SES orders software-defined replacement satellite from Thales

by

TAMPA, Fla. — SES said March 28 that it ordered a software-defined geostationary satellite from Thales Alenia Space to extend content and connectivity services across Europe, Africa and Asia. 

SES-26, the third satellite the Luxembourg-based fleet operator has ordered from Thales Alenia Space since November, will carry a communications payload that can be reprogrammed in orbit to adapt to changing mission needs. 

SES Chief Technology Officer Ruy Pinto said the satellite is expected to launch in 2024 or 2025, although the company has not selected a launch provider. 

SES-26 is the final satellite in a three-satellite contract with Thales Alenia Space for replacing spacecraft coming to the end of their operational lives. SES announced in November that it had ordered ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q as part of this contract.

ASTRA 1Q is a software-defined satellite, while ASTRA 1P is a classic wide-beam spacecraft that cannot be reprogrammed in orbit. Both ASTRA satellites are slated to launch in 2024 to 19.2 degrees East to replace four spacecraft that primarily serve broadcast markets.

SES-26 will provide Ku-band and C-band frequencies with its software-defined payload from 57 degrees East, the company said, where it will replace the operator’s retiring NSS-12 satellite that was launched in 2009.

Asked whether SES envisages replacing all its fleet in geostationary orbit (GEO) with software-defined satellites, Pinto said: “Whenever the business case calls for it, yes, we be will looking into future-proofing our satellites.”

Software-defined satellites made up more than 80% of GEO high-throughput satellite orders in 2021, according to research from Euroconsult.

SES said SES-26 will be an important platform for supporting government communications solutions, and “is synergic” with the company’s recently announced acquisition of DRS GES, which provides managed satcoms services to government agencies. 

Ethiopia’s free to air service Ethiosat also uses 57 degrees East to broadcast to 10 million TV households across the country.

Pinto said ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q remain on track to be ready for a 2024 launch despite pandemic-related supply chain issues that have delayed multiple satellite projects

French satellite operator Eutelsat said Feb. 17 it expects a revenue slump to stretch into 2023 as it awaits two delayed spacecraft from Thales Alenia Space.

The operator’s Konnect VHTS is now slated to enter service in the second half of 2023, instead of the first, while Eutelsat 10B is being delayed within its existing window of the first half of 2023.

Canadian satellite operator Telesat said March 18 that its Telesat Lightspeed low Earth orbit constellation is delayed by about a year after Thales Alenia Space ran into supply chain issues.

According to Pinto, SES has been able to avoid the disruption.

“We have five satellites under construction with [Thales Alenia Space] now, and they have been on track,” he said.

“In fact, SES-22, a C-band satellite intended for the U.S., is ahead of schedule and will be the first C-band satellite we are launching this summer.”

SES is counting down to launches this year that will deploy a total of 14 satellites for the company, comprising five GEO satellites for clearing C-band spectrum and nine satellites for its medium Earth orbit O3b mPower constellation.