PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico, acting on a contract deadline, said it has confirmed its order for a second all-electric telecommunications satellite from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, with a launch in late 2015.

The Satmex decision means the groundbreaking contract that Satmex and Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) of Hong Kong signed in early 2012 with El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing remains intact.

The contract called for the construction and launch of four satellites — two for Satmex, two for ABS — to be launched in pairs aboard Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) upgraded Falcon 9 rockets. The SpaceX launches were integral parts of the decision by both companies to book the Boeing spacecraft, which will be the first of Boeing’s 702SP. 

The novelty in the 702SP design is that it employs electric propulsion not only for station-keeping once the satellite is in orbit, but also for powering the satellite from its rocket’s transfer-orbit drop-off point to final geostationary position — a maneuver that will take several months.

Replacing conventional chemical propellant with electric power saves substantial weight and in this case allows the Satmex and ABS satellites to be launched in pairs aboard the Falcon 9, whose prices are lower than some of the established launch service providers.

Satmex had reserved the right to back out of its commitment to the second satellite, with a deadline of July 13, but would have paid penalties to ABS if it did so. The company’s decision to move forward on the contract, announced July 17, means the four-satellite, two-launch agreement will continue as planned.

Satmex 7 and ABS-3a are scheduled for launch in 2014. The newly confirmed Satmex 9, to carry 48 Ku-band transponders at 36-megahertz equivalence, will operate from 116.8 degrees west, where it will be co-located with the Satmex 8 satellite already there, Satmex said.

Satmex and ABS have secured a contract option to order four more 702SP satellites.


Satmex Undecided on 2nd Satellite Under Deal with ABS and Boeing

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.