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Satellite and Space Projects News - July 2015

John Worthy
13/07/2015

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United Kingdom

OneWeb

Greg Wyler's OneWeb has entered into new alliances with Airbus Defence and Space and with Intelsat, has obtained $500m million of funding from leading companies and has struck a deal described by OneWeb as the largest commercial rocket acquisition ever.

Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) has been selected by OneWeb as its industrial partner for the design and manufacturing of OneWeb's fleet of microsatellites.  ADS will initially produce 900 satellites for OneWeb, each weighing less than 150 kilogrammes, with a view to launching them into low Earth orbit beginning in 2018.  The constellation will enable OneWeb to deliver affordable Internet access globally.  

OneWeb and Intelsat's alliance, announced on 25 June 2015, will bring together OneWeb's Low Earth Orbit ("LEO") platform and Intelsat’s geostationary orbit (“GEO”) satellite services.  According to Intelsat, the alliance will result in the first fully global, pole-to-pole high throughput satellite system.

The $500m funding obtained from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp, Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas, and Virgin Group,  will allow OneWeb to further develop key technologies to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations.  

OneWeb also announced that it will be acquiring more than 65 launches including 21 Soyuz launch orders from Arianespace and 39 launches from Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

US satellite business to open Glasgow headquarters: 

US satellite-powered data company, Spire, is to open a new European headquarters in Glasgow.  The company's expansion is being funded in part by a £1.9m grant from the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise (announced on 9 June 2015) and is expected to lead to the creation of over 50 new jobs to support the establishment of a Nano-Satellite design, development manufacturing and data management facility in Scotland.  Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a statement "This announcement clearly demonstrates Scotland’s growing influence in the space technology industry. Our cost effective and supportive business environment, strong and highly skilled workforce, and world-class universities are not only enabling the development of Scottish companies but also attracting the world’s most innovative companies such as Spire to Scotland."

Ofcom spectrum review – have your say: 

UK regulator, Ofcom, is inviting stakeholders in the space and science sectors to comment on the regulator's strategic review of spectrum.  The regulator wants to better understand current and future trends that might impact the demand for, or supply of, available spectrum for satellite/space use.  Stakeholder responses will inform the prioritisation of Ofcom's work in and future spectrum policy decisions.  The deadline for responses is 13 August 2015

EDRS open to international partners, but delays likely: 

Speaking at the Paris Air show on 17 June 2015, Magali Vaissiere, Director of telecommunications at the European Space Agency, confirmed that there will be capacity for international partners who require data relay capabilities to use the European Data Relay System (EDRS) for their own programs.  ESA has also opened up the laser communication termination specification to international standardization.  However, the failure in May this year of Russia's Proton rocket launch is likely to lead to delays in the launch of commercial EDRS services. The launch of Airbus Defence and Space's hosted payload, EDRS-A, on Eutelsat 9B is dependent on the return into service of the Proton rocket.  Eutelsat has said it expects the the official investigation into the Proton launch failure to conclude in early July, with Proton flights resuming in September.   

SpaceX: 

Elon Musk's SpaceX has applied to the Federal Communications Commission for permission to begin testing for its planned constellation of small satellites for low-latency, worldwide, high-capacity Internet services.  According to the filing documents, a main objective of the test program is to validate the design of a broadband antenna communications platform (primary payload) that will lead to the final Low Earth Orbit constellation design.

Arianespace: 

The French government confirmed on 10 June 2015 that the French space agency, CNES, is to sell its stake in Arianespace (close to 35%) to Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), giving  ASL a holding of 74% of Arianespace's share capital.  The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, but is expected to be finalized in the coming months.  Arianespace confirmed in a statement on 16 June 2015 that it will maintain its offices and facilities in Evry (near Paris), French Guiana, Washington, D.C., Singapore and Tokyo following the share sale.