ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


Dual Italian-French system of telecommunications

ATHENA-FIDUS (Access on THeatres and European Nations for Allied forces – French Italian Dual Use Satellite) is a Satellite System for broadband communication services aimed at military, governmental and civilian users, promoted by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in the frame of cooperation agreements signed by the two Agencies and the Italian and French Ministries Of Defence.

ATHENA-FIDUS implements a telecommunications infrastructure that allows high levels of availability and autonomy in national emergency situations, along with security and low cost features, filling a gap with other main European countries that already own such kind of asset. With the ATHENA-FIDUS launch, more than a decade after the end of Italsat F2 mission, Italy will have again its own satellite telecommunication system in Ka Band, dedicated to Institutional/Governmental  services. This closes a gap with the other main European countries and restores the national independence in such critical and strategic field.

The National coverage will also allow fundamental Institutional services dedicated to the health sector, education, civil protection, homeland security  and e-government at large.

ATHENA-FIDUS is moreover a unique opportunity for the national Industry of Satcom products and services to maintain and increase the technological standard, the level of autonomy and the competitive potential in the TLC field, mainly in the downstream and ground segment sector.

The system, developed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, is based on a geostationary satellite operating in Ka and EHF bands, implementing the Italian and French communication missions in a dedicated, independent and proprietary way. The space segment is a medium-class (3 Tons) satellite with about 3Gbps of overall transmission capacity.

Thales Alenia Space, in a temporary consortium with Telespazio, is responsible for the development, construction, testing and launch of the satellite. It is also responsible for the development, construction and testing of the control center of the satellite. Telespazio will manage the launch services, the LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase), the IOT phase (In Orbit Test) and has participated in the development of the ground segment.

The Italian payload consists of dedicated repeater units and specific antennas for the Civilian/Institutional and the Military Customers. The antenna farm includes two sidewall antennas (one 30/20 GHz antenna for the Civilian/Institutional users and one 44/30/20 antenna for the Military users) and two earth deck 30/20 GHz steerable antennas that enable broadband telecommunication services anywhere in the earth portion visible from geostationary orbit to support Italian military, institutional and humanitarian missions abroad.  

The System will allow broadband communications services to Italian Institutional/Civilian users over the Italian National Coverage in Ka band through the use of dedicated transparent star and mesh communication channels. Military Users will have access to a National coverage in Ka and EHF bands and will also be provided with communication channels for transparent star and multi-star communications in intra-theatre and between theatres and the Italian fixed coverage. This architecture entails a high service provisioning flexibility thanks to the coexistence of single-hop mesh transponders and double-hop star transponders, all fully compliant with state-of-the-art low-cost ground segment technologies based on standard DVB-S2 and DVB-RCS for the provisioning of both fixed and on the move communications. 

The Italian communication services will be managed by two dedicated Mission Management Centres, both located in Italy, and interconnected with the French Ground Control Segment, responsible for Satellite Control.

The satellite was launched on February the 6th 2014 from the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana and will have an expected operating life of over 15 years.