Italy to Host Main Control Center for EU Satellite Constellation

ORTUCCHIO, Italy (Reuters) — A space center in the heart of Italy is set to host the main control site for the low-orbit IRIS² (pronounced ‘Iris squared’) EU satellite constellation, Italy’s industry minister said last month.

The Fucino Space Centre, close to the town of l’Aquila and one of the world’s largest space centers for civilian use, will be expanded to include control operations for IRIS², Adolfo Urso told a press conference.

The center already manages the European satellite positioning and navigation system Galileo.

IRIS² is designed to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink and Jeff Bezos’ Kuiper.

It is an array of up to 170 satellites that will secure communications for European Union governments and open new commercial broadband services to under-served areas between 2025 and 2027.

“IRIS² will be the European answer to low-Earth-orbit constellations, which are becoming the future of telecoms,” said Franco Ongaro, Chief Space Business Officer for Italian aerospace and defense conglomerate Leonardo.

The Fucino site is owned by Telespazio, jointly controlled 67%-33% by Leonardo and France’s Thales respectively.

“It [IRIS²] is a critical [piece of] infrastructure for the country, as it enables a series of operations relevant to aspects of national security,” Telespazio CEO Luigi Pasquali said.

Urso added that €50 million ($54 million) would be invested and 200 new jobs created at the Fucino center.

Ongaro added that the EU is expected to assign the first contracts for IRIS² as soon as this year.

The EU has pledged that 30% of the EU-funded part of IRIS², which is worth €2.4 billion, will be allocated to small firms.