- Alcatel Space has signed a contract with International Launch Services (ILS) for launch of two spacecraft for GE Americom in 2002 and 2003. The contract allows for Proton launches with the ILS ‘guaranteed launch back up’ of Lockheed Martin-built Atlas V in the event of Proton launch delay. This is the first geostationary transfer orbit launch contract awarded directly to a US launch services company by Alcatel. The contract follows on from an order from GE Americom confirmed April 23 for three satellites. GE2E, a 40 transponder craft, will go to 24 degrees West and use Alcatel’s Spacebus 4000 platform. Another craft, GE3E, is being built as a ground spare. Alcatel’s third contract covers a 48-transponder craft (24 in C-band, 24 in Ku) destined for 79 degrees West and slated for in-orbit launch next year. According to an ILS statement, ILS Atlas and Proton have launched four Alcatel Space-built spacecraft. With the addition of these extra two for GE Americom, there are six launches of Alcatel satellites in the backlog. GE Americom contracted with ILS last year for two launches slated for 2003. In addition, the GE-1A and GE-6 satellites were launched successfully aboard Proton within three weeks of each other last October.
- UK digital terrestrial platform ONdigital is expected to announce a change of name to ITV Digital on April 25. Analysts are also predicting a disappointing gain of just 33,000 subscribers for the January-March 2001 period, taking ITV Digital to just over one million subscribers. Churn, according to analysts Merrill Lynch, has increased to 25 per cent, although Merrill Lynch says the name change to ITV Digital will “make the [brand] significantly more powerful”.
- Although India’s GSAT had a successful launch on April 18 from the Sriharikota space port in south eastern India, a malfunction in the GSLV-D1 rocket resulted in a failure to reach its target transfer orbit to GEO location. GSAT has a lower-than-expected orbit with an apogee of 32,051km instead of the 35,975km expected. In addition, the orbit is 19.2 degrees inclined instead of 19 degrees as planned. The Indian Space Research Organisation is, according to local reports, “confident that the satellite can be made to serve its design life of three years”.
- Russia’s Khrunichev State Space Science and Production Centre will supply five new cryogenic engines, 12 KRB, for the Indian GSLV rockets within the next two or three years, according to Khrunichev general director Alexander Medvedev.
- PanAmSat’s PAS-10 Indian Ocean Region satellite arrived in Kazakhstan last week in preparation for its May launch from Baikonur. PAS-10 contains 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders, and will succeed the PAS-4 Indian Ocean Region satellite at 68.5 degrees East.
- Orbit Satellite Television and Radio Network has named Harmonic as the prime system integrator for its new DTH pay-TV system and has selected Harmonic’s head-end compression system for its services on both the Arabsat 2A and Nilesat 102 satellites. Orbit is scheduled to begin delivering over 150 channels of video and radio programming in English, Arabic and French to more than 23 countries in North Africa and the Middle East by July 2001.
- Africa’s long-proposed RASCOM craft is, according to local reports, to be funded by Libya. According to the Jana news agency the project will come to life “within the framework of the Great Jamahiriyah’s [Libya’s] effort to consolidate the African Union declaration”. Alcatel is reportedly the prime contractor.
- Norsat International Inc has signed an agreement with PanAmSat to supply 20,000 C-band LNBs for a broadband project to enable 7,000 cable affiliates to receive programming from a constellation of five of PanAmSat’s Galaxy satellites. The components will be used to support a Multi-Beam Feed system for the project involving programme distribution customers such as ABC Cable Networks Group, ABC, ESPN, HBO and TBS. Delivery is scheduled to start immediately.