RSCC Goes Back to Astrium for Express-AM4 Replacement

[Satellite News 03-27-12] Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) has commissioned two telecommunications spacecraft, Express-AM7 and Express-AM4R from European satellite manufacturer Astrium, RSCC officials confirmed March 27.

   The two satellites were ordered as part of RSCC’s planned nine-satellite expansion, the rest of which the state-owned company is contracting from multiple manufacturers, including ISS Reshetnev, MDA and Thales Alenia Space along with Astrium Satellites.
   The Express-AM4R satellite will operate at the 80 degrees East geostationary orbital slot, replacing the Express-AM4 satellite that was lost in an August 2011 launch failure and crashed into the Pacific Ocean March 25 with the help of Astrium after the company spent several months evaluating options to salvage the craft. Express-AM4, the most powerful satellite ever built in Europe, would have provided communications coverage over Russia and neighboring countries for RSCC with 10 antennas and 63 active C-band, Ku-band, Ka-band and L-band transponders.
   Polar Broadband Systems, a Russian start-up company, said it would have purchased the faulty satellite to serve the Antarctic research community. The company proposed raising Express AM4′s orbit to an altitude between 15,500 miles and 29,000 miles. “Instead of being stationed over the equator as originally planned, the satellite would be in an orbit with an inclination of 51.1 degrees, placing the craft high in the sky over Antarctic research sites,” Polar Broadband said in a statement. Russian engineers, however, determined Express AM4 did not have enough propellant to reach its operational orbit and still perform its mission.
   RSCC said it was using the insurance claim it received from the loss of Express-AM4 to help finance the new satellite, which will carry 36 C-band, 28 Ku-band, three L-band and two Ka-band transponders when it is launched in early 2014.
   In a statement, RSCC CFO Dennis Pivnyuk said that he is confident Astrium would be able to accelerate the 26-month production schedule to permit a launch in 2013 due to the fact that Express-AM4R is based on the same Eurostar 3000 satellite bus as the lost Express-AM4.
Speaking at the SATELLITE 2012 conference in mid-March, Pivnyuk said the failed launch of the Express–AM4 satellite was a big drawback for RSCC’s business specifically because of how the company’s operations are set up in the region.
   “While the satellite was not damaged, it has spent seven months in an orbit that exposes it to radiation that has left it in not good shape. There is not much lifetime left. We’ve reviewed different proposals from different entities, but none were really feasible,” said Pivnyuk. “The insurance payout from the loss was about $270 million, which we used to order the replacement satellite, Express-AM4R, which Astrium said it would deliver to us in time for a launch in late 2013.”
   Express-AM7 is scheduled for launch in 2014 into an operational orbit at 40 degrees East. The satellite, also based on the Eurostar 3000 bus, will carry 36 Ku-band, 24 C-band and two L-band transponders and provide 16 kilowatts to its payload at the end of a planned 15-year service life
   Pivnyuk said an advance payment for the AM7 order was made on March 19. “In the coming weeks, we are planning a call for tender to select the loan facility provider.”
Financing for the Express-AM7 order is expected to include a guarantee provided by French export-credit agency Coface that will cover most of the cost burden.
   RSCC also recently expanded its partnership with satellite capacity and networking equipment provider Romantis Group to develop value-added services for the two companies’ existing collaborative VSAT products and to expand their service reach to the North and South America and Trans-Atlantic regions via the Express-AM8 satellite.
   “We are expanding our current commercial relationship with Romantis to also include the prospective Express-AM8 satellite capacity,” said RSCC Director General Yuri Prokhorov. “Romantis effectively promotes and sells RSCC satellite capacity as a significant component of its turn-key solutions in the EMEA and now will also market the Express-AM8 capacity as a strategic RSCC partner in the American region.”
   The Express-AM8 satellite is scheduled for launch to the 14 degrees West orbital slot in the third quarter of 2013. The satellite will be equipped with six high-power Ku-band and two C-band spot beams providing coverage of Europe, Africa, North and South America and the Middle East.
   The next satellite in the series, Express-AM9, has yet to be funded, but RSCC said it expects that a financing deal should be in place by the end of 2012.

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