WASHINGTON — Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) made its first payments to the satellite manufacturing team building its next two satellites on Dec. 28, the state-owned satellite operator announced.

The two satellites, Express-80 and Express-103, are being built by Russian satellite manufacturer ISS-Reshetnev and the Italian division of European satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space. ISS-Reshetnev is providing its medium-class Express-1000 satellite bus while Thales Alenia Space Italy is supplying multiband payloads for both spacecraft.

RSCC said it is using two Moscow-based banks to support the financing of Express-80 and Express-103. Sberbank is loaning the satellite operator funds to pay ISS-Reshetnev while Alfa-Bank is financing construction of the payloads.

The Express-80 and Express-103 contracts, first announced in June, mark the continuation of a lengthy collaboration between ISS-Reshetnev and Thales Alenia Space. The companies have used the combination of a Russian spacecraft bus and European payload for more than a dozen spacecraft, including a handful of customers outside of Russia.

RSCC expects both spacecraft to launch in 2019. Thales Alenia Space, in its June 10 announcement, said the payloads will be mated to their Russian platforms in 2018, followed by delivery to RSCC in 2019. RSCC has yet to disclose who will launch the satellites, though the company has historically favored Russia’s domestic Proton launcher.

Each satellite is being designed with electric propulsion as well as a payload power of 6.3 kilowatts. Express-80 will operate at 80 degrees east, covering Russia with 16 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders, and international markets with two L-band transponders. Express-103, at 103 degrees east, will carry 16 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders to cover Russia and Southeast Asia, along with a single L-band transponder for international markets.

RSCC, under the ownership of Russia’s Federal Communications Agency, Rossvyaz, sold roughly two thirds of its satellite capacity to domestic customers in 2015. The operator’s most recent satellite, Express-AM8, covers mainly international markets in Africa, Europe and the Americas, and was also a collaborative effort between ISS-Reshetnev and Thales Alenia Space. Express-AM8 launched in September 2015 on a Proton.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...