Intelsat has awarded a significant three-satellite launch contract to Arianespace.
Two satellites, Galaxy 35 and Galaxy 36 will be launched on a single Ariane 5 rocket as a stacked pair in 2022. A third, Galaxy 37, will be launched by the newly designed Ariane 64 in March 2023.
All three satellites are being built by Maxar Technologies at its Palo Alto, California (the former Space Systems/Loral facility). They will operate in the upper portion of the C-band spectrum. With this mission, Intelsat will meet the accelerated C-band spectrum clearing timelines established by the US FCC earlier this year, in order to make the lower portion of the C-band spectrum available to mobile network operators to further the rollout of critical 5G services.
The Ariane 64 variant is an all-new rocket which is designed to handle two fairly heavy commercial satellites totalling some 11.5 tonnes into high geostationary orbit.
However, the Ariane 6 rocket is running late. Originally expected to have a test flight this year, the Coronavirus has not helped production processes. Ariane 6 is a new concept and where it carries a new upper stage engine (dubbed Vinci) which has the ability to be reignited whilst in space.
Reports suggest that the first Ariane 6 launch – already much later than originally planned – has been impacted by the Covid-19 production problems by about a further six months. A test flight is now likely next year, followed by another six months before a second test takes places – which could even be 2022.
One of the earliest flights of Ariane 64 has already been booked by Viasat of California to launch one of their ViaSat 3 giant satellites.
Another early booking came from OneWeb – now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reconstruction – which had reserved the inaugural flight. However, there is no news has to whether this reservation is being honoured by Arianespace.