Year-End Rush – 2015 Commercial Satellites Contract Recap

Late Shopping Spree Salvaged Lackluster Year

The year 2015 was shaping up to be particularly bad for commercial satellite orders until the final weeks, when a flurry of contracts were signed for more than a dozen geostationary satellites and the eight medium-Earth orbit broadband satellites ordered by 03b.

At year’s end, firm contracts for commercial telecommunications satellites totaled between 17 and 22, depending how one counts programs in Argentina, Turkey and China.

In terms of harvest, Space Systems Loral — on the strength of two year-end orders from Telesat of Canada — took home the most geostationary satellite contracts for the year, with five, besting Airbus Defence and Space’s four satellites.

The U.S. dollar’s strength in 2015 compared to 2014 does not appear to have changed the relative success of U.S. and European satellite manufacturers.

Several expected contracts are not on the list. Bermuda-based ABS’s ABS-8 telecommunications satellite, originally contracted with Boeing, was pulled following the shutdown of the U.S. Export- Import Bank.

The bank’s return to activity at the end of the year was insufficient to restart satellite export-credit awards because the bank still needs the U.S. Congress to approve at least one Ex-Im administrator for the bank to sign off on new high-dollar projects such as satellites.

ABS Chief Executive Tom Choi said he is still weighing a Boeing bid but is also considering Space Systems Loral, which is eligible for backing from both the U.S. and Canadian export-credit agencies.

Also missing from the Boeing column was an expected award from satellite broadband provider ViaSat Inc. for the first of possibly three ViaSat-3 spacecraft. That award is yet to come — to Boeing or someone else.

Finally, the 900-satellite OneWeb LLC contract award to Airbus Defence and Space shows all indications of moving forward, but there has been no contract signing and, to date, no ground breaking of the likely Florida-based satellite production plant that Airbus and OneWeb will operate as a joint venture.

The year saw further evidence of several nations’ long effort to transition from satellite customer to satellite builder. In telecommunications, both Turkey and Argentina began work on satellites in 2015. China continues to advance its DFH-4 satellite platform, which to date has been used only for customers that are buying Chinese launchers as well.

It was not a good year for Russia’s JSC Reshetnev satellite builder. One of its few export successes, the Amos-5 satellite for Israel’s Spacecom, stopped functioning in November, just four years after launch. It has since been declared a total loss.



Commercial satellite manufacturing contracts signed in 2015

Eutelsat QuantumEutelsatAirbus Defence & Space
Inmarsat 6 F1InmarsatAirbus Defence & Space
Inmarsat 6 F2InmarsatAirbus Defence & Space
SES-14SESAirbus Defence & Space
Silkwave-1CMMB Vision (Hong Kong)Boeing
SES-16/GovSatSES/Luxembourg governmentOrbitalATK
SkyM-2DirecTV Latin AmericaOrbitalATK
Arabsat 6AArabsatLockheed Martin
Hellas-Sat 4Hellas-Sat/ArabsatLockheed Martin
BANGHABANDU-1Bangladesh governmentThales Alenia Space
Eutelsat AfricaEutelsat/FacebookThales Alenia Space
Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38Azerbaijan/IntelsatSpace Systems Loral
BSAT-4aBSat JapanSpace Systems Loral
Telkom-4PT Telkom/IndonesiaSpace Systems Loral
Telstar 19 VantageTelesatSpace Systems Loral
Telstar 18 Vantage/Apstar 5CTelesat/APT SatelliteSpace Systems Loral

Orbital ATK said it booked a contract with an undisclosed customer. SpaceNews was unable to identify the customer and the contract’s status by press time.

In addition to the contracts above, Thales Alenia Space contracted to build the payload of the Arsat-3 telecommunications satellite, with INVAP of Argentina providing the platform. Thales Alenia Space also received an order from O3b Networks for eight more mediumEarth-orbit Ka-band broadband satellites.

Other geostationary orbit satellites were put under construction in 2015, mainly by governments that did not solicit international bidders. Turksat-6A will be built by Turkish Aerospace Industries, GSat-17 and GSat-18 will be built by the Indian Space Research Organisation and Arsat-3 by INVAP.

Apstar-6C, Chinasat 6C and Chinasat 18 are being built by the China Academy of Space Technology as part of contracts that included launches aboard China’s Long March rocket series, but it remains unclear whether these awards followed international bid requests.