— The Italian and French governments are evaluating competing bids to build a Ka-band broadband communications satellite for civil and military use that is scheduled to be launched by late 2012, French and Italian military officials said.

Officials said bids were received by the Oct. 16 deadline and a contract award for the satellite, called Athena/Fidus, is expected by April 2009.

Athena/Fidus is being financed by the Italian and French space agencies and by both nations’ defense ministries as well. It would provide links for noncritical military communications, and also for civil users in both nations.

Capt. Giovanni Battista Durando of the Italian navy said the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and
‘s defense forces have developed a joint services program for Athena/Fidus, which like the Sicral 2 military telecommunications satellite is being managed as a bilateral project with
. Sicral 2 is military-only, with a contract expected to be awarded to Franco-Italian satellite manufacturer ThalesAlenia Space in the coming months.

2 is expected to carry a French Defense Ministry X-band payload similar to what is on board the two
3 military telecommunications satellites. It will also carry an ultrahigh frequency payload for
similar to what is on the Sicral 1 satellite in orbit and the Sicral 1b satellite scheduled for launch in January aboard a Sea Launch Co. rocket from a floating platform in the
Pacific Ocean

Commander AlexandreBaillot, military and civil satcom leader in the space and joint systems division of the French Joint Defense Staff, said Sicral 2 is expected to be launched in 2012.

Battista and Baillot made their remarks Nov. 3 during the Global Milsatcom conference in
organized by SMi Group.

Michael Pascaud,
3 program manager at the French arms procurement agency, DGA, said the French payload on Sicral 2 will include five superhigh frequency transponders and one ultrahigh-frequency channel and would include the same antijamming antenna as is on board the two
3 satellites in orbit.
will be in charge of the satellite’s command and control.

Addressing the conference Nov. 4, Pascaud said Athena/Fidus would feature five 1,000-kilometer-diameter Ka-band spot beams and one broader-area metropolitan beam. He said
has agreed with
that Belgian authorities will have access to one of the five spot beams.
will have charge of satellite command and control on behalf of all three nations.

The Italian-managed payload on Athena/Fidus will include both Ka- and extremely high-frequency capacity.

has begun preliminary designs of a
4 military telecommunications satellite system to be launched around 2017. While no decision has been made, the system may be procured as a partnership in which industry would own the orbital asset and the French Defense Ministry would lease capacity, an arrangement similar to what
has done with the Skynet 5 satellite system now in orbit.