Satellite Newsletter Articles May 2023 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects Briefing May 2023

John Worthy


United Kingdom

SpaceX requests FCC approval for additional 30,000 satellites: SpaceX has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve 29,988 satellites, with 7,500 already approved. The company plans to create 288 orbital planes at altitudes between 340 km and 614 km, with the satellites operating in the Ka-band, Ku-band, and W-band frequencies.

The original request faced objections from various entities, and SpaceX is now offering to abandon plans for 7,518 V-band spectrum satellites in exchange for incorporating V-band frequencies into its new 'Gen-2' designs.

Virgin Orbit secures DiP financing: Virgin Orbit has secured approval for $31.6 million in Debtor in Possession (DiP) financing from the US bankruptcy court, with the funds provided by Virgin Investments. Virgin Orbit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 4 April, after laying off most of its workforce. The company will use the Chapter 11 process to maximize the value of its business while seeking a buyer.

Astrocast's LEO constellation obtains financing from Thuraya: Thuraya is providing Swiss satellite operator Astrocast a $17.5 million convertible loan, the Emirati company's first investment in a LEO constellation. Astrocast, which operates 18 satellites for IoT connectivity services, had faced financial difficulties after plans to raise money on the stock market failed. Thuraya, a mobile satellite services subsidiary of Yahsat, provides the L-band spectrum that Astrocast uses to connect IoT devices.

Kepler Communications raises $92 M in Series C round: Canadian start-up Kepler Communications secured $92 million in funding to expand its on-orbit data network by launching a constellation of optical communications satellites next year. These satellites will join Kepler's existing 19 radio-frequency satellites and provide real-time data relays at 2.5 Gbps to satellites in low Earth orbit.

UK relies on satellites in new Wireless Infrastructure Strategy: The UK government has announced its Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which includes delivering nationwide standalone 5G coverage to all populated areas by 2030. As part of the strategy, an £8 million fund will promote satellite connectivity for the most remote 35,000 premises, building upon the success of the Alpha Trial Programme for LEO satellite connectivity. The government will also invest £140 million to establish eight to ten 5G Innovation Regions across the UK, and support leading edge innovation in future telecoms and 6G technologies. For a more in-depth analysis, read our commentary here.

New wave of confidence in European space investments: Europe's space industry is gaining traction based on a string of significant fundraising deals. Exotrail, a France-based space services company, raised $58 million in a Series B funding round led by French investors in early February. Swiss start-up ClearSpace raised $29 million in a Series A round for its orbital debris clean up services. The Exploration Company, a German venture founded to develop reusable orbital vehicles, also secured $44 million in what the company said was a record Series A funding round for Europe's space technology sector.

Orbit Fab raises $28.5M Series A funding: California-based Orbit Fab has raised $28.5 million in a Series A round led by 8090 Industries. The funds will be used to deploy fuel delivery and storage infrastructure in Geostationary Orbit (GEO), Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), and Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) for the company's on-orbit refuelling services. The company has at least four fuel shuttle missions set to launch in the next three years, including three defence contracts worth $21 million.

Space-based solar power studies launched by ESA: The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched two studies focussed on space-based solar power (SBSP) stations that would beam energy down to Earth. These studies are part of ESA's broader SOLARIS initiative to investigate SBSP. The studies will investigate a wide range of options to move the energy safely and efficiently down to Earth like radio frequency transmission, lasers, and reflecting sunlight down for collection at solar farms on Earth.

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