The Role of Space for Security and Defence in the New EU Strategy

 The Role of Space for Security and Defence in the New EU Strategy

The European Union Space Strategy for Security and Defence (SSSD) has recently been unveiled by the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS), led by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Published on March 10, 2023, the strategy is a significant milestone in response to the growing recognition of space as a strategic domain within the EU. Building upon the foundation laid by the 2022 Strategic Compass, where EU leaders acknowledged the vital importance of space, the SSSD sets forth a comprehensive framework for addressing security and defence challenges in this domain.

The strategy aims to take action to protect the EU’s space assets, defend its interests, and deter hostile activities in space while simultaneously maximising the use of space for security and defence purposes. Thus, it not only safeguards crucial space assets but also harnesses the potential of space technology to enhance the EU’s security and defence capabilities.

“Space has become a key enabler not only for our European societies and economies but also for security and defence. Without security, there can be no future in Space. As highlighted in the Strategic Compass, space is a strategic domain. For the first time, we are putting forward a strategy that will pull together all our tools to protect EU space assets and ensure that everyone can benefit from space services.”

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell

“The EU’s new strategy marks a paradigm shift, aimed at bolstering our resilience in and from space. It bridges the gap between space and defence, breaking down silos and strengthening our flagship programs in space for security and defence purposes.”

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton


The release of this strategy comes at a pivotal time, slightly more than a year after a cyberattack against Viasat’s KA-SAT satellite inflicted significant damage on hundreds of terminals across EU soil. This attack, attributed to Russian military intelligence, disrupted satellite internet connections across Europe just one hour before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the primary objective of the attack was believed to be the Ukrainian military, its impact extended beyond the intended targets. Personal and commercial internet users, as well as wind farms all over Europe, experienced disruptions in their satellite internet connections. The incident revealed the EU’s lack of protection and preparedness to defend against such cyber threats. It also underscored the evolving nature of warfare, with cyber attacks on space assets becoming an integral part of military strategies. Against this backdrop, the EU SSSD was adopted as a response to address the apparent gaps and vulnerabilities. 

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Key pillars

The SSSD focuses on key pillars to guide its objectives and actions. These pillars include:

  1. Ensuring a shared understanding of space threats.
  2. Enhancing the resilience and protection of space systems and services in the EU.
  3. Strengthening the collective ability of the EU to respond to attacks and threats.
  4. Enhancing the use of space for security and defence.
  5. Fostering global partnerships.

Additionally, the EU aims to enhance its technological sovereignty by reducing dependencies and securing supply chains, supporting synergies between space and defence, and improving skills in the defence and space industries. Through these measures, the EU strives to safeguard its space assets, defend its interests, and strengthen its security and defence capabilities in an increasingly interconnected world.

Enhancing the use of space for security and defence

As part of the SSSD, the pillar dedicated to enhancing the use of space for security and defence emerges as a vital component. This pillar encompasses various plans aimed at maximising the potential of space technologies and services to strengthen security, improve defence capabilities, and inform decision-making processes. In this section, we explore the concrete initiatives proposed within this pillar and their significance in promoting the uptake and utilisation of space data in the realm of security and defence.

Pilot projects 

The SSSD introduces two pilot projects aimed at the delivery of initial Space Domain Awareness (SDA) services and the development of a new Earth observation governmental service as part of the Copernicus evolution. 

First, the Commission, in collaboration with the High Representative, strives to start a pilot project that will deliver initial SDA services by the end of 2024. This pilot will provide critical support to EU response efforts and explore connections with the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) component of the EU Space Programme.

Second, in line with supporting autonomous decision-making and action, the Commission is actively progressing towards the gradual implementation of a new Copernicus governmental service. This service, starting with a pilot, will leverage the complementary roles of SatCen and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) to deliver a fully reliable and continuously available situational awareness service.

Hence, these initiatives seek to improve space data collection, analysis, and dissemination, ultimately enhancing situational awareness and decision-making capabilities.

Connecting space, defence, and security

One of the strategy’s primary objectives is to promote improved connectivity between the space, defence, and security sectors at the EU level. This initiative aims to foster synergies and cross-fertilisation, particularly in the field of research and development. By combining the expertise and resources of these domains, innovative solutions can be effectively harnessed to address security challenges. In line with this objective, the SSSD seeks to encourage collaborative efforts between start-ups in the areas of space, security, and defence. 

Scaling up New Space 

The Commission will stimulate New Space to scale up in the EU with the support of the CASSINI programme. This will include a more systematic development of anchor customer contracts, further mobilisation of grants-loans-equity with the support of the European Innovation Council, the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund, synergies with the EU Defence Innovation Scheme, and the organisation of space/defence hackathons and challenges on a yearly basis.

Skills, education, and training

The Commission and the High Representative, in collaboration with European Defence Agency (EDA), EUSPA, and the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), aim to enhance the skills of public administration and industry by the end of 2024. This will be achieved through activities such as mapping space security and defence training and providing upskilling opportunities for the downstream space industry. There is a potential plan to establish a new large-scale partnership to facilitate these efforts. This collaboration will drive innovation, encourage knowledge exchange, and promote the development of state-of-the-art space services for security and defence applications. Furthermore, enhancing skills related to the development of such services will contribute to the growth and competitiveness of the EU’s defence and space industries.

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Promoting the use of space data

The SSSD holds significant implications for the promotion and utilisation of space data in the field of security and defence. By strengthening the connection between space technologies and security and defence needs, the strategy creates new avenues for leveraging space data in the sector. The enhanced collection, analysis, and utilisation of space data will offer valuable insights, improve situational awareness, and inform decision-making processes in security and defence operations. Furthermore, the collaboration between space and defence start-ups will foster innovation and the development of tailored solutions that harness the potential of space data. By encouraging partnerships and cross-sector collaboration, the strategy creates a fertile ground for knowledge exchange and the advancement of space-based technologies for security and defence applications.


The SSSD proposes concrete actions to be implemented using budgets from existing programmes (e.g., European Defence Fund, Horizon Europe, EU space programme, IRIS²). It defines a new course of action for the EU. It will have a long-term impact and lead to greater synergies between space and defence, including in proposing options for potential new initiatives.

Shaping a more secure and resilient future 

The SSSD represents a significant milestone in enhancing the use of space technologies and services for security and defence purposes. The proposed measures will drive the uptake of space data, promote collaboration, and enhance skills within the space and defence industries. As we navigate an increasingly complex global landscape, the strategic utilisation of space data emerges as a vital asset in addressing security challenges and bolstering the EU’s defence capabilities. The concrete implications of this strategy highlight the immense value of space data and its role in shaping a more secure and resilient future.

Space and Defence: Protecting Europe and Strengthening our Capacity to Act

The original document ‘European Union Space Strategy for Security and Defence’ is avaiable via the link below:

European Union Space Strategy for Security and Defence

Nataliia Demchuk

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