U.S. Ex-Im Bank Funds Satellite LaunchAs Advocacy Campaign Heats Up

By Michael Bruno
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
August 26, 2013
Credit: SpaceX

The U.S. Export-Import Bank said Aug. 23 it has approved a $105.4 million loan to Israel’s Space Communication (Spacecom) to finance the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launch of the Amos-6 communications satellite, slated for 2015.

The deal is the embattled bank’s third in support of a SpaceX launch, and it will underpin about 600 U.S. jobs, according to bank estimates derived from Commerce and Labor department data. The financing also will go toward the purchase of U.S.-made solar arrays from ATK Space Systems, and insurance brokered by Marsh USA.

“Ex-Im Bank is always ready to help the American space industry boost its international sales and export its products to important markets,” newly reappointed bank Chairman and President Fred Hochberg said. “Our support of American launches and exports levels the playing field for U.S. companies and keeps highly skilled, well-paying jobs on American soil.”

Ex-Im Bank said satellite financing makes for its “most prominent stand-out sector.” Three years ago, satellites accounted for only $50 million in annual authorizations. But 2013 is the third consecutive year in which satellite-sector authorizations by the bank will have topped $1 billion.

In June, the bank said it had approved financing for launches of two satellites manufactured by Space Systems/Loral LLC, and last November it had approved two Boeing-manufactured satellites.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is building the 5.4-ton Amos-6, which is expected to be operational for 16 years. Spacecom reached a $200 million accord with IAI for manufacturing it, the company said last September. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. will be the contractor for the Ku- and multibeam Ka-band payloads. Amos-6 is designed to replace Spacecom’s Amos-2 and cover Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as provide broadband services in Europe and Africa.

The bank has been hit by unrelenting criticism in Washington from some politically conservative and free-market critics who believe any state-sponsored credit export agency distorts free enterprise and should be eliminated. Hochberg’s reconfirmation this summer by the Senate was unsuccessfully opposed by those critics, but with the bank’s legislative charter expiring in September 2014—shortly before what are expected to be partisan midterm congressional elections—Ex-Im Bank’s backers have come to understand that they cannot take a renewal of the institution’s charter for granted.

Recently the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) said it is mounting an advocacy campaign, including a statement of support for every Federal Register notice for public comment about a proposed aerospace product export loan worth more than $100 million. “We will also highlight on a state-by-state basis the contributions of the Ex-Im Bank to job creation and economic growth,” AIA promised.

AIA said the bank has financed roughly 60% of U.S. commercial satellite sales over the last three years—a fact that the industry appreciates, according to executives.

“With export financing for contracts like the Amos-6 mission, Ex-Im Bank helps SpaceX compete successfully with international launch service providers, bringing overseas satellite launch business and high-tech jobs back to American soil,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.