UK: Satellite & Space Projects News - October 2015

Last Updated: 22 October 2015
Article by John Worthy

Japan and UN announce CubeSat opportunity

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs have agreed an initiative to offer developing countries the opportunity to deploy CubeSats from the International Space Station. Under the initiative, small satellites of educational or research institutes from developing countries that are members of the UN will be launched from the Japanese experimental module at the ISS. The first satellite launch is expected to be carried out in 2017 at the earliest. Satellites to be launched under the initiative will be selected by both parties, whilst the Japanese agency will carry out safety checks and provide technical assistance.  The deadline for applications is 31 March 2016.

GSA – partnership with CNES

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) and the French Space Agency, CNES, have recently entered into an agreement that will allow EU Member States to provide support to GSA in supplying the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service ("EGNOS"), the first pan-European satellite navigation system. The agreement will see the formation of a network that will ensure access to a wide range of GNSS-related expertise across EU Member States. CNES will act as the coordinator of the network and will work with relevant institutions across Europe.

GSA – R&D funding launch

The GSA has also launched a new R&D funding mechanism to support the advancement of European GNSS chipsets and receivers, and to enable the adoption of Galileo and EGNOS-powered services across all market segments. This 'Fundamental Elements' programme has a projected budget of EUR 100 million and will focus on supporting the development of innovative chipset and receiver technologies over the next 5 years. The programme will provide two types of financing: "grants" (details of which are included in the GSA's annual Grant Plans for EGNOS and Galileo), and "procurements". (source:

C band - the latest positions

In the lead up to WRC-15, the ITU has produced a useful graphic showing the different regional stances on the sharing of C-Band spectrum.  Mobile operators are pressing for some C-band spectrum to be allocated to mobile broadband services in order to meet consumer demand.  Satellite stakeholders argue that sharing the spectrum for terrestrial uses could lead to excessive interference and that the spectrum is vital in tropical and sub-tropical regions where other frequencies are adversely affected by "rain fade". The ITU graphic shows that Europe, the Americas and countries within the Arab Spectrum Management Group all propose to allow terrestrial broadband use of at least part of the C-Band, with Europe already having approved sharing of the band between 3.4 and 3.8GHz.   Asia Pacific countries and Russia are both opposed to sharing the spectrum.

Galileo – latest launch success

On 10 September two additional Galileo satellites were successfully launched from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana. Galileo 9 and 10 (also known as Alba and Oriana) entered their target orbit close to 23,500-km altitude approximately 3 hours and 48 minutes after lift-off. Two further Galileo satellites are scheduled to launch by the end of 2015. Next year the deployment of the Galileo system will be boosted by the entry into operation of a specially customised Ariane 5 launcher that can double the number of satellites that can be inserted into orbit with a single launch, from two to four.

France announces investment in satellites

The French government announced a number of satellite investment initiatives at a meeting of CoSpace, the joint French government and industry group on 11 September. These include:

  • The French space agency, CNES, has contracted with Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space to conduct a feasibility study on a next-generation high-resolution civil and military earth observation system.  The aim of the study is to prepare for a successor to the Pleiades earth-imaging constellation and in the longer term to support development of the successor to the French Ministry of Defence CSO1 optical space component;
  •  A commitment of €35m of funding for the development of technologies for low-orbit satellites; and
  •  The launch of "boosters" to support space applications start-ups.  Ten projects will be selected through a competitive process. 

Ex-Im suspension casts a long shadow

The US satellite construction industry is suffering as more and more are unable to obtain finance from the US Ex-Im Bank. The bank's ability to underwrite projects is currently on hold awaiting the renewal of its Charter to Operate which expired in June. Following Ex-Im's loss of its authorisation, US satellite manufacturers have struggled to compete. Orbital ATK has lost a satellite contract with Azercosmos as a result. Boeing has also suffered with two deals being pulled, one for ABS and another for Kacific.

Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom partner for aero connectivity

On 21 September Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat announced a partnership to create the world's first combined LTE-based ground network and satellite network dedicated to aviation passenger connectivity in Europe. Deutsche Telekom and Inmarsat are working together to develop the European Aviation Network seamlessly combining satellite connectivity from a new Inmarsat S-band satellite with an LTE-based ground network developed and run by Deutsche Telekom. The service aims to deliver a similar level of quality of high-speed broadband as at home. Lufthansa will be the first European airline to capitalise. In summer 2016, Lufthansa will launch a satellite-based broadband service on board its European flights.

LeoSat announces new CEO

LeoSat has appointed Mark Rigolle as its new CEO, following the departure of Vern Fotheringham. The satellite operator has plans to build a constellation of 78 to 108 small, High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Mark has over 22 years' experience in the telecom/satellite industry and was the CEO of O3b Networks, where he led the effort to raise $1.2billion in funding and launch the first 8 satellites of the company's constellation.

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