US satellite builders prepare for sales bonanza

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The US satellite industry is about to get a few billions-worth of order for new craft. The new satellites will provide the fresh bandwidth to replace the C-band frequencies being given up as a result of the FCC’s push for 5G adoption in the US.

Maxar Technologies has already said it has received a “multi-satellite” order worth “multi-hundred million dollar” in value although declined to spell out where the order had come from. The new Maxar satellites will be built at the firm’s former Space Systems/Loral plant at Palo Alto, California and comprise the company’s 1300-Class craft.

However, it is generally accepted that the Maxar order is from Intelsat and now that Intelsat has received the bankruptcy court’s approval to borrow a further $1 billion as part of its ‘debtor in possession’ reconstruction it means that contracts can be signed. Intelsat is understood to be looking to order two slightly smaller satellites from Northrop Grumman.

These six craft will be joined by another half-dozen ordered by SES. Trade rumours suggest SES is also going for six craft, with at least two coming from Boeing’s satellite division with options for an extra pair of craft from Boeing and another two from an unnamed supplier. Contract announcements are likely by the end of June/early July. The portfolio of potential builders, as well as Boeing and Maxar, includes Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.  SES expects to pay up to $1.6 billion on new satellites.

The speed of manufacture from both Intelsat and SES is crucial.  They need to have spectrum coverage in place, in orbit, during 2023 and ready for the FCC’s ruling for the clearing of 300 MHz of spectrum and thus qualifiying for the FCC’s ’incentive’ payments of more than $5 billion for Intelsat and $3.97 billion for SES.


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