(Paris) The main satellite operator of the United Arab Emirates, Yahsat, has ordered two new geostationary telecommunications satellites from Airbus, announced Monday the European manufacturer, weakened by costs and competition in the space sector.

These two units, Al Yah 4 and Al Yah 5, “will enable secure government communications over a wide coverage area in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia” and will replace AY1 and AY2, based on a previous version of the Eurostar platform built by Airbus and launched in 2011 and 2012, it is indicated in a press release.

The amount of the contract, which also includes elements of the ground segment and two Arrow platforms for future deployments in low orbit, has not been communicated.

The satellites will be equipped with “flexible payloads,” which can be fully reconfigured in orbit, “allowing coverage area, capacity and frequency to be adjusted in flight to adapt to changing needs.” An “innovative flexible satellite” technology, according to Alain Fauré, director of Space Systems at Airbus, quoted in the press release.

The market for geostationary satellites, multi-ton behemoths placed in orbit 36,000 kilometers from Earth, has long been dominated by Airbus, Thales and Maxar, with around twenty sales per year, before shrinking by half.  

In 2023, Airbus has sold two, Maxar, one and Thales, zero. Seven other much smaller geostationary satellites have, however, been ordered from newcomers, notably the young American company Astranis.

In 2023, Airbus DS’ operating profit fell by 40%, to 229 million euros, reduced by a charge of 600 million euros in the space activity, subject to strong competition from SpaceX and new operators. of constellations and affected by development delays and additional costs of certain programs, notably concerning the new Onesat geostationary telecommunications satellites.