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Satellite and Space Projects News - August 2016

John Worthy


United Kingdom

Our latest digest of recent news in the satellite and space projects sector.

SES acquisition of O3b gets regulatory approval:  SES S.A. has announced that it obtained regulatory approval for its acquisition of 100% of O3b Networks.  It completed its acquisition on 1 August 2016, and O3b will be fully consolidated in SES's financial accounts from that date.  SES paid US$730 million to directly increase its fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1% to 100%, using proceeds from the company’s recent equity raising.  

ASL acquisition of Arianespace:  The European Commission has approved Airbus Safran Launcher's acquisition of Arianespace under the EU Merger Regulation,.  The approval is subject to conditions to address concerns that the transaction would give rise to flows of sensitive information between Airbus and Arianespace to the detriment of competing satellite manufacturers and launch service providers.

UK spaceport feasibility study:  The UK Space Agency has awarded contracts worth a total of £1.5m to five companies to carry out feasibility studies for mounting orbital and sub-orbital flights from the UK.  The five companies are Airbus-Safran Launchers, Deimos Space UK, Lockheed Martin, Virgin Galactic and Orbital Access.  Topics being studied in the five projects include:

  • understanding and building the regulatory environment for safe, commercial operations
  • creating the operational model for a commercially viable UK spaceport
  • quantifying the market needs for small satellite launches from the UK
  • analysing the potential to grow a high value, UK supply chain around launch and sub-orbital spaceflight systems and engaging with these suppliers
  • building the technology and business roadmaps in support of launch and sub-orbital spaceflight systems
  • developing a detailed understanding of how overseas launch and spaceflight systems can be adapted for operation in the UK and the impact on all of the above.  (Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0)

UK Space Agency propulsion test facility:  The UK Space Agency is investing £4.12m in a National Propulsion Test Facility for the testing and development of space propulsion engines. The facility, at Westcott in Buckinghamshire, will be open for use by space sector businesses and academia.  It will contain a new vacuum facility that will allow the simulation of high altitude testing of thrusters up to 2kN.  Government funding will also upgrade an existing industry owned test chamber at Westcott to improve capabilities in the 25N thrust range.  A smaller 1N thruster test chamber will also be available.

SABRE receives ESA funding:  Reaction Engines Limited (REL) announced on 12 July that it has signed an £8m (€10m) contract with the European Space Agency for the development of a ground based demonstrator of SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine). SABRE is a new engine class that will allow single-stage-to-orbit propulsion by reducing the quantity of on-board oxidizer needed.  The rocket engine will be able to operate in "air-breathing" mode, where it sucks in atmospheric air as a source of oxygen (as in a typical jet engine) to burn with its liquid hydrogen fuel in the rocket combustion chamber. Once the engine is above the atmosphere, it transitions to using conventional on-board liquid oxygen.  The funding completes £60m grant-funding from the UK Space Agency.   

SSTL contract with Honeywell: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has signed a contract with Honeywell to supply the VESTA satellite platform, a technology demonstration mission that will test a new two-way VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) payload for the exactEarth advanced maritime satellite constellation. The contract was signed as part of an MOU between Honeywell Aerospace and the UK Space Agency. Launch is scheduled for 2017.

Intelsat Q2 2016 results:  Intelsat announced its Q2 2016 results on 27 July 2016.  Network Services revenue was $228.3 million (or 42 percent of Intelsat’s total revenue) for the three months ended June 30, 2016, a decrease of 16 percent compared to the three months ended June 30, 2015.  Government revenue was $93.6 million (or 17 percent of Intelsat’s total revenue) for the three months ended June 30, 2016, a decrease of 2 percent compared to the three months ended June 30, 2015. Expected future revenue under existing contracts with customers, was $9.2 billion, as compared to $9.3 billion at March 31, 2016, reflecting lower overall net new contracts.

Devas arbitration on contract cancellation:  Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd announced on 26 July 2016 that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague (PCA) has ruled that the Government of India's actions in cancelling a contract between Devas and Antrix Corporation Ltd. and denying Devas commercial use of S-band spectrum constituted an expropriation. The PCA also found that India breached its treaty commitments to accord fair and equitable treatment to Devas's foreign investors.   This follows a 2015 finding by the International Chamber of Commerce tribunal that Antrix's repudiation of the Devas-Antrix contract was unlawful, resulting in the award to Devas of damages and pre-award interest of approximately $672 million.

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