We have reached an agreement for the European Union’s new satellite constellation. The project, previously known as the „Secure Connectivity Programme“, is now called IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnection and Security by Satellites).
In November, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council met for the so-called trilogue negotiations. We agreed on the final version of the proposal for the development of the multi-orbital constellation in the period 2023 to 2027.
I am happy that the European Union will launch a new constellation that will strengthen European spaceflight in the right places.
The Greens/EFA and I have succeeded in establishing binding sustainability criteria for IRIS² – for the first time in the history of European spaceflight (see: Green Space Policy). We also strengthen the role of SMEs and start-ups in the European space economy.
On our initiative, a completely new article on the sustainability of satellites and launches has made it into the legislative text. The Commission now has to set binding criteria, for example regarding CO2 emissions, light pollution as well as the avoidance of space debris. There will also be an obligation to exchange data with regard to future space traffic management. This is the first time the European Union has set such sustainability criteria for space activities – I hope they will serve as an example to private and public projects in the future.
The Commission is also obliged to integrate startups and SMEs, as well as microlaunchers, into the project and actively diversify the economy. This is a step in the right direction: we are helping to strengthen Europe’s own competences and foster innovation in the private sector.
ESA and EUSPA play important roles in the program. ESA will be closely involved in the early stages of design and development, while EUSPA will manage and ensure the operation of the constellation.
IRIS² will provide added value for Europe’s institutions and citizens. We will deliver satellite-based Internet and help erase communication dead zones from the European map. At the same time, we ensure that strategically important slots in orbit are not occupied solely by private mega-constellations. The project will strengthen the strategic autonomy of the European Union as well as provide synergy effects for other pillars of the EU Space Program.
I would have liked to see a stronger focus on the accessibility of affordable Internet for all and to have gone further in terms of sustainability. But the basis for the constellation is laid with a good compromise. Now the Commission must implement the programme, which we will continue to monitor closely.