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06 7 2024

NATO celebrates essential space capability milestone

On 7 June 2024, the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) celebrated the completion of a major upgrade of NATO satellite ground stations in four Allied Nations, Belgium, Greece, Italy, and Türkiye, during a ceremony at the satellite ground station in Kester, Belgium.

The station in Kester achieved full system acceptance one year ago, marking the delivery of a crucial milestone on the development of SATCOM as a critical NATO capability. In June 2023, NCIA completed the upgrade of four NATO satellite ground stations. These stations, operated by the NCIA are critical to provide satellite communication services to the Alliance. This upgrade provides NATO with more resilient and flexible space capabilities, nearly doubling the previous satellite communications ground coverage and thus enabling NATO to do more while maintaining fewer stations.

NCIA operates seven satellite ground stations and one satellite centre, enabling seamless and secure communication channels for command centres and deployed forces across NATO. In 2019, NATO authorized 1 billion EUR for satellite communications (SATCOM) services for the next 15 years. NCIA concluded a memorandum of understanding with four NATO Allies – France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States – for the provision of critical SATCOM services to NATO for a 15-year period from January 2020 until the end of 2034. The agreement enables the four Allies to provide space capacity from their military SATCOM programmes to NATO.

This landmark agreement provides a greater, more resilient and more flexible space capability for NATO to conduct its operations and exercises. Since its implementation, the project has grown with seven additional Nations added to the original memorandum of understanding, as well as commercial SATCOM support. National experts work together with NCIA and are embedded into the team to deliver this critical capability.

The ceremony saw the participation of the NCIA General Manager Ludwig Decamps, several NATO stakeholders of SATCOM capability and representatives from the 11 participating Nations – Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States. NCIA General Manager recognized the importance of this project to NATO as well as the contributions of the Nations and the efforts of the project team.

"The strategic value of satellite communications makes this an achievement that is both timely and pivotal. SATCOM provides essential connectivity to NATO forces at home and abroad, and communication serves as the lifeblood of NATO," said NCIA General Manager Ludwig Decamps in his address. "The upgraded satellite ground stations is a significant achievement for NATO. By providing us with improved coverage and strengthening our space capabilities, it's making us more resilient and flexible. Special thanks to the hosting Allies, our Agency team and our industry partners for their hard work and dedication."

NATO celebrates essential space capability milestone