The elephant in the room at many space conferences, the subject everyone acknowledges but no one touches, is of course the money — whence it comes, where it goes.
Not so at Euroconsult’s annual World Satellite Business Week in Paris, this year set for Sept. 14-18. It’s all about the money. “Don’t ask me about financing, I’m an engineer,” doesn’t play well here, although we’re nonetheless likely to hear a bit of that.
Over the years, the conference has expanded to include an Earth observation strap-on to the main telecommunications-centered meeting. Recent events suggest that the geo-information services sector doesn’t suffer from the same aversion to mergers and acquisition that bedevils the satcom sector, especially in the emerging markets.
This year’s sessions also include newly prominent aeronautical broadband players including Gogo, Global Eagle, Panasonic Avionics and Live TV. We’ll be providing regular updates of the proceedings throughout the week.
PARIS — Satellite fleet operators fear that start-up OneWeb Ltd.’s 700 low-orbiting satellites will disrupt their established businesses by unintentionally interfering with millions of user antennas installed around the equator.
Some of these companies said they hope their concerns are resolved by OneWeb’s stated commitment to abide by international regulatory guidelines on the operation of low-orbiting satellites using Ku-band radio frequencies also used by almost all of the world’s biggest fleet operators.
Others said they are worried that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a global frequency and orbital-slot regulatory notoriously lacking in enforcement power, will not be up to the task if interference develops after OneWeb is deployed in orbit between 2017 and 2019. — Peter B. de Selding
PARIS — Satellite builders Boeing and Lockheed Martin said they would use their global presences to create at least the semblance of satellite production facilities outside the United States to tap into export-credit agency funding if the U.S. Export-Import Bank did not reopen.
Speaking Sept. 16 here during the World Satellite Business Week conference, the two companies said they already do more than enough business in Canada and Europe to be able to source satellite orders there even if the work continues to be done at their California operations.
The extent to which export credit agency financing is needed and available to U.S. companies assuming a legally acceptable identity outside the United States was a topic of regular debate during the conference. — Peter B. de Selding
PARIS — Satellite fleet operators SES of Luxembourg and Avanti Communications of London have concluded a Ka-band spectrum agreement under which Avanti has transferred to SES spectrum rights outside Avanti’s current commercial coverage regions valued at $25.1 million, the two companies said.
As part of the agreement, Avanti has leased a steerable Ka-band beam on SES’s Astra 5B satellite, operating at 31.5 degrees east, for the satellite’s remaining life of 13.5 years. The capacity, totaling about 3 gigahertz, can be targeted to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The lease of the Astra 5B capacity will permit Avanti to develop a market it had intended to serve with the Hylas 3 satellite, also known as EDRS-C, which has a Ka-band payload owned by Avanti in addition to a data-relay payload financed by Airbus Defence and Space and the European Space Agency. The satellite is at least a year late and will not be launched before 2017. —Peter B. de Selding
A commercial communications satellite being built by Lockheed Martin for fleet operator Arabsat and slated for launch in 2018 will debut a new digital processor that provides on-orbit flexibility including the ability to reconfigure the payload and change frequencies to defeat jamming threats, a Lockheed Martin official said.
Carl A. Marchetto, vice president and general manager of commercial space at Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems, also said the company is seeing a lot of interest from potential buyers for a mostly built satellite that was ordered by a now-defunct Australian operator that defaulted on its contract.
Lockheed Martin is building two satellites for Arabsat of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under a contract officially announced in April, including Hellas-Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1, which will feature the digital processor. The other satellite is Arabsat 6A, also slated for a 2018 launch. — Warren Ferster
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on Sept. 15 said it had filed a formal protest against the U.S. Defense Department’s award of a satellite services contract to the U.S. arm of London-based Inmarsat, saying its bid may have been improperly valued by the contracting agency.
“In our view our proposal provided the best value for the customer,” Intelsat Chief Executive Stephen Spengler said in an interview here during the World Satellite Business Week conference. “I don’t want to get into the specifics, but we don’t usually protest in these circumstances.”
Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said Sept. 15 that he would not comment on his company’s win until the protest period had ended. — Peter B. de Selding
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES on Sept. 14 said it is now confident that launch-service provider SpaceX will complete its Falcon 9 failure review, implement corrective measures and qualify its new-version Falcon 9 Upgrade all in time for a launch before the end of the year.
SES Chief Technical Officer Martin Halliwell acknowledged that SpaceX had a lot on its plate for the next mission, which SpaceX has referred to as a “return to flight” but is much more than that given the multiple changes it is making to the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket to give it more power.
But Halliwell, long a supporter of Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, said his SES team has had enough access to the Falcon 9 failure review to assume a return to flight carrying the SES 9 satellite before the end of the year, but no earlier than Nov. 17. — Peter B. de Selding
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ILS said it has won a contract from Hispasat for the 2017 Proton launch of one of two satellites, Amazonas 5 or Hispasat 1F, under construction by Space Systems/Loral.
SpaceX announced a contract for a unnamed Hispasat satellite on a Falcon 9 and Arabsat 6A on a Falcon Heavy, both between late 2017 and 2018.
Both contracts were announced at the World Satellite Business Week conference. — SN First Up
PARIS — Large institutional investors have begun to sell their holdings in the stock of the large satellite fleet operators out of fear of an impending oversupply that will be exacerbated by high-throughput satellites, investment bankers said Sept. 14.
Speaking at the World Satellite Business Week conference here organized by the Euroconsult space industry consultancy, the bankers said that a sector once considered safe is now viewed as risky.
“Institutional investors are voting with their feet and leaving the FSS sector,” said Romeo A. Reyes of Jeffries & Co., referring to fixed satellite services fleet operators. “Everyone is worried that the bottom is going to fall out of the market.” — Peter B. de Selding
An Ariane 5 will launch the BSAT-4a satellite for Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation of Japan in late 2017, under terms of a contract announced Monday. Arianespace has launched every satellite built for that company. — SN First Up
PARIS — Lockheed Martin is hopeful of landing another commercial customer this year for an Atlas 5 launch that it would try to squeeze into a tight 2016 manifest, a company official said.
Steve Skladanek, president of Denver-based Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, said that despite the high price of an Atlas 5 relative to other commercially available vehicles, customers remain interested due to the vehicle’s high reliability and schedule assurance.
“Next year’s a little tight” for the Atlas 5 manifest between its government missions and two planned commercial launches, Skladanek said in an interview here at the World Satellite Business Week conference organized by Euroconsult. “But we’ve got customers that have approached us to see if we can fit something else in in 2016 and we’re looking to see if we can’t do exactly that.” — Warren Ferster