SSL (company)

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Industry Aerospace
Founded 1990
Headquarters Palo Alto, California
Parent MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates

SSL, formerly Space Systems/Loral, LLC (SS/L), of Palo Alto, California, is a wholly owned manufacturing subsidiary of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).

SSL designs and builds satellites and space systems for a wide variety of government and commercial customers. Its products include high-powered direct-to-home broadcast satellites, commercial weather satellites, digital audio radio satellites, Earth observation satellites and spot-beam satellites for data networking applications.


The company was founded as the Western Development Laboratories (WDL) of Philco (Philco-Ford since 1966). The Space Systems Division of Aeronutronic/Ford Aerospace/was acquired in by Loral Corp. in 1990 for $715 million from Ford Motor Company, and renamed Space Systems/Loral.

In 2012 Space Systems/Loral was acquired by the Canadian aerospace company MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) for $875 million.

SSL’s major competitors are Boeing Satellite Systems, Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space, Airbus Defence and Space and JSC Information Satellite Systems[citation needed].


In 1960, the Courier 1B, built by then Philco, became the world's first active repeater satellite.

SSL has recently pioneered research in electric propulsion systems, lithium-ion power systems and the use of advanced composites on commercial satellites, which permit significant increases in the size and power of a satellite’s payload and extends the satellite’s on-orbit lifetime. SSL also has developed new service-enhancing technologies such as super power systems for direct-to-user applications and ground-based beam forming, a technology that uses both satellite and terrestrial assets to provide mobile users with increased coverage and capacity capabilities.

As of September 2015, there are 80 SSL-built GEO satellites currently on orbit.[1]

1300 Series Platform[edit]

Main article: SSL 1300
Artist impression of Optus C1, built on the LS-1300 platform

SSL manufactures satellites based on its SSL 1300 series platform (previously LS-1300, FS-1300) in Palo Alto. Satellites in the series include ProtoStar I, ICO G1, SIRIUS FM-6 and SES NEW SKIES NSS-12. As of September 2015 there were 80 satellites based on the 1300 series platform on orbit, with 1 more ready for launch and 21 others under construction.[2]

The company designed and built AsiaSat 8, which was launched on 5 August 2014, and AsiaSat 6, which went into orbit on 7 September 2014. The two satellite launches cost AsiaSat $110 million. The satellites were expected to last 15 years, and contain high-powered C-band transponders providing video and broadband services to the Asia-Pacific region.[3][4]

COTS proposal[edit]

SSL and Constellation Services International have proposed a reusable space tug based on the 1300 platform and a pressure-fed, low-cost Aquarius Launch Vehicle. The tug would be used to bring supplies to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.[2][5][6]

NASA eventually decided to pursue another proposal for this project. SSL, however, continues to provide Battery Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs), Battery Charge Discharge Units (BCDUs), and Sequential Shunt Units (SSUs) for the ISS.[7]

LADEE Mission[edit]

SSL designed and delivered a propulsion system based on their 1300 platform for the NASA LADEE mission. On April 17, 2014, between 9:30 p.m and 10:22 p.m. PDT, after successfully completing its goal to collect lunar dust and study the moon's atmosphere, NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft successfully completed a planned de-orbit, bringing an end to the mission to study the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere.[8][9] Using a private company to provide the propulsion system leverages the capability of commercially proven technology for U.S. Government missions.[10][11][12]


SSL's customers include AsiaSat, Azercosmos, Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) Tbk. (BRI), Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation, Bulgaria Sat (Bulsatcom), DirecTV, EchoStar, Eutelsat, Globalstar, Google's Skybox Imaging, Hispasat, Hughes Network Systems, ICO Global Communications, Intelsat, Japan MTSAT, JSC Gascom, Loral Skynet, NASA/NOAA (GOES), nbn, Optus, PanAmSat, Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), QuetzSat, Satmex, SES S.A., SES World Skies, Shin Satellite, Singtel, Sirius Satellite Radio, Sky Perfect JSAT Corporation, Spainsat, Star One, Telenor, Telesat Canada, Thaicom, ViaSat, WildBlue, and XM Satellite Radio.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]