Inmarsat Secures Ex-Im Financing for Global Xpress Satellites

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PONTE VEDRA, Fla. β€” Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat of London has secured $666 million in loans from the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to finance the construction and insurance of three large Ka-band satellites to provide bandwidth to commercial and military customers, the Ex-Im Bank said.

One of the Global Xpress satellites, being built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., will carry a hosted payload that Inmarsat is having built with the expectation that it will be leased by a U.S. Department of Defense customer, industry officials said. All three satellites will carry medium-speed Ka-band payloads and a complementary High-Capacity Overlay to permit higher-bandwidth links to individual hotspots, many in the ocean.

In response to Space News inquiries, the Ex-Im Bank said Global Xpress is the third satellite project the bank has agreed to back so far in its fiscal year 2011.

The bank also provided a $171.5 million loan to SES of Luxembourg to build the QuetzSat satellite covering North America, mainly Mexico; and a $228 million loan to Hispasat of Spain for the Amazonas-3 telecommunications satellite, under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., Ex-Im said in a statement.

The bank, which attempts to stimulate U.S. exports by providing low-interest financing to cover work done by U.S. companies, agreed to two satellite finance deals in fiscal year 2010: $125 million for Avanti Communications of London for a broadband-data satellite under construction by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.; and $175 million to support Loral’s construction of the Hispasat 1E satellite.

Inmarsat is positioning Global Xpress for the U.S. military as a supplement to capacity on the Boeing-built Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) fleet of satellites that the Defense Department has begun to deploy. Three WGS satellites are in orbit, and three more are scheduled for launch by late 2012.

Inmarsat spokesman Christopher McLaughlin on Dec. 21 said the company would have no comment on the hosted payload it has commissioned from Boeing.

Two industry officials said Inmarsat is still negotiating with U.S. military officials how to structure a lease of the hosted-payload capability. While Inmarsat is committed to the hosted payload, it has not yet secured a contract to lease the capacity, these officials said.

Inmarsat, whose current satellite fleet provides relatively low-speed voice and data services in L-band, hopes to use the Global Xpress satellites to protect its current market position from encroachment by conventional satellite operators using C- and Ku-band links to provide broadband links to maritime vessels.