An artist’s conception of the future mu Space satellite. Credit: Mu Space

SINGAPORE — Startup satellite operator mu Space Corp. on June 25 issued a request for proposals for a geostationary-orbit telecommunications satellite to operate at 50.5 degrees east following an agreement with global fleet operator SES.

It is not entirely clear what Mu Space’s rights are to the 50.5-degree slot, which has been subject of dispute between Thai national operator Thaicom and the Thai government for years.

In 2012, SES moved its NSS-5 slot to the 50.5 slot as part of what was intended to be a broader cooperation agreement with Thaicom.

Thaicom had intended to place its Thaicom 9 satellite at the slot, but ran into regulatory obstacles as Thai authorities sought to shift their relationship with Thaicom to a more-costly concession model. As the uncertainty persisted, Softbank withdrew as a prospective major Thaicom 9 customer.

Thaicom subsequently cancelled the satellite and its growth prospects, and relationship with Thai authorities, are now uncertain.

Mu Space has struck agreements with SES and ground network provider Hughes Network Systems to build out a satellite broadband/IoT network. Mu Space said it would retain spectrum rights via SES. With SES, Mu Space has leased capacity on the SES-8 and SES-12 satellites from 95 degrees east.

On June 21, mu Space Chief Executive James Yenbamroom addressed the spectrum-rights issue:

“I believe we will get the go-ahead soon as mu Space leads in the satellite and space industry in the region. Securing the 50.5-degree East orbital slot for Thailand is important not only to us, but also a top government priority as the validity of satellite network filings belonging to the Kingdom of Thailand at the 50.5 degree East orbital slot could be challenged if no immediate action is taken to continue to protect those rights.”

“Mu Space announced earlier a commercial deal a commercial deal with SES to deliver satellite-based broadband and mobile services to rural communities in Thailand using satellite capacity on SES-8 and SES-12.

“We’re ready anytime to roll out the service in Thailand. We’re just waiting for the final approval from the government,” he said.

Mu Space said its request for proposals from satellite manufacturers followed an orbital-slot agreement with SES and is for a high-throughput satellite to be launched “in the early 2020s.” It did not provide details on the satellite’s coverage or throughput, or about the company’s financing. The company has signed a launch agreement with Blue Origin, whose New Glenn rocket is in development.