The first EU-SA summit in 2008 identified space as one of the areas for enhanced future bilateral cooperation and in January 2009 the annual EU-SA Dialogue on Space Cooperation was launched. The dialogue involves the EU's Directorate-General for Enterprise (DG ENTR), the SA Department of Science and Technology (DST), the European Space Agency (ESA) and from 2011, the SA National Space Agency (SANSA). It aims at deepening earth observation partnerships for sustainable growth and development, developing cooperation on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), strengthening space research cooperation, and conducting regular exchanges on space policy.
The priority areas of the dialogue include:
- the development of ground segments for European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Galileo Ground Station both to become operational in 2014;
- the extension of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) coverage in Southern Africa;
- a data exchange on earth observations, focusing on water monitoring and management and space-based observations for managing malaria.
The EU and SA are also determined to enhance cooperation in space research in the context of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). Since October 2011, South African researchers have participated in eight space-related projects receiving a total of €1.28 million in funding from the European Commission.
The EU and SA are also committed to continued cooperation within multilateral frameworks such as the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). Both sides will continue to specifically support the GMES Africa initiative.
In addition, SANSA and ESA plan to develop institutional cooperation, with a potential focus on earth observation research and applications, ground support to space missions, space science research projects, space weather, science advancement and outreach programmes.
Research cooperation is vibrant between the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and South African institutions on specific topics including desertification, soil mapping, water management, crop monitoring and agriculture statistics, land-cover changes, biodiversity, and the production and validation of remote sensing parameters. The potential for research cooperation on climate change and space weather will also be explored.