Following the release of their Annual report, Eutelsat reports that it has signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with European-satellite manufacturer Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS) for the construction of two all-electric satellites. These two satellites – to be called EUTELSAT HOTBIRD 13F and 13G – are planned to launch in 2021 to replace the three aging HOTBIRD units currently occupying the 13 degrees East slot. These two new units will each carry 73 Ku-band transponders (36 Mhz equivalent), meaning they will equal the total capacity currently provided by the three units in-orbit.
The new units are to be based on the latest evolution of the Airbus workhorse, Eurostar-3000 platform, called “Eurostar NEO”. This latest version has been designed from the start to provide “all-electric” propulsion – however Airbus state that chemical and hybrid propulsion options will be available – unlike its predecessor the Eurostar-3000. This represents the first commercial order for the Eurostar NEO, and as such Eutelsat say they have received a discount on the order price for the two units – something that plays well into Eutelsat’s strategy of reduced future capital expenditure – to off-set the potential problems associated with developing a new product.