News from Satellite 2014 | Financing Woes Threaten GeoMetWatch Plan To Hitch Ride on AsiaSat 9

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WASHINGTON — An innovative hosted payload pairing of a hyperspectral meteorological instrument aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite appears on the verge of collapse because of a lack of financing, according to the two companies involved.

While both GeoMetWatch of Las Vegas and AsiaSat of Hong Kong said they have not abandoned the idea, officials from both companies conceded that the deadline for determining whether GeoMetWatch’s STORM instrument would be onboard the AsiaSat 9 satellite will pass without firm financing on the GeoMetWatch side.

STORM is a 300-kilogram instrument whose precision is designed to be superior to similar sensors flown on U.S. government meteorological satellites. But these satellites’ data are distributed free of charge, which has always been a challenge for the GeoMetWatch program.

The other challenge is that AsiaSat’s AsiaSat 9 construction program with Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., has already tight construction milestones. AsiaSat in December gave GeoMetWatch until mid-2014 to organize the required financing.

David Crain, GeoMetWatch’s founder and now its chief technology officer, said March 10 at the Satellite 2014 conference in Washington that the company’s financial interlocutors have insisted on a high level of collateral in return for backing the project.

He said the company is pursuing alternative financial sources, but he conceded that the deadline with AsiaSat was challenging.

AsiaSat Chief Executive William Wade said in a March 12 interview at the conference that AsiaSat, which would prefer to remain payload host and not take responsibility for the sensor’s business case, is running out of time to accommodate the sensor on AsiaSat 9. AsiaSat 9 is scheduled for delivery by Space Systems/Loral in mid-2016.

Wade said AsiaSat’s assessment of he STORM sensor is that it is, in fact, markedly superior to similar instruments on government satellites, but that the business model nonetheless runs head-on into the free-versus-commercial issue.

“We have not closed the door on this,” Wade said. “But it is getting a bit tight for our next satellite. We may be able to consider it for a future satellite.”

 

Follow Peter on Twitter: @pbdes


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