2021 was undeniably a year of change for the European Union in space. The Union now has at its disposal a policy framework that brings under the same roof all the space assets. EU citizens have a user-oriented operational agency that delivers secure, space-based services to citizens, governments, and businesses alike: the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA).
The entry into force of the Space Regulation brought many structural changes to EU Space Programme and led to the creation of EUSPA. The signature of the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement in June 2022 set out clear tasks and responsibilities between the European Commission, EUSPA, and the European Space Agency (ESA) but also reaffirmed the EU’s position as a leading space power.
Building on the know-how and GNSS expertise of its predecessor, EUSPA was entrusted with more responsibilities for EGNOS and Galileo, in terms of operations and service provision. The agency now acts as exploitation manager and System Prime for both satellite navigation systems in operation. It also acts as the gatekeeper of security for all Space Components. The mandate extension now includes the coordination of GOVSATCOM’s users and the development of the Hub, an important step into securing governmental communications. This comes along with Copernicus market uptake for commercial users. In short, EUSPA had its hands full throughout 2021.
New services bring new users
Throughout its transformation from the European GNSS Agency (GSA) to EUSPA, the Agency remained true to its mission: linking space to user needs. Anticipating the demand for secured services in markets such as Critical Infrastructure, EUSPA announced the testing phase of the Galileo Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA). It is an authentication mechanism that allows Open Service users to verify the authenticity of GNSS information, making sure that the data they receive is indeed from Galileo and has not been modified in any way.
A few months later, in collaboration with the European Commission, the Galileo High Accuracy Service (HAS) Info Note was made available to users. This service can benefit various applications that require higher performance than that offered by the Galileo Open Service such as autonomous vehicles.
EU Space services continued penetrating more sectors also thanks to EGNOS. In aviation, over 400 airports rely on Europe’s SBAS for safer approaches, and the trend is on the rise. Likewise, after having European farmers use EGNOS widely, now, steps towards the adoption of EGNOS are made also in the maritime and rail sectors.
Given the complexity and importance for the European Union of both the space and the ground segment, securing the EU Space Programme components is crucial. With more than 2,4 billion Galileo devices worldwide, one of EUSPA’s key tasks is to protect the system, enabling it to achieve its full potential to boost innovation for the European economy and its citizens. The security governance in place guarantees that the system, ground, and space segments are protected against such threats.
The mandate of the Agency’s Security Accreditation Board covers all the programme components, such as Galileo, EGNOS, Copernicus, and GOVSATCOM. For Galileo specifically, the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre is an integral part of the EU’s positioning system. It monitors and acts in relation to security threats, alerts, and the operational status of systems components.
At the beginning of 2021, we were also reminded that increasing traffic and space debris are a risk to our valuable space assets. In March 2021, EUSPA, staying true to its mission to provide safe and secure satellite services, in collaboration with the European Commission and the Galileo operator, performed a collision avoidance manoeuvre to eliminate the risk of collision with an old launcher part. The action was performed successfully, and the satellite returned to service provision.
With secure satellite communication being a trending topic among governmental users, the Agency ramped up its preparatory activities and completed the coordination of the public consultation for the collection of GOVSATCOM user requirements and use cases with more than 150 participants. The team in charge also prepared the Hubs documentation and launched the related procurement. Related to that, EUSPA also supported the European Commission in other security activities, such as the preparations of the Secure Connectivity Initiative.
Boosting innovation and entrepreneurship
The last quarter of 2021 was the busiest for most of our EUSPA teams. To ensure the adoption of the EU Space Programme and to attract space entrepreneurial spirit, in 2022, we introduced the #myEUSpace competition – as part of the CASSINI Programme targeting mainly SME´s and start-ups. We challenged participants to develop space applications by fusing GNSS and Earth Observation data with new technologies such as AI, IoT, and, for the first time, quantum technologies. The contest followed the announcement of a 32.6 million euros Horizon Europe call to transform the digital economy, increase the Union’s resilience and support the Green Deal. The calls are designed in a way to include Copernicus and its market uptake in line with the Space Regulation. This comes along with the well-established innovation schemes “Fundamental Elements” for innovation at receiver and device-level.
More launches planned for 2022 only to keep you on your toes!
Before waving goodbye to 2021, on December 5th, 2021, two more Galileo satellites lifted off from Kourou, French Guyana, increasing the number of Galileo satellites in space to 28. The satellites -now under EUSPA management- are being calibrated and tested before entering service provision in mid-2022.
“As we are only a few days away from 2022, we can already start looking forward to the next Galileo launch, slated for the beginning of spring. I would like to thank my team at EUSPA for the extraordinary commitment they showcased during this new chapter for our Agency, our counterparts at the European Commission and ESA, and industry but above all you: our users. Thanks to your support and your inputs that help us deliver services tailored to your needs,” said EUSPA Director Rodrigo da Costa.