Eutelsat places satellite order with Thales Alenia Space, Gogo an anchor customer

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Updated Oct. 30 at 11:54 a.m. Eastern with the correct total throughput for Eutelsat-10B’s high-throughput capacity. 

WASHINGTON — Eutelsat Communications selected Franco-Italian manufacturer Thales Alenia Space to build a replacement for a geostationary satellite roughly three years from retiring.

Eutelsat and Thales Alenia Space said Oct. 29 that they had signed a “letter of agreement” for the production of Eutelsat-10B, an all-electric satellite that will carry more capacity than its predecessor, Eutelsat-10A. 

Thales Alenia Space spokeswoman Sandrine Bielecki said by email that the letter precedes a contract, but “marks the entry into force of the deal.”

Eutelsat-10B’s design calls for continued coverage of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, plus two new high-throughput payloads — one covering air and sea routes from the North Atlantic to the Middle East, and another that covers the Indian Ocean, Africa and a larger part of the Atlantic Ocean. The high-throughput payloads will support a combined 35 gigabits per second of capacity. 

France-based Eutelsat said multiple in-flight Wi-Fi providers have committed to lease more than a third of the new high-throughput satellite capacity. Gogo, a Chicago-based in-flight W-Fi provider, said Oct. 29 that it agreed to lease capacity on the new satellite. 

Thales Alenia Space said it will build Eutelsat-10B on the Spacebus NEO platform it developed with the French and European space agencies. The satellite will carry 14 kilowatts of power to support the Ku-band HTS payloads, plus traditional C- and Ku-band widebeam capacity. 

Eutelsat said it expects to launch Eutelsat-10B in 2022. A launch provider has not been announced. The company expects the aging Eutelsat-10A satellite, which was also built by Thales Alenia Space, to retire in the second quarter of 2023. 

Thales Group, which owns 67% of Thales Alenia Space, said Oct. 22 that it was in the “final stage of 4 significant commercial satellite tenders,” with completions expected in the coming weeks. Thales Alenia Space is reducing its head count by around 500 people due to the ongoing slump in geostationary satellite orders. 

Last month, Thales Alenia Space, which is also 33% owned by Italian aerospace firm Leonardo, unveiled a new reprogrammable satellite line called Inspire that it hopes will capture a larger portion of the satellite market. Inspire is currently only available in Ku- and Ka-band, meaning satellites like Eutelsat-10B must use a different platform to support other frequencies. 

Thales Alenia Space said Eutelsat-10B will still have a “SpaceFlex” very-high-throughput-satellite processor onboard to optimize the satellite’s bandwidth.