TOULOUSE, France — Israeli satellite fleet operator Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom), beginning an expansion that will extend its reach into Africa and Asia, has begun service using the Amos-5i satellite over Africa and contracted to launch a satellite — probably its Asia-targeted Amos-4 — on a Falcon 9 rocket operated by startup launch services provider Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Spacecom announced Jan. 28.

Amos-5i, carrying 20 C-band and nine Ku-band transponders, is inaugurating Spacecom service at 17 degrees east longitude on an interim basis, until the more-powerful Amos-5 satellite is launched there in 2011. Amos-5 is being built by ISS Reshetnev of Russia, with the electronics payload being supplied by ThalesAlenia Space of France and Italy.

Amos-5i is the former AsiaSat 2 satellite that Hong Kong-based AsiaSat operated since the satellite’s launch in November 1995. Spacecom contracted with AsiaSat in September 2009 for the exclusive use of the satellite at 17 degrees east, and the spacecraft was subsequently moved from its Asia-|Sat position at 100.5 degrees east to Spacecom’s 17 degrees east slot.

AsiaSat had been planning to place Asia-Sat 2 into a graveyard orbit in 2011.

Spacecom has already sold capacity on Amos-5 to an unidentified African customer that has agreed to a lease of up to six years, with a three-year minimum commitment, beginning in 2011. Amos-5 will carry 18 C-band transponders, 14 with 72 megahertz of power and four with 36 megahertz, and 18 72-megahertz Ku-band transponders.

For its expansion into Asia, Spacecom has contracted with Israel Aerospace Industries to build the Amos-4 satellite for launch in 2012. Amos-4 will also carry an electronics payload provided by ThalesAlenia Space. Spacecom has not announced an orbital position for Amos-4, which will be partly reserved for Israeli government use, but said it would be placed somewhere between 64 degrees and 75 degrees east.

Spacecom is transitioning from being a leading regional player to an emerging global satellite operator,” Spacecom Chief Executive David Pollack said in a Jan. 28 statement.

In a separate announcement Jan. 28, Spacecom said it had contracted with Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch “as early as December 2012.” The company did not specify whether the contract is for Amos-4 only or could be applied to a later Spacecom satellite that has yet to be ordered. Falcon 9 is expected to make its inaugural flight in 2010.

The contract, Spacecom said, “supports company plans to launch at least four additional satellites in the coming years to multiple orbital positions.”

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.