Leading European satellite and space companies have come together to participate in a €6 billion European Union satellite project known as IRIS². Its goal is to cover all of Europe with satellite internet.
According to European Union representatives cited by Bloomberg, the project should strengthen Europe’s technological sovereignty. The consortium will be managed by aerospace manufacturers Airbus SE and Thales Alenia Space SAS, as well as satellite operators Eutelsat Communications SA, SES SA and Hispasat SA.
If the consortium wins the contract, it will have to build a system of hundreds of satellites in several orbits, from the traditional geostationary orbit at a distance of about 35,000 kilometers from Earth to closer ones.
IRIS², which stands for Satellite-Based Resilience, Connectivity and Security Infrastructure, will provide Internet access to government agencies, including ministries of defense, as well as businesses. The project will also cover parts of the EU that do not have internet.
The EU hopes the satellite network will secure critical infrastructure communications and strengthen its technological sovereignty, while other countries such as China and private companies develop their own systems.
Elon Musk’s Starlink network is currently the largest with low-orbit satellites. Thousands of satellites have already been launched using SpaceX rockets.
Low Earth orbit satellites are located less than 1,000 km from the planet’s surface and provide higher connection speeds. But such networks require many more satellites than networks of satellites in higher orbits to cover the same area.
IRIS² will begin providing services next year and will reach full capacity by 2027. According to a March statement, the EU’s contribution to the total cost will be 2.4 billion euros. Another 685 million euros will come from the European Space Agency and the rest from the private sector.