ESA wants initial €750m for EU constellation
October 2, 2022
The European Space Agency (ESA) will be asking its member governments, including the UK, to fund an extra €750 million for its planned work schedule between 2023-2025. The cash will help pay initial costs for the European Union’s low Earth orbiting (LEO) broadband scheme.
Europe wants its own independent LEO communications system.
But that sum is dwarfed by the overall budget of €2.4 billion which ESA space and technology ministers will be asked to fund at their November meeting. This is a 50 per cent uplift on the last budget series, set back in 2019.
The current thinking is that if the funding requests are approved then ESA will start the design and production phase for the new system with invitations to the satellite industry to tender and this is expected around March 2023.
The ESA says that there’s considerable support for its broadband-by-satellite proposals with “strong interest” from the industry. ESA adds that it expects more than 30 full proposals by October 7th for portions of the new programme of work.
But this initial €750 million, as well as the requested €2.4 billion, are both dwarfed by the likely cost of a global LEO system which reports suggest will be around €16 billion.
There are reports which suggest that the UK will not be participating in most if not all of ESA’s portfolio of projects.
Satellite operator SES is already coordinating a consortium, working with ESA and Thales Alenia, on a test laser satellite (the ESA-SES Eagle-1 project) likely to be orbited later in 2023.