The reduced-scope Tuesday opening session at SATELLITE 2020, saw the Presidents / CEOs of SES and EchoStar – Hughes speak alongside the Deputy CEO of Eutelsat. The session revealed some of the worries satellite operators may have about ordering a launch from what will be also a business competitor. This of course refers to SpaceX, and their upcoming Starlink satellite broadband constellation.
Steve Collar, President and CEO of SES, answered a question about viewing SpaceX as a competitor in the future. He stated that despite the history between SES and SpaceX – SpaceX has launched four SES satellites in the past, and is contracted to launch the four upcoming SES O3B mPower MEO units on two launches in 2021 – it would only be sensible for SES to prefer to not order a launch from a company which is also providing a competing product. Michel Azibert, Deputy CEO of Eutelsat, agreed with the sentiment from Mr Collar. It would be a sensible business decision to not buy from a competitor. Eutelsat itself has used SpaceX to launch two of its satellites in the past.
However, it wasn’t a unanimous sentiment across the panel. Pradman Kaul, President of EchoStar – Hughes, offered their more neutral approach. He reiterated that Hughes simply seeks the best launch price and schedule for their satellites.
Mr Collar did clarify his position answering a later question. Despite the misgivings about ordering a launch from a competitor, it doesn’t mean SES wouldn’t if the prices offered were good enough.