Europe to launch €225m telecoms satellite

22 Apr 2010

The European Commission is to launch an innovative telecoms satellite in 2012 backed by up to €225m in finance from the EU’s Risk-sharing Finance Facility, Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn revealed today.

Geoghegan-Quinn will sign an agreement with the president of the European Investment Bank today.

The satellite will extend high-speed data and voice communications to remote parts of Europe, as well as Africa and the Middle East.

Alphasat will be used by maritime, aeronautical and land mobile users in all kinds of situations and this will, among other things, facilitate the work of medical and emergency services.

Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Alphasat will be launched thanks to EU funds, EIB loans and private-sector entrepreneurship. It will bring much-needed services to people in remote regions, contribute to jobs in the knowledge economy and help Europe’s space industry to innovate. It will be a symbol of the Europe 2020 strategy in orbit.”

About the Alphasat satellite

The Alphasat satellite will be “open access” for research organisations. It will initially house four applications developed by several European universities, industry and space organisations for aeronautical, land and maritime research.

The Alphasat mission is a joint undertaking of the European Space Agency and Inmarsat Plc, a UK-based satellite communications company.

The EIB is providing Inmarsat a loan of up to €225m towards the construction and launch of the satellite, expected to cost around €598m. The loan is being provided from the joint EC-EIB Risk Sharing Finance Facility, backed by funds from the European Union’s 7th research framework programme (€1bn) and EIB’s own resources (€1bn).

ESA is contributing around €230m through the provision of the Alphabus platform.

The prototype Alphasat satellite will be the first satellite to be launched using a next-generation satellite “bus” developed by the European Space Agency and the French agency CNES.

“This confirms the EIB’s long-standing support to Europe’s space industry,” EIB president Philippe Maystadt said.

“This satellite will put European industry in a leading position in this segment and could bring significant spill-over effects for research and innovation in Europe. This is the type of investment the EIB intends to finance further under the EU 2020 initiative.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Máire GeogheganQuinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years