Japan’s principal satellite maker, Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (Melco), has tried for years to make significant inroads into the global commercial telecommunications satellite market, which has long been dominated by U.S. and European companies.
Most of its business has been with domestic operators, and even there Melco has had to contend with foreign competition. The company’s first contract with a non-Japanese customer, awarded back in 2000, featured a satellite platform built by Space Systems/Loral. Until this year, Melco could only count one foreign contract to build a satellite featuring its DS 2000 platform: the ST-2 satellite for SingTel Optus of Australia and Singapore and Chungwah Telecom of Taiwan.
But Melco just might have achieved its commercial breakthrough in March, when Turkey selected the Tokyo-based firm over two established competitors — Lockheed Martin and an Astrium Satellites-Orbital Sciences Corp. team — to build the Turksat 4A and Turksat 4B satellites. As a result, an already crowded field of commercial satellite manufacturers has another credible player at a time when orders are expected decline as the major operators wind down their fleet recapitalization cycles.
Credit for the $571 million contract, Melco’s biggest commercial deal to date, goes to Toru Yunoki, the company’s deputy general manager for commercial and civil space. Melco clearly sees the award as a steppingstone to bigger and better things in satellite manufacturing: In June, the company unveiled plans to expand its Kamakura Works production facility with the goal of doubling annual revenue, to $1.9 billion, over the next 10 years.
Thanks largely to efforts spearheaded by Yunoki, Melco appears on the verge of becoming a global force to be reckoned with in commercial satellite manufacturing.