clouds gather over the European constellation

clouds gather over the European constellation
clouds gather over the European constellation

In February 2022, it was the right one: the European Commission approved a satellite constellation project to recover space sovereignty undermined by Starlink. This program, called IRIS² (Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite), must ensure ultra-secure Internet access by satellite in Europe as well as in Africa.

Read Europe will have its own constellation of satellites against Starlink

This constellation is supposed to transmit from 2027, which involves aligning the companies that will work together – including Airbus Defense and Space, Thales Alenia Space, and Arianespace – with the authorities, as part of a public-private partnership. But the award of the contract to the consortium, which was to take place in March, was postponed to an indefinite date.

Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner who took charge of this file, indicated that a “ independent committee » worked at a « evaluation process », without announcing a date for the conclusion of this work. The IRIS² program is not at the end of its troubles. The German publication Handelsblatt reveals that the budget has simply doubled since its announcement: from 6 billion euros, it has increased to 12 billion.

Enough to raise eyebrows in these times of scarcity for public finances. Another concern is the nature of the contract: neither Airbus nor Arianespace are really used to investing funds in this type of public-private project, which in return allows them to market services; Usually, states order from these companies for their services.

There is also a logistical difficulty: the European Union does not yet have an equivalent of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, nor the capacity for rapid production of hundreds of satellites at the moment. The Ariane 6 launcher is four years late, with an inaugural flight now scheduled between mid-June and July 31. And the delay in awarding the contract will not help speed up satellite manufacturing.

To make matters worse, there is trouble between France and Germany, the two main financiers of the operation. Last March, the German Minister for Economic Affairs, Robert Habeck, urged Thierry Breton not to make hasty decisions on the project, and asked that the schedule be revised accordingly.

If a constellation of satellites is more than ever a necessity for Europe, the letter also mentions tensions between the two countries. Berlin thus seems to criticize Paris for the choice of subcontractors, most of which are based in France (even if IRIS² operations will then be managed from Italy). In short, a real muddle which does not bode well for the rapid implementation of this sovereign internet access.

-

-

PREV “It’s shameful”: a coffee machine increases by 88 euros just before a promotion, is it legal?
NEXT Vincent Bolloré advances masked to attack Rubis