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EU Launches Study for Space-Based Connectivity Programme

Nine-Company Consortium to Examine Architecture, Feasibility and Budgets

The European Commission has selected a consortium of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telecommunications operators and launch service providers to study the design, development and launch of a European-owned space-based communication system, Airbus announced on 23 December. The consortium members are: Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, OHB, Orange, SES, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.

The year-long, €7.1 million study will assess the feasibility of a new initiative aimed at strengthening European digital sovereignty and providing secure connectivity for citizens, commercial enterprises and public institutions, as well as providing global coverage for rural and ‘not-spot’ areas. Complementing COPERNICUS and GALILEO,  this new EU flagship programme, once approved, will  fully exploit synergies in the digital and space industries. The European space-based connectivity system will build upon the EU’s GOVSATCOM programme of pooling and sharing satellite services, and will ensure high levels of reliability, resilience and security not currently available to the market; it will also leverage the EuroQCI initiative, which promotes innovative quantum cryptography technology.

More specifically, the study will consolidate user and mission requirements and provide a preliminary architectural design and service provision concept, as well as associated budgetary estimates. A public-private partnership (PPP) scheme will be considered and assessed during this phase. The study will further examine how the space-based system could enhance and connect to current and future critical infrastructure, including terrestrial networks, strengthening EU capability to access the cloud and providing digital services in an independent and secure manner – an essential component of building confidence in the digital economy and ensuring European strategic autonomy and resilience. It will leverage and strengthen the role of satellites in the 5G ecosystem, assessing interoperability whilst also taking into account the evolution towards upcoming 6G technologies.

This sovereign infrastructure will benefit multiple of sectors, including road and maritime transport, air traffic and control, autonomous vehicle development as well as many Internet of Things (IoT) applications. It is intended to offer enhanced security in transmission and storage of information and data supporting the needs of various users such as governmental agencies, finance & banking companies, science networks, critical infrastructures and data centres.

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