Satellite and Space Projects News - November 2020 | Fieldfisher
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Satellite and Space Projects News - November 2020

John Worthy


United Kingdom

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

Blue Origin's New Shepard: Blue Origin's re-usable New Shepard vehicle completed another successful flight to space and back on 13 October 2020, the 13th consecutive successful New Shepard mission.  Payloads included NASA sensors used to test precision landings, which will enable long-term lunar exploration as well as future Mars missions.

Lockheed Martin moves to Shetland spaceport:  The UK government has approved plans for Lockheed Martin to move its UK Pathfinder small satellite launch operations from Space Hub Sutherland on the M'hoine Peninsula to the Shetland Space Centre on the island of Unst.  Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the Unst site could support 605 jobs both locally and in the wider region. The UK Space Agency has said that it will continue to support Space Hub Sutherland through grant funding to develop the spaceport infrastructure and for UK launch partner, Orbex, to prepare its innovative Prime rocket to launch from the Sutherland site in 2022.

Microsoft and SpaceX to extend cloud to space:  Microsoft has announced that it is to partner with SpaceX Starlink to create Azure Space, a set of cloud capabilities with worldwide satellite connectivity.  The partnership will provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband for Microsoft's new Azure Modular Datacenter.  Microsoft will also build on its existing partnership with SES by supporting SES's O3B Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation O3b MEO, to extend connectivity between Microsoft's cloud datacentre regions and cloud edge devices.  

Virgin Orbit invests in Sky and Space Global:  Nano satellite constellation business, Sky and Space Global (SAS), announced 28 October 2020 that Virgin Orbit is to take a stake of at least 14.7% in the company at 20 cents per share. SAS and Virgin Orbit will cancel their existing AUS$55m launch agreement and sign a three year agreement for launch and consulting services for AUS$1m per year.

OneWeb sale approved by FCC: In the next step along OneWeb's path to exit bankruptcy protection, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the sale of OneWeb to the UK government and Bharti Global, who will each take a 42.2% stake in the company.  SoftBank will have a 12.3% stake; before OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, SoftBank held a 37.14% stake. 

SpaceX Starlink valued at US$100bn:  Morgan Stanley has given SpaceX Starlink a best-case valuation of US$100bn, with the launch business valued at US$12bn, SpaceX's space travel business valued at US$9bn and the Starlink broadband system at US$81bn (nearly double an earlier valuation in July). 

SES announces Q3 results and decides not to split businesses: SES announced its Q3 2020 results on 5 November. Revenues remained constant at €1.41bn and SES's Networks business saw sustained growth quarter on quarter, with strong growth in SES Mobility. However, the company saw a fall in net profits of just under 40% compared to the same period in 2019.  Earlier this year, SES considered separating its Networks business from its Video business, but in the 5 November statement, the company said that board has now decided not to pursue the separation.

ESA calls for more Ariane 6 funding:  The European Space Agency will ask member countries to contribute an additional €230 million to fund the development of Ariane 6, ESA's next generation launch vehicle.  The additional funding represents a 6% increase in development costs.  The launch date for Ariane 6 has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and technical issues and is now scheduled for Q2 2022.

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