The EU Broadband Battle In Space8th Jul 2022
The European Union has announced that it will launch its own constellation of broadband satellites. This system is similar to the UK’s OneWeb, which has become tangled in a political deadlock.
The EU broadband initiative, called ‘EU Space-Based Security Connectivity System’ is going to see the launch of thousands of satellites into Low Earth orbit, just like Starlink, which Elon Musk introduced.
The European Commission’s spokesperson for the internal market, defence industry and space, Sonya Gospodinova, said the following:
“This satellite connectivity will [enable] the command and control of smart grids in the energy sector, it will allow for the secure management of infrastructure, [and] air, rail, road traffic management.”
She added that it will “ensure the long-term availability of worldwide uninterrupted access to secure and cost-effective satellite communication services” and use the “latest quantum communication technologies for secure encryption”.
EU Broadband Similar to SpaceX’s Starlink
The EU broadband system will be open to both civilian and commercial uses as well. Plus, a number of member states will also use it.
The exact details of how the system will operate are not expected to be finalised until June 2023. Initial reports state that it will be similar to Starlink.
In particular, the project will need to look at the experience of Starlink. Elon Musk’s company spent the past few years launching a mesh of satellites to orbit at altitudes that are a lot lower than conventional satellites. Doing so reduces latency during communications.
OneWeb’s political turmoil
The plans from the EU coincide with the political turmoil OneWeb experienced in the first half of 2022. The company had scheduled launches before Russia invaded Ukraine. This has proved to be highly problematic. OneWeb had relied on Russian Soyuz rockets for the launch, meaning the mission was cancelled for evident reasons.
Roscomos, the space agency in Russia, has demanded that Britain sells its shares in the business before the launch of any more satellites. However, the British government has rejected this, thus sealing the decision by OneWeb to launch from elsewhere.