Swedish firm buys Falcon Heavy launch

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WASHINGTON —  A Swedish company with plans for a geostationary communications satellite announced Oct. 16 a contract with SpaceX for a Falcon Heavy launch no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2020.

Ovzon of Solna, Sweden, has not yet purchased the satellite, but paid Eutelsat $1.6 million earlier this year to move one of its satellites to an unspecified Ovzon orbital slot to preserve spectrum rights at that location.

In a statement, Ovzon CEO Per Wahlberg said procurement of the company’s first satellite is “in the final stage,” and that production of an advanced onboard processor started earlier this month.

“Contracting the launch supplier of our first Ovzon satellite is an important and exciting step for our company. SpaceX offered a very competitive solution with the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle which will gain us access to space in a timely and reliable manner,” he said.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer said the company is  “honored that Ovzon has chosen SpaceX to launch the first of its satellites.”

“We look forward to working closely on the execution of this important direct-to-GEO mission,” she said in the statement.

Ovzon cautioned that the Falcon Heavy contract is “subject to certain contingencies and mutual termination clauses.”

A launch in late 2020 will require a geostationary satellite to be built in roughly two years, an achievable but tight deadline for most of the world’s top manufacturers.

Wahlberg co-founded Swe-Dish, a satellite communications terminal manufacturer, in 1994. DataPath purchased Swe-Dish in 2007 for $56 million, and then Rockwell Collins purchased DataPath in 2009 for $130 million. In 2014, Rockwell Collins divested from DataPath selling the company for just $10 million.

SpaceX launched the first Falcon Heavy in February 2018 with a red Tesla Roadster as a practice payload. The company’s growing queue of Falcon Heavy customers include the U.S. Air Force and fleet operators Arabsat, Intelsat and Inmarsat.