Tim Furniss/LONDON

FRANCE AND the UK have invited proposals from potential suppliers for a $2 billion military-communications satellite system for Europe.

The proposed four-satellite system, called the Trimilsat - which could also involve Germany - may be launched early in the next century to complement and eventually replace the UK Skynet satellites and French Syracuse payload on the Telecom 2 satellites.

Two competing teams - led by Aerospatiale and Matra Marconi Space (MMS) - are expected to be awarded initial study contracts later this year, leading to a contract in 1999. MMS built the Skynet and Telecom satellites.

If the Anglo-French joint venture were to win the contract, it would be further vindication of MMS' acquisition of British Aerospace Space Systems in 1994.

BAe built the Skynet satellites into which MMS put its payload. The $86 million acquisition has already been a "major success", says Armand Carlier, chief of MMS. The link-up will pave the way for further rationalisation to make Europe more competitive, Carlier adds.

He applauds projects such as the Trimilsat and takeovers such as the MMS move for BAe. "European industry needs to move on towards more rationalisation to avoid duplication and make the most of funds". The European Space Agency and the European Community "-need to play a real role in keeping Europe competitive", in space, he says.

MMS' fortunes are steadily improving. The company, a venture which merges the space activities of Matra and GEC-Marconi, expects an increase in turnover from $1.1 billion in 1994 to a projected $1.6 billion this year, illustrating, says Carlier, that "-we are gaining competitively".

Contracts to build nine communications satellites, worth over $1 billion, have been won since October 1995 (Flight International, 14-20 August).

The new Eurostar 3000 bus is being offered to Intelsat for its next-generation satellites says Carlier, who adds that MMS is the only company in Europe with spacecraft-bus and payload-building capability.

MMS' future rationalisation programme will include the establishment of centres of excellence, and it may be necessary to "close some sites", Carlier warns. The company will, however, be recruiting 400 more staff in the UK and 200 more in France, bringing the numbers to 2,400 and 2,100, respectively.

Source: Flight International