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Satellite and Space Projects News - March 2018



United Kingdom

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

New space laws for the UK: In the next major milestone for the UK, the Space Industry Act has been passed by Parliament, setting the framework for launching and spaceflight from UK soil for the first time. The new law creates a regulatory structure for commercial launch services and the development of spaceports, which are expected to help service the launch requirements of the constellations and other smallsat operators. This law is part of a series of initiatives by the UK government to encourage the development of space business and is expected to promote innovation, growth and investment in the UK space sector. Over the coming months, the government will be preparing the important regulations setting out the detailed licensing requirements for spaceport operators and launch providers. The Fieldfisher team has been tracking the evolution of the new laws and submitted comments to the House of Commons committee on the draft law. Copies of these comments are available to our clients on request to John Worthy.


Skyrora: Launch vehicle business Skyrora is to perform a sub-orbital test flight in Q4 2018.  The company, which is headquartered in Edinburgh and has a Ukrainian R&D arm, is developing a small satellite launcher that runs on hydrogen peroxide and kerosene.  Skyrora plans to conduct launches from sites in Scotland.

Spire Global: The UK Space Agency has awarded over £4m to nano-satellite and data business, Spire Global Inc. as part of the ARTES Pioneer Programme.  The funds will enable Spire to complete validation missions for parallel supercomputing in space and for the exploitation of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for weather applications.  Spire's UK operations are based in Glasgow.

GNSS security review: The UK government has published an independent review on the use and security of GNSS.  The review focuses on the UK's reliance on GNSS for critical national infrastructure and considers the risks of state-sponsored cyber-attack, individual hackers or natural phenomena such as space weather. The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the security and resilience of GNSS-dependent infrastructure.

SES appoints new CEO: Satellite operator SES announced that Steve Collar is to be appointed its new president and CEO.  Collar, who was formerly CEO of SES Networks, will replace Karim Michel Sabbagh and will act as CEO Designate with immediate effect.

Avanti debt restructuring: Secured notes holders have voted in favour of Avanti Communications' proposed debt for equity swap.  A meeting for notes holders to approve the scheme of arrangement is scheduled to take place on 20 March 2018.  Under the restructuring, announced in December 2017, $557m of Avanti Communications Group PLC debt would be swapped for approximately 2 billion new ordinary shares of 1 pence each in the company.

Cornwall to provide deep space tracking: Cornwall's Goonhilly Earth Station is to receive an investment of £8.4m to enable it provide commercial deep-space tracking and satellite communication services.  The funds, which are being provided through Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Deal with the UK Government, via ESA and by the UK Space Agency, will be used to upgrade Goonhilly's existing 32m-diameter GHY-6 antenna.  The upgraded antenna will be able to track and control forthcoming robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars. 

SpaceX: SpaceX launched two demo-satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b (or "TinTin A" and "TinTin B") as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9 Rocket on 21 February 2018.  The prototypes are part of SpaceX's plans to create a low earth orbit satellite constellation to deliver global satellite broadband services. 

Vector and Open Cosmos deal: Nano-sat launch company, Vector, and space mission provider, Open Cosmos, announced on 13 February that they have agreed to reserve five orbital launches between 2019 and 2023 on the Vector-R launch vehicle.  Open Cosmos provides end-to-end mission services enabling its clients to focus on in-orbit data.  Vector's first orbital launch is planned for July 2018. 

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