Europe awards study contract for disruptive satellite constellation ideas

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TAMPA, Fla. — A consortium of more than 20 European space companies said Dec. 8 it won a six-month contract to study disruptive ideas for Europe’s planned satellite broadband constellation.

The contract from the European Commission is worth 1.4 million euros ($1.6 million) and was awarded to New Symphonie, a consortium led by market intelligence firm Euroconsult and French satellite surveillance startup Unseenlabs.

New Symphonie aims to investigate and recommend the most optimal infrastructure for Europe’s sovereign multi-orbit connectivity vision, drawing on new business models and capabilities in the emerging space ecosystem.

Many of New Symphonie’s members are early-stage and small to medium-sized businesses in the space industry.

The contract comes as a yearlong feasibility study awarded to a consortium of larger, industrial companies in December 2020 draws to an end.

It is unclear where Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, SES and other established players are with their concept study but more details should come in January, said Rachel Villain, principal adviser at Euroconsult’s headquarters in France.

Eutelsat’s investments in U.K.-based low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband startup OneWeb this year had caused frictions in Europe, with EU commissioner Thierry Breton warning of a potential conflict of interest.

New Symphonie’s consortium includes Aerospacelab, Anywaves, Avio, Cailabs, DE-CIX, Exolaunch, Exotrail, Fresnel Alliance, Gomspace, Greenerwave, AAC Hyperion, Integrasys, KSAT, Loft Orbital, Quest Antenna Technology, Satconsult, Secure-IC, Sener, Sitael, Tesat and Transatel.

Following an assessment process, their contract could be extended for another six months with a maximum value of 1.4 million euros.

Meanwhile, OneWeb has deployed more than half its planned 648-strong broadband constellation ahead of global services next year, and SpaceX has launched more than 1,890 satellites for its Starlink network in LEO.