Sourisse: “Recovery Confirmed”
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), a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, 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.
In an interview with Satellite News, Pascale Sourisse, CEO of Thales Alenia Space, discusses the significance of the Yahsat win and how she sees the satellite manufacturing arena developing.
Satellite News: What role will Yahsat play 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. We believe with the launch of this very large program they are going to become one of the very big players in the region.
Satellite News: What will be the specific roles of Thales and Astrium on the program?
Sourisse: We are in charge of delivering the space segment, and Astrium is in charge of delivering the ground segment. We will also procure the launches. The contract implies the procurement of ground stations for which three companies are involved: Thales, EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.
Satellite News: What are your expectations for the commercial satellite market throughout the next 12 months?
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.
Satellite News: How are launch failures going to impact the satellite manufacturing market?
Sourisse: The Proton failure is obviously bad news for our sector. We hope that ILS and Proton will be able to be back on the market as soon as possible. There is a big need from satellite operators to be able to launch their satellites. For the time being, there is more demand in terms of finding launchers than launch capability. It would be very important to our customers that the Proton launcher can go back onto the market quickly.
Satellite News: 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.
Satellite News: Will these failures as well as other events such as the SES long-term launch deal open the doors for launch service providers out of India and China?
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.
Satellite News: 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.
Satellite News: Do you see there being many opportunities for Thales Alenia Space 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 defence systems like Germany and Spain.
Recently, in Toulouse, we had the Defense University Summit organized by the French parliament. The main theme of this summit was space. Obviously space brings the capacity to communicate, observe, monitor, position, navigate and guide. Space is a key component on what we call network-enabled capability or network-centric warfare. Satellite solutions have a role to play in this area.