Satellite and Space Projects Newsletter July 2023 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects Newsletter July 2023

John Worthy


United Kingdom

Fieldfisher's Space Projects group wins hat trick of awards: For the third year running, Fieldfisher's Satellite and Space Projects Group has been recognised as one of the leading advisers in the sector by Who's Who Legal 2023. 

Partner John Worthy is highlighted as a leading adviser on Space and Satellite Law, one of only 3 UK law firm partners to achieve this accolade. John comments: "It is an honour to be recognised in this way. We are grateful to all our clients who supported our shortlisting for this award. It is fascinating to work with so many exciting businesses helping to bring innovative solutions to solve some of the world's pressing challenges." For further details, please click here.

WEF releases new space debris recommendations: On 13 June, the World Economic Forum published its new Space Industry Debris Mitigation Recommendations, supported by many leading operators. The recommendations propose measures to prevent debris and improve coordination among satellite operators. Among the new principles, spacecraft operators in LEO should strive for a post mission disposal process that maintains a 95-99% success rate and all spacecraft operators should target removal of spacecraft from LEO within 5 years after end of life. Current global guidelines allow up to 25 years, but compliance has been below 50% for some metrics.

Satellite manoeuvrability requirements supported: Amazon's Project Kuiper recommends that governments should require satellites above a certain altitude to be manoeuvrable to improve space sustainability, according to Kalpak Gude, Kuiper head of domestic regulatory affairs.  The World Economic Forum's Space Debris Recommendations (see above) includes a recommendation for manoeuvrable satellites above 375 kilometres. Some satellite operators have endorsed these guidelines, but Amazon and SpaceX have not yet done so. The US FCC and the UK Space Agency emphasize sustainability in their regulations and may restrict services from operators with weaker sustainability standards.

UN flags need for improved space governance: The United Nations (U.N.) undersecretary-general for policy, Guy Ryder, emphasized the need for improved space governance during the Secure World Foundation's Summit for Space Sustainability. He stated that over the next 15 months leading up to the Summit of the Future, there is an opportunity to develop proposals on issues such as space traffic coordination, human exploration of the moon and utilization of space resources. According to Mr Rider, the goal is to develop a single unified governance framework that covers space traffic coordination, debris and resource management, as well as norms and rules to avoid armed conflict in outer space.

UK invests £4.3 million in space based solar power: The UK government is injecting £4.3 million into the further development of space-based solar power technology. The funding will support projects at leading UK universities and companies, including the development of lightweight solar panels for satellites and a wireless system to enable solar power collected from space to be transferred to earth. Space-based solar power has the potential to enhance energy security, reduce fossil fuel dependency, and generate significant electrical energy. The investment aligns with the UK's commitment to this emerging industry and its goal of achieving a clean energy future.

SES/Intelsat merger talks break down: A source close to the Intelsat/SES merger negotiations has confirmed that the satellite operators will no longer be merging. The deal would have created a group with an estimated USD 4 billion in revenue. Sources indicate that the reason for this denouement include different views on business fundamentals, distribution of proceeds of the C-band spectrum clearance, and the value of the proposed merger.

Scotland's Spaceport 1 granted planning permission: A new spaceport in the Scottish Western Isles has received planning permission in a unanimous vote of councillors. The proposal from the local authority to build the launch facility at Scolpaig in North Uist was met with strong resistance, including 244 individual public responses opposing the plans and a petition with almost 1,000 signatures opposing the plan. The proposal will now go to the Scottish Government for review.  

Intelsat orders SpaceLogistics' life extension service: Intelsat is among the latest customers for the SpaceLogistics Mission Extension Pods (MEPs). SpaceLogistics is a satellite-servicing firm owned by Northrop Grumman. The pods, which extend the life of geostationary satellites, will be used on servicing missions in 2025. In addition to Intelsat, the Australian operator Optus has placed an order for an MEP. The pods will be installed on the satellites by the Mission Robotic Vehicle, which is equipped with robotic arms developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Eutelsat to exit European retail broadband market: On 15 June, Eutelsat announced its decision to withdraw from the European retail broadband market. Its retail activities in Europe will be sold to an unnamed private operator. The divestiture is a result of Eutelsat's change of market preference – Eutelsat wants to operate using a wholesale go-to-market model to distribute its satellite broadband capacity over Europe. It will focus on its major wholesale deals signed with Orange in France, TIM in Italy, Hispasat in Spain, and Swisscom in Switzerland for capacity in their respective markets on the Eutelsat KONNECT satellite.