IA-8 Launch a Milestone For Intelsat and Loral

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The scheduled June 23 launch of the Intelsat Americas-8 (IA-8) satellite will mark a number of firsts for the global satellite operator and its manufacturer, Space Systems/Loral. Most importantly for Intelsat, the satellite will give the former international treaty organization, its first new satellite in North America and its first satellite equipped for Ka-band service.

While IA-8 will be the fifth Intelsat satellite in the North American arc, the first four were acquired previously through a transaction with Loral Skynet, a sister company of Space Systems/Loral.

For Space Systems/Loral, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based satellite manufacturing arm of Loral Space and Communications Co. of New York, the IA-8, which will generate 16 kilowatts of electrical power, is the highest power 1300-series spacecraft built by the company so far, said D.K. Sachdev, president of the SpaceTel Consultancy, of Vienna, Va.

The IA-8 satellite also will be the second Space Systems/Loral spacecraft to use Stationary Plasma Thrusters (SPT), Sachdev said.

Intelsat’s former status as an intergovernmental satellite organization prevented it from directly serving the United States. Now that the company has been transformed into a private-sector company that barrier has been removed, leading to the development of the IA-8 to serve the United States and other countries in the Americas.

Thermal technologies, such as Stationary Plasma Thrusters, are required for such powerful satellites. The first Space Systems/Loral-built satellite with such thrusters was MBSat, which was launched last year.

Other notable technical firsts for Space Systems/Loral aboard the IA-8 are the use of deployable thermal radiators and loop heat pipes. The satellite also has the highest DC (direct current) power of any spacecraft the company has built to date.

The manufacturer has other satellites under construction that will eclipse the Intelsat IA-8’s power level, said John McCarthy, director of communications at Loral Space, the parent company of Space Systems/Loral.

The mission also will mark the first of two Space Systems/Loral-built 15 kilowatt -plus satellites that are scheduled to be launched within a three-week time span. The other satellite is iPSTAR broadband communication satellite, which is scheduled for launch July 7, McCarthy said. Shin Satellite plans to use iPSTAR for what the industry calls last mile broadband Internet service.

The IA-8 will provide Intelsat with a significant entry into the broadband sector in the United States.

“This satellite is entering a very hot market for Ku-band and Ka-band capacity for both direct-to-home video and new, direct-to-home broadband,” said Andrea Maleter, technical director of Bethesda, Md.-based market research firm Futron Corp. “The IA-8 provides the second Ka-band payload in the region, with WildBlue, partly owned by Intelsat, having just started its Ka-band, end-user broadband service on the Anik F2 satellite.”

The launch of IA-8 will make it possible for Intelsat to meet some key customer plans that had to be put on hold after the launch was delayed from last December, following problems with the IA-7, Maleter said.

The IA-8 satellite is designed to provide expanded coverage over the Americas, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska during a 15-year service life. IA-8 will host voice, video and data transmission and distribution services, as well as carry 28 C-band and 36 Ku-band transponders, along with the 24 Ka-band spot beams.

The IA-8 also has two high-powered zone beams specifically designed to provide coverage of Latin America, said Intelsat spokeswoman Jodi Katz.

“Intelsat’s restriction on providing U.S. domestic services actually came from the original treaty under which it was created,” Katz said. “We were created to provide international connectivity. Once Intelsat privatized in July 2001, the treaty restrictions which prevented us from providing domestic services in this market were removed. However, we did not have any satellites that provided [continental United States] coverage. When we acquired the Loral fleet, the acquired satellites gave us the capability to serve the U.S. domestic market, which we began doing immediately through the acquired Loral customers.”

The launch also is occurring roughly 40 years after Intelsat’s first satellite, Early Bird, began providing commercial service.

Sea Launch is preparing to lift the satellite into orbit from its launch site at 154 degrees west longitude in the Pacific Ocean. A Zenit-3SL launch vehicle will launch the 5,500 kilogram (12,125 lbs.) IA-8 satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit on its way to a final orbital position of 89 degrees west.

The mission would be Sea Launch’s first ever for Intelsat and its third of the year. Sea Launch has succeeded in 15 of the 16 launches that it has attempted, said Paula Korn, the launch service provider’s director of communications.