Intelsat orders two flexible GEO satellites for its post-bankruptcy growth plan

TAMPA, Fla. — Intelsat has ordered two software-defined satellites from Thales Alenia Space as the operator nears exit from bankruptcy.

The Intelsat 41 (IS-41) and Intelsat 44 (IS-44) satellites, scheduled to enter service in 2025, will be based on Thales Alenia Space’s Space Inspire platform.

They will join two other satellites that Intelsat ordered from Airbus at the end of 2020 for a new 5G-compatible and reconfigurable network in orbit. Based on Airbus OneSat platform, Intelsat 42 and Intelsat 43 are scheduled to launch in 2023.

IS-41 and IS-44 will provide commercial and government mobility services and cellular backhaul across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Intelsat said in the January 12 announcement.

“With the addition of Intelsat 41 and Intelsat 44, in partnership with Thales Alenia Space, Intelsat will span the Earth with software-defined satellites, advancing the world’s first 5G software-defined network, designed to unify the global ecosystem telecommunications,” said Intelsat CEO Steve Spengler, who plans to leave the company after emerging from bankruptcy.

Samer Halawi, who recently resigned as executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Intelsat, told SpaceNews in October that it had issued a request for proposals (RFP) for 10 software-defined satellites in geostationary orbit.

They are part of a post-restructuring growth strategy that could include the operator’s own low Earth orbit constellation.

Intelsat has been operating under Chapter 11 protection since mid-May 2020, but reached a breakthrough on Dec. 16, when the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a restructuring plan to reduce debt by $16 billion. dollars to $7 billion.

The approval puts Intelsat on track to exit Chapter 11 in early 2022, once the company completes formalities that include fully securing the nearly $8 billion in funding that has been committed to the plan. of restructuring.

Intelsat has eight more satellites under construction in addition to the four software-defined satellites.

Maxar Technologies is building the Intelsat-40e (IS-40e) satellite planned by SpaceX to be launched this year for Intelsat’s high-speed Epic fleet.

Intelsat also has commanded seven spacecraft to help clear C-band spectrum for terrestrial cellular 5G operators in the United States – five from Maxar and two from Northrop Grumman.

Intelsat recently said in a regulatory file that it had received a $1.2 billion milestone payment from the Federal Communications Commission for compensation for part of the spectrum.

The company said the proceeds could be used for capital expenditures (which would include satellite orders), debt reduction or other corporate purposes.

Intelsat expects to receive nearly $5 billion in total from the release of C-band spectrum.

However, satellite operator SES disputes Intelsat’s revenue share by legal action, and a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is scheduled to begin Feb. 7.

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