In a shifting geopolitical landscape, secure and uninterrupted communications are vital for the sovereignty and autonomy of the European Union. In cases of crises, natural disasters, or unavailability of ground-based operators, governmental actors need access to rapidly deployable and robust satellite communications capabilities.
The EU GOVSATCOM, aims to provide initial services within 2024, will ensure the long-term availability of reliable, secure, and cost-effective governmental satellite communications services for EU and national public authorities managing security critical missions and infrastructures. During the first implementation phase running, EU GOVSATCOM will use the capacities and services provided by existing national satcom systems and accredited private operators. Access to these existing infrastructures will be provided through one or several operational Hubs interconnecting the users and the operations centres of the different satcom suppliers in a smart and secure manner.
In 2020, the H2020-funded ENTRUSTED project was set up to provide a concrete set of governmental user requirements for the upcoming GOVSATCOM services under the leadership of the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). With over 25 participating entities including EU Member States and agencies, the consortium's partners joined forces to also assess the currently available state-of-the-art for SatCom technologies, analyse the future trends and identify key technological gaps and opportunities, including aspects such as standardisation and interoperability.
On March 2nd, 2023, four operational GOVSATCOM use cases were demonstrated by the ENTRUSTED consortium members during a live event at the headquarters of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in Rome, Italy. The event was met with great enthusiasm and gathered representatives of the Network of Users, current and prospective users of GOVSATCOM services, national experts and decision-makers. It was also a unique opportunity to discuss different aspects of secure satellite connectivity, share experience and draw attention to more specific user expectations. During the demo phase, attendees experienced real-time satellite connections in an operational environment.
A first scenario was showcased live, demonstrating the access to secure SATCOM services for both a land vehicle via on-the-move technology and a fixed ground terminal in an emergency theatre, pooling together space connectivity from the Italian Athena-Fidus and the Luxembourg national system.
Use Case No. 2 by the Luxembourg Space Agency involved simulations of a natural disaster and an armed conflict and highlighted the secured capabilities of GOVSAT-1 co-owned by SES and the Luxembourg government.
Use case No. 3 by the Hellenic ministries of Digital Governance and Defence showcased a multilateral, highly secured video conference between three Greek EU Delegations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The connection was facilitated by the country’s national operator Hellas SAT, which provides governmental actors with high-throughput and robust data via a set of two geostationary satellites. The system is also used by the Greek armed forces.
Use Case No. 4 by the European Defence Agency presented a pooling and sharing service provision model. Such a model can be used in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) military operations. Resilient EU Satcoms will provide operational capacity to deploy civilian and military missions and operations abroad.
GOVSATCOM paving the towards IRIS2
IRIS² combines the benefits offered by Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geostationary (GEO), and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. This new component of the EU Space Programme will put an end to dead zones in Europe as well as the whole of Africa using the constellation's North-South orbits through a resilient and ultra-secure space and ground-based system. It may include the development and launch of up to 170 LEO satellites between 2025 and 2027.
Read this: 5 ways the new IRISS constellations benefits the EU and its citizens
The IRIS² constellation in particular shares many links with the GOVSATCOM component of the European Space Programme. While supporting governments falls in line with the traditional role of GOVSATCOM, IRIS²’s use of new technologies like cryptography, its modular architecture based on multiorbital functionalities, its commercial ambitions, and its goal to further stimulate the competitiveness of the already existing market, showcase its evolution from GOVSATCOM.
The Union Secure Connectivity Programme (including IRIS2) infrastructure should be based upon, integrate and complement the infrastructure developed for the purposes of the of the GOVSATCOM component.
The main function of GOVSATCOM component is to link, in a secure manner, the GOVSATCOM users to the providers of GOVSATCOM capacity and services and thereby optimise the supply and demand at any given moment.
The Union Secure Connectivity Programme governmental services (including IRIS2) shall be accessible to authorized user by GOVSATCOM Hub and integrated into GOVSATCOM Service Portfolio.
The EU Agency for the Space Programme is already actively involved in building secure satellite communication infrastructure for Europe through the coordination of the first phase of GOVSATCOM on which IRIS2 will be based.
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