Paris-based satellite giant Eutelsat is reported to have ordered a SpaceX launch for its massive “Quantum” satellite. If confirmed, it will mean that SpaceX is now looking after launch contracts for the world’s top five satellite operators.
Eutelsat says that it has not yet decided which rocket company will take care of the “Quantum” launch honours, although trade mag Space News suggests that if not for the Quantum satellite then Eutelsat will use an option to launch another satellite with SpaceX.
One company’s ‘win’ is another operator’s ‘loss’, and the Eutelsat news means that SpaceX now has launch contracts and promises in place from Intelsat, SES, Telesat of Canada and Inmarsat of London. By the same measure it means that Arianespace has not been successful in matching launch demand with its pricing and/or availability structure.
Eutelsat has happily used SpaceX before, and CEO Michel de Rosen has praised the progress made by SpaceX. Previous launch orders with SpaceX were made by Satmex of Mexico prior to Eutelsat buying the Mexican satellite operator.
However, in the past Eutelsat has been a very loyal client of Arianespace and it is known that French business and government officials have lined up to support the French launch company. Also helping secure Arianespace business is EU cash aid in the form of European Space Agency funding for a project.
The Eutelsat Quantum satellite is a European Space Agency-funded project with the UK government’s UK Space Agency as its principal support. Quantum, an all-electric satellite being built by Airbus Defence & Space, is a highly-flexible, ‘next-generation’ software-defined satellite and is on a ‘fast track’ build programme. It should launch in 2018.