The Department of Defence has extended its long-running C1 satellite contract with Optus until its new “sovereign controlled” military satellite communication constellation comes online.
The contract, published last week, will see Defence continue to use the telco’s C1 satellite until September 2034 at a cost of $405.5 million over the next 12 years.
Under Optus’ previous contract, the satellite was due to reach end-of-life in 2027, having previously been reconfigured to operate in an "inclined orbit to reduce on-board fuel usage”.
A spokesperson told iTnews the contract covers Defence’s use of the C1 satellite, including “associated tracking, telemetry and command elements”.
It also “includes an upgrade of the Optus Satellite Control Centre at Belrose NSW and two new satellite dishes”, the Defence spokesperson said.
Optus has provided satellite services to Defence since 2003, when the telco and the agency jointly launched the C1 from French Guiana.
The new contract comes just months before Defence is expected to select a supplier for its Australia Defence satellite communication system (ADSS) project, known in military circles as JP9102.
The project intends to “supplement, and then replace, the existing Defence satellite communication system”, currently provided by C1 and another satellite operated by Inmarsat.
According to former Defence minister Linda Reynolds, the “soverign controlled satellite communications capability” will provide “real‑time operational and logistical information which is essential for the command and control of deployed forces”.
Four prime contractors are vying for the JP9102 contract – Optus, Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin – through a request for tender process that closed in January 2022.
For its bid, Optus has partnered up with Thales, Raytheon and, most recently, Mitsubishi Electric to create TEAM AUSSAT.
With a contract for ADSS expected in the third quarter, Defence said the Optus CI contract will ensure it “is able to maintain and expand existing capability in the lead up to the delivery of JP9102”.
Defence plans to spend up to $3 billion on satellite and terrestrial communications infrastructure between 2017 and 2019, according to the 2016 integrated investment program [pdf].
Last year, the department renewed its fixed telecommunications network contract with Telstra for $1 billion.