Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Macdonald Dettwiler gets "Anchor Customer" for Brampton Robotics Plant

Satellite services provider Intelsat S.A. announced today that it has entered into an agreement with MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) for the on-orbit refueling and servicing of Intelsat satellites, according to the March 15th, 2011 press release "Intelsat Picks MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. for Satellite Servicing."
The MDA space infrastructure servicing vehicle, connected to a client satellite.
According to the press release, the services provided by MDA to Intelsat under this agreement are valued at more than US$280 million over the initial terms of the contract. The program, which is priced as a service and will be offered to other satellite providers, is expected to be operational before 2015.

MDA President Friedmann
According to MDA President Dan Friedmann, the contract will provide an "anchor customer" allowing MDA to move forward with its Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicle, which will be launched "into near geosynchronous orbit, where it will service commercial and government satellites in need of additional fuel, re-positioning or other maintenance."

In a conference call this morning, Friedmann stated that the SIS system will be based on work that MDA has previously performed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and other civilian and military agencies. The program will also help "leverage the existing skills" of the MDA Brampton Robotics division, which is responsible for the US space shuttle's Canadarm and the Mobile Servicing System for the International Space Station (ISS).

As previously reported in my March 3rd, 2011 post "Downsizing Announced at MDA Robotics" the Brampton robotics plant was bracing for layoffs without an ongoing "anchor customer" to replace the work surrounding the space shuttles.

Today's announcement will not eliminate those layoffs (forty are expected to be laid off this year) but may reduce the overall downsizing in subsequent years. It is expected that the SIS program will eventually employ 100 plus people.

MDA has also selected Intelsat General Corporation as its exclusive channel to bring on-orbit services to the US Government.

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