SpaceCom to recoup $173m, plus interest, for destroyed satellite
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SpaceCom to recoup $173m, plus interest, for destroyed satellite

Israeli firm will be compensated for launchpad explosion by IAI, SpaceX, but company's future remains uncertain

The Amos-6, Israel's largest ever satellite, and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on which it was perched go up in flames after the rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 1, 2016. (YouTube screen capture)
The Amos-6, Israel's largest ever satellite, and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on which it was perched go up in flames after the rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 1, 2016. (YouTube screen capture)

Israel’s Aerospace Industries will compensate a communications firm whose satellite was destroyed in a fiery rocket explosion last week, IAI said Sunday.

The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launchpad during a test in Florida on Thursday, destroying the Israeli-built and -owned Amos-6 satellite that Facebook planned to use to beam high-speed internet to sub-Saharan Africa.

The satellite’s owners, Space Communication, will receive over $173 million from IAI plus interest, which provided insurance for the device, a company official said.

According to Space Communication, also known as SpaceCom, the total sum from IAI is “approximately $205 million.”

Workers for Israel Aerospace Industries building the Amos-6 satellite, in footage aired September 1, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Workers for Israel Aerospace Industries building the Amos-6 satellite, in footage aired September 1, 2016. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Under the insurance policy, IAI will have to pay the amount “in under 60 days,” a spokesperson for the quasi-governmental firm said.

In addition, the Israeli company said it expects to receive either $50 million from SpaceX or “have the launch of a future satellite carried out under the existing agreement and with the payments that have [already] been made.”

Additional insurers are expected to pay SpaceCom an additional $39 million, the company said in a statement Saturday night.

Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after an explosion during test firing destroyed a Falcon rocket and the Israeli Amos-6 satellite it was carrying. (AP Photo/Marcia Dunn)
Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after an explosion during test firing destroyed a Falcon rocket and the Israeli Amos-6 satellite it was carrying. (AP Photo/Marcia Dunn)

However, SpaceCom’s future is far from certain.

Since the SpaceX rocket, with the satellite on board, exploded on the launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Israeli company’s stock has plummeted 45 percent.

The launchpad explosion could also jeopardize a pending deal for the sale of the private Israeli firm to China’s Xinwei group, reportedly worth $285 million and conditional on the satellite successfully entering service, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) said Friday.

Professor Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Professor Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

“This is the second blow, ahead of the Chinese deal,” he said, recalling the blackout of the Amos-5 satellite, which like Amos-6 was owned and operated by Spacecom.

Communication with the Franco-Italian made Amos-5 was lost in November 2015, four years after it was launched from Kazakhstan.

“There is a major question about the launch and I very much hope that SpaceCom is strong enough to overcome these things and to order a new satellite,” ISA head Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael told Israeli radio on Friday.

“If it orders a new satellite, it will take between two and three years to fill the gap.”

IAI said the Amos-6 satellite was “the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel.”

“Obviously, we are disappointed about this incident in the launch vehicle and are ready and willing to assist SpaceCom in any manner,” it said. “The communications satellite business is strategic for IAI and the State of Israel.”

The Israel Space Agency, part of the country’s Science, Technology and Space Ministry, said that “support for the space industry in Israel will continue with the aim of continuing at the forefront of technology.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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