WASHINGTON — More than a year and a half after the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s six-month shutdown scuttled Boeing’s sale of a satellite to a Singapore startup, Kacific has finalized its order for a high-throughput platform it will share with Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan.
Kacific was ready to buy its first satellite, Kacific-1, from Boeing in the summer of 2015 when the Ex-Im Bank had to stop issuing loans because the U.S. Congress let export-credit agency’s charter lapse.
While the bank reopened in December 2015, it still can’t finance most satellite projects since board vacancies Congress won’t let it fill legally prevent it from approving loans over $10 million. The bank’s future remains in doubt amid a tentative proposal by President Donald Trump’s budget chief to close the bank for good.
In the time since, Kacific raised $147 million in a late 2016 financing round, and signed 15 wholesale contracts for managed bandwidth collectively worth $434 million. That constituted enough to go forward with the satellite without the bank’s assistance, Kacific CEO Christian Patouraux told SpaceNews Feb. 20.
Kacific-1 will have 57 narrow, high-throughput beams trained on specific, geographically dispersed areas across the Pacific and Southeast Asia. In a Feb. 20 press release, Kacific said it has sold capacity on 51 out of the 57 beams. Most are more than 70 percent spoken for in the form of take-or-pay contracts.
Sky Perfect JSAT had been foreseen as Kacific’s possible partner for a shared “condominium satellite,” or condosat, along with Beijing-based Chinasat. Sky Perfect JSAT’s half of the satellite, JCSAT-18, will also carry high-throughput capacity for the Asia-Pacific. In a separate statement, the Japan-based operator said JCSAT-18 will carry Ku- and Ka-band HTS capacity over the Asia Pacific, stretching up into Far East Russia, along with a traditional wide-beam payload covering East Asia. Sky Perfect JSAT intends to provide cellular backhaul, mobile connectivity, and other broadband services.
JCSAT-18 is the second HTS satellite order from Sky Perfect JSAT. In November 2015, the company ordered Horizons 3e with Intelsat, which will be the core asset of a joint venture between both operators offering C and Ku-band services in the Asia-Pacific.
Kacific, setting the stage for its future satellite, has been providing broadband service to customers using a patchwork of Ku-band capacity stitched together from other satellites over the Asia-Pacific. Patouraux said the company serves about 20 countries by pooling capacity that was idle or otherwise not used. That service has been good for “demonstrating that there is substantial demand for broadband at much lower prices than is normally practiced in these markets,” he said.
Kacific’s interim service enabled the company to cultivate a market for Kacific-1 once the satellite is online. Patouraux said that despite the financing delay, his company feels it hasn’t missed a beat.
“I think our arrival on the market is still going to be at the right time,” he said.
Patouraux added that Kacific might continue to use the Ku-band service in addition to Kacific-1’s Ka-band capacity. The Ku-coverage reaches some areas outside of Kacific-1’s future footprint.
Kacific and Sky Perfect JSAT have yet to procure a launch, but are planning a mission for the second half of 2019. Patouraux said Kacific has the funding for its share of a launch contract. The company is also insuring its part of the satellite, the launch, and its own ground systems for the value of the full project, he said.