Boeing loses Indonesia satellite contract

Satellites are frequently launched in pairs: a smaller craft sitting atop a larger satellite. This is the model used by Arianespace, for example, for many years. But Arianespace’s arch-rival SpaceX is also being used to launch two lighter satellites aboard one rocket. This pattern has caused an Indonesia satellite operator to cancel a planned order with Boeing.

The problem is that Indonesia’s PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) wanted an all-electric satellite. These are significantly lighter than conventional chemical propulsion satellites, and are cheaper to build and much cheaper to launch. However, the maximum launch savings can only be made if there is a ‘companion’ satellite aboard the launching rocket.

It seems Boeing has been unable to find a partner satellite for PSN.  PSN had reportedly been waiting for a year for a suitable order to come into Boeing, but has now decided to award the satellite contract to Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) who have a launch contract in place to send the satellite into orbit in early 2017. The satellite will go to 146 degrees East.

Boeing is currently marrying two electric satellites together ready for a launch in the New Year (for ABS of Bermuda, and SatMex/Eutelsat). The launch will be carried out by SpaceX.

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