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Satellite and Space Projects News - July 2020

John Worthy


United Kingdom

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

UK Government to acquire OneWeb stake: The UK government has successfully led a bid to acquire OneWeb following the company's US Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The sale, in which the UK government and Bharti Global Ltd have each committed 500 million USD for a share of equity, was approved by the US Bankruptcy Court on 10 July and, is expected to complete in Q4 2020.  The future direction of the OneWeb mission is yet to be decided.  There are reports that the OneWeb constellation could play a part in a five-eyes alliance satellite navigation system or support 5G in the UK. The government views the deal, along with the formation of the UK's first National Space Council, as important steps in showing the scale of the UK's ambition in this sector at a global level and improving manufacturing at a national level.

Amazon Web Services' launches new aerospace and satellite division: Amazon Web Services (AWS) have launched a new AWS Aerospace and Satellites Solutions division to 're-imagine' space system architectures, transform space enterprises, launch new services that process space data on Earth and in orbit; and provide cloud solutions to support government and commercial space missions. This new division is part of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' increased efforts to expand into the space sector via Project Kuiper, a LEO constellation, set to provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity, and the Blue Origin launch provider. 

Mission to clear space debris underway: Work on the ClearSpace-1 mission, led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace, is underway. The mission's objective is to launching the first satellite capable of capturing and de-orbiting items of space debris. Set to launch in 2025, it involves eight countries (including the UK, Sweden, and Germany) with private companies such as Microsoft also providing support. The ClearSpace-1 team has a deadline of 21 March 2021 to design the satellite and plan the mission.

UKSA, DCMS and ESA call for 5G/space proposals: The UK Space Agency (UKSA), the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and ESA have issued a call for proposals on how 5G terrestrial and space technology can help UK businesses in the logistics sector. This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Intent by ESA and DCMS in December 2019, to aid the rise of commercially viable products and services enabled through the deployment of converged 5G terrestrial and space networks.

ESA to open space tech incubation centre in Leicester, UK: Space Park Leicester will be the name of ESA's new Leicester based Business Incubation Centre, part of the wider ESA network designed to assist start-ups in the space sector. The space park will benefit from support from the University of Leicester, with its internationally recognised satellite and space research capabilities. Various global companies have already expressed interest in the space park, with the likes of Amazon, Airbus and Hewlett Packard signing up to phase two, which will be called METEOR (Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research Centre).

Sutherland launch site plans approved by Highland Council: The UK's plans to build a vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, as part of its strategy to expand UK's space sector, have been approved by Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee. This paves the way for small commercial satellites and launch vehicles, designed and manufactured in Scotland, to be launched into orbit from a Scottish spaceport within the next few years. Once fully operational, the site could host up to 12 launches a year. Private launch company Orbex confirmed it has already signed six launch contracts and that its Orbex Prime rocket is set to be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly from the site.   

SES issues €400m bond: SES has successfully issued a €400 million bond offering to sell senior unsecured fix rate notes due in 2028. SES has issued this bond to take advantage of the current low interest rates and to strengthen its liquidity for its C-band transition over the US, which is set to cost around $1.6 billion. By March 2021, SES has to repay €650 million of existing debt and it will use the new financing plus €250 million “cash in hand” to clear the debt, leaving SES with no senior debt to pay until 2023.

Azercosmos enter into agreement with HorizonSat:  Azercosmos has entered into a partnership agreement with telecommunications, internet and satellite services provider HorizonSat, based in the United Arab Emirates. Under the agreement, HorizonSat will offer its customers in the Middle East and North Africa improved data services via the Azerspace-1 satellite.  
New satellite test chamber in the UK: A 16m long space test chamber has been installed in the UK's National Satellite Test Facility in Oxfordshire. The chamber will be used to test spacecraft weighing up to 7 tonnes. In addition to the test chamber, the test facility will offer vibration and pyro-shock equipment, electromagnetic compatibility, antenna measurement system and acoustic testing. The facility is planned to become operational from 2022. The facility will offer both UK and international businesses the ability to test spacecraft as well as fleets of small satellites.

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