ESA title

Cyber security and space based services

  • Activity Feasibility Study
  • Opening date 22-08-2019
  • Closing date 14-11-2019


In the past few years, our society and economy have become largely dependent on computer networks, information technology and interconnected computing devices (IoT solutions). This has led to a significant growth of cyber attacks, often with disastrous consequences. Technology evolution, such as big data, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles will even more expose user communities to cyber risks.

This evolving environment presents new opportunities for the European industry to come up with new commercial cyber security solutions enabled by Space. 

ESA business applications is therefore launching a new Invitation to Tender, to assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of satellite-based services in support of cybersecurity for diverse vertical sectors. Any resulting studies are also intended to establish the roadmap for service implementation through one or more potential follow-on demonstration projects. 

For the purpose of this study, ESA Business Applications has established cooperation with the following key stakeholders from the cyber security domain and targeted vertical sectors, who may provide use cases of interest as well as feedback to the study results and contribute with inputs towards potential follow-on demonstration projects.

  • European Defence Agency (EDA)[1]: Set up in 2004 as an agency of the Council of the European Union, EDA supports its 27 Member States - all EU countries except Denmark - in the improvement of their defence capabilities through European cooperation. An enabler and facilitator for Ministries of Defence looking to engage in collaborative capability projects, the Agency has become the central hub for European defence cooperation.
  • European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)[2] was established for the purpose of ensuring a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety, maritime security as well as prevention of and response to pollution by ships within the EU.
  • European Network for Cyber Security[3] (ENCS) is an independent non-profit organization owned by European grid operators with the mission to help improve their cyber-security.
  • The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA)[4] has been working to make Europe cyber secure since 2004.  The Agency works closely together with Members States and other stakeholders to deliver advice and solutions as well as improving their cybersecurity capabilities. It also supports the development of a cooperative response to large-scale cross-border cybersecurity incidents or crises and since 2019, it has been drawing up cybersecurity certification schemes
  • EUROCONTROL[5] is an intergovernmental organisation with 41 Member and 2 Comprehensive Agreement States, committed to building, together with its partners, a Single European Sky for Air Traffic Management and to supporting European aviation.
  • ING[6] is a global financial institution with a strong European base, offering banking services through its operating company ING Bank. The purpose of ING Bank is empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business. ING Bank's more than 53,000 employees offer retail and wholesale banking services to customers in over 40 countries.



Potential services should:

  • be enabled by Space as a means to mitigate the cyber security risks and to enhance cyber resistance and the resilience of existing infrastructures, services and operations; and/or 
  • contribute to enhancing the end-to-end cyber security of Space-based applications. An example is the maritime domain, where a number of systems rely on space elements such as Satcom, GNSS and SAT-AIS, on the basis of which solutions could be proposed to reduce vulnerabilities in vessel position tracking or health status monitoring systems. 

The following vertical market sectors have been identified as facing an increasing cyber threat and therefore are likely to further invest in safeguard measures:

  • Transport & Mobility (maritime, land, air, including autonomous vehicles); 
  • Energy, Utilities and Critical Infrastructures; 
  • Financial Sector; and 
  • Public Safety.

The new services and solutions to be investigated can address cyber security prevention, protection, detection and/or response activities. Combination of space with innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data analytics, or Quantum Cryptography Distribution is encouraged.


Space could play a key role in the development of new cyber security solutions aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing cyber resilience in the vertical markets mentioned above. 

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) 

GALILEO Authenticated functions: The Galileo Open service will provide Navigation Messages Authentication, enabling the detection of spoofing attacks and thus increasing reliability and the trustworthiness of position and timing information. The Commercial service will furthermore combine high accuracy performance with authentication services based on signal encryption, for an increased robustness. All these features will be useful in helping to increase the robustness and cyber resistance of services that require authenticated geo-referencing,  time-stamping or geo-fencing (i.e. monitoring when a device exits or enters the boundaries of a geographical areas). Examples are to be found  in the domains of autonomous road transport (for guaranteeing position reported by autonomous cars or trucks); U-Space (for monitoring drones to ensure that they do not enter forbidden areas such as the vicinity of airports); FinTech (for services accessible only in certain locations); or critical infrastructures (to validate data transmitted by a distributed network of sensors).

Satellite Communications (Satcom) 

Satellite communications offer a unique alternative to the transmission of data through the terrestrial internet, where they can be more vulnerable to potential malicious attacks. Encryption, authentication and integrity functions guarantee the protection of data against eavesdropping, masquerading, alteration and replay attacks. Anti-jamming functions are also deployed in military Satcom systems. With the development of optical communications, which offer increased robustness against interference, jamming and eavesdropping, Satcom systems and constellations will be even more secure and allow worldwide exchanges of data, bypassing the terrestrial internet. Initiatives are also emerging for establishing secure “Cloud in space”, for storage of sensitive data in satellites. Used as a primary communication means or as back-up to terrestrial networks, Satcom can therefore enhance the security of sensitive data transmissions and storage. It can thus benefit a wide range of verticals such as transport (e.g. critical communications); financial, business and governmental sectors. In addition, the development of satellite-based Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology will provide innovative, reliable and highly secure cryptographic key distribution for geographically-dispersed networks operated by  telecommunications operators, financial organisations, infrastructure providers and institutions.

Earth Observation and other data collected from space

Data collected from space, such as Satellite Earth Observation, SAT-AIS and Space-based ADS-B data, combined with Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning and possibly correlated with other sources, could contribute to the detection in near-real-time of attacks and security breaches, by identifying suspicious patterns or corrupted data compared to historical patterns and data. This could be of relevance for tracking & tracing applications in e.g. transport/supply chain management, maritime surveillance and the insurance sector. 


We offer funding and support to companies, both for business case assessment and for the development of new, space-empowered cyber security services. Our offer includes:

100% zero-equity funding up to €200K per activity;

• Technical & commercial guidance;

• Access to our network and partners;

• Use of the ESA brand for your service.


We are looking for teams that have identified an attractive market opportunity with real potential for engaging customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important features. We want to hear about your commercially viable, technically feasible business ideas that involve either space technology or space data. For this call, companies residing in the following Member States will be eligible to apply: AT, BE, CH, CZ, DE, DK, FI, FR, GR, IE, IT, LU, NL, NO, PL, PT, RO, SE, UK. See also the information below on obtaining letters of support from National Delegations.