Pascale Sourisse, President and CEO, Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space, one of the major players in the satellite manufacturing arena, has been boosted recently by winning a huge satellite contract in the Middle East. Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. (Yahsat) awarded a contract to a joint team of Astrium and Thales Alenia Space in August to build a $1.7 billion dual satellite communications system for launch in the second half of 2010.
Pascale Sourisse, CEO of Thales Alenia Space, discusses the significance of the Yahsat win and how she sees the satellite manufacturing arena developing.

Via Satellite: What are your expectations in terms of picking up new contracts over the next 12 months in the manufacturing business?

Sourisse: In 2006, we have seen a recovery in the commercial satellite market. This recovery has been confirmed in 2007. We forecast the commercial satellite market will see around 25 satellites ordered per year over the next five years. The market is very dynamic. Sometimes, we decide to bid for complete satellites, sometimes we bid in partnerships with other suppliers, and we are either in charge of the satellite payload or satellite platform. We have a good market position and we think we will maintain our typical market share.

Via Satellite: How important do you see Yahsat’s role in developing the Middle East communications market?

Sourisse: We believe this initiative in the UAE is a very interesting one. Yahsat is going to develop the government and the commercial markets. They anticipate strong demand on the government side and they are also very positive that demand is exceeding supply for satellite capacity in the region.

Via Satellite: How do you benefit from being part of the Thales group?

Sourisse: We believe the transfer of these space activities to the Thales Group is something very positive for our company. There are lots of synergies between our space activities and the other Thales activities, in particular, in the fields of defense, security or aeronautics. We work very closely with the other Thales divisions that have complementary technologies to develop integrated applications which combine space technologies with aeronautical and terrestrial technologies, in order to deliver end-to-end systems or systems of systems.

In the field of defense, one example is related to combining satellite-based communications together with terrestrial communications. Thales is a leader in both fields. Another one is intelligence and reconnaissance. In the defense market, we can combine the expertise of Thales in the intelligence field together with our ability to deliver satellite-based observation systems, either optical or radar.

There are obviously examples in the aeronautical arena, with aeronautical communications. Satellite will be a contributor to the new generation of air traffic management systems. There are many examples in the field of security for civilian users, such as the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) program under the leadership of [the European Space Agency]. We will aim at using the other competencies of Thales in the field of security to offer broader applications.

That being said, while there are a lot of synergies between the Thales divisions themselves, we also maintain a strong cooperation relationship with Alcatel Lucent in the field of commercial telecoms. We are working together on the Mobile TV project, in which we deliver the space segment and Alcatel Lucent works on integrating this satellite based solutions with mobile networks.

Via Satellite: What role can satellites and satellite technology play in the mobile TV market?

Sourisse: The role we see for satellite players is really to take part in this huge market. The mobile TV solution we support is based on a hybrid system combining satellite broadcasting together with terrestrial broadcasting. Satellite broadcasting will enable operators to have universal coverage while terrestrial broadcasting will be used in dense areas. So it is a question of adequately combining the use of terrestrial networks with the use of satellite-based solutions. Satellite operators play quite a big role in this market, but they will not be the only ones. Mobile operators and media players such as content providers will also be largely involved. This is a big opportunity for the future.

Via Satellite: Do the difficulties in the launch market directly impact a satellite manufacturer?

Sourisse: It does not directly impact us. We are seeing a very active market in terms of satellite investments. We are benefiting from it. We believe that in the future we will compete to have an excellent position on the market. We believe the demand will continue. Even if there are constraints today on the launch market I am sure the various launch service providers will do what is needed to make sure their vehicles are reliable and meet the demands of customers.

Via Satellite: Will impact will long-term launch deal have on the market?

Sourisse: I consider it quite natural that operators want to secure access to launchers. They have large investment plans for satellites. They need to make sure they have launchers available. We have long-term partnerships with some suppliers, so in that sense, what SES has done is not unusual.
I am sure what customers are looking for is to have reliable launchers when they need it. So as soon a launch service provider can demonstrate that they have a reliable solution and that they are ready to offer this solution at competitive prices, there will be room in the market for them. Demand is exceeding supply for the time being.

Via Satellite: Do you expect to see increased spending in the military market?

Sourisse: There is a growing awareness in a number of countries concerning the importance of satellites to master information on an end-to-end basis. This approach of linking an adequate mastering of information with space technologies is one of the key elements of the space strategy of the U.S. France is also having a similar type of approach. Other countries also have the same type of understanding like Italy, the U.K., and countries that are starting to deploy defense systems like Germany and Spain.

Via Satellite: What role do you see the company playing on the satellite landscape in Europe?

Sourisse: We see a lot of opportunities in the institutional markets with programs like Galileo, GMES, space exploration and future ones that need to be confirmed during the next ESA Ministerial conference at the end of 2008. In addition to that, we are working on future programs for defense users. We are quite optimistic that there will be a strong need for space solutions, and ministries of defense will confirm new programs to maintain the systems they have in operations such as in telecoms and Earth observation.
In the field of defense, there are more cooperations between countries. Initially, programs in the defense field were developed purely on a national basis, but now there is a trend in Europe in favour of cooperation between different countries. It is the case between France and Italy, which are cooperating more and more. This could be extended to other countries. This could create some interesting opportunities for us.

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