Intelsat, S.A. is world’s largest communications satellite operator. Originally formed as International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), it was, from 1964 to 2001, an intergovernmental consortium owning and managing a constellation of communications satellites providing international broadcast services.
As of 2015, Intelsat operates a fleet of more than 50 communications satellites.
The Inter-Governmental Organization (IGO) began on August 20th 1964, with 11 participating countries. On April 6th 1965, Intelsat’s first satellite, the Intelsat I (nicknamed Early Bird), was placed in geostationary orbit above the Atlantic Ocean by a Delta D rocket. Watch the the launch of the Early Bird on YouTube.
Back in 1973, the name was changed and there were 80 signatories. Intelsat provides service to over 600 Earth stations in more than 149 countries, territories and dependencies. By 2001, INTELSAT had over 100 members. It was also this year that INTELSAT privatized and changed its name to Intelsat.
Since its inception, Intelsat has used several versions (blocks) of its dedicated Intelsat satellites. INTELSAT completes each block of spacecraft independently, leading to a variety of contractors over the years. Intelsat’s largest spacecraft supplier is Space Systems/Loral, having built 31 spacecraft (as of 2003), or nearly half of the fleet.
The network in its early years was not as robust as it is now. A failure of the Atlantic satellite in the spring of 1969 threatened to stop the Apollo 11 mission; a replacement satellite went into a bad orbit and could not be recovered in time; NASA had to resort to using undersea cable telephone circuits to bring Apollo's communications to NASA during the mission. Fortunately, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk, the moon was over the Pacific Ocean, and so other antennas were used, as well as INTELSAT III, which was in geostationary orbit over the Pacific.
By the 1990’s, building and launching satellites was no longer exclusively a government domain and as country-specific telecommunications systems were privatized, several private satellite operators arose to meet the growing demand. In the U.S., satellite operators such as Panamsat, Orion Communications, Columbia Communications, Iridium, Globalstar, TRW and others formed under the umbrella of the Alliance for Competitive International Satellite Services (ACISS) to press for an end to the IGO’s and the monopoly position of COMSAT the US signatory to Intelsat and Inmarsat. In March 2001, the US Congress passed the Open Market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications (ORBIT) Act to privatize COMSAT and reform the role of the international organizations. In April 1998, to address US government concerns about market power, Intelsat's senior management spun off five of its older satellites (IntelSat 513 (183° E), IntelSat 703 (57° E), IntelSat 803 (338.5° E), IntelSat 806 (319.5° E), IntelSat K (338.5° E) to a private Dutch entity, New Skies Satellites, which became a direct competitor to INTELSAT. To avert the US government's interference with Intelsat, Intelsat's senior management unsuccessfully considered relocating the IGO to another country.
On July 18th in 2001, 37 years after formation, Intelsat became a private company. Prior to Intelsat's privatization in 2001, ownership and investment in INTELSAT (measured in shares) was distributed among INTELSAT members according to their use of services. Investment shares determined each member’s percentage of the total contribution needed to finance capital expenditures. The organization’s primary source of revenue was satellite usage fees that, after deduction of operating costs, were redistributed to INTELSAT members in proportion to their shares as repayment of capital and compensation for use of capital. Satellite services were available to any organization (both INTELSAT members and non-members), and all users paid the same rates.
In 2003 Intelsat purchased the North American satellite fleet (Telstars-5 thru 8 and Telstar-13) from Loral Skynet. This was done to help reducing the depths from the parent company, Loral Space & Communications that filed for Chapter-11 bankruptcy on July 15th, 2003. Telstars 5-8 and -13 were renamed into Intelsat Americas 5-8 and -13.
In January 2005 Intelsat was sold for U.S. $3.1bn to four private equity firms, i.e.:
- Madison Dearborn Partners,
- Apax Partners,
- Apollo Global Management.
In July 2006 the company acquired PanAmSat and as of today it is now the world's largest provider of fixed satellite services, operating a fleet of 54 satellites in prime orbital locations. In June 2007 BC Partners announced they had acquired 76 percent of Intelsat for about 3.75 billion euros.
In April 2013 the renamed Intelsat S.A. undertook an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising a net $550 million USD, of which $492 million was paid immediately to reduce outstanding company debts of $15.9 billion USD. In May the company announced it would be purchasing four new high-performance Boeing EpicNG 702 MP satellites.
Intelsat maintains its corporate headquarters in Luxembourg, with a majority of staff and satellite functions (administrative headquarters) located at the Intelsat Corporation offices in Washington, DC. In 2012, Intelsat announced that they would relocate their US headquarters from Washington to nearby Tysons Corner, Virginia by mid-2014. A highly international business, Intelsat sources the majority of its revenue from non-U.S. located customers. Intelsat's biggest teleport is the Teleport Fuchsstadt in Germany.
All of the Spacecraft operations are controlled through ground stations in Hagerstown, Maryland (USA), Riverside, California (USA), and Fuchsstadt in Germany.
As of today, the number of Intelsat satellites, as well as ocean-spanning fibre-optic lines, allows rapid rerouting of traffic when one satellite fails. Modern satellites are more robust, lasting longer with much larger capacity.
Intelsat launched various series of satellites after their first, Early Bird Intelsat F1, satellite that was launched on April 6th, 1965. In February 2007, Intelsat changed the names of 16 of its satellites formerly known under the Intelsat Americas and PanAmSat brands to Galaxy and Intelsat. The majority of these satellites has been decommissioned and was put into an orbital graveyard.
www.viasatellite.com article: Intelsat and Azercosmos Play Up Strengths in New Partnership by Juliet Van Wagenen, 23- March 2015.