Space electronics and communications company Harris has won its first opportunity to become a prime contractor for a civilian satellite system.

GE American Communications has awarded it a contract to build the first of a planned fleet of Ka-band communications satellites. In the past, Melbourne, Florida-based Harris has primarily been a military space subcontractor.

Unusually, Harris will build the payload, but will subcontract spacecraft bus construction to Aerospatiale. Up to nine GE satellites are planned, bringing the value of the project to $3 billion.

The Ka-band frequency is seen as the future for communications satellite systems, providing very high speed data Internet-related services to small-terminal users.

Source: Flight International