SpaceX, ULA to launch Two Geostationary Satellites for SES

SpaceX, ULA to launch Two Geostationary Satellites for SES

SES said that ULA plans to launch two satellites built by Boeing on a single Atlas 5 in 2022. Also, SpaceX is expected to launch two satellites built by Northrop Grumman on a Falcon 9 rocket the same year

FREMONT, CA: SES, a commercial satellite operator, has selected United Launch Alliance and SpaceX to each launch two geostationary satellites built to replace C-band capacity in the United States that the Federal Communications Commission is repurposing for 5G cellular networks.

The agreement of SpaceX includes room to launch one additional “contingency satellite” that is yet to be ordered.

SES said that ULA plans to launch two satellites built by Boeing on a single Atlas 5 in 2022. Also, SpaceX is expected to launch two satellites built by Northrop Grumman on a Falcon 9 rocket the same year.

SES has put emphasis on its decision to procure exclusively U.S.-built satellites and rockets since the cost for both would be compensated by winning bidders of the FCC’s December C-band spectrum auction. In both launch announcements, SES stated that it is “investing in America” since it works to rewrap customers using 500 megahertz of C-band spectrum today into 200 megahertz by early December 2023.

SES, along with Eutelsat and Intelsat, depend on U.S. companies for replacement C-band satellites and associated infrastructure and services.

The companies informed the FCC two years ago that they would like to exclusively order U.S.-built satellites if the FCC permitted them (with Telesat) to privately auction C-band spectrum, an initiative expected to generate upwards of $60 billion in proceeds.

Due to congressional opposition to a private auction, the FCC eventually selected a public auction where proceeds would be sent to the U.S. treasury. But the FCC adopted auction rules obligating winning bidders to pay for moving costs so that satellite operators can carry on serving their C-band customers.

SES is scrambling to meet a December 2023 target to vacate the spectrum so as to gain $3.97 billion in incentive payments for clearing C-band before the timeline. The FCC makes it mandatory for satellite operators to exit the lower 300 megahertz of C-band by December 2025 but has set up a program to give incentives to exits two years before the timeline. The incentive payments, like the reimbursements for replacement satellites, would come from the auction’s winners.

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