Brussels, 19 Nov. In times of war on the European continent, hybrid threats and fear of sabotage and cyberattacks, the European Union has reached an agreement in principle to launch its third satellite constellation, IRIS2, which will give priority to secure connections, the border surveillance or the protection of key infrastructures.

IRIS2, named after the messenger deity of the gods in Greek mythology, corresponds to the initials of Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by satellite, and will have a budget of 2,400 million euros until 2027, when it is expected that offers reliable, secure and cost-effective communication services on a global scale.

The purely governmental services of the next European satellite network will be combined with commercial services and the provision of broadband to places where fast internet connection in the EU had not reached until now, but also outside of it, community sources said this Friday .

Pending formal approval by the EU Council and the European Parliament, negotiators from both co-legislators reached a political agreement on Thursday on the EU’s secure connectivity program for the period 2023-2027 – just nine months after its presentation by the European Commission -, which will launch the new constellation in synergy with the existing ones of Copernicus (Earth observation) and Galileo (satellite navigation).

In the words of the Commission, which will be the manager of the project, in a geopolitical context in which cybernetic and hybrid threats “multiply”, concern for security and resilience is growing and a quantitative and qualitative improvement is required of the capacities of the EU countries in terms of more secure, low latency and higher bandwidth satellite communications.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE USES

The new system will support a wide variety of government applications, mainly in the areas of surveillance (for example, of borders), crisis management (for delivering humanitarian aid) and the connection and protection of key infrastructures (for example, secure communications for EU embassies).

It is a “sovereign” constellation of the EU, according to European sources, which will impose certain security and eligibility criteria on the services it will provide.

The government services it provides will focus on security and defense, but applications for the mass market are also planned, such as satellite access to mobile and fixed broadband internet, transport connections or cloud-based services. .

The coverage will cover all of Europe, including the so-called dead zones without a high-speed connection, but it will also be able to reach other areas of the world of strategic interest to the EU, such as the Arctic or Africa.

“It is also a geopolitical asset, as we will be able to offer, in a partnership with African partners, connectivity in Africa,” the sources commented.

DEVELOPING

The political agreement reached by the Council (the Member States) and the European Parliament makes it clear that, for the development of the new constellation, they will rely on European industry, “strong players in the space sector”, but also on new companies generation and SMEs, for which a 30% participation in the contracts has been agreed.

Likewise, the new constellation will be “at the forefront of technology”, since it will be based on quantum cryptography through the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI), and on improved cybersecurity that will provide a level of guarantees “without precedents” to users.

As it will be the first European constellation of multi-orbital satellites (low, medium and geosynchronous orbits), it will offer different scales for future capabilities.

The start-up of the new constellation will be carried out in cooperation with the European Space Agency and the community space sector, and the infrastructure will be acquired by the Commission through a public-private partnership through contracts awarded by competition to the industry.

From Brussels they are convinced that this new strategic space infrastructure will benefit “all Europeans” with its secure communications and the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, has already considered the agreement to create it as “historic”. EFE

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