A $1.66 billion telecommunications satellite constellation design, construction and management contract has been awarded to a joint team of EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.

To be launched after the second quarter 2010, the constellation, for the new Al Yah Satellite Communications company, will consist of ground infrastructure and two operational satellites, YahSat 1A and YahSat 1B.

Expected to operate for 15 years Yahsat will offer, to both government and commercial customers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and south-west Asia, broadcasting services, including high-definition television, internet trunking via satellite, corporate data networks and back-hauling services for telecom operators.

Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Yahsat chairman and chief operating officer of its holding company, Abu Dhabi-owned Mubadala Development, says: "Demand for satellite communications capacity is booming in the Middle East and North Africa. This is the first time that a government in the region has openly backed such a substantial venture in the satellite communications industry."

Mobile satellite communications company Iridium Satellite has contracted seven companies, Avaliant, Boeing, General Dynamics, KinetX, MicroSat Systems, Trident Sensors, and one unnamed business, for the development of its Next internet protocol based architecture satellite constellation.

Next will offer enhanced services and be deployed on a schedule supporting a smooth transition from Iridium's current constellation of 66 low-Earth orbit, cross-linked satellites.

Meanwhile the 5,900kg (12,900lb) EADS Astrium-built Inmarsat 4-F3 satellite is to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on an International Launch Services Proton Breeze M vehicle in March or April 2008. The F3 will provide the BGAN mobile broadband service, as well as existing services, to the Pacific region.

Source: Flight International