MDA To Build Payloads for Russian Telecom Satellites

by

PARIS — Confirming its ambitions in Europe and Central Asia, Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) has unseated competitor ThalesAlenia Space of France and Italy to provide electronics payloads for two large Russian telecommunications satellites in a contract valued at more than 200 million Canadian dollars ($188 million).

The two satellites, Express-AM5 and Express-AM6, will be operated by Moscow-based Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) and will provide a broad suite of commercial and government telecommunications services in the C-, Ku-, Ka– and L-band frequencies.

RSCC had announced in August that ISS Reshetnev of Krasnoyarsk, Russia’s biggest satellite builder, would work with its longtime partner, ThalesAlenia Space of France and Italy, to build the two spacecraft, with both to be launched in 2012.

RSCC also selected the Russian Radio Research and Development Institute, NIIR, as a part of the industrial team. NIIR builds communications ground networks.

But the contract with Reshetnev and ThalesAlenia Space was apparently never finalized, and ISS Reshetnev announced Nov. 11 that it had signed a firm deal with RSCC for the two spacecraft.

On Nov. 20, Richmond, British Columbia-based MDA announced it had won the payload work in a contract with NIIR. The announcement said MDA’s equipment deliveries would occur in late 2011 and early 2012, but that both satellites were still scheduled for launch in 2012.

MDA officials had told investors in an Oct. 28 conference call that the company intended to expand from its current role as a telecommunications satellite equipment supplier to become a system prime contractor. The Commonwealth of Independent States that once formed the Soviet Union offered near-term opportunities, the company said. MDA continues to negotiate with Ukraine and with Canada’s export-credit agency on a contract to provide Ukraine with a national telecommunications satellite.

MDA Vice President Don Osborne, in a Nov. 20 statement, said the RSCC work “is aligned with our market focus in the Commonwealth of Independent States region and working with NIIR, a new customer for MDA, strengthens our presence in Russia.”

A ThalesAlenia Space official confirmed Nov. 23 that the company was no longer involved with the Express-AM5 and Express-AM6 satellites.

Both satellites are expected to operate in geostationary orbit for 15 years and provide 14 kilowatts of power to their communications payloads, taking advantage of a new, higher-performance satellite platform developed by ISS Reshetnev in part following work done in the past with ThalesAlenia Space and with Europe’s Astrium Satellites.

RSCC has said Express-AM5 will operate from 140 degrees east and will carry 30 C-band, 40 Ku-band, 12 Ka-band and two L-band transponders. Express-AM6 will operate from 53 degrees east and carry 44 Ku-band, 14 C-band, 12 Ka-band and two L-band transponders.