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Satellite and Space Projects News

19/07/2019

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United Kingdom

Space Norway to provide satellite based Arctic broadband: Space Norway has announced on 3 July its cooperation with the satellite operator Inmarsat and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence to offer mobile broadband coverage to civilian and military users in the Arctic. Two satellites will be built by Northrop Grumman and are scheduled to be launched by SpaceX in late 2022. The ground station will be established in North Norway and ensure Norwegian control of this critically important capability. The programme is supported by the provision of up to 101 MUSD as equity from the Norwegian Government and a loan of over 86 MUSD from DNB, Norway's largest financial services group. Fieldfisher advised Space Norway on this programme, including the cooperation agreements and the financing agreements.

Virgin Orbit v OneWeb: Virgin Orbit has started court proceedings against OneWeb in a dispute over cancelled launches. According to Virgin's $46 million breach of contract complaint, OneWeb cancelled a number of launches in 2018 entitling Virgin Orbit to a termination payment.

UK government backs UK space plans: The UK government has announced additional investment in the UK's space sector. Up to £20m (£12m from Cornwall Council and £7.85m from the UK Space Agency) could be made available for Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to develop a smallsat launch capability in Cornwall; and £7m has been earmarked for UCL to develop a plasma analyser to monitor space weather. The UK also plans to establish a National Space Council later this year to provide strategic leadership on space across government.

Spaceport Scotland - Scolpaig: The Western Isles Council is leading a consortium bid to site the UK's first vertical launch spaceport in the Western Isles of Scotland at Scolpaig, on the north-west coast of North Uist. Other members of the consortium are Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), defence technology company QinetiQ, and UK space sector consultancy business, Commercial Space Technologies. The Council would put £1m towards the purchase of land for the launch facility.  

Spaceport Scotland – Sutherland: Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has begun preparatory work on an environmental impact assessment for the proposed vertical launch space centre on the A'Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland. The planned site for the launch facility is next to protected peatlands and areas of special scientific interest. HIE is consulting with various agencies to determine the scope of environmental issues that the assessment should cover, and this will be followed by extensive public consultation. The outcome of the impact assessment will be an important part of any future planning application for the launch facility.

UK Export Finance supporting the space sector: In an interview with Spacenews.com, Adam Harris, head of civil, infrastructure and energy activity at UK Export Finance signalled the UK export credit agency's readiness to provide financial support to the satellite sector. In April this year, UKEF made a $325m loan to Turkey's ministry of finance to help fund Turksat-5A and Turksat-5B; the largest loan the agency has yet made in the sector.

OneWeb – 150 new UK jobs: OneWeb has announced that it plans to expand its Global Operations Centre in White City, London, creating more than 150 new jobs. In a statement on 13 June, the company emphasised its long-term commitment to the UK and the strength of its partnership with the UK Space Agency, which recently invested £18m in OneWeb's Sunrise Program.

WRC-19 - deployment milestones: When WRC-19 convenes in October this year, one of the items on the regulators' agenda will be how to tackle "spectrum warehousing", and one proposed solution is the introduction of deployment milestones for NGSO systems. Currently, when an operator is granted spectrum rights, it must, within 7 years, "bring-into-use" the allocated spectrum and keep using it for 90 days. From then on, the operator has exclusive use of that spectrum. Regulators are concerned that the current system is open to abuse because operators of large constellations can secure spectrum rights by deploying just one satellite early and then delaying further deployments. Deployment milestones would require operators to have a certain percentage of satellites in their constellation in orbit by a specified date. If the operator missed the deadline, it would lose spectrum rights for satellites not yet launched. Operators are concerned that strict deployment deadlines would fail to account for genuine build problems that might delay deployment.