Shares in troubled speciality satellite operator Avanti Communications slumped again on January 18th, hitting a near all-time low of just 19p. As recently as December 21st its share price was 30p. A year prior (Oct 23 2015) its shares were trading at 245p (and back in July 2012 stood at 419p).
The fall in sentiment has not been helped by on-going delays and uncertainty over the launch of a new satellite, Hylas-4, initially expected for launch this winter (“early 2017”). The launch was also extremely important to Avanti’s revenues for this financial year (to June 30th) and less than a year ago in its May 2016 Earnings Statement the operator said Hylas-4 would “triple” its in-orbit capacity and that it had already booked orders for the satellite. Originally, Arianespace was contracted to launch Hylas-4 in the period ending April 2017, however Avanti’s cash-flow and financing problems reportedly affected this date.
The best date available for Hylas-4’s launch is now “mid-to-late 2017”. The satellite has been built by Dulles, Washington DC-based Orbital ATK and will be launched on an Arianespace rocket.
One of the potential problems is in marrying up the Hylas-4 satellite with a co-passenger. Hylas-4 weighs some 4000 kgs. Arianespace needs two satellites to be on board this type of launch. Arianespace’s manifest is extremely full (and not helped by 4 months of lost launches by arch-rival SpaceX which forced at least one satellite operator to switch launch plans from SpaceX to Arianespace).
Avanti also has Hylas-3 awaiting launch. Hylas-3 is a bolted-on communications payload and part of the European Space Agency’s plan for a European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS-C) at 31 degrees East. Hylas-3, when launched will have 8 beams on a single steerable Ka-band antenna able to cover a segment of Africa or the Middle East. Avanti’s own schematic shows the satellite covering the West African region around Nigeria. Hylas-3 was originally expected to launch during 2016.