EU calls on industry to assist with its ‘sovereign satellite’ plans

24 Mar 2023

Image: © 3dsculptor/

The EU aims to get an industry contract signed by 2024, with the view to implementing the IRIS² satellite system by 2027.

The European Commission has today (24 March) launched an invitation to industry to submit proposals for a contract to implement a planned satellite constellation.

The EU satellite constellation that space tech companies are being asked to tender for is called IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite).

IRIS² will receive a chunk of the EU’s budget of €2.4bn for its implementation. The project will be a public-private collaboration, and the tender launch is one of the first steps the EU is taking to get the plan in motion. It was first announced in February 2022, with the EU promising €6bn in funding for the project at the time.

Once up and running, IRIS² will aim to provide EU countries with guaranteed access to secure connectivity services to help them with things such as surveillance, crisis management and military operations.

It is intended to be an overall protector of the region’s technological sovereignty. The security of the satellite communications will be based on advanced encryption tech including quantum cryptography.

As well as the security aspect, IRIS² aims to improve infrastructure to provide high-speed broadband and connectivity across the EU and also in other areas, such as the Arctic region and Africa.

The EU is open to receiving tender applications from big industry players within the space sector as well as SMEs and start-ups.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, said the tender announcement “is an important milestone for EU space”.

He said his “message to all space industry players” in Europe is “be ready to answer” the call for applications.

The proposals that are submitted as part of the open call will be evaluated on a competitive basis. The EU hopes to get a contract signature by the beginning of 2024, while it aims to have the satellite system fully operational in 2027.

The EU already has several satellite systems in place, including Galileo and Copernicus. Breton has previously said that strategic autonomy and sovereignty is a key part of the EU’s space strategy as a whole.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.