Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, and its partner Actia Sodielec, specialists in military telecommunications, have been awarded the Comcept contract by the French defence procurement agency (DGA). The contract will run for 17 years.

As of 2014, Comcept will provide the French armed forces with access to additional broadband satellite capacity over and above that provided by the existing Syracuse system. Comcept will mainly utilize capacity on the French-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus – scheduled for launch within the next 12 months – and will also be compatible with future commercial satellite networks operating in Ka-band, which will provide global coverage.

Through Comcept, the French army, air force and navy will benefit from a network of fixed and deployable ground stations, the latter deployable both in France and in theatres of operation, allowing them to exchange data, videos and telephone communications using latest-generation, full-IP (Internet Protocol) technology. The contract also provides for the option of equipping vehicles, ships, planes and drones with built-in mobile stations.

Comcept is designed to provide the French armed forces with a Ka-band ground segment for secure ultra-fast broadband communications by satellite. It will become the first military network of its type in Europe, and will make use of the latest IP network solutions on the market, while also optimizing costs.

“Having built the Yahsat system for the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and the KA-SAT satellite for Eutelsat, Astrium is a key player in new satellite networks operating in Ka-band, the frequency range of the future,” said Astrium Services’ Chief Technical Officer Eric Soulères. “Thanks to Comcept, the French armed forces will join their American and UAE counterparts in a very select group of armed forces who have military Ka-band networks.”

Astrium Services is the prime contractor for Comcept in France and will also be responsible for the engineering and testing of the system. For the duration of the contract (17 years), the company will also ensure the system remains operational and secure. Astrium will be working in partnership with its co-contractor Actia Sodielec, a medium-sized company specialising in satellite telecommunications and supplier to the French Ministry of Defence. Actia Sodielec will be in charge of the engineering, integration and operational maintenance of the ground stations.

To bring the Comcept project to fruition, Astrium will draw on its unique Ka-band expertise, unrivalled in France, acquired while building the Yahsat system for the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and Eutelsat’s KA-SAT satellite, which provides internet services across Europe. The world’s leading military satellite telecommunications provider, Astrium Services’ customer portfolio includes some of the world’s most modern armed forces, including the UK, France, Germany, the USA and NATO.

Astrium Services has been developing and delivering innovative solutions and services to the French Ministry of Defence for many years. For example, since 2005, Astrium Services has been providing a range of satellite telecommunication services to the French armed forces under the ASTEL convention, a framework agreement with DIRISI, the joint directorate of infrastructure networks and information systems responsible for the management of military satellite communication services.

And since 2008 Astrium has also been providing communication services for French military personnel deployed on overseas missions, enabling servicemen and women to keep in touch with their families and friends through an Internet portal called “Escale des Armées” (previously known as “Passerel”). Moreover, in 2008, the DGA awarded a contract to Astrium Services for the development of the Telcomarsat naval satellite communication system.

Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Astrium had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.