PARIS — The French space agency, CNES, on Feb. 9 signed a contract valued at 280 million euros ($384 million) with ThalesAlenia Space for the construction and launch of an EHF/Ka-band satellite for French and Italian military and civil-protection agencies, according to French government and industry officials.
The satellite, called Athena-Fidus, is being financed equally by the French and Italian governments, each of which will have its own payload on board. Athena-Fidus is a Spacebus 4000 B2 model expected to weigh slightly more than 3,000 kilograms at launch. It will be placed into geostationary-transfer orbit by Europe’s launch consortium in late 2013 or early 2014.
The satellite will be built in Italy at ThalesAlenia’s production facility near Rome.
Arianespace will determine whether Athena-Fidus will be launched as a co-passenger aboard a heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle or as sole passenger aboard Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz rocket, which starting late this year will be operated from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in French Guiana. At 3,000 kilograms, Athena-Fidus is already at the upper limit of what the European version of Soyuz can deliver into geostationary-transfer orbit.
The contract value of 280 million euros includes a ground control facility to be operated by France as well as the satellite’s construction and launch.
France and Italy had registered several possible orbital slots for Athena-Fidus. One official said slots that have been considered include 23.7 degrees east and 25 degrees east.
A French parliamentary report in mid-2009 said France would also finance, for some 98 million euros, development of 580 Athena-Fidus user stations. The satellite will communicate, at speeds of up to 3 gigabits per second, with fixed and mobile terminals using the DVB-RCS and DVB-S2 transmission standards. It will also be used to transmit video from unmanned aerial vehicles.
France and Italy have been negotiating details on Athena-Fidus and on a joint military telecommunications satellite called SICRAL 2 for several years.
The contract for SICRAL 2, which will carry separate French and Italian payloads, is expected to be signed by this spring.