The Portuguese space sector evolved greatly since Portugal became a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) in late 2000. Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), the Portuguese funding agency for Science and Technology, has promoted the participation of Portugal in ESA programmes. Participating in ESA’s programmes enabled the inception and growth of a set of businesses and research organisations. These entities develop and deliver innovative solutions to the complex scientific and technological challenges that characterise space systems thus creating a new generation of young Portuguese engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs. The capacities acquired were further developed thanks to an active participation in the European Union’s Copernicus, Galileo and Framework Research programmes, which contributed to further strengthen cooperation with space communities all over Europe.
The space sector is undergoing profound changes and simultaneously space technologies and services become increasingly integrated in the everyday lives of citizens and businesses. Private investment in the space sector reached record-high levels in the past few years fuelling a growing number of start-ups and spin-offs constituting a new enterprise ecosystem (i.e., “New Space”).
Taking into account the uncertainties that characterise a sector that is evolving technologically at such fast pace, many different nation-states have defined new strategies in order to influence and to reap the benefits of past and future investments in the space sector. This is true because this sector has the potential to profoundly affect a wide range of human activities at global level.
It is in this context that Portugal puts forward a research, innovation and growth strategy, now under public discussion, aligned with its geographical location and its scientific and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It lays down also the building-up of legal, financial, institutional, international and cultural frameworks that are able to boost the development of the space sector in Portugal, either through nationally-lead initiatives or through international cooperation, for the decade to come.