Being in space is not a whim, it is an obligation

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Poland has been a member of the European Space Agency since 2012. Polish companies have been actively cooperating in creating ESA missions for over 10 years. This year there was another breakthrough. Domestic companies, universities and institutes will be able to prepare their own experiment for the International Space Station.

Public opinion is increasingly less surprised by the fact that Poland has space ambitions. This sector of the economy is developing, and companies, scientific institutes, universities and the administration see enormous scope for development in space.

Poland has been a member of the European Space Agency since 2012. Just two years after being incorporated into the ESA structure, the Sejm passed an act establishing the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), which is the executive body of the Polish government, reporting to the minister responsible for economy. Currently, it is the Ministry of Development and Technology headed by Minister Waldemar Buda.

In 2017, the Parliament adopted the Polish Space Strategy, which sets the directions for further operation in the sector. However, a lot has happened since then.

As part of the agreement signed on August 4 this year. Poland will carry out a technological and scientific mission to the International Space Station. A Polish astronaut will also fly to the laboratory orbiting the Earth, along with Polish experiments. The name has not been finally confirmed yet, but it is almost certain that it will be Dr. Sławosz Uznański.

In turn, on August 29, 2023, the Minister of Development and Technology Waldemar Buda and the Director General of ESA, Josef Aschbacher, signed an agreement on internships at ESA for Polish graduates and an agreement on technological assistance for Polish companies.

– This is a historic moment. A certain sequence of events in recent weeks brings us to the place we really wanted to be. We have the ambition to participate in this race that is taking place today and to be leaders or co-participants in what is most important happening in space, said the Minister of Development and Technology, Waldemar Buda, during a press conference with the Director General of ESA.

– The space industry is already doing quite well today, there are over 400 companies in Poland operating in this industry. We would like those of them, which today are often still start-ups, to gain dynamics through contracts and cooperation with ESA. So that they can reach a higher level and participate in the creation of the highest technologies – added the head of the Ministry of Development and Technology.

Participation in programs created by the European Space Agency is also a huge opportunity for the development of Polish companies and, consequently, a driving force for a dynamically developing industry. Not only independent missions, but also participation in contracts are an opportunity to increase know-how, cooperate with leading market players abroad and exchange knowledge. Each of such contracts is an added value for the Polish economy, because the knowledge acquired from foreign partners returns to Polish companies and Polish universities.

In addition to material benefits, Polish companies and institutions are also gaining greater reputation and recognition on foreign markets, which naturally drives the possibility of further obtaining lucrative contracts.

Space is not the future, it is the present

Presence in space and participation in European Space Agency missions, as well as organizing our own missions, are not a vision of the future for Poland. Thanks to recent decisions, the first Polish astronaut in 45 years will fly into space. It will carry out experiments and projects of Polish universities, scientific institutes and the domestic space industry.

It is worth mentioning that what we call space technologies are actually services and products that most people use every day. Let’s start with the most obvious use of Earth observation: weather forecasts. Thanks to weather satellites, we know what to wear and whether to take an umbrella with us when leaving home. Similar, but even more advanced solutions are used in agriculture. Thanks to observations made from space, farmers know whether pests have appeared in their field and can also check the degree of soil hydration.

More and more sophisticated applications that use Earth observation are appearing on the market. For example, a service is under construction that will allow monitoring available parking spaces in Polish cities. Drivers will no longer have to waste time because they will know exactly where they can park.

A chance for economic development

The Polish space sector is doing very well, but public awareness in this area seems to be low. Few people know that our universities educate very talented graduates, and more and more companies take part in competitions and missions of the European Space Agency.

“Polish companies are particularly active in areas such as: robotics and automation, mechatronics, power systems for on-board devices, optical and communication systems for satellites, sensors and ground penetrators for space probes, and software testing systems and subsystems of objects launched into orbit,” we read on the POLSA website.

According to data from the Polish Space Agency, Polish companies have already earned over EUR 140 million from cooperation with ESA, most of which over the last decade. Domestic companies specialize not only in creating components for missions sent into space, but also in creating software and processing data coming from Earth’s orbit.

However, space technologies also have a much more tangible dimension. It’s hard to imagine what would happen if, for example, satellite navigation was turned off…

We should also remember about the extremely important use of space technologies, which has recently become crucial: Earth observation for intelligence and military purposes. It was thanks to the military satellites present in Earth orbit that we learned about the movements of Russian troops a few days before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Domination in space has become so important from a military point of view that a few years ago the United States Army created a new branch of the armed forces, the United States Space Force.

Polish companies and Polish scientists actively participate in many of the above-mentioned applications. Presence in space is necessary to develop industry, technology, medicine, but also agriculture. Space technologies are already present in almost every aspect of our lives. Participating in missions and developing this type of technology is not only an economic, but also a civilizational obligation.

Poland faces a choice – give up space research and let others overtake it, and in a few years be forced to buy modern technologies abroad or invest in its own research and thus ensure that the domestic industry can meet the needs of our economy.

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