3rd Oct 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?


Northern Europe — the new Nato/Russia frontline

The world has changed, not least in northern Europe, which is rapidly becoming one of the new frontlines between Nato and Russia. It is sometimes said that even the largest avalanche is caused by something small. Watch Northern Europe


The EU-Kenya free trade deal shows a waning 'Brussels effect'

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis popped a bottle of champagne in early June 2023. After the failed ratification of an Economic Partnership Agreement with the East African Community in 2016, he finally could declare success. However, there's little to celebrate.

Latest News

  1. Northern Europe — the new Nato/Russia frontline
  2. The EU-Kenya free trade deal shows a waning 'Brussels effect'
  3. Hoekstra pledges to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies
  4. 10 years on from the Lampedusa shipwreck — what's changed?
  5. EU ministers go to Kyiv to downplay fears on US, Slovak aid
  6. Hoekstra faces tough questioning to be EU Green chief
  7. Frontex shared personal data of NGO staff with Europol six times
  8. Why EU Commission dumped Google's favourite consultant

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us