Copernicus mid-term review: The European Council has given its firm endorsement of the Copernicus Programme's progress to date and future direction. In its statement on 1 December 2017, the Council emphasised that Copernicus has key role in ensuring independent access for Europe to strategic geospatial information. The Council also emphasised the importance of developing effective, well integrated and secure infrastructure for the programme, including space and ground segments.
Funding boost for UK space incubators: The UK Space Agency has announced £200,000 of funding for 4 new business incubators to boost the number of start-up companies in the space sector across the UK. The incubators are Oxford Innovation, who will receive £50k for two new incubators in Hampshire; Seraphim, who also receives £50k to establish a space accelerator in London; and the Satellite Applications Catapult at Harwell with £50k for a space incubator at Westcott, Buckinghamshire. The University of Leicester will receive £50k to establish a graduate pre-incubator to help students develop entrepreneurial ideas.
Arianespace: Advanced-television.com reported that the German Aerospace Centre, DLR, is considering switching from Arianespace to SpaceX for its launches, a move that could threaten the European launcher's future. SpaceX is a major competitor of Arianespace, driving down launch costs and offering more frequent launches. Ariane-6, which is due to come into service in 2020, will enable Arianespace to significantly reduce its launch costs, but the company relies on EU subsidies and compared to launch services in other countries, such as the US, a smaller proportion of its business comes from government launches.
Satellite platform for governments: A consortium led by Luxembourg communications satellite operator SES has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency to set up a new satellite communication platform aimed at providing governments with guaranteed and cost efficient access to satellite networks. The platform, Pacis-1, is part of ESA’s Govsatcom Precursor programme. The other members of the consortium are Redu Space Services, LuxGovSat, Newtec, QinetiQ and Tekever.
Avanti debt restructuring: Avanti announced on 13 December 2017 proposals to restructure the group's debt through a debt for equity swap, exchanging $557m of Avanti Communications Group PLC debt for approximately 2 billion new ordinary shares of 1 pence each in the company. Before the restructuring can go ahead it must by approved by affected noteholders.
Astrocast: Swiss satellite company Astrocast announced the oversubscription by $1.1 million of its latest seed round funding, bringing the total seed round to $4.1 million. The additional capital was provided by Swiss start up investor investiere.ch. Astrocast is currently developing a constellation of 64 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) nanosatellites to provide cost-effective IoT/M2M services to global enterprises. The seed round will support a planned demonstration mission that will launch the first two nanosatellites into LEO in mid-2018.
Space tug mission gets FCC go-ahead: The Federal Communications Commission has given its approval for Orbital ATK's Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) to go through “rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking" with an Intelsat end-of-life satellite, Intelsat-901. MEV-1 is currently under development for Intelsat and will be the industry’s first commercial in-space satellite servicing system. It is scheduled for launch in late 2018.
2017 investment activity: Space.com reported comments made by Carissa Christensen, CEO of Bryce Space Technology, on investment activity in the space sector at the Spacecom expo on 5 December 2017. Christensen noted that VC activity in the space sector in 2017 remained constant despite fewer so-called "mega-deals" that year. Christensen also commented that the presence of US$1bn privately-held start-ups such as SpaceX and Planet (so-called "unicorns") has also been a factor in maintaining investor interest.