TEL AVIV, Israel — In an unusual three-way deal, the Israeli government, Tel Aviv-based Spacecom Ltd.
and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) have agreed to develop a new-generation
communications satellite for international commercial customers and local political-military users.
At 3.4 tons and $365 million, the new multi-band spacecraft, called Amos-4 or Amos HP (high powered)
, will be
more than double the size and cost
of earlier Amos-series satellites produced by IAI and operated by Spacecom. It will take about five years to build and is planned for launch in the third quarter of 2012.
Under a set of agreements signed by the three parties, IAI will develop and manufacture Amos-4 and deliver it to geostationary orbit, where it will be taken over by Spacecom.
In its July 8 announcement, Spacecom said it has agreed to pay IAI $100 million, with a first payment due in January 2010 and final payment following launch and
in-orbit validation testing. The remaining $265 million, according to Spacecom, will be paid by the Israeli government, which has prepurchased Amos-4 communications services for the projected 12-year life of the satellite.
“Spacecom … signed an agreement for the manufacture of the Amos-4 satellite with IAI and the government of Israel,”
David Pollack, Spacecom president and chief executive, said in the announcement.
“The agreement is an important achievement for Spacecom in dramatically advancing the capabilities and services to be offered by Amos-4 and in broadening our customer service areas.
With its planned orbital slot somewhere between 64 degrees and 76 degrees
will provide coverage
“from southeast and central Asia through Africa and the Middle East,” Pollack
Spacecom currently operates the IAI-produced Amos-1 and Amos-2, both of which are positioned at 4 degrees west. The planned Amos-3 satellite will
be co-located in the same orbital slot, but its coverage area will be expanded to include not only Europe and the Middle East, but also the eastern coast of North America. Amos-3 is scheduled for launch in the first quarter 2008 by Land Launch, a unit of the U.S.-Ukrainian Sea Launch company that operates from the Baikonur Cosmosdrome in Kazakhstan.
In a July 9 interview, Pollack said Amos-4 will feature 24 transponder equivalents
in the Ku-band, each with
36 megahertz of
bandwidth; and four wide-band, 216-megahertz
“Ka-band has not conquered the market as rapidly as initially envisioned, but we’re still convinced it is the way of the future. And with Amos-4, we will be strongly positioned to meet emerging broadband requirements,” Pollack said.
Neither Spacecom nor IAI would identify the specific government ministry or agency involved in the three-way deal. Nevertheless, experts here said the
$265 million investment of
public funds demonstrates the high national priority accorded to the
program. Moreover, experts here noted that Israel’s Ministry of Defense has in the past and will in the future make use of ostensibly commercial space assets, such as the current Amos satellites as well as the
Eros line of high-resolution imaging satellites.
Pollack and other Israeli space executives have spoken publicly in recent years of the need for greater government-industrial cooperation in funding and joint operation of space assets. In a 2005 symposium sponsored by Israel’s Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Studies, Pollack cited as an example the active role the American defense establishment plays in supporting commercial space programs.
“What I had in mind was actually a lot more ambitious,” Pollack said of the Amos-4 arrangement. “I had hoped for full commitment, with the government providing a kind of safety net in support of this critical space industry, like they provided for the Trans-Israel Highway.
the Amos-4 agreement as a solid first step in the direction of the type of full government-industry cooperation he seeks. “But currently, what we’ve put in place through the Amos-4 agreement is more a seller-buyer relationship,” he said.
said he hopes the
program ultimately will be renamed Amos-5 or even Amos-6, since in the interim period prior to Amos-4’s
planned 2012 launch, he hopes to put up one or two more spacecraft that more closely resemble
“What we’re now calling Amos-4 is an entirely new platform with next-generation technology,” he said. “Not only is it a multi-band satellite and a larger bus, but its much more powerful and capable than those now being built by IAI. …
I hope that in a year or two, we’ll be able to announce that we misnamed this project, and that we’ve contracted to deploy follow-on Amos satellites in the coming five years.
In a July 9 statement, Itzhak Nissan, IAI president and chief executive, said the Amos-4 deal solidifies the firm’s status as Israel’s
leading prime contractor for space programs.
its high-powered multi-band payload and attendant ground stations should provide a springboard for additional programs, while “accelerating the development of space technologies at IAI, in Israel and abroad,” he said.
He noted that IAI currently operates six
is scheduled to build nine additional satellites over the next five years.
Launch of the IAI-produced, Ministry of Defense-owned TechSAR synthetic aperture radar satellite is scheduled for an August launch
aboard an Indian
rocket, sources here say.
IAI of Lod owns about 20.5 percent of
Spacecom. Other major shareholders include Eurocom, General Satellite Services Co. and Mer Services Group, all based in the Tel Aviv area. Twenty percent of Spacecom
now is traded publicly
on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.