In a speech last week to the 13th European Space Conference, EC Commissioner Thierry Breton said his objective was to “go fast” on developing space-based broadband.
Commissioner Breton said he believed Europe needs to rapidly develop a space-based connectivity initiative, which would provide all with high speed broadband and avoid dependence on non-EU developments such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink program, which is really starting to get into gear.
The Commissioner said such an initiative could keep the continent connected in events such as “massive attacks” on the internet and bring Europe into the quantum era.
“My objective is to go fast,” he said. ” And therefore it would be appropriate that the Commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council so we can move concretely.”
Commissioner Breton has a preference that the project is designed as a multi-orbital initiative, combining LEO (Low Earth Orbit) infrastructure with others, including GEO (Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit).
LEO satellites sit between 160 to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth and operate in “constellations”. A large enough constellation could provide continuous coverage globally. GEO satellites operate at around 35,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and orbit in such a way that makes them appear stationary; providing coverage to a specific area.
In December last year, the European Commission assembled a consortium of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers along with telecommunications operators and launch service providers to conduct a year long feasibility study delving into the design, development and launch of a European-owned space-based communication system. This system would not only provide secure communication services to EU member states, but also broadband connectivity for European citizens.
The consortium members are: Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, OHB, Orange, SES, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.
In related news, SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, January 20 for its seventeenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX was originally shooting for January 18, but that was changed to the 19th due to weather conditions and then postponed again to the 20th to allow additional time for pre-launch inspections.
SpaceX has launched 955 Starlink satellites to date. It’s going to get rather cluttered up there.