KOUROU, French Guiana — Astrium Satellites will build the Atlantic Bird 7 satellite for satellite fleet operator Eutelsat to bolster capacity over the Middle East and North Africa and strengthen Eutelsat’s growing partnership with Egypt’s satellite operator, Nilesat. A launch is planned for late 2011, Astrium and Eutelsat announced May 14.

The all-Ku-band Atlantic Bird 7 will be stationed at the 7 degrees west orbital slot that is the core of Eutelsat’s capacity-sharing partnership with Nilesat. Nilesat operates the Nilesat 101 and Nilesat 102 satellites at that location, both of them full, and has the Nilesat 201 satellite under construction and scheduled for launch there in 2010.

Also currently stationed at that slot is Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 4A spacecraft, which following the arrival of Atlantic Bird 7 will return to its original home, 13 degrees east –- and its original name, Hot Bird 10 –- for Eutelsat’s core European satellite-television service.

Atlantic Bird 7 will be an Astrium Eurostar 3000 platform carrying two main beams. One beam, with up to 44 transponders, will provide direct-to-home television to a broad geographic swath including the Middle East and North Africa. A second beam will use up to 12 transponders for consumer broadcast and Internet access in northwest Africa to the Gulf of Guinea.

Once in service, Atlantic Bird 7 will increase Eutelsat’s capacity from that orbital location to 50 transponders from 26 today. The satellite is expected to weigh 4,600 kilograms at launch and provide 12 kilowatts of power to the payload at the end of its planned 15-year service life. Paris-based Eutelsat will select a launch service supplier at a later date.

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