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Innovating for European security

Making space systems work better together

The European Space Agency (ESA) Security Office is calling upon Airbus Defence and Space to devise a new space systems architecture to deliver more responsive services for crisis management and security purposes. 

Airbus Defence and Space has won the first study in ESA’s ambitious initiative to devise a better architecture for space security systems – known as the ‘Global integrated architecture for innovative utilisation of space for security’ (GIANUS). This gives credence to the company’s clear move towards integrated systems engineering implemented through its Innovation and Advanced Concepts initiative and demonstrates the company’s ability to deal with complex, transverse subjects.

Space systems working better together for Europe

The GIANUS concept has been pushed by the ESA Security Office since the beginning of 2009. GIANUS is not a programme, more a European collaborative framework to make the different existing space systems work together, and future ones more integrated, to improve service to European users.

What is an integrated space system?

An integrated space system is a collection of different space systems operated together. Didier Alary, in charge of innovation and advanced concepts at Airbus Defence and Space, gives an example: “When in future the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) system is used in conjunction with a Sentinel satellite, to deliver rapid response imagery and situational awareness to first responders at the scene of a natural disaster, this is what we mean by integrated systems.”

While the need for such systems to work in a smooth and integrated fashion is clear, how to put it into practice is less evident. Not least due to the complexity of the challenges involved: in security, response times, interoperability, autonomy and governance, to name but a few.

Using our assets to build our future

Airbus Defence and Space has a wealth of experience on which to build. Whether it be in telecom systems and services, or Earth observation missions and services based on optical, radar and RF sensors, and related ground missions, control segments and operations. The recent studies won on both the telecoms side (GINS Global Integrated Network for Security) and on the Earth observation side (GMES-S) are extremely valuable assets in defining this roadmap. Less well known is Airbus Defence and Space’s wider involvement in advanced mission and system studies addressing user needs, concept of operations, service definition and overall architecture related to GMES core services or downstream services, the Helios/SARLupe follow-on MUSIS and security matters, etc. Some services, such as Airbus Defence and Space’ SAFER, are already operational.


Haiti earthquake: Detailed map of Port-au-Prince – provided in January 2010 as part of the SAFER service. (Credit/authorisation SERTIT) The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 218802.

Simulation is key

The definition of integrated systems for crisis and security has to take many drivers into account:

  • Security – because we are very often dealing with sensitive situations where governmental issues are at stake
  • Responsiveness – whatever the current routine tasks of the systems, the overall aim has to be rapid response in case of emergency – overriding all other priorities
  • Interoperability – military systems will be increasingly expected to contribute to integrated systems for crisis management. Data policies and security firewalls will be needed here to enable or restrict the flow of classified data
  • Autonomy – being able to manage our systems in a cooperative way is a must for Europe. It will prevent us from being dependent on non-European sensors
  • Intelligence for crisis management – crisis prevention, management, reconstruction
  • Integrated approach (governance) – how can heterogeneous space systems be used simultaneously?

All these matters can be addressed through simulations. The existing MS² simulation software will be the fundamental tool for designing and evaluating the various architectures considered in the GIANUS study. Using this tool, it will be possible for the GIANUS study to be performed across Airbus Defence and Space, at various sites, with a common methodology – thus demonstrating a truly integrated approach.

The roadmap

GIANUS is a major step towards integration of security systems at a European level, but it will not be the last. The European Defence Agency is also working in the situational awareness domain – an area encompassing some of the GIANUS scope.