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Greece Creates Space Agency in Bid for Economic and Strategic Benefits

Hellenic Space Agency President Tom Krimigis, Minister for Digital Policy Nikos Pappas, and General Secretary for Telecommunications and Post Vassilis Maglaras, at the launch of the new Greek space agency. Photograph courtesy of Neo Kosmos.

The Greek space agency – known formally as the Hellenic Space Agency – was officially announced on Monday, 19 March, 2018, in Athens by the Greek Minister for Digital Policy and Media, Nikos Pappas, and the General Secretary of Telecommunications and Post, Vassilis Maglaras.

Speaking at the launch event, Nikos Pappas justified the creation of the HSA, saying that, “investment in space technology is a international industry with an turnover of 200 billion euros per year, while according to the European Space Agency’s latest report, space shows a return on investment ratio of 1 to 7, one of the largest in any industry.”

As reported in 2017 by SpaceWatch Middle East, the Greek government came under heavy criticism for floating the idea of creating a national space agency given the austerity and weak economic conditions that Greece has endured after its economic collapse several years ago. While economic conditions have improved recently, few in among the Greek media and public are seemingly convinced of the economic benefits of government investments in satellite technology, with much of the criticism assuming that such spending will be on space exploration.

“The Greek Space Agency is committed to promoting scientific advancement in space technologies, via collaboration with local and international industry and academia, while ensuring the realization of economic, industrial and social benefits for Greece,” according to a statement issued on the HSA’s website, seemingly crafted to assuage this criticism.

At the launch event Nikos Pappas and Vassilis Maglaras announced that the chairman of the new agency is to be Dr. Stamatios “Tom” Krimigis, previously the head of the Space Department at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where his work involved a close association with the American civil space programme run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“Our vision is the strengthening of Greece’s competitiveness in both the public and private sector,” said Dr. Krimigis, again reiterating the political aim of the Greek government to generate jobs and direct economic returns through the space programme.

Greece has been involved in space research since 1955 with the establishment of its Institute for Space Applications and Remote Sensing, but the country has primarily been noted in the space field for its prominent scientists and engineers who have worked in space programmes and satellite companies abroad. In 2001, the satellite communications company, Hellas Sat, was created – now a subsidiary of Arabsat – and its latest satellite, HellasSat-3 was launched in 2017. In 2004, Greece joined the European Space Agency (ESA).

As well as tapping into the economic potential of space and Greek scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, the creation of a national space agency should also allow it to advance and protect its strategic and economic interests in the Balkans, the Black Sea region, and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, all locations of intense geopolitical and geoeconomic competition, including in Earth orbit, among regional and great powers.

“The establishment and operation of the Hellenic Space Organisation will be one of the most dynamic features of our course towards the modern digital economy of the future,” the Greek General Secretary of Telecommunications and Post, Vassilis Maglaras, said, referencing the Greek government’s strategy to bring Greece out of its serious economic difficulties.

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