Space is an enabler of security and defence

07 February 2020
Both Galileo and Copernicus have a role to play in Europe’s security and defence.
Both Galileo and Copernicus have a role to play in Europe’s security and defence.

Although it has been a taboo at the European level up to now, the time has come to break this taboo and to recognise that space is an enabler of security and defence, with a defence dimension for Galileo and a security element for Copernicus, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said at the 12th Space Policy Conference in Brussels on 22 January.

In his address at the Conference, the Commissioner stressed that the security and defence element of the space programmes would be strengthened with the progressive launch of two new initiatives – a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system to monitor space debris, and a Governmental Satellite Communication (GovSatCom) initiative to provide Member States with reliable and secure satellite communication to support police, border protection and civil defence.

GSA ready for EUSPA

These programmes will be partly under the responsibility of the European GNSS Agency (GSA) as its mandate expands with the creation of the new European Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). Speaking at the conference, GSA Chief Operating Officer Pascal Claudel noted that, while some of the elements in the EUSPA mandate had yet to be finalised, the GSA was already preparing to take it up and, in particular, has started preparatory activities for GovSatCom.

Read this: EU space infrastructure guarantees leadership in security and defence

Commissioner Thierry Breton outlined his objectives for the Galileo programme, one of which is to ensure the smooth development of the Public Regulated Service (PRS). “Galileo is also a strategic asset, designed to be used for military and civil security purposes,” he said. In turn, Claudel noted that the GSA’s experience with the PRS had been of particular value in setting up the project aiming at identifying GovSatCom user needs and technological requirements.

In addition to the PRS, Commissioner Breton’s other objectives for Galileo include continuing deploying the programme in order to reach the Full Operational Capability as soon as possible; continuing to improve precision - with a target of 20 cm; and preparing already for the second generation of Galileo, to stay ahead in the technological race.

Space awareness

As regards Space Situational Awareness and Space Surveillance and Tracking (SSA/SST), P. Claudel said that EUSPA would benefit from the GSA’s security-oriented approach and experience of working with Member States as users of the PRS service and handling classified information with multiple stakeholders. The experience that the GSA has in the operations of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre would be beneficial for the SSA, he said.

Reference to the cyber security aspect of the Galileo programme was also made. “This is taken very seriously by the GSA. In recent years, new specific cyber security requirements have been defined and taken into account in the development of the Galileo system and its operations,” said the GSA COO.

And this: PRS – the future is bright!

The GSA puts measures in place based on regular monitoring and analysis of threats to the system. “Vulnerabilities are analysed regularly and security measures are set up,” said P. Claudel, adding that while the complexity of the GNSS systems makes this task very complex, the GSA has processes in place to handle this activity.

Working together for success

In his speech, Commissioner Thierry Breton stressed the importance of governance. He said that to develop his strategy and vision for the space programmes, it would be necessary to work efficiently together. “Governance is central to any successful strategy and project, political or industrial. ... When governance is not clear, mistakes happen or issues appear,” he said.

The Commissioner said he had the impression that, in Europe, a lot of time is spent discussing who does what – especially between public actors – rather than actually doing it. “Let me be loud and clear: This is not possible anymore. If we are to be successful and invest efficiently our citizens’ taxpayer money, we have to … work as a team,” he said, adding that this team includes the European Commission, National Space Agencies, the European Space Agency (ESA), the GSA, and industry.

Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the GSA website (

Updated: Feb 07, 2020