MUSIS: Can Europe Share Space Surveillance, Seamlessly?
Europe has a number of military satellite programs underway at the moment, but cooperation has been mostly haphazard and bilateral. Hence the ideal of MUSIS, a Multinational Space-Based Imagery System that would bring future sets of optical and radar imaging satellites under a common ground infrastructure, combining national or bilateral programs with interoperability that would allow these nations to make better use of their limited space surveillance resources.
So far, MUSIS remains more of an aspiration, though satellite components have been contracted. If it works, the overall MUSIS constellation will replace a number of previous platforms: France’s Helios 2, Germany’s Sar-Lupe radar satellite; and the ORFEO cooperative program that includes both France’s dual-use Pleiades optical satellites, and Italy’s dual-use COSMO-SkyMed X-band radar observation satellites. Participants would include Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain.
MUSIS: The MUltinational Space based Imaging System
The challenges for MUSIS are currently 2-fold. One is that cash-strapped European governments, sailing between the twin threats of budget shortfalls and an environment where social entitlements are driving out security spending, don’t want to finance the common ground network that would be required. The other, lesser issue involves differences of opinion among the countries involved concerning the value of optical surveillance satellites.
So far, France has struck bilateral deals with Germany and Italy to get access to SAR-Lupe and Cosmo-Skymed radar satellite data, in exchange for Helios imagery. France has signed a contract for its CSO optical satellites, and studies have also begun to define a Common Interoperability Layer (CIL) ground system that would share data seamlessly between CSO and Italy’s future CSG radar satellites.
Even so, the broader multinational MUSIS program remains a vision, not a program. The Eurocrisis hangs like a Sword of Damocles over all spending programs, introducing an element of risk to programs like the CIL and CSG, and making it much harder to get buy-in from other nations.
MUSIS: Satellites and Ground Systems
France’s CSO optical reconnaissance satellites will be built on the AstroSat 1000 base platform, just like the French Pleiades. Astrium is the prime contractor and will also handle avionics, integration and testing. Thales Alenia Space will provide the high-resolution optical imaging cameras, and Finmeccanica’s SELEX Galileo will provide the navigator and Sodern star sensor. A contract for 2 satellites was placed in December 2010, with an option for a 3rd if MUSIS expands. First launch is scheduled for December 2016.
The Italian CSG radar space satellites are a joint project of Italy’s civil ASI and it defense ministry. They’re supposed to succeed the 4 satellite COSMO-SkyMed (COnstellation of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation) constellation, as COSMO Second Generation, but the ASI doesn’t even list it as an active program yet. According to the ESA’s CEOS Database, as of 2012, CSG-1 is scheduled for launch in 2015, and CSG-2 is scheduled for launch in 2016. The satellites are expected to last until 2022-2023.
The EU’s OCCAR-EA is responsible for managing the design of the MUSIS CIL (Common Interoperabiltiy Layer), an advanced bridge which will be placed on the ground between the CSO and CSG satellite systems. The CIL will enable operators from one nation to order image products from the partner’s system, task the satellites of the other nation, receive the image products, and store them in a secure way.
Phases A and B have been focused on architecture and system definition, and are underway. Phases C and D will be the development phase, with the aim of fielding the MUSIS CIL around the time the satellites are scheduled to launch. It’s unlikely to be ready for 2015, but could be ready by the time France launches its CSO at the end of 2016.
Contracts & Key Events
July 20/12: Italy’s OPTSAT. Italy and Israel sign a set of arms deals worth about $1 billion each way, including a deal for one of IAI’s OPTSAT 3000 high-resolution optical satellites. Adding another capable satellite to Italy’s constellations could make a program to share data among French, German, and Italian ground stations more attractive. On the other hand, it also fields an inexpensive substitute for France’s recent “CSO” optical surveillance satellites, in an era where there isn’t any budget to spare. Read “Italy & Israel: A Billion-Dollar Offer They Didn’t Refuse” for full coverage.
June 2012: CIL-B2. Italy and France decide to launch MUSIS Federated Activities, Phase B2. The associated contract is expected to be placed in 2013, to complete the preliminary definition of the Common Interoperability Layer. Source.
July 18/11: MUSIS-FA. Thales Alenia Space Italia announces a contract with OCCAR-EA for a study phase to define a Common Interoperability Layer (CIL) between the Ground Segments of the 2 Italian COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation SAR satellites, and the French CSO high resolution optical system. The challenge is to guarantee mutual access, while maintaining required confidentiality, and remaining fully consistent with the programs’ future development plans.
This begins the MUSIS Federated Activities program. Contract value is not disclosed, but OCCAR acted on behalf of the French and Italian Ministries of Defense, and awarded the contract to a temporary consortium. Thales Alenia Space Italia is the project lead, working with Thales Alenia Space France and EADS Astrium France.
CIL study phase
Dec 2/10: France’s DGA issues EUR 795 million in contracts for 2 CSO (composante spatiale optique) satellites to EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space. The contract also includes an option for a 3rd CSO satellite, if other European nations decide to join the French CSO program and take another step toward the MUSIS vision.
The French Space Agency (CNES) will act as the satellite contract manager, and will be responsible for securing 2 separate launch contracts for the spacecraft by December 2016, when the 1st CSO satellite is scheduled for launch. At present, no firm launch arrangements have been made.
EADS Astrium will provide the CSO satellite platforms built on the AstroSat 1000 base platform, just like the French Pleiades. Astrium will also handle avionics, to include a Galileo navigator and Sodern star sensor; and integration and testing. Thales Alenia Space will provide the high-resolution optical imaging cameras. The DGA believes that up to 500 people will be employed on the project, which will ultimately replace some Helios satellites. While the French military originally planned for Helios 2′s replacements to launch in 2014 or 2015, officials said the results of an internal study showed that the existing Helios 2 satellites could meet military requirements until early 2017. French DGA | EADS Astrium | Satellite Today | Space News.
2-3 CSO satellites