Maxar/SS-L to quit GEO business?

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Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), an old-established name in the satellite manufacturing industry and now owned by Canada-based Maxar Technology, is considering ceasing its geostationary satellite building business.

A report by equity analysts at the Bank of Montreal cites the shortage of contracts for large commercial satellites at its SS/L facility at Palo Alto, California.

The bank had been an investor in Maxar, but in June it emerged that the bank had reduced its shareholdings by 7 per cent. The bank says that the golden days of an average 20 large new satellites a year were last enjoyed in 2015, when just 19 orders were placed. By 2016 that had dropped to 15, and just eight last year. To date, just five geostationary satellites have been ordered, and one of those (Amos-8 for Spacecom) is on hold with SS/L pending a decision by Israeli authorities and Spacecom.

The industry expects eight to 12 large satellite orders to be placed this year.

Maxar has three divisions: Space Systems, Imagery, and Services. The Space Systems segment supplies space and ground-based infrastructure and information solutions, including communication and imaging satellites, payloads and antenna subsystems, space-based and airborne surveillance solutions, and associated ground infrastructure and support services for communications and surveillance and intelligence applications.

One option is to merge or associate SS/L with another satellite builder. Another option is to down-size its satellite manufacturing division to reflect the downturn in new orders.

The bank’s note says that Maxar will make a decision on its strategy by the end of this year, although would likely continue with its investments in robotic craft and smaller satellites.

Maxar also owns MDA of Canada, which makes the highly-regarded ‘CanadaArm’ recovery tool used in space.


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