On June 16, 2021, after a long and complex negotiation process, two major aerospace players, Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, reached an agreement on a contract worth more than 159 million euros. The contract, signed with the Italian Ministry of Defense, represented by TELEDIFE/Secretariat General for Defense, covers the development of a secure satellite communications system: SICRAL 3, and the associated ground segment.
SICRAL – Sistema Italiana di Comunicazione Riservente Allarmi – is the Italian satellite system for military communications, with unprecedented flexibility and versatility. The system enables interoperability between the networks of defense, law enforcement, civil emergency and strategic infrastructur. Over the years, the program has been divided into several phases: the first in 2001 was the launch of SICRAL 1, which is no longer in service. The second phase began in 2009 with the launch of SICRAL 1B, and the third phase, in cooperation with France, began in April 2015 with SICRAL 2.
SICRAL 3, the purpose of this contract signed in June 2021, will implement two geostationary satellites, SICRAL 3A and SICRAL 3B, which have been designed to meet the communication and interoperability requirements of the Italian defense. The SICRAL 3 program is designed to ensure continuity of current SHF and UHF telecommunications services provided by the SICRAL 1B and SICRAL 2 satellites. The two geostationary satellites will expand the range of services by providing a Ka-band payload and supporting security, public safety and civil protection services. SICRAL 3 benefits from the synergy of the previous phases, pushing the efficiency and innovation of the space and ground segments to a high level. The estimated operational life of the two satellites is 15 years.
The Space Alliance, which carries the project, is a strategic partnership between Leonardo and Thales, two major players in the space industry in France and Italy. The alliance consists of two joint ventures: Telespazio (67% Leonardo, 33% Thales) and Thales Alenia Space (67% Thales, 33% Leonardo). The complementary nature of these companies’ systems and technologies gives the Space Alliance the capabilities needed to meet market requirements for telecommunications and navigation, giving these companies a strategic position in the aerospace, defense and security sectors.
Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the overall SICRAL 3 telecommunications system, the space segment (including system design and integration), and the design, production and integration of the innovative UHF, SHF and Ka-band payloads.
Leonardo will be in charge the Space Star sensors that will enable SICRAL 3 to orient itself and maintain a correct attitude in orbit by observing the stars and recognizing them with sophisticated algorithms.