Our History Highlights

2020

2020

In the year of COVID-19, our business contingency plans were put to the test. While most of our employees transitioned to work from home, our operations teams continued to deliver uninterrupted broadcasting and network services 24/7. The switch to a largely remote way-of-working saw a sharp acceleration of our journey into the Cloud—equipping our employees with the tools to work efficiently from anywhere.

2019

2 April 2019: successful launch of 4 O3b satellites, completing our first-generation MEO constellation.

Using our unique multi­orbit network to extend the reach of telco, mobile and cloud infrastructure, we deployed ‘life­changing’ broadband and mobile services; meaningfully improving connectivity for people in rural areas all over the world including Burkina Faso, Columbia, Indonesia and Pakistan.

o3b launch
SES antennas

2018

We were delighted to welcome Steve Collar as our new CEO, while completing our restructuring into SES Video and SES Networks (our data-focused business unit).

We also launched a record eight satellites into space and delivered a compelling vision for our network of the future, driving us towards a new decade of cloud-scale connectivity and a cloud-enabled future.

2017

SES-10 became the first geostationary satellite to be launched on a SpaceX flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket, paving the way for the space industry and other operators to embrace reusability.

With the O3b constellation taking SES Networks to new heights, we ordered O3b mPOWER—our next-generation medium earth orbit (MEO) constellation that will enable us to deliver more connectivity within the data business.

SES-10
SOC

2016

SES forms MX1 and acquires O3b to significantly enhance existing Video and Networks capabilities.

The first weeks of July saw us acquire RR Media and merge their capabilities with SES Platform Services to form MX1—the world’s leading media globaliser. Next, we added O3b Networks to the list, significantly enhancing our existing Networks offering and becoming the first commercial satellite operator to manage a multi-orbit fleet made up of medium earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites.

2015

SES proved its worth in the broadcasting industry once again when we launched the world’s first global Ultra HD channel – Fashion One 4K. In collaboration with Fashion One Television LLC, we rolled out a fully-managed 4k playout as well as ground segment and distribution services across North America, South America and Europe.

SES
First live concert in Ultra HD

2014

In partnership with Samsung, we brought the first-ever Ultra HD live concert to TV screens around the globe. Broadcast at Astra 19.2 degrees East, rock band Linkin Park’s show was transmitted exclusively via the Astra Ultra HD demo channel, making headlines for its magnificent picture quality and extravagant light shows.

That same year, a strong partnership with the Government of Luxembourg led to the launch of SATMED – a cloud-based e-Health platform designed to bring mobile health solutions to remote areas in developing regions.

2013

In 2013, O3b Networks launched its highly-anticipated first batch of four Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, offering data services to companies all over the world. SES-8 was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 3 December, making it the first commercial satellite to be launched by American aerospace giant Space X.

25th year in space
Innovation writ large

2012

2012 - the year of innovation - did not disappoint. In partnership with the Luxembourg government and two companies, we launched Emergency-lu - a mobile, satellite-based, telecommunications platform created to support the communication efforts of humanitarian organisations in the aftermath of conflict or natural disaster.

2011

Off the back of several acquisitions, a merged brand powerhouse was born – SES. Complete with a new management team, we extended our fleet; launching five satellites and payloads: Yahsat 1A, QuetzSat-1, SES-3, ASTRA 1N and SES-2.

SES extends and renews its fleet
SES celebrates 25 years

2010

2010 marked our 25th anniversary - a cause for celebration, having grown from a small-scale TV broadcasting provider into one of the world’s leading satellite operators with over 70 satellites in two different orbits.

2009

Despite the global economic downturn, we continued to make our presence felt among the world’s emerging markets. In Asia, we grew our reach to deliver five direct-to-home platforms made up of hundreds of TV channels and 27 million subscribers.

O3b Networks
SES WORLD SKIES

2008

Leveraging the inherent strengths of the organisation, we combine our Americom and New Skies segments to form a single division – SES World Skies.

Meanwhile, SES Astra opens a new orbital position at 31.5° East, creating growth opportunities in un-tapped markets across Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 2008 also saw us increase our participation (from 75 to 90%) in SES Sirius - a then independent operator, delivering TV, radio, data and communications solutions to the Nordic countries.

2007

By the close of the year, SES has finalised a complex split-off transaction with General Electric (GE), buying out GE’s 19.5% stake in the company and allowing us to optimise our portfolio of assets.

We also announce a ground-breaking partnership with launch services providers Arianaspace (signature ceremony pictured above) and International Launch Services (ILS) taking our offering to new heights.

Securing flexible access to space
New Skies Satellites

2006

With a goal to gain access to new markets and talent pools, 2006 sees us further refine our geographic expansion strategy by acquiring New Skies Satellites. The New Skies fleet achieves exactly that – broadening our global footprint and fuelling our growth; with SES now covering 99% of the world’s population.

2005

The year opens with SES’ entry into major indices at the Euronext Paris stock exchange, where the company was listed in 2004. Parallel to our diversified growth strategy, we steadily expand our service offering to go beyond basic satellite capacity leasing.

With this new direction, we ramp up our provision of connectivity solutions and services to governments all over the globe; in particular, the US Government and military who are served by a dedicated SES division.

Euronext Paris
Full HD

2004

The first satellite company to carry high definition television (HDTV) signals, SES Americom kicks off the year with the launch of HD-Prime: America’s premium HD neighbourhood reaching 80 million cable households across the country.

2003

SES reaches two major milestones this year putting us firmly on the map. SES Americom forges a multi-year strategic partnership with EchoStar, granting long-term satellite capacity to the company’s DISH Network and linking North America’s leading satellite operator with the US’ largest DTH network.

Across the pond, SES Astra announces the launch of its first ever HD channel set to reach the homes of thousands of Europeans the following year.

EchoStar
President and CEO, Romain Bausch

2002

President and CEO, Romain Bausch is named Satellite Executive of the Year in recognition of his expert implementation of SES’ global strategy over the past four years.

2002 was a year of highs and lows. We successfully launch Astra 3A into space, but we also suffer our first ever launch failure when the Protocon rocket carrying Astra 1K fails to reach orbit. No stranger to a challenge, we take the steps to ensure that the satellite safely de-orbits and is swiftly destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere.

2001

SES now has footholds in every major regional market bar one: North America. Over the course of the year, we complete a complex transaction acquiring General Electric (GE) Americom in full, including eight satellites serving the North American market. The newly titled SES Americom makes SES the world’s largest satellite operator overnight – complete with a 40-strong fleet.

Nonetheless, we stay true to our roots – Europe remains SES’ core market where it continues to operate as SES Astra.

American dream
Going global

2000

With the advent of the millennium, SES continues its transformation into a global content connectivity powerhouse. Our collaboration with Nordic Satellite AB extends our coverage into Northern and Eastern Europe while our partnership with Brazilian operator, Star One, sees our reach skyrocket to serve 79% of the world population.

Meanwhile, SES Astra continues to build up its new orbital slot at 28.2° East with the launch of Astra 2B, replicating a highly successful strategy that had been applied at 19.2° East in the 1990s.

1999

The countdown to the millennium is on and SES takes its first steps to transition from a single-market, single-product business to a global operator. Following the successful IPO in 1998, we now have the necessary financial muscle to launch our acquisition strategy, taking a 34.10% cut in the Hong Kong-based satellite company AsiaSat.

Back in Europe, the launch of Astra 1H sees SES become one of the first satellite operators to offer commercial Ka-band capacity – the cherry on top of a great year.

Burse de Luxembourg
ASTRA 1G

1998

With our satellite fleet in hot demand, it quickly became clear that a second orbital position was needed. In August 1998, Astra 2A began its ascent from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, later becoming the first satellite to take up the position of 28.2° East.

In the months that followed, SES shifted all of its UK services to this new position, which now became Astra’s dedicated orbital slot for digital broadcasting to Great Britain. Just like 19.2°, 28.2° East was continuously developed to deliver more for our UK customers, including British broadcaster and telecommunications giant Sky.

1997

The start of the year saw ILS Proton send three more Astra satellites up into space, hot on the heels of Astra 1F. Aware of the increasing global demand for satellite services, the benefits of an additional launch provider quickly became the topic of conversation around the SES lunch table.

More satellites, more services
Go Proton!

1996

With the rapid expansion of our satellite fleet, we were always on the lookout for fresh opportunities. One such prospect came in the shape of a new US-Russian launch provider allowing us to exploit Russia’s impressive legacy in rocket and space technology. International Launch Services (ILS) began marketing Russian launch vehicles and facilities to commercial Western satellite operators.

1995 cont.

The age of digitalisation was important to us for two key reasons - not only did it represent a huge leap towards improving signal and picture quality, digital technology also allowed signals to be compressed so that many more channels could be transmitted via one transponder. In 1995, digitalisation became the essential ingredient for the channel explosion that followed, as well as the enabler for future quality enhancements, most importantly, high-definition TV.

The digital revolution takes shape
SES goes digital

1995

One major attraction for channel providers such as Canal+ was SES’ pioneering use of digital broadcasting technology. In the early 1990s, we were one of the first to champion Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) as the European standard waging a successful lobbying campaign against rival technologies. On 15 September 1996 at the SES headquarters in Betzdorf, our new Digital Technical Facilities Manager was inaugurated in the presence of His Royal Highness the Grand-Duke Jean and Grand-Duchess Josephine Charlotte.

1991

The dramatic changes in Germany in 1989-90 were swiftly followed by a less spectacular, yet significant step forward when the German government liberalised the sale and installation of satellite dishes - part of a wider liberalisation of international telecommunication. Unsurprisingly, audience figures for Astra grew rapidly, attracting the attention of more broadcasters. It wasn’t long before Astra 1A reached its capacity, and by March 1991, SES had launched Astra 1B, almost identical to its predecessor except for a slightly smaller payload.
ASTRA 1B
Beginning of a new era

1990

By the end of 1990, Astra was reaching 16.6 million cable and direct-to-home (DTH) households across Europe. The DTH revolution had arrived. Throughout the 1990s, Astra would go from strength to strength adding new satellites to its primary orbital position to keep up with the universal demand for more channels and more content.

1989 cont.

The last half of the year brought with it more developments and more opportunities for success. The “Television Without Frontiers” Directive, today the cornerstone of the European Union’s audiovisual policy, came into force allowing the free movement of programmes – fitting perfectly with SES’s ambitions to serve all of Europe’s major markets.

Fall of the Berlin Wall
ASTRA 1A began transmitting

1989

Astra 1A began transmitting on 5 February 1989 from its orbital position, 19.2° East. At the time, only 100,000 households in Europe had satellite reception dishes capable of receiving Astra signals. Eight out of 16 transponders had been contracted, and most of these, such as Sky and Filmnet, were targeting specific markets including the UK and Scandinavia. Once again, SES had a challenge on its hands – our ambition was to establish ourselves in Europe yet Astra still lacked attractive offerings for several key markets namely, Germany, France and Spain.

1988 cont.

After much delay, Astra 1A got its launch slot…seeing out the year with a bang. Everybody – from Astra personnel to regulators in Luxembourg to the financial community – were aware of the political and commercial risks at stake as they huddled around their screen to watch a live transmission of the satellite, aboard its equatorial launch pad, Ariane 4, prepare for take-off in the port town of Kourou in French Guiana. Seeing Astra soar up into the skies off the northeast coast of South America seemed like the apotheosis of a long voyage!
ASTRA 1A
Margaret Thatcher visits Betzdorf

1988 cont.

In September 1988, at the height of her reign, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher embarked on a four-day tour of the European capitals. Luxembourg gave her a warm welcome – the countries shared common positions on several key issues at the time, notably television and broadcasting regulation. The PM was whisked off to the recently constructed ground control facilities at SES’ Betzdorf headquarters where she was presented with a model of Astra 1A set for launch in December.

1988

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV became the first major private broadcaster to sign up to Astra in June 1988. They didn’t hang about – booking four transponders on Astra 1A via a ten-year deal, with the satellite due for take-off at the end of the year. British electronics company, Amstrad, was selected to manufacture the dishes and decoders.

The falling prices of satellite reception equipment at the time would fuel Astra’s success, and convince customers and investors alike that there would be large audiences waiting to receive their programming.

Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV
Betzdorf Satellite Control Facility

1987 cont.

In July that same year, the Betzdorf Satellite Control Facility (SCF) became operational. SES teams had begun to occupy the facility eight months earlier. Unfortunately, due to the grounding of Ariane 4 rocket – a result of a launch failure the year before – Astra 1A’s journey was postponed. It would be two years before the Betzdorf ground station could fully serve its purpose.

1987

Despite the company being founded as SES, it would become known to millions under the simple brand name ‘Astra’ – in honour of our first satellite. As well as promising many more channels than any other satellite operator had offered before, Astra 1A had one other major advantage over its European rivals. The satellite’s configuration gave it a pan-European footprint – with it, we could reach millions more homes in multiple countries strengthening our commercial appeal.
ASTRA 1A
Building a satellite

1986 cont.

As the year played out, SES had a home, but it didn’t have a satellite. That was all about to change. Built by RCA Astro, Astra 1A became the first European medium-powered satellite, based on a model already in use in the US. At the time, European operators favoured the so-called ‘heavy’ or high-powered satellites, such as the German operated TV-Sats 1 & 2 and the French TDF. These models carried five transponders and a localised footprint. A trailblazer by nature, this did little to dampen our spirits…

1986

In May 1986 construction work began on the satellite control facility (SCF) at Château de Betzdorf. Why here? Besides the fact that it was a former residence of Luxembourg royalty, Betzdorf Castle Estate happened to also be a prime location for a satellite ground station. Most importantly, its remote spot on the map meant it was far from any built-up areas which could potentially cause interference with the telemetry and control equipment needed to steer the satellite. The ability to send and receive signals was also uncompromised.
Under construction
Agreement with Arianespace

1985 cont.

Luxembourg displayed its ambitions to become a key space player by supporting the launch of our very first satellite - Astra 1A. Frédéric´D'Allest, President of Arianespace, and Corneille Brück, Chairman of the Board at SES, signed the launch agreement for Astra 1A on 15 November 1985, but it was not until January 1988 that Ariane was able to offer a launch slot for the satellite…

1985

After a long struggle spanning several years, SES was founded as Europe’s first private satellite operator. The signing ceremony, a low-key affair in Luxembourg on 1 March 1985, was a cause for celebration, yet came not without controversy. Neighbouring countries feared it would threaten their own satellite programmes. This was only compounded by a fresh concern in France – many believed the new satellite could become a vehicle for ‘US cultural imperialism’.
Chateau de Betzdorf