Spacecom Stock Tumbles Following Amos-5 Failure
This story was updated Nov. 24 at 7:50 a.m. Eastern.
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Spacecom of Israel on Nov. 22 said its Amos-5 telecommunications satellite had abruptly ceased functioning Nov. 21 and that attempts to restore service had failed.
Tel Aviv-based Spacecom said it was working “around the clock” to restore service to customers, including television and telecommunications companies in a broad swath of Africa.
But 24 hours after the event, the company said it still had “no information on the nature of the incident” or whether the loss was definitive.
In response to SpaceNews inquiries, Spacecom on Nov. 23 said Amos-5 remains for now at its assigned orbital station but is not responding to commands.
The company said the failure occurred abruptly at 4:44 a.m. UTC Nov. 21. “We had no early signs of trouble whatsoever,” the company said, adding that the current issue bears no relation to the 2013 loss of a battery charger on the satellite.
Amos-5, Spacecom said, is 65 percent filled and the company is working to find alternative capacity.
“There are several options for transferring customers and we are closely working with customers vis a vis other satellite operators to ensure minimal interruption,” the company said. “Spacecom is being completely transparent with our clients. We are working to find solutions for each and every client.”
Amos-5 was manufactured by ISS Reshetnev of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, with a payload provided by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. The contract marked a rare win of commercial non-Russian business by the Russian builder.
It was also viewed as an exceptional deal for Spacecom, totaling some $157 million for the satellite’s construction and launch, in December 2011, aboard a Russian Proton rocket as one of two telecommunications satellite payloads.
Amos-5, a Reshetnev Express-1000H platform designed to produce 5.9 kilowatts of power, carries 18 C-band and 18 Ku-band transponders, with a pan-African beam and regional beams over French-speaking central and West Africa in C-band, as well as Ku-band beams targeting central Africa and southern Africa.
In a statement issued Nov. 22 to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where company shares dropped some 35 percent Nov. 22, Spacecom said Amos-5 was insured for $158 million in two policies including a $50 million policy that excludes coverage in the event of a propulsion system failure like the one that occurred in 2013. Spacecom said even its total loss would have a negligible effect on the company’s equity.
Amos-5 suffered a power anomaly in October 2013 but Spacecom said Reshetnev had been able route a backup power source to the affected on-board thrusters and that Amos-5 was expected to operate for its full 15-year service life.
Spacecom and Paris-based Eutelsat in November 2014 announced a partnership to jointly market each other’s Ku-band capacity at 16 degrees east – where the Eutelsat 16A is located – and Amos-5 next door at 17 degrees east.
The two companies said at the time that their combined business from the two locations totaled “over 100 free-to-air African and international channels that can be received by standard 80-cm dishes in a vast footprint covering over 30 million TV homes located notably in Francophone Africa and extending to Ghana and Nigeria.”
Eutelsat on Nov. 23 said that it had not leased capacity on Amos-5 as part of its co-marketing agreement with Spacecom, and that the two companies’ agreement did not include guaranteed mutual backup in the event one of their satellites failed. Eutelsat said it had some Ku-band capacity over Africa available on its Eutelsat 16A satellite, but that any Spacecom use of it would need to be negotiated by the two companies.
Spacecom has scheduled the launch of the larger Amos-6 satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime in mid-2016 — depending on when Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX returns to flight following a June failure. But Amos-6 will operate at 4 degrees west, Spacecom’s core orbital position.
“Spacecom is working around the clock, doing the utmost to speed service recovery for its customers,” Spacecom Chief Executive David Pollack said in a Nov. 22 statement.