Europe wants to build its own version of SpaceX's Starlink with a $7.3 billion constellation of internet satellites

Europe wants to build its own version of SpaceX's Starlink with a $7.3 billion constellation of internet satellites
SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk.REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
  • Europe is planning to build a new satellite constellation reportedly costing six billion euros ($7.3 billion) that would work in a similar way to SpaceX's Starlink.
  • The constellation will beam internet access to European citizens, notably those in isolated areas, and allow governments to communicate securely.
  • European Union officials have signed off a study for a low-earth orbit constellation, which is due to take place at the start of 2021, people familiar with the matter told Les Echos.
  • Elon Musk has said SpaceX's internet satellite beta could reach Europe by February 2021.

European countries are reportedly planning to develop a six billion euro ($7.3 billion) satellite-internet system similar to Elon Musk's Starlink network, as the race for global space broadband coverage heats up.

A study for a low-Earth orbit constellation was signed off by European Union officials, anonymous people in the bloc's Commission told French newspaper Les Echos Wednesday. The constellation would beam internet to European citizens, especially in isolated communities, and provide secure lines for government communications, they said.
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The EU could make an announcement about a satellite constellation on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg Wednesday. They didn't disclose any further details.
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The study for the constellation would kick off at the start of next year and the contract is expected to be signed before the end of 2021, the European Commission said in a statement to Bloomberg.

EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton, a former French technology executive and finance minister, is heading the project, Les Echos said.

European aerospace firm Airbus will head a consortium to build the constellation, as well as French-Italian company Thales Alenia Space, Germany's OHB SE, satellite operators Eutelsat Communications SA and SES SA, and space companies Telespazio and Arianespace, the paper said.
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The space broadband system would cost the European Union, the aerospace companies and a regional recovery fund around $7.3 billion, Les Echos reported. The European Commission didn't comment on the budget in its statement, nor immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Having a satellite constellation would make Europe less reliant on other countries whose space services are excelling. US aerospace company SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002, has launched at least 830 working Starlink satellites into orbit for its high-speed internet service. The goal of Starlink is to envelop the Earth with up to 42,000 satellites beaming down high-speed internet.
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Elon Musk said November 3 the Starlink public beta, which is currently confined to the northern US and southern Canada, could reach Europe by February 2021. He tweeted European countries would get access "as soon as we get country approval," which he said would be in February or March.

Read more: Block-by-block maps reveal where SpaceX must offer Starlink satellite internet to 642,000 homes and businesses at competitive prices

UK-based OneWeb, Musk's closest rival to Starlink, plans to blast 650 satellites into orbit by the end of the year, according to a mission briefing. The space company wants to eventually provide global internet coverage with a total of 48,000 satellites. This is 6,000 more than what SpaceX has planned for its Starlink constellation.
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China is racing to catch up with the US and UK as it plans to develop three low-Earth orbit satellite constellations - Hongyun with 864 satellites, Hongyan with 320 satellites, and Galaxy Space, per Room. The country has made its space programme a top priority recently as it aims to become a major space power by 2030.

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