DirecTV has made what some see as an ‘emergency’ contract with Astrium to build DirecTV-15. The satellite is needed because DirecTV-10 (launched July 2007) suffered problems with its primary propulsion this past summer and while the satellite is operating well on its back-up system, full in-orbit back-up is needed.
Additionally, DirecTV is also bringing forward the launch of DirecTV-14 (being built by Space Systems/Loral) and currently scheduled for early 2014.
DirecTV-15 is the first Astrium satellite to be built for DirecTV, a situation not helped by the high value of the Euro against the Dollar. The new craft will have 30 high-power Ku-band transponders, plus 24 in Ka-band. Interestingly, the satellite will also carry 18 transponders in what many in the industry are terming ‘reverse band’ (in the 17 and 24 GHz bands). These reverse bands are usually used to uplink signals onto satellites. The FCC has recently said that broadcasters can use them for downlink services as well, thereby freeing up additional spectrum for broadcasters.