16 Jun 2011 By JULIAN HALE DefenseNews
BRUSSELS - The European Defence Agency (EDA) is set to sign an administrative agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the Paris Air Show on June 20 to improve cooperation between the two agencies.
In broad terms, the EDA aggregates security and defense requirements for its 26 member states, while the ESA does the same for civilian requirements for its member states.
The arrangement will include identifying capability gaps that could be filled by space assets in carrying out EU policies (such as Common and Security Defence Capability missions on the military side) and looking at opportunities for pooling and sharing.
"Satellite communications might be an area for pooling and sharing," an EDA official said. "All member states will have to replace them by about 2020. For the conduct of operations, space-based assets are simply essential."
One area that the two agencies will explore is an EU space situational awareness capability.
"This has nothing to do with space weaponization but is about ensuring the safety of European space assets (such as critical infrastructure) from natural or potentially man-made (e.g., space debris) threats," the EDA official said.
For example, space weather (e.g., solar flares) can disturb the functioning of satellites, be they military or civil, said the official.
The official contrasted the idea of developing an EU space situational awareness capability with the development of Galileo, which is a civil system under civil control that may have military users.
"This is the first time (with the EU space situational awareness capability) that the EU has said from the outset that this is a dual-use capability," the official said. "This means that it will serve and be based on the requirements of the civil and military community."
That process, which will also involve the European Commission and the EU's External Action Service, is expected to hit an important milestone in the summer when the EU's political and security committee validates an aggregated set of civil and military requirements in this area.
Another area for potential cooperation is unmanned aerial systems (UASs).
Here, both the EDA and ESA have done feasibility studies on UAS command and control via satellite, and a demonstration mission is expected to be carried out around 2011-12.
The EDA-ESA administrative arrangement foresees the possibility of the two agencies exchanging personnel for specific projects for a limited period of time and for each agency to be invited to the other's high-level meetings, but there will be no shared office or merging of the two bodies.
Other activities of common interest focus on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and civil-military synergies in Earth observation and critical space technologies where the EU does not want to be totally dependent on suppliers from outside the EU, an EDA document says.
The background to this effort is a space policy resolution by EU member states in November 2010, in which they invited the commission, the EU Council assisted by EDA, together with member states and ESA "to explore ways to support current and future capability needs for crisis management through cost-effective access to robust, secure and reactive space assets and services (integrating global satellite communications, Earth observation, positioning and timing), taking full advantage of dual-use synergies as appropriate."
Separately, the EDA official said negotiations with Switzerland for an administrative arrangement were ongoing, although there was no date yet for the signing of an agreement.