MHI Lands Breakthrough Contract to Launch Telstar 12 Vantage Satellite

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BEIJING — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Tokyo will launch the Telstar 12 Vantage telecommunications satellite for satellite operator Telesat in 2015 in what MHI said was its first contract to launch a commercial satellite. 

The satellite will be launched aboard an MHI-built H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Launch Center in southern Japan, MHI announced Sept. 26. MHI last year assumed full responsibility for operating and marketing the H-2A, which is used mainly to launch Japanese government funded payloads.

MHI said it is working closely with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to improve the vehicle’s performance by upgrading its upper stage.

Ottawa, Canada-based Telesat announced Sept. 9 that it was ordering Telstar 12 Vantage from European manufacturer Astrium. The Ku-band satellite will replace the Telstar 12 satellite at 15 degrees west longitude to serve markets including South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Telesat selected MHI to launch our new Telstar 12 Vantage satellite after an extensive evaluation of the H-IIA launch vehicle, including the planned enhancements,” Daniel S. Goldberg, Telesat’s president and chief executive, said in a prepared statement. “MHI scored highest on our selection criteria that took into account vehicle performance, technical and operational expertise, and overall commercial terms. Telesat is confident that our strong record of innovation will be enhanced by our partnership with MHI and we look forward to the Telstar 12 Vantage launch mission.”

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed. 

The apparent arrival of MHI as a launch services provider adds yet another player to a market that the more established providers, such as Arianespace of Europe and International Launch Services of Reston, Va., say is already overcrowded. Satellite operators tend to feel differently, arguing that a wider selection affords them the flexibility to get their satellites launched when needed. 

Shoihiro Asada, representative for the Space Strategic Business Unit, MHI Integrated Defense & Space Systems, said the contract will bring MHI recognition in the global market. MHI wants to build up to a pace of three or more commercial launches per year before moving to the next generation H-X rocket in 2020.