The EU’s Newest Space Agency Begins to Deliver on its Promise

Written by staff writer.

Don’t overlook the Europeans. That’s the message Rodrigo da Costa, Executive Director at the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), delivered in a speech to the 2023 Space Symposium in Colorado this week.

Costa says a lot is going on in the European space sector. There is a lot of ambition, some significant investments, and his two-year-old agency is in the thick of it. Formerly known as the European GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) Agency or simply as the GSA Agency, Costa says that in 2021 new EU laws and regulations led to two things, the creation of a unique EU space programme, and also EUSPA.

“Our agency is built on three pillars,” said Costa. “We work in the domain of exploitation, we work in the domain of security, and we work in the domain of the market uptake – making sure that the signals, the data, the services are used in Europe and elsewhere.”

On an everyday basis, EUSPA is responsible for the operational management of the EGNOS and Galileo satellite navigation programs and their services. This includes the maintenance and protection of the infrastructure, such as upgrades and obsolescence management.

“We do this in partnership,” said Costa. “We have a very close partnership with the European Commission. The European Space Agency is doing a lot of the development work we then put into operations.”

The speech touched on EUSPA’s ongoing work on EGNOS and Galileo and new work on Satcom hubs that will allow the pooling and sharing of existing capabilities for new governments and authorized governmental users. EUSPA is also doing new work on space situational awareness, particularly space surveillance and tracking.

“We are talking about big investments,” said Costa, “approximately EUR17 billion from 2021 to 2027.” However, two years in, EUSPA is already delivering some results. EUSPA’s executive director used his speech to highlight two recent developments, including one that has seen formal goals set for the EU to deploy a new satellite constellation called IRIS, which will offer communications using advanced encryption technologies that cannot be hacked.

“It will offer infrastructure for resilience, interconnectivity and security by satellite,” said Costa. “It was approved very recently, about a month ago. It is an activity that is starting to provide secure connectivity by the European Union.”

EUSPA has also just started providing a very high accuracy service for Galileo, Europe’s homegrown global navigation satellite system that comprises a constellation of 30 medium Earth orbit satellites.

“This is a service that increases the precision by a factor of about ten based on data that is broadcast by the satellites. But the evolution of Galileo doesn’t stop here. Because at the same time, we are testing navigation message authentication to guarantee to users that the signals they are receiving are really coming from a Galileo satellite – a very important tool against spoofing,” he said. “We are looking already at the second generation, developing the next generation of satellites, with yet more services and more capabilities.”

Costa sees his youngish agency as providing an essential link between space technology and the everyday needs of users. He says given the time, resources, and money being put into the space industry by the EU, its citizens deserve reliable and cost-effective access to the output.


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