Following on from the success of the Space Summit in Toulouse (France), the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, Elodie Viau, spoke at the GOVSATCOM 22 conference for EU Defence and Security in Luxembourg. There she outlined ESA’s engagement in security and safety on Earth and in space, and in supporting the European Commission's Secure Connectivity project.
Space enables governments and emergency responders to act rapidly and decisively when facing a crisis. A commitment to developing safe and secure communications was one of three accelerators adopted by ESA in 2021 as part of the “Matosinhos Manifesto” – fully complementing the EU’s initiative for secure connectivity and for space traffic management.
ESA’s ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) programme is committed to developing sustainable and scalable space systems in partnership with industry and governments, and to integrate these systems within public and private terrestrial networks. At its Council held at Ministerial level at the end of 2019, the Space Systems for Safety and Security (4S) strategic programme line was initiated as part of ARTES 4.0, demonstrating the strategic importance and value that ESA member states see in safe and secure space-based communications in a geopolitical context marked with growing uncertainty and risks.
The recent evolution of the geopolitical challenges confirms the strategic importance of security solutions and how space and connectivity solutions can help. ESA is committed to helping the European space industry support the EU’s Govsatcom initiative, which aims to pool and share governmental and commercial satellite capacity to provide secure and guaranteed access to satcom services for Europe’s public sector. Reliance on commercial satellite technology in times of national and international crisis can result in costly delays and compromise security, so access to dedicated secure satellite communications as proposed by Govsatcom is of paramount importance to governments, providing significant added value to humanitarian missions, disaster response and critical infrastructure monitoring. The development of new assets is essential for success in this area, as noted by the European Commission in its proposal to develop a fully secured and appropriately controlled multi-orbit Secure Connectivity constellation.
Among the topics under discussion today was the benefit of the collaboration between commercial and governmental assets to Govsatcom. ESA’s ARTES programme transforms R&D investment into successful commercial products and services by offering varying degrees of support to projects with different levels of operational and commercial maturity. ESA launches, conducts and co-finances feasibility studies, pilots, and projects, to test and demonstrate routine and crisis management systems for safety and security within and for Europe. Co-funding opportunities are key, reducing the risk for industry and facilitating pioneering innovation in the space sector.
This collaborative model means that industry and governments drive R&D together and share their access to cutting edge technologies and their engineering and operational expertise. The results benefit both parties with governments able to access and use cost-efficient and cutting-edge private systems to fulfill their tasks, and private investors able to build their architectures and business cases on the contribution of governments as anchor customers of these systems.
Speaking at the GOVSATCOM 22 conference, Elodie Viau emphasised ESA’s long and successful track record in facilitating and leading collaboration between industries and institutions, forging strong public-private partnerships and innovating research, financing, and go-to-market models. This proven model leaves ESA ideally placed to play the role of a linchpin, a catalyst, a motor and an orchestrator of space systems and solutions that are equally relevant for governments, institutions, business, and investors.
Outlining ESA’s role in achieving these Govsatcom goals in Europe, Elodie Viau said “ESA has been engaged in developing commercial, industrial and business solutions on the one hand and in institutional programmes and constellations on the other for many decades now. This puts us in a unique position to broker, drive, and orchestrate both the ever-rising demand of industry to dispose of cutting-edge R&D and solutions together with their growing appetite to invest, and the need of governments to make space systems ever more secure, performant and cost efficient.”