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Astrium to Launch First German Military Comms Satallite

Astrium will deliver into orbit the first of two military communications satellites for the German Bundeswehr. The first satellite has been shipped to the European Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana and is expected to be launched by an Ariane 5 launcher at the end of September.

As part of the military satellite communications programme SATCOMBw Stage 2, the Bundeswehr is acquiring its own military communications satellites for the first time and laying the foundations for a secure information network for use by units on deployed missions outside Germany. The network will support the autonomous, global transmission of audio and data as well as video and multimedia applications. The system is due to go into regular operation by the end of 2010 and will constitute an important step in implementing the Bundeswehr concept for network-centric operations. Satellite communications are the only way of ensuring information can be transmitted flexibly without having to rely on the infrastructure in the theatre of operations. A second identical satellite will be launched in early 2010.

Astrium is responsible for the space segment and will place the satellites in orbit. Thales Alenia Space has designed, manufactured, integrated, tested and delivered on-ground the satellite to Astrium. Astrium’s German subsidiary TESAT manufactured the essential parts of the payload. The first satellite, which weighs around 2.4 metric tons, was shipped to Kourou at the end of August after being put through a punishing programme in special testing facilities to verify its suitability for space.

The contract for the satellites communication programme, which was signed in July 2006, runs for ten years, with an option to extend it for a further seven and a half years. The customer is the Federal Office for Information Management and Information Technology of the Bundeswehr (IT-AmtBw). The contractor is MilSat Services GmbH (MSS), a joint venture set up by Astrium and the Friedrichshafen-based satellite network specialist ND SatCom Defence (NDD) specifically for the programme. Astrium owns 74.9 percent of the shares in the joint venture, with ND SatCom Defence holding the remaining 25.1 percent. Major MSS subcontractors include the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the satellite operator Intelsat.

Along with the in-orbit delivery of two communications satellites for operations in military frequencies, the SATCOMBw Stage 2 contract includes the associated operation by DLR’s Control Centres, the delivery of a comprehensive ground user terminal segment for the Bundeswehr and upgrading the management and control segment already installed with the Bundeswehr. MSS will also provide the Bundeswehr with commercial transmission capacities using Intelsat satellites to provide backup facilities and extra capacity.

The two communications satellites will be positioned in a geostationary orbit and will provide communications services over an area stretching from America to eastern Asia, during their operational life of 15 years. DLR will assume responsibility for operating the two satellites using several of its locations.

ND SatCom Defence, a wholly owned subsidiary of SES Astra, will deliver the user terminals, upgrade the ground stations in Germany and set up a new central network management and monitoring facility. As a specialist in military satellite communications solutions, NDD has successfully implemented important commercial and military projects over recent years, including SATCOMBw Stage 1.

The Bundeswehr will have two different types of user station. The larger, NATO-compatible, robust transceiver stations are used as a node for local mobile and fixed data networks. This supports voice calls via satellite as well as Internet access, data communications and videoconferences. The second type of terminal is smaller and portable, providing simultaneous support for broadband services for several users.

Astrium is Europe's leading supplier of civil and defence communications satellites and is already a system leader for the British military Skynet 5 satellites and for the NATO 4 satellites.

Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems. In 2008, Astrium generated revenues of EUR 4.3 billion and had more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2008, it generated revenues of EUR 43.3 billion and employed a workforce of more than 118,000.


Astrium to Deliver Into Orbit the First Military Communication Satellite for Germany