Russian Operator Orders Two Express Satellites from Astrium
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) has ordered two telecommunications spacecraft from Europe’s Astrium Satellites, including one to replace a spacecraft lost in mid-2011 in a launch failure, as part of a planned nine-satellite expansion, RSCC and Astrium said March 27.
Moscow-based RSCC is using the insurance claim from the loss of its Express-AM4 satellite last August to finance a replacement spacecraft, called Express-AM4R. Astrium has agreed to deliver the replacement satellite — to carry 36 C-band, 28 Ku-band, three L-band and two Ka-band transponders — within 26 months, in time for a launch in early 2014.
Express-AM4R will operate at 80 degrees east in geostationary orbit.
RSCC Chief Financial Officer Denis Pivnyuk said that because Express-AM4R is a carbon copy of the lost Express-AM4, the company is hopeful that Astrium will be able to accelerate the schedule to permit a launch in 2013.
In a March 27 statement in response to Space News inquiries, RSCC confirmed that the contracted delivery schedule for AM4R is 26 months but said “as we know from experience … Astrium often fulfills its work ahead of schedule.”
Express-AM4 was launched into a useless orbit in August following a failure of the upper stage of a Russian Proton rocket. After spending several months evaluating salvage options, the Russian government agreed with Astrium to direct the satellite into a controlled atmospheric re-entry over the Pacific Ocean to remove it as a threat to other satellites. The destructive re-entry was conducted March 25.
Express-AM7, to be launched in 2014, will operate at 40 degrees east and will carry 36 Ku-band, 24 C-band and two L-band transponders. Like Express-AM4R it will use Astrium’s Eurostar 3000 satellite frame and will provide 16 kilowatts to its payload at the end of a planned 15-year service life. It is expected to weigh 5,700 kilograms at launch.
In its statement, RSCC said an advance payment for the Express-AM7 work was made March 19. “In the coming weeks, we are planning a call for tender to select the loan facility provider,” RSCC said. Express-AM7 is expected to include a guarantee for much of the bank financing provided by France’s export-credit agency, Coface.
In March 15 comments at the Satellite 2012 conference in Washington organized by Access Intelligence LLC, Pivnyuk said RSCC is planning the launch of nine satellites to replace existing capacity and to expand its coverage. One of these nine satellites — Express-AM9 — has yet to be financed. He said the financing should be completed by the end of this year.
For the eight others, the company is buying satellite hardware from multiple suppliers, including ISS Reshetnev of Russia, MDA Corp. of Canada, and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, in addition to Astrium Satellites.
“The goal of our expansion is to provide redundancy and resiliency to our fleet,” Pivnyuk said. “We project a huge growth in demand [in Russia] by 2020, so we will be growing organically without M&A [mergers and acquisitions]. We are gradually migrating from a wholesale supplier to one providing end-to-end solutions to customers. As an example of the potential, we have 9 million households covered from our satellites at 36 degrees and 56 degrees east, out of a total of 70 million households in Russia.”
The 36 degrees east position is being developed with fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris.