The IRIS² Satellite Constellation is the European Union’s answer to pressing challenges of tomorrow, offering enhanced communication capacities to governmental usersand businesses, while ensuring high-speed internet broadband to cope with connectivity dead zones.
Boosting EU satellite-based connectivity
Our world is moving into a new digital era, thus making our economy and security increasingly depending on secure and resilient connectivity.
Characterised by ever-increasing needs for hyper-connectivity, major technological transformations and the quest for digital sovereignty, the current decade has seen secure connectivity becoming a public commodity, with an unprecedented increase of demand for satcom services.
In a geopolitical context where cyber and hybrid threats are multiplying, security and resilience concerns are growing and call for a quantitative and qualitative improvement of EU governmental satcom capacities, moving towards higher security solutions, low latency and higher bandwidth.
Tackling current and future challenges, while supporting the autonomy and digital sovereignty of the continent, the Europe Union has put forward an ambitious plan for the development of IRIS2 : the new space-based Secure Connectivity system.
IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) will constitute a new space-based pillar for a digital, resilient and safer Europe and will foster European competitiveness and societal progress.
A space-based secure communication system for the benefit of EU citizens
With the development of a state-of-the-art connectivity system, Europe will offer enhanced communication capacities to governmental users as well as to business users.
The system will support a large variety of governmental applications, mainly in the domains of surveillance (e.g. border surveillance), crisis management (e.g. humanitarian aid) and connection and protection of key infrastructures (e.g. secure communications for EU embassies).
The system will also allow mass-market applications including mobile and fixed broadband satellite access, satellite trunking for B2B services, satellite access for transportation, reinforced networks by satellite and satellite broadband and cloud-based services.
Relying on disruptive technologies, including quantum, the multi-orbital EU secure connectivity system will ensure the long-term availability of reliable, secure and cost-effective satellite communications services at a global scale. It will allow further development of high-speed broadband and seamless connectivity throughout the Union, removing communication dead zones and increasing cohesion across Member State territories, and allow connectivity over geographical areas of strategic interest outside of the Union.
It will also incentivise the deployment of innovative and disruptive technologies, leveraging in particular the “New Space” ecosystem.
Acting now, with an incremental approach
As global satellite connectivity is rapidly becoming a strategic asset for security, safety and resilience, the EU needs to urgently act in order to ensure guaranteed access in an unrestricted manner.
The implementation of IRIS2 will follow an incremental approach with the ambition to deliver initial services in 2024 to reach full operational capability by 2027.
Joining forces of the public and private sectors
An important role is expected from the private sector. The Programme allows for the setting up of a concession for the implementation of IRIS2.
Beyond the optimisation of costs it offers (e.g. sharing the design, development and deployment risks with the private sector) while guaranteeing the security and availability of governmental services (the Union will own the part of the system infrastructure related to security), the establishment of a concession will create a favourable environment to the development innovative solutions, notably through the involvement of actors from the “New Space” ecosystem.
A technology setter, not a follower
IRIS2 supports the economic and societal growth of the EU, while supporting social cohesion through the reduction of the digital divide.
Relying on quantum cryptography through the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI), and enhanced cybersecurity through a secure-by-design approach for the infrastructure, the system will bring an unprecedented security level to its users.
Integrating innovative technologies, derived from both established space industry players with proven technology as well as the disruptive “New Space” ecosystem, it will also offer scalability capacities for future needs, thanks to a multi-orbital (Low, Medium and Geosynchronous Orbits) approach.
Finally, dedicated payloads on-board the envisaged system are expected to improve and expand the capabilities and services of other components of the Union Space Programme.
This article is based on a press release by the European Commission.