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IRIS²: the future in orbit


Made in the European Union, IRIS² is a satellite constellation that will provide Member States with access to secure communication services. We take a closer look at the project, which is a strategic opportunity for European space equipment manufacturers, including, of course, Safran's Space Division.

Illustration communication souveraine en orbite

Europe's family of major sovereign space tools is soon to welcome a new member. Providing initial services by the end of 2024, IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) will in 2027 enable sensitive sovereign communication services via an independent low-orbit satellite infrastructure. This third satellite constellation joins the European programs Copernicus (Earth observation) and Galileo (positioning and navigation).

In a turbulent geopolitical context, with growing defense and security requirements, the European Union's independence is crucial. It is in the face of these challenges that IRIS² is being launched.

An opportunity to show our capabilities as a space equipment manufacturer

Involvement in this project is of crucial importance to Safran. As a European industrial equipment manufacturer with cutting-edge space technology, the Group is naturally equipped to serve the needs of this market. Ground antennas, modems, plasma propulsion, PNT solutions (Positioning, Navigation, Timing), critical communications payloads, etc. - Safran Electronics & Defense's entire space range is concerned by the IRIS² system. So this is an amazing collaborative opportunity for all entities!

"It was vital to anticipate what the European institutions needed, so as to communicate the right messages to equipment manufacturers and highlight the pertinence of our products and services in this field," says Brice Lançon, VP Space, Security and Defense, EU and Multilateral Affairs at Safran. "Furthermore, this is the first European Union program to include military requirements from the outset. As the European Commission makes public its Space Strategy for Security and Defence, Safran emerges as a key player in European space sovereignty," he says. The outlines of the project are still under discussion during this first half of 2023, but the constellation is likely to be composed of 200 to 300 low-orbit satellites. All European space players will be taking up this opportunity. As an equipment manufacturer, Safran aims to highlight the pertinence of its solutions to the systems manufacturers and operators who will be conducting the work on the front line.

Since mid-2021, the Space Division has been holding talks with major European players to promote the products and services Safran has developed for satellite constellations. "As an equipment manufacturer, we are indirectly involved in the consultations the European Commission has been conducting with prime contractors for this project for almost two years. It is vital for us to be in a strong position now with the players that will deliver the satellites and end systems," says Damien Murat, Senior Director Space Connectivity Markets, Safran Space Division.

"But for this type of market, having the best technology and the best product is not enough! We also have to prove we are competitive and step up our industrialization: by challenging our costs, by optimizing our manufacturing processes and sometimes… by redeveloping a customized product in a design-to-cost approach, rather than adapting an existing product. This is the challenge successfully taken up by Syrlinks, bought by Safran at the end of 2022, which delivered 1,300 onboard modems for the OneWeb constellation in just 24 months. Plasma thrusters (PPS®X00), ground station antennas (Legion 400), etc. Our teams are ready for this challenge," says Damien Murat.

Being part of the IRIS² adventure would enable Safran to become more competitive and gain credibility in the international space community, paving the way for new commercial opportunities.

The competition is officially open!