The Space Strategy and the EDAP both call for making greater synergies between civil and defence aspects of space developments. From an industry point of view, where do you see the main challenges and opportunities in this respect?
Given the increasing political and economic importance of space systems in general, but for defence in particular, ensuring the protection and resilience of critical European space infrastructure is essential. In this regard, echoing long-standing priorities in the EDA framework, the Commission’s recent proposal to strengthen the security requirements of EU space programmes, to anticipate the emerging cybersecurity risks as well as to enhance the current activities in space surveillance opens encouraging perspectives. This reflects the 2013 and 2015 European Council meetings focused on defence, as well as EDA’s dedicated activities, a complex landscape which thus calls for an appropriate objective-driven coordination within the EU itself, taking also into account the existing initiatives between EDA and the European Space Agency.
First, one should acknowledge that the EDA-Commission continuum, a new and effective partnership that is in part being built through the EDAP process, is a positive omen regarding how the EU is adapting to the increasingly pressing civil-military need. Indeed, from an industrial point of view, the stability and clarity with respect to each institutional actor’s role in emerging instruments is essential. This is one of the bases of industry’s strategic orientations.
Second, beyond the convergence in terms of geopolitical dimension of global space assets and the applications serving civil and military users (such as navigation, observation, meteorology), there are a broad range of technology areas exhibiting strong synergies between civil and defence systems. For instance, in telecommunications systems, the security of transmissions has become a key feature, where various levels of cryptography enable to discriminate users up to the stronger protections required by military forces. High throughput and high data rate solutions, supported by massive data processing technologies (particularly radiation-hardened components such as deep submicron processors, application-specific integrated circuits field-programmable gate arrays and high speed converters) and emerging solution in the optical domain also provide high secure transmissions for civil and military users alike. They also serve the growing data needs of observation systems where very high resolution originally reserved to tactical missions is being made increasingly available to commercial customers, which creates massive needs for data transmission from orbit to ground and to mobile users, including UAVs. The technological synergies between civilian observation needs and defence tactical needs converge at payload and platform levels with requirements stemming from high in-orbit stability (sensors and actuators) to precise line of sight, and of course sensor and instrument technologies in the visible and infra-red domains.
Are you optimistic that the EU’s Space Strategy will be instrumental in building the space-based defence capabilities Europe will need in the future?
The Space Strategy for Europe is a very good start, and it was indispensable: it reinforces Europe’s role as a stronger global player and is an asset for its security and defence. It is now crucial that EU institutions align with priorities and ambitions laid down at EU level. The European Parliament report on space capabilities for European security and defence offers, in this regard, a solid working basis.
The key role played by the Parliament in defining operational and budgetary synergies should be highlighted as this will strengthen Europe's ambition in the security and defence field.
Only this high level of consensus and convergence between EU institutions, Member States and the space industry will help to build the space based defence capacities Europe will collectively need in the future.
More specifically, GOVSATCOM is a very promising initiative, ensuring access to secure, efficient and cost-effective services for European institutional actors, and, at the same time, stimulating growth, competitiveness and innovation throughout the whole European SATCOM sector. It also represents both an opportunity and a prerequisite for the successful integration and exploitation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).
In addition, the expansion of Copernicus and Galileo offers a great opportunity to increase the effectiveness of strategic decision-making and operations, including through CSDP. In the field of maritime surveillance for instance, the European Defence Action Plan lays out very interesting perspectives. Space can be an essential enabler since satellites can offer a global and permanent coverage, not dependent to weather and with a high potential of data dissemination. We know that, by 2018, the Commission plans to develop specific actions to support a coordinated civil military maritime security research agenda and interoperable maritime surveillance capabilities. Eurospace intends to work with both the Commission and EDA to make sure that appropriate synergies are achieved.
How do you see the future of Europe’s space industry in the longer run? Will it be able to compete with the U.S. and others on a global level?
The space sector worldwide is going through rapid evolutions and on top of that, space powers are developing offensive strategies that challenge Europe’s positions in space. This is the reason why our sector definitely needs to remain at the top of the EU political agenda.
Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate this trend. In the U.S. for instance, new private actors coming from the Silicon Valley target radical optimisation of their supply chain through a cost-killing policy while taking advantage of the radical redefinition of the U.S. public authorities’ role, which ensures a greater degree of freedom to the private sector. Then additionally, the White Paper on China’s space activities – published last December – made very clear that China had caught up with its technological weaknesses and is now determinedly targeting major frontier areas of space science and technology, while also starting to look at commercial opportunities.
In this context, Europe has undeniable assets and unique capacities: we should not forget that all our competitors are envying the exceptional reliability of the European launchers, our expertise to deploy constellations or our Earth Observation and environment monitoring capabilities. Let’s be proud of these European achievements! Reinforcing the European defence technological industrial base is now pivotal to maintain this level of excellence and innovation and strengthen European strategic autonomy in space. In this perspective, the development of new initiatives at EU level, such as GOVSATCOM, should contribute to this critical effort.
Drawing on this, it is vital to invest more, and more efficiently in R&D and to implement a European public procurement policy that takes into account the space strategies of our competitors, all of them aiming at independence or even domination, as well as the strategic aspects of space programmes that are by nature long-term and high risk. Promoting access to finance for space in the context of the Investment Plan for Europe and EU funding programmes is also key to foster the emergence of new business opportunities and support the long-term investments our industry is making into long-term innovative projects.
On which space-related domain or activity would you like to see EDA putting a stronger focus on in the future?
With the increased political interest at EU level for the defence-related aspects of space, I think EDA has a clear role to play as coordinator and “aggregator” of the defence-related needs and requirements for all European space programmes. This is in line with the Space Strategy, with EDA’s increasingly present role in space cooperation, but also industry’s interests insofar as defence requirements remain a clear and significant asset for our competitiveness. The first very concrete test case will be GOVSATCOM, a genuine dual-use, multi-actor capability programme with direct operational added value. In the future, we could even imagine an ambitious programme for permanent and global Earth observation capacities. Acting at EU level in this domain would probably be particularly relevant for what concerns maritime surveillance. Finally, EDA’s role in supporting Member States to identify user requirements in satellite navigation will be essential in developing Galileo Second Generation for security purposes.