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Satellite and Space Projects News - December 2018



United Kingdom

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

Latest awards for Fieldfisher: Fieldfisher partner John Worthy has been awarded the titles of Satellite and Space Projects Lawyer of the Year UK 2018 and Technology Lawyer of the Year 2018 -UK from Lawyer Monthly.


The Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards 2018 recognises the achievements of law firms, lawyers, counsel and those connected to the legal world who have a proven track record in delivering results for their clients over the past twelve months. The winners were selected based on voting from the Lawyer Monthly readership of nearly 180,000, and drew on 10 key selection criteria, including legal expertise and innovation, size of transactions/deals, peer recognition, personal achievement and strategic thinking.

John was also recognised as Technology Lawyer of the Year 2018, London, by Acquisition International.

These latest awards build on the Fieldfisher team's Global Award for Excellence in Space Law 2018 from Corporate LiveWire

Local concerns over Sutherland Spaceport: Negotiations with local crofters over the site for the planned UK spaceport on the A'Mhoine peninsula in Scotland are moving forward despite local concerns about the environmental impact of the project. To go ahead on the peninsula, the spaceport needs a lease of land from the Melness Crofters Estate (MCE), which represents the interests of the crofters. In a recent ballot, 59% of MCE members voted in favour of progressing discussions with the Highlands and Islands Enterprise with a view to agreeing heads of terms for the proposed lease. A local pressure group – Protect The Mhoine – argues that the spaceport will threaten precious peat bogs and bird populations.  

In-orbit refuelling: In an interview with Space Intel Report, Martin Halliwell, CTO of SES, and Stewart Sanders, EVP of SES networks expressed doubts about the practical benefits of in-orbit satellite refuelling. Factors that may make in-orbit refuelling less attractive to operators include shorter satellite lives, increased build costs and the inherent risks of in-orbit refuelling operations.

LeoSat secures FCC licence: The Federal Communications Commission has authorised LeoSat Enterprises to provide non-geostationary satellite orbit services in the USA. LeoSat is launching a constellation of up to 108 low-earth-orbit communications satellites that will use optical inter-satellite links to deliver high-speed, secure data networks.

Rocket Lab's new funding and launch success: Orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has raised US$140m in Series E financing. The funding will support further scale-up in production of Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle, as well as additional launch pads and three major new R&D programs. Rocket Lab's goal is to provide weekly low cost LEO launch opportunities for small satellites. The funding announcement followed another successful Electron launch on 11 November 2018 from New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula. Six satellites were deployed for Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies and the Irvine CubeSat Stem Program.  

OneWeb timing update: In an interview with Via Satellite, Greg Wyler confirmed that OneWeb's constellation of nano-satellites is likely to enter into commercial service in early to mid-2020, up to six months later than previously planned. Wyler brushed aside rumours that production costs have doubled, stating that costs per satellite would be "really close" to OneWeb's 2015 projections. Wyler also noted that any increase in production costs was balanced out by an increase in the satellites' capability.

Airbus UK order from Eutelsat: Airbus Defence and Space is to provide two new satellites to Eutelsat Communications to replace the company's three HOTBIRD satellites. Airbus's Stevenage and Portsmouth facilities will provide the entire communications payload, platform structure, propulsion subsystem, antennas and other mechanisms for the satellites.  Final assembly will take place at Airbus's Toulouse facility.  The satellites are expected to enter into service in 2022 and will serve Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.  The deal means that 6 out of 7 of Eutelsat's next satellites will be partially built in Britain.

Portugal Spaceport: Portugal is planning to develop a small satellites spaceport on the Island of Santa Maria in the Azores. Fourteen enterprises from Europe, Russia and the USA responded to an international Call for Interest. Portugal aims to begin sustainable launch services from Santa Maria in 2021.

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