VIA SATELLITE: Why did you decide to go with Lockheed Martin for Jabiru-1 and what process did you go through to make that decision?
Ballintine: As a first time satellite purchaser, the process is quite exhausting. We enlisted consultants to help us and Argosat advised us. They were very helpful initially in determining the benefits of all the satellite suppliers: Boeing, Space Systems/Loral, Astrium, Thales, Lockheed Martin, etc. So, there is plethora of companies to choose from. We had our own internal people who were involved in procuring a number of satellites around the world for a number of years. Ultimately, we made a decision on performance and price and the ability of the manufacturer to build to our specifications. We wanted a very specific Ka-band satellite that would perform like a Ku-band satellite with multi-spot, steerable and regional beams. Lockheed Martin was able to do that better than anyone else, at the best time available and at the best possible price.
VIA SATELLITE: With NewSat looking to order a number of new satellites, are you tempted to order all electric satellites from a provider like Boeing?
Ballintine: It absolutely comes into our thinking. This is a very interesting initiative from Boeing and one that cannot be ignored. The price/performance ratio and the time it takes to build the satellites is something we are going to watch eagerly.
VIA SATELLITE: In terms of launch services, would you consider a new entrant like SpaceX at this stage?
Ballintine: When you are a small public company attempting to become a big public company, there are certain behaviors that behoove you and your shareholders. I guess from our perspective, we would like to be as “risk free” as possible in our early stages of development and would be more likely to go down the tried and true path. Lockheed Martin and Arianespace are reflections of that. I think it is fantastic that there are innovations in space and ground technology.
VIA SATELLITE: What would be the total investment in Jabiru-1 to Jabiru-5?
Ballintine: If you worked it out at $400 million per initiative, then you are looking at a total investment of $2 billion in capital expenditure. It is an interesting exercise. If you look at Jabiru-1, it is going to pull something like $2.5 billion in revenues during a 15-year timeframe with very substantial margins. These are healthy, solvent business models. We would expect to be able to replicate that in a number of instances.
VIA SATELLITE: Are you likely to commission more satellites in the near future?
Ballintine: Jabiru-5 will be announced this year, but I am not suggesting that it will be fully funded this year. Five Jabiru satellites will be announced this year with clear customer patterns. We think we will have the launch partners and manufacturers named. From there, we have eight orbital slots and the ability to launch any number of satellites. During the next three years, we will very aggressively attempt to populate those slots with as many satellites as we can. Ultimately it could be between nine and 17 satellites.