Satellite and Space Projects newsletter October 2023 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects Briefing October 2023

John Worthy


United Kingdom

Fieldfisher leads international regulatory discussions on Space Based Solar Power (SBSP): The international conference hosted by ESA, UKSA and DESNZ, 9-10 October, on solar energy from space featured a regulatory debate chaired by Fieldfisher partner John Worthy.

SBSP is set to deliver a vital renewable energy source to assist in the fight against climate change and support energy security. With insights from senior representatives of ESA, UK Civil Aviation Authority, Ofcom and the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi, the panel discussed the current and future national and international regulatory frameworks impacting on SBSP, spanning the UK, Europe and the US. This debate built on the themes highlighted in John's presentation to the conference on "Enabling SBSP through Regulation". 

UK Government consults on orbital liabilities, insurance, charging and space sustainability: The UK Government has issued a consultation paper on orbital liabilities, insurance, charging and space sustainability following on from its June 2022 liabilities and insurance call for evidence. The consultation proposes a variable liability limit to reflect the sustainability priorities of the National Space Strategy. Among other initiatives, the UK is also considering ways to build on its existing measures to promote sustainability in space. 

Eutelsat - OneWeb merger completes: On 28 September 2023 Eutelsat's shareholders voted to support the all-share deal between Eutelsat and One Web, with more than 87% of shareholders in favour. The merger has created the only operator of a geostationary and LEO (low earth orbit) satellite network. OneWeb is preparing to offer its services globally before the end of 2023. The merged group forecasts a double-digit compound annual growth rate for revenues, reaching around $2.1 billion in 2027. Eutelsat will remain headquartered in Paris and listed on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange, alongside the company's new listing on the London Stock Exchange.

UK Space Agency launches £65 million funding for space innovation: The UK Space Agency has announced a £65 million funding call for the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) to support high-risk, high-reward projects designed by British organisations. The first £34 million is now open to proposals, with the remaining funding being split across funding calls in 2024 and 2025. The funding will be split between major projects and kick-starter funding. Since NSIP launched in 2020, the programme has already provided UK organisations with over £25 million in funding. 

Maxar Technologies reorganises as two separate businesses: Space technology firm, Maxar Technologies, is being reorganised as two separate businesses: Maxar Space Infrastructure (spacecraft manufacturing), and Maxar Intelligence (satellite imagery). The businesses will have separate CEOs and will result in an unspecified number of job cuts. The restructuring takes place less than five months after Maxar was acquired by PE firm Advent International in a deal worth $6.4 billion. Whilst the businesses will be run separately, they will continue to work together on join programmes such as WorldView Legion.

SAIC and LeoLabs collaborate on space-tracking software platform: SAIC, a US defence contractor, and LeoLabs, a space monitoring firm, are working together to develop a space-tracking software platform. The platform is aimed at government civilian and national security agencies that monitor activities in space. The prototype system is expected to be available by the end of 2023.

FCC updates satellite licensing process: The FCC has approved a Report and Order to accelerate existing processes for licensing satellite and earth stations in a move to modernise. The Order adopts new timelines for the initial review of applications and creates a new streamlined process for a limited set of earth station operators to add satellite points of communications via a 35-day auto grant process. The FCC says the move is designed to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the space industry.

UAE Government's $5bn deal with Yahsat: The UAE government has committed a $5.1 billion contract to buy broadband services from Yahsat until at least 2043. This deal would replace contracts due to expire in 2026 and would fund two geostationary satellites from Airbus, anticipated to launch in 2027 and 2028. Following the government's long-term commitment, Yahsat has a pipeline of $7 billion of contracted revenues.

Astroscale awarded $25.5m contract for on-orbit refuelling vehicle: The US Space Force is co-investing $25.5 million in government funding into an on-orbit refuelling vehicle which Astroscale is set to deliver in 24 months. Astroscale will be providing $12 million to the project. The "manifest ready" prototype vehicle will be capable of refuelling a satellite in orbit.