ESA To Deliver Iris2 Constellation Through EU Agreement

26th Sep 2023
ESA To Deliver Iris2 Constellation Through EU Agreement

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed an agreement with the European Commission to head the secured connectivity Iris2 constellation. As a reaction to the increasing frequency of hacking attempts, ESA said the pact will keep: “European citizens safe from cyberattacks that can lead to the disruption of essential supplies – such as power, water and the flow of crucial information”. ESA signed a 12-year agreement to deliver the constellation by 2027 on behalf of the European Commission.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, said in a statement: “independent access to secure, space-enabled connectivity is essential for people in Europe to enjoy the immense but often unseen benefits that space brings to daily life on Earth. ESA is proud to cooperate closely with the European Commission to ensure that space enhances the lives of European citizens — and to foster a strong and resilient European space economy.”

The Iris2 Satellite Constellation

Credit: ESA

ESA will work in tandem with European space companies to develop and validate the ‘Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite’ constellation. Iris2’s aim is to keep Europe’s satellite connectivity free from cyber attacks, by enabling digital information to be shared through secure networks. 

Work on the first set of satellites and their ground stations will start in 2024, becoming fully operational by 2027. Offering a range of government applications including surveillance and crisis management, the multi-orbit satellite constellation will also connect and protect key infrastructure, such as global EU embassies. 

Broadband Connectivity

ESA said the satellites will act as a “strategic asset for the EU”. The constellation is poised to offer high-speed connectivity to ‘dead-zones’ and has mass-market applications to mobile and fixed broadband services. Additionally, Iris2 will enable: “satellite trunking for B2B services, satellite access for transportation, reinforced networks by satellite and satellite broadband and cloud-based services.

Preventing Cyber Attacks

Recently, two major observatories, NOIRLab’s Gemini North Telescope and Gemini South Telescope were the target of hackers, leading to a system wide shutdown. ESA themselves were also victims of ethical hacking, when cyber researchers hacked an ESA satellite to demonstrate the space agency’s lack of security. Consequently, these types of hacking attempts engendered a need for Iris2’s low-latency, secured, higher bandwidth solutions which ultimately keeps users information out of the hands of cyber criminals. Thus, ensuring: “the long-term availability of reliable, secure and cost-effective satellite communications services at a global scale.”

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