SATELLITE 2012 Conference Preview – A Guide to This Year’s Key Topics (Part 2)

[Satellite News 03-06-12] There are typically two types of panel sessions at the annual SATELLITE conference and exhibition in Washington D.C. – special interest/niche sessions and the packed-house, industry-wide sessions. Panels that fall into the latter category include the always popular big four FSS operator opening session, the launch services panel, military/policy workshops and the charismatic and competitive MSUA MSS CEO panel.

   The SATELLITE 2012 show, which kicks off on Monday, March 12, provides a wide variety of topic-specific workshops that explore the extremely timely issues that will have a long-term impact on the industry. In part two of our SATELLITE 2012 conference preview, Satellite News breaks down the topics that have received the most attention coming into this crucial spring season.
In-Orbit Satellite Servicing and Life Extension
Extending the life of space-based assets with in-orbit refueling spacecraft, robotic devices and other engineering developments has been a growing concern for operators in recent years, as their fleets continue to age and financing to build new satellites becomes harder to find. Last year saw the entrance of two in-orbit service ideas that emerged from the satellite sector. In March 2011, Intelsat and MDA signed a $280 million in-orbit satellite life extension service agreement that would have employed MDA’s space-based Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle to refuel, reposition or maintain commercial and government satellites. The first refueling mission was scheduled for 2015, or 3.5 years after the manufacturing phase began, but the project never quite left the drawing board as the contract was terminated earlier this year.
   In January 2011, however, ViviSat, a new, U.S.-based satellite life extension joint venture between U.S. Space and ATK was formed to provide geosynchronous satellite operators with in-orbit mission extension and protection services in order to add to the revenue-producing life of its customers’ satellites. Fast-forward to March 8, 2012 and ViviSat stands ready to build its mission extension vehicles and prove its preparedness at the SATELLITE 2012 show. “The market conditions for ViviSat are strong, with productive and energetic activity on numerous fronts,” ViviSat Board Member and ATK Vice President and General Manager Tom Wilson said in a statement. “Both government and commercial organizations are engaged and ViviSat is participating in many business and research efforts. All of this activity demonstrates what we’ve been saying – there is great value in revitalizing space assets.”
   The SATELLITE 2012 show will feature a session devoted specifically to this topic. The “Satellite Life Extension: Ready to Make an Impact?” panel hosts ViviSat COO Bryan McGuirk, GMV Aerospace General Manager Jorge Potti, NASA/GSFC Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office Project Manager Benjamin Reed and MDA Space Infrastructure Services Vice President Dan King. Together, the panelists will attempt to determine whether or not in-orbit satellite servicing and refurbishment services can deliver additional revenues beyond the projected lifetime of operational satellites. Look for this topic to heat up in the coming months as government agencies such as NASA and DARPA get involved in contracting similar solutions for the International Space Station.
The “Satellite Life Extension: Ready to Make an Impact?” panel session will take place on Wednesday, March 14 at 10:15 a.m. in conference room 201.
Satellite’s Window of Broadcast Opportunities in Latin America
There is a lot of money being poured into Latin America’s video and data markets. The region’s big satellite communications appetite is expected to grow with two “mega events” on the horizon for Brazil: The FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. The broadcast market, however, is one where satellite has a noticeable advantage, with DirecTV Latin America providing a prime example of leveraging potential subscriber growth. New satellites have been launched over the region and more are on the way, bringing with them a vast, new supply of capacity to serve emerging vertical markets in the commercial, government and enterprise sectors. SATELLITE 2012 is holding a session on Wednesday called “Latin America – The ‘Mega Event’ Horizon,” and there may not be a more appropriate title to describe the building enthusiasm in the region.
   GVF Secretary General David Hartshorn will moderate this session with a panel of Latin America’s most influential satellite players. Telespazio Brasil CEO Marzio Laurenti, SES Vice President of Latin America Commercial Sales Dolores Martos, O3b Networks Regional Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean Erwin Mercado and Satmex Vice President of Sales Javier Recio will discuss the true scope of the satellite industry’s opportunity in the region, as well as explain what preparations are being made to ensure that operators are able to satisfy broadcasters’ demand when these major events kick off. Look for this session to bring up the mistakes that broadcasters made during the World Cup in South Africa – an event that promised long-term gains but produced lackluster results for the satellite industry.
The “Latin America – The ‘Mega Event’ Horizon” panel session will take place on Wednesday, March 14 at 10:15 a.m. in conference room 207B.
The Ka-band Evolution
Is Ka-band a market catalyst for satellite? During the past two years, the satellite industry has witnessed the launch of enormous Ka-band spacecraft such as Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat and ViaSat’s ViaSat-1. Many view the advent of Ka-band as a significant offering for service providers that had previously looked away from satellite because of unmatched connectivity speeds compared to terrestrial services. Some say Ka-band has forced a change in the way an operator perceives the market, as services not only become much faster, but more competitive and easier to install.
   In a February interview with Via Satellite, Former Inmarsat CEO Andy Sukawaty said his company, among other operators, expects a real Ka-band service ramp-up in 2013 and beyond as the biggest global government and commercial customers are already accepting Ka-band. “I don’t think there is any question that these are higher-powered satellites with much more radio frequency available than you ever had at Ku-band or L-band. You are talking about 1.5 GB versus 200 Mhz. That allows us much higher throughput … I think the move to Ka-band is inevitable. I think Ku-band is crowded and eventually, over time, will fall by the wayside.”
   SATELLITE 2012’s Ka-band broadcasting panel is comprises a wide cross-section of satellite executives and industry-watchers. Thales Alenia Space Vice President of Marketing Cedric Balty, Cliftongroup International Head Ron Clifton, Eutelsat Chief Development & Innovation Officer Jacques Dutronc, SES Vice President of Business Development Sergy Mummert, DirecTV Senior Vice President Philip Goswitz and Newtec CEO Serge Van Herck will explore how satellite broadband competes with terrestrial alternatives and whether or not the bandwidth offers new opportunities to generate revenues from broadcasting. Attendees should not expect a Ka-band support rally as this panel features some industry leaders that have been skeptical of the bandwidth’s ability to outperform Ku-, C- and L-band services.           
The “Ka-band Satellites: The Broadcast Question Examined?” panel session will take place on Wednesday, March 14 at 1:45 p.m. in conference room 209.

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