Bolivia’s TKSAT-1 Expected To Generate $500 Million


PARIS — The Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) said its Tupac Katari (TKSAT-1) telecommunications satellite is expected to generate $2 million in monthly revenue in 2016 and to reach a fill rate in the coming years that could justify a second satellite.

Two years after the launch of TKSAT-1, the agency said 75 percent of the spacecraft’s 30 C-, Ku- and Ka-band transponders have been sold, all to Bolivian government and commercial entities.

The 5,100-kilogram TKSAT-1 was launched Dec. 20, 2013, aboard a Chinese Long March 3B-E rocket. The satellite is a DFH-4 platform provided by the China Academy of Space Technology, built with financing from the China Development Bank, with the Bolivian government financing 15 percent of the $302 million program cost.

In its statement, ABE said TKSAT-1 produced $7 million in revenue in 2014 after entering service in April of that year. In 2015, revenue is forecast to be $19 million, reaching $24 million in 2016. The spacecraft operates in geostationary orbit at 87.2 degrees west longitude.

Over the satellite’s 15-year life, its total revenue is likely to be around $500 million, a level that ABE said is sufficient to justify a replacement.

Bolivia, with a population of 11 million, is one of numerous developing nations that have opted to purchase their own telecommunications satellites. The reason often given is to reduce capital outlays to foreign entities under contracts most often concluded in U.S. dollars.

Colombia recently won international regulatory approval to extend the deadline for launching the first Colombian telecommunications spacecraft. Venezuela has a large multi-band satellite, also funded with Chinese export credit loans.

What is unclear in many of these decisions is whether the sponsoring government will invest in the actual business of satellite operations and capacity leases long after the excitement of a new national asset has worn off.

ABE said that in addition to the financial returns from TKSAT-1, the satellite is extending television and broadband connectivity to isolated regions of Bolivia, as had been intended when the project was initially approved.

ABE did not disclose the specific terms of its China Development Bank loan, but most export-credit agencies advance funds at low interest rates, with repayming starting well after the satellite is operational in orbit.