Telenor planning for Thor 7
Chris Forrester

Two weeks from now, on about Oct 29, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting’s latest addition to its fleet, Thor 6, will be launched from Arianespace’s Kourou launch site. The launch is part of a twin-launch mission with fellow passenger NSS-12.

The plan is for Thor 6 to be launched to Telenor’s 1 degree West orbital slot, and replace the Thor III craft, which has a planned station-kept end of life for next year. Thereafter Thor III can work in a gently declining orbit for many years to come.

“The launch of Thor 6 will further strengthen TSB’s position in Central and Eastern Europe providing much needed expansion capacity to 1 degree West, which already services over 15m TV households throughout the Nordics and CEE region,” said Cato Halsaa, VP and CEO of Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSB). “It will also provide additional capacity in the Nordic region, where we continue to see a growth in HDTV requirements.”

Halsa said he was happy that the recent delays in launch availability were now beginning to be eliminated. “Everyone knows there’s a real shortage of launch capacity, and for us this translates into some difficulties for our pay-TV plans. We want this new [satellite] capacity to be available to us. Not just to be directed at the Nordic region but to seek new pay TV regions for business.”

Halsa said that Telenor Satellite needed new low-cost launchers, in order to be able to afford to invest in these new market opportunities. “Not all pay-TV viewers can pay the sort of rates charged in Western Europe,” he added. “Some people like the Chinese [launch models for Great Wall and Long March systems]. They must work, of course, and this is key to the insurance sector. We have sat with the insurers and discussed some of the options.”

Halsa added that it is too soon to say whether an upcoming ‘Thor 7’ would be deliberately seeking a non-mainstream launch vehicle. “Thor 7 will not be a satellite for the Nordic markets. It will be for these new markets, however, and needs to be affordable. We can take a bit more of a risk as far as build schedule is concerned, although not in terms of launch security or quality. These new launch solutions are obviously interesting, and themselves create a number of build possibilities extending to four or five different options. These include an 11-transponder satellite, for example. Some may think this to be utterly ridiculous, but for us it is an option. The likelihood is that ‘7’ will be bigger than Thor 5 and 6, and not smaller. But it remains an option, and once Thor 6 is launched we can settle down and make some decisions.”

Halsa explained that any new satellite is needed speedily, and not with a 3-year build schedule. “There’s also the need to consider a back-up role for restoration purposes. The simple way to do this is to build a large-capacity craft with empty but flexible transponders. The industry now offers on-board frequency changing, but this adds complexity, and cost. But the options are open to us.”