Europe’s space industry will try to combine China’s advances in secure communications to gain an edge over broadband satellite networks, including the UK-backed OneWeb system. France’s top level space official said.
The advance he mentioned is that Chinese scientists have developed what they call an “uncontrolled” form of global satellite communication based on quantum physics to encode signals. The country also launched a satellite in 2016 to test this nascent technology and have achieved encouraging results.
And now, European space officials say similar systems have been planned to be able to secure a satellite network in low Earth orbit, as well as provide gives it an ability to compete with projects like Elon Musk’s Starlink, or OneWeb – which were bailed out of bankruptcy last year by the British government and Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal.
Photo taken on November 26, 2016 shows a satellite link with the earth established between the quantum satellite “Micius” and the quantum ground communication station in Xinglong, Hebei province, northern China.
“It is clear that we have to consider technologies that are different from those used by systems that were in orbit and were around a decade ago,” The head of the French CNES space agency, Jean-Yves Le Gall, said in an online press conference yesterday.
The low-orbit network around the Earth is capable of providing Internet connectivity much faster than spatial communication, which is typically operated from geostationary satellites in further orbits. Their lucrative roadmap, however, is unclear as ground terminals are complex and expensive.
Le Gall said European governments are looking to gain a foothold in quantum technology to ensure secure communications over the network, even though those who have joined the game are late. While competitors like Starlink are being tested with leads, UK OneWeb has set a target of providing broadband service globally within 18 months.
The project, led by the EU Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, is promised to give Europe the ability to build a homegrown satellite system inside low-Earth orbit, like like how their Galileo geolocation system is competing with the US military’s GPS.
And the unit responsible for construction will be the giant in the Airbus aerospace industry. The conglomerate will lead a group of other major companies such as Thales Alenia Space, OHB SE, satellite operators Eutelsat Communications SA and SES SA and space companies such as Telespazio and Arianespace. The new system will cost an estimated 6 billion euros (about 7.4 billion USD).
“Breton will give more details on the project at a conference next week”, Mr. Le Gall said.
Previously, the UK pledged $ 500 million for the OneWeb rescue, as part of measures to increase global communications after leaving the European Union. Because Brexit means Britain will be cut off from the military and safest level of the Galileo navigation system.
Le Gall said the EU is ready to initiate talks to assess the level of access that the UK can still have in the Galileo system, as a partner country like Norway or the US.
“It is too early to say how it will end now. Obviously the UK is out of the EU today. So they left Galileo permanently and now want to go back but will only be status.” is an associate, because they are not a member state “Le Gall added.