Astrium To Sell Yahsat Military Bandwidth

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PARIS — The competition between Astrium Services of Europe and Boeing Commercial Satellite Services of the United States in selling satellite bandwidth to military customers now extends to the military Ka-band capacity on the Yahsat 1B satellite over the Middle East.

Astrium Service announced May 6 an agreement with Yahsat to market that capacity to the U.S. military. 

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based Yahsat announced in March that its military Ka-band service had been certified by the U.S. Defense Department as compatible with the Ka-band services from the U.S. Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) constellation, which eventually will include 10 satellites in geostationary orbit. 

Yahsat 1B was launched in 2012 and is operational at 47.6 degrees east longitude. Its coverage includes all of Africa and the Middle East, South and Central Asia, much of Southern Europe and extends east as far as Southeast Asia.

Boeing’s new satellite services division, meanwhile, is an anchor customer for London-based Inmarsat’s Global Xpress military Ka-band capacity, scheduled to enter commercial service in 2014. Boeing is also selling Inmarsat’s L-band capacity to government customers.

Boeing, which is building the WGS and Global Xpress fleets, will be adding Global Xpress and Yahsat 1B bandwidth to the service offering for U.S. forces to use when they are out of coverage of the WGS satellites or in areas where the Inmarsat or Yahsat links offer higher bandwidth.

Astrium Services, a division of EADS Astrium, built the two Yahsat spacecraft with partner Thales Alenia Space of Europe. Astrium Services has made a business of selling military X-band capacity aboard Britain’s Astrium-owned Skynet satellites to U.S. and allied forces. 

Astrium Services is expanding its X-band reach with the just-launched X-band payload aboard the commercial Anik G1 satellite owned by Telesat of Canada. Astrium has leased the X-band payload for the satellite’s full 15-year life.

The expected future U.S. military demand for X-band versus Ka-band bandwidth is a subject of debate. Much depends on whether budgets to install Ka-band terminals on various airborne and other mobile platforms will match the in-orbit availability of WGS and WGS-compatible satellites.

Astrium Services is looking to expand its Ka-band portfolio and has been negotiating with Inmarsat for a deal similar to Boeing’s. 

As part of the agreement that won Boeing’s satellite manufacturing division the contract to build the three Inmarsat Global Xpress satellites, Boeing signed a take-or-pay commitment. It must pay Inmarsat a set amount regardless of whether it succeeds in selling the bandwidth to U.S. military forces.

In its May 6 statement on the Yahsat agreement, Astrium Services said its U.S. arm, Astrium Services Government Inc. of Herndon, Va., will sell to U.S. forces through established U.S. government contracting structures including the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency’s Future Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition program.