PARIS — Satellite services provider Artel Inc. has agreed to lease an additional four transponders on the SES Astra 3B satellite for U.S. government communications in the Middle East, bringing to eight transponders the capacity that Reston, Va.-based Artel will be using on the just-launched satellite, Artel and SES announced May 25.

Astra 3B was placed into geostationary transfer orbit May 21 by a European Ariane 5 rocket in the first of a planned seven launches in 2010 after the launcher was grounded for several weeks because of a defect in its helium-pressurization system.

Also on board the Ariane 5 vehicle was the ComSatBw-2 telecommunications satellite to be used by German defense forces along with the ComSatBw-1 spacecraft launched in October. ComSatBw-2, built by Thales Alenia Space under contract to Astrium Services, carries four SHF transponders and five UHF transponders.

Weighing 2,400 kilograms at launch, ComSatBw-2 will be operated at 13.2 degrees east in geostationary orbit. The two-satellite system is Germany’s first dedicated military telecommunications satellite effort and is designed to support German forces deployed outside of Europe. The ComSatBw system is being managed by a joint venture, MilSat Services, owned by Astrium Services of Europe, and ND Satcom, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based SES.

Astra 3B, built by Astrium Satellites, carries 60 Ku-band and four Ka-band transponders and will operate at SES’s orbital slot at 23.5 degrees east, where it will serve markets in Europe and the Middle East. Astra 3B weighed 5,470 kilograms at launch.

Once declared ready for commercial service in mid-June, Astra 3B will be located at the 23.5 degrees east slot with the Astra 1A satellite. Two other SES-owned spacecraft now at that orbital location — Astra 1E and Astra 1G — will be moved to new locations, SES has said.

Artel, which provides managed network services including satellite capacity to the U.S. government, had leased an initial four transponders on Astra 3B in 2009. Artel purchased the Astra 3B capacity from the SES World Skies U.S. Government Solutions division, which handles government sales. SES has recently decided not to vertically integrate its Government Solutions division to compete with companies like Artel. Instead, it will remain a seller of bandwidth on SES’s fleet of 44 satellites.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.