New package could set trend by relating premiums to in-orbit performance rather than platform/launch vehicle history

SES Americom has won a $1.3 billion-plus insurance package with Marsh-Space covering six communications satellites, in what could herald reduced rates and a new type of deal for satellite operators.

SES Americom will be awarded rebates if the performance of the launches and satellites are acceptable. What makes the agreement unusual is that the flexible rates will depend on the performance of the satellites in orbit and not on the historical performance of the spacecraft platform and launch vehicle. If the launches and spacecraft are successful, it could result in insurance rates below those charged in 2000, industry sources believe.

The satellites are being built by Alcatel Space and Lockheed Martin and will be launched on International Launch Services (ILS) and Arianespace boosters between January 2003 and late 2004.

AMC 9, a hybrid C- and Ku-band Alcatel Space-built satellite, will be launched by an ILS Proton K next January, and will be followed in late 2003 by another Alcatel satellite, the C-band AMC 12, on a Proton M/Briz M. AMC 13, another C-band Alcatel-built spacecraft, will follow on an Ariane 5 ECA launch. Two ILS Atlas launches of Lockheed Martin-built C-band satellites AMC-10 and 11 will take place in early 2004, while AMC 15 - a hybrid Ku-Ka band Lockheed Martin craft - will also be launched on a similar Ariane 5 in late-2004.

Meanwhile, satellite operator PanAmSat (PAS) and remote-sensing company Space Imaging are adjusting their strategies after being hit by the downturn in business. PAS has cancelled an order from Boeing Satellite Systems for a 601HP craft to be launched by a Boeing-led Sea Launch booster, but will have to pay $72 million to Boeing. PAS has also cut its launch schedule to just four by 2006.

Space Imaging, of which Lockheed Martin owns 46%, says it is uncertain it "will be able to raise needed additional funding". Lockheed Martin has already invested $140 million in the company.

Source: Flight International