Alcatel to build new GE satellites; ILS to launch them
Posted: April 24, 2001

A Spacebus 3000-series satellite under construction in the factory. Photo: Alcatel
France-based Alcatel Space has signed a contract with International Launch Services (ILS) for launch of two spacecraft for GE American Communications Inc. in 2002 and 2003.

The contract allows for launch on the Khrunichev-built Proton rocket, with a Lockheed Martin-built Atlas V as backup to assure in-orbit delivery dates. Financial terms were not disclosed.

This is the first geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) launch contract awarded directly to a U.S. launch services company by Alcatel Space.

"We're delighted to have Alcatel Space as a first-time direct partner," said ILS President Mark J. Albrecht. "The decision to entrust these two launches to ILS is a tribute to the reliability our launch vehicles have continuously demonstrated."

Jean-Claude Husson, Alcatel Space president and CEO, stated: "I am pleased to have signed this new contract, not only because it is our first signed directly with an American launch services provider for geostationary satellites, but also because the award illustrates the truly international nature of the space industry.

"We have GE Americom, a leading U.S. satellite telecommunications operator, working with Alcatel Space, Europe's leading satellite systems exporter. Alcatel Space in turn is contracting with International Launch Services, the leader in its industry, which provides services on the Russian Proton and American Atlas," Husson continued.

Alcatel is building one of the new satellites based on the Spacebus 3000 platform, and the other on a Spacebus 4000 model. The satellites will provide GE Americom with an expected 16-plus years of lifetime each, for offering digital television and entertainment services as well as interactive multimedia applications.

The relationship among the companies is founded on several successful launches. To date, ILS' Atlas and Proton have launched four Alcatel Space-built spacecraft. With the addition of the two for GE Americom, there are six launches of Alcatel satellites in the backlog.

GE Americom contracted with ILS last year for two launches slated for 2003. In addition, the GE-1A and GE-6 satellites were launched successfully aboard Proton within three weeks of each other last October.

Proton rocket lifts off with GE-6. Photo: ILS
ILS is the only launch service provider that offers two dedicated, independent launch systems with exemplary reliability records. The Proton accomplished an unprecedented 14 launches in 2000, all of them successful. The Atlas has surpassed all other launch vehicles in dependability with 54 consecutive successful flights, and is the only launch system with continuous first-flight mission success.

"By offering mutual backup on two of the premier launch vehicles in the world, we offer our customers the peace-of-mind that they'll have a launch when they need it," Albrecht said.

The satellite using the Spacebus 3000 platform is expected to be delivered in 2002. This model has been in production at Alcatel Space for almost six years. The spacecraft is designed for North American service and will be equipped with 48 transponders: 24 will provide C-band capacity for the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean; 24 will provide Ku-band coverage of the United States and Mexico.

The second spacecraft, a direct-broadcast Ku-band 40-transponder satellite, will also feature two steerable beams. Planned for operation from 24 degrees West, it will use the Spacebus 4000 platform, which has been in production at Alcatel Space for five years.

By the end of 2003, the new European satellite will extend the coverages and services currently provided by Americom via the GE-1E satellite at 5 degrees East.

Alcatel Space ranks among the world's leading space systems prime contractors. Leveraging its dual expertise in civil and military applications, Alcatel Space develops satellite technology solutions for telecommunications, navigation, optical and radar observation, meteorology and scientific applications.

With partners around the world, subsidiaries throughout Europe and a strong commitment to R&D, Alcatel Space plays an important role as prime contractor, operator, investor or service provider in most of today's leading space programs. The company is also Europe's No. 1 prime contractor for Earth observation, meteorology and navigation ground segments, as well as space systems operations.

A jointly owned subsidiary of Alcatel (51%) and Thales (49%), Alcatel Space generated revenues of 1.4 billion euros in 2000 and has 6,000 employees. For more information, visit

ILS, headquartered in McLean, Va., was established in 1995 as a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services and Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International. It provides launch services to customers worldwide using both the American Atlas and the Russian Proton rocket families.

ILS' Atlas rockets and their Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company-Astronautics Operations. The three-stage Proton is produced by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and the fourth stage is built by RSC Energia.

ILS offers the broadest range of launcher products in the world along with the highest reliability in the industry.