Space Ventures Benefit from EIB Investments

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) made loans totaling 200 million euros ($298 million) to specific satellite telecommunications projects and has created a special loan category designed for small and mid-size companies, with a special emphasis on high-technology ventures, EIB officials said.

EIB President Philippe Maystadt said the bank is co-investing with the European Commission in projects that the commission has selected as part of its Framework Program for Research, which includes numerous space-technology projects.

The EIB Risk-Sharing Finance Facility was co-developed by the European Commission and the EIB to aid companies in high-risk technology research. The loan amounts range from 7.5 million euros to 300 million euros, according to Constantin Christofidis, the EIB’s director for innovation and competitiveness. This new loan facility, he said, “would clearly” apply to space-based technologies

The bank loaned 150 million euros to mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London to help finance a project valued at 493 million euros called Alphasat. Alphasat is a development project financed in part by the European and French space agencies to develop a new commercial telecommunications satellite bus that European prime contractors Astrium Satellites and Thales Alenia Space will add to their commercial portfolios.

Inmarsat has purchased the first model as part of a project that includes substantial ESA funding, including some 10 million euros to facilitate the launch of Alphasat aboard Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket.

This Ariane 5-related investment was decided only shortly before Inmarsat selected the Ariane 5 rocket to launch Alphasat. International Launch Services of Reston, Va., which markets Russia’s Proton rocket, had made a competing bid and later protested that it lost the contract in part because of ESA’s intervention on behalf of the Ariane 5.