The European Defence Agency (EDA)
slowly is moving into position to help coordinate European Union governments’ future military satellite telecommunications and space-based reconnaissance activities to serve the broader goal of avoiding duplicate spending.
Meeting Nov. 19 in Brussels, Belgium, European Union defense ministers approved the EDA’s 2008 work plan, which includes preparation of a pilot commercial satellite telecommunications “cell”
to examine coordinated procurement of satellite telecommunications capacity.
The ministers also agreed to have the EDA assemble common operational requirements for a next-generation European military satellite telecommunications system. A set of requirements for a satellite telecommunications system will be assembled by late 2008, according to the EDA work plan approved Nov. 19.
European governments long have
lamented the fact that separate military satellite telecommunication systems have been funded by France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany. Previous attempts at stitching together a common system to save money have failed.
The recent replacement of previous national systems in Spain, France and Britain, and the decision by Germany to build its own military telecommunications satellites for launch in the next two years, means that a fully European system will not be needed for about a decade.
Spurred by the creation of Franco-Italian satellite builder ThalesAlenia Space, France and Italy have gone a step further in merging their future systems, agreeing to mount their separate satellite telecommunications payloads on a single, commonly funded platform, called Sicral 2. The two nations
also have agreed to build a dual-use Ka-band satellite, called Athena-
Minczakiewicz, EDA’s technical project officer, said in a Nov. 5 presentation to the Global Milsatcom conference in London that EDA hopes to coordinate research and technology investment quickly enough so that the next generation of satellites, slated to be built around 2020, are multinational.
said in his presentation that more than 50 key technologies have been identified for future European military satellite telecommunications.
Among the payload technologies identified as key are: anti-jamming capabilities, on-board signal regeneration, inter-satellite links and large passive antenna reflectors. For the satellite platform, nuclear and electromagnetic-pulse protection, encrypted tracking, telemetry and control and satellite in-orbit autonomy are viewed as priorities, Minczakiewicz said.
A similarly eclectic set of space hardware has occurred in Europe’s space-based reconnaissance. France, Italy, Germany and, more recently, Spain all have invested in national systems, even if work has begun to permit these optical and radar systems to be used by at least one other nation as part of an image-barter system.
A German defense ministry official said that, for the time being, reconnaissance imagery in Europe cannot be shared, but it may be exchanged. To be ready for a commonly financed effort when the current generation of Earth observation satellites are retired, six European nations have established a list of common operational requirements for future space-based reconnaissance.
The EDA’s effort adds another layer of government support for this.
European defense ministers have ordered the EDA to continue the implementation of a tactical imagery exploitation system, which recently has been
contracted from Thales of France and installed at the European Union Satellite Centre in Torrejon, Spain.
The Thales contract, valued at about 410,000 euros ($601
), calls for an 18-month test period during which representatives from different European defense ministries would work to create an image-reception station that could be
deployed easily to conflict areas and used by any of the European Union member states. The station was installed in September.