European Space Agency

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The Future of Satellite Communications and Space Applications

The Directorate of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications (TIA) is the most business-oriented part of ESA. Its role is to shape and support innovation, not only in satellite communications but also in down-to-earth business applications of space systems and technologies such as satellite navigation, Earth observation or human space flight. This is achieved through ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)

By stimulating R&D and forging partnerships, TIA and the ARTES programme enable European and Canadian industry to develop innovative products, services, applications and even whole systems that give them a leading edge in a highly competitive global market.

Entities within ESA Member States, whether large or small, new or experienced, can submit proposals to the various elements of the ARTES programme, following its funding framework and criteria. The elements evolve over time, with their current grouping shown below.

Core Competitiveness is dedicated to the development, qualification and demonstration of products (“Competitiveness and Growth”), or long-term technology development (“Advanced Technology”). Products in this context can be an equipment for the platform or payload of a satellite, a user terminal, or a full telecom system integrating a network with its space segment.

ESA Partnership Projects provide the Satcom industry with an efficient framework for bringing innovative, large-scale products and systems into the marketplace through public-private partnerships. They can address space and/or ground segments. Examples with recent or imminent launches include the European Data Relay System (EDRS); the Satellite Automatic Identification System (SAT-AIS); and the Next Generation Platform (Neosat), which includes both Spacebus NEO (with TAS) and Eurostar NEO (with ADS). Other projects awaiting launch include: Eutelsat Quantum; Electra; Pacis 3 (part of ESA’s Govsatcom Precursor programme); and QKDSAT for Quantum Key Distribution. Past projects that have already launched are the Large Programme Mission (Alphasat, with Inmarsat); and SmallGEO.

Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) is dedicated to the development of sustainable businesses, services and applications that make use of space assets, for implementation across all market sectors ranging from agriculture to transport and from energy to finance. It offers co-funding for product and service development, supports access to private finance, and includes ESA’s national and regional network of Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs), Innovation Brokers and Applications Ambassadors.

Future Preparation is dedicated to strategic and market analysis, technology and system feasibility studies and the support of satellite communication standards.

Besides industry, TIA also works in conjunction with other public entities such as national space agencies and agencies of the European Union. For example, TIA is cooperating with Eurocontrol and the European Civil Aviation Authorities to develop communications capability for future European Air Traffic Management, as part of the Single European Skies ATM Research programme (SESAR).

Strategic priorities within ARTES are organised into cross-cutting Strategic Programme Lines which make use of the programme structures above. Three priorities are identified in the 2020-22 programme:

  • Space for 5G, which aims to integrate satellite telecommunications with terrestrial services in order to deliver resilient and continuous data services in sectors such as mobility and personal security. This effort includes the Sunrise project incorporating a LEO communications megaconstellation;
  • Space Systems for Safety and Security (“4S”), which aims to develop secure satellite communications and apply them to underpin secure systems and assure safety on earth. This effort includes the IRIS contribution to air traffic control, the SAGA project on quantum secure communication and ESA’s Govsatcom Precursor programme.
  • Optical Communications – ScyLight, which aims to develop and demonstrate optical communication technology for satellites. This effort includes the HydRON project to develop an optical network: “fiber in the sky”.