Four of the leading operators of communications satellites have announced the formation of a Coalition for Competitive Launches. The coalition is aimed at enhancing worldwide competition in the provision of commercial satellite launches, a business led today by Russian and French companies.
The four members of the coalition, all of which provide a broad range of commercial satellite services in the United States including direct-to-home television, video distribution, broadband, and government services by satellite, are EchoStar, Intelsat, SES and Telesat.
Providing leadership for the group is former US Senator John W. Warner (R-VA), a nationally recognized defense and national security expert and former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“This coalition is focused on providing greater, and more cost-effective, access to space. It seeks to increase launch vehicle options that could ultimately lower costs for users of communications satellites, while addressing the concerns of the US Government regarding the potential transfer of sensitive satellite technology,” said Sen. Warner.
“Those users include American consumers and other international audiences who watch television and use the Internet, all of the major US programmers, telecommunications companies, US industry, and of course the US Government, which relies extensively on commercial satellites for national security, public safety and other critical communications.”
The global market for launch vehicles capable of lifting large commercial satellites into orbit has been greatly affected by two developments.
First, the formerly competitive US launch vehicles, the Atlas and the Delta, are now manufactured by a single company, United Launch Alliance (ULA), which dedicates virtually all of its capacity to launching satellites owned by the US Government, leaving essentially no capacity available for commercial satellite launches.
Second, one of the world’s most reliable launchers is manufactured in China and has effectively been treated as “off-limits” to US satellite companies for more than a decade.
Sen. Warner said: “We call on the Defense Department, the State Department and other national security arms of our Executive Branch to take a new look at our country’s launch vehicle capabilities and relevant export control policies. Current US policies can and should be reformed to encourage competition and diversification for satellite operators, consistent with U.S. national security considerations.”