The ATHENA-FIDUS programme (Access on THeatres and European Nations for Allied forces - French Italian Dual Use Satellite) is a French-Italian telecommunications system based on a geostationary satellite for dual use broadband communications services. The programme is focused on the development, launch and putting into orbit of the satellite, in addition to building its ground segment.
The ATHENA-FIDUS system was developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) as part of the cooperation framework agreement signed by the space agencies and the Italian and French Ministries of Defence.
ATHENA-FIDUS builds a telecommunications infrastructure that can support and complement the terrestrial networks in the event that the latter are unavailable or damaged, and will have an expected operating lifespan of over 15 years. ATHENA-FIDUS supplements the capabilities already offered by the Syracuse and SICRAL systems.
The satellite was launched on 6 February 2014, from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guyana, with an Ariane 5 launcher. With the ATHENA-FIDUS launch, more than a decade after the end of the Italsat F2 mission, Italy once again has its own satellite telecommunication system in Ka Band, dedicated to institutional and governmental services.
The national coverage also allows for fundamental institutional services dedicated to the health sector, education, civil protection, homeland security and e-government at large.
Leonardo participates in the programme through its joint ventures Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio and through its Electronics Division.
Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor for the program, is responsible for the development, construction, testing and putting into orbit of the satellite. The company is also responsible for the development, construction and testing of the satellite control center, designed on a Spacebus 4000B2 platform.
Thales Alenia Space is the industrial partner of the first European cooperation, French-Italian, regarding a dual-use civil/military communications space programme, which includes the Sicral 2 and Athena-Fidus satellites.
In addition, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the DGA (Direction générale de l’armement) of the support services and maintenance of the Syracuse 3A, Syracuse 3B and Athena-Fidus satellites, as well as the French portion of the Sicral 2 satellite.
Telespazio managed the ATHENA-FIDUS launch services, LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) and the IOT (In Orbit Test) phase. It also took part in the building of the ground segment and, specifically, of the telecommunications aspects at the Vigna di Valle Centre, which will allow ASI to manage and monitor the capacity made available by the satellite on the civil Ka band. Within the programme, Telespazio has been also involved in building a military ground segment on behalf of the Italian Defence Ministry.
Telespazio, through its subsidiary Telespazio France, supports CNES and Arianspace from the Kourou Space Centre, by providing weather, radar, telemetry and monitoring services. Telespazio France is also responsible for the operating services of ATHENA-FIDUS and, in conjunction with a team from the French Armed Forces, will manage out of Kourou the monitoring and maintenance operations for the entire life of the satellite.
Leonardo’s Electronics Division participates in the ATHENA-FIDUS programme through the supply of the AA-STR star tracker, a medium Field of View (FOV) star tracker integrated in a single assembly with a radiation hardened design. The star trackers feature robust and accurate three-axis attitude determination with very low mass and power consumption for this class of instrument.