Regional Workshop and CASSINI HACKATHON #5


Invitation to a Regional Workshop and CASSINI HACKATHON

Space for Defence and Security: “Balkan & Black Sea perspectives II”

Hotel Sofia Balkan Palace, (Sheraton) & Central Military Club, Sofia, 24 March 2023

Dear colleagues,

The Centre for National Security and Defence Research – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (CNSDR-BAS), under the auspices of the Ministry of Innovation and Growth and with the participation of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Rumen Radev, as an honoured guest, would like to invite you to a workshop on Space for Defence and Security: Balkan & Black Sea perspectives – II to be held at Hotel Sofia Balkan Palace, (Sheraton) & the Central Military Club, 7 „Tsar Osvoboditel“ Blvd., Sofia, 1000, Bulgaria, 24 March 2023.

Security has always been high on the political agenda, but the evolution of the international and domestic context in many countries is raising new security challenges. The emergence of new geopolitical issues and the intensification of natural disasters due to climate change are sources of concern for governments, including in Europe.

To handle these issues, enhancing the use of technologies to ensure safety and security of people and goods is being increasingly investigated. In that context, space systems repeatedly demonstrated that they provide unique solutions, essential to respond to a variety of security challenges, from natural disasters, civil protection or maritime surveillance to unexpected global health crisis.

To accelerate innovation across domains and foster technological sovereignty in the security and defence sectors, better exchange between civilian and defence research and innovation communities is needed. In light of its longstanding expertise in civilian technological development and its new defence cooperation instruments, the EU is well placed to take a lead role.

This workshop will discuss major policy and programmes of European and national actors across the Balkan region as well as operational satellite solutions to support policy and decision makers in this field.


  • Promoting dialogue among European and national space and Security stakeholders and partners;
  • Discuss best practices on operational space enabled solutions favouring satellite data uptake as well as identify new challenges;
  • Promoting transboundary space-based services boosting regional and international cooperation;
  • Fostering space-enabled digital “skills for the future” among the young generation.

The workshop will gather International, European and national institutional representative as well as, scientists, service providers in the following sessions:

Session “Science, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship for S4D&S”: is focused to provide discussion on current topics in the use of space technologies and applications related to security and defence.

Session “Protecting our critical infrastructure”: In the last decade we have witnessed increasingly sophisticated physical and cyber risks threatening key services and infrastructure. The session, in the framework of the recently approved EU-directive (COM(2020) 829 final/2020/0365/COD), will explore operational satellite-based applications to protect critical infrastructure and will further elaborate on the benefits these solutions can bring to users to ensure more resilient environment to the citizens.

Session “Making the seas more secure”: is focused to provide discussion on the use of products or services with European space data and services from Galileo & EGNOS and Copernicus to enable maritime intelligence on direct security threats, organised crime and environmental crime.

The event is organised with support of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria and with cooperation with EURISY and ESA.

Participation will be free of charge. The working language will be English. Please register now.

The workshop is being organised as an Opening event of the CASSINI Hackathon Space for security and defence, an initiative of the European Commission under the “CASSINI and Mentoring” Programme, on 24-26 March 2023, Central Military Club, Sofia.

We look forward to welcoming you in Sofia.

The organising committee


Katya Dimitrova, 
tel.: +359 886 101 220


Major General (Ret) Pascal LEGAI

Senior Advisor to ESA DG Security - ESA Programmes to support security

Major General (Ret) Pascal LEGAI, was a mission preparation officer in the French Air Force. He acquired experience mainly in the fields of geography, imagery, international relations, Space and Security issues. He has extensive international experience in the geospatial information domain. He had been appointed as a geographer in the French Air Force staff in Paris for 5 years (1994-1999). He was also the Head of the French Imagery Intelligence Centre (2004-2006), Human Resources adviser of the French Air Force (2006-2008) and the Commanding Officer of the French Air Force Base in Grenoble (2008-2010) before joining the EU Satellite Centre in July 2010 as Deputy Director.

Pascal LEGAI has been elected by the Member States as the EU Satellite Centre Director on the 1st January 2015, an imagery analysis centre, based near Madrid, Spain, providing Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) and Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) products and services to support the EU external action. He left this position on the 30th of April 2019. On 1st of May 2019, he has been appointed to the European Space Agency (ESA), first as a Senior Security Adviser to the ESA/Earth Observation Director, in Frascati (Rome), and today as a Senior Security Coordinator to ESA DG in Paris.

He has a PhD in International Relations, a law degree, several master degrees in Imagery Processing, Computer Sciences, in History, in British Civilization, in Mathematics. He is an aerospace engineer and has also an Engineer Diploma in the field of the geographic sciences.

Dr. Christopher Topping

Civil Security from Space Programme Manager (Acting); Rapid & Resilient Crisis Response Accelerator Lead, ESA

Christopher is a seasoned space systems engineer with over 25 years of experience in the satellite sector. He is currently working for ESA in the Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Directorate based in the Netherlands and is Managing the Civil Security from Space Programme, as well as leading the Rapid and Resilient Crisis Response Accelerator. Prior these responsibilities, Christopher held the positions of Head of Strategy, Programme and Transformation Office and Head of Business Development. For several years Christopher has worked in the Future Projects Division leading the build-up of numerous Private Public Partnership Projects between ESA and European Industry, fostering ambitious developments with prominent European Satellite Operators. Prior to his time at ESA he has worked in Cyprus as the CTO of a start-up Satellite Operator as well as worked as a fellow at the University of Cyprus working on European Defence Agency projects. The majority of his career had begun at Airbus Defence and Space based in the UK. There he worked for the Advanced Systems Group as the Product Line Manager for Advanced Satellite Processors. Christopher had begun his career by obtaining his PhD in Signal Processing and Communications from Imperial College London in 1998.

Dominique Tilmans

EURISY President

Dominique holds the title of Honorary Senator in Belgium. She has a Master’s Degree in Political Science, „International Relations and Diplomatic studies“, at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1975).

During her electing mandates in the Belgian parliament, which spanned 27 years, she invested a lot of energy in space matters. She held the position of Chair of the „Belgian Senate Space Group“ and she also presided over the „European Interparliamentary Space conference“.

In 2016, she was elected President of EURISY, a Paris-based non-profit Association of space Agencies aiming to bridge space and Society. She is also a Member of the Advisory Council of the European Space Policy Institute and, a Member of the Board of Vitrociset Belgium.

Concerned by the difficulties of the space industry to recruit young professionals, she launched YouSpace in 2014, and soon after “Switch to Space” an event with 50 speaker’s representing experts in space and an average of more than 500 students who discovered the great diversity of the sector. Following the success of this event, “Switch to space “is planned to repeat every two years.

Through the combination of her long political expertise and her knowledge of civil society, she is really persuaded that Space must also focus on the world of end-users and public decision makers.

Annalisa Donati

Secretary General of EURISY

Annalisa Donati is currently holding the position of Secretary General of Eurisy, the European association of space agencies striving to bridge the gap between space and society. As Research Fellow at the European Space Policy Institute she was responsible for the studies on space economy, finance and innovation’s domains as well as the monthly sector watch. Before joining ESPI she was a Young Graduate Trainee within the Industrial Policy and SMEs Division of the European Space Agency (ESA) where she worked on the design, development, and implementation of innovation programmes to boost European space entrepreneurial ecosystem. Previously she contributed to the activities carried out within the office of the director at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Annalisa holds a M.S. in Diplomatic Studies from the SIOI and in Multilateral Security from the University of Perugia.

Dr. Vasilis Kalogirou

Space Downstream R&I Officer, EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA)

Vasilis Kalogirou, PhD, is a Space Downstream Research & Innovation Officer at the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). He is contributing in the definition and management of the Agency’s R&I portfolio, and leads the market development activities in the area of Emergency Management and Humanitarian Aid. He has been working towards the increase of user uptake of EU Space Programme components from public authorities and the implementation of innovation procurement tools. Prior to joining EUSPA, he was working in the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) as Copernicus Project Officer to define and evolve operational geospatial intelligence services for Copernicus Border Surveillance with FRONTEX. Dr. Kalogirou obtained his MSc in Remote Sensing from the University College London (UCL) and his PhD in Geoinformation from the University of Rome – Tor Vergata.

Sergio Albani

Head of RTDI Unit, EU Satellite Centre

Sergio Albani is the Head of Research, Technology Development and Innovation (RTDI) Unit at the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen). He is in charge of the definition and execution of suitable R&I initiatives with the aim to develop new solutions across the whole geospatial data chain to be implemented in the SatCen operational workflow. Main activities are related to the exploitation of satellite EO imagery and new data sources through innovative technologies (e.g. Big Data, AI, Digital Twins) to implement advanced EO applications (e.g. SAR Change Detection) and address new security scenarios (e.g. Climate Security) while supporting relevant EU initiatives. He is responsible for several Horizon 2020 / Europe projects as well as for cooperation with ESA and GEO. Mr. Albani holds a Master’s Degree in Physics (Astrophysics and Space Physics branch) and a Master in Journalism and Scientific & Institutional Communication.

Irene Sánchez Cebrián

Policy Assistant at the European Commission - DG DEFIS

Irene Sánchez Cebrián is Policy Assistant to the Head of Unit for Innovation, Start-ups, and Economics at the Directorate-General for Defence Industry & Space, European Commission. She joined the Commission in 2021 as a member of DG IDEA, the Commission’s internal think-tank, where she worked on files related to social market economy, technology, and innovation.

Prior to joining the European Commission, Irene worked as a Financial Officer in the private sector. She holds a Double Bachelor’s degree in Law and Business Administration from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Queensland, Australia.

Dinka Dinkova

Deputy Head of Unit, International Relations and Communication at the European Commission - DG DEFIS

Ms Dinka Dinkova is responsible for International Relations and Communication at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS). For more than ten years, she has worked on different topics of the EU space policy, including the uptake of space data for societal challenges and growth, the evolution of Copernicus, EU-ESA cooperation, outreach and international relations. Before joining the European Commission in 2010 she worked with various organisations in Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe to promote knowledge economy and innovation policies, regional development and multilateral donor assistance coordination. Ms Dinkova holds a Master’s degree in business administration.

Ralitsa Bozhanova

Legal and Procurement team lead in  EUSPA

Ralitsa is a Legal and Procurement team lead in  EUSPA with experience of  more than 25 years in procurement. She works for the Agency since 8 years,  leading EGNOS, GovSatCom infrastructure projects, PRS, security, and engineering support  procurements and contracts in EUSPA. For 18 months she supported the GSA Project Management and Quality dept. as an interim head of dept. Prior to joining EUSPA (GSA), she was working in EASA and held business management responsibilities in Heneywell Bulgaria, BTC, NEK, CEZ in the area of the procurement. Ralitsa holds engineering diploma from the Technical University Sofia and UNWE Sofia foreign trade and economy diploma.