Eutelsat Moves W7 from Sea Launch to ILS

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat will launch its W7 telecommunications satellite on an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket as early as November in a contract signed amid continued uncertainty over whether Sea Launch Co., now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, could make good on its commitment to launch the satellite this year, Eutelsat and ILS announced Sept. 7.

In a Sept. 7 statement, Eutelsat Chief Executive Giuliano Berretta said the Paris-based operator will continue its relations with Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch. “Concerning Sea Launch, we firmly intend to pursue our discussions with the shared objective of delivering future Eutelsat spacecraft into orbit,” Berretta said.

Sea Launch Chief Executive Kjell Karlsen said Eutelsat has not canceled its contract, but instead will use it for another, as-yet undetermined satellite.

Reston, Va.-based ILS customarily assigns launch vehicles to specific satellites from the start of vehicle construction, with last-minute customers accommodated only when an existing customer faces delays and cannot use its assigned rocket. Industry officials said the rocket to be used for W7 previously was slated to launch DirecTV Group’s DirecTV 12 satellite in mid 2009. The satellite, under construction by Boeing Satellite Systems, is now slated for delivery in late 2009 or 2010, the sources said.

ILS Chief Executive Frank McKenna said the company’s ability to sign Eutelsat and launch the W7 satellite in less than three months is a timeframe “that is simply unmatched in the industry.”

W7 is under construction by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. It is a Spacebus 4000 C4 platform that will carry 70 transponders to cover Russia, Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It will replace the aging Sesat spacecraft at 36 degrees east. Sesat will be relocated to another Eutelsat orbital slot.