Satellite Operators Want Access to Chinese Rockets

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  Space News Business

Satellite Operators Want Access to Chinese Rockets

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 01 April 2009
02:59 pm ET






WASHINGTON
— Chief executives of the four largest commercial fixed satellite services operators argued March 25 that
China
should be permitted to launch U.S.-built commercial satellites, saying it would make the global commercial market more healthy and would also permit
U.S.
industry to better compete for satellite manufacturing awards.

Speaking at the Satellite 2009 conference here, the chief executives of SES of Luxembourg, Intelsat of Bermuda and Washington, and Telesat of Canada said they supported the decision by Eutelsat of Paris to purchase a Chinese launcher for a large Eutelsat satellite set for deployment in 2010.

All four companies said schedule assurance is crucial for their business and is not fully met by the three companies now most active in the market to launch large commercial telecommunications satellites – Sea Launch Co. of Long Beach, Calif.; Arianespace of Evry, France; and International Launch Services of Reston, Va.

The executives agreed that the current
U.S.
technology export regulations, known collectively under the name ITAR – or International Traffic in Arms Regulations – undermine
U.S.
industry competitiveness with no visible payoff in
U.S.
national security.

All U.S.-built commercial satellites and components were placed under ITAR in 1999 via legislation intended to slow development of
China
‘s missile technology, which the law’s backers said would benefit if Chinese Long March rockets were to continue to launch Western commercial satellites.

Telesat
Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said that even without access to a large portion of the commercial market – most telecommunications satellites produced in
and
Asia
contain
U.S.
components – the Long March has sustained a high level of activity in the last decade due to domestic demand.

“Whether or not we’re permitted to launch on those vehicles, they are launching a lot of them,” Goldberg said. He said Eutelsat’s decision to launch one of its satellites on a Chinese rocket “is good for the industry.”

SES Chief Executive Romain Bausch said he fully agreed that permitting commercial satellite operators to use Chinese rockets would improve the health of the commercial satellite industry overall, and also be good for U.S. satellite manufacturers.

Eutelsat
Chief Executive Giuliano Berretta, who is facing criticism in
France
for having selected the Chinese vehicle for one of the company’s satellites, said that, to him, ITAR has never made much sense. He said it is unlikely that
China
could gain much knowledge about satellite construction just by launching Western satellites.

“Once a satellite is shipped to
China
for launch it is there only for a short period of time,” Berretta said. “I cannot imagine little Chinese men coming out in the night to disassemble the satellite, and then put it back together by morning,” Berretta said.

Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade agreed, and said ITAR should be reformed to permit
U.S.
industry to better compete. But he said that just as the
U.S.
government should open up to
China
, the Chinese government should open up its domestic satellite services market to non-Chinese competition.

McGlade
said
China
, like
Brazil
and
India
, continue to maintain protectionist barriers that make it difficult for foreign satellite services companies to operate in these nations.

“The regulatory barriers in
China
should come down,” McGlade said. “We’d like to be able to work with
China
and they don’t need the protectionist approach anymore with the dynamism of their society. As with
Brazil
and
India
, we want a level playing field to operate and I would appeal to the Chinese government to open up their country.”