4th Feb 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?


Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.


Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us