Melco’s win of the 9th Engineering Test Satellite (ETS-9) for Japan’s Jaxa space agency will trigger a nearly $100-million investment in the Kamakura satellite manufacturing facility, to be completed by mid-2019. Melco is still predicting growth in its space revenue in the next decade, but at a reduced rate from forecasts it made in 2013 during the plant’s previous expansion. Credit: Melco
PARIS — Satellite builder Mitsubishi Electric Co. (Melco) on April 7 said it would invest 11 billion yen ($94 million) to expand its Kamakura satellite production facility on the heels of winning a Japanese government satellite contract.
The capital spending on the Kamakura facility, and the contract to build the Engineering Test Satellite – 9 (ETS-9) satellite for Jaxa, the Japanese space agency, are designed to keep Melco competitive in the market for high-throughput satellites.
In a statement, Melco said its current DS 2000 satellite frame is facing “intense competition in the market for new, higher-power” telecommunications satellites.
ETS-9 up to 25 kilowatts, with HTS market the target
ETS-9 will provide up to 25 kilowatts of power to its payload and use 6-kilowatt Hall electric thrusters, Japan-made, in its all-electric design. It will also carry Japan-built GPS receivers for autonomous orbital maneuvering and orbit transfer.
Melco said building the new 13,000-square-meter facility would permit the company to work on 18 satellites simultaneously, compared to 10 satellites currently. The work is expected to be completed in June 2019, with full plant operations to begin in October of that year.
The company the investment is based on forecasts of increased Japanese government demand for navigation, communications and Earth observation. In addition to its domestic government market, Mitsubishi’s business forecast includes winning two commercial satellites per year in the next decade.
Melco has won several export contracts for its DS 2000 product, notably a two-satellite order from Turksat of Turkey and a contract with Qatari operator Es’hailSat for the Es’hail 2 satellite.
Es’hailSat recently announced that this satellite’s launch would be delayed to 2018 but the company did not respond to requests for comment on the cause of the delay. Es’hail-2 is scheduled for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The Es’hail 2 competition was notable for the fact that Melco was able to underbid its U.S. and European competitors by 10-15 percent to win the bidding, according to Es’hailSat.
Reduced satellite business growth forecast
Melco said it expects its total space-related revenue to reach 150 billion yen a year by 2021. This represents a pullback from revenue projections the company made in 2013 at the time of an earlier investment in the Kamakura facility. Melco had forecast then that its space revenue would double, to 200 billion yen, by 2021.
The company does not separate out space-related revenue in its financial accounts.