Germany adds communications to defence satellite fleet

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    Germany adds communications to defence satellite fleet

    Munich - Germany offered details Wednesday of its next two military satellites, which will provide communications links to troops in Afghanistan and navy vessels in distant seas.
    The German defence forces already operate sensors from space that can for example peer down through clouds and make radar images of the ground.
    The first of the two communications satellites is to be put into orbit on September 30 by a rocket fired from a launch pad at Kourou in Guyana, said Evert Dudok, head of Astrium, the company contracted to put the system in place.
    Speaking in Munich, he said the military aimed to end its reliance on commercial suppliers of satellite communications and also hoped to save some money. Astrium is a unit of EADS, the European aerospace group.
    The 2.5-ton satellite will under several weeks of tests and then be commissioned in January. The other unit will go into orbit in the first quarter of next year. Both have a planned life of 15 years.
    Dudok said the entire project was costing Berlin just under 1 billion euros (1.5 billion dollars).
    Colonel Pirmin Meisenheimer of the defence forces said it had been expensive buying commercial satellite channels in the past.
    'In Afghanistan, we only use commercial capacity,' he said.
    Meisenheimer said the military had always been able to obtain channels when it needed them, 'but it's obviously tiresome to get what you need if you have to have it in a hurry.' With frequencies of its own, the military could plan resources better.
    At the end of last year, the German military commissioned its reconnaissance satellite system, codenamed SAR-Lupe.
    The synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) system uses five satellites that bounce radar pulses off the earth.

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