LES MENUIRES, France — Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico will launch its Satmex 8 telecommunications satellite aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket between July and September 2012, Satmex and ILS announced Dec. 29.

Satmex 8 will replace Satmex 5 at 116.8 degrees west. Satmex 5, whose ion-electric propulsion system failed, is operating on backup chemical propulsion that Satmex has said will run out by late 2012.

The new satellite, which will carry 24 C- and 40 Ku-band transponders, is under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif. Loral promised Satmex a mid-2012 delivery date as a condition of the contract.

Reston, Va.-based ILS said it is “implementing a mission-integration schedule to support a third-quarter 2012 ILS Proton launch.”

Satmex, which has been through U.S. and Mexican Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, has had trouble persuading its bondholders to allow the company to contract for Satmex 8. The company was forced to raise the interest rate on its bonds in return for securing financing in 2010. Loral had begun preparatory work on the satellite under a previous contract with Satmex to support the mid-2012 delivery date.

“ILS Proton offers the best solution for executing our replacement plan to provide continuity of services to our existing and new customers,” Satmex Chief Executive Patricio Northland said in a Dec. 29 statement. “Satmex requires a high level of schedule assurance and flexibility, which we believe can be provided at this time by a dedicated launch on ILS Proton.”


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.