SICRAL (Sistema Italiano per Comunicazioni Riservate ed Allarmi, Italian System for Secure Communications and Alerts), is Italy’s satellite system for military communications, boasting unprecedented flexibility and versatility. The system allows interoperability between the networks of defence, law enforcement and civil emergency agencies, and those responsible for the management of strategic infrastructure. The SICRAL program improves military satellite communications capacity for strategic and tactical links in Italy and for out-of-area operations, with terrestrial, naval and air platforms assured until 2030 with the launch of new satellites.
The program is divided into three phases.
- The first began in 2001 with the launch of the SICRAL 1, a satellite that was in-activated in May 2021. For this it was removed from the geostationary orbit where it was moved about 400 kilometers to avoid interference with other satellites.
- The second phase began in 2009 with the launch of SICRAL 1B, which has an estimated operational life span of 13 years.
- The third phase, in cooperation with France, started in April 2015 with the launch of SICRAL 2, with an estimated operational life span of 15 years.
The Sicral 2 military communications satellite was successfully launched on April 26th 2015, by Arianespace, using an Ariane 5 launcher. The launch was operated from the Guyana space center. SICRAL 2 is a geostationary satellite operating in the UHF and SHF bands, able to enhance the capability of military satellite communications already offered by SICRAL 1 and SICRAL 1B and by France's Syracuse System. In particular, SICRAL 2 supports satellite communications for the Italian and French Armed Forces, anticipating the needs of growth and development in the next few years. The satellite has an additional back-up function to the current capacity in SHF band of the French Syracuse 3 system and that of SICRAL 1B allocated to NATO communications. The system was designed and developed to provide seamless integration with existing national infrastructure and those of allied countries.
Sicral 2 is a joint program between the Ministry of Defense in Italy and DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement), in France for the benefit of Italian and French armed forces, with respective stakes of 62% and 38%. Sicral 2 offers unprecedented flexibility and versatility. It will ensure interoperability with existing satellite systems, NATO traffic terminals and current national telecommunications networks. Sicral 2 is a technology jewel, reflecting the sum total of French and Italian expertise in military communications. It will provide strategic and tactical satellite communications services, supporting military land, sea and air platforms used by Armed Forces to garantee safety and security internal and external.
Sicral 2 is one of the basic building blocks in Italian-French defense cooperation. It is a technological state-of-the-art system, designed to bolster the military satellite communications capabilities already offered by Italy's Sicral 1 and Sicral 1B satellites, and by the Syracuse system in France. Sicral 2 is a joint program funded by the Italian and French Ministries of Defense, with shares of 62% and 38%, respectively, as part of a broader Framework Agreement between the two countries. This agreement also involves the countries' space agencies and recently led to the launch of the dual-use broadband communications satellite, Athena-Fidus. The satellite weights 4360Kg with a power of 7KW. It will host a UHF and SHF payload for the Italian mission, a SHF payload for the French mission as well as a payload for remote control, Telemetry and Ranging with use of Expanded Spectrum modulations.
Leonardo participates in the program through its joint ventures Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio and through its Electronics Division.
For all the SICRAL missions, Telespazio managed the phases of design, construction, integration and testing of the ground segment at the Defence Control Centre (CIGC) of Vigna di Valle (Rome) and in the Fucino Space Centre, that plays the role of back-up centre. Telespazio also managed the LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) and IOT (In-Orbit Test) phases. For SICRAL 1B and SICRAL 2, Telespazio also succeeded in the launch services. For SICRAL 2, Telespazio is also responsible for the interconnection system between the Italian and French mission centres. Telespazio has participated in the investments for the construction of SICRAL 1B and SICRAL 2, thus consolidating its role as military telecommunications satellite operator (MILSATCOM). The company has part of the transmission capacity of SICRAL 1B and SICRAL 2, and provides communications services to the Armed Forces of NATO member states.
In continuity with the role held for the previous SICRAL mission, Thales Alenia Space looked after the design of the entire SICRAL 2 System, the development of the satellite and of the relative Ground Segment, the integration and tests of the satellite at its Satellite Integration Centres in Rome, Turin and Cannes, as well as the integration and tests of the Ground Segment at the Italian and French Operational Defence Sites. In particular, Thales Alenia Space in Italia designed, developed and integrated the Mission, Network and Satellite Control Centres into the existing Italian SICRAL Satellite Telecommunications Infrastructure; The company developed the satellite’s most technologically advanced equipment, including processors and antennas of the payloads in UHF and SHF band, and thus the transponders for Remote Control, Telemetry and Ranging with use of Expanded Spectrum modulations.
Leonardo takes part to this program also through its Electronics Division which has been involved in the Sicral 1 and 1B missions providing PPDU Power Protection and Distribution Units equipment to manage and distribute the power and the Earth sensors IRES-D. In SICRAL 2 the Division is involved with its star tracker AA-STR.
In 2021, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space signed a contract with the Italian Ministry of Defense for the development of the SICRAL 3 secure satellite communications system, including its ground segment. SICRAL 3 will include two geostationary satellites, SICRAL 3A and SICRAL 3B,designed to meet Italian defense communications and interoperability requirements. It will ensure continuity with the current SHF and UHF-band telecom services provided by the SICRAL 1A, 1B and SICRAL 2 satellites, while expanding its suite of services by providing a Ka-band payload, as well as supporting security, public rescue and civil protection services. SICRAL 3 will also capitalize on the ongoing developments within the ItalGovSatCom (I-GSC) program, a pillar of the evolving “Space Economy” and the programmes of military research, and will help expand NATO’s current satellite capabilities.
Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the entire 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 supply the Space Star sensors that will allow SICRAL 3 to orient itself and maintain the correct attitude in orbit thanks to the observation of stars and their recognition through sophisticated algorithms.
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