Airbus officials have said they booked five telecommunications satellite orders in 2016. Industry officials say the orders include military telecommunications spacecraft for the governments of Indonesia, Egypt (with Thales Alenia Space) and South Korea — with the last being made through Lockheed Martin. The two other orders, for commercial customers, are the DirecTV-16 for DirecTV of the United States, and the Eutelsat 5 West B for Paris-based Eutelsat, an order won in partnership with Orbital ATK — not a regular Airbus partner in satellite orders. Eutelsat says strict adherence to design-to-cost guidelines enabled it to save 30 percent on capex compared to a conventionally procured satellite. Eutelsat 5 West B is pictured here. Credit: Orbital ATK
PARIS — Airbus’s space division on Feb. 22 reported a 3 percent decline in revenue for 2016, to 3.67 billion euros ($3.9 billion), a figure that does not account for the approximately 1 billion euros in business that was sold or otherwise transferred in 2016.
The company said it booked orders for five telecommunications satellites in 2016. It did not name them but industry officials said the orders include three military communications satellites — for South Korea, via Lockheed Martin; a large mobile communications satellite system for Indonesia; and an order from the Egyptian military that was won in partnership with Thales Alenia Space.
Airbus’s two orders from commercial customers include the DirecTV-16 satellite for AT&T’s DirecTV and the Eutelsat 5 West B satellite for Paris-based fleet operator Eutelsat, a bid jointly won with Orbital ATK of the United States.
Airbus in 2016 booked a net capital gain of 1.175 billion euros resulting from the formation of a launch-vehicle joint venture, Airbus Safran Launchers, which is jointly owned with Safran. The gain is slightly higher than expected. Airbus Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said the increase resulted from an updated assessment of the value of the assets Airbus contributed to ASL.
Safran contributed 750 million euros to Airbus to retain a 50 percent stake in the venture, which is prime contractor for the Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets.
On Dec. 31, the French space agency, CNES, sold its 34.68 percent stake in the Arianespace commercial launch consortium to ASL for about 150 million euros, giving ASL a 74 percent stake in Arianespace.
Airbus said in its Feb. 22 financial statement that the allocation of the CNES purchase price “is ongoing” and would not be finalized until mid-2017.
146 million euros from sale of Vizada to Apax
Airbus’s Communications, Intelligence & Security (CIS) division in 2016 sold its commercial mobile satellite communications services division, formerly known as Vizada, to private-equity investor Apax Partners. Airbus said the sale resulted in a gain of 146 million euros to its Defence and Space division in 2016.
In a conference call with investors, Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders saluted the defense and space division’s 2016 performance, saying new orders for the year were up 10 percent from 2015 after stripping out the effects of the businesses no longer part of the division’s financial accounting.
Enders said telecommunications satellites, plus Earth observation and science spacecraft, fueled the increase in orders.
Five geostationary-orbit telecommunications satellites booked in 2016
Airbus’s telecommunications satellite orders in 2016 reflect the evolution of the global satellite telecommunications sector. The Airbus satellites — and in Egypt, the Airbus/Thales product, with Thales providing the payload electronics — represent the first time that Egypt, Indonesia and South Korea order fully military spacecraft rather than having military payloads on otherwise commercial satellites.
Indonesia’s SatKomHan is a large L-band satellite, a project similar to Mexico’s MexSat system, whose spacecraft are provided by Boeing Satellite Systems. SatKomHan has been debated for years in Indonesia but a firm order for the satellite was booked in 2016, industry officials said.
Indonesian authorities have kept their L-band rights alive most recently by renting, from Avanti of London, the Artemis multi-band satellite, which has an L-band payload and was built for the 22-nation European Space Agency before being sold, for a symbolic sum, to Avanti as Artemis neared retirement.
Artemis, now at 123 degrees east, is in highly inclined orbit to save fuel. It was launched in 2001.
Egypt’s military satellite, which has been known as Navisat, narrowly survived a review by international frequency regulators, who ultimately allowed Egypt to use broadcast frequencies that otherwise would have been revoked because of the project’s multiple delays.
The South Korean military communications satellite order to Airbus came from Lockheed Martin Corp. after issues arose with Lockheed’s plan to provide its own spacecraft as part of a broad offset program accompanying the sale of F-35 jet fighters to Indonesia’s military. http://bit.ly/2kX6Us9
For DirecTV, the award of the DirecTV-16 satellite to Airbus confirms Airbus’s status at the U.S. satellite-television broadcaster, which for many years purchased only U.S.-built satellites before purchasing two Airbus systems. DirecTV-16 will be the third. http://bit.ly/2lqtz0l
The Eutelsat satellite win forced a marriage of convenience between Airbus and Orbital ATK. Orbital’s proven small satellite platform design will be fitted with an Airbus payload.
Eutelsat officials said the Eutelsat 5 West B procurement, conducted under the company’s new design-to-cost policy, represents a savings of some 30 percent over satellites produced under conventional procurements.
Peter B. de Selding