New Skies Satellites has awarded Boeing a contract to build and launch a high-power C/Ku-band communications satellite which will be used to provide full coverage of the Americas.

The 88-transponder Boeing 702 satellite, designated NSS-8, will be launched in October 2003 by the Boeing-led Sea Launch joint venture. New Skies, based in the Netherlands, operates five ex-Intelsat spacecraft and also has two new satellites on order from Lockheed Martin - NSS-7 intended for launch in November over the Atlantic Ocean followed by NSS-6 in October 2002 over Asia.

The Boeing agreement includes options for two more 702s, "for which we have not yet developed business plans", says New Skies chief executive Bob Ross, noting that the company will require a new Pacific Ocean satellite as well as a backup for NSS-8, which will be positioned at 105° W.

New Skies was formed in 1998 by the partial privatisation of Intelsat. The company plans to add one new satellite a year over its first five years. The NSS-8 and the 60-transponder NSS-6 will add new capacity, while the 110-transponder NSS-7 is intended to replace two satellites that are out of fuel.

New Skies asked Boeing to build the powerful and flexible NSS-8 spacecraft in a bid to take on the incumbents in the Americas market with a single satellite. It will have 14kW of payload power, 46 C- and 42 Ku-band transponders and no fewer than 16 beams covering North, Central and South America. Boeing says its complex antenna array is the most challenging aspect of the design.

As NSS-8 will weigh 5,700kg (12,570lb), its launch requires an uprated version of Sea Launch's Russian Zenit-3SL launcher.

Sea Launch has also been selected by Boeing to fly two Spaceway satellites for Hughes Network Systems in late 2002 and early 2003. The Ka-band phased-array spacecraft are expected to weigh up to 6,000kg, says Boeing.

Sea Launch says the current payload to geostationary transfer orbit of 5,250kg will be increased to 5,750kg by the second quarter of 2002 and to 6,000kg by the fourth quarter. The Zenit-3SL, however, is designed to have a "minimum of 6,000kg" capacity.

Source: Flight International