Shortage of Antonov freighters to cause more delays for satellite projects

TORONTO, CANADA — The shortage of Antonov heavy cargo aircraft amidst the ongoing war could cause more delays for satellite projects already affected by supply chain issues during the pandemic.

Satellite manufacturers use Antonov's heavy cargo carriers to transport GEO spacecraft from the factory to the launch site. But some of those planes, including the legendary An-225 Mriya have been destroyed at Hostomel where it had been parked.

Russian air cargo operators such as Volga-Dnepr already have the An-124 Ruslans, the second-largest cargo aircraft produced by Antonov after An-225. But the sanctions imposed by western countries prohibit business with Russian companies.

"So they're just not generally available, and we have potential launch delays that come into play," 

said Mark Quinn, head of Willis Towers Watson’s satellite insurance.

On the other hand, aircraft manufacturers consider certifying other aircraft types with large cargo spaces to transport GEO satellites. Airbus Beluga seems to be one of the most convenient options. The aircraft currently transports large aircraft parts between Airbus plants. In 2006, it also flew the Columbus module for the International Space Station from Bremen Airport in Germany to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

"We are monitoring the situation closely together with our partners, customers, and suppliers with regard to the transport of satellites," 

Airbus Defence and Space spokesperson Ralph Heinrich said.

"We are continuing our preparations for the Beluga Transport project. It is too early to draw any conclusions from the situation for the moment,"

Heinrich added.

GEO communications satellites mandate further safety clearances because they contain pressurized heat pipes and other hazards.


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