— On the strength of
‘s strong economic growth, Russian broadcasters and government customers took a higher percentage of Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) satellite capacity in the past two years even after accounting for the rapid growth in RSCC’s in-orbit fleet, according to RSCC Chief Executive AlexeyOstapchuk.

Moscow-based RSCC had around 210 available transponders in orbit from 11 satellites in 2006. The state-owned company still has 11 operational spacecraft, but higher-capacity models have replaced older designs and RSCC currently markets capacity on 260 transponders.

In 2006, Russian customers accounted for 65 percent of RSCC’s leased capacity, with non-Russian customers taking up the remaining 35 percent. Currently Russian customers have 79 percent of RSCC’s total leased capacity, Ostapchuk said, adding that regional television in
is developing and promises to stimulate demand for RSCC satellites in the coming years.

The Russian government has ordered RSCC to more than double its transponder supply, to 550, by 2015. The January launch of the Express-AM33 into the company’s 96.5 degrees east slot is the start of a series of fleet additions designed to reach the 2015 goal, Ostapchuk said. The Express-AM44 and Express-MD-1 satellites are scheduled for launch late this year, with three additional Express-AM models to be launched in 2011-2012.

In addition to domestic regional television, RSCC is benefiting from Russian government-backed projects to provide telephone and Internet access to every Russian village through 20,000 public Internet-access points and 147,000 public telephone booths.

Four Express-AM transponders have been set aside for this program, Ostapchuk said, with another three transponders devoted to a project to provide Internet access to 53,000 Russian schools and universities. Already 7,000 schools are equipped with VSAT, or very small aperture terminals, linked to RSCC spacecraft.