Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stuck Solar Array Threatens Telesats South America Push

The Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul 2 telecommunications satellite launched May 21 has failed to deploy one of its two solar arrays, a defect that, if permanent, will curtail owner Telesat Canada’s growth plans in South America, Telesat and satellite builder Space Systems/Loral announced May 25.

The satellite’s south array has fully deployed and is providing power, but the north array has not. Ottawa-based Telesat said that if the situation is not corrected, Telstar 14R will be able to provide “at a minimum” the same level of service of the satellite it is replacing, the Telstar 14/Estrela do Sol spacecraft launched in 2004.

Telesat has been counting on Telstar 14R to do much more than replace its predecessor at 63 degrees west. Arriving on station at a time of substantial unmet demand for satellite bandwidth in Latin America, particularly Brazil, the satellite was seen as a source of growth for Telesat. The company is weighing several options for selling its equity, either through an outright purchase by private-equity investors, or through an initial public offering of stock.

In a May 5 conference call with investors, Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said Telstar 14 is just about filled given the strong demand in Latin America, and that Telstar 14R’s arrival would enable Telesat to pick up new business.

Telstar 14R has the equivalent of 58 Ku-band transponders, compared to 41 on Telstar 14.

The satellite, a Loral 1300 model, weighed about 5,000 kilograms at launch and was expected to operate for at least 15 years in orbit. It was launched aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a launch that ILS and Telesat said went smoothly.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Space Systems/Loral said in a May 25 statement that it is “analyzing data from the satellite to determine what steps can be taken to maximize the satellite’s lifespan and capability.”

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