SpaceX, Boeing Among Beneficiaries of $461M Satellite Export Deal

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NAPLES, Italy — The U.S Export-Import Bank on Nov. 19 agreed to make $461 million in direct loans for the construction of three satellites for Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) of Hong Kong and the launch and insurance of two of them aboard Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rockets.

The transactions are the first deals in the U.S. government’s fiscal year 2013 and follow a record $1.4 billion in Ex-Im Bank satellite financings in fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30.

Ex-Im has agreed to $171.3 million in loans to ABS for the construction, by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., of the ABS-2 satellite. ABS-2 has been under construction since 2010 and is scheduled for launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket in 2013. ABS has said it would seek Ex-Im-type backing from the French export-credit agency, Coface, for the launch.

ABS-2 is expected to weigh more than 6,000 kilograms at launch and to carry 87 transponders in C-, Ku- and Ka-band providing telecommunications coverage across Asia through 10 beams. The satellite is designed to provide 12 kilowatts of power to the payload.

In a separate transaction, Ex-Im Bank agreed to provide $289.7 million in direct loans to ABS to support the construction, by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., of two ABS satellites using Boeing’s new all-electric 702SP design.

The Boeing satellites are expected to weigh no more than around 1,800 kilograms at launch, permitting them to be launched two at a time aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets. The weight savings of about 50 percent is due to the use of ion-electric power instead of conventional propulsion.

While this means the satellite owner will wait several months from the time of the launch until the satellite’s arrival in geostationary orbit, the weight savings affords substantial economies in launch costs.

The two Boeing-built satellites will be insured by Aon and certain insurance costs are covered in the Ex-Im financing.

The first of the Boeing-built ABS satellites is scheduled for launch in late 2015 on a Falcon 9 also carrying the Boeing-built Satmex 7 for Satmex of Mexico. Satmex and ABS joined forces to order three or four Boeing-built 702SP models.

ABS has said its order for two satellites with Boeing is firm. Satmex has said its order of a second satellite hinges on financial developments at the company.

Ex-Im said the two transactions together are expected to support 3,700 U.S. jobs.