UK: Satellite & Space Project News - June 2016

Last Updated: 28 June 2016
Article by John Worthy

Funding boost for UK climate space data industries

The UK Space Agency and the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) have announced that they will be jointly funding a project to provide a seamless supply chain of climate data from space. The funding will pay for data processing facilities, community tools and software to allow regular production of climate data from existing satellite instruments. The aim of the project is to boost growth and innovation in the UK's climate services industries.

SES to increase stake in O3b

Satellite operator SES is to acquire 100% of O3B Networks. Back in April, the company announced plans to pay US$20m for a controlling stake, increasing its 49.1% (fully diluted) interest in O3b to 50.51%. SES now intends to exercise its call option under the purchase agreement to acquire the remaining 49.5% of shares for US$710m. Karim Michel Sabbagh, President and CEO of SES commented: "O3b's MEO constellation is a key accelerator in the execution of SES's differentiated strategy and substantially improves SES's competitive positioning, particularly for applications where low latency is an increasingly central feature. By moving to 100% now, SES and O3b can immediately begin to realise important commercial and financing synergies from bringing the two businesses even closer together."

Europe could lead in SBAS for aviation

Europe has a unique opportunity to provide satellite based augmentation systems (SBAS) to the aviation industry, according to Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA). At the recent European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) symposium, Mr Dorides pointed out that Europe could have first-mover advantage through work that the GSA and EUROCAE are carrying out to develop SBAS standards. That work is being carried out under the umbrella of EUROCAE's Galileo Working Group, which is tasked with fostering the earliest introduction of Galileo-based services for aviation. Mr Dorides noted that if Europe can be "first out of the gate" on standards, it will have a better chance of securing important market share. (Source: GSA press release).

Intelsat offers to buy back bonds

Intelsat announced on 12 May 2016 an offer to bondholders to buy three lines of senior notes at up to US$625,000,000. The original 9 June expiry date has been extended to 22 June. The announcement did not result in a change to Moody's Corporate Family Rating for Intelsat which remains at B3 due to the group's debt and modest free cash flow.

SpaceX has further success with re-usable rocket

SpaceX completed another successful launch and subsequent landing of the first stage of its reusable rocket on a platform floating in the ocean (6 May 2016). SpaceX's pre-launch publicity had suggested that a successful landing on the ocean platform was unlikely, given the mission's Geostationary Transfer Orbit destination and the fact that the first-stage would be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating. The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral carrying SkyPerfect JSAT Corporation's JCSAT-14 communications satellite. JCSAT-14 is a Space Systems Loral (SSL) telecommunications satellite that will replace JCSAT-2A, providing coverage to Asia, Russia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands.

UK Government announces spaceport legislation

The UK government has announced plans for a Modern Transport Bill. The Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech on 18 May 2016, will introduce legislation to enable the future development of the UK's first commercial spaceports. The UK is not alone in its ambition to become Europe's gateway for commercial space flight. Plans are underway for Sweden's Spaceport, at Kiruna, 100km above the Arctic Circle to offer commercial human spaceflights.

Galileo launches

The 13th and 14th satellites in the Galileo constellation were successfully launched on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from French Guiana on 24 May 2016. Galileo is Europe's civil global satellite navigation system. Once complete, the system will consist of 24 operational satellites and the ground infrastructure for the provision of positioning, navigation and timing services. The two satellites will undergo testing before being officially commissioned into the working constellation later this year.

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