[Satellite News 02-22-12] AsiaSat is the latest operator to sign a launch services deal with SpaceX. The company announced the deal earlier this month, joining fellow operators Thaicom and SES that have put their faith in the new launch services provider.
SpaceX will launch two AsiaSat satellites, AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 in 2014. AsiaSat 6 will have 28 high-powered C-band transponders while AsiaSat 8 will have 24 Ku-band transponders and a Ka-band beam. The high-powered transponders on the satellite will enable the use of small antennas on the ground. The two Space Systems/Loral 1300 satellites will serve Asia, the Middle East and Australasia.
AsiaSat CEO William Wade told Satellite News why AsiaSat decided to go with SpaceX and not one of the more established launch service providers. “After having carefully considered all factors such as schedule, price competitiveness and the reliability of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, we engaged SpaceX as the launch service provider for AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8. We carefully calculate the risks involved in every single launch when we choose a launch provider. After considerable discussions between the two companies we gained the confidence and assurances on performance and schedule that allowed us to go ahead,” said Wade.
The contract is a boost for SpaceX and represents its first major commercial deal of the year. The California-based launch services company won a key contract from SES in March to launch the SES-8 satellite. That mission will likely take place in 2013. Later in the year, it announced a deal with Asian satellite operator Thaicom to launch the Thaicom-6 satellite.
The commissioning of AsiaSat 6 and AsiaSat 8 was highly significant for AsiaSat, as it was the first time in the operator’s history that it initiated the procurement of two satellites at one time. The risks of such a move, according to Wade, were accounted for in the decision process to select a launch provider.
“Satellite launching has always been a high-risk portion of our business. With all our launches regardless of who is the launch provider, we have a contingency plan which takes into account the risk of launch, delivery of the spacecraft and the commercial requirements for the satellite,” said Wade.
AsiaSat 6 is a joint-venture project with operator Thaicom. AsiaSat will wholly own AsiaSat 8. In terms of the business AsiaSat hopes to bring in with its new spacecraft, Wade said the operator hopes to have capacity sold on these satellites at launch.
“We will own and market our portions of this new satellite with C-band capacity at the 120 degrees East orbital location,” Wade said. “AsiaSat 8 will be co-located with AsiaSat 5 at 100.5 degrees East to offer Ku-band capacity across various Asian markets. We are already preparing to premarket these two satellites and hope to have a reasonable portion of the capacity committed prior to launch. We see opportunities in high growth markets in South Asia, China and South East Asia where demand continues to increase and national satellites are not always able to meet the requirements.”
The operator hopes 2012 will be just as good of a year as 2011, when it saw the successful launch of its AsiaSat 7 satellite in November. AsiaSat 7 will replace AsiaSat 3S at the 105.5 degrees East orbital slot to and a broad range of applications for the Asia-Pacific region, including television broadcast and VSAT networks. AsiaSat 7 carries 28 C-band and 17 Ku-band transponders, and a Ka-band payload.
Wade said the operator also worked on expanding its facilities to increase its presence in the broadcast market. “In 2011, we successfully set up a new broadcast center in our Tai Po facility for our long-standing customer Fox International Channels (FIC). This demonstrated our flexibility and adaptability in expanding our capability to meet the growing needs of our customers. From this new broadcast center at our Tai Po Earth Station, we offer FIC one-stop broadcast services including compression, uplink, play-out, system monitoring and maintenance for all of its top-rated HD and SD channels,” Wade sad. “We see this partnership as a win-win arrangement. Through outsourcing its broadcast operation, FIC has increased its operational efficiency enabling it to focus on its core business of expanding its channel portfolio in the emerging markets of Asia. On the other hand, we play an expanding role in our customer’s distribution service in Asia while successfully expanding our scale of operations, and enhancing our technical skill sets and ground infrastructure at Tai Po.”