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Intelsat Struggles To Sell UHF Capacity on IS-27 Satellite

WASHINGTON — Satellite fleet operator Intelsat has been unable to lease a UHF-frequency payload to the U.S. Defense Department despite nearly two years of effort, and whether it will ultimately secure a U.S. military customer in today’s budget climate is in question, industry officials said.

Perhaps more than any other company, Intelsat has made so-called hosted payloads the showcase example of its view of future relations between commercial satellite operators and the U.S. military.

The growing concern that Intelsat’s investment in a UHF-payload aboard its IS-27 satellite may not end well has some industry officials referring to what might be called the Xtar syndrome.

Xtar LLC of Rockville, Md., is a joint venture between Loral Space and Communications of New York and Hisdesat, a consortium of Spanish companies. Xtar launched two X-band telecommunications satellites a decade ago following verbal, but nonbinding, assurances from the U.S. military that it would purchase lots of Xtar bandwidth. X-band is a designated government frequency that has no commercial market.

As Xtar found out to its dismay, the U.S. Defense Department can be an unpredictable customer.

For multiple reasons, the big U.S. Defense Department order never came. Xtar has spent years trying to build its business without what was supposed to have been its anchor customer.

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