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Satellite & Space Project News - November 2016

John Worthy


United Kingdom

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

Spire CEO: We are Launching Satellites Every Month

According to Peter Platzer the CEO of Spire, a satellite data company which provides GPS-based radio occultation data for commercial and government organisations, it has 17 launches booked between now and the end of next year. This equates to an average of one satellite launched every month. The company currently has 12 satellites in orbit.  This falls short of its goal for this year, which Spire explained is a result of scheduled launches no longer going ahead.

UK wins European space innovation competition

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency hailed the great success the UK has achieved for its innovative ideas with commercial applications in the European Satellite Navigation Competition 2016. The University of Strathclyde was the overall winner and the winner of the UK region competition with a system using sensors and satellite navigation technology for early detection of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Nottingham Scientific Ltd (NSL) in partnership with QinetiQ were awarded the Public Regulatory Service (PRS) prize by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) for a mobile phone sleeve which aims to help government-authorised users access services provided by Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system more easily and in a more secure manner. The University of Manchester won the Copernicus Masters Sustainable Living Challenge with its innovative, EnviroSAR, a service which uses satellite Earth Observation data to monitor UK wildfires.

EU Commission's new policy to boost private investment and support strategic initiatives in space

The EU Commission's latest Strategy for Space, announced on 26 October, aims to build a sustainable space economy, promoting the expansion of space data services (including using Galileo data), investment in innovation and entrepreneurs and maintaining Europe's strategic autonomy in space. In addition to encouraging more private investment in Europe's space sector, the plan will support the development of European industrial space hubs in European regions. With a budget of 12 billion euros between 2014 and 2020, the Commission's strategy will continue to develop programmes such as Galileo, Copernicus, the EU Space Situational Awareness Service and the GovSatCom programme.

Multiple FSS operators mulling a stake in LeoSat

LeoSat, the satellite operator with plans to build a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) system made up of a constellation of 78 to 108 satellites, is currently in investment talks with 8 strategic Fixed Satellite Service providers. The fleet, which the operator plans to launch in full in 2020, has been estimated by the CEO of LeoSat at a capex of $3.5 to $3.6 billion. 

Vodafone teams up with Inmarsat

As part of a strategy to grow its customer base, the telecommunications giant Vodafone and satellite provider Inmarsat have announced a partnership forged under a roaming agreement which will allow usage of the Inmarsat satellite network to complement Vodafone's terrestrial networks. It is hoped that this will increase the uptake of the Internet of Things as it will provide increased global connectivity which will be valuable to industries such as agriculture, utilities, oil and gas and transportation.

Thales picks UK for new plant to build revolutionary satellite engines

Thales Alenia Space has selected Belfast as its base to build its advanced, highly-efficient electric propulsion engines. Despite Brexit worries in some guarters, the company is to invest millions in the new manufacturing facility with the need for 150 engineers. Encouragement from the UK government as a reason to invest in the space industry was cited by the chief executive of Thales UK, Victor Chavez, for choosing Britain.

Billionaire to use winged rockets for satellite launches

Billionaire Paul G. Allen's Stratolaunch Systems and Orbital ATK have collaborated in what the President of Orbital has called the first step in a long-term partnership. Stratolaunch's giant six-engine jet is designed to release launch vehicles at a high altitude. Orbital ATK's Pegasus XL winged rockets have been selected for use on the twin fuselage aircraft as they are able to carry small satellites into low earth orbit.

Spacecom seeks 'pre-owned' satellite

Following the explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Amos-6 satellite, Spacecom, the owner of the Amos satellite fleet, has confirmed that it is looking for an emergency lease of a satellite already in orbit in order to fill the gap that was to be the home of Amos-6. The pre-owned satellite will be a temporary measure while Spacecom builds a replacement for Amos-6, which could take around 2-3 years.

SpaceX to launch Terra Bella satellites

SpaceX will be launching Google-owned Terra Bella's SkySats following an agreement with Spaceflight Industries for which it will be the co-lead. Spaceflight Industries is scheduled to send its ride share mission on its first Sun-Synchronous Orbit in late 2017.

Space insurers warn that current low rates are not sustainable

Pre-launch insurance rates have been at historic lows and space insurance market rates are continuing to fall. The explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket which resulted in the destruction of Spacecom's $200 million Amos-6 satellite in September 2016 is likely to affect the pre-launch market with a sharp rise in rates according to satellite insurers. John Munro, global chief executive of space projects for Marsh, believes that prelaunch rates may as much as double as this market generates comparatively little in premiums, which can be wiped out by a single prelaunch failure.

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