One of the main motivations behind the creation of the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) is to generate synergies between the different components of the EU Space Programme, particularly navigation, Earth observation and secure communications, according to European GNSS Agency (GSA) Executive Director Rodrigo da Costa.
In his keynote address at a session on ‘Space data and downstream applications’ at the 13th European Space Conference on 12 January, da Costa noted that EUSPA is an opportunity for the EU Space Programme and for Europe as a whole, as it will enable the creation of synergies between navigation (EGNOS and Galileo), earth observation (Copernicus) and telecommunications (GOVSATCOM).
EUSPA will maximise its contribution to the EU Space Programme being the organisation that puts European Union space assets at the service of its citizens, he said. This was something that was also underlined by other participants in this session.
Da Costa noted for example the potential for synergies between navigation and Earth observation in transport and agriculture. “By bringing navigation and earth observation together we can bring transport one step ahead, and do the same in agriculture, thereby making a big contribution to the Green Deal,” he said.
Aligned with EU priorities
The EU Space Programme is instrumental for the EU´s key policy areas – be it the Green Deal, Digitisation or contributing to a greener and stronger economy in Europe in general. “We are very closely aligned with the priorities of the EU. For instance, Galileo and EGNOS already make an important contribution to a greener environmental footprint,” da Costa said, citing the example of precision agriculture, where an increased number of tractors equipped with EGNOS and Galileo are helping to improve environmental performance in the sector.
Da Costa concluded: “EUSPA will not just be a bigger GSA. It is a new agency that will benefit from the GSA’s experience and will work closely with its partners in the European Commission, the European Space Agency and in industry.”
Due to the COVID pandemic, this year’s Space Conference took place online and the pandemic was very much in focus. Asked about the GSA’s response, da Costa said that the Agency had taken action to ensure the safe and secure continuity of operations for Galileo and EGNOS and to support SMEs and start-ups, making sure that the flow of funding to support innovation continued.
Moreover, concrete initiatives like the Galileo Green Lane app, implemented jointly with the European Commission, eased the management of traffic congestion at EU borders during the crisis and helped to mitigate its impacts and keep critical goods flowing. “We will have to come back from the crisis with an economy that is more resilient, more robust and greener. The space programme will have a very significant role to play in this,” da Costa said, adding that space technologies are important for the economy, as they add value in practically all sectors.
Da Costa also spoke amongst others with Thomas Dermine, Belgian State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investments, in a session on “Enhancement of European Space Asset Cyber Resilience’’. Underlining the operational experience gained by the GSA for EGNOS and Galileo, da Costa stressed that security of the space assets is essential for the development of the EU Space Programme and that, as an EU agency in the forefront of the implementation of the EU Space Programme, the GSA was already concretely following the EU rules in this regard. “Cybersecurity is complex and requires monitoring 24/7. This is what we are doing with the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre,” he said.
EGNSS for energy
At a session on ‘Space for Energy, and Clean Energy for Space,’ GSA Head of Market Development Fiammetta Diani spoke about the role of Galileo in the energy sector, touching on areas such as the synchronisation of energy networks and the importance of accuracy and robustness in smart grids that help distributing more and more energy from renewable sources. Diani also stressed the importance of synergies between EGNSS and Copernicus in the energy sector, to improve the site selection, construction, operation and maintenance of wind farms, for example.
“EUSPA will further foster the use of space technologies for the energy sector, for example by offering innovation opportunities for start-ups, implementing new business models for this fast changing domain, and creating Galileo-Copernicus solutions to increase renewable energy production and distribution, as an important contribution to the European Green Deal,” she said.
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