July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Yahsat orders LEO satellites from Airbus

TAMPA, Fla. — Yahsat has ordered a pair of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites from Airbus amid a $1.1 billion program for its next two broadband geostationary spacecraft, the Emirati operator announced June 10.

The companies said the LEO satellites would be based on Arrow, a satellite platform derived from the 150-kilogram spacecraft that Airbus helped build for the OneWeb broadband constellation, without providing details.

An Airbus Defense and Space spokesperson declined to comment on the Yahsat contract, adding that its Arrow platform is versatile enough to host telecommunications, Earth observation and other missions.

Yahsat CEO Ali Al Hashemi said in a statement that the LEO order supports “Yahsat's future direction of providing multi-orbit satellite solutions to its customers.”

Al Hashemi told investors in August that the publicly traded company was looking closely at Earth observation through partnerships, as well as growth opportunities in the emerging direct-to-device satellite connectivity market.

Shareholders recently approved a merger between Yahsat and UAE-based geospatial intelligence provider Bayanat in a deal set to close later this year, following regulatory approvals.

Last year, Yahsat and Bayanat partnered to order seven synthetic aperture radar satellites focused on the United Arab Emirates from Finland's Iceye. Yahsat recently said the first SAR satellite is scheduled to launch before the end of June, with a delay to the first three months of 2024.

The UAE operator has also invested in Astrocasta Swiss LEO operator of satellites that connect Internet of Things (IoT) tracking and monitoring devices.

Artist's view of the GEO Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 satellites that Airbus is building for Yahsat. Credit: Airbus

Yahsat also announced a procurement contract on June 10 with Airbus for Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 for a launch to geostationary orbit (GEO) in 2027 and 2028, respectively. after funding initial design work last year.

Based on Airbus' Eurostar Neo platform, they would eventually replace Yahsat's aging Al Yah 1 and Al Yah 2 satellites to provide government communications in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.

The UAE government has already committed to purchasing broadband services worth $5.1 billion from the Emirati fleet operator until at least 2043, mainly from Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5.

Yahsat expects to make $1 billion from this in 2024, roughly the amount it expects to spend on the Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 spacecraft, ground segment infrastructure, launch and insurance.

Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 join eight other commercial GEO communications satellite announcements in 2023.

Four more orders have been announced so far in 2024, matching this same date last year and still far from the 15-20 large orders. Manufacturers used to compete annually for before the emergence of the LEO constellations.

Airbus is also currently building the Thuraya 4 GEO satellite for Yahsat's mobile connectivity business. SpaceX will launch Thuraya 4 this year to allow services to begin in the second half of 2025.

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