AN UNPRECEDENTED PARTNERSHIP IN TELECOMMUNICATION SATELLITES
Athena-Fidus, like the Sicral 2 military project, is the result of the very first European partnership in government telecommunication satellites. This partnership between France and Italy involves defence officials from both countries (the French Defence Staff and Defence Procurement Agency, and the Italian Ministry of Defence) as well as their space agencies (CNES for France and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana for Italy [ASI])
The overall balance of this partnership is set forth in the agreement signed on 16 December 2009 for the Athena-Fidus project, between the CNES President and ASI; and with the cooperation agreement signed on 12 April 2007 for Sicral 2 between the French Defence Minister and his Italian counterpart.
This balance takes form in the contracts between both parties and the programmes’ organisation. From an operational point of view, each country controls one satellite: France has control of Athena-Fidus, and Italy controls Sicral 2. From a financial standpoint, both nations essentially contribute equally. And finally, when it comes to the industrial aspects, both Athena-Fidus (subject to a request to tender) and Sicral 2 were built by Thales Alenia Space (France and Italy) and Telespazio.
This unprecedented cooperation brings together two European nations in the space telecommunication field, one that is very sensitive in terms of sovereignty. In order to reduce security risks for information systems and approval, the project was designed around a simple architecture which consisted of building a common platform, the satellite itself, on which both a French and an Italian payload would be installed.
DEVELOPED UNDER CNES SUPERVISION
The CNES team steadily grew during the different project phases to reach the equivalent of 10 full-time employees in the development phase. CNES first planned and oversaw the industrial aspects of development. Many experts contributed to the Toulouse Space Centre’s different fields of expertise (component and material quality, system and radio-frequency, functional systems and satellite equipment, operations, spaceflight dynamics, security, spacecraft/ground interface, ground segments, ground stations, etc.). These teams worked in close collaboration with different government (French defence procurement agency DGA, Italian space agency ASI) and industrial (Thales Alenia Space, Telespazio) partners.