Airbus and Telespazio to sell excess capacity on Syracuse 4 satellites


PARIS — Airbus and Telespazio announced Sept. 9 that the two companies will establish a partnership to sell excess capacity on France’s upcoming Syracuse 4 series of military communications satellites.

Under the partnership, which includes the French defense procurement agency DGA, the two companies will sell any capacity on the Syracuse 4 satellites not being used by the French military, with the funds being used to partially offset the overall cost of the satellite system.

“We will be able to resell capacity, and added-value services as well,” said Jean-Marc Gardin, deputy chief executive of Telespazio, during a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference here Sept. 10. Those additional services could include capacity and throughout guarantees and engineering and maintenance services.

The Syracuse 4 satellites are under development by a joint Airbus/Thales Alenia Space team. The first two satellites, Syracuse 4A and 4B, are scheduled for launch in 2022. A third satellite is projected for 2030. The satellites will offer X-band and military Ka-band services.

Evert Dudok, Airbus Defence and Space executive vice president for communications, intelligence, and security, right, speaks Sept. 10 at World Satellite Business Week in Paris. Magali Vaissière, ESA’s director of telecommunications and integrated applications, is on the left. Credit: SpaceNews/Brian Berger

The companies did not announce how much capacity they expect to be available. In a statement, they said they expect to offer X-band, military Ka-band and X/Ka dual-band mode services for allied governments at speeds of up to several hundred megabits per second.

Evert Dudok, executive vice president for communications, intelligence and security at Airbus Defence and Space, compared the agreement to the public-private partnership that operated the Skynet 5 communications satellites for the British military, which also sold excess capacity. “That is certainly the plan” for this new agreement, he said. “The Syracuse capabilities start when the Skynet system — at least the current Skynet 5 satellites — comes close to its end of life. We can offer continuity of service.”

European governments, meanwhile, are seeking to invest more in government satellite communications capabilities. The European Space Agency secured 85 million euros ($94 million) for an effort called Govsatcom Precursor at its 2016 ministerial meeting to develop more secure communications for Europe’s public sector.

“This program intended to help, in a way, what was initiated at the level of the European Commission to really put into place a governmental satcom program for the benefit of Europe,” said Magali Vaissière, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at ESA, during the panel. That effort, she said, has been “quite successful.”

ESA is now seeking to expand its Govsatcom efforts at the next ministerial meeting in late November in Spain. “We have defined a strategic focus dedicated to safety and security,” she said. That includes developing secure communications for transportation, energy and resources, border security and space missions. She said ESA will seek 300 million euros for the expanded program at the ministerial.

The European Union has its own Govsatcom program to provide secure satellite communications for civil and military users in Europe. The budget for the program has yet to be decided, said Michel Margery, policy officer and administrator for the European Commission. However, 10 million euros is available in 2019 and 2020 for preparatory activities to allow a “quick start” of the full-fledged program in 2021.