SES ‘borrows’ Italian military bird to hold slot

Earlier this week satellite builder Airbus Defence and Space said that it had handed over Astra 2G to its client SES of Luxembourg following its launch on December 27th.

But Astra 2G was also destined to initially go to a ‘secret’ location for 3 months in order to “bring into use” some of the satellite’s specialist frequencies at the unspecified location. The position will subsequently be used by a new SES-Luxembourg government satellite announced last week (GovSat) and which will use military X-band frequencies.

However, SES faced a huge dilemma in that Astra 2G was late to launch. A number of problems with launch rockets delayed plans to occupy the ‘secret’ location by mid-December and thus meet the all-important International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deadline for an older filing that was due to expire on December 18th.

Consequently, and according to trade mag Space News, SES struck an agreement with Italy’s Defence Ministry to borrow an old satellite, Sicral-1, and to ‘bring into use’ the satellite’s frequencies at the 21.5 degree East position, the no-longer secret location.

According to an ITU regulatory filing the Italian military satellite was in position and working on December 15th, just days ahead of the deadline. Astra 2G is also now at the 21.5 deg East location, and will likely stay in that position until mid-March when it will be moved to its planned orbital position at 28.2/28.5 degrees East.

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