STUTTGART, Germany — NATO is one step closer to launching a new space center of excellence in southern France, meant to hone key roles for the alliance to address in the domain.

Representatives from 15 nations in the alliance signed an operational memorandum of understanding Jan. 18 in Paris, moving closer to the center formally becoming “NATO-accredited” and a full-fledged center of excellence (COE), the French Ministry of Defense announced Jan. 20.

Once stood up in Toulouse, the COE will “establish a bridge between NATO and all relevant national and international space organizations from all sectors,” including defense, civil, industry, and research, French Air Force Col. Thierry Chapeaux, the COE’s director, shared in an August 2022 publication by NATO’s Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC).

The goal is for the center to address NATO requirements across four pillars, Chapeaux noted:

  • Education, training, exercise, and evaluation;
  • Analysis and lessons learned;
  • Doctrine and standardization; and
  • Concept development and experimentation.

A functional MOU must also be signed before the center is formally launched, according to the French defense ministry. Once that occurs, the center will be NATO’s 29th center of excellence, co-located in Toulouse alongside the French military’s Space Command — known locally as the Commandement de l’Espace (CDE) — as well as the national government space agency CNES.

About 50 personnel will work in the new center, planned to become fully operational by 2025, according to the French Ministry of Defense.

NATO selected France’s proposal to host the site in 2021. That decision followed the alliance’s 2019 adoption of its first space policy, in which it formally recognized space as a theater of operations alongside land, sea, air, and cyber. NATO released an update to this space policy in early 2022, after naming the domain as a key “emerging and disruptive technology” area of focus in 2021.

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.

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