Intelsat ordered four from Maxar and two from Northrop Grumman, while SES ordered two each from Boeing and Northrop Grumman with two more yet to be announced. This is huge for satellite manufacturers who have been hurting in recent years after a dip in orders.
This is all in preparation for clearing C-band spectrum that has been reallocated towards 5G deployment in the US and will be auctioned off late this year. There was a hearing in the Senate earlier this week that had some fairly contentious clashes over the incentive payments for these satellite operators to clear spectrum by December 2023, two years before the date required.
In addition to an incentive, those payments are meant to cover purchasing new satellites required to transfer existing customers off of the reallocated spectrum. These order announcements sure seem to be timed to be fodder for that hearing, where everyone knew things would get heated. It’s helpful for those in support of the incentive payments—both satellite operators and the FCC itself—to be able to point to so many orders going to US companies for new satellites.
The news of the orders is probably music to the ears of SpaceX and Arianespace alike, who have seen a dip in launch contracts of this sort. Arianespace has very few commercial launches ordered for Ariane 6, and SpaceX’s 2020 manifest has been dominated by Starlink flights with the occasional NASA mission interspersed. SpaceX certainly has plenty on their manifest, but the additional contracts would be welcomed with open arms.