Written By: Irene Verduci
Edited by Chiara Nasonte
Supervised by Cansu Macit Karaduman
The EU Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) have just signed a Contribution Agreement as part of the EU Secure Connectivity Programme. Established in the first trimester of 2023, the EU Secure Connectivity Programme provides for the creation of Iris2 (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite), promoting digital autonomy and strategic relevance for the EU.
Tight collaborations between the EU and the ESA have already been implemented in the past. Some instances are the Galileo system providing a global positioning service, the Copernicus satellites enhancing environment management, and the European satellite navigation system for aircraft (European Space Agency, 2023). This cooperation will be furthered in the Programme; indeed, the ESA, working with private space companies on behalf of the EU Commission, is entrusted with the role of Qualification and Validation Authority of the governmental structure, i.e. checking that the EU requirements are complied with by the industry (European Commission, 2023).
In general, contribution agreements are a type of contractual arrangement that establish long-term cooperation between the Commission and a counterparty organisation and favour the implementation of individual projects. The agreement with the ESA aims to improve the resilience of EU communication services by developing a multi-orbital satellite constellation offering a secure connectivity infrastructure (Evroux, 2023). From a strategic standpoint, building satellite communications infrastructure mirrors satellite resilience in case of terrestrial networks disruption (Evroux, 2023). The main idea behind the project is to have a satellite constellation used to safeguard information on the ground, eventually promoting digital autonomy and secure information. In practical terms, a safer digital world would reduce the chance of cyberattacks disrupting information flow and critical infrastructure, which could potentially cripple the whole society.
European Space Agency. (2023). ESA works with EU on secure connectivity. ESA. Retrieved from: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Corporate_news/ESA_works_with_EU_on_secure_connectivity
European Commission. (2023). IRIS2: European Commission and European Space Agency signed a Contribution Agreement. European Commission. Retrieved from: https://defence-industry-space.ec.europa.eu/iris2-european-commission-and-european-space-agency-signed-contribution-agreement-2023-09-21_en#:~:text=Today%2C%20the%20European%20Commission%20signed,the%20Union%20Secure%20Connectivity%20Programme.&text=Only%20a%20few%20months%20after,(EU)%202023%2F588.
Evroux, C. (2023). EU secure connectivity programme 2023-2027. Building a multi-orbital satellite constellation. European Parliament: European Parliamentary Research Service. Retrieved from: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2022/729442/EPRS_BRI(2022)729442_EN.pdf