Telesat To Select Anik G1 Contractor by June

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Telesat appears on the verge of doing what many industry observers thought would be impossible: buying a satellite from a manufacturer other than Space Systems/Loral, industry officials said.

Ottawa-based Telesat announced March 31 that its next satellite, to be called Anik G1, will carry 16 Ku-band transponders for Canadian direct-broadcast television provider Shaw Direct of Calgary, Alberta.

Telesat has not yet ordered the satellite, which it hopes to launch in late 2012. But it has been in negotiations with Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., a builder of relatively small geostationary-orbiting commercial telecommunications satellites.

Orbital’s commercial product line occupies the lower end of a commercial market in which Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., occupies the upper end.

Given the immediate market for Anik G1, it is only logical that the company would solicit bids from Orbital — but for the fact that Space Systems/Loral is owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York, which also owns a majority economic stake in Telesat.

Telesat officials have said repeatedly since Loral acquired that majority stake in 2007 that their company, which is the world’s fourth-largest operator of fixed satellite services spacecraft, is free to use its own judgment when it comes to contractor selection.

But Telesat before the Loral purchase was nowhere near as good a Loral customer as it has been since the acquisition.

Telesat said March 31 that it will announce the builder of Anik G1 by June. In addition to the Shaw Direct contract, the satellite, to be located at 107.3 degrees west, “will carry additional payloads to serve other markets.”

Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said the company is weighing whether to place an X-band payload on one of its next satellites on the assumption that the U.S. or Canadian government ultimately would lease the capacity. Depending on how many other customers can be found for Anik G1 before a construction contract is signed, the spacecraft’s capacity and launch weight might increase to place it within Loral’s grasp, industry officials said.