Echostar says Jupiter-3 won’t be ready for launch in 2022

TAMPA, Florida — Echostar says satellite builder Maxar Technologies will not deliver its long-awaited Jupiter-3 satellite in time for its launch later in the year on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The head of EchoStar’s Hughes Network Systems said in a May 5 statement that the satellite, which is sorely needed to ease broadband capacity constraints in the Americas, will not launch until the first quarter of 2023.

“This delay is in part due to the reallocation of critical Maxar resources to a higher-priority government-related spacecraft project,” said Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes Networks Systems, the EchoStar subsidiary that operates the Jupiter network.

Maxar declined to directly confirm Kaul’s explanation for the additional delay for the 500 gigabits per second Ka-band satellite.

“Maxar complies with all legal guidelines and regulations that require prioritization of government missions, while ensuring that we maintain our commitment to customer-focused solutions and services,” Maxar said by email on May 5.

Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky said SpaceNews in early april which was looking to deploy the WorldView Legion, a constellation of six imaging satellites, “as soon as possible” to meet growing government demand following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

According to Jablonsky, Maxar’s existing fleet of four imaging spacecraft will be expanded to capacity until high-resolution WorldView Legion satellites are deployed.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the first two WorldView Legion satellites in early summer and then the remaining four in pairs at two three-month intervals.

Jablonsky said that Maxar had “made accommodations with some of our other [imagery] customers in order to increase capacity for the US and allies.”

Maxar is also working on the maintenance mission for the OSAM-1 robotic satellite and the Power and Propulsion Element for the Lunar Gateway that will support human lunar landings, which are both programs for NASA, but neither is expected to launch before 2024. .

“Maxar’s manufacturing facilities are very active building a multitude of government, civil and commercial satellites for customers,” Maxar said by email on May 5. “EchoStar is a valued Maxar customer. We are working hard and looking forward to the successful completion of the Jupiter-3 satellite for them.

satellite delays

Echostar ordered the Jupiter-3 from Maxar in 2017 and initially planned to deploy it in 2021 to cover North and South America, Canada and Mexico.

The satellite is more than double the capacity of Jupiter-2, which launched in 2017 to cover North America, Mexico and Canada.

The Jupiter-3 project has suffered multiple delays stemming from a pandemic that began tightening control of international supply chains in early 2020.

After delaying the decision to choose a launch provider for Jupiter-3 to allow more time for market uncertainty, Echostar leveraged SpaceX in late 2020 for a 2021 launch in geostationary orbit (GEO).

The pandemic continued to disrupt the availability of skilled workers and components across the satellite industry in 2021, forcing Echostar to delay the launch to early 2022.

More pandemic-related setbacks pushed Jupiter-3’s launch date several points in the year before the latest delay knocked it down in 2023.

Other GEO satellites have also experienced pandemic-related delays, even as closures, mask mandates and other restrictions ease around the world amid the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

During its February 3 financial update, Viasat said a pandemic-related shortage of skilled workers pushed Falcon Heavy’s launch of its Boeing-built ViaSat-3 satellite from the first half of 2022 to “late summer.” .

Like the Jupiter-3, the ViaSat-3 is intended to provide high-speed service in the Americas.

In Europe, Eutelsat expects Thales Alenia Space’s two delayed GEO satellites to add to its revenue decline through 2023, the French fleet operator said during its Feb 17 financial results.

And supply chain problems didn’t just affect large GEO satellites.

Canada’s Telesat said on March 18 that ongoing Thales Alenia Space manufacturing delays have delayed completion of its low-Earth-orbit Lightspeed network by one year to 2026.

SES CEO Steve Collar said on May 5 that he has adjusted his launch agreement with SpaceX this year to accommodate “a slightly later delivery” of satellites that Boeing is building for the O3b mPower, the next constellation. operator generation in medium earth orbit.

The operator had previously planned to split the first six O3b mPower satellites between two SpaceX launches in Q2 2022.

Instead, the companies plan to deploy six O3b mPower satellites across three SpaceX launches between July and September, keeping SES on track to commercially launch the upgraded network “starting in early 2023”.

Boeing is building 11 satellites for O3b mPower in total.

Echostar Capacity Crisis

Echostar said revenues increased nearly 4% to $502 million in the three months to the end of March 2022 compared to the same period last year.

But adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, dropped 10.7% to $166 million.

“While the growth of our consumer broadband business has been impacted as a result of our capacity constraints and other factors, we continue to grow revenue by capitalizing on business and government opportunities – both domestically and internationally,” said Echostar’s chief financial officer. , David Rayner. .

“However, this change in our revenue mix has and will continue to pressure our margins” until the company monetizes the additional capacity of Jupiter-3.

Hamid Akhavan, a former partner at private equity firm Twin Point Capital, took over as CEO of Echostar on March 31 after Michael Dugan retired.

Echostar announced on May 2 that Anders Johnson, the company’s chief strategy officer, had notified the company that it plans to step down on June 3 to pursue other opportunities.

Johnson led Echostar’s efforts to expand its S-band business globally with non-geostationary satellites.

Akhavan said his departure should not be seen as a step away from the S-band’s ambitions. On the contrary, he said Echostar is “shifting resources there” to capture what he sees as an emerging opportunity.

However, he said the company is undertaking a “re-examination of our resources and opportunities and an examination of our industry and adjacent verticals, with the aim of reigniting and refining our corporate growth profile.”

This includes potentially making acquisitions to enter new markets.

Echostar recorded $1.5 billion in cash, “Cash Equivalents and Current Marketable Investment Securities” as of March 31.

Akhavan said the benefits of the company’s “exceptionally strong balance sheet – something most of our peers and competitors cannot tell” will become more evident as interest rates rise and the “likelihood of a recessionary environment becomes significant”. .

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