New Estimate on Satmex 5’s Operating Life Eases Pressure for Replacement

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico said satellite builder Boeing has revised upward its estimate of how much longer the Satmex 5 satellite can remain in orbit, giving Satmex more breathing room as it awaits the launch of the replacement Satmex 8.

Satmex 8’s launch, aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is tentatively set for Dec. 28. This new date assumes that ILS and the Russian government are able to conduct the three launches now scheduled to occur before Satmex.

Satmex had been among the operators most directly concerned by the August failure of the same Proton Breeze-M rocket that will be used for Satmex 8. The failure grounded the Proton rocket, which has since returned to flight with the successful launch of an Intelsat commercial telecommunications satellite.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems had estimated that Satmex 5 would need to be removed from service and placed into a retirement orbit in February.

With the August launch failure, and given Satmex’s place in the ILS customer queue, that was a tight schedule given that it takes several weeks after arriving in orbit for a satellite to be made ready to take charge of broadcast customers on a satellite being retired.

In an Oct. 24 statement, Satmex said Boeing has updated its estimate and concluded that Satmex 5 may “continue normal operations” until early May. If ILS and the Russian government maintain their current schedule of Proton launches, that would put Satmex on the Proton launch pad for a Dec. 28 liftoff, ILS said.

With a May end-of-life deadline for Satmex 5, Satmex said it should have plenty of time to transfer customers from Satmex 5 to Satmex 8.

a ILS and the Russian government have scheduled three launches into geostationary orbit to occur before Satmex. First up in November will be a dual launch carrying Russian satellite fleet operator Gazprom Space Systems’ Yamal 300K telecommunications satellite and the Russian government’s Luch-5B data-relay spacecraft. Next up for ILS will be the EchoStar 16 direct-broadcast television satellite, for EchoStar of Englewood, Colo. Following that will be the early December launch of Gazprom’s Yamal 402 satellite, according to ILS.