By Maxwell Zeff,
Published by Gizmodo, 24 October 2023
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to undertake its first launch of European satellites equipped with classified technology, specifically for the Galileo system
SpaceX has reached a deal to launch four Galileo satellites next year in coordination with the European Space Agency, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Two launches on Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets will add to the 28 satellites currently orbiting Earth in Europe’s global navigation system.
The deal still must reach a final approval by the European Union’s executive branch, which is likely to happen before the end of 2025. A spokesperson for the European Commission told the WSJ they are “taking all necessary steps to ensure that the Galileo constellation continues to provide outstanding services in the coming months and years.”
The Falcon 9 rockets carrying Galileo satellites will launch from the United States, according to the European Space Agency’s Director of Navigation Javier Benedicto. The European Commission is not eager to rely on a U.S. company to deliver critical infrastructure into space, but the war in Russia and delays in Europe’s Ariane rocket program have left the continent with no other options, officials say.
The European Galileo system rivals the U.S.’s Global Position System, China’s Beidou, and Russia’s GLONASS. This will mark the first first time in 15 years that Galileo satellites have been launched outside an E.U. territory. SpaceX CEO Musk has never before been tapped to launch European satellites containing classified equipment. The WSJ says officials in the U.S. and E.U. are in talks on an agreement to protect that classified equipment, used for European military communications.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, while the European Commission responded with similar remarks made to the WSJ.
The European Commission has recently come at odds with Musk over his content moderation at X, accusing the billionaire of allowing misinformation to flourish. Just last week, Insider reported that Musk was considering pulling X from Europe altogether in response to new regulation enacted by the commission.
SpaceX’s last cooperative effort with the European Space Agency was the launch of the Euclid telescope in July. The six-year mission to investigate the dark universe just recently found its guide stars again after a rocky start that has been far from smooth sailing.
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