PARIS — Satellite-fleet operator SES Global’s SES New Skies division has ordered a large C- and Ku-band telecommunications satellite from Space Systems/Loral that will be completed in 2009 and sent into a slot that was to have been occupied by a satellite destroyed in a January launch failure, SES New Skies and Loral announced May 10.
The NSS-12 spacecraft will operate from the 57 degrees east orbital position that was to have been taken by NSS-8, which was lost Jan. 30 in a Sea Launch rocket failure.
NSS-12 will be about as large as NSS-8. The satellite, based on Space Systems/Loral’s 1300 design, will carry 40 C-band and 48 Ku-band transponders to serve markets in India, the Middle East and Africa.
NSS-8 builder Boeing Satellite Systems International had been under contract to build an NSS-8 replacement, but SES New Skies terminated that contract April 30 following what SES Global officials said was Boeing’s inability to deliver the spacecraft within 26 months. Boeing has declined to comment on why the contract was terminated.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Space Systems/Loral apparently has agreed to the same time constraints that Boeing declined. SES’ May 10 announcement says the satellite “is slated for operation at … 57 degrees east by mid-2009,” a date that would give Loral not much more than 26 months to complete work and deliver the finished satellite to a launch pad.
Loral’s announcement of the contract is less precise, saying the satellite is “planned for completion in 2009.”
SES New Skies Chief Executive Robert Bednarek has said the company would be asking SES Global’s board in June for approval to order another C-/Ku-band satellite similar to NSS-12. Loral is now the leading candidate to build that satellite as well.
NSS-12 is the third commercial satellite order for Space Systems/Loral this year after the Intelsat 14 and the EchoStar 14 telecommunications spacecraft. The company booked six orders for new satellites in 2006, plus a contract to refurbish, for a new customer, a satellite that had long been in storage.
New York-based Loral Space and Communications reported May 8 that its satellite manufacturing unit, which accounts for 85 percent of the parent company’s revenues, had revenues of $200.3 million in the first three months of 2007, up 43.7 percent over the same period a year earlier. Satellite manufacturing backlog stood at nearly $1.3 billion at March 31, a 16 percent increase compared to Dec. 31, 2006.
Loral’s satellite-fleet operations division, Loral Skynet — which is expected to be transferred to Telesat Canada as part of a $2.8-billion purchase of Telesat by Loral and Canadian investors by mid year — reported first-quarter revenues of $33.6 million.
Loral Skynet operates four telecommunications satellites and has one under construction at Space Systems/Loral. Loral Skynet’s backlog as of March 31 was $375 million, an increase of 6 percent compared to the backlog on Dec. 31.
Loral Chief Executive Michael B. Targoff said the company’s Skynet fleet was 72 percent filled as of March 31.
In a May 8 conference call, Targoff said the company continues to investigate how best to increase the capacity of its satellite manufacturing operation to keep up with order intake. He said the Palo Alto, Calif., plant will need to be expanded and that the company had set a ceiling of $150 million to accomplish the task. “Alternatives are being considered that would be less costly,” Targoff said. He declined to be more specific.