Boeing, Intelsat Finalize Four-Satellite Deal

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PARIS — Boeing on July 15 confirmed it has formally signed a contract to build four telecommunications satellites for Intelsat in a deal that will inaugurate Boeing’s 702B satellite design. Boeing says the new product can easily accommodate hosted payloads for the U.S. government and other customers in addition to supporting Intelsat’s main C- and Ku-band telecommunications missions.

Industry officials said one of the unusual features of the deal is that Intelsat did not seek competitive bids before deciding on Boeing. These officials said Washington- and Bermuda-based Intelsat is seeking to maintain a broad supplier base, and inaugurating a new satellite design from Boeing is one way of doing so.

Ken Lee, Intelsat’s senior vice president for space systems, denied this. In a July 15 interview, Lee said Intelsat canvassed all the other major satellite manufacturers to gauge their interest in a three- or four-satellite contract.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing Satellite Systems said the first satellite, which Intelsat announced in April, will be the IS-22 spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2012. In addition to the Intelsat payload, that satellite will carry a UHF-frequency payload for the Australian Defence Force and operate at 72 degrees east over the Indian Ocean.

The second of the four Boeing-built Intelsat satellites will be the IS-21 spacecraft, which industry officials said would be located at 58 degrees west.

Boeing said the two other satellites would be named later. One industry official said Intelsat’s IS-23 spacecraft, to be located at 307 degrees east, is a likely candidate for one of the two other Boeing-built models.

Boeing said the 702B, which borrows elements from the company’s 601 and heavier 702 models, is designed to provide between 10.8 and 16.4 kilowatts of power at the end of the spacecraft’s 15-year service life. The solar array design features two standard wings with between three and six panels each. The base model uses bi-propellant propulsion, with electric propulsion available for heavier payloads.

The launch mass of the 702B is expected to be between 5,400 and 6,160 kilograms — in the upper range of today’s spacecraft but not as large as the 702 model. The weight range makes it compatible with all of the heavy-lift rockets active today in the commercial market.

“The platform is able to accommodate hosted payloads, such as sensors, UHF- and Ka-band for the U.S. government, for additional flexibility in customer business planning,” Boeing said in a statement about the new platform, referring to its “modular ‘plug and play’ antenna design.”

Intelsat officials have said their goal is that some sort of piggyback payload, especially from the U.S. government, be placed on every one of their future satellites.

Boeing is expected to make a public announcement of the Intelsat contract on July 16.

Industry officials said the total value of the Intelsat contract with Boeing is between $400 million and $500 million. Because the deliveries will be made over several years to replace current Intelsat satellites, the contract is not expected to change Intelsat’s current capital spending plans.