SES Americom Declares AMC-14 Satellite A Total Loss

SES Americom, which insured its AMC-14 satellite for $150 million, has declared the bird a total loss because it can’t be repositioned to its proper geostationary orbit, officials said Friday.

Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network satellite service was to have used AMC-14 to expand its local HDTV offerings. Dish Network declined to comment Friday, but it has previously tried to downplay the impact of the problems with AMC-14 on its local HDTV rollout.

But other industry experts have said that the AMC-14 issue could set back Dish Network’s long-term HDTV strategy.

Dish Network, like SES Americom, also had its own separate insurance policy on AMC-14, according to a SES Americom spokesman. It was not disclosed how much insurance Dish Network had.

AMC-14’s launch failed March 14 when an anomaly during the second burn of the fourth stage of the rocket resulted in the satellite being placed short of the planned geostationary transfer orbit, according to SES Americom.

“While an initial assessment of the available options to reposition the satellite appeared encouraging, more detailed examinations by SES and Lockheed Martin engineers determined that the various scenarios could not provide a reasonable chance of success,” the company said in its press release Friday.

AMC-14 was built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems, and launched on a Proton/Breeze M rocket provided by International Launch Services from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

“SES and Lockheed Martin have carefully examined all the available options for repositioning this satellite into its intended geostationary orbit,” SES Americom President and CEO Edward Horowitz said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, none of those options would allow effective use of the spacecraft.”

“The various repositioning scenarios presented carry unacceptable risks, and would result in a severely shortened life of the satellite,” he added. “Therefore, we have no choice but to claim a total loss of the satellite with our insurers.”

While AMC-14 is currently in a stable orbit, SES is exploring plans to retire the satellite.

“The loss of any satellite is a disappointment, and the failure of AMC-14 means there will be no revenues to come from this program,” Mark Rigolle, chief financial officer of SES S.A., SES Americom’s parent, said in a prepared statement.

“However, SES is fully insured for its investment, and there will be no negative P&L impact from the accelerated writedown of AMC-14,” he said. “We expect to receive the insurance proceeds of approximately $150 million in the next few months, thereby enhancing our cash position. The rest of our business in North America and worldwide has no connection with, and is unaffected by, this launch failure.”