EchoStar, SES Renew North American Fixed Satellite Services Partnership with Airbus Order

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The satellite, which EchoStar calls EchoStar 105 and SES calls SES-11, will operate at 105 degrees west, where it will replace the AMC-15 and AMC-18 (above) satellites now there and used by EchoStar and SES. Credit: Arianespace
The satellite, which EchoStar calls EchoStar 105 and SES calls SES-11, will operate at 105 degrees west, where it will replace the AMC-15 and AMC-18 (above) satellites now there and used by EchoStar and SES. Credit: Arianespace

PARIS — Satellite fleet operators EchoStar and SES on Sept. 4 said they would continue their partnership in North America by ordering a Ku- and C-band telecommunications satellite from Airbus Defence and Space to be launched in late 2016.

The satellite, which EchoStar calls EchoStar 105 and SES calls SES-11, will operate at 105 degrees west, where it will replace the AMC-15 and AMC-18 satellites now there and used by EchoStar and SES.

Englewood, Colorado-based EchoStar said it would operate the satellite’s 24 Ku-band transponders for enterprise, broadcast and government applications. Luxembourg-based SES will operate the 24-transponder C-band payload.

The acquisition “renews our commitment to the fixed satellite services market in North America,” EchoStar Satellite Services President Anders Johnson said in a statement. “The market for 50-state transponder capacity has demonstrated significant growth for the EchoStar Satellite Services business unit over the past five years.”

SES and EchoStar are sharing the approximately $300 million in capital costs to build and launch the satellite, after which EchoStar will pay annual leasing fees to SES for the satellite’s 15-year life. Once in orbit, the satellite will be owned by SES, which is the registered licensee of the orbital slot and the C- and Ku-band frequencies associated with it.

EchoStar has been a major SES customer over North America in addition to EchoStar’s ownership of its own fleet of satellites. In its announcement, EchoStar suggests that it made the decision on the satellite manufacturer.

The selection of Europe’s Airbus marks a departure for EchoStar, which up to now has turned exclusively to U.S. manufacturers — especially Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California — for its spacecraft. One official said SES and EchoStar made the decision jointly.

The contract comes less than a year after Airbus won a contract to build a satellite for EchoStar competitor DirecTV of Los Angeles, which has also been a U.S.-focused satellite buyer.

As if to reassure EchoStar’s investors as to Airbus’ bona fides, EchoStar’s statement about the contract referred to Airbus as “the world’s second-largest space company.”

EchoStar and SES said the satellite would weigh about 5,400 kilograms at launch.