UK wants increased participation in IRIS2
November 6, 2023
By Chris Forrester
IRIS2 is the proposed European mega-constellation of multi-orbiting satellites. IRIS2 (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) is planned to be deployed beginning in 2027. It will be a public-private financed scheme. The ‘private’ element comprises a wide-ranging consortium which includes the likes of SES, Airbus Defense & Space, Eutelsat, Hispasat and Thales Alenia Space, and backed also by Deutsche Telekom, OHB SE, Orange, Hisdesat, Telespazio and Thales Group.
Eutelsat is suggesting that its planned second-generation OneWeb super-constellation play a much greater part in IRIS2.
Previously, OneWeb had more-or-less been excluded given its (then) UK ownership and non-EU membership. Now that OneWeb is part of France’s Eutelsat (and the UK holds an 11 per cent share in Eutelsat) then that exclusion might be modified.
Eutelsat has stated that the cost of developing OneWeb’s Gen-2 craft to be about €4 billion. IRIS2 is budgeted at some €6 billion.
The UK’s space minister, George Freeman, says: “There’s plenty of people looking at this [Eutelsat-OneWeb merger] deal and saying, hang on, surely you can kill two birds with one stone.”
Freeman argues that it is perfectly possible to have a protected, encrypted and secure communications platform on shared spectrum.
Freemen’s enthusiasm might face difficulties in Brussels where a senior commissioner, Thierry Breton has said forcibly that OneWeb’s participation would be “incompatible” in IRIS2 and not helped because of a ‘Golden Share’ that the UK government holds in OneWeb.
The European Commission’s spokeswoman on defence and space Johanna Bernsel said the EC expects the IRIS2 consortium to submit its ‘best and final offer’ in mid-November and the contract to be signed early in 2024.