Confusion over ‘banned’ satellite launches

On April 28th we reported that certain commercial satellite launches were under threat of being cancelled because of the growing crisis with Russia in regard to the political situation in the Ukraine.

In that story we specifically mentioned the upcoming launches of SES’s Astra 2G craft, plus a pair of satellites for London-based Inmarsat as well as a satellite for Turksat, each scheduled for launch by Russian-owned International Launch Services (ILS) from the Russian Baikonur facility. That list has grown to include a satellite for Eutelsat (3B) and Express AM4-R, each due for launch on the Russian-backed Sea Launch floating launch platform.

ILS, in a statement, insists that its launches are proceeding as planned. SES of Luxembourg also stress that as far as it is aware, its launch remains on schedule. The ILS statement says: “The US has not banned the SES Astra 2G launch nor any of our other launches under contract. ILS has all necessary US State Department authorizations to execute manifested launches through 2016. New licenses will be adjudicated on a case by case basis by the US State Department.”
However, on April 28, the US State Department issued a fresh set of instructions, saying: “Effective immediately, the Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) will deny pending applications for export or re-export of any high technology defense article or services regulated under the US Munitions List to Russia or occupied Crimea that contribute to Russia’s military capabilities. In addition, the Department is taking action to revoke any existing export licenses which meet these conditions. All other pending applications and existing licenses will receive a case-by-case evaluation to determine their contribution to Russia’s military capabilities.”

These new rules fall under the USA’s Munitions List (USML) prohibitions, which restrict the sale of sensitive defense materials overseas.

Eutelsat’s 3B satellite has reportedly received all its necessary licences for its Sea Launch mission. 
The State Department’s list of 17 Russian companies and businesses now on the ‘sanctions’ list does NOT include any that are satellite or launch-related.

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