The IKONOS satellite was launched in September 1999. A study that was completed in August of 2008 by the IKONOS manufacturer resulted in a revised life expectancy for IKONOS to the 2010+ timeframe. Based on that study, we currently expect to continue commercial operations with IKONOS through that timeframe. However, we can offer no assurance that IKONOS will maintain its prescribed orbit or remain commercially operational..The expected operational lives of satellites are affected by a number of factors, including the quality of construction, the supply of fuel, the expected gradual environmental degradation of solar panels, the durability of various satellite components and the orbits in which the satellites are placed.
The OrbView-2 satellite was launched in August 1997. Despite the fact that OrbView-2’s operational life has expired, we currently expect to continue commercial operations with OrbView-2 in 2009. We cannot, cannot guarantee the use of OrbView-2 throughout 2009, or beyond.
GeoEye does not presently have plans to construct and launch a replacement satellite for IKONOS or OrbView-2 if either fails prematurely. The company is developing the GeoEye-2 satellite program, but has yet to select a satellite builder. Timeline to launch is at least three to four years from commencement of actual construction.
Financing the construction of GeoEye-2, whose total costs could exceed $500 million, will strain an already levered balance sheet. Long-term debt of $246.7 million is 1.3 times shareholder equity, and comes due in 2012. The times interest earned ratio—an indicator of GeoEye’s ability to meet the interest payments on its debt—0.9 times EBIT at December 31—suggests that unless earnings expand rapidly, GeoEye could find the capital markets less than receptive to their request for additional financing. [Ed. Note. GeoEye’s ability to cover its annual interest payments would be even more suspect, but the company used a legal loophole, known as “capitalized interest” that permitted the company to defer payment of certain costs involved in the construction of GeoEye-1].
If IKRONOS and OrbView-2 lose satellite imagery capabilities before 2012, sales and profitability could end up in decaying orbits, dooming GeoEye’s plans for its GeoEye-2 satellite.
Editor David J Phillips does not hold a financial interest in any stocks mentioned in this article. The 10Q Detective has a Full Disclosure Policy.