The European Union is promoting a broadband constellation, despite negative assessments

WASHINGTON – The European Union is moving forward with the proposed broadband grouping, despite two negative internal assessments.

On 15 February, the EU formally introduced legislation to establish a secure communications satellite group that will serve European governments and citizens. The implementation of what is formally known as the Union’s Secure Connection Program took place the day before the European Space Summit in Toulouse, France, where EU member states and the European Space Agency will meet to discuss priorities for both organizations.

“As for this new constellation, this is our Galilean moment, as you like, in terms of connectivity,” said Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, whose portfolio includes space, at a press conference comparing the constellation. . to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system and the Copernicus family of Earth observation satellites.

However, neither the EU announcement nor Breton’s comments showed that the constellation was able to clear a key internal milestone. An “Impact assessment” the system twice received a negative commission opinion Regulatory Supervisory Boardan independent group reviewing new initiatives and legislation in a role the commission calls “quality assurance”.

According to legislative proposalOn October 11, the commission forwarded the constellation impact assessment to the Regulatory Supervisory Board, but received a negative opinion. On December 21, the commission sent a revised assessment to the board, which again issued a negative opinion on January 12.

The board’s negative assessment was based on several factors, including a lack of “analytical coherence” as to why the proposed grouping is the best solution to the problems it is designed to address broadband and secure communications, using a “predetermined technical solution” that not indicated and the lack of a schedule. The Council also expressed concern about the authenticity of the data used by the commission to support the proposed constellation, as well as the climate impacts of its deployment.

Under EU rules, the impact assessment must receive a positive opinion from the Regulatory Board to continue. If she receives a negative opinion twice, only the vice-president of the commission for inter-institutional relations and foresight Marosh Shefchovich can allow to continue the initiative.

So it was with the broadband constellation. “Due to the political importance of this program, the urgency of the action and the availability of additional clarifications and evidence that satisfactorily eliminate the identified shortcomings and proposed technical characteristics of the Regulatory Supervisory Board, the Commission – also in light of the agreement.” implementation of the program, ”the legislative proposal reads.

Details of the constellation

At the Breton press conference repeated the goals of the systemwhich include filling gaps in broadband access in Europe and Africa and providing secure communications for European governments and military organizations through quantum encryption technology.

The system will develop as a public-private partnership with a total cost of six billion euros ($ 6.8 billion). The EU will allocate 2.4 billion euros from various programs, including the existing Govsatcom program and other communication and protection programs. Other European governments are expected to allocate 1.6 billion euros, while the private sector is investing two billion euros.

This approach is known in the legislative proposal as “Option 2”. Option 1 would develop the same group but make full use of public funding. Option 3 would provide that the EU is investing in a commercial broadband grouping developed outside the EU, similar to the British government’s investment in OneWeb. The baseline proposal, called Option 0, should continue the existing use of geostationary satellites under the Govsatcom program.

The legislative proposal and impact assessment failed to go into technical details about the constellation, but Breton suggested some new details at a briefing. According to him, the component of the Earth’s low orbit will include about 100 satellites in orbits with a large inclination at altitudes of 400 to 500 kilometers. He suggested that they would work with existing satellites in medium and geostationary orbits.

“We have not yet determined the orbit. “It’s a range,” Breton said of the LEO system aspect: “We have no potential problems with that.” However, this range can bring satellites closer to the International Space Station, which rotates in orbit from about 415 to 420 kilometers, and to the Chinese space station, which rotates at an altitude of about 400 kilometers.

The satellites will be small, he said, and will use the new opportunities of Europe’s “new space” in small satellites and small launch vehicles, which will reduce costs. “It’s not at all the same configuration as Galileo, a much more expensive system,” he argued. “I’m confident in the New Space, micro-launchers and the capabilities of these very small satellites.”

Brittany did not provide details, but the frequency that the system will use is a topic of widespread speculation in the space industry. “Although there are documents today that can be used to serve the EU’s government needs, failing to do so in the coming years will deprive the Union of a unique window of opportunity,” the impact assessment said, adding details of specific documents considered for the constellation. secret note.

“We know where to find these frequencies, so it’s not a problem for me,” Breton said, adding that details on which spectrum to use would include discussions with member states and companies selected to participate in the program. “I know we have the answers.”

It also remains to determine the name of the constellation. “We have a lot of names,” he said, which may include African names to reflect the role of the constellation in providing services there. He said the EU is likely to hold a name contest for the system. “We already have some names, but I’m sure the younger generation will give us a lot of new, bright ideas.” The European Union is promoting a broadband constellation, despite negative assessments

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