When disaster strikes, communication, information and location are key. With the addition of GOVSATCOM, the EU Space Programme provides all three.
Last summer, when Greece was ravaged by wildfires, public authorities relied on Copernicus’ Earth Observation services to detect and monitor the evolving situation. On the ground, firefighters and emergency first responders used EGNOS and Galileo to safely guide themselves through the smoke, fog and flames.
That same summer, when once-in-a-century floods in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg rendered transportation and communication infrastructure useless, satellite communication, working in synergy with Copernicus and European GNSS (EGNSS), provided rescue teams with the spatial awareness, connectivity and highly accurate positioning and navigation they needed to save lives.
But what happens when an incident occurs where there are no ground stations, either because they were destroyed (e.g., during an earthquake) or because they never existed in the first place (e.g., in remote regions such as the Arctic)? Or what if the end users require secure communication? Such is the case during cyber-attacks and other security-related incidents.
For situations like these, there’s GOVSATCOM.
Adding assured, secure communication to the EU Space Programme’s current capabilities
GOVSATCOM is the fourth pillar of the EU Space Programme. While Copernicus and EGNSS provide the necessary data and positioning, some security incidents also require a means of communication that is robustly protected against interference, interception, intrusion and other risks. GOVSATCOM bridges this gap between the need for assured and secure communication and the capabilities already offered by Copernicus, Galileo and EGNOS.
Once active, GOVSATCOM will provide secure, cost-efficient communication capabilities to security and safety-critical missions, operations and infrastructure. The European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) has been entrusted with the procurement of the secure operational ground segment (GOVSATCOM Hubs), its operations and the coordination of the user-related aspects of GOVSATCOM, all in close collaboration with Member States and other involved entities.
As a user-centric programme, GOVSATCOM is designed to meet the unique requirements of governmental applications, including those used for crisis management, surveillance and the management of key infrastructures. Further, to successfully execute their missions, governmental actors must have access to secure satellite communication services, which is something commercial satellite communication services aren’t able to provide.
Keeping EU citizens safe and secure
GOVSATCOM users will likely include border and maritime authorities, law enforcement agencies, civil protection forces, search and rescue services, disaster relief and humanitarian missions, authorised infrastructure operators and military forces. The service will be available to EU institutions, relevant agencies and EU Member States.
GOVSATCOM will also serve specific use cases, such as providing connectivity to the Arctic region and for Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) communications. Furthermore, it will be a central component to the EU’s Secure Connectivity Initiative, which is expected to provide additional EU-owned satellite communications resources to complement existing assets.
With its multiorbital design, Secure Connectivity will allow low latency governmental communications, while its use of quantum technologies will take the security of GOVSATCOM services to the next level. With such capabilities, GOVSATCOM could play an even bigger role in the air traffic control infrastructure that will enable the autonomous and remotely piloted aircraft systems of tomorrow, including drones and air taxis.
Most importantly, by working in synergy with Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus, GOVSATCOM will further enhance the EU Space Programme’s ability to keep European citizens safe and secure.
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