June 04, 2012
Credit: Credit: Arianespace/ESA
Leithen Francis/Kourou, French Guiana
The future of communication satellites appears headed toward larger, more powerful models, but satellite manufacturers will still have to keep within the weight parameters of available satellite launchers.
Lockheed Martin is developing the AXL, the next generation of its A2100 satellite and one that will be even larger than earlier models in its commercial satellite family. The AXL is already in Lockheed Martin's line-up of government and military satellites, but the company is now working to bring AXL into the commercial market.
The commercial AXL satellite's weight will vary depending on the payload, but will be at least 6 metric tons and at the upper range will approach 7 metric tons, says Lockheed Martin's president for commercial space systems, Joseph Rickers. AXL will be able to carry 70 Ku-band transponders as well as support Ka-band, he says. “Power-wise it will be in the 15- to 20-kilowatt range,” he says, adding that the challenge of higher power is ensuring adequate thermal heat dissipation.
Rickers spoke to Aviation Week while en route to Kourou to witness the Arianespace Ariane 5-ECA launch of VinaSat-2 and JCSat-13, two telecommunications satellites built by Lockheed Martin.
The Ariane 5-ECA successfully launched the satellites into orbit on May 15. The Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group is the customer for VinaSat-2, an A2100 “A” model weighing 3 metric tons, that is to occupy orbital position 131.8 deg. E. Long.
Japan's Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. (SPJC) has the other, an A2100 AX weighing 4.5 metric tons, set to occupy orbital position 124 deg. E. Lockheed Martin has set June 28 and July 6 as the dates for handover of VinaSat-2 and JCSat-13, respectively.
Lockheed Martin's A2100 family of satellites also includes “B” and “C” models. Developed in the 1990s, none have been launched as there has been no demand for the smaller models.