The European Commission (EC) outlined a €6 billion investment plan to develop a new satellite system to provide connectivity to the continent and Africa, and support critical infrastructure and applications around economy, security and defence.

The EC stated it would fund the move through a €2.4 billion contribution from the European Union (EU) from 2022 until 2027, with the rest coming from its budget, member states and private investments.

When built, the system will add to the EU’s other major satellite plays, including global navigation system Galileo and Copernicus, which is used for earth observation. The programme will launch in 2023.

The EC explained it wanted to use space-based connectivity as a “strategic asset” for the continent’s resilience, enabling technological sovereignty, competitiveness and access to fast connectivity for people and businesses.

As part of the initiative, system signals will be encrypted and also provide “connectivity over geographical areas of strategic interest”, including Africa and the Arctic, reducing global reliance on Chinese-built infrastructure.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, said space was playing a growing role in daily lives, in addition to “economic growth, our security and our geopolitical weight”. He added the pan-European project would allow for many start-ups and the continent as a whole “to be at the forefront of technological innovation”.

Safe space
The EC’s initiative will  join and compete with commercial satellite systems including Amazon’s Project Kuiper and SpaceX’s Starlink.

There was also proposal by the EC for regulation of space traffic, seeking to improve management in light of what the regulator described as an exponential increase in the number of satellites in orbit.

It aims to use this to protect its assets and ensure a safe, secure and sustainable use of space by establishing international partnerships.