Australia’s Aging Leasat 5 Moved to Successor’s Slot

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The aging Leasat 5 satellite that has been used for a decade by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been moved to 72 degrees east, where it will be able to squeeze out a couple of extra years of limited service while ADF waits for Intelsat’s IS-22 satellite and its hosted UHF payload, according to an official with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization.

Peter Kerr, who is the organization’s counselor for defense science, said Leasat 5’s move from 100 degrees east to 72 degrees east — where IS-22 will be launched in 2012 — should permit ADF to use Leasat 5 in limited capacity until IS-22 is in service. ADF will own the UHF payload on IS-22, although the satellite will be operated by Intelsat.

ADF also has the use of the Optus C1 satellite at 156 degrees east, which is a joint commercial-military satellite on which ADF operates its own X-band, Ka-band and UHF payload. Optus C1, scheduled to operate until 2019, carries two 25-kilohertz UHF channels for narrowband communications in addition to its wideband capacity in X- and Ka-band.

Under a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Defense Department, Australia is financing the equivalent of one Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite to the U.S.-managed WGS fleet that ultimately will include at least six satellites.

Kerr said one of the WGS satellites will operate in an Australia-coordinated orbital slot, giving the Australian side rights to control it and preserve a measure of independence in what otherwise might appear a lopsided relationship with the United States. In return for its WGS contribution, Australia will have access to the entire WGS constellation.

With the assets under construction, Kerr said, Australia’s military would appear to have its expected requirements filled through 2030, making it an example of a nation whose military could be reducing, not increasing, its use of commercial satellite capacity.