Offers Help Funding ESA Satellite

Satellite-operator Hispasat has made an unsolicited offer to help finance the first flight model of a communications satellite platform developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to be launched in 2011, according to ESA officials.

The agency has given other prospective partners for what it calls its Small-Geo platform until mid-July to signal their interest, with a late-September deadline for partnership proposals. The first Small-Geo platform, under development at OHB Technology in Germany, is being developed using ESA funds. The agency would like to prove the hardware in orbit through a partnership with a commercial satellite-fleet operator.

Using the same model employed for the large Alphasat/Alphabus program, to be launched in 2011-2012, ESA is prepared to furnish the platform free of charge, and also to pay a share of the development of any innovative payloads. The private-sector partner would pay the entire cost of the launch and insurance of the satellite, as well as charges associated with development of a commercial payload.

“We have the letter from Hispasat, and we have a supporting letter from CDTI” the Spanish technology development agency, ESA Telecommunications Director Giuseppe Viriglio said June 20. “We thus have a clear offer from them. But we cannot say we are giving it to Hispasat without seeking matching offers from other potential partners. This is why we have issued the call for expressions of interest.”

The small-Geo platform will be capable of carrying a 300-kilogram payload that requires up to 3 kilowatts of power. ESA is weighing several possible technology payloads to fly on the satellite, and Hispasat or another partner will have the right to select payload elements of its own.

Arianespace Wants To Buy 35 More Rockets


Year’s End

Arianespace is trying to accelerate negotiations with its rocket-component contractors and Ariane 5 prime contractor Astrium Space Transportation to be able to sign a contract for 35 Ariane 5 ECA rockets by the end of the year, Arianespace Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall said June 19.

The contract, with a value of between 3 billion and 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion and $4.7 billion) would supply rockets for launches beyond 2009-2010, the time when the current inventory of Ariane 5 vehicles is expected to be used up as Arianespace quickens its launch rhythm to meet higher-than-expected demand.

The company expects to conduct four more Ariane commercial launches in 2007, bringing the year’s total to six. It has planned seven Ariane 5 launches in 2008 and eight launch campaigns in 2009. “We’ll see whether we can go beyond that rate toward the end of 2009,” Le Gall said.


Beats out China in Bid To Launch African Satellite

After what appears to have been a rare head-to-head competition between European and Chinese launch-services providers, the Libyan-led, pan-African

satellite Rascom will be launched in December aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket,

Arianespace and Rascom contractor ThalesAlenia Space announced June 20.

It is the latest twist in the decade-long Rascom saga, which for the past three years has been sitting, largely completed, in the Cannes, France, assembly facility owned by Rascom prime contractor ThalesAlenia Space.

The satellite was built without any U.S. components that necessitate U.S. State Department approval before being shipped abroad. For the last eight years or so, U.S. government authorities have systematically refused to permit U.S. satellite components to be exported to China, a policy that has had the effect of barring Chinese Long March rockets from most international commercial-launch competitions.

The policy

also has led ThalesAlenia Space to create a production line that is devoid of most U.S. components, despite the higher costs of such satellites, when Chinese or other customers state their intention to use the Chinese vehicle.

China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing in September 2005, had announced that it would launch Rascom. But the 44-nation Rascom-QAF organization, based in Abijan, Ivory Coast, was unable to secure sufficient funds to launch and insure the satellite. Libya’s GPTC telecommunications operator is a major investor in Rascom.

Alenia Space is under contract to Rascom to secure the satellite’s launch as well as its construction and part of the ground infrastructure. Industry officials said the company presented both the Ariane 5 and Chinese Long March options to Rascom’s board of directors and asked for guidance.

officials could not be reached for comment on why they chose what is presumably the costlier launch option.

The Rascom 1 satellite will carry 12 Ku-band and eight C-band transponders and will operate from 2.85 degrees east longitude. The satellite is expected to weigh 3,200 kilograms at launch.


Alenia Space To Build Payloads for Russian Satellites

French-Italian satellite prime contractor ThalesAlenia Space will provide S- and Ku-band transponder payloads for two Russian Loutch data-relay satellites under a contract with Russian satellite builder NPO-PM, ThalesAlenia Space announced June 19.

The two satellites, used to provide communications links between the international space station and ground controllers, and with low-orbiting satellites and manned spacecraft, will be launched in 2009 and 2010 into the orbital positions at 16 degrees west and 95 degrees east.

Loutch-5A will carry six S- and Ku-band transponders; Loutch 5B will carry four.

Alenia Space has been providing satellite electronics payloads for Russian spacecraft since the early 1990s, including 11 payloads for Express AM satellites, and

three payloads for Express MD satellites.