Czech Space Week draws attention to Czechia’s growing space industry

Prague is currently hosting the fifth edition of the annual Czech Space Week festival, which features a wide range of events for experts in the field, as well as for related businesses and the wider public. The launch of the festival was accompanied by a government announcement that Czechia will increase its contribution into European Space Agency (ESA) programmes, a move that should also help domestic companies that are active in the space sector.

The space business has become less of a curiosity and more of a serious topic of conversation in Czechia in recent years. The country, whose capital houses the headquarters of the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), has a growing range of businesses and start-ups that specialise in manufacturing important components for rockets and satellites.

Martin Kupka | Photo: Czech Space Week

A sign of this also being a strategically valued sector by the state was the announcement by Transport Minister Martin Kupka on Monday that Czechia would be raising its contribution into the programmes of the European Space Agency to EUR 62 million, around EUR 2.5 million more than was previously the case.

“This also means a further strengthening of related activities taking place in Czechia because this money, through the associated projects, is going to specific Czech companies. For example, in previous years this helped us to take part in building the components of the Ariana Vega carrier rocket.”

Mr Kupka’s statement was made at a press conference inaugurating Czech Space Week, an annual event one of whose primary functions is to provide a platform for related companies to network and present themselves.

Prague’s Congress Centre  | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio

Prague’s Congress Centre functioned as the primary venue for this purpose at the beginning of this week. It hosted a special Space2Business programme that included a space expo, a conference on boosting Europe’s space businesses, a start-up competition and a special brokerage session for companies to network.

The middle of this week is set to see discussions on the strategic relevance of space. The importance of this emerging security sphere, which was designated as a separate domain by NATO three years ago, was highlighted by the head of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS), Timo Pesonen. Speaking in Prague on Monday, he said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year can be seen as a “game changer” event.

Timo Pesonen | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“We have seen what Russia is capable of doing and that’s why we are working together with our member states on a space defence strategy to protect our space assets. Not only on physically protecting our satellites and constellations but also the data that we get from there, which is why cyber security is of outmost importance.”

Aside from an expert forum focused around the question of defending European interests in space, there will also be a two-day seminar exploring the potential for space-related collaboration between the EU and states in the Indo-Pacific region.

Prague’s planetarium in Stromovka Park | Photo: Radio Prague International

Meanwhile, cosmic education and research topics are set to be addressed by members of Czechia’s and Europe’s academic sphere at a roundtable event in Brno’s picturesque observatory and planetarium. University and high school students will also have an opportunity to provide input via a mini-conference taking place in Prague’s planetarium in Stromovka Park on Friday.

Czech Space Week naturally also offers many opportunity for the wider public to learn more about topics related to the cosmos. Aside from a wide range of public debates, this year also saw events focused on building a lunar economy and the potential of satellite connected cars. The Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences is also offering a free viewing of several short films exploring cosmic phenomena such as black holes and exoplanets with accompanying expert presentations.

Black hole | Photo: NASA

Czech Space Week’s chief organisers are the Ministry of Transport, Czechia’s investment and business development agency CzechInvest and Prague’s Planetum planetarium. This year’s festival is taking place at the time of the Czech EU presidency, with many high representatives of Europe’s executive and space research community taking part in the events.