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Satellite and Space Projects News - November 2018



United Kingdom

UK/Australia: The UK Space Agency and Australia's Space Agency, formed in July this year, have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate and exchange information, technology and personnel in areas including communications technologies, space situational awareness and satellite navigation.

Inmarsat in-flight connectivity: Demand for in-flight, high quality Wi-Fi is a key driver for customer loyalty and satisfaction, according to a recent survey.  The Inflight Connectivity survey, conducted by Populus on behalf of Inmarsat, is based on responses from 9,300 passengers from 32 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and North and Latin America.  84% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to rebook with an airline if high quality inflight Wi-Fi were available.

C-Band: The C-Band Alliance – made up of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat – has updated its market-based proposal to clear portions of the C-band for 5G use.   Initially, the satellite operators had proposed releasing up to 100MHz of C-band downlink spectrum, but the Alliance announced on 22 October that up to 200MHz could be cleared, depending on demand.  Intelsat's vice president of investor relations, Diane VanBeber, has said that Intelsat would have to place new satellites at new orbital locations to replace lost capacity if the higher proposal is accepted.  It has been reported that three small fleet C-band satellite operators – ABS, Hispasat and Star One - have met with the FCC to voice concerns that they and other operators who are not part of the Alliance will lose out under the proposal.

Galileo: In an interview with, Professor Alan Smith, Head of Space & Climate Physics at UCL, considered the impact of Brexit of the Galileo project.  Professor Smith noted that it would be more expensive for the EU to continue Galileo without UK participation given the UK's track record of contributing to the project, and the European space satellite sector would need to develop capabilities that until now have been provided by the UK.

UK Spaceport: The UK Space Agency has published a business case evaluation for the UK's planned spaceport.  The evaluation, commissioned from Frost & Sullivan, looks at likely supply and demand until 2030, and estimates that the addressable small satellite launch market for 2021-2030 is $5.5 billion.  The report notes that first-mover advantage will be important for the UK spaceport in the short to mid-term, but that the key to a successful business model is the involvement of one permanent launch service partner that will be available at all times.

Virgin Galactic: Virgin Galactic will make its first trip to space within weeks, not months, Richard Branson told CNBC on 9 October 2018.  George Whiteside, Virgin Galactic's CEO, has also said that SpaceShipTwo, Virgin's commercial suborbital space plane, is entering the next phase of its test flight programme, and that at least one test flight is scheduled for before the end of this year.

Thales Alenia Space order book: Thales announced that its order intake for Q1-Q3 2018 rose 9% (on an organic basis) compared to the same period in 2017, and that sales rose by 7.9%.  The company saw an increase in business across its aerospace, transport and defence & security segments and across all geographies. 

EU Space Program: A proposed EU Regulation to consolidate all EU space-related activities has now been reviewed by a number of European Parliament committees.  The proposal, put forward by the European Commission in June this year, would bring Galileo, EGNOS, Copernicus as well as the new Governmental Satellite Communication (GOVSATCOM) initiative and the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) initiative under the umbrella of a single regulation.   The purpose of the Regulation, the Commission says, is to streamline and foster simpler ways of cooperation between the various institutions involved in these programs, without fundamentally altering the balance of responsibilities between them.  The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency would be renamed the EU Agency for the Space Program.