SES orders replacement software-defined satellite from Thales

TAMPA, Fla. – SES announced March 28 that it has ordered a software-defined geostationary satellite from Thales Alenia Space to expand content and connectivity services in Europe, Africa and Asia.

SES-26, the third satellite that the Luxembourg-based fleet operator has ordered from Thales Alenia Space since November, will carry a communications payload that can be reprogrammed in orbit to adapt to changing mission requirements.

SES chief technology officer Ruy Pinto said the satellite is expected to launch in 2024 or 2025, although the company has not selected a launch provider.

SES-26 is the final satellite in a three-satellite contract with Thales Alenia Space to replace spacecraft that are approaching the end of their operational lives. This was announced by SES in November that it had ordered ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q under this contract.

ASTRA 1Q is a software-defined satellite, while ASTRA 1P is a classic wide-beam spacecraft that cannot be reprogrammed in orbit. Both ASTRA satellites are scheduled for launch in 2024 at 19.2 degrees East to replace four spacecraft primarily serving the broadcast market.

SES-26 will provide Ku-band and C-band frequencies with its software-defined payload from 57 degrees East, the company said, where it will replace the operator’s retired NSS-12 satellite, which was launched in 2009.

When asked if SES intends to replace its entire geostationary orbit (GEO) fleet with software-defined satellites, Pinto said, “Whenever the business case requires it, yes, we will look at future-proofing our satellites.”

According to a study by Euroconsult, software-defined satellites accounted for more than 80% of GEO high-throughput satellite orders in 2021.

SES said SES-26 will be a key platform in support of government communications solutions and is “synergic” with the company’s recently announced ones Acquisition of DRS GESwhich provides managed satcom services for government agencies.

Ethiopia’s free-to-air service Ethiosat also uses 57 degrees East to broadcast to 10 million TV homes across the country.

Pinto said that despite pandemic-related supply chain issues, ASTRA 1P and ASTRA 1Q remain on track to be ready for a 2024 launch Delay of several satellite projects.

The French satellite operator Eutelsat said on February 17 It expects sales to slump through 2023 as it awaits two delayed spacecraft from Thales Alenia Space.

The operator’s Konnect VHTS is now scheduled to be operational in the second half of 2023 rather than the first, while Eutelsat 10B will be delayed within its existing window of the first half of 2023.

Canadian satellite operator Telesat announced on March 18 that its Telesat Lightspeed constellation is in low Earth orbit delayed by about a year after Thales Alenia Space encountered supply chain problems.

According to Pinto, SES was able to avoid the interruption.

“We have five satellites under construction [Thales Alenia Space] now, and they were on the right track,” he said.

“Indeed, SES-22, a C-band satellite for the US, is ahead of schedule and will be the first C-band satellite we launch this summer.”

SES anticipates launches this year, which will deploy a total of 14 satellites for the company, including five GEO satellites for C-band spectrum clearing and nine satellites for its medium-Earth orbit O3b mPower constellation.

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