EU’s satellite dream dealt blow after falling behind Elon Musk's Starlink

THE EU’s low earth orbit satellite project has fallen far behind Elon Musk’s Starlink space internet scheme.

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Brussel’s project is falling behind , which already has 1,800 satellites in orbit. Shagun Sachdeva, founder of space consultancy Kosmic Apple, said that the EU “cannot meet Starlink or even OneWeb’s timing. However, the benefits from not being first in the market is that they can learn and take advantage of economies of scale that will lead to prices coming down.”

The consortium members involved in the EU space internet scheme are Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, OHB, Orange, SES, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.

The EU knows it is falling behind the race to create the first widely used low-earth-orbit internet connectivity.

One satellite industry insider speaking to the Sunday Telegraph said: “They are looking with envy at Starlink, OneWeb and the Chinese projects.”

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said that his “objective is to go fast” to create a European rival to Starlink.

Europe's satellite internet program has fallen behind Starlink's

Europe’s satellite internet program has fallen behind Starlink’s (Image: GETTY)

Rupert Pearce, the former chief executive of satellite maker Inmarsat and venture partner at Columbia Capital, said: “The European Commission drove an EU-wide coalition to create Galileo.

“Now Breton wants to initiate a similar coalition to create a ‘European Starlink’, to continue to keep the Commission in the vanguard of the global space industry.”

Mr Pearce added that Mr Breton must also “counter the concern that low-earth orbit networks are as yet unproven and maybe a technology in search of a decent business case”.

The bloc has handed an initial €7million to a pilot study that includes aerospace giant Airbus, rocket firm Arianespace, telecoms firm Orange, as well as satellite operators SES and Eutelsat.

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The UK's space industry

The UK’s space industry (Image: Express)

However, the budget for Mr Breton’s space vision will need the consensus of all 28 member states of the EU.

The EU has already allocated €13.2bn for its space budget over the next five years.

But, the bloc’s space internet project will be in addition to this.

The proposal is likely to get the backing of France, which would favour EU funding being directed towards its own companies, such as Airbus, Thales and Orange.

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Space X facts and figures (Image: Express)

China has also an ambitious proposal to create a space-based internet.

Beijing has added satellite internet to a list of infrastructure it aims to accelerate.

The politburo in Beijing is developing plans for two low earth orbit constellations totalling 13,000 spacecraft.

William Murphy

William Murphy

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