London, 22 September 2023.- The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission have signed an agreement on the 21st of September to use space to help keep information secure.
The agreement envisages a constellation of satellites called Iris2. It stands for “Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite”. The system intends to promote digital autonomy and provide a strategic asset for the EU. The satellites will be supported by information-relaying infrastructure on the ground. They will be used by European governments and businesses to keep information secure and confidential.
Under the 12-year agreement, ESA will work with space companies in the EU to develop and validate in-orbit the Iris2 constellation on behalf of the European Commission.
“I welcome the signature of the contribution agreement with ESA. The Agency will play an instrumental role in supporting the Commission in developing and validating the Iris2 system,” Timo Pesonen of the Directorate General for Defence, Industry, and Space at the European Commission. “Connectivity is a major strategic challenge that will mark the next decades. Europe needs to act fast if it does not want to be left behind, and protect its digital sovereignty and societal resilience.”
ESA has designed and developed elements of the EU’s space programme including the Galileo system and the fleet of EU Copernicus Earth observation satellites. ESA also created the EU’s European satellite navigation system for aircraft.
The first satellites and their ground stations are expected to be operational by the end of 2027, based on a contract to be signed in 2024.