Yahsat orders LEO satellites from Airbus

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun5,2024

TAMPA, Fla. — Yahsat ordered a pair of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites from Airbus amid a $1.1 billion program for its next two geostationary broadband 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 Airbus helped build for OneWeb’s 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 accommodate telecoms, 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 very closely into 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 slated to close later this year, following regulatory approvals.

Last year, Yahsat and Bayanat teamed up to order seven UAE-focused synthetic aperture radar satellites from Iceye of Finland. Yahsat recently said the first SAR satellite is slated to launch before the end of June, delayed from the first three months of 2024.

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

An artist’s view of the Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5 GEO satellites Airbus is building for Yahsat. Credit: Airbus

Yahsat also announced a procurement contract 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 early 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 across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.

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

Yahsat expects to get $1 billion of 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 joined eight other commercial GEO communications satellite announcements in 2023.

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

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

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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