ITU facing pandemic problems
March 18, 2022
By Chris Forrester
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is facing some urgent requests to authorise delays for satellite operators and their launch plans. The reasons are mostly caused by the pandemic and the impact of staff shortages at assorted satellite builders and their suppliers of components.
The ITU has to decide whether to approve some extreme delays from satellite operators. For example, Intelsat is using Covid and a ‘force majeure’ claim to ask for a 32-month delay in bringing into use certain spectrum on one of its satellites intended for the 50 degrees West orbital slot. Intelsat is joined in this application by its sponsoring and licensing authority which is the government of Papua New Guinea.
Intelsat is supposed to bring into use the frequencies by April 7th. It is asking the ITU for a delay until December 2024. However, Intelsat is in something of a bind in that the ITU has already rejected a previous request concerning the orbital slot. In October 2021 the ITU said that Papua New Guinea’s request had failed to explain the delays. Moreover, Intelsat was unlucky with the launch of its Intelsat-29e satellite in March 2016 which was supposed to fill the gap, but the satellite failed in April 2019. Intelsat used a pair of satellites to get to 50 degrees West but neither of them carried Ka-band spectrum.
As reported on March 16th, Viasat of California is up against similar delay problems with its important and powerful Viasat-3/EMEA satellite. Viasat-3/EMEA had been originally planned to launch on an early flight of an Ariane 6 rocket around the middle of 2022 and as part of a trio of Generation 3 satellites for Viasat. Viasat has already switched the EMEA launch from Arianespace to a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
Viasat is also asking the ITU to allow a 15-month delays from a planned introduction of service in May this year to the end of August 2023.