A digest of recent news from the satellite and space projects sector

UK spaceport funding: The UK Space Agency has announced a series of funding awards to spearhead the new UK launch capabilities. One award of £2.5 million has been allocated to a proposed vertical launch spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland. Alongside this, Lockheed Martin is to establish vertical launch operations at the Sutherland site with support from a £23.5 million grant from the UK Space Agency, and a further £5.5 million in funding will help innovative launch provider Orbex to build a rocket for the Sutherland site. A further £2 million of government funding has been allocated to support the development of horizontal launch facilities in the UK, such as those planned in Cornwall, Snowdonia and Glasgow Prestwick.

Virgin Orbit to bring orbital launch to Spaceport Cornwall: Virgin's launch company, Virgin Orbit plans to conduct rocket launches from Cornwall Airport Newquay by 2021, using an adapted Boeing 747. The launches will take place from Spaceport Cornwall, alongside the current passenger airline services.

ABS seeks partners for 15 orbital slots: the satellite fleet operator announced that it has more slots than it can use and can offer the slots to non-traditional owners including tech companies or satellite manufacturers. Although some of these slots will expire within two years, ABS adds that an offer is unprecedented from a manufacturer's perspective.

Rocket Lab to launch from US soil: small satellite launcher Rocket Lab has announced that it will be establishing a launch site in the US alongside its existing location in New Zealand. "Launching from US soil adds an extra layer of flexibility for our government and commercial customers, offering an unmatched ability to rapidly deploy space-based assets with confidence and precision," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement.

C-band plans concerns Asian satellite operators: plans for Intelsat and SES to use the C-band spectrum are triggering concerns in the Asian markets among operators arguing that the region is still developing and has a strong need for satellite services. The satellite operators are worried that cellular operators will only become more demanding for bandwidth and that other countries will follow suit, which will eventually deplete the quantity of C-band available. However, Eutelsat Asia disagreed that the plans were disconcerting, stating that there is unlikely to be a scramble for C-bandwidth in the Asian markets.

Avanti signs $10 million contract with Viasat: the initial two-year deal provides Viasat with a lease on Avanti's newly launched HYLAS 4 satellite. Avanti highlighted that the success demonstrates that their new carrier strategy helps operators to increase addressable markets and drive customer satisfaction without additional satellite and launch capex spend. Viasat noted that the partnership will allow it to access a quarter of the steerable Ka-band satellite coverage and capacity on HYLAS-4 and to further enhance connectivity services for global government applications.

UK consults on satellite filings cost recovery: UK regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation to review the current process whereby it performs, at no charge, satellite filing which provides international recognition of satellite networks and systems. The regulator proposes that, instead of the work being covered by the public money, the costs should be recovered from the organisations that request the work. The consultation document also provides a proposed charging approach. The consultation closes on 23 August 2018.

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