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Satellite and Space Projects News – February 2019

22/02/2019

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United Kingdom

Thales Alenia Space in new ESA programme: Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the Fluorescence Explorer (FLEX) satellite mission. The FLEX mission will provide data to improve understanding of how carbon moves between plants and the atmosphere and how photosynthesis affects the carbon and water cycles. Thales Alenia Space will be prime contractor on the €150m contract, leading a consortium made up of its subsidiaries and other space industry stakeholders.

Satellite broadband growth: Northern Sky Research (NSR) has forecasted cumulative satellite broadband revenues of US$159 billion over the next ten years. In the latest edition of its VSAT and Satellite Markets Report, NSR predicts $12.3 billion in Enterprise VSAT capacity revenues by 2027.

UK guidance on the Space Industry Act (SIA): The UK government has published guidance on the SIA. The SIA received Royal Assent on 15 March 2018 but many of its provisions are yet to come into force or are only partially in force or require additional governmental regulations to fully implement them. The latest government guidance provides an overview of the SIA and explains those areas where the government plans to introduce future regulations. The guidance also explains how the new licensing regime under the SIA will supersede the current regime under the UK's Outer Space Act.

Arianespace: Arianespace is planning up to thirteen launches this year, an annual record for the company. The planned launches comprise five Ariane 5 missions, five Vega missions - one of which will debut the Vega C - and three Soyuz launches. All will take place from the Guiana Space Center. The first of Arianespace's 2019 launches took place on an Ariane 5 on 5 February 2019 with a payload of a Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 and Hellas Sat 4, GSAT-31.

SpaceX redundancies: SpaceX is to lay off a portion of its workforce, with some news outlets reporting that up to 10% of the company's staff could lose their jobs.   In a statement, SpaceX said “To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company.”

Swarm in $25m fundraising: Palo Alto start-up Swarm Technologies announced on 24 January 2019 that it has completed Series A financing of US$25 million. Craft Ventures and Sky Dayton led the funding round with participation from Social Capital, 4DX Ventures and NJF Capital. Swarm aims to provide ultra-low cost global connectivity for the Internet of Things using its constellation of smallsats. The company plans to use the newly raised capital to accelerate software and hardware integrations for customer deployments, for talent-hires, and to deploy 150 satellites over the next 18 months.

European Space Sector funding: The European Investment Bank has published the outcomes of a study on the future of the European space sector. Over 40 space companies (both European and non-European) were interviewed for the study, which looks at access-to-finance conditions in Europe. The study makes a number of recommendations including increasing the volume of risk capital and catalysing additional private investment into the sector. The study also recommends the creation of a "finance for space" forum with representatives from the finance community, academia, policymakers and industry to bridge the information gap and develop innovative financing solutions for the space sector.

Blue Origin: Blue Origin's fully reusable vertical take-off and vertical landing space vehicle, New Shepard, made a successful launch on 23 January 2019 with 8 NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads. New Shepard is designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line – the internationally recognized boundary of space. The company has indicated that it hopes to carry passengers on New Shepard later this year.