Intelsat 7 “experienced a sudden and unexpected electrical distribution anomaly” according to the company’s press release; luckily the launch of the IA-8 Ku-band satellite is scheduled for December. The company put broadband subscribers on free dial-up until they could be switched to another satellite.
A planned $3.1 billion takeover of Intelsat now appears in jeopardy. Bermuda-based Intelsat said private equity group Zeus Holdings had the right not to close its takeover if the satellite was lost. The satellite, located at 129 degrees west, was not insured.
Zeus Holdings was formed by private equity firms Apax Partners, Permira, Apollo Management and Madison Dearborn Partners.
Intelsat is a primary long-distance carrier for telecom companies and also runs a private line between the White House and the Kremlin. Satellite owners PanAmSat, Intelsat and Loral Skynet find themselves moving beyond simple distribution. Several satellite deals are in play this year by private equity firms
- Blackstone agreed in June to buy Netherlands-based New Skies Satellites, a smaller operator, for $956 million.
- Goldman Sachs Capital Partners 2000, bought an 15.8 percent stake in Paris-based Eutelsat for about $675 million.
- SES AMERICOM, currently the largest supplier of satellite services in the U.S., operates a fleet of 16 spacecraft predominantly serving the Americas. In 2001, the company established AMERICOM Government Services, a wholly owned subsidiary dedicated to providing satellite-based communications solutions to both civilian and defense agencies of the U.S. government.
- Lockheed Martin will construct five satellites for about $740 million for Rainbow Media Enterprises, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp. for Rainbow Media’s VOOM satellite service which has 39 high-definition channels, including ESPN HD, HBO HDTV, Cinemax HDTV and others. The satellites will allow VOOM to increase to more than 5,000 high-definition channels
Other satellite news includes a recent Chinese Satellite Hack. Content promoting the spiritual group Falun Gong, banned on the mainland, appeared on the satellite feed. Back in 2002, most of China Central Television’s (CCTV) ten channels and ten other provincial channels carried on the Sinosat-1 satellite were also interrupted with Falungong segments that lasted from seconds to minutes long.
The cause of the Intelsat 7 loss is still unknown. Of course there’s no reason to expect foul play of any sort.
Although it may sound like science fiction, beam weapons that could “take out” a satellite are quickly becoming a reality. Commercial satellite providers may need to consider this new reality. Military communications are now integrated into commercial satellites. Piggybacking military traffic on consumer satellites may be a cost/effective solution with built-in insurance — enemies of the state might think twice about pissing off millions of Americans by taking out HBO. Try 135 degrees West if you’re looking for a plot.
During the Iraq invasion, use of a High Powered Microwave (HPM) weapon was apparently contemplated.
The “ebomb“, developed by the Directed Energy Weapon program, can briefly deliver a single massive pulse larger that the output of Hoover Dam, about two billion watts, instantly disabiling most electronics.
The technology was pioneered at the High Energy Research and Technology Facility at USAF base Kirtland, New Mexico, in a top-secret building called The Trestle, in a canyon in the Manzano mountains and has reportedly been fitted to small AGM-86 cruise missiles, carried by B52s. Some observers say using the e-bomb would be risky since its effects are hard to control and it may be relatively easy for terrorists to duplicate and use against U.S.
KVH and RaySat have phased array satellite antennas for backseat satellite video. They are also are developing next-generation antennas, which promise to be even smaller and lighter. KVH currently has about 60,000 of its parabolic antennas aboard boats and recreations vehicles, but the potential market for automobiles dwarfs the other two areas. The automotive market can produce about 5.2 million mini-vans and sports utility vehicles, and about 30 percent come with video systems already installed.