Matra Marconi Space (MMS) has been selected by the French Defence Agency as prime contractor to supply the ground segment for the Helios II reconnaissance satellite. It is to enter service in 2003 to process data from Helios IB and Helios IIA and B satellites and possibly future military spacecraft.

The 2,500kg Helios IB will be launched early next year, following the Helios IA, which flew in July 1995. The 4,500kg (10,000lb) Helios IIA and B are scheduled for launches in 2003 and 2004.

Meanwhile, the UK arm of MMS has been contracted by the UK Ministry of Defence to provide 13,000 armed services personnel with 20min a week of free communications with families and friends.

Locations with a UK military presence will have cabins fitted with handsets linked to VSAT terminals. The services could be expanded to include the Internet and videoconferencing. Communications will be via a transponder on a commercial satellite. The contract will be managed by Paradigm Secure Communications, established by MMS to bid for the Skynet 5 military communications satellite contract against a Lockheed Martin-led consortium.

Source: Flight International