€195m For O3b mPOWER Comms Satellite Ops & Acquisition

From left: Steve Collar of SES and Luxembourg defence minister François Bausch (Photo: Luxembourg Defence Ministry)

Luxembourg’s defence ministry plans to budget €195m over a decade to acquire and operate secure satellite communications for governments through the O3b mPOWER constellation.

During the GovSat conference on Thursday 23 February, Luxembourg defence minister François Bausch presented the bill and budget for Medium Earth Orbit Global Services (MGS) program. Once voted into law, the bill would greenlight the acquisition and operation of O3b mPOWER, a constellation developed by SES which will be located in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), at an altitude of 8,000 km, and will be composed of eleven satellites. Each will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology providing high throughput and low latency in the equatorial plane and enabling the implementation of a secure sovereign network.

The first satellites of the constellation were launched at the end of 2022 and the system, which will cover the globe, is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2023. 

The envelope covers: 

€165 million for the acquisition and operational management of an O3b mPOWER capacity;

€25 million for the acquisition and operational management of user terminals and the Luxembourg Defense Gateway;

€5 million to cover administrative and operational costs.

At the NATO Summit in Madrid in June 2022, Luxembourg announced that to fulfill its NATO obligations, it would increase its defense effort to 1% of GDP by 2028.

In a press statement, the ministry said that the needs for satellite communication capabilities of the Luxembourg Defence and those of allied/partner countries and international organisations of which Luxembourg is a member are constantly increasing.”

Defence minister Bausch said: “Efficient and secure communication channels ensure the command and control of forces on the ground and enable them to successfully carry out their missions. Furthermore, taking into account the increasing dependence on space-based capabilities and the growing number of threats, it has become paramount to improve the resilience, performance and flexibility of today’s satellite communication architecture.”

The medium earth orbit capabilities acquired through the MGS program will complement the capacity available on the GovSat-1 geostationary satellite in terms of coverage, frequencies, missions, flexibility and connectivity.

Luxembourg has, meanwhile, created a support partnership with NATO to contract commercial satellite communication capabilities through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The partnership is expected to allow for significant economies of scale, specific commercial terms and conditions, and efficient and flexible use of MEO satellite communication capacity.

Bausch said: “This new ambitious project, realized through NSPA, will consolidate Luxembourg’s position as a reliable partner in the space domain. SES’s O3b mPOWER satellite communication capabilities will strengthen joint Euro-Atlantic deterrence and defense. It is about supporting our Allies, EU member states and international organizations of which Luxembourg is a member.”

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