Europe will launch an innovative telecoms satellite in 2012 with up to EUR 225 million in backing from the EU's Risk-sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), jointly created by the European Commission and European Investment Bank.
The Alphasat mission is a joint undertaking of the European Space Agency and Inmarsat Plc, a UK-based satellite communications company. An agreement will be signed in Brussels on Thursday at 16h00 by European Investment Bank President Philippe Maystadt and Inmarsat Chief Operating Officer Perry Melton in the presence of European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Magali Vaissiere.
The prototype Alphasat satellite will be the first satellite to be launched using a next generation satellite "bus" developed by the European Space Agency and the French agency CNES. It will extend high-speed data and voice communications to remote parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Alphasat will be used by maritime, aeronautical and land mobile users in all kind of situations and this will among other things facilitate the work of medical and emergency services.
The Alphasat satellite will be "open access" for research organisations. It will initially house four applications developed by several European universities, industry and space organisations for aeronautical, land and maritime research.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Alphasat will be launched thanks to EU funds, EIB loans and private sector entrepreneurship. It will help Europe's space industry to innovate, contribute to jobs in the knowledge economy and bring much-needed services to people in remote regions. It will be a symbol of the Europe 2020 Strategy in orbit."
EIB President Philippe Maystadt said: “This confirms the EIB’s long-standing support to Europe’s space industry. This satellite will put European industry in a leading position in this segment and could bring significant spill-over effects for research and innovation in Europe. This is the type of investment the EIB intends to finance further under the EU-2020 initiative.”
The EIB is providing Inmarsat a loan of up to EUR 225 million towards the construction and launch of the satellite, expected to cost around EUR 598 million. The loan is being provided from the joint EC-EIB Risk Sharing Finance Facility, backed by funds from the European Union’s 7th research framework programme (EUR 1 billion) and EIB own resources (EUR 1 billion). ESA is contributing around EUR 230 million through the provision of the Alphabus platform.
The RSFF improves access to research, development and innovation financing for private companies or public institutions. The RSFF covers projects whose ambition and complexity makes private funding sources difficult to find, despite the prospects of major benefits in terms of economic growth, job creation, competitiveness and social advances. By leveraging other funds, the facility will overall create an additional financing capacity of up to EUR 10 billion for eligible activities.