$88 million deal partially replaces Amos-6 but doesn’t clarify Facebook relationship.
Israeli satellite operator Spacecom, whose relationship with Facebook could be summed up as “it’s complicated” following the loss of its Amos-6 satellite in September, will borrow part of AsiaSat’s newest satellite for at least four years.
AsiaSat-8, launched in 2014, will serve as an interim replacement for Spacecom’s Amos-6, which was destroyed Sept. 1 when its SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher exploded during fueling.
Facebook, through Eutelsat, leased all of Amos-6 ’s high-throughput Ka-band capacity to provide internet access to people in Africa. Facebook and Spacecom haven’t publicly updated their relationship status since losing Amos-6.
The $88 million deal with AsiaSat, announced Dec. 1, doesn’t clarify matters since Spacecom only leased AsiaSat-8’s Ku-band payload, not the Ka-band capacity Facebook booked on Amos-6. Eutelsat said in October it was leasing Ka-band capacity on two Yahsat satellites, but made no mention its Facebook deal.
Amos-6, which Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) touted as the most advanced Israeli-made satellite, was equipped with 39 Ku-band beams and 24 Ka-band spot beams. AsiaSat-8, built by Space Systems Loral, has 24 Ku-band transponders as well as a Ka-band payload.
Spacecom said Dec. 1 it will replace the Ka-band capacity it lost with Amos-6 when it launches its next satellite to the 4 degrees west orbital slot in about four years.
Spacecom’s immediate use for AsiaSat-8 is to replace the 13-year-old Amos-2 satellite. Amos-6, had it reached orbit, would have allowed Spacecom to retire Amos-2 while also providing growth capacity.
The loss of Amos-6 added to Spacecom’s woes, since the operator unexpectedly lost a core satellite, Amos-5, in 2015 when the four-year-old spacecraft abruptly ceased communicating following a power supply glitch.
It is unclear whether the AsiaSat-8 lease will have any bearing on Spacecom’s dealings with Beijing Xinwei Technology Group, the Chinese conglomerate that had agreed this August to purchase the Israeli operator for $285 million. Xinwei stipulated that the successful launch of Amos-6 was a requisite for completing the acquisition.
Spacecom and AsiaSat now intend to relocate AsiaSat-8 from 105.5 degrees west, where it’s covering China and its neighbors, to 4 degrees west, where it will join Amos-3 in covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Spacecom will pay AsiaSat $22 million a year for AsiaSat-8’s Ku-band payload, according to AsiaSat. The four-year agreement includes an optional 12-month extension.
AsiaSat expects the satellite to reach its new perch over Europe, the Middle East and Africa within 45 days of receiving the necessary regulatory approvals.
The deal makes Spacecom one of AsiaSat’s largest customers by revenue. AsiaSat operates a fleet of six satellites, including AsiaSat-8. The Hong Kong-based operator’s next satellite, AsiaSat-9, is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2017 on an International Launch Services Proton rocket.
Spacecom said in November that it would recover the $196 million cost of Amos-6 under the insurance policy IAI had taken out to cover its handling of the satellite prior to launch.