Europe's Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite IRIS2 takes on Elon Musk's Starlink

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Major organisations in the space and telecommunications sector have come together to build the Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite (IRIS2) project, in a bid to counter Elon Musk's Starlink venture. It's estimated to cost $6 billion USD, and will aim to provide internet connectivity to citizens throughout Europe. Europe is hoping to have IRIS2 globally covered by 2027 but with the consortium size and the delay of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, it remains to be seen whether this timeline can be achieved.

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The most prominent names in Europe's space and telecommunications arena have joined hands to place a bid to build the Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite or IRIS2, Europe's satellite constellation that plans to take on Elon Musk's Starlink.

As Musk's massive constellation of low-Earth satellites gets to work and connects people in far-off locations to the internet, the European Union does not look keen on relying on a single private service, especially provided by Musk, for its requirements.

The IRIS2 satellite constellation will cost an estimated $6 billion USD

According to a press release, IRIS2 aims to deliver a "new secure and resilient connectivity infrastructure" to Europe's governments, businesses, and citizens. The region has seen Musk flip-flop over Starlink's connectivity to Ukraine that he had offered at the beginning of the conflict.

--- Who will build IRIS2? --- .

The European Commission's call for tender of the satellite constellation was answered by an open consortium consisting of the biggest names in the space and telecommunications arena in Europe.

The consortium proposing the IRIS2 project is made out of the biggest names in Europe's space and telecommunications sector

This included Airbus Defence and Space, Eutelsat, Hispasat, SES, Thales Alenia Space on the space front, Deutsche Telekom, OHB, Orange, Hisdesat, Telespazio, and Thales from the telecommunications sector. Together, the consortium wants to build the satellite constellation on a "multi-orbit architecture" which will be "interoperable with the terrestrial ecosystem," the press release said.

With the bigwigs lining up for the contract that is expected to cost $6 billion, there seems to be little space for new entrants in the space sector, something the EU has been pushing to create a stronger commercial space sector in Europe.

The contract for the project is expected to be approved in 2025

European Space Agency (ESA) has plenty of experience building satellite constellations such as Galileo and Copernicus, which are already in orbit. However, the project for providing internet connectivity requires a high degree of nimbleness, given Starlink's established popularity and plans for expansion.

IRIS2 needs to be implemented rapidly, and the EU has set 2027 as the target date for global coverage. But with such a large consortium planning to take up the project, the pace of execution is under question. Even the likes of Starlink took over four years to establish global coverage with a strong workhorse called Falcon 9 on its side.

The IRIS2 constellation aims to provide internet connectivity to governments, businesses, and citizens throughout Europe

The Ariane 6 launch vehicle isn't expected to be ready until next year and may not even have the spare launch capacity that IRIS2 will need for global coverage by 2027, Ars Technica reported.

Can a major consortium repeat the achievements of Starlink in a similar timeframe remains to be seen.

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