Israel’s Spacecom Looks to Rebound With Africa Satellite

Amos 17 due to be put into orbit this weekend after a series of major setbacks

Spacecom CEO David Pollack next to a model of the Amos 17 satellite, July 28, 2019.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel’s Space Communication (Spacecom) plans a satellite launch this weekend, which it hopes will mark a rebound from a series of major setbacks in recent years.

Amos 17, which will provide communication services to Africa, had a total budget including manufacturing, insurance and launch of about $250 million, and will join three others Spacecom operates.

It was manufactured by Boeing and has an expected lifespan of about 20 years.

Spacecom hopes a successful launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 3 will end a rough patch.

In 2015 the company lost contact with its Amos 5 satellite and a year later Amos 6 was destroyed days before its scheduled launch when the SpaceX rocket that was to carry it into orbit exploded.

“We learned lessons from those catastrophes,” CEO David Pollack told Reuters on Sunday following a news conference. For example, he said Amos 17 would not be combined with the launcher before the latter is fully tested.

“What happened with Amos 5 and Amos 6 was a setback for the company, so we know what to do. We believe we know how to grow. And it’s just a wonderful opportunity that comes with Amos 17, which is the most advanced satellite for the continent most in need,” Pollack said.

Amos 17 is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will orbit 36,000 kilometers above central Africa, providing television, internet and cellular services as well as services to governments.

The company said it has a sales backlog of $58 million for communication services to Africa and for other services.

Pollack said he expects to recoup Amos 17’s costs in line with industry standards, which is about six to seven years.

Spacecom shares remain well below their peak of 78.30 shekels set in June 2010 but have rallied in recent weeks and closed up 3% at 12 shekels on Sunday.