In the past couple of years, we have seen a steady reduction in the costs of manufacturing and launching communications satellites. Smaller satellites built for low-earth orbit, standard satellite designs, reusable rockets, and launch vehicles capable of delivering multiple satellites per mission have combined to make space more affordable for new users, allowing more and more governments to make space a vital part of the communications strategy. The number of countries and commercial enterprises owning their own satellites is projected to increase dramatically in the next decade.
However, being able to afford manufacturing and launching a satellite is quite a bit different than meeting the twin challenges of first, getting the satellite from the drawing board and into orbit, and second, operating the spacecraft throughout its useful life. Just as new space entrants will hire experts to build and launch a satellite, they can also find specialists for a range of what the industry calls Satellite Related Services (SRS).
Space is not an environment to “learn on the job.” Many companies outsource non-core IT functions like cloud services or payroll processing, and they can outsource pretty much all phases of launching and operating satellites as well. Intelsat currently operates 23 third- party spacecraft for a number of clients.
These SRS clients are serviced by the same highly-qualified and experienced engineering and operational staff that successfully manages Intelsat’s own satellite constellation of 50 satellites. SRS customers, depending on the type of service, may also have access to Intelsat’s global network of teleports and fiber, providing other avenues to greatly reduce their satellite operating expenses.
SRS services include:
- Satellite procurement and oversight of construction
- Launch integration support
- Transfer-orbit support services (TOSS), which begin when a client satellite reaches space and separates from the launch rocket and ends when the satellite is at its final orbital/service position
- In-orbit testing (IOT) of client satellite and payload
- Telemetry, Tracking, & Commanding (TT&C), sometimes called Telemetry, Commanding and Ranging (TCR), for the life of the client satellite. Intelsat’s TT&C network accesses more than 198 TOSS and TT&C antenna systems at over 20 globally dispersed locations.
- Customer co-location and hosting services, with options that include space for antenna systems, equipment racks or even backup or emergency restoration facilities.
SRS customers include both satellite manufacturers and the manufacturer’s customer taking delivery of the spacecraft. Intelsat has even provided TOSS and IOT services to our competitors. Whomever the client, our customers know their data is safe. Confidentiality is taken very seriously – the Intelsat SRS and service delivery teams do not divulge any information about a customer program to any other departments within Intelsat or outside the company without customer approval.
In 2017, the Intelsat SRS and Satellite Operations teams successfully managed and delivered 28 TOSS, 5 IOT, and 7 TT&C project engagements. In addition, a relatively new service offering has emerged. Most TT&C service agreements are made for the life of the client spacecraft. However, recently companies are coming to Intelsat for backup TT&C services as a part of their disaster recovery plans, or if they have pending extended maintenance periods scheduled for their existing TT&C resources.
In light of the forecasted increase in independent satellite operators, Intelsat is investing in enhanced ground station capabilities globally to be able to support more missions. International consulting firm Euroconsult recently published research on worldwide government spending in space. The report noted that the number of countries investing in space has gone from 30 in 2000 to a projected 80 in 2026. The report also estimates a market value of all communications satellites to be $12 billion over the upcoming decade, more than double that of the previous decade.
Intelsat has the design, build, and in-flight expertise that spans all of the major spacecraft manufacturers and operators. Intelsat is uniquely qualified to offer SRS and will continue to expand these service offerings to meet the existing and future needs of Corporations and Government agencies around the world.