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EDA and ESA cooperate on Next-Generation Secure Satellite Communication

EDA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have agreed to jointly explore, within their respective remits, all relevant technology and capability opportunities for the gradual evolution and development of Next-Generation Secure Satellite Communication (NGSSC) systems required for the benefit of their respective Member States, user communities and industry. To this end, a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) has just been signed by the two organisations.

The MOI will broaden up the existing ESA/EDA cooperation framed by the Administrative Agreement signed in 2011 and further substantiated by their joint efforts on Governmental Satellite Communications, subject of a dedicated Implementing Arrangement since 2017. Acknowledging the growing strategic importance of satellite communications in security and defence, including in support to Europe’s strategic autonomy, ESA and EDA take the view that additional cooperative steps should be taken to develop secure and resilient satellite communications which respond to Member States’ evolving needs, and also strengthen the competitiveness of the Europe’s industry. 

Secure Satellite Communications – NG SATCOM Infrastructure Exploratory System Studies 

Concretely, the plan is to coordinate both organisations’ activities with the aim of supporting ESA’s ongoing system studies on the Next Generation Satellite Communication solutions that aim in particular to identify systems architectures responding to a wide set of user requirements in the field of secure communications. EDA will be invited to take part in ESA’s study process to provide expertise, information, data and a channel to its user communities which may have a stake in ESA’s exploratory systems study.  Once the study results are available in the course of 2021, ESA and EDA will explore further coordinated steps related to towards the evolution and preparation of NGSSC systems. 

Both parties will also jointly look at how respective user communities may be best serviced, by exploring the relevance of user-segments such as EDA’s EU Satcom Market model and services, as well as EDA’s GOVSATCOM Pooling and Sharing Demonstration project. Furthermore, the two organisations will exploit this new framework to discuss relevant activities in support of EDA’s satellite communications work in the fields of security, guarantee of access and next generation of satellite communications requirements for EU defence, satellite communications training and standardisation. Considering the challenges and stakes, these activities will be synchronised and undertaken in full coordination and transparency with all relevant actors engaged in this domain. The Agencies will furthermore coordinate their views on proposals for GOVSATCOM-related projects in the framework of EU defence initiatives, such as PESCO and the European Defence Fund (EDF). Another objective of the new cooperation is to explore potential joint R&D efforts of relevance to the future implementation of a joint secured satellite communication vision and strategy. Finally, these joint activities will be supported by a security management plan that will cover future cooperation activities and high-level security objectives to be implemented in the context of this cooperation.

EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý welcomed the enhanced cooperation with ESA, stating: “Nowadays, neither national nor multinational military operations are anymore conceivable without the support of space-based systems, especially secure and resilient satellite communication, and their importance keeps growing. The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), which delivered a first ever comprehensive defence review conducted at EU level, specifically underlined the importance of cooperation in space and identified the ‘Defence in Space’ as one of the most pressing, most needed and most impacting areas for cooperation and future investment in EU defence. Therefore, increased cooperation between ESA and EDA in this specific domain will not only be beneficial for our Member States and industry but also contribute to strengthening Europe’s defence capabilities”.

ESA Director General Jan Wörner said: “Over the years, our two Agencies have undertaken no less than eight formal cooperation projects, ranging across most space domains. Our partnership is solid and will support ESA Member States and help ensure a resilient civil infrastructure and robust services for citizens”.