On June 15th the EDA Steering Board accepted, by written procedure, the Outline Description for the Governmental Satellite Communications (GOVSATCOM) Pooling and Sharing demonstration project (GSC demo). Under the leadership of Spain, the project brings together Austria, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, France, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Norway, which has signed an Administrative Arrangement with the Agency, is also participating in the project. The next step will be the establishment of a Project Arrangement.
The project originates from an EDA Steering Board decision of November 2013 which tasked EDA to pursue its work on GOVSATCOM coordination with Member States, the European Commission and the European Space Agency in order to propose a comprehensive programme for Member States who wish to participate. Subsequently, the task to prepare the next generation of GOVSATCOM was confirmed by the European Council in December 2013 and work on GOVSATCOM has also started at the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission.
The main objective of the project is to meet the GOVSATCOM demands of Member States and European CSDP actors through pooled capabilities (bandwidth/power and/or services) provided by contributing Member States. This governmental pooled capability is set up to provide SATCOM resources that cannot be obtained on the commercial market with a sufficient level of guaranteed access and security.
The Steering Board acceptance marks the end of the GOVSATCOM preparation phase where EDA employed a sequential approach in developing this project, analysing since 2014 satellite communication needs for European actors involved in the conduct of national or CSDP operations and detailing potential solutions to address the capability development.
The work in EDA has been supported by a feasibility study since mid-2015. This study identified the GOVSATCOM Information Exchange Requirements and provided a forecast tool assessing both defense satellite connectivity requirements in support of European CSDP activities and national operations of EU Member States, as well as civil government requirements for European government stakeholders. The focus was on communications requiring guarantee of access, security and autonomy that go beyond standard commercial satellite solutions, without requiring the highest level of security that only military satellite systems can provide.
The next step then was to carry out a detailed assessment of existing and planned commercial and governmental satellite systems and their suitability to meet the aforementioned requirements.
The study relied on a variety of sources and analytical processes, including the use of an external study conducted for the European Commission on civil government requirements and studies conducted for ESA to define new satellite systems to fill gaps identified in the assessment part of the EDA GOVSATCOM feasibility study.
In parallel with the study, EDA’s SATCOM project team developed the GOVSATCOM Common Staff Requirements and an associated Business Case. Both documents have been approved by the Steering Board in March 2017.
The Business Case closely follows a recommendation of the study for EDA to explore a Pooling and Sharing demonstration as part of the European GOVSATCOM initiative. The project will be put in place progressively with due consideration given to the impact it might have on suppliers, users and alternative frameworks. The Pooling and Sharing demonstration will require close cooperation, not only between the Member States which contribute to the SATCOM capability pool and those who use it but also with the other GOVSATCOM activities pursued in ESA and the Commission.
The Ad-Hoc Working Group of the GSC demo project, consisting of all 14 Member States and Norway, will now establish the Project Arrangement detailing the legal conditions for the project.
Reliable, stable and secure communications are crucial in any CSDP mission or operation. Yet, terrestrial network infrastructures are not available everywhere, for instance in areas hit by natural disasters, at sea, in the air or in hostile zones. Satellite communications (SATCOM) can be the solution: rapidly deployable, flexible and distance insensitive, they offer communication links where terrestrial networks are damaged, overloaded or non-existent.
However, access to SATCOM cannot be taken for granted at any time, especially not when government users require them at short notice and without pre-arranged agreements. In situations of high demand, competition with other users of commercial SATCOM capacities creates a risk of non-availability and high costs. Against this backdrop, EU leaders decided in 2013 that there was a need for a new solution combining the advantages of commercial and military satellite systems in order to address both civil and military needs through European cooperation. The European Defence Agency, in collaboration with the European Commission and the European Space Agency, is now preparing the next generation of GOVSATCOM.
GOVSATCOM will be a capability that is placed in between the commercial satellite communication market and the highly protected military satellite communication capability.