The market for Earth Observation (EO) services is being disrupted by new start-ups with innovative business models seeking to shake up the larger, more traditional players. This notwithstanding, large public investments are still being made with both civil and military objectives. Furthermore, government policy in the U.S. is as important as that of Europe for driving and shaping the market and the commercial EO services sector. From these trends arises some tension which in turn raises a few relevant questions. How does government policy influence this market and what can we learn from the markedly different approaches being taken in Europe and the U.S.? And how can Europe ensure that it reaps the full socio-economic and strategic benefits of its strong investments in EO – especially now that Copernicus is becoming operational? This Perspective seeks to address the main questions in this respect.