WASHINGTON — EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes Network Systems said March 21 it had ordered an all-Ka-band consumer broadband satellite for North America — with 50 percent more capacity than the 100-plus gigabits per second of throughput offered by the company’s Jupiter 1 satellite.
The new satellite, to be called EchoStar 19/Jupiter 2, will be built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., and is scheduled for launch in 2016 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. EchoStar has a multilaunch agreement with Europe’s Arianespace consortium that covers this period.
The satellite is expected to weigh around 6,300 kilograms at launch, light enough to share a launch with another telecommunications satellite under the same Ariane 5 fairing. Its 120 spot beams and more than 150 gigabits of throughput will cover an area that is triple the area served by the Jupiter 1/EchoStar 17 satellite, Hughes President Pradman P. Kaul said in a March 21 interview.
In addition to full coverage of the United States and much of Canada, Jupiter 2 will cover what Hughes termed Central America, an area that apparently includes Mexico.
Kaul said the company made a tradeoff between throughput and coverage. “If we had ordered a satellite with, say, 250 gigabits per second of throughput, it would have had fewer beams,” he said. Jupiter 1, which entered service in October and has 60 spot beams, has been filling at a rate that forced the company’s hand on Jupiter 2.
The order is a show of confidence by EchoStar/Hughes in the company’s current U.S. consumer broadband business and stands in sharp contrast to the apparent hesitation of competitor ViaSat Inc., which has a similar high-throughput satellite in orbit but as yet has not ordered additional capacity or a backup.
“It’s a demonstration of our confidence in the business,” Hughes Senior Vice President Mike Cook said during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington. “After just six months of operations of Jupiter 1, we are ordering follow-on capacity to maintain the momentum in the business.”
The nearly identical ViaSat 1 and Jupiter 1/EchoStar 17 satellites already set commercial industry records for throughput, with more than 100 gigabits per second.
Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat has sued Space Systems/Loral for patent infringement, saying Loral used ViaSat intellectual property in designing Jupiter 1/EchoStar 17 and other high-power telecommunications satellites. Loral has countersued, and the case is making its way through a California district court.
The Hughes order suggests that neither Hughes nor Space Systems/Loral are concerned that the ViaSat lawsuit will affect other Loral programs.
“Obviously we examined this very carefully,” Kaul said, but it did not weigh heavily in the final decision.
Industry officials have said one reason ViaSat has not ordered a second high-throughput satellite is because satellite manufacturers are hesitating to accept ViaSat’s contract terms as they relate to intellectual property rights.