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IRIS2 already in trouble?

April 12, 2024

IRIS2, which is a massive European project to provide an independent broadband-by-satellite service for the military, governments and consumers, is facing some major headaches.

IRIS2 (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) had been planned to be deployed by 2027. That date is now extremely doubtful, and the scheme already faces challenges of anticipated cost overruns and delays in actually obtaining the ‘green light’ to go ahead.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton, in an April 9th briefing to the European Parliament’s ITRE (Committee on Industry, Research and Energy) and who oversees the project, told parliamentarians that there were still missing elements to the plan. His own re-appointment is – as yet – uncertain.

Two other elements are completely holding up the project: the upcoming European elections in June as are decisions over the proposed European Space Law which covers safety and sustainability in space. Breton implied that decisions on both would influence the IRIS2 scheme’s final decisions.

Key to IRIS2 is the project’s budget which had in the recent past been agreed and ring-fenced, but European projects have a history of over-spend.

The actual project will be undertaken by SpaceRise, a consortium which includes SES, Eutelsat, Hispasat and other players such as Airbus Defence & Space. The public/private consortium submitted its ‘best and final offer’ as regards the project and dates. That bid was submitted in early March, and is now in the hands of a Review Board. The budget is set at €2.4 billion but there are doubts whether the set budget is achievable and reports suggest that a figure nearer €4 billion is being proposed.

Breton told the ITRE Committee that there was an independent committee working on the evaluation process to identify the strengths and what needs to be improved, but he wanted to be cautious in what he said because of the legal constraints and obligations.

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