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Italy seeks new GEO and LEO satellites in latest defence budget

A new GEO satellite will be procured to replace SICRAL1 and provide continuity in SHF services. (Thales Alenia Space)

The Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is seeking new geostationary (GEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to increase the resilience of its armed forces under the latest Documento Programmatico Pluriennale (Multi-year Planning Document, DPP) 2023–2025, published on 16 October.

The largest planned space programme in the planning document is for a constellation of high-performance communications and data relay satellites. Situated in LEO, the constellation aims to increase the resilience of communications networks as well as provide innovative telecommunications services to the armed forces to support digitalisation. To support tactical missions, a data exchange network between government satellites will be established.. A total of EUR900 million (USD950.11 million) is forecasted over a five-year period, although, only next year's budget has so far been approved (EUR5 million).

Along with this, the MoD intends to procure a GEO telecommunications commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) satellite known as ‘SICRAL R1' to replace the SICRAL 1B satellite, which reached its operational end-of-life in 2022. SICRAL R1 will provide super-high frequency (SHF) services to the armed forces and is intended to ensure resilience in case of a degradation of capabilities while also securing key orbital positions. A total of EUR300 million has been allocated for the programme over two three-year periods (2023–25 and 2026–28) although funding is yet to be approved.

To secure a key orbital slot in GEO previously occupied by the SICRAL 1 satellite, the MoD will acquire specific satellite capabilities and/or services. The slot is intended for the SICRAL 3 satellite and future evolutions of the constellation. A total of EUR18 million has been forecasted for the ‘satcom orbital gap filler project' over a two-year period.

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