Space News - September 16, 2018

PARIS — One of the two commercial satellite contracts Maxar’s Space Systems Loral (SSL) announced this year now appears in doubt.

This setback comes as parent company Maxar Technologies contemplates exiting the geostationary communications satellite business long dominated by SSL.

In March, SSL announced that it had been chosen to build the BSAT-4b satellite for Japan-based BSAT and the Amos-8 satellite for Israel-based Spacecom.

On Sept. 3, Israel’s Ministry of Science announced that Amos-8 — a replacement for the Amos-6 satellite destroyed during SpaceX’s Falcon 9 fueling mishap in 2016 — will be built in Israel with government financial support.

Israel’s only satellite builder, the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), complained this spring that Spacecom’s selection of SSL to build the Amos-6 replacement put the health of IAI’s satellite assembly line in jeopardy.

In announcing the approval of government funding for “the development and construction of a new communications satellite, Amos-8, to be developed and built in Israel,” Ophir Akumis, Israel’s minister of science and technology said:

“The decision has long-term strategic significance and meets the vital existential needs of the State of Israel. The development and production of the satellite in Israel will enable the maintenance of complete independence in the field of satellite communications. Its construction in Israel will preserve knowledge and expertise in the field acquired over the decades in the local industry.”

In a Sept. 11 interview with SpaceNews during World Satellite Business Week here, Opher Doron, vice president and general manager of IAI’s space division, said he was grateful for the Israeli government’s decision.

“In the GEO business, our main customers are the Israeli customers,” Doron said. “We’re very happy that the government decided a week ago that it will have an Israeli communications satellite, and we are in the process now of getting that program started. Without that order we would have closed down the GEO line.”

Spacecom and SSL declined comment when asked about the status of the Amos-8 award.

SSL’s own public tally of GEO satellite contracts lists the BSAT-4b award but not Amos-8.