Abu Dhabi-based satellite operator Yahsat has contracted Airbus to make two geostationary satellites in a procurement package worth around 3.9 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) as it aims to replace older versions of the telecommunications satellites.

Airbus Defence and Space SAS will design and build the AY4 and AY5 satellites based on the Eurostar Neo platform. The flexible multi-band payloads "can be fully reconfigured while in orbit, capable of adjusting the coverage area, capacity and frequency 'on the fly' to meet evolving mission scenarios", a statement from Al Yah Satellite Communications and Airbus said on Monday.

The contract follows Yahsat Government Solutions winning a contract worth AED 18.7 billion ($5.1 billion) last September from the UAE government to provide satellite capacity and managed services for 17 years, primarily on AY4 and AY5. The new staellites are expected to be launched in 2027 and 2028, respectively, an earlier statement from the satellite operator said.  

The full cost of the AY4 and AY5 procurement programme, encompassing spacecraft, ground segment infrastructure, launch and insurance, is expected to reach approximately AED 3.9 billion. 

The programme will initially be funded using Yahsat’s own resources ahead of the receipt of AED 3.7 billion in the form of an advance payment from the UAE government.

Airbus will design and manufacture both satellites and will also provide ground control segment components. Both spacecraft will have a design life of 15 years and are planned to be launched in 2027 and 2028 respectively.

Airbus is currently developing the Thuraya 4 satellite (T4) for Yahsat Government Solutions as well as Yahsat’s commercial satellite solutions arm, Thuraya. T4 is also based on the Eurostar Neo platform and is due to be launched in the second half of 2024 and enter service in the second half of 2025.

(Writing by Brinda Darasha; editing by Seban Scaria)