Thales Alenia Space Italia has been awarded a contract to work on Phase B2 of the multinational space-based imaging system (MUSIS) observation satellite programme.

Awarded by the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR-EA), the €2.5m MUSIS Federating Activities Phase B2 contract requires the company to define the technical characteristics needed for the future development of the common interoperability layer (CIL).

The CIL is expected to guarantee the operational interconnection between the components in a joint Franco-Italian dual imaging system, comprising the Italian second-generation Cosmo-SkyMed (CSG) system and the French military’s optical space component (CSO) system.

Under the terms of ten-month contract, the company will also provide a detailed cost analysis to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the proposed solution, in order to support the decision-making process for the subsequent implementation phase.

Established in 2006, the MUSIS programme is designed to address military observation requirements of six countries, including Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Greece.

"The CIL is expected to guarantee the operational interconnection between the components in a joint Franco-Italian dual imaging system"

The project initially sought to develop a unified system that would enable mutual access to the different national defence observation systems, including both optical and radar (synthetic aperture radar) observation data.

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However, the withdrawal of participating countries due to different national operational needs and development schedules forced the programme to apply a more limited concept.

A bilateral defence agreement was then signed between Italy and France to continue the study based on a CIL to ensure the interoperability of the user ground segments of the national CSO and CSG systems.

CIL is designed to reduce operating costs, while also increasing capabilities to support national defence and security.

Thales is jointly developing two MUSIS programme satellites along with an Airbus Defense and Space-led industry team as part of a contract awarded by the French Space Agency in December 2010.

The satellites, which enable the identification of smaller targets, particularly in crisis zones, and reduce the time needed to send the imagery to decision-makers and to the military, are scheduled to progressively replace the current Helios 2 optical system from 2017.

Defence Technology