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Thursday, 08 December 2011 12:57

NewSat names Lockheed Martin to build Jabiru-1 satellite - UPDATED

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Australian satellite service provider, NewSat (ASX: NWT), has entered into a contract with Lockheed Martin to build its Jabiru-1 Ka Band geostationary satellite, to be launched in H2 of 2014.

The satellite will be built on Lockheed Martin's A2100 series platform and, according to NewSat "will incorporate an advanced Ka-band payload which will provide'¦high-bandwidth communication services to government and enterprise markets including mining, oil, gas, media and carrier-grade telecommunications across countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and India." It is designed for an in-orbit life of 15 years.

NewSat said: "Jabiru-1 will provide greater than 7GHz of Ka-band capacity and features significant options in allocating the capacity among a combination of high-powered beams. The agreement with Lockheed Martin gives considerable flexibility with respect to the capacity of the satellite, which can be adjusted to meet NewSat's final requirements."

The first A2100 based satellite was launched in 1996 and, according to Wikipedia over 30 have since been launched that between them have racked up over 200 years of in-orbit operation.

NewSat has yet to announce that the satellite is fully financed. However a spokesperson confirmed to iTWire that the construction contract with Lockheed Martin was fully funded but said it was a Lockheed Martin requirement that details remain confidential.

The company told shareholders at its AGM on 30 November that it expected 75-80 percent of funding to come from export credits with an interest rate of less than four percent and the rest from equity, and to have final approval on all necessary funding by early 2012. The company said it had received strong interest from investors in the US, London and Asia on taking equity in the project.

It added that, before Christmas 2011 it expected to have appointed a satellite manufacturer, launch provider and insurance broker; decided which geostationary slot it would use and to have signed more customers. iTWire understands that announcement of the launch provider is imminent.

The company also told shareholders that it had so far secured three contracts worth a total of $US279m for Jabiru-1 and that there were "mid to high-stage opportunities for military and enterprise clients" worth a further $US575m in the pipeline.

Announcing the contract with Lockheed Martin, NewSat founder and CEO, Adrian Ballintine, said: "NewSat has made an initial payment and will continue to make the required milestone payments under the contract."

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He added: "In anticipation of the condition in the Lockheed Martin contract that financing be completed by the end of the fiscal year 2012, we lodged our applications earlier this year with export credit agencies US Ex-Im Bank and Coface. Lockheed Martin actively supported our application when lodged and will continue to work with us in our activities with the US Ex-Im Bank till conclusion."

In May the company said it had secured sufficient funds, $12m, to "progress the Jabiru satellite project to 'financial close' or final investment decision" and that the next steps would be obtaining debt commitments from one or other of these export credit agencies.

NewSat first unveiled plans for Jabiru-1 in December 2007 when it submitted a proposal to the Commonwealth Government's Regional Telecommunication Independent Review Committee for a new Australian satellite to be built at a cost of around $400 million: half from the Commonwealth Government and half from NewSat.

NewSat repeated its offer in July 2008 in a submission to the Expert Group working on the NBN Mark 1 (FTTN version). In that submission NewSat suggested that the use of satellite technology to provide positioning for precision farming could be a key application, in addition to communications.

When the government did not take up the offer, NewSat announced plans to go ahead with the project on its own and tried to get NBN Co to adopt the planned satellite for the satellite component of the NBN. NBN Co however is commissioning two dedicated geostationary satellites of its own for this role.

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