The two-day New Space Policy for Europe conference held in Brussels, Belgium, featured nearly 800 participants, and nearly all of them talked about money: government agencies that didn’t have enough, and industry that wanted more.
The European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) was the exception. ESOA Chairman Christodoulos Protopapas, who is chief executive of Greece’s Hellas Sat satellite operator, said ESOA was in Brussels to show what financially solvent satellite operators could do for Europe, not to ask what the European Commission could do for the fleet operators.
With 4 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in annual revenue, 6,000 employees and 147 satellites in orbit, ESOA’s 11 member companies are asking the commission to pay more attention to the costs of satellite communications for reducing Europe’s digital divide compared with the cost of laying cable to Europe’s rural communities.
Protopapas said similar savings could be made on European government satellite systems if government agencies would avail themselves of ESOA members’ offer to host government payloads on commercial telecommunications satellites that are being built anyway.
“We do not need money from the European Union,” Protopapas said. “What we want is for the European Union to put satcoms on its map.”
Protopapas speculated that a satellite operator accustomed to managing a large fleet might be able to operate Europe’s Galileo navigation satellite constellation more inexpensively than anyone else. Two ESOA members, Eutelsat of Paris and Inmarsat of London, had considered entering the Galileo competition but subsequently withdrew as the project faced cost and schedule issues.