French defense procurement agency, Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) has awarded Thales Alenia Space a design contract to study military space communications capacity to be available by 2019. This study falls within the scope of preparations for the replacement of two Syracuse III satellites built by Thales Alenia Space, and as a complement to the two Sicral 2 and Athena Fidus satellites, also developed by the company and built in cooperation with Italy.

Thales Alenia Space was chosen to participate in this major program because of its proven skills and expertise in the production of communications satellites (operating in the X, Ka and other bands), and the construction of large-scale systems.

In the coming months Thales Alenia Space will submit to the French Ministry of Defense its analysis of the military satellite communications (milsatcom) capacity needed in orbit, acquisition procedures and collaboration schemes. Working with the French and Italian ministries of defense and space agencies, Thales Alenia Space was the industrial partner that enabled the first and still only two collaborative European programs on space communications for security and defense.

Replacing this capacity entails major challenges: strategic challenges in terms of security and defense, a facet of national sovereignty; operational challenges because of the indispensable nature of milsatcom capacity for foreign deployments of armed forces; and economic challenges, given the context of the economic crisis and budget cuts.