The European initiative for secure space connectivity is taking shape. European authorities (Council, Commission and Parliament) agreed on Thursday 17 November 2022 to deploy Iris2, a constellation of satellites aimed at providing connectivity to all of Europe and Africa. “A giant leap for our sustainability and a giant leap for our technological sovereignty“, greeted Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market I tweet. The network should be active from 2024.
A total budget of 6 billion euros
After Galileo and Copernicus, for satellite positioning and Earth observation, the European Union has a third constellation. It is called Iris2 for Resilience and Secure Interconnection Infrastructure from Satellites in Europe. To reduce the risks of space congestion, “Iris2 will be a multi-orbit constellation capable of creating synergy with our existing Galileo and Copernicus constellations”adds Thierry Breton.
As originally plannedthis project has an envelope of 2.4 billion euros from the EU budget, to which will be added a contribution from the European Space Agency (ESA) and private investments for a total estimated cost of 6 billion euros.
This constellation should primarily be used to provide a secure communications infrastructure for government services, especially defense applications, EU agencies, emergency services and European delegations around the world. Private companies will be able to offer citizens, companies and public bodies access to this communication network, even in remote and unconnected areas. On the part of government users, this satellite Internet connection will support critical infrastructure protection, surveillance, external action and crisis management. But the outputs are numerous: the Internet of Things, the autonomous vehicle, education, health, connectivity in flight and at sea, etc.
30% of the infrastructure consists of start-ups
Actors ensure that this constellation will be sovereign, which implies “very strict eligibility criteria and security requirements”, recalls Thierry Breton. The partners want 30% of the infrastructure to be done by start-ups. A boon for nuggets who will be able to showcase their knowledge alongside leading industry groups.
This secure space telecommunications system aims to be at the cutting edge of technology. The network will take into account the latest technologies and will be able to integrate the infrastructure of the European quantum communication space EuroQCI in order to allow the secure transmission of cryptographic keys. Other innovations can also be pushed around this project.
A question of digital sovereignty
This project started in December 2020 : a consortium of companies, of which Airbus space and Arianespace, is then responsible for its feasibility study. A topic that seems essential on EU digital sovereignty. Mega-constellations, which are currently being deployed, are already supported by UNITED STATES, China and Russia. Europe needs to equip itself with its technology to meet hyper-connectivity needs and the need for secure connectivity. And above all not to be dependent on foreign players in this field. Even more so in a context where cyber security issues have become essential, especially since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
Starlink, from SpaceX, has already made a good start in getting such an offering up and running. Amazon has also launched a similar project, but his project is moving more slowly. Recently, Boeing also announced that it wants to compete with SpaceX and Amazon with its own constellation of satellites for the Internet. The race is on.
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