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Satellite and Space Projects News - May 2021

07/05/2021

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United Kingdom

Fieldfisher Space webinar with UKSA CEO: In the latest Fieldfisher webinar, partner John Worthy hosted a conversation with Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, focussed on how the UK is shaping its future in space.

Alongside the discussion on some of the hot topics affecting the UK space sector, delegates offered their views on the best opportunities and most significant challenges for the UK sector. Further details are available in our briefing on the webinar. For a recording of the event, please email John Worthy.

UK space strategy and satellite infrastructure enquiry: The UK's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an enquiry into the infrastructure, skills and investment required for an effective UK space strategy. The UK space sector generates £14.8 billion of annual income, but levels of UK investment are lower than those in some EU countries.  France invests 10 times more than the UK and Italy 5 times more.  The Committee is seeking written submissions by Wednesday 23 June on topics including the UK's prospects as a global space nation, the country's current strengths and weaknesses and the aims and focus of a new UK Space Strategy. 

Eutelsat invests in OneWeb: Eutelsat is to invest US$550 million in OneWeb in return for a 24% equity stake and similar governance rights to the UK Government and Bharti Global, who bought OneWeb from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in November 2020.  Eutelsat's investment is expected to close in H2 2021, subject to regulatory authorisations.

CJEU ruling upholds Inmarsat's European Aviation Network:  The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a ruling in a case concerning Inmarsat's in-flight connection solution - European Aviation Network (EAN).  Following a legal challenge by Eutelsat and Viasat against the French regulator's authorisation allowing Inmarsat to use complementary ground components (CGCs) in France, the French courts asked the CJEU  to consider whether, under EU law, most of the data transmission capacity of Inmarsat's system had to be on the satellite component of the system.  The CJEU ruled that data transmission capacity did not have to be principally based on the satellite component, but that the satellite component must have "real and specific usefulness" (i.e. it must be necessary for the functioning of the mobile satellite system except where there is independent operation of the CGC's, in case of failure of the satellite component).  Inmarsat welcomed the ruling but Viasat and Eutelsat have said that they intend to continue to advance arguments in the national courts on the basis that Inmarsat's system does not depend on the "real and specific use of satellite communications". 

OneWeb concludes MoU with Kazakhstan:  OneWeb has signed an MoU with subsidiaries of the Kazakhstan's Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry. The MoU covers the provision of broadband internet access to remote rural communities in Kazakhstan using OneWeb's low latency, high throughput satellite connectivity platform. It also covers the build of a ground station to provide connectivity to Central Asian countries. 

ESA sets new priorities and agenda:  The European Space Agency has published its top five priorities for the next four years in its ESA Agenda 2025. The agency's first priority is to strengthen relations with the EU and to clarify the roles of ESA and the EU under the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement.  ESA also wants to stimulate the commercial space ecosystem to realise EU and ESA member countries' green and digital objectives, with a focus on talent, access to capital and fast innovation. Other priorities are space safety, critical programme challenges including access to space, and reshaping  ESA. 

Inmarsat challenges Dutch 5G spectrum allocation:  Inmarsat is seeking an injunction in the Netherlands to review a change in spectrum allocation by the Dutch government. The government wants to reallocate to 5G usage spectrum currently used by satellite-based maritime safety services. Inmarsat argues that the change is unnecessary as both can operate together within the spectrum band. 

ABL Space Systems closes $170 million investment round:  California space launch company, ABL Space Systems, has closed a Series B investment round of US$170 million. The round was led by T. Rowe Price Associates and included existing investors, as well as new funds from Fidelity Management and Research LLC.  ABL is developing a 1,000kg class RS1 launch vehicle and GSO deployable launch system that allows RS1 to be transported in shipping containers and launched from any suitable location in the world.  A first launch is planned by the end of this year.   

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