Arianespace Launch Boosts DirecTV on 4K, ISRO on Domestic Capacity – Satellite Today

Ariane 5 lifts off from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on the daytime mission that lofted the DirecTV-14 and GSAT 16 satellites. Photo: Arianespace

Ariane 5 lifts off from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on the daytime mission that lofted the DirecTV-14 and GSAT 16 satellites. Photo: Arianespace

[Via Satellite 12-08-2014] DirecTV’s Ultra-HD ambitions and the India Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) domestic capacity plans moved closer to realization following the dual launch of new satellites aboard an Ariane 5 this past weekend. The Arianespace launch conducted Dec. 7 carried the DirecTV 14 and Geostationary Satellite 16 (GSAT 16) spacecraft into orbit. SSL, manufacturer of DirecTV 14, reported the satellite has begun post-launch maneuvers, as did ISRO about GSAT 16. With these new spacecraft, both operators have embarked on new plans in their respective markets.



Michael White, chairman, president and CEO of DirecTV, has been skeptical of the prospects for 4K in the past but is determined to stay on the bleeding edge of broadcast technologies. The 6,300 kg DirecTV 14 satellite will use Ka-band and Reverse Band Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) spectrum. DBS is expected to provide ample room for delivering 4K programs and other advanced services to customers throughout the continental United States along with Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

As a prelude to greater offerings, DirecTV began delivering select movies in 4K last month. This foray is expected to be a common approach for early content.

“The total addressable market for sports and movies is just always going to be bigger than the average television show because you can broadcast these worldwide and the audience will enjoy it,” Blain Curcio, analyst at NSR told Via Satellite earlier this year.

DirecTV 14 will also bolster DirecTV’s HD broadcasts. With the new satellite, the company now has a fleet of six HD satellites. Located at 99 degrees west, DirecTV 14 will use spot beams to provide more local HD content. The 20-kilowatt satellite is expected to enter service early second quarter next year. The next satellite, DirecTV 15, is scheduled to launch next year as well.


India’s Department of Space (DOS) came under fire last month for its management of satellite capacity for Direct-to-Home (DTH) services by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. A Nov. 28 audit attributed the “forced migration of commercial DTH users to foreign satellite systems” to the DOS’s subpar performance in addressing the competing needs of critical, strategic and commercial sectors. This was, among other reasons, heavily influenced by the lack of domestic satellites placed in orbit.

“DOS failed to provide satellite capacity (Ku-band transponders) on domestic satellites as it was not able to realize the communication satellites as planned. Out of nine satellites, with an aggregate of 218 Ku-band transponders planned for launch during 11th five-year plan period, DOS could eventually realize three satellites with 48 Ku-band transponders, which was only 22 percent of the target,” Shashi Kant Sharma, comptroller and auditor general of India wrote in the audit report.

India has set up preferential lease agreements for the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT), with contract lengths ranging from five to 10 years without provision for revision of process. Foreign operators are limited to one to six years at a time. The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) and others have urged India to refrain from using these limits on foreign operators.

The audit report notes that of the 76 Ku-band transponders Indian DTH operators were using as of July 2013, only 19 transponders belonged to Indian satellites. Tata Sky, in particular, was mentioned as an example, having previously used 12 transponders on INSAT before deciding to shift to foreign satellites as a permanent measure. The audit warned that more DTH service providers could lose trust in the INSAT system if it continues failing to meet the growing need for capacity.

Collocated with GSAT 8, IRNSS 1A and IRNSS 1B at 55 degrees east, GSAT 16 carries 12 Ku-band transponders, 24 C-band transponders and 12 upper extended C-band transponders. The 3,200-kg satellite has a projected lifespan of 12 years and is expected to reach its final location in geostationary orbit by Dec. 12, where it will begin in-orbit testing. ISRO plans to launch the GSAT 15 satellite with Arianespace aboard an Ariane 5 in 2015.

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