Poland joined the European Space Agency (ESA) on the 19th of November 2012, as the third country from the post-socialist block, after the Czech Republic (2009) and Romania (2011). Prior to the membership several integration phases had been completed, such as: European Cooperating State (ECS) agreement in April 2007 or the five year Plan for European Cooperating States (PECS) in April 2008.
At the end of the PECS phase, during 2011-2012 Poland and ESA conducted the accession negotiations. The technical part of these negotiations concluded in February 2012. Later the final decision from the Polish Government was awaited, which initially elected not to join ESA for economic reasons. However, due to the successful “Poland in ESA” action (and other similar activities) the situation changed.
On February 18th the information was published that the Polish Space Agency will be located at the Gdansk Science and Technology Park.
In the beginning of February 2015 POLSA began its activities. Earlier, in late 2014, Polish politicians have decided to locate this agency in the city of Gdansk and not in the capital Warsaw. The first director of POLSA is Professor Marek Banaszkiewicz, associated with the Space Research Centre (and currently on “unpaid holidays” to act in the agency). Professor Banaszkiewicz will serve as POLSA’s director until an official process of candidacy will be announced.
There are many indications that in 2015 the Polish space industry will reach its next development milestone. Perhaps new companies will emerge in the industry, and the existing entities related to other technological fields (e.g. IT/Automation) will decide to expand the scope of their activities. It is an optimistic prediction of the future.
The European Space Navigation Contest (also known as “Galileo Masters”) is an example of activities aiming to encourage innovation in the space industry. In 2015 a Polish regional contest will take place.
It is important to note that the Polish space sector still hasn’t created strong products and services with a strong position in the market. The establishment of such products or services will be a turning point in the development of the Polish space sector, which will no longer have heavy support from government, Horizon 2020 and ESA funding, which is known to be limited and sensitive to political decisions.
In 2015, Estonia and Hungary will join ESA. These two countries, like Poland, will have to develop their own space technologies. Now “one step ahead” of most countries in the region, Poland must use the available funds to the maximum in order to create a new companies and a true space industry, before similar processes in other countries gain momentum.