European Space Agency

SIRIO- study for the Satellite air-ground Interface with Reliable and Interoperable Operations


The SIRIO study aims at delivering a feasibility analysis of a Satellite Communication services operations and provision scheme for ATM, in terms of complexity, risks and financial benefits for Satellite-Based Aeronautical actors involved. Ultimately, the study identifies an optimised Service Provision Scheme, demonstrating its technical, social and financial benefits to be used as an input into ESA’s iris programme, and exchanges between ESA, SESAR JU and the European Commission in preparation of Iris Phase 2.2.

The main objective of the SIRIO project is to propose a service provision scheme and relevant business case, which are used to define a potential way forward in setting up an operational service for the provision of a Safety of Life ATM communication services to aviation by 2020.

Further objectives of the SIRIO study are to:

  • Identify an optimised Service Provision scheme –This entails the definition of a service model set-up with a supporting value chain, defining the role of each entity in the value chain and identifying the risks for each entity involved in provision of the Satcom communication service for ATM.
  • Define the necessary Service Provision Validation & Verification activities – Covered under this is the planning for the deployment of the pre-operational and operational systems. Starting with the service provision of non-safety of Life communication services, and identifying the minimum subset of the system to be initially set up and used for validation.
  • Define the operational costs – This includes an assessment of operational costs associated to the various options proposed for the operational space and ground segment and Service Provision Model.
  • Develop a revenue model and associated business case – Which also includes the assessment of financial viability of the actors involved in the ATS / AOC services provision, based on ensuring a fair ATS charge for the End Users and financial attractiveness for the entities involved.
  • Analyse financing scenarios – This includes an assessment of possible options for financing the deployment of the Iris validation infrastructure and of the operational system, including Public-Private Partnership scenarios and risks analysis. The analyses are to be used to determine pre-requisites for private investments and perform related risks assessment.


The key issues the study is trying to address can be summarised as follows:

  1. Designation of an attractive service provision scheme, taking into account both technical considerations (e.g. coverage, capacity, service interoperability) and economic viability.
  2. Global adoption of the new ATM-dedicated satellite-based communication standard, to ensure world wide uptake and commercial viability.
  3. An attractive profitability should be guaranteed for the private stakeholders by the business model, yet ensuring an overall bankability for the whole project, especially in a PPP approach. To this aim, one possible solution proposed in the study is the development of a new market able to create value and guarantee margins to the actors, hence improving the return on investments.
  4. Appropriate inputs from the SJU are required to define the deployment and validation strategies and in support of the standardisation process , these inputs are deemed necessary for the realisation of the business case .


The participation of the SIRIO team (optimised to guarantee the direct involvement of all the actors in the value chain) in the Satellite system operation study will:

  • Provide an overall appreciation of the satellite Operators/Service Provider and end-users requirements in the future ATM service provision scheme.
  • Provide an opportunity to engage with and influence the Satellite Communication system design in terms of the service provider/operator operational and business needs and considerations.
  • Raise technical and commercial awareness within the consortium of future ATM technological evolutions.

Simultaneous and collaborative presence of satellite owner, service provider/operator and ANSP is an added advantage to exploit in the study in order to propose a viable PPP scheme, which clearly defines the investments distributions and responsibilities of the actors involved.


In order to achieve the objectives of the study above, the following activities were carried out:

  • Analysis and identification of services provision schemes based on the evaluation of relevant ATM regulations and business case considerations;
  • Evaluation of the relevant service provisioning schemes, along with the related business interests and market opportunities, taking into consideration the need to de-risk the private investment capital required (in terms of equipments, infrastructures and operations) for all actors in the value chain;
  • Analysis of the regulatory framework and an evaluation of the present requirements for service certification. This is done in conjunction with the end-users, service providers, operators and regulatory bodies;
  • Identification of a roadmap for the regulatory activities that will have an impact on the satellite communication services provision, and of the potential liabilities for the entities involved in service provision;
  • Assessment of the operational costs for the pre-Operational and the Operational Systems, and in the process, providing a full overview of yearly operation costs during the lifetime of the system.

Definition of ATS and AOC revenue flow among the satellite communication service provision actors, including the derivation of the take-up curves of the Satcom technology by airspace users.

  • Development of a business case for the satellite communication ATM service, with associated financing scenarios based on different Public-Private Partnership options.
  • Sensitivity analysis to assess the robustness of the developed business case by assessing the parameters of the revenue and cost models with the largest impact on the business viability.
  • Assessment of risks inherent to the provision of the Satcom for ATM Safety service, and of the attractiveness of the business opportunity for a private company, leading to the identification of the pre-requisites for operators/service providers investments.

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The Project is divided in two Phases:

  • Phase 1 was successfully completed by March 2011, and
  • Phase 2 was completed in July 2012.

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Current status

WP completed:
WP1000 - Definition of roles and responsibilities in service provision
WP2100 - Engineering requirements analysis
WP3000 - Regulatory activities
WP4000 - Financial analysis
WP5000 - Strategic analysis

The project was completed in July 2012 and documentation is available from ESA upon request

Status date

Friday, October 12, 2012 - 15:17