Satellite & Space Project News - May 2017 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite & Space Project News - May 2017

John Worthy


United Kingdom

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

Spacecom back on the market:Satellite operator Spacecom has confirmed that it is no longer in talks with Beijing Xinwei Technology Group and that is still looking for a buyer.   A possible acquisition by Xinwei did not proceed as a result of the loss of Spacecom's Amos-6 communications satellite when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launchpad on 1 September 2016.  .

Space debris: Delegates at the Seventh European Conference on Space Debris have called for co-ordinated international action to reduce space debris.  ESA estimates that there are around 750,000 pieces of debris larger than 1cm in orbit around Earth, and around 166 million pieces larger than 1mm.   According to Holger Krag, head of the ESA's debris office, "In orbit, these objects have tremendous relative velocities, faster than a bullet, and can damage or destroy functioning space infrastructure, like economically vital telecom, weather, navigation, broadcast and climate-monitoring satellites".    Herr Krag noted that there is an urgent need to develop the means to actively remove defunct satellites from orbit, as currently only about 60% of satellites are properly managed and disposed of in accordance with current guidelines once their mission is complete.

Intelsat and OneWeb merger:  Amid rumours that the planned merger between Intelsat and OneWeb may be losing momentum, Reuters reported that Intelsat has extended the deadline for Intelsat bondholders to accept a debt exchange offer.  The merger and a $1.7 billion investment in the merged company by Softbank are conditional on a minimum number of bondholders accepting the offer.

Brexit and Galileo:  It has been reported that the European Commission is seeking a break clause in the final tranche of Galileo contracts that will impact UK bidders. The break provision would be triggered on Brexit, as it allows the Commission to terminate the contract without penalty if the supplier is no longer based in the EU.  The terminated supplier would have to pay the EU's costs of finding an alternative supplier. 

SpaceX re-usability:  SpaceX has again achieved successful launches and first-stage landings of its Falcon 9 re-usable rocket.  On 31 March, SpaceX re-used a recovered first stage of a Falcon 9 for the first time, with a smooth landing on SpaceX's ASDS barge.  On 1 May, another Falcon 9 first stage landed at LZ1, Cape Canaveral.

Arianespace restructuring: Arianespace is to undergo a restructuring that will see it convert into a Société par Actions simplifiée (SAS) – a simplified joint-stock company - following a unanimous shareholder vote on 27 March 2017.    Alain Charmeau, CEO of Arianespace's parent company, Airbus Safran Launchers, will become Chairman of the Board of the Directors of holding company, Arianespace Participation.  Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace SAS, and CEO of Arianespace Participation, will join the Executive committee of Airbus Safran Launchers as Director of Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 commercial launcher programs.

UK Spaceflight Bill:  The UK government's Science and Technology Committee have taken views from industry stakeholders on the proposed Spaceflight Bill.  Witnesses from Airbus Group, Reaction Engines and Bristol Spaceplanes have said that it will be a challenge to meet the government's 2020 UK launch target. The Bill's next steps will become clearer, once the new UK government is formed after June 8's general election.

Situational Awareness:  SmallSat operators who provide earth observation (EO) data are driving the growing Situational Awareness market, according to ViaSatellite.  Situational awareness is important for the aviation and maritime industries and for emergency response, but it also has wider potential commercial uses, particularly if combined with EO data.


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