Hisdesat now owns Xtar-Eur in addition to the SpainSat satellite. Credit: Xtar.

WASHINGTON — Xtar, a company that provides satellite communications services to the U.S. government, has sold its only satellite to Hisdesat, one of its shareholders. 

Virginia-based Xtar signed a leasing agreement that allows it to retain the same amount of capacity on the satellite, Xtar-Eur, despite the change in ownership, Jay Icard, Xtar’s chief executive, told SpaceNews.

Xtar and Hisdesat of Spain said the transaction and lease back agreement models the type of organizational structure the companies will have in the future once Hisdesat’s two SpainSat Next Generation satellites are launched, one in late 2023 and the second in 2024. 

Icard said Xtar will continue to provide service using the 15-year-old Xtar-Eur and a payload it leases on Hisdesat’s 14-year-old SpainSat satellite until both are superseded by the 1.6 billion euro ($1.9 billion) SpainSat NG system. He said Xtar has a memorandum of understanding with Hisdesat to use capacity on the SpainSat NG satellites, which Airbus is building, and expects to sign a lease agreement next year. 

Icard said Xtar is now structured more like other satellite communications companies, where a single operator owns the satellites and keeps a specialized team dedicated to government and defense sales. 

“Many satellite operators are set up this way,” he said, citing Intelsat’s government-focused division Intelsat General as an example. “We are going to a more traditional owner-operator arrangement with an entity that focuses on the DoD.”

Icard said there is no change in orbital slot ownership since Xtar-Eur, located at 29 degrees east, uses a slot provided by the Spanish government. There the satellite provides X-band coverage of the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia as far as Singapore. 

Hisdesat’s ownership of Xtar-Eur streamlines decision-making around life extension for the company’s aging geostationary fleet, said CEO Miguel Ángel Garcia Primo. 

“The main purpose for Hisdesat to make this transaction was to have the capability to decide the way to continue with both Xtar-Eur and Spainsat satellites, providing services to our customers, and a possible life extension mission,” Garcia Primo said by email. 

Hisdesat and Xtar have already discussed life extension with Northrop Grumman and other companies. Xtar-Eur, being the older satellite, is the first Hisdesat is considering for life extension, he said. 

Another driving factor was the unwillingness of Loral Space and Communications, Xtar’s primary shareholder, to make any additional investments in Xtar’s future, he said. Loral stated in 2016 it had “no commitment to provide further financial support to XTAR,” making Hisdesat vitally important for future satellites. Xtar is a joint venture of Loral (56% and Hisdesat (44%). 

Icard and Garcia Primo declined to say the price of the Xtar-Eur sale. 

Hisdesat’s SpainSat NG satellites remain on schedule despite the coronavirus pandemic, Garcia Primo said, with the first satellite on track for a November 2023 delivery. He acknowledged the limited time between delivery and the end of the year could result in a 2024 launch. Hisdesat has not announced any launch providers for the SpainSat NG satellites. 

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...