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Satellite and Space Projects News – November 2019

John Worthy
18/11/2019

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United Kingdom

Copernicus after Brexit: Jan Wörner, director general of the European Space Agency, intends to argue in favour of continued UK involvement in the Copernicus programme after Brexit (Financial Times). The UK will continue to be a member country of the ESA post-Brexit and will therefore continue to be able to bid for ESA contracts, although not EU-funded one, unless the EU agrees to an exception. Any EU/UK exception will depends on a future trading deal between the UK and the EU.

UK Spaceport Sutherland: Local councillors are reviewing outline proposals for a vertical launch site on the A'Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, Scotland. The proposals, contained in a report prepared by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), are a preliminary step before submission of a formal planning application.   Facilities on the proposed 815-acre site will include a launch pad, operations and control centre, access roads, car parks, rocket assembly facility and security fencing.  

ESA funding: With the next European Space Agency ministerial – Space 19+ - scheduled to take place in Seville at the end of November, ESA plans to ask its member countries to contribute US$13.9 billion of funding over the next three years. If approved, this will be an increase of US$1.6 billion since the last funding round. ESA member countries' contributions are split between mandatory and optional programmes. One of the projects that could benefit from the 2019-2021 funding round is Prometheus, a programme for the development of a low cost, reusable liquid oxygen-methane propelled rocket engine, currently being built by Ariane Group. ESA plans to ask for funds to build up to eight additional Prometheus rockets over and above the two currently under construction.

Hughes Europe / Telespazio: Hughes Europe, a division of Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), and Telespazio, a joint venture between Leonardo and Thales, announced on 18 October that they have agreed to continue their 15 year partnership delivering satellite communications. 

Inmarsat acquisition approved: The UK's Department of Culture, Media & Sport has approved the acquisition of Inmarsat by a consortium led by Apax Partners and Warburg Pincus. This follows the decision of the UK's competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, which gave a first-phase approval for the deal in September 2019. Among other undertakings given to the UK government, the bidders agreed to keep Inmarsat's HQ in London for at least 3 years.

UK benefits from ARTES: An independent report, commissioned by the UK Space Agency emphasises the benefits that the UK's participation in in the European Space Agency Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme brings to the UK's growing space sector. The UK has contributed approximately £765 million to the ARTES programme since 2008, generating an additional £11 billion of UK income.

Skynet 6A – contract for long lead items: The UK's Ministry of Defence is planning to place a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for long-lead items required for Skynet 6A to mitigate the risk of delivery delays. Skynet 6 is the next generation military satellite communications programme. It will replace the current aging Skynet 5 Private Finance Initiative contract that is due to expire in August 2022.