SES suffers major satellite glitch

An aging SES satellite, NSS-806, has lost 12 transponders. It is the second major glitch to hit SES in barely a month. In mid-June AMC-9 was completely lost along with its 48 transponders.

This latest mishap mainly affects cable distribution in Latin America. NSS-806 operates from 47.5 degrees West. Remarkably, the satellite has been an outrageous success for SES, having been launched in February 1998 – and owned initially by Intelsat – and is now some 7 years beyond its designed life. The satellite was built by Lockheed-Martin.

SES revealed the problem on July 28th during its results announcement, and said its capacity loss would impact SES revenues to the tune of some €7 – €9 million.  SES said that the impact from the lost capacity would by short.

The satellite was acquired by SES as part of its purchase of New Skies Satellite from Blackstone Group, a private equity investment company, for $1.16 billion in December 2005.

However, the loss or impact of the capacity on these two satellites is a worry. For example, the well-publicised failure of AMC-9 and it lost revenues of some €15-€18m and the less publicised problems on NSS-806 (representing a revenue loss of €7-€9 million) prompted Sami Kassab, a leading analyst at investment bank Exane/BNP-Paribas, suggesting that “30 per cent of all satellites on the SES fleet have encountered technical anomalies, the highest rate in the industry.”  If correct, this is not the sort of performance reliability that would generate confidence in any business.

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