EU space infrastructure guarantees leadership in security and defence

21 November 2019
Space policy is an essential dimension of the European Union’s strategic autonomy
Space policy is an essential dimension of the European Union’s strategic autonomy

The European Union’s space infrastructure and know-how provide the assets needed to guarantee leadership in the area of security and defence policy. At a meeting of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) on 12 November European GNSS Agency (GSA) Chief Operating Officer Pascal Claudel spoke about how the European Union's space programmes contribute to its strategic autonomy in the area of security and defence.

Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus offer the European Union and its Member States the fundamental tools needed for independence in decision-making through the navigation, localisation, Earth observation, communication and surveillance services that they provide.

SEDE Committee Chair Nathalie Loiseau opened the meeting with a comment on the security and defence dimension of space, noting that Europe’s economies, societies, infrastructures and public services policies are becoming more and more dependent on space. “Space has become a critical strategic element for developed societies. This makes us vulnerable, so we need to be aware of this in our security and defence policy,” she said. 

In his speech at the meeting, Claudel noted that the new Regulation on the space programme passed in April further strengthens the link between space, defence and security by creating synergies between the fields of navigation, Earth observation and communication. “These synergies will lead to improved applications for the detection and fight against global natural disasters,” he said.

Essential culture of security

Claudel also noted that the development of space surveillance, the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme, is essential for ensuring the protection of the EU's space capabilities. The SSA programme is designed to support Europe's independent access and utilisation of space by providing timely and accurate information on the space environment, and particularly hazards to in-orbit and ground infrastructure.

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“Security is one of the 3 major missions entrusted to the GSA, including the Security Accreditation Board (SAB). Although an independent entity, the SAB is supported by the GSA in its mission, which is to ensure compliance between European GNSS standards and the safety regulations of the European Union,” Claudel said. 

He said that, in order to strengthen the EU's Security and Defence Policy, a security culture at the service of the EU's space programmes is essential. “The experience gained by the GSA through the operations of Galileo in terms of security (including cybersecurity) is fundamental to reinforce synergies and the sharing of space resources in the service of our security and security policy,” he said.

Cornerstone of government space use

Along with security, the GSA COO also touched on the other 2 key areas in which the GSA has acquired solid experience that can be put to the service of all the EU’s space programmes when the Agency’s remit is broadened under the aegis of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). These are the PRS and Critical Infrastructure.

The Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS) is an encrypted navigation service for governmental authorised users and sensitive applications that require high continuity. “The PRS service is the cornerstone for governmental use of the European space programmes. It is delivered through  a security chain adapted to the needs of the EU Member States and of the European Union.” Claudel said.

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He said that this requires continuity of services, efficient operational procedures and a high level of security to protect the entire infrastructure and its communications to end users. “The experience gained from the PRS will be crucial for the handling of Galileo navigation, GovSatCom telecommunication and SSA space surveillance information,” he said.

Essential for strategic autonomy

Regarding the protection of critical infrastructures and their synchronisation with satellite navigation systems, he noted that this synchronisation is currently mainly provided by GPS. “It is therefore important that legislation establishes Galileo ahead of time as the main provider of services, in order to ensure autonomy,” he said, adding that this is particularly important in the context of internal security, transport, energy and telecommunications.

As space policy is an essential dimension of our strategic autonomy, it is essential to preserve the EU’s sensitive technological and industrial capabilities, which means that it is necessary to be very present on the civilian market because of the difference in terms of budget spending by our competitors, he said.

“This is also why a key goal of the GSA is to promote and stimulate the use of European GNSS in all sectors of the market, thus guaranteeing a work plan for our industry and SMEs, job creation and growth at European level,” he said.

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Updated: Nov 21, 2019