TechBytes Blog | Satellite and Space Projects News January 2021 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects News January 2021

John Worthy


United Kingdom

Review of the latest updates from the Satellite and Space sector.

Fieldfisher partner recognised in new global rankings of Space and Satellite Lawyers: Head of our Satellite and Space Projects team, John Worthy, has been included as one of the recognised specialists in the new global guide to Space and Satellite lawyers issued by Who's Who Legal 2021. Based on peer review and recommendations from clients and others across the space industry, John is highlighted as a Recommended specialist in Space and Satellite projects by the directory.

Fieldfisher webinar on the future of satellite connectivity 3 February: Our next webinar will debate the opportunities and challenges for satcoms over the coming years, featuring an informative discussion among a  distinguished panel of experts from Intelsat, Space Norway, Methera Global Communications and Stellar Solutions Aerospace. Further details and a registration link are available here.

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement brings Copernicus opening:  The UK and the EU have reached agreement in principle that the UK will continue to participate in the Copernicus programme, as a third country for 2021-2027.  The UK is waiting to see the final version of the EU Space Regulation, which is expected in Q1 2021, and has the right to review its participation at that point.  Copernicus is funded jointly by the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA), and the UK is still a member of ESA.  If the UK chooses not to continue to participate, UK entities would not be able to bid for future Copernicus contracts tendered through the EU, although they would be able to bid for contracts tendered through ESA.  The EU and UK have also agreed that UK users will be able to access and receive the Space Surveillance and Tracking services, which help manage the risk of space debris and collisions, although the UK will no longer participate in this programme. 

National Security and Investment Bill brings new oversight of UK space investment:  The UK government's National Security and Investment Bill 2019-21 (Bill) is moving through the House of Commons.  The Bill will give the government new powers to screen investments and other transactions under a separate national security regime divorced from competition regulation. Once enacted into law, the Bill will widen the range of transactions that can be screened on national security grounds. As well as M&A deals, transactions that could be affected include those involving real estate, technology transfers, assignments and licences of patents, know-how, data and software, and collaborative R&D arrangements.

EU moves forward with LEO broadband system: The European Commission has selected a consortium of European satellite manufacturers, operators, service providers, telcos and launch service providers to undertake a feasibility study for the design, development and launch of a European space-based broadband communication system. The proposed system would provide secure communication services to the EU and its Member States and broadband connectivity to EU citizens and companies, with benefits for road and maritime transport, air traffic and control, autonomous vehicle development and Internet of Things applications.  The consortium members include Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, Orange, OHB, SES, Thales Alenia and Telespazio.

UK government announces new space funding: The UK government has awarded over £7m to a range of companies and universities to support a range of innovative, high-risk, high-reward space and satellite projects.  Organisations to benefit include Surrey-based Global Satellite Vu, which will receive £1.399m and start-up, Space Forge, awarded £329k.  Global Satellite Vu is building a compact, high-resolution infrared camera for satellites to measure thermal emissions from buildings in near real-time, giving valuable insights into energy efficiency and carbon footprint. Space Forge plans to manufacture next-generation computer chips in a microgravity environment in space for the terrestrial and satellite telecommunications industries, and return them from orbit for use on Earth.

ViaSat acquires RigNet: ViaSat announced 21 December 2020 that it has agreed to acquire RigNet, a leading provider of ultra-secure intelligent networking solutions and applications in a US$222 million stock transaction. The deal will give ViaSat access to RigNet's cybersecurity product line and its real-time machine learning and AI analytics platform.  ViaSat also hopes to benefit from RigNet's position as a leading provider of communications networking solutions to the energy sector.

OneWeb new funding and launch progress:  OneWeb announced 15 January that it has secured additional funding from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems LLC, bringing the company's total funding to US$1.4 billion.  In a statement, OneWeb said that the capital raised to date positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation fleet of 648 LEO satellites by the end of 2022. The announcement follows the resumption of OneWeb launches at the end of 2020.  The company launched thirty-six LEO satellites on 18 December 2020 on board a Soyuz rocket from Vostochny in Russia, the company's first since it was acquired by the UK government and Bharti Global last year.  OneWeb now has 110 satellites in orbit, and plans to offer services in the UK, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas, and Canada in 2021 with global service following in 2022.

UK rocket test facility coming soon: The UK government is investing £4m in a National Space Propulsion Test Facility, due for completion early this year.  The facility, based in the Westcott Space Cluster in Aylesbury Vale, will allow testing of space propulsion engines at up to 1.5k in high altitude vacuum, an equivalent test altitude of 140,000 feet.  It will also allow testing of more sustainable propellants, like Hydrogen Peroxide and Liquid Oxygen.