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SpaceRise consortium in a mess

May 29, 2024

The EU is reportedly looking to “haggle down” the cost of its planned IRIS² mega-constellation of broadband satellites. Reports suggest that the EU Commission looking after the already delayed project wants the end costs to be around €8 billion instead of the current rumoured €12 billion.

But tough as this decision is, there are also reports that some members of the SpaceRise winning consortium to build the project want to exclude SES, Eutelsat and Hispasat from the consortium. Airbus Space, Thales and OHB reportedly want to be the exclusive contractors for SpaceRise.

French tech news reporter La Lettre describes the relations between the various SpaceRise partners as “tense” and that a Plan B could emerge without some of the players.

It remains the case that Germany’s government is not in favour of the current cost picture and what it claims is a French bias in the shape of the consortium. The German government has publicly opposed IRIS² due to its alleged exorbitant cost, and criticises the proposed private sector involvement as immature and demanding an overhaul of the whole scheme and that the private tender to build the system be relaunched.

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck wrote in March (but the letter was leaked earlier in May) to EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, and complained about the “exorbitant” costs of the project. The trigger is the estimated price, which is now claimed to be almost €12 billion, a full 40 per cent more than initially planned. He pulled no punches is claiming that the project is “half-baked”.

There’s not likely to be much of a decision until after the upcoming EU elections in June. The new Commissioners will not be in place much before September.

SES, it would seem, is already having second thoughts about its participation. SES is in the process of buying Intelsat.

Earlier in May SES CEO Adel Al-Saleh diplomatically said SES still remained supportive of IRIS² but implied that the European scheme was no longer quite as compelling for the SES available investment cash as it was a year ago.

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