Europe’s rapidly growing space industry is pushing traditional airspace boundaries and challenging the current status quo. Approximately 17 sites are under development across Europe and North Africa to support commercial operations with Virgin Orbit planning its first departure from Spaceport Cornwall within 12 months, and predicting monthly departures within five years.
But space rockets are not the only new entrants needing to access Europe’s upper airspace. Stratospheric balloons up to 300 m in length and capable of staying aloft for months at a time provide connectivity and surveillance services; fixed wing solar-powered craft offer high-quality telecommunications; hypersonic passenger transport and military craft add new operational concepts; while airships provide disaster relief, cargo and passenger services. Ensuring these new platforms can safely use the airspace alongside manned aviation is the focus of the Integration of New Entrants into European ATM Network Operations (iNEO) project within the EUROCONTROL Network Manager Operations Directorate.
Dragos Tonea, iNEO Manager, says iNEO provides a “one-stop-shop” to manage all aspects including new entrants’ operational needs as well as interfacing with external partners and research programmes.