ABS in legal row over South Korea satellite

It has been reported that Permira-backed Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) is involved in a major argument with South Korea’s government over KoreaSat-3/ABS-7.  ABS announced it had “bought” KoreaSat-3 on May 24th 2010 from Korea Telecom (KT).

Specialty trade news-site Space Intel Report says that ABS was fearful in 2013 that its plans to buy KoreaSat-3 were likely to be thwarted by the government, and took control of the satellite in space, moving the craft one tenth of a degree from 116 degrees East to 116.1 degrees East, and renamed the bird ABS-7.

Bermuda domiciled (but Philippines-based) ABS also used a technical maneuver by using an official ITU registration it had in place for a satellite called Pacificsat-9 that it had made some 2 years prior via the government of Papua New Guinea.

The moves have resulted in legal actions backed by South Korea’s government and with KT Corp and KT Sat directly involved, and asking a US court to overturn a previous International Chamber of Commerce (ITT) arbitration ruling which awarded ABS ownership of KoreaSat-3/ABS-7.

According to Space Intel Report the various moves have probably resulted in South Korea losing its orbital rights to the 116 degrees slot, and the follow-on lost revenues that the slot represented.

However, not helping matters is that the ICC arbitration, which itself took 3 years to study the case, was made in a 2-1 majority verdict, and the dissenting vote from one tribunal panel member strongly criticized the ruling, saying that ABS’ action – and the ICC verdict – sanctioned the unlawful misappropriation of a strategic asset of a foreign sovereign state.

Korea now has a new satellite in position (KoreaSat-7, launched in May) and working alongside KoreaSat-6. ABS-7 sits in orbit just one tenth of a degree away, at 116.1 degrees East.

At the time of the 2010 “purchase” ABS said that the satellite had 6-7 years of life left in a full station-kept mode, and a further 5-6 years of useful life thereafter although in an inclined orbit operation.

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