Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos will provide nationwide satellite broadband internet access in three years’ time, according to its CEO Dmitry Rogozin, quoted by news agency TASS, who stated: ‘As follows from our plans, we will provide 100% coverage of Russia with space communications and broadband internet by 2024.’ Note, however, the agency’s plans may hinge on the pending finalisation of federal funding for the Sfera (Sphere) satellite programme, with Rogozin adding: ‘As soon as the Sphere programme is adopted, we plan to immediately begin works to create new satellite constellations on new platforms.’
Sphere – involving a system of over 600 communications and remote earth sensor satellites – is covered by the Digital Economy national programme approved in 2017 and running to 2024, but state funding has been delayed partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the cost of Sphere has been compared unfavourably to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband venture, albeit the technologies and applications involved differ. Outside of the federal budget, however, Sphere director Sergey Prokhorov said in February 2020 that major private sector investors had already been secured for the project, claiming that private investment in the multifunctional satellite constellation would reach RUB350 billion (USD4.6 billion). In November 2020 Mr Prokhorov indicated that Sphere satellites would be launched into orbit in 2024 – compared to previous projections of 2023 – starting with high-orbit satellites followed by a low-orbit group, in parallel with a radar monitoring system based on small spacecraft. The previous month Mr Rogozin stated that work would begin on building Sphere’s next-generation, multi-spectrum satellites in 2021. According to Rogozin, the Arctic zone is a priority for Roscosmos as it needs ‘high precision monitoring, broadband internet and space communications’ for the development of the Northern Sea Route in particular.