Lockheed Martin-led International Launch Services (ILS) has had a bumper month, launching two Boeing communications satellites in three days and picking up two orders for its Atlas V.

The Astra 2C communications satellite, built for Luxembourg's Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), was launched by a Russian Proton booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 16 June. An Atlas IIAS from Cape Canaveral flew on 19 June, with the first Boeing-built satellite for new ICO Global Communications.

Both satellites are based on the successful Boeing 601 spacecraft bus, with Astra 2C being a standard 601HP model equipped with 40 high-power Ku-band transponders for broadband communications. ICO's satellite is specially modified to provide third-generation wireless services such as mobile voice, wireless internet and other packet-data services.

The $225 million ICO spacecraft will test the company's new systems which it hopes will compete in the cellular industry.

ICO can offer speeds of up to144kbit/s, while competing mobile satellite communication systems Iridium and Globalstar operate at only 2.5kbit/s and 9.6kbit/s, respectively.

The 3.6t Astra 2C is destined for a standard 36,000km (22,360 miles) circular geostationary orbit, while the 2.7t ICO will be placed into a hybrid circular medium-Earth orbit at 10,390km.

Boeing has built nine satellites for SES. A tenth satellite, Astra 3A, is scheduled for launch next year.

ILS has also won two commercial launches on its new Atlas V booster. ILS president Mark Albrecht values the contract at between $150 million and $200 million, but will not identify the customers.

The first Atlas V will be launched in mid-2002 and will complement the Atlas III series after the Atlas IIAS retires.

Source: Flight International