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COVID-19 and the European Space Sector

The outbreak and worldwide spread of the COVID-19 crisis have already left a significant mark on 2020. Started as a public health crisis, a global economic and financial turmoil has followed with unprecedented consequences and unparalleled magnitude. The crisis has indeed profoundly affected the GDP and employment rate at global and regional levels, impacting many economic and industrial sectors. Europe is slowly rebooting most of its activities and resuming business-as-usual. However, there is a long road ahead: the crisis has imposed new practices concerning social distancing in the workplace; the health alert and contagion trends are still high in other regions of the world, continuing to profoundly influence global trade; furthermore, the sword of Damocles of a second wave still poses a serious threat to the recovery phase.

With regards to space, two aspects are particularly salient and worth taking into consideration: the use of space to monitor and respond to the crisis, and its impacts on the sector.

Space offers unique capabilities when it comes to the management of natural disasters as well as humanitarian crises; what is more, space-based services proved to be fully available and reliable during the public health crisis and are legitimately expected to provide relevant solutions to boost the economic recovery.

At the same time, as other sectors, the European space industry has been deeply affected by the crisis, because of the direct impacts of the lockdown measures but also by disruptions in the global supply chains. As a matter of fact, the space industry and business will likely continue to endure the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for some time.

The European institutions have been responsive to the outbreak of the crisis, taking measures to shelter and safeguard the continuity of business. Beyond these immediate measures, the crisis may also influence the space policy debate, bringing up and amplifying long-lasting discussions on critical issues, such as European autonomy, technological non-dependence, supply chain security and the overall European approach to space industrial policy.

The objective of this special report is neither to produce a comprehensive assessment of the usefulness of space nor to quantify the impacts on the sector, but rather to put together the socio-economic indicators available in the current context and to make an objective status of the situation of the European space sector in the immediate aftermath of the health crisis.

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