Other emerging technologies are also being paid attention to, given their role in responding to societal challenges.

In July 2023, the European Commission (EC) approved a new Strategy on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds, acknowledging Web 4.0 as a major technological transition bringing a seamlessly interconnected, intelligent and immersive world. In this scope, it noted initiatives that have already been launched, such as Destination Earth (DestinE) and the European Digital Twin of the Ocean (European DTO), in which satellite data plays a relevant role. The Strategy follows a set of initiatives such as the set-up of the Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial coalition in 2022 and the Joint Research Centre Report on Next Generation Virtual Worlds, which, for instance, refers to real/virtual world integration (including positioning and orientation in 3D and 4D space), for which satellite information could potentially play a role. The Staff Working Document on the EU initiative on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds expressly mentions the role of satellite communications to support virtual worlds, and of satellite data for 3D acquisition of the geometry and appearance of a real-world object or environment, as well as for positioning.

Other technologies have also been assessed at EU level. For instance, a Recommendation was adopted in October 2023 by the EC on critical technology areas for the EU’s economic security, covering not only artificial intelligence and quantum, but also advanced semiconductors and biotechnologies. The Recommendation stems from the Joint Communication on a European Economic Security Strategy, which sets out a common framework for achieving economic security by promoting the EU's economic base and competitiveness, and protecting against risks.

Finally, it is worth noting the publication of the European Commission's key priorities for 2024 and of the 2024 Commission Work Programme, which include the adoption of an EU Space Law and a Strategy on Space Data Economy. With relation to the EU Space law, in September 2023, the EC presented a targeted consultation about the EU legislative initiative on safety, resilience and sustainability of space activities (EU Space Law). One of the problems the initiative aims to tackle is the increased threat level and lack of a consistent resilience/security baseline. Geopolitical tensions have increased threats to space infrastructure (cyberattacks and anti-satellite tests by non-EU countries), and technological developments not only have made them more sophisticated but may also contribute to further the safety and resilience of space assets. Hence, new opportunities for emerging technologies are expected to arise from the proposed EU Space Law, whilst their use can play a central role in ensuring legal compliance.

Several countries are also highlighting the role of technologies in the space sector. For instance, the recent Germany Space Strategy includes high-tech and digitalization as action fields for the sector, as well as sustainability, among others. France Space Defence Strategy also notes the importance of investing in technologies and digitalization, expressly addressing AI. In the UK, the National Space Strategy in Action highlights technology as well, with the Space Exploration Technology Roadmap outlining 11 pivotal technologies essential for positioning the UK as a frontrunner in the field of space exploration on a global scale. A few months earlier, the UK Science and Technology Framework outlined the strategic roadmap for critical technologies identified for the period up to 2030. These essential technologies, including artificial intelligence, future telecommunications, semiconductors, and quantum, not only benefit from space-related activities but also play a supportive role in space exploration missions.

In the US, the US Space Force inaugurated in June 2023 a new department dedicated to collaborating with private industry and expediting the acquisition of cutting-edge technologies, the Commercial Space Marketplace for Innovation and Collaboration (COSMIC).

And Japan, in its June 2023 Space Security Initiative, envisages the expansion of the use of space systems in favour of national security, including increasing satellite data transfer speed through optical communications constellation and improving its image processing capabilities by artificial intelligence.

All in all, emerging technologies are acknowledged as essential instruments in the space sector, bringing novel opportunities and means to address the challenges of the sector. Their use, however, is always subject to legal and regulatory provisions. Careful assessment of the applicable rules is thus central to ensure seamless development, commercialisation and use of technologies in the space sector.