News from Global Milsatcom | German Law Impedes Military’s Use of Satcom Bw Spacecraft with Allies

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The German military’s ability to use its two-satellite military communications system in a coalition setting has been hampered by a German law forbidding the government from giving away assets without compensation.

Lt. Col. Hans-Stefan Suhle, head of the satcom space management section of the Bundeswehr Communication and Information Systems Services Center, said the legal restriction has made it difficult for Germany to take full advantage of its two Satcom Bw spacecraft during operations with allies.

“There is no friendship-type deal possible,” Suhle said Nov. 5 here during the Global Milsatcom conference, organized by SMi Group. “We can’t just give it away under our laws.”

Germany is one of five European nations — the others are Britain, France, Italy and Spain — that have their own military satellite telecommunications assets in orbit.

In addition to its X- and P-band capacity, Germany leases commercial bandwidth on three commercial telecommunications satellites owned by Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington.

The German military has tentatively agreed to finance part of the Heinrich Hertz technology demonstration satellite, with much of the remaining financing coming from Germany’s civil space agency, the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Suhle said a decision on how much each side would pay for Heinrich Hertz, which is intended to give German industry a boost in certain satellite technologies, is likely to be decided before the end of this year.

The two Satcom Bw satellites were launched in late 2009 and 2010 and have 15-year service lives, meaning that unlike its European counterparts Germany is under no immediate pressure to make decisions on a second-generation system.