Tim Furniss/LONDON

Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) is to build the spacecraft buses for six E-SAT low earth orbiting data messaging satellites under a contract with California-based DBS Industries. The contract is part of a $47 million deal, which includes two launches of three E-SAT satellites each by the German-Russian Eurokot venture.

Eurokot's Rokot booster was selected by E-SAT before it was taken over by DBS and its partner, Echostar Communications, last year.

SSTL was the original choice of Alcatel, which signed a $2 million contract with DBS last year to begin design work on the constellation as potential prime contractor. A definitive $111 million contract for Alcatel to lead the project and provide the communications payload was scheduled to have been signed last month, but alternative potential prime contractors are being considered following Alcatel's review of its involvement.

DBS was required to start construction of at least two of the E-SATs by 1 April to meet Federal Communications Commission regulations, forcing the SSTL contract to be pushed through without Alcatel's involvement. SSTL will become a shareholder in the E-SAT programme.

The E-SAT work is a major boost for Guildford, UK-based SSTL, which has developed 14 50kg (110lb) domestic and international microsatellites, including two for Alcatel.

SSTL's first new 350kg Minisatellite will be launched on 21 April on a Dnepr launcher from Baikonur, Kazakhstan (Flight International, 31 March-6 April).

Source: Flight International