With IRIS2 satellite system, EU aims to compete with Musk’s Starlink

The EU’s new multibillion-euro satellite system, named IRIS2, is aimed at providing the Union with its own network of broadband distribution, both civilian and military. 

The EU officials believe that IRIS2 can compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink.

European Parliament approved the IRIS2 project

In February, EU parliamentarians voted in favor of the IRIS2 secure communication satellite system, with 603 votes in favor, six against, and 39 abstentions.

The program aims to remove internet dead zones and enable European governments, intelligence services, and the military to interact securely.

By 2027, around 170 multi-orbital EU satellites are scheduled to be deployed.

IRIS2, new EU Secure Satellite Constellation

The IRIS2 Satellite Constellation is declared the European Union’s response to modern challenges, providing better communication capabilities to governmental users and enterprises and ensuring high-speed internet bandwidth to cope with connection dead zones.

Security and resilience concerns also have risen in a geopolitical context where cyber and hybrid threats are growing, requiring a significant enhancement of EU state satellite communications capacities, the project presentation says. It allows the Europeans to move toward more robust security solutions, lower latency, and greater bandwidth.

IRIS2 (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security via Satellite) aims to be a new space-based foundation for a more digital, resilient, and secure Europe, enhancing European competitiveness and socio-economic growth.

EU satellite network to compete with Musk’s Starlink

The EU’s new multibillion-euro satellite network is dedicated to civilian and military purposes and aims to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink.

“Like the European Galileo network of navigation satellites, which was the European response to the American GPS, the IRIS2 network will be the alternative to Starlink, Elon Musk’s constellation, to provide the EU with a sovereign network,” European Parliament rapporteur for the project, Christophe Grudler said.

First launches in 2024 and full service in 2027

The EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said he planned to start acquisition for the network, with first launches scheduled for 2024 and complete service available in 2027. The EU secured €3.15 billion for the project, including from the European Defence Fund.

The move is the latest in the EU’s recent attempt to become a space participant. It will entail the Union releasing its own EU space strategy on security and defence due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Starlink proved its efficiency in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion

The EU’s new effort will have to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink, which intends to have 42,000 satellites in orbit in the long run.

As Musk’s Starlink has proved its efficiency since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU officials have seen that having a space communication tool in the event of a crisis is critical.

SpaceX has sent truckloads of Starlink terminals to Ukraine, allowing its military to interact by linking them to the almost 4,000 satellites it has launched into low-Earth orbit.

High-speed, low-latency internet connection in Europe

The EU satellite project intends to deliver a high-speed, low-latency internet connection in Europe, including the most remote places that cannot access a regular ground network.

Another critical aspect would be developing a backup network to retain internet connectivity, even in the case of significant cyberattacks.

IRIS2 is intended for border monitoring, crisis management, and secure communications for EU embassies, among other things. 

The European Space Agency ordered a partnership of European companies, including Thales and Airbus, to work on an inalienable communication network in January.

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