PARIS — France awarded a 17-year contract for production and support of two new-generation military communications satellites on Tuesday, reported to be worth €3.8 billion, the procurement office said today.
"The Direction Générale de l'Armement awarded Dec. 22 an order to Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space for the production of two satellites in the Comsat NG (new generation communications satellite) program," the DGA said in a statement.
Website La Tribune reported the deal, which included ground stations and maintenance, was worth some €3.8 billion over the 17 years of the program. A DGA spokesman declined to comment. Starting in 2021, Comsat NG will replace the present Syracuse 3A and Syracuse 3B satellites, the DGA said.
Airbus DS and Thales Alenia Space will each build one of the satellites. Airbus DS, which generally supplies the space platform, will play a key role in delivering the high value payloads on both satellites.
"Aside from its role as the prime contractor for one of the two satellites, Airbus Defence and Space will also be responsible for an essential part of the two satellites' payload," the company said in a statement. An Airbus DS spokesman declined to give details.
Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor on the program, was not available.
Airbus DS will supply an electric propulsion version of the Eurostar E3000 platform rather than the routine chemical propulsion. An electricity propulsion weighs less and offers lower operating cost, the company said.
The satellites will operate on the X and Ka frequency bands, which will deliver higher communications capacity, flexibility and resistance to jamming, the DGA said. The satellites are intended to handle communications from the strategic to combat level, allow a grasp of the tactical situation and conduct operations.
Thales Communications and Security and Telespazio France are the main subcontractors, and Arianespace will launch the satellites, the DGA said.
The French government has agreed Airbus DS and Thales Alenia Space can sell satellite capacity in the commercial market, a feature that helped cut 10 percent off the program cost, La Tribune reported. Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor with 65 percent of the program, and Airbus 35 percent. Production of the two satellites is budgeted at €1 billion, the report said.