With the launch in February 2016 of the Express-AMU1 satellite, Russia's largest commercial satellite fleet operator completed its much-delayed fleet renovation program planned between 2009 and 2015. RSCC has suffered from Russian Proton rocket delays and failures more than any other telecommunications satellite fleet operator.
PARIS — Russia’s largest commercial satellite fleet operator, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), on Feb. 1 reported a 50 percent increase in revenue for 2016 compared to the previous year thanks to the long-delayed completion of its fleet-renovation program.
Moscow-based RSCC’s financial accounts were also bolstered in late 2016 after a Paris court ruled that the company’s contract with Paris-based fleet operator Eutelsat was commercial in nature.
That being the case, the court ruled that monies owed to RSCC by Eutelsat should not be held hostage to the international attempt by former shareholders of the Yukos energy company to seek compensation from the Russian government.
Cash freed by Paris court ruling
Eutelsat and RSCC share capacity at slots that overlap the two companies’ core coverage areas: Russia for RSCC and Europe for Eutelsat. The court ruling in November permitted Eutelsat to make a payment of about 70 million euros ($73 million) on a multi-year contract valued at about 400 million euros.
RSCC in recent years has been hobbled by the repeated failures of Russia’s Proton rocket. RSCC operates as a commercial company but is state-owned and, as such, has no realistic launch alternative to Proton.
Proton’s issues and the associated launch delays cost RSCC dearly and made it impossible for the company to complete its planned 2009-2015 fleet renovation before February 2016, when the Express-AMU1 was placed into orbit.
RSCC now operates 12 satellites in geostationary orbit, with positions as far west as 14 degrees and as far east as 145 degrees.
For the year ending Dec. 31, 2016, RSCC reported revenue of 11.4 billion rubles ($188.5 million), which is up 24 percent from 2015 in ruble terms and up 50 percent in U.S. dollars when using exchange rates at year-end 2015 and year-end 2016.
The company has two satellites under construction, both being built by ISS Reshetnev of Russia for the satellite platforms and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy for the electronics payloads. This Russian-European team has built several RSCC spacecraft.
RSCC said that non-Russian business accounted for 40 percent of its 2016 revenue. Beyond eastern Europe, RSCC satellites have capacity pointed at Latin America and South Africa, the latter posting significant growth in 2016, RSCC said.
Starting with capacity leased aboard Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat Ka-band consumer broadband satellite, RSCC has expanded its consumer broadband offer with the Express-AM5 and Express-AM6 satellites. As of Dec. 31, the company reported 7,000 Ka-band broadband subscribers.
RSCC said its nascent maritime broadband business, using VSAT antennas on board shipping fleets, has demonstrated the technical feasibility of broadband communications links, fixed and mobile, up to 80 degrees north latitude. The company said it had 90 vessels as customers in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans.
Peter B. de Selding
Space Intel Report