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Belgium to get interfederal space agency

13:00 29/11/2016

The federal council of ministers has approved a new Interfederal Space Agency of Belgium (Isab), which will unite all federal funding and staff concerning space activities. All three regions will be involved in the federal agency, which the government hopes will make decision-making processes more flexible and improve co-operation.

According to state secretary for science policy Elke Sleurs, communications is becoming increasingly important in the space sector, with the evolution of communication, navigation and observation satellites. As the regions are responsible for most of these matters, the federal structure should adapt, she said, to ensure at least a structural dialogue between them.

The new agency, to become operational next year, should also prevent the Belgian space industry from losing important contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA), now that the EU has more space authority. Since the EU generally allocates contracts to the lowest bidder, Sleurs was concerned, she said, that the large industrial contracts – including the subcontracts that the ESA has traditionally allocated to smaller players – would go to the bigger countries.

“We need a different approach and mentality,” said Sleurs in a statement. “Isab ensures the future of the Belgian space sector.”

The local space sector consists of about 60 companies employing some 2,000 people, with a total annual turnover of €350 million.

Written by Andy Furniere