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SES commits to new LEO consortium

September 7, 2022

By Chris Forrester

SES is investing in IN:IO Enterprise, a group seeking to win the European Union’s proposed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation.

If the new consortium wins the EU’s approval then SES will be the world’s only satellite operator with geostationary (its own), Mid-Earth (O3b/mPOWER) and LEO assets in orbit.

Eutelsat is not part of this new consortium, and its recent merger plans with OneWeb might rule it out in its attempt to be part of any successful EU-based LEO scheme. OneWeb’s UK ‘golden share’ also doesn’t help.

The SES move is to take a reported 25 per cent stake in a Munich-based UN:IO Enterprise which calls itself “the satellite meta-constellation” and which aims to “guarantee hyper-secure communications at all times and under all conditions.”

The SES move is not part of the UN:IO consortium but remains a member of the 9-business consortium which it hopes can still succeed in winning an EU instruction.

UN:IO said in a statement: “UN:IO Enterprise is setting the pace: A first demonstration mission of two satellites is scheduled already for 2023-24, followed by the deployment of the planned infrastructure starting in 2025. By equipping all satellites of the constellation with the new ADEO deorbit sail system from [Munich-based] HPS, UNIO also avoids the formation of space debris on Earth before it can even occur in space. Key to the economics of it all is NewSpace’s proven lever of verticalisation.”

EU:IO added: “Like China and the US, an independent Europe needs its own secure communications constellation in space. Keywords from the catalogue of services for commercial services here are ‘autonomous driving’ and the ‘Internet of Things’; institutional applications range from civil to military use. As part of an EU study, the European UNIO consortium has shed light on the innovation potential of the European NewSpace sector for the large-scale project. The core of this NewSpace approach is the principle of realising an overall concept from several sub-constellations for specific commercial application areas in each case.”

Its statement continued: “Taken together, they result in a metaconstellation with sufficient capacity for secure private as well as government applications, and this at extremely competitive prices. The goal here is to sell the users the desired performance, but not the taxpayer the entire technology. To bundle all the necessary capabilities under one roof, the three previous core companies of the UNIO constellation – launch service provider Isar Aerospace, laser specialist Mynaric and satellite manufacturer Reflex Aerospace, – have now joined forces with their new partner SES S.A. to establish the central European operations and system house UNIO Enterprise GmbH, headquartered in Munich. Behind this is also the largest innovation potential of the network of startups and small and medium-sized space companies in Europe.”

“The central starting point for UNIO Enterprise’s revolutionary offering to Europe’s business community and institutions: commercial satcom services for the mobility sector on land, at sea and in the air. In Europe’s automotive sector alone, the market volume here is expected to grow to over €14 billion by 2030 – and only a dedicated European solution can ensure data security and independent operation for European users. The value of the European Commission’s initiative cannot be overestimated – on the one hand for the security and economic development capability of the continent, and on the other hand for the formation of an urgently needed new ecosystem of the space industry with strong involvement of the innovation potential of startups and SMEs; the EU Commission even formulates guarantees for this in analogy to the priorities of German politics as well,” said co-founder Chris Lindener.

Dr. Xavier Bertran, member of the new company’s advisory board and SVP/EU Programmes of SES, commented: “At SES, we are excited to be part of a like-minded joint venture like UNIO, which is embracing innovation and targets a new growth area in the automotive sector. Innovating to grow our business is very much part of SES’s DNA. The investment in [EUIO] is also part of our ambition to revolutionise the use of satellite communications in Europe and more globally for new applications in the mobility industry and a sustainable future for society. To this end, the management team is currently being expanded at full speed, and the first rounds of financing have already been successfully completed.”

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