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Satellite & Space Project News - December 2016

John Worthy


United Kingdom

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

Fieldfisher Space Business Summit 2016: Our annual Space Business Summit brought together some of the leading players in the space sector and finance community to debate the issue "Evolution or Revolution? Growing and financing space business in a time of change". With key contributions from Thales Alenia Space, Eutelsat, Deimos Space and Oxford Space Systems, the industry panel discussed the opportunities and challenges for the sector, alongside valuable insights from the Satellite Applications Catapult, Reaction Engines and Stellar Aerospace Solutions. Commentary from the finance world came from HSBC, UK Export Finance, Seraphim Space Fund, London Business Angels and Fieldfisher partner Mark Walker. John Worthy also provided his perspectives on the impact of Brexit on the space sector. For further details of the Summit, please email John Worthy.

Launch of UK Space Tech Angels: On 6 December 2016 Fieldfisher hosted the launch of a new angel investor team for space business. The UK Space Tech Angels will provide a new focus for angel investing in this sector in the UK, alongside the European angel team at EBAN Space. Featuring keynote presentations from Katherine Courtney, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency and Candace Johnson, President of EBAN, the launch attracted huge interest from space sector business and investors.

Seraphim Space Fund launch:  VC firm Seraphim Capital has launched the world's largest ever, early stage, space-sector venture fund.  In a statement on 21 November, the firm said that "The Fund will invest in commercial applications in both downstream (software), and upstream (hardware) opportunities, as well as in technologies that have potential space applications such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanomaterials…In particular the Fund will focus on companies that use digital data from satellites that is already delivering commercial advantage and social innovations ranging from intelligent transport and smart cities through to sectors such as insurance, maritime, agriculture or oil and gas."

Amos-6 insurance payout: Spacecom announced that it was expecting to receive by 24 November 2016 an insurance payment of $196m for the loss of its communications satellite Amos-6, which was destroyed in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launchpad explosion on 1 September 2016.  

Inmarsat in-flight broadband:  International Airlines Group announced on 2 November 2016 that it plans to install Inmarsat's high speed inflight Wi-Fi solution across up to 341 short-haul aircraft within its British Airways, Vueling, Iberia and Aer Lingus businesses.  Inmarsat's European Aviation Network service coupled with Deutsche Telekom's ground network will provide passengers with inflight 4G broadband internet access.  The first deployment, on a BA A321, is scheduled for summer 2017. 

Yahsat deal for Broadband for Africa:  Abu-Dhabi international satellite operator, Yahsat, and Eutelsat Communications have signed a deal that will see Yahsat provide Eutelsat's Broadband for Africa venture with Ka-band capacity for broadband services across Sub-Saharan Africa.   Eutelsat had originally entered into a multi-year agreement to lease a Ka-band payload on Spacecom's Amos-6.  The loss of that satellite forced Eutelsat to seek an alternative, and the deal with Yahsat will enable Eutelsat to put the Broadband for Africa programme back on timetable. 

SpaceX launch services:  SpaceX plans to re-start launch services on 16 December 2016, subject to Federal Aviation Authority approval.  The regulator has been overseeing the investigation into the loss of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket earlier this year.   The 16 December launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California will deliver 10 Iridium Communications NEXT satellites into low earth orbit.  The SpaceX launch delays have affected a number of satellite operators, including Inmarsat who announced on 3 November that the launch of its I-5 F4 (Inmarsat's fourth GX satellite) will be delayed into 2017.

SpaceX files with FCC: SpaceX has asked the Federal Communications Commission for approval for a global constellation of 4,425 satellites plus spares to provide broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional use.  The non-geostationary orbit satellite constellation will operate using Ku and Ka bands and according to technical documents filed with the application, the satellites will operate in 83 orbital planes at altitudes ranging from 1,110km to 1,325km.

President-elect Trump: reported on its Spacecom conference and industry stakeholder hopes that President-elect Donald Trump will pursue regulatory reform and promote growth for the space sector.  Potential areas for reform identified by attendees included oversight of "non-traditional" activities such as lunar landers, satellite servicing and commercial space stations and modernisation of the regulatory framework for commercial remote sensing.

Ariane 6:  The European Space Agency has agreed an amendment to its August 2015 contract with Airbus Safran Launchers that guarantees funding for the development, production and operation of next-generation launcher, Ariane 6.  The ESA had already committed EUR680m for the initial development phase through to the preliminary design review phase.  The amendment commits a further EUR1.7bn to continue the project through to operation.   

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