28th May 2023

Europe's response to Musk's Starlink set for 2024 launch

  • Josep Borrell: 'I do not want to use the word "battlefield" but, yes, space will become a kind of battlefield: at least, a place where competition and confrontation will take place.' (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
Listen to article

Europe's response to Elon Musk's Starlink broadband internet system, currently used by Ukraine in its war against Russia, is to deliver its first services sometime next year.

"By 2024, we are certain that the first services will be delivered," a senior European Commission official told reporters on Tuesday (24 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Also known as the Iris2 [ie squared] satellite constellation, the full rollout is not expected until 2027.

But for issues dealing with security and Europe's future hopes of no longer having to rely on others to get into the space, means the sense of urgency among decision-makings is seen as a boost for the wider European industry.

"We are now putting a lot of energy in in order to get this third flagship [Iris2] off the ground," said Josef Aschbacher, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Aschbacher said the ESA had obtained some €644m to help develop the technology needed for the project. The entire project is backed by €2.4bn from the EU budget and is set to be voted on by the European Parliament next month.

Among other things, Iris2 will also be used for border surveillance, crisis management and secure communications for EU embassies.

But it will also be competing with Tesla magnate Musk, whose Starlink aims to have some 42,000 satellites in orbit.

Aside from the US competition, the European space industry is also seeking more autonomy in light of Russia's war with Ukraine.

"This war was a wake-up call. It was a wake-up call for all of us: not just for Ukraine, not just for the Europeans, [but also] for the international community and international security — and specifically in terms of space," said the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

"I do not want to use the word "battlefield" but, yes, space will become a kind of battlefield: at least, a place where competition and confrontation will take place," he said.

With the exception of the International Space Station, the ESA no longer cooperates with Russia's Roscosmos. The two were working on big projects, including plans to send a rover to Mars to explore for life. ESA also stopped launching Russian Soyuz rockets from its Kourou space port in French Guiana.

Life on Jupiter's moons

But the ESA is pressing ahead with other missions. This includes looking for life on the icy moons of Jupiter. One of Jupiter's moons, Europa, is thought to have an ocean that is some 100km in depth.

A six-tonne spacecraft called Juice will make a series of fly-bys of the moons Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.

With a launch date set for April, the spacecraft will take 8.5 years to reach the moons, then make some 35 fly-bys, before landing on Ganymede in late 2034.

A second major mission also set for launch a few months later, called Euclid, aims to map the geometry of the universe.

"These are two major missions for all of our scientists in terms of understanding our solar system," said Carole Mundell, ESA director of science.

"So for me origins is a big theme for 2023," she said.

Europe's new space port seeks to launch reusable rockets

Europe's first mainland satellite launch port is taking shape amid promises to launch reusable rockets. But the Sami, a local indigenous population, are increasingly worried about the spreading of the militarisation of the Arctic.


Europe to define new space ambitions at February summit

The number of commercial satellites in orbit is growing exponentially, as is space tourism - and with it, problems with debris. Does Europe want to join the race and invest in more satellites and future Moon or Mars missions?


How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon

The EU led support for the waste management crisis in Lebanon, spending around €89m between 2004-2017, with at least €30m spent on 16 solid-waste management facilities. However, it failed to deliver.

Latest News

  1. How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon
  2. EU criminal complicity in Libya needs recognition, says expert
  3. Europe's missing mails
  4. MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024
  5. PFAS 'forever chemicals' cost society €16 trillion a year
  6. EU will 'react as appropriate' to Russian nukes in Belarus
  7. The EU needs to foster tech — not just regulate it
  8. EU: national energy price-spike measures should end this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us