The C-band replacement satellite orders for US coverage are being confirmed.
Intelsat has ordered up at least six satellites. Four are to come from Maxar Technologies and will be built at Maxar’s Palo Alto plant (the former Space Systems/Loral facility). Two others will be supplied by Northrop Grumman. There will also be an additional seventh satellite from Intelsat, which is currently under negotiation.
An announcement from SES is expected June 16th and it is likely that SES will order four satellites. As expected, two will come from Northrop Grumman and two from Boeing.
The race is now on for this new capacity to be in place by December 5th 2023. Meeting that date will enable Intelsat to receive $4.87 billion as an ‘incentive’ reward from the FCC for clearing the spectrum on time and thus be available to aid 5G’s roll out over the US.
The Intelsat craft from Maxar will be dubbed Galaxy craft (G-31, G-32, G-35 and G-36). Northrop’s pair will be Galaxy 33 and 34. All six craft are being scheduled for launch in 2022. Intelsat says there will also be a seventh – as yet unspecified – satellite as part of the new C-band fleet.
“Quickly clearing 300 megahertz of the US C-band spectrum to make way for 5G wireless applications is a complex task, layered with a significant number of highly interdependent technical activities, including building and launching multiple new satellites designed to operate at the higher portion of the band,” admitted Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco on June 15th.
The SES orders will be SES-18 and SES-19 from Northrop, and SES-20 and SES-21 from Boeing. The SES craft are expected to be in place by Q3/2022.
As with Intelsat, provided the December 2023 date is met, SES will receive an FCC-approved incentive payment of $3.97 billion.
Both Intelsat and SES will also have the costs of the new satellites refunded along with other clearance charges.
The two satellite operators will file with the FCC their spectrum transition plan and detail how the change-over will take place.