Bermuda-based satellite firm makes history
A Bermuda-based firm has created space history with the blast off of the first all-electric satellites.
A communications satellite owned by Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) joined a twin satellite from French-based Eutelsat Communications in the launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force station on Sunday.
The satellites — the first fitted with lightweight electric engines rather than conventional chemical propulsion systems — were launched by a 22-storey booster rocket owned by private space firm SpaceX to take them into orbit.
ABS — which currently operates six satellites — will position the new one to serve customers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The two companies will team up again to launch two more satellites later this year.
ABS and Eutelsat joined forces to share development of the satellites, made by US aircraft giant Boeing, and launch costs, thought to be more than $60 million.
Although electric engines are lighter, the satellites will take months rather than weeks to reach their operational orbit 22,300 miles above the earth.
ABS is headquartered in Bermuda and also has offices around the world, including the US, Dubai, Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The firm is majority owned by the Permira funds, which are advised by European private equity firm Permira, which bought a controlling interest in 2010.
ABS was set up to meet demand by broadcast and telecoms operators in Africa, Russia, Asia and the Middle East.
The company in 2006 bought up the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik-1 satellite, which was renamed ABS-1.