SES currently has two core deployments of satellites: It has a fleet of powerful geostationary satellites that just about serves the whole planet. It also has 20 O3b (‘the Other 3 Billion’) satellites in Medium Earth Orbit, with seven new ‘super-power’ O3b satellites on order from Boeing, with deployment starting in 2021.
The O3b fleet is responsible for much of SES ‘Networks’ division and SES has said that this is likely to be spun off into a new business.
Now, in common with Viasat, Telesat and even OneWeb, SES is looking to expand its O3b division dramatically with extra orbiting assets. SES already has FCC permission to expand beyond the existing (20 existing + seven new) O3b satellites. Back in 2018, the FCC approved a planned framework expansion to triple its O3b mPOWER fleet by giving it US market access for another 22 high-powered satellites, seven of which are already in construction and scheduled for launch beginning in 2021.
An SES spokeswoman said: “We have always said the first seven satellites announced for O3b mPOWER is just the beginning, much as it was with O3b where our initial order was eight. The filing reaffirms our belief in MEO as a fantastic orbit from which we deliver high-end customer solutions underscored by the recent O3b mPOWER customer announcements and our proven success with our existing O3b constellation.”
SES is now proposing a fleet of new Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites. Its May 26th formal filing to the FCC asks for some key modifications including:
There are no dates supplied as to when the LEO fleet might happen. Indeed, the FCC filing does not obligate SES/O3b to proceed with the plan, but there are US government funds in the offing and a total of nine businesses have made FCC filings ahead of the May 26th deadline for potential spectrum allocations, including SES, Viasat, OneWeb, Telesat, Kepler, SpaceX and others.
The SES application says: “The proposed expansion will allow O3b to respond to growing demand from Internet service providers, fixed and mobile network operators, large enterprises and governments for low-latency, high-throughput satellite capacity that enables fast, flexible and affordable broadband connectivity in locations unserved or underserved by terrestrial networks. Grant of this Modification will allow O3b to build on its proven record of meeting customer requirements for high-quality, cost-effective satellite services and will therefore serve the public interest.”
“The new satellites will also be equipped with the ability to perform satellite-to-satellite communications. O3b’s LEO satellites will use the 27.5-29.1 GHz and 29.5-30 GHz FSS spectrum to transmit to O3b’s MEO satellites and to geostationary satellite orbit (GSO) space stations. The O3b MEO satellites will use the 17.8-18.6 GHz and 18.8-20.2 GHz FSS and MSS feeder link spectrum to transmit to O3b’s LEO satellites, and the LEO satellites will receive transmissions in these bands from GSO space stations as well. This functionality will enhance the overall network’s ability to support innovative offerings that use a combination of space station assets to satisfy developing customer needs,” says SES.