Baltic countries planning space cooperation

Pan-Baltic space cooperation meeting.
Pan-Baltic space cooperation meeting. Source: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communnications.

Representatives of all three Baltic States met in Tallinn this week, to discuss Baltic space cooperation.

All three countries are in full cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and contribute to its programs, but say that in a rapidly developing field, joint projects in space tech and business would benefit all players.

Paul Liias, head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications' space department, says Estonia has proven itself as a reliable partner in space sector, adding cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania could further increase the prominence of the region.

Liias said: "Both Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania cooperate with the ESA and contribute to selection programs there, but so far the mutual exchange of information and experience has remained modest."

"At the same time, from the perspective of the space sector at least, we are similar countries with similar challenges, and all parties would benefit from the implementation of joint projects," he went on.

Satellite data in environmental monitoring, crisis management and ensuring security were examples of potential here, he said.

Madis Võõras, head of the Estonian space office, which falls under the Enterprise Estonia/KredEx joint remit, says the closer cooperation is needed, and useful, as the economies of scale would ensure a greater breakthrough in the rapidly developing field.

Võõras said: "Who else is better to cooperate with than our friendly neighbors. Estonia can share experiences both from the point of view of the digital state and cyber security, and can also offer cooperation with our high-level technology sector."

"Latvia meanwhile has potential in the field of space communication and quantum communication, Lithuania, for example, has strength in the field of manufacturing lasers and small satellites," Võõras went on. 

In relation to the ESA, Estonia has come the furthest of the three countries, having been a member since 2015. Latvia and Lithuania received associate member status in 2021.

Membership of ESA provides private sector firms in the three Baltic countries with completely new opportunities for joint projects, which could be carried out in cooperation with the ESA.

More concretely, the development of an earth-based online platform using remote sensing data is already on the table, which would benefit both private sector and state institutions. In addition, the cooperation of the three countries in the field of space will help to create synergy and to promote new ideas both between the private sector and academia. A good example here is the development of student-constructed satellites in Estonia, projects which incubators from Latvian universities have actively participated in also. 

The meeting also saw the drawing up of a Baltic space manifesto, which will lay the foundation for strengthening cooperation and exchange of expertise between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the field of space policy, space data and services, satellites, space science and space-related youth and education programs.

Estonia launched its first ever satellite, ESTCube-1, a decade ago, while Maris Tali made the shortlist for the ESA's next cadre of trainee astronauts, late last year. Additionally, woman astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, who headed for the International Space Station in October last year, aboard the Elon Musk-founded SpaceX rocket, has Estonian roots,


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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