Futurecom, 28-31 oct  2019, Sao Paulo
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Argentine Government took second orbital position from Nahuelsat

The local fleet failed to place the satellite Nahuel 2 in orbit, pursuant to terms. Now, Kirchner¿s Administration may use the said resource to create a new operator where the State is to hold a stake

Today, the Communications Secretariat (Secom) set the “absolute lack of legal force” for the provision granting Nahuelsat the orbital position 81º West. This may be the first step towards the creation of Empresa Nacional de Servicios Satelitales, new national initiative with State and private capitals. The strategy implies a new onslaught by President Néstor Kirchner¿s Administration to a privatized service firm.

Secom¿s decision gathered several arguments set forth between 1998 and 2003, questioning the reasonable and legitimate character of having granted an orbital position –scarce resource- to Nahuelsat at no charge. The position 81º West, praiseworthy for offering coverage throughout the Americas, was obtained by Argentine Government after negotiating with US Administration to allow the operation of American satellites over Argentina. In 1998, when Carlos Menem¿s Administration (1989-1999) got the position, it gave it to Nahuelsat. However, according to the Secom¿s decision, at the time, there were now assessments on demand evolution, corporate technical plan, or band coordination with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), body in charge of granting orbital positions.

Now, Argentine Government has the orbital position back. The latter is a basic resource to set up a satellite operator. Empresa Nacional de Servicios Satelitales will fund build-up of a second Argentine satellite in the country, to involve the State-run duo CONAE-INVAP. The State may hold 5% of the corporate capital. Assorted sources pointed the firm was to involve Nahuelsat itself, Grupo Clarín, CTI Móvil, Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, some local governments south in the country and several local cooperatives. Besides, they will look for funding in the Stock Exchange of Buenos Aires. These plans are in line with the new Latin American setting where governments are willing to take active part in satellite management.

The Government plans to build two satellites locally, at US$ 150 million each. Besides, it is assessing possibilities to export other two units to Venezuela, under an agreement whereby Argentina will get fuel (a measure set to curb power scarcity). There may also be ongoing talks with China so that its launcher, Long March, places the units in orbit. However, Argentina is after time. Given delays in Nahuelsat to build the satellite, Government requested a two-year extension in 2003. Nonetheless, no satellite has gone from drawings to space in less than three years: that is, the current administration will have to file further formalities to keep the resource.

Another doubt in the market has to do with knowing what will happen with holders of Nahuelsat, after the official decision. EADS (Daimler Chrysler, CASA and Aerospatiale) and Finmeccanica were supporting the project as their main activity was related to satellite build-up and launching. The said drive lasted to 2003, when the Secom firstly hinted an idea of building satellites locally. In turn, the third major holder in Nahuelsat, SES Global, the main fleet worldwide, opposed the project as from the very beginning, and no longer attended Board meetings. SES Global held Latin America presents excessive capacity, and added it was not the right time to launch new satellites with coverage over the region.

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