By Chris Forrester
Israel’s satellite operator Spacecom has rights to an important DTH broadcasting orbital slot over Europe and Africa at 17 degrees East. However, a major problem with a temporary satellite placed into the position could mean the loss of the position.
The problem started when Spacecom bought a second-hand satellite from AsiaSat (AsiaSat-2) last year as a temporary ‘gap-filler’, for $45 million, and moved it to the 17 deg East slot. On August 9th Spacecom told the Tel Aviv stock exchange that there was a problem with AsiaSat-2 and that it had far less fuel on board than was originally thought. AsiaSat-2 had operated for some 13 years since launch.
Spacecom is building two new satellites, Amos-4 and Amos-5 (and is planning Amos-6). It had been expected that AsiaSat-2 – the now renamed Amos-5i – would secure the slot for the follow-on satellite.
Amos-5 itself is due for launch during mid-2011. Amos-4 is due for launch in 2012, but aboard the as yet commercially untried privately-funded Falcon-9 rocket.
Losing the Amos-5i satellite does not automatically mean the orbital slot is also lost. The ITU usually allows an 18 months grace period, and perhaps up to 24 months in exceptional circumstances, for a replacement satellite to occupy the position. And Spacecom could always rent or buy another second-hand craft to fill the gap should Amos-5 be delayed, or should there be launch problems.
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