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Launch Panel: World Satellite Business Week

September 12, 2017
Kirk Pysher

World Satellite Business Week was held in Paris and takes place yearly in September. It brings together close to one thousand of the most influential representatives in the global satellite communications and information business for five days of discussion, debate and networking. ILS President Kirk Pysher participated in the panel discussion with other key launch services providers, discussing the topic of the changing launch market on September 12.

Looking back at last year’s panel on new launch capabilities, Pysher reflected on the announcement by ILS on the expansion of the Proton launch family with 2-stage Proton Medium and Proton Light vehicles.  These vehicles are designed to serve the light to medium lift satellites, an emerging market that is highly competitive.

With this year’s panel focused on change in the launch industry, the two-stage Proton Variant vehicles are products of change since they have been adapted to evolved spacecraft propulsion and mass characteristics. Just one month after ILS introduced the Proton Variants, the first Proton Medium contract for longtime customer Eutelsat was under contract.  Proton Medium Variant can utilize the 5 or 4-meter payload fairing with the benefits of the flight-proven Proton M configuration and spacecraft insertion history. The development program for Proton Medium is moving ahead on schedule, according to Pysher.

The conversation on the panel shifted to even smaller satellites and how these key launch services providers are addressing that evolving market.

“I believe that the most effective and reliable ride for them is with us who are sitting here today,” said Pysher referring to the five members of the panel, all established players in the market, most serving the commercial satellite industry exclusively.  He added that there could be a niche market for the small launchers.

ILS is seeing a lot of interest from small satellite operators, Pysher said, and they are competitively offering a more affordable option. According to Pysher, it is frequently more expensive to launch a small satellite than manufacture a small satellite, and that can be an economic barrier for some smaller operators.

“By being able to accommodate the smallsat market, we can reduce the launch cost of the primary customer that is going to GEO,” he said. “We can also provide the small satellite with a reliable and effective ride, which is a challenge for them today.”

ILS conducted its second Proton launch of the year the morning of the panel, delivering Hispasat’s Amazonas-5 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. This was the 95th mission for ILS Proton.  AsiaSat9 is scheduled to launch on September 28.  With AsiaSat 9, it will mark three Proton launches in just six weeks. ILS also launched the heaviest satellite launched to date at over 6.8 Metric Tons with EchoStar XXI in June.

The first fully commercial shared Proton launch planned for late 2018 with the Eutelsat 5 West B satellite and MEV-1, the first Mission Extension Vehicle developed by Orbital ATK, was announced this year.   The shared launch capability is not new for Proton, however, as the vehicle has been launching multiple satellites for many years for the Federal program.

Back to back launches and overlapping campaigns are challenging but ILS has this capability with the availability of a second spacecraft processing facility in Baikonur and a team of professionals that are fully dedicated to mission success.

ILS is one of the key launch services providers in the industry and has been for 22 years. ILS is poised to providing value to operators, and continuing to serve the industry, as access to space with the key mainstay providers, is critical to enabling global commercial satellite services.


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