Japan’s H-2A Launches Telstar 12 Vantage in Commercial Debut

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PARIS — The inaugural flight of an upgraded Japanese H-2A rocket on Nov. 24 successfully placed Canada-based Telesat’s Telstar 12 Vantage satellite into geostationary orbit in a mission that H-2A prime contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) hopes will unlock future commercial orders.

At a time when the global commercial launch market is being shaken by the ostensibly contradictory trends of both oversupply and shortage, the new-version H-2A is designed to offer up to three commercial flights per year with improved orbital-injection features.

Operating from southern Japan’s Tanegashima spaceport, the H-2A placed the 4,800-kilogram Telstar 12 Vantage into the correct transfer orbit some four hours and 27 minutes after liftoff. The mission included three ignition-and-coast sequences of the redesigned vehicle’s upper stage.

Ottawa-based Telesat will operate Telstar 12 Vantage at 15 degrees west longitude. Built by Airbus Defence and Space of Europe and carrying the equivalent of up to 52 36-megahertz transponders, Telstar will replace the existing Telstar 12 at that location to serve the Americas. It is designed to deliver 11 kilowatts of power to the payload at the end of its 15-year life.

The payload includes both Ku- and Ka-band capacity and will be directed through four regional beams and eight spot beams for high-throughput services in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the South Atlantic Ocean region.

Airbus confirmed that Telstar 12 Vantage was healthy and sending signals from its transfer orbit.

Telesat ordered Telstar 12 Vantage in September 2013, meaning just 26 months from contract to delivery in orbit, an aggressive production and launch schedule for a satellite of this size and complexity.

The launch was the 29th of the H-2A/H-2B rocket family and its 28th consecutive success. It was MHI’s first fully commercial mission, a status that industry officials said offered Telesat, as the inaugural customer, an unusually low price. MHI has said that as it assumes more control over H-2A operations and the management of the future H-3 rocket, it will be able to reduce launch costs.

The goal is to continue to serve the anchor customer — the Japanese government — while pushing the H-2A’s flight rhythm to accommodate two or three commercial missions per year. A higher flight rate would help MHI bring down rocket costs.

“This is our first dedicated commercial launch of H-2A,” MHI Vice President and Senior General Manager Naohiko Abe said in a postlaunch statement. “This successful launch is a huge step for H-2A to enter the commercial launch services market. MHI intends to accelerate more aggressive marketing for H-2A satellite launch services both in Japan and abroad, and also, to continue playing the key role in the Japanese space industry from now on.”

For Telesat, the launch secures the successor to the much-smaller Telstar 12 satellite, launched in 1999, and is Telesat’s entry into the high-throughput-satellite business.

High-throughput satellites (HTS) generally feature multiple spot beams that permit the reuse of radio spectrum — usually Ku- or Ka-band frequencies — to direct bandwidth to smaller areas. The effect of the HTS platforms on the existing satellite services markets is a subject of debate in the industry. Some fear cannibalization of existing business with lower per-megabit prices, while others say the cost reductions will open up large new markets. Maritime and aeronautical mobility are two of the fastest-growing applications.

Telesat competitors Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat, among others, are on the way with their own HTS.

“Telesat is pleased to be building on our leadership in mobility services, both maritime and aero, with powerful new coverage over the North Sea, the Mediterranean, Caribbean and the South Atlantic,” Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said in a statement.