March 28, 2023



The space component of the Athena-Fidus project was entrusted to the Italian space agency ASI and CNES, and developed by an industrial consortium formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio.

The Athena-Fidus project comprises:

  • a 3,080-kg, 5-kW satellite
  • a satellite control ground segment, comprising two 9.3-metre Ka-band stations at the French Favières and France Sud military bases, as well as control centres located at the Maison-Lafitte and Favières bases
  • a launch service entrusted to Arianespace based on a dual Ariane 6 ECA launch in February 2014
  • a positioning and initial testing phase conducted from Thales Alenia Space’s facility in Cannes, France, () and Telespazio’s facility in Fucino, Italy


The satellite uses military and civilian Ka-band technologies, developed by space agencies for commercial and government use. This is a significant advantage for the military mission because the frequency bands are so close to each other that space agencies’ developments can be reused (commercial Ka-band ranges from 19.7 to 20.2 GHz towards Earth and from 29.5 to 30 GHz towards space, and military Ka-band ranges from 20.2 to 21.2 GHz towards Earth and from 30 to 31 GHz towards space).

The major innovations and developments for the system, aircraft and ground equipment were driven by trends in the commercial market. This shift received strong support from space agencies (ESA’s ARTES programme, and CNES’s Agora programme). Although on-board technologies developed for the use of a new frequency band (reflector, feeds, radio-frequency equipment, etc.) represent a significant portion of these developments used in military applications, they are not the only ones.

The systems concepts (architecture, adaptable modulation and coded transmission techniques compatible with Ka-band attenuations, sizing models) were developed for commercial use and later implemented for military applications.


The Athena-Fidus satellite is prepped at the Guiana Space Centre in readiness for launch - ©CNES/ESA/CSG photo and video department, 2014
The Athena-Fidus satellite carries a French Ka-band payload and an Italian EHF and Ka-band payload. This 3,080-kg spacecraft is built around Thales Alenia Space’s compact Spacebus 4000 B2 platform, already used for three other satellites.

The French and Italian payloads are equipped with 23 Ka and EHF wideband repeaters and 12 coverage areas. These areas include metropolitan France, mobile spot beams (using an innovative antenna module offering remarkable radio-frequency performance in a compact package), and global coverage.

Build to operate for 15 years in geostationary orbit, this platform is equipped with gallium arsenide solar panels, lithium ion batteries, and conventional chemical propulsion.