European Commission Taps Eutelsat and SES for IRIS2 Program

by Yuri Nikolaenko

Creating a Robust and Resilient Satellite Infrastructure for EU

Jan 31, 2024

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The European Commission’s IRIS2 satellite connectivity program has chosen the ‘SpaceRise’ consortium as its contractor. This consortium includes satellite operators SES, Eutelsat, Hispasat, and Airbus and they will be tasked, over 12 years, with deploying and managing a network of satellites across a mix of orbits to ensure blanket coverage across Europe. The network will consist of geostationary, medium Earth orbit (MEO), and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

IRIS2 promo. Credit: EUSPA

According to a Commission briefing agreement is already reached on “most of the contract”. The deadline for full agreement is March 24th. That aside, the goal of the IRIS2 project is quite clear. By using a mixture of orbits IRIS2 project aims to fundamentally upgrade Europe’s satellite communication infrastructure for both public service and commercial use.

Timing for IRIS2 is particularly important in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. European Commissioner overseeing the project Thierry Breton recognized that getting the SpaceRise consortium members or at least their investment was “key” to success. Exactly how it’ll work isn’t nailed down, however. The smaller outfits were initially supposed to supply 30 percent of the value to their membership, and determined how they’d fit would now depend on their size and expertise.

In addition to SpaceRise consortium funding, public money for the IRIS2 project is drawn from several other institutional and governmental sources. Earlier this month, the government of France decided to allocate the sum of €300 million from its France 2030 investment fund. The government also negotiated that the European Space Agency (ESA) would allot €644 million in co-funding for the initiative. In its estimation of the cost of the project, the same source indicated that the overall budget for IRIS2 could be between €6 10 billion over 12 years.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was one of several geostrategic considerations driving the project. By policymakers, the initiative is seen in part as a way of buttressing Europe’s defense and military connectivity. It aligns with EU objectives of making member states’ security capabilities ” more effective” given the increasingly multifaceted character of threats leveled against them.

In their analysis for clients investment bank BNPP raised concerns regarding the investments that satellite operators like SES and Eutelsat might have to make throughout the project. Nonetheless, BNPP also expects that participation in IRIS2 will enhance revenue profiles and overall profitability for participants in the European satellite industry. It will be crucial to establish governance frameworks to ensure the efficiency and financial sustainability of IRIS2 in the long run.

IRIS2 aims to create a tiered satellite network encompassing different orbits such as geostationary orbit (GEO) medium Earth orbit (MEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO). This diverse constellation strives to provide connectivity and coverage not only for Europe but on a global scale. As security threats continue to rise IRIS2 is considered a component of the EU’s efforts to upgrade defense and military communication capabilities. The program seeks to offer dependable connectivity, for effective security operations.

Given the evolving security landscape the European Commission’s selection of the SpaceRise consortium for IRIS2 underscores the importance of having a communication infrastructure. At BusinessCom we specialize in offering C2 SATCOM solutions tailored for defense agencies. Leveraging cutting-edge technology enables us to provide, beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications that empower defense agencies with command and control capabilities.

We understand the difficulties faced in defense operations. We offer customized solutions to ensure Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) and Communications On The Move (COTM) capabilities. Our focus, on security, is paramount as we employ measures such, as encryption and authentication to guarantee voice and data transmissions.

Contact BusinessCom today to enhance your defense communications and bolster mission operations.

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