European Commissioner Thierry Breton intends to step up the pace of the project, while the giant constellations Starlink and Oneweb are ramping up.
“My goal is to go fast”, said Commissioner Thierry Breton on the subject of the European mega-constellation for Internet access. He was speaking at the 13th European Space Conference held this week. Responsible for the space sector, he wants the Commission to present a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council this year. He recalled that a consortium was already on the job, made up of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service and launch providers. “I await their first returns in April of this year”, said Thierry Breton. This is when a financial estimate can be issued. The budget will likely be based on a public-private partnership.
End white areas
The first objective of this constellation, which should mix geostationary satellites and satellites in low orbit, will be to put an end to the white zones of the Member States. Five million households could be affected. It is also a question of preserving the autonomy and sovereignty of Europe in the face of foreign and private systems. Finally, the security and resilience of European connectivity are also a priority. Hence the idea of using quantum encryption of communications.
One of the very first challenges will be to secure frequencies, the allocation of which will be negotiated with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Do not reproduce Galileo mistakes
If Thierry Breton believes that there is urgency, it is because competing and similar projects are already almost operational. Starlink has started offering a service to users in the United States and Oneweb hopes to launch in Northern Europe before the end of the year. “From the first idea for Galileo to the first operational service in Europe, it took 20 years; we are not 20 years old ”, Jean-Marc Nasr, the head of Airbus Space Systems also at the head of the consortium, told the BBC. “We can’t have the first service in 2040. If we do that, we’re dead. “
This mega-constellation therefore appears to be the new flagship European space project, after the satellite navigation constellation Galileo and the Copernicus observation program.