March 29, 2017



The space component of the Athena-Fidus project was entrusted to the ASI and CNES and carried out by an industrial partnership between Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio.

The Athena-Fidus project includes:

  • a 3,080-kg, 5-kW satellite,
  • a satellite control ground segment, comprising two 9.3 metres Ka band stations installed in the French Favières and France Sud military bases, as well as control centres located in the Maison-Lafitte and Favières bases,
  • a launch service entrusted to Arianespace based on a double Ariane 6 ECA launch carried out in February 2014,
  • a positioning and initial testing phase carried out from the industrial sites in Cannes (Thales Alenia Space) and Fucino (Telespazio

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 Erath 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 dynamic expansion towards significant markets in commerce has been a boon for the major innovations and developments for the system, the aircraft, and the ground equipment. This dynamic received a 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, sources, radio-frequency equipment, etc.) represent a significant part of commercial breakthroughs 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.


Préparation du satellite Athena Fidus au centre spatial guyanais avant son lancement - © CNES/ESA/Arianespace/Optique Vidéo CSG, 2014
The Athena-Fidus satellite carries one French Ka band payload and one Italian EHF and Ka band payload. This 3,080-kg spacecraft is based on Thales Alenia Space compact Spacebus 4000 B2 platform, a veteran of three spaceflights.

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

Build to operate for 15 years in a geosynchronous orbit, this platform is equipped with AsGa solar panels, Li-Ion batteries, and regular chemical propulsion.