TAMPA, Fla. — Thaicom has picked Airbus to deliver an Asia-focused spacecraft in 2027, putting the manufacturer ahead of the pack for geostationary communications satellite wins so far this year after leaving 2022 empty-handed.

Airbus said Sept. 11 that Thaicom-10 would be the Thai operator’s first satellite with a software-defined payload, enabling the company to adjust capacity and coverage while in orbit to adapt to changes in demand.

Eutelsat has agreed to lease half the Ku-band satellite’s capacity at 119.5 degrees East, which the French operator said would give it around 50 gigabits per second in extra capacity over Asia. 

The companies did not disclose contract terms for Thaicom-10 or their partnership.

Speaking on a panel Sept. 11 during Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris, Thaicom CEO Patompob Suwansiri said Eutelsat’s capacity would be focused on maritime and aviation, while the Thai operator would focus on inland markets.

He said the collaboration deal with Eutelsat was more than a year in the making and would provide the foundation for partnerships elsewhere.

Commercial GEO satcoms tally

The high throughput satellite marks the ninth order for Airbus’ recently introduced reconfigurable OneSat product line.

Airbus also won an order for OneSat earlier this year from an undisclosed customer, Airbus Defence and Space spokesperson Ralph Heinrich said.

Separately, Emirati fleet operator Yahsat signed a contract June 16 with Airbus to begin early work on two geostationary communications satellites: Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5, slated for launch in 2027 and 2028, respectively. 

The Authorization-To-Proceed (ATP) agreement covers system requirements review, design work, procurement activities for long-lead items, and other initial activities. 

The full procurement contract for these satellites is pending the finalization of a long-term deal to sell their services to the Emirati government.

Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 would be based on the manufacturer’s benchmark Eurostar Neo platform, Heinrich said, which uses a traditional “bent pipe” architecture that can be more efficient in areas where demand is more certain.

In April, U.S.-based Dish Network ordered a geostationary satellite from Maxar Technologies to expand high-definition broadcast services over North America.

Californian satellite manufacturing startup Astranis and Swissto12, a 3D printing venture based in Switzerland, have also announced contracts this year as part of a new breed of smaller, more regionally focused geostationary spacecraft.

Astranis said March 14 that Mexican telco Apco Networks had ordered two satellites launching in 2024 and that UtilitySat, slated to launch with SpaceX before the end of this year, will partly serve as an initial replacement for Alaskan telco Pacific Dataport following the failure of its debut spacecraft. 

Viasat-owned Inmarsat ordered three small satellites from Swissto12 in May for a launch in 2026.

Thales Alenia Space, Airbus’ European rival that won seven of last year’s orders, has not announced an order so far in 2023 for a commercial satellite communications spacecraft destined for geostationary orbit (GEO).

Didier Radola, head of satcom programs at Airbus Defence and Space, told SpaceNews in February that the company hoped to capture as many as six of the roughly 15 GEOs he expected to be tendered in 2023.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...