Greece Pushes Ahead With Plans to Launch Communications Satellite

FILE, Photo: SpaceX via AP

ATHENS – Greece’s coalition government will send to Parliament a bill aimed at leading to the launch of space HELLAS SAT3.

Digital Policy, Media and Telecommunications Minister Nikos Pappas told an audience at the Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Athens that, “It is time to think about the country’s long-term course,” at the event Challenges and opportunities in the Space Sector: Education, Research, Technology, Applications, the Athens News Agency reported..

Pappas said the public consultation on the bill, which has been concluded, was widely accepted from a large section of the scientific and business world. He said the ministry is open to suggestions and ideas in “achieving the pursued objectives,” without explaining what that meant.

He said the satellite will contribute to the utilization of many applications in space science relating not only to defense and security but also to businesses and the daily lives of citizens without explaining what that meant either.

In March, the new head of the Athens National Observatory Professor Manolis Pleionis told ANA that Greece needs a space agency.

He said though that it should be preceded by a wide-ranging consultation process between the various ministries involved, with a coordinating committee answerable to the Prime Minister undertaking to promote the project.

In January, Pappas said he wanted to set up Greece’s first space agency but didn’t say how it would be funded during a crushing economic crisis.

The agency will be a public limited company called National Center for Space Applications (EKDE in Greek,) aimed at “making up for the country’s huge deficit in this area,” the ministry said, according to Kathimerini.

“The launch of the Hellas Sat satellite this year will create important commercial opportunities, which will be developed by a space policy agency along European lines,” the announcement said.

According to the ministry, EKDE will have the right to lease transponders that are not being used by the Greek state and will also act as an intermediary between Greek and international centers in the fields of commercial, scientific and military research.

The company will also be tasked with exploring space technology as a civil protection tool by developing applications for environmental monitoring, fire prevention and control, monitoring illegal construction, etc.

“Greece is one of the few European countries that does not have an organization for commercially and scientifically utilizing its rights or the plethora of research and scientific applications and resources available through the European Space Agency,” Pappas said when presenting the bill.

Pleionis also said there was a need for state support to fix a chronic shortage of specialised staff to cover the 24-hour shifts at the Geodynamic Institute monitoring earthquake activity, or the National Tsunami Centre, as well as a shortage of space at the existing facilities due to an ever-expanding range of activities.

He also noted that the Observatory’s services were not fully exploited by state services and other bodies while expressing support for the creation of spin-off companies by Observatory scientists in order to increase its revenues.

Pleionis said that the criticism levelled against the government for lowering standards at Greek universities were “excessive” and predicted that Greek scientists will gradually start to return from abroad thanks to the initiatives of the education ministry.

Professor Pleionis has been a professor of Observational Astronomy at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Physics Department since 2012. He carried out research for several years in Italy at the SISSA and ICTP centres and was a guest researcher at the INAOE research centre in Mexico from 2002-2015.

He was also a researcher, director of research and deputy director of the Athens Observatory from 1995-2012 with more than 200 papers on astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology published in scientific journals.