Advanced Television

EU funding for LEO broadband scheme building

November 23, 2022

By Chris Forrester

French, German and Italian officials have agreed that their governments will help support the EU’s proposed IRIS² broadband low Earth orbiting satellite mega-constellation. The agreements came on November 22nd at the start of a Ministerial meeting to examine EU and European Space Agency (ESA) projects and future financing.

France, Germany and Italy said public funding for this would be allocated in contracts to be awarded by ESA to Arianespace, the launch service provider.

The meeting also heard that Spain has agreed to boost its ESA funding by 20 per cent for 2023-2025, to €300 million per year. This follows the 25 per cent increase agreed to three years ago in 2019 at the last ESA ministerial conference. Spain is ESA’s 6th-largest contributor, and says ESA remains its principal vehicle for space investment.

The IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) project aims to build and operate an EU satellite constellation to provide “sovereign, autonomous and secured connectivity infrastructure” rather than EU nations having to rely on third-country infrastructure for vital communications.

The IRIS² constellation will be the EU’s third, after Galileo and Copernicus, and its rollout is part of a broader push to boost secure connectivity and minimise third-country dependencies. The €2.4 billion project, the EU Secure Connectivity Proposal 2023-27, was initially presented by the Commission in February this year. The overall cost is likely to be some €6 billion.

“Secure and efficient connectivity will play a key role in Europe’s digital transformation and make us more competitive”, said EU digital chief Margrethe Vestager. “Through this programme, the EU will be at the forefront of secure satellite communication, as it is today with Galileo for satellite navigation and with Copernicus for earth observation.”

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the internal market, in his statement, says: “Yes, we have just reached agreement with the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament on the legal text establishing this new critical infrastructure for the EU. With an EU budget of €2.4 billion (plus a contribution from ESA and private investments to come), IRIS² establishes space as a vector of our European autonomy, a vector of connectivity and a vector of resilience. It heightens Europe’s role as a true space power. With a clear ambition and sense of direction.”

“Following today’s agreement in trilogue (Commission, Council, Parliament), we will start work as of tomorrow to roll out the implementation of this important project,” added Breton.

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