Spaceflight Insider

ILS changes leadership, signs new launch contract

Proton-M launch of Satmex-8

Archive Photo of Proton-M night launch. Photo Credit: ILS

International Launch Services (ILS), a company providing launch services for global satellite operators, has recently announced change in leadership. The announcement coincides with the signing of a contract to launch a spacecraft for Spanish satellite operator Hispasat.

ILS will now be led by Kirk Pysher, the company’s current vice president of mission assurance and product development. He takes over leadership from Phil Slack, who served as ILS’ president since 2012.

“Commercial launch is a small, highly competitive industry with limited players. For that reason, it’s critical our business remain healthy and sustainable for the long term ensuring our customers with reliable and readily available access to space. I look forward to continuing Phil’s work towards building customer trust and confidence in the dedicated and talented teams at ILS and Khrunichev as well as the Proton and Angara launch vehicles,” Pysher said.

Russian-based Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center is the majority shareholder in ILS. Pysher was appointed to the ILS Board of Directors just last month. The Board includes senior level representatives from both ILS and Khrunichev.

Kirk Pysher

Kirk Pysher. Photo Credit: ILS

Pysher has nearly 30 years of experience in the space industry. As the ILS vice president, he had the responsibility for development and implementation of ILS and customer specific mission assurance requirements. In addition to his critical mission assurance role, he also had responsibility for ILS product development including performance upgrades and new capabilities intended to align with customers’ future requirements, including the preliminary steps to introduce the Angara launch vehicle to the commercial market.

“I have appreciated working with all of our customers over the years, and with Kirk for the past two, and know that ILS is in very capable hands. I am very grateful for the support of all of my industry colleagues and look forward to the next chapter,” Slack said.

The appointment of the new president came just days before ILS announced its new contract to launch a satellite for Hispasat in the first half of 2017.

The satellite will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, using ILS’ Proton rocket. However, it has not been decided yet what satellite exactly will ILS deliver to space. It was only disclosed that it will be one of the two satellites that Space Systems Loral LLC (SSL) of Palo Alto, California, is building for Hispasat. This will either be Hispasat 1F or Amazonas 5. The other spacecraft will be launched by SpaceX.

Hispasat 1F will be located at the 30 degrees West orbital position. It will replace Hispasat 1D and provide the additional Ku band capacity for the Andes and Brazil. Moreover, with Hispasat 1F, the company’s transatlantic capacities for connectivity between Europe and America will increase, and Ka band capacity will be added with European coverage in order for Hispasat to continue increasing their broadband services in the region.

Amazonas 5 will be located at 61 degrees West. With this new satellite, the Hispasat Group will be able to meet the growing satellite capacity demand, mainly for satellite television platforms in Latin America and Brazil. Moreover, it has Ka-band capacity to deal with new Internet connectivity services.

Both satellites will have an expected useful life of 15 years and will be built on SSL’s 1300 platform.

“The partnership of Hispasat satellites launching on Proton dates back over 10 years with the successful launch of Hispasat’s first Amazonas satellite in 2004 on ILS Proton. We are proud that Hispasat continues to place its trust in us to expand business with this launch in 2017, another powerful satellite to augment their fleet. ILS and Khrunichev look forward to working with Hispasat on this important mission,” Pysher said.

ILS, an American-Russian joint venture headquartered in Reston, VA., near Washington, D.C., markets the Khrunichev-built Proton and Angara vehicles to commercial satellite operators worldwide. To date, ILS has launched 90 commercial missions.

The company’s next flight is currently scheduled to take place on Oct. 9, when it will send Turkish Türksat 4B communications satellite into orbit, using a Proton-M booster.


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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