Turksat To Use Borrowed Intelsat Craft as Placeholder

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WASHINGTON — Turkish satellite fleet operator Turksat will be borrowing an aging, inclined-orbit satellite from Intelsat to preserve Turkey’s rights to an orbital slot and in return is giving Intelsat an option to purchase long-term access to a Turkish satellite to be launched over the Middle East around 2013. Intelsat announced the agreement March 18.

In the latest example of Intelsat’s determination to enter partnerships that could provide growth with little capital investment, Intelsat will move one of its recently purchased near-retirement satellites, Intelsat 26, into an orbital slot where Turkey must place a satellite this year or risk losing its regulatory rights to the position at 55 degrees east.

Intelsat in 2009 purchased the C- and Ku-band satellite, formerly called JCSAT-R, from SkyPerfect JSat Corp. of Japan with the intention of this kind of slot-registration maneuver in mind. Intelsat also purchased the Amos-1 satellite from Israel Aerospace Industries in 2009 with a similar motivation.

Turksat currently operates three satellites, one of which is in inclined orbit, and is now reviewing bids from manufacturers for two spacecraft — Turksat 4A and Turksat 4B — to be launched starting in 2012 or 2013.

Dianne J. VanBeber, vice president for investor relations and communications at Washington-based, Luxembourg-headquartered Intelsat, said the company’s option for future Turksat capacity is for the Turksat 4B spacecraft. The Intelsat 26 is likely to be moved to the Turkish slot by June, VanBeber said.

“We look forward to expanding our relationship with Turksat and participating in its continued success as an important satellite operator in a region where demand for satellite services is increasing,” Phillip L. Spector, Intelsat executive vice president for business development, said in a March 18 statement.

Nihat Oktay, Turksat vice president and chief marketing officer, said at the Satellite 2010 conference in Washington March 17 that the company is investing in Ka-band capacity for broadband service, alongside the long-planned C- and Ku-band, on at least one of the two new satellites.

By striking deals with Telenor of Norway, Convergence Partners of South Africa, the Australian Defence Force and now Turksat, Intelsat has been able to maintain or expand its orbital presence even as its current fleet of 50-plus satellites is reduced and the company manages a huge debt load resulting from its acquisition by successive private-equity owners.