SES Americom was a major commercial satellite operator of North American geosynchronous satellites based in the United States. The company started as RCA Americom in 1975 before being bought by General Electric in 1986 and then later acquired by SES S.A. in 2001. In September 2009, SES Americom and SES New Skies merged into SES World Skies.
RCA American Communications (RCA Americom) was founded in 1975 as an operator of RCA Astro Electronics-built satellites. The company's first satellite; Satcom 1, was launched on December 12, 1975. Satcom 1 was one of the earliest geostationary satellites.
Satcom 1 was instrumental in helping early cable TV channels (such as Superstation TBS and CBN) to become initially successful, because these channels distributed their programming to all of the local cable TV headends using the satellite. Additionally, it was the first satellite used by broadcast TV networks in the United States, like ABC, NBC, and CBS, to distribute their programming to all of their local affiliate stations. Satcom 1 was so widely used because it had twice the communications capacity of the competing Westar 1 (24 transponders as opposed to Westar 1’s 12), which resulted in lower transponder usage costs.
14 more (increasingly sophisticated) Satcom satellites would enter service from 1976 to 1992. In 1986 General Electric acquired RCA and renamed the Americom unit to GE American Communications (GE Americom). From 1996 new satellites were named in the GE-# series, i.e. GE-1 in 1996, GE-2 in 1997 etc.
In November 2001, GE sold its GE Americom unit to SES for $5 billion in cash and stock. As a result of the sale, GE Americom was renamed SES Americom and SES Global was formed as the parent company. SES's existing operations were moved to the newly created SES Astra subsidiary. SES formerly bought a satellite from failed DBS company Crimson Satellite Associates and GE Americom while still under construction by GE AstroSpace (as Satcom K3). Renamed Astra 1B, it was launched to add extra capacity to the satellite television services from 19.2° east, serving Germany, the UK and Republic of Ireland.
After the acquisition of GE Americom by SES, all the satellites previously named with the GE-# prefix were renamed AMC-# (i.e., GE-1 renamed AMC-1, and so on).
The President and CEO of the new SES Americom was Dean Olmstead. He left the company in 2004 and was succeeded by Edward Horowitz. SES Americom was subsequently placed under Robert Bednarek, the President and CEO of SES New Skies.
In September 2009, SES Americom and SES New Skies were re-branded SES World Skies.
Before being merged into SES World Skies in 2009 (which expanded coverage to Middle East and Africa), SES Americom operated the following North American satellites in geosynchronous orbit: