Europe approves multi-orbit connectivity constellation plan
TAMPA, Fla. — Europe’s ambitions for a sovereign connectivity constellation are now in the hands of industry, the European Parliament said Feb. 14 after voting to approve the 6 billion euro ($6.4 billion) plan.
A plenary session to adopt regulation needed to develop IRIS², or Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite, received 603 votes in favor and just six against. There were 39 abstentions.
The Council of the European Union “will be adopting the text soon,” the European Parliament said in a news release, clearing the way for manufacturers to submit bids to build, launch, and deploy the multi-orbit network by 2027.
Initial services are slated to begin in 2025 to complement communications assets Europe already has in geostationary orbit.
When Europe announced a funding agreement Nov. 17 for half the project’s cost, with the rest covered by the private sector, the plan was to start initial services in 2024.
IRIS² comes in response to U.S.-based Starlink’s growing dominance in low Earth orbit communications, and a need to protect infrastructure against increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats.
“The Russian military aggression against Ukraine has demonstrated how crucial space-based sovereign and secure communication services are in case of conflict,” said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market.
Government applications include border surveillance, supporting the distribution of humanitarian aid, and protecting key sites such as European Union embassies.
The constellation is also intended to facilitate commercial services that would fill gaps in broadband access over parts of Europe and Africa.
European companies of all sizes will be invited to develop IRIS², including startups that are set to build 30% of the constellation.