WASHINGTON — Spain’s government satellite operator Hisdesat has agreed to buy two satellites from Airbus to replace aging military communications spacecraft.

The contract, whose value was not disclosed, was awarded to a consortium of Airbus and Thales Alenia Space but the bulk of the work will be done by Airbus, Nicolas Chamussy, the outgoing head of Airbus Space Systems told reporters on Monday at the Satellite 2019 conference.

Two new satellites dubbed SpainSAT NG 1 and SpainSAT NG 2 will replace the existing SpainSAT and Xtar-EUR satellites which have been in service for more than 12 years. The new spacecraft must be launched no later than 2023 to ensure continuity of services to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, Chamussy said. A launch provider has not been selected yet. The SpainSAT NG satellites will have an operational lifetime of 15 years.

Hisdesat is looking to increase satellite-based communications capacity for Spain’s military and to support NATO requirements. The two new satellites will be situated in different geostationary orbital slots to operate in X, military Ka and UHF bands.

Airbus in Spain will be responsible for the X band payload, while Thales Alenia Space in Spain will provide the UHF and military Ka band payloads. Other companies from the Spanish space industry will also be involved. UHF is a new capability that was not available on the previous SpainSAT fleet. Both satellites will have advanced protection for anti-jamming and anti-spoofing, plus hardened protection against nuclear radiation.

The new SpainSAT fleet will provide coverage of a large portion of the globe, ranging from the United States and South America to the Middle East, Africa Europe and Asia. It will continue providing services to the existing and future customer base of XTAR.

The satellites will be based on Airbus’ new geostationary telecommunications satellite product called Eurostar Neo. Chamussy said Spain’s selection of the Neo platform is “of significant importance” because it validates the company’s decision to invest in technologies like electric propulsion, flexible payloads, electronically steered antennas with in-orbit reconfiguration and onboard digital processors for X and military Ka cross banding.

The Eurostar Neo platform was designed by Airbus with the European Space Agency to be significantly cheaper than current satellites and help European manufacturers compete in the global market. Airbus and Thales Alenia Space are both marketing Neo platforms.

The SpainSAT NG program is supported by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, as well as the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology under a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency and the satellite operator Hisdesat.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...