A Boeing Co. project to build three satellites for Mexico is complete. And once the final two are sent to space by 2016, the country’s government communications will rival U.S. capability.
The program, dubbed Mexsat, was signed in 2010, about a $1 billion agreement. The fourth-generation hardware was built and now waits in El Segundo at the company’s satellite factory, which was once a Nash Rambler automobile manufacturing facility.
The network’s purpose is to provide services for military, police and emergency services.
Paul Weisbrich, an aerospace mergers and acquisitions expert for D.A. Davidson & Co., said Mexico’s new network will be cutting edge.
“Almost every country wants to have its own satellite system because if you don’t have one, you’re like someone trying to hail a cab,” Weisbrich said.
Boeing made two 702HP geomobile satellites and contracted the third to Orbital Sciences Corp., which made GEOStar-2 for non-mobile communications. Orbital’s hardware went to space on an Ariane 5 in December of 2012.
Bill Ostrove, an aerospace and defense analyst at Connecticut based consulting firm Forecast International, said this project represents diversification for the company.
“Boeing is very big in large geosychronous communtication stellites, but they tend to focus on the U.S. government projects and large commercial satellite operators,” he said.
The satellites, which last about 15 years, were named to celebrate milestones in Mexican history. Bicentenario, built by Orbital, honors Mexico’s independence from Spain; Centenario, the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution; and Morelos-3 was named after the first Mexican satellites in space.
Two ground stations, located in Iztapalapa and Hermosillo, were included in the contract and will relay space-based signals. Those signals will interface with terminals based on ships and satellite phones with antennae about the size of a cigar.
Once deployed, the Boeing satellites will be more than 134 feet long and suck up sunlight through five-panel solar wings. The 702HPs will extend an antennae roughly the size of a high school basketball court to send signals to Earth.
For Boeing, the project is the revival of an old partnership.
The company has already provided Mexico with five satellites dating back to 1985. The last one before the new crop was launched in 1998 and remains in service today.
Boeing will launch its next satellite for Mexico early next year on a Russian Proton-M rocket, and the final piece of the network on an Atlas V by 2016.
Ron Dukat, who directed the Mexsat program for Boeing, said that while Europe is pretty well wired, many gaps remain elsewhere around the globe.
Indeed, fellow aerospace giant Lockheed Martin did a deal with Vietnam, completing the second of two satellites in the summer of 2012. China has been among the most active in building satellites, providing space communications hardware to developing nations such as Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“With all the remote areas that still exist around the world, we see that there is a future for these type of systems,” Dukat said.
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