achieve more sustainable cities, and protect different ecosystems. The centrepiece of Europe's contribution to these missions is Copernicus programme with its Sentinel satellites, which provide highly valuable results for the scientific community. The METEOSAT programme has also contributed to improved weather forecasting and is proving to be very useful for climate research.

HISPASAT had its turn in the next round table discussion, Satellites, the key for extending connectivity and development, moderated by the technical and operations director of HISPASAT, Antonio Abad. The speakers highlighted that satellites are a key element to bring connectivity to less densely populated areas. They are the only telecommunications infrastructure that ensures universal access to the Information Society regardless of geographic location. Satellites thus contribute to bridging the digital divide and extending communications to places or situations that would not otherwise have them, as happens in the sea, air, moving vehicles, and emergency situations. Satellites are also essential in the IoT (Internet of things), often times connecting machines that are located in non-urban areas. This has been seen with precision agriculture, as most farms are in the countryside and need to rely on satellites to implement the sensor systems and to be able to transmit the data they collect. The round table discussion also debated the infrastructures that will complement geostationary satellites in the future to provide better connectivity service in each case. These will form hybrid networks which combine the LEO and MEO satellites and high-altitude platforms (HAPs) like balloons and drones, transparently complementing land-based networks in an imperceptible manner for end users.

The participants in the round table discussion moderated by María José Rallo del Olmo, Secretary General of Transport, on Satellite Navigation: the great revolution, highlighted the importance that satellite positioning has acquired in recent years. Billions of devices use the navigation systems today and the number of applications continues to grow. The Galileo programme, the flagship of the European Union space programme, was the centre of the debate due to its great potential for industrial and economic development and the high-quality services that it will offer when the constellation is completed in upcoming years. The system will provide even greater reliability than today's GPS devices and will become a fundamental element for the development of autonomous driving, with real-time high-precision solutions. The programme will also provide services for aerial navigation and other sectors, like the financial, civil engineering, agricultural, and fishery sectors, among others.

According to the participants in the round table discussion Space, another field in defence, satellites provide essential capacities in matters of defence such as vision, positioning, and communications. Therefore, their role is vastly important today in resource planning and management, as well as for greater oversight and control. The debate, moderated by General Carlos de Salas, director of C4ISR and Space Systems of the Directorate General of Armament and Material of the Ministry of Defence, highlighted how satellites serve to save civilian and military lives. The general also stressed the need to create an Aerospace Defence and Control speciality in the Armed Forces, which are already implementing the Space Oversight Operations Centre to control the security of assets in orbit.

Lastly, in the round table discussion on The Future of Space, moderated by Juan Carlos Cortés, director of Space, Large Installations and Dual Programmes at the CDTI, the speakers offered a vision of the space sector's possible role in society in 2030-2040, placing special emphasis on its instrumental function in improving the quality of life for citizens and meeting the sustainable development objectives and goals set by the UN. They also talked about Spain's possible leadership in the sector and the technological advances that will be necessary to achieve the goal. Special emphasis was also placed on the need to position Spanish industry in the large space programmes of the future and, in this sense, debate was held on the importance of creating a Spanish space agency that unifies the tasks currently spread out across different State institutions, which complicates coordination and decision-making. This agency could be the entity that unites opinions from our country’s industrial and national defence sectors in all international forums.

Presentation of the Sector-Wide Agenda for the Spanish Space Industry

Also as part of the Congress, the Spanish Space Industry presented its Sector-Wide Agenda drafted by the TEDAE Space Commission, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and with the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.

In his presentation, Raúl Blanco, the Secretary General of Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism highlighted that "the space sector is especially important in two aspects: due to the effects it produces on the economy and society and due to its technological factors that enable many other activities". "We face many challenges, but we have also multiple capabilities in recent years. The long-term effort and work carried out by the public authorities must lead us to greater development in the sector in Spain", he stated.

Together with Mr Blanco, Jaime de Rábago, the president of TEDAE, added that "this Sector-Wide Agenda of the Spanish Space Industry has come at just the right time. The Spanish space sector has many interesting opportunities ahead of it that we need to take advantage of. The analysis and action measures included in this Agenda are going to be essential to implement it. The space companies in TEDAE are excited because this will allow them to reveal the true potential of our industrial sector and will power the entire Spanish space community".

Jaime de Rábago also noted that the space sector in the Spanish industry earned 867 million Euro in revenue in 2018, 83% of which was due to export contracts. The president of TEDAE likewise added that the space sector "is a powerful technological and economic engine for scientific advances that also plays a more decisive role every day in other sectors like transport, energy, defence, security, the environment, leisure, and communications".

The congress was sponsored by TEDAE (the Spanish Association of Defence, Security, Aeronautics, and Space Technologies) with the collaboration of the Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), the National Geographic Institute, and the Ministry of Defence as the organising entities. The event also featured the participation of the European Space Agency (ESA), the Engineering Institute of Spain, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), Enaire, and the Spanish Enterprise Institute.