THE GOVERNMENTS of France, Germany and the UK have signed a protocol agreement to start development of the $2.2 billion Trimilsat military- communications satellite system, to be launched in 2005.

The Trimilsat system, which is expected to include an as-yet-undecided number of geostationary satellites, will replace the UK Skynet 4 fleet and France's Syracuse military transponders fitted to Telecom 2 satellites and provide Germany with a dedicated service, using the Skynet/Syracuse ground infrastructure as far as possible.

France's Alcatel Alsthom and the UK-French Matra Marconi Space (MMS) have been selected to submit technical and financial proposals for the Trimilsatcom system. Each company will have to include major contributors from France, Germany and the UK in its industrial team.

MMS is already in the process of linking with Daimler-Benz Aerospace's space division, but Alcatel's German and UK partners are not so obvious at this stage.

Source: Flight International