GEO satellite orders continued to underwhelm in 2018

This text initially appeared within the Jan. 21, 2019 challenge of table4 journal.

Final 12 months’s poor harvest of 5 industrial orders for giant geostationary communications satellites proved even worse than 2017’s shock low of simply seven orders. Producers proceed to vie for fewer such contracts as satellite tv for pc operators maintain off shopping for new spacecraft whereas they watch for breakthrough advances in high-throughput expertise and assess the potential of small-satellite constellations.

Some orders anticipated in 2018 didn’t materialize. Viasat didn’t order the third ViaSat-3 satellite tv for pc it must convey its terabit-per-second service to the Asia-Pacific area. AsiaSat is a 12 months previous when it mentioned it might purchase a modestly sized high-throughput satellite tv for pc to place over China. And Spacecom canceled its Amos-8 satellite tv for pc order with Maxar Applied sciences’ Area Methods Loral (SSL) simply weeks after the Israeli authorities, fearing its state-owned producer would shutter its communications satellite tv for pc line, introduced that Amos-8 could be constructed domestically as an alternative. Sarcastically that lifeline for Israel Aerospace Industries might have additionally been the ultimate nail within the coffin for SSL’s GEO comsat enterprise.

China Nice Wall Trade Corp. additionally had framework agreements for a Cambodian satellite tv for pc and two NigComSat satellites which have but to transform into full contracts.

Final 12 months additionally noticed two orders of geostationary small satellites, marking a departure from the ton spacecraft that telecom satellite tv for pc operators usually place in 36,000-kilometer orbits.

One of many greater contracts anticipated in 2019 is Telesat LEO, a constellation of round 300 small telecom satellites. Telesat anticipates deciding between Airbus Defence and Area, the producer of OneWeb’s constellation of 600 to 900 satellites, and a crew comprising Thales Alenia Area and Maxar Applied sciences, although it hasn’t mentioned what number of satellites the winner will construct.

Right here is our month-by-month take a look at how 2018 unfolded for industrial GEO satellite tv for pc orders.


Intelsat | Galaxy-30 | Northrop Grumman Innovation Methods

Intelsat positioned the primary industrial GEO order of 2018 when it tapped Orbital ATK in January to construct the primary satellite tv for pc in its Galaxy fleet alternative program. Galaxy-30 would be the eleventh satellite tv for pc constructed for Intelsat by Orbital ATK, which was absorbed by Northrop Grumman in June.

With Galaxy-30, Intelsat is starting a refresh of its Galaxy fleet, which consists of 13 satellites, 12 of which cowl North America (the outlier is Galaxy-11, which covers Africa). Intelsat’s Galaxy fleet counts for roughly 1 / 4 of the operator’s whole constellation. Most got here from buying Loral Area and Communications’ North America fleet 2004 and PanAmSat and its fleet in 2006. What number of new satellites Intelsat might want to cowl North America depends upon how a lot C-band spectrum the U.S. Federal Communications Fee decides to reallocate for 5G, and what methodology it chooses. If the FCC chooses the satellite tv for pc operator-led C-Band Alliance plan, Intelsat says it’s going to purchase 4 further satellites from U.S. producers to recoup misplaced spectrum. SES mentioned it, too, would purchase 4 U.S.-built satellites for a similar motive.

The promise by Intelsat and SES — the 2 largest geostationary satellite tv for pc operators on the planet — to purchase American satellites if the C-Band Alliance plan is accepted is a small element in a bigger spectrum plan, however one which gained substantial consideration amongst satellite tv for pc producers. Northrop Grumman wrote to the FCC encouraging adoption of the C-Band Alliance plan, saying it might “enhance American productiveness and job progress.” Boeing and Maxar Applied sciences wrote comparable reward of the plan.

Galaxy-30 will carry C-, Ku- and Kaband payloads. Arianespace is scheduled to launch the satellite tv for pc in 2020 on an Ariane 5 rocket with Northrop Grumman’s satellite-servicing Mission Extension Car 2.


Spacecom | Amos-8 | SSL (canceled)

Israeli satellite tv for pc operator Spacecom deliberate to spend the previous three years rising its fleet with new protection and capability. As an alternative it’s been attempting to reconstitute its fleet after dropping one satellite tv for pc in orbit and one other on the bottom. In 2015, an influence system failure knocked Spacecom’s Amos-5 satellite tv for pc out of service after simply 4 years in orbit. Amos-6 was destroyed 10 months later when its Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad throughout a fueling process.

Spacecom purchased the Amos-17 satellite tv for pc from Boeing in 2016 as a alternative for Amos-5, after which, citing pace to market, purchased Amos-8 from SSL in March 2018. These repeat abroad purchases stuffed gaps for Spacecom, however triggered alarm over the creation of a brand new one at dwelling — with out Spacecom’s enterprise, state-owned producer Israel Aerospace Industries confronted a shut down of its GEO communications satellite tv for pc line.

A month after agreeing to purchasing Amos-8 from SSL, the Israeli authorities knowledgeable Spacecom of its intent to order a satellite tv for pc from IAI and place it in the identical orbital sizzling spot as most of Spacecom’s fleet. In September, Israel’s Ministry of Science and Expertise introduced that Amos-8 will likely be in-built Israel with authorities monetary assist. Spacecom terminated its contract with SSL three weeks later.

Spacecom has not mentioned how Amos-8 will come collectively. An organization official mentioned in October that Spacecom was in discussions with IAI in regards to the satellite tv for pc. Within the meantime, Spacecom has been borrowing AsiaSat-8 from Hong Kong-based AsiaSat to fill the void the place Amos-6 was presupposed to be. With no clear path to a alternative, Spacecom will seemingly must decide to borrowing AsiaSat-8 past 2020, which is longer than Spacecom supposed.

BSAT-4b was SSL’s solely massive GEO comsat order of 2018 after Spacecom terminated an Amos-8 contract. Credit score: Maxar Applied sciences’ SSL


Japanese satellite tv for pc operator BSAT turned to SSL a second time with its order for the BSAT-4b satellite tv for pc. In preparation for the 2020 Summer season Olympics in Tokyo, BSAT ordered the satellite tv for pc to convey further capability and backup BSAT-4a, one other SSL-built satellite tv for pc that launched on an Ariane 5 in 2017.

SSL’s success with BSAT marks a departure for the Tokyo based mostly operator, whose prior three satellites had been all from Lockheed Martin.

BSAT-4b, like BSAT-4a, is designed to assist Extremely-HD broadcasts in 4K, which have 4 instances the decision of HD, and 8K, which has 16 instances increased decision than HD. NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster recognized for pushing the envelope on viewing requirements, is BSAT’s largest shareholder with a 49.9 p.c stake.

In December, NHK kicked off what it known as the world’s first 8K broadcasting service with the launch of two 8K tv channels.


Eutelsat | Konnect VHTS | Thales Alenia Area

In what was arguably probably the most stunning order of the 12 months, Eutelsat bought one of many highest throughput satellites ever ordered simply weeks after associate Viasat had pressured that the 2 corporations had been near finalizing three way partnership particulars that included splitting the price of a ViaSat-3 satellite tv for pc overlaying Europe, the Center East and Africa — a contiguous market often called EMEA. As an alternative Eutelsat broke rank, selecting to go it alone on the Konnect Very Excessive Throughput Satellite tv for pc (VHTS) it ordered from Thales Alenia Area to serve Europe.

With its Konnect VHTS order, Eutelsat pivoted from Viasat’s associate to competitor in European broadband. Credit score: Thales Alenia Area

Konnect VHTS may have 500 gigabits per second of whole capability. Whereas that’s half the capability deliberate for ViaSat-3 EMEA, it’s going to all be targeting Europe — a choice Eutelsat sees as a bonus in what is going to now be a contest between the 2 former companions for the European satellite tv for pc broadband market.

Eutelsat is positioned to achieve a primary mover benefit over ViaSat-3 EMEA. CEO Rodolphe Belmer mentioned Eutelsat would contemplate steering some beams from its upcoming 75-Gbps Konnect satellite tv for pc to Europe from Africa when it enters service in 2020. That transfer would heat the market forward of the arrival of Konnect VHTS over Europe with 500 Gbps of capability in 2021. Viasat, in the meantime, has grown coy about which ViaSat-3 satellite tv for pc it’s going to launch first. The corporate has two underneath building with Boeing: one for the Americas and one for the EMEA area. Although the expectation is that Viasat would place the primary terabit-per-second ViaSat-3 satellite tv for pc over the Americas, the corporate has left open the opportunity of a shock shift to EMEA, ought to it need to ramp enterprise there sooner. Viasat expects to launch its first ViaSat-3 satellite tv for pc in 2020 on both a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, an Arianespace Ariane 5 or a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5, having signed contracts for one launch with every, however with out specifying mission order.


GapSat | GapSat-1 | Terran Orbital

GapSat-1 is a geostationary communications satellite tv for pc, however similarities with different such spacecraft finish there. Hong Kong-based GapSat has not given many particulars in regards to the satellite tv for pc, however its producer is Terran Orbital, an organization that builds cubesats and smallsats.

GapSat-1 is a small satellite tv for pc that can carry telecom payloads in C-, Ku- and Ka-band in addition to the largely experimental Q- and V-bands. Because of the small measurement of the satellite tv for pc, GapSat mentioned it ought to fill all its capability with clients rapidly.

GapSat has not said the mass of the satellite tv for pc, its launch supplier or design life. GapSat-1 is scheduled to launch within the third quarter of 2020 on a direct-to-GEO mission.


Eutelsat | Hotbird-13F and -13G | Airbus Defence and Area

Because the third largest geostationary fleet operator with 37 satellites, Eutelsat has to usually purchase alternative satellites, even when in a season of restricted spending. Eutelsat’s alternative technique for its Hotbird fleet is the corporate’s poster baby for a way to economize whereas nonetheless investing in new property.

Eutelsat is allocating 400 million euros a 12 months for capital expenditures, comparable to new satellites, from July 2017 to June 2020, down from 500 million euros. Underneath an settlement first introduced in August and finalized in November, Airbus Defence and Area will construct two Hotbird satellites that collectively will do the job of the three Hotbird satellites Eutelsat at present has in orbit.

Hotbird is Eutelsat’s most precious broadcast platform, reaching viewers in Europe, the Center East and Africa with greater than 1,000 tv channels. The 2 all-electric satellites are deliberate to enter service in 2022 after reaching orbit in 2021.

For Airbus, the contract marks its first win with Eurostar Neo, a platform designed with the European Area Company to be considerably cheaper than different present satellites and assist maintain European producers aggressive on the worldwide market. Airbus and Thales Alenia Area are each advertising and marketing Neosat platforms that had been supported by ESA, together with particular person European area companies, notably these of France and the UK.

Eutelsat is changing three satellites with two, utilizing advances like electrical propulsion to do extra with much less. Credit score: Airbus Defence and Area


Ovzon | Ovzon-3 | SSL

Even with Maxar on the verge of divesting from the geostationary communications satellite tv for pc enterprise, its SSL division nonetheless clinched an order for one such satellite tv for pc, albeit a small one. Swedish startup Ovzon signed a contract for a telecom satellite tv for pc that can use the SSL500, a small-satellite platform.

Just like Terran Orbital’s GapSat-1 contract, SSL’s contract for Ovzon-3 is for a satellite tv for pc a lot smaller than the multi-ton behemoths regular throughout the business. Most of SSL’s GEO comsat orders use its SSL-1300 platform, which typically helps satellites between 3,000 and seven,000 kilograms. The SSL500 platform getting used for Ovzon-3 is just sufficiently big to hold as much as 250 kilograms of payload.

Ovzon’s contract is conditional on totally financing the satellite tv for pc, which is anticipated to price $166 million, together with launch and insurance coverage. The corporate organized a launch with SpaceX aboard a Falcon Heavy, although the small measurement of the satellite tv for pc suggests Ovzon gained’t be the one payload on that 2021 mission.

If the modifications at SSL have induced any angst at Ovzon, its executives haven’t proven it. Mats Sjölin, Ovzon’s chief data officer, mentioned by e mail that Ovzon has mentioned Maxar’s plans concerning SSL and is “ready for numerous attainable modifications inside their firm.”

Ovzon-3 is Ovzon’s first satellite tv for pc. The corporate has leased capability from Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat throughout 5 different satellites, however has aspirations for international protection with its personal fleet. Ovzon-3 will broaden the corporate’s leased protection over the Center East, Europe and Northern Africa.

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