Satellite and Space Projects Briefing October 2022 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects Briefing October 2022

John Worthy


United Kingdom

New orbital debris rule approved by FCC: The timeline for US-connected satellite operators to deorbit low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites has been shortened from 25 to 5 years.

This rule was adopted by the US Federal Communications Commission on 29 September 2022 to address the growing debris in LEO. Under the new rules, spacecraft that end their lives in orbits at altitudes of 2,000 kilometres or below will have to deorbit as soon as practicable, and no more than five years after the end of their mission. This applies to satellites launched two years after the order is adopted, and includes both US licensed satellites as well as those licensed by other jurisdictions, but seeking US market access.

Satellite Vu strikes deal with Viasat: Satellite Vu has signed a deal with Viasat to use its Real-Time Earth global ground service network to ensure rapid reception and dissemination of thermal imagery from its satellites. This new partnership - announced 28 September 2022- will enable Satellite Vu to contact its constellation through the day and night. This will consequently support rapid responsiveness to customers, as well as low latency times and high-speed delivery of its thermal imagery.

Astroscale opens new UK facility: Astroscale has opened a new satellite manufacturing and operations facility "Zeus" at the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, UK. This new facility covers approximately 20,000 square feet. The company said this operation in the Harwell Space Cluster (alongside others such as the UK Space Agency) will contribute to the in-orbit servicing supply chain and commercial servicing economy, including by creating new jobs and national capability.

Eutelsat confident in OneWeb merger plans: On 12 October 2022, Eutelsat CEO Eve Berneke delivered a presentation to investors on the logic and ambitions behind its plans to merge with LEO constellation OneWeb. Signed on 22 July 2022, the agreement states that Eutelsat and OneWeb shareholders will each own 50 per cent of the final company's shares. Eve Berneke and OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said that the deal would accelerate the commercialisation of OneWeb's fleet as it enters the final stages of its global deployment.

Virgin Orbit 'ready and waiting' for Cornwall launch: Virgin carried out a rehearsal at its HQ on 2 October 2022 for its upcoming launch of satellites from Spaceport Cornwall. Virgin says its aircraft is now ready and standing by for a launch, and the rocket has been delivered to Newquay, Cornwall, but the timing will depend on when the Civil Aviation Authority grants them a licence. Virgin also announced collaborative efforts to bring their air launch systems to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Poland and the Republic of Korea.

Yahsat invests in eSAT Global:  Yahsat, the Emirati fleet operator, has invested in the Californian start-up eSAT Global. The San Diego-based company creates communication modules that enable tracking, monitoring and other low cost devices to connect directly to GEO satellites. The deal involves a long-term commercial agreement to enable Yahsat to use eSAT's technology to connect directly to phones and low-power internet of things (IoT) devices.
UK regulator to review Viasat-Inmarsat deal in depth: UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced plans for an in-depth investigation into Viasat’s proposed US$7.3 billion acquisition of Inmarsat, following a preliminary review. The CMA has now triggered a Phase 2 investigation, based on concerns that the merger could harm competition in the inflight Wi-Fi connectivity (IFC) market. Viasat had aimed to finalise the deal by the end of the year but, given the statutory deadline for the CMA investigation is 30 March 2023, this deadline now seems unrealistic.