China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Upcoming Launches Include Mission Extension Vehicle, ICON and Starlink Satellites

Mission Extension Vehicle refuels satellite. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Four upcoming launches in the United States, Russia and New Zealand feature payloads to refuel a communications satellite, study space weather, expand SpaceX’s Starlink network, and test out new technology.

October 9

Proton
Payloads: Eutelsat 5 West B communications satellite, Mission Extension Vehicle 1 (MEV 1)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Launch Time: 6:17 a.m. EDT (1017 GMT )

This is the first flight of the MEV, which will refuel the Intelsat 901 communications satellite. Both satellites on this launch were built by Northrop Grumman.

October 9/10

Pegasus XL
Payload: Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite
Launch Platform: Stargazer L-1011 aircraft
Departure Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Window: 9:25-10:55 p.m. EDT on Oct. 9 (0125-0255 GMT on Oct. 10)

NASA’s ICON mission will study disturbances in the ionosphere caused by terrestrial weather and solar storms that disrupt radio transmissions and GPS navigation. ICON has suffered repeated delays due to technical problems. The original launch date was in June 2017. The launch is being conducted by Northrop Grumman.

October 14/15

Electron
Payloads: Palisade CubeSat
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Launch Window: 7:00-11:00 p.m. EDT on Oct. 14 (2300-0300 GMT on Oct. 14/15)

Rocket Lab’s “As The Crow Flies” mission is the ninth launch of the Electron rocket Astro Digital’s Palisade technology demonstration satellite is a 16U CubeSat with a next-generation communications system and an an on-board propulsion system.

NET October 17

Falcon 9
Payloads: ~ 60 Starlink 1 communications satellites
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Time: TBD

SpaceX will launch the second group of Starlink 1 broadband satellites no earlier than Oct. 17.

Iridium, OneWeb Sign MOU on Global Satellite Services Offering

McLean, VA, U.S.A. & London, U.K., September 17, 2019 (Iridium/OneWeb PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) and OneWeb today announced they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together toward a combined service offering.

This combined service offering would be designed to make it easier for their mutual partners to offer unique bundling and co-marketing opportunities for the Iridium Certus® L-band services and OneWeb’s Ku-band service. The offering would leverage the strengths of their respective low-Earth-orbit (LEO) networks. This is the first time that LEO operators have collaborated to deliver services in L-band and Ku-band.

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OneWeb to Bring Fiber-like Internet to the Arctic in 2020

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)
  • OneWeb’s connectivity will be the fastest internet service in the Arctic, and the first to provide full coverage to the region
  • OneWeb’s fiber-like internet will be the only solution whereby the Arctic’s under-served, and unconnected communities can benefit from broadband connectivity
  • With service starting in 2020, OneWeb’s connectivity will help advance maritime, aviation, enterprise, government and scientific research needs

LONDON, September 4, 2019 (OneWeb PR – OneWeb, whose goal is to connect everyone everywhere, today announced the details of its Arctic high-speed, low-latency internet service. OneWeb will deliver 375 Gbps of capacity above the 60th parallel North. With service starting in 2020, there will be enough capacity to give fiber-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic.

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Softbank Writes Down $424.7 Million Investment in OneWeb

Ouch!

Citing a story in the Sunday Telegraph, City A.M. reports that Softbank took a £380 million ($424.7 million) impairment loss on its investment in OneWeb. Softbank is the largest shareholder in the Internet satellite company.

Airbus, Qualcomm and Virgin Group are among other shareholders in the London-based satellite firm, which boasts a valuation of more than $1bn (£823m) and has earned sought-after “unicorn” status.

In addition to the Softbank writedown, some early investors have lost as much as half of the value of their stakes, according to the report

Oneweb, which secured $1.25bn in its latest Softbank-led funding round, has ramped up its plans for satellite production amid competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon.

Russia Denies OneWeb Permission to Provide Satellite Internet

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

Despite launching its broadband satellites on Russian Soyuz rockets, OneWeb has been unable to obtain permission to provide its services in that country, the BBC reports.

OneWeb, whose headquarters are in the UK, was seeking to use a certain band of radio frequencies in Russia.

However, the State Commission for Radio Frequencies has denied it permission to do so.

OneWeb has been trying to get approval for its Russian operations since 2017….

In 2017, Russia’s communications authority Roskomnadzor blocked OneWeb from offering services in the country.

Canadian Government to Invest in Telesat Satellite Broadband Program

Credit: Telesat

OTTAWA (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada PR) — Canada’s future depends on connectivity. In today’s digital world, access to high-speed Internet is a necessity for success. That is why the Government of Canada is investing in innovative satellite technologies to help improve high-speed broadband access for all Canadians, particularly in rural and remote regions.

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced an $85 million investment in Canadian satellite company Telesat to build and test innovative technologies for its low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. Telesat’s constellation will significantly improve global connectivity and expand high-speed Internet coverage to rural and remote regions throughout Canada, including the Far North. 

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UK-US OneWeb Venture to Increase Global Connectivity

An engineer works inside of OneWeb’s satellite production facility. (Credit: OneWeb)
  • Joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus sees satellite manufacturing facility open in Florida helping to revitalise Florida’s Space Coast with 250 new high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs through the supply chain
  • Department for International Trade celebrates 1 year of the Space Exports Strategy
  • In 2015, American companies represented nearly half of all FDI in the UK space sector—roughly £5.1bn of £12bn

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (UK Department of International Trade PR) — Today (July 22) UK-based OneWeb, the communications company powered by satellites, announced the opening of OneWeb Satellites, the first-ever, high-volume satellite manufacturing facility on Merritt Island, Florida, as part of a joint venture with Airbus. It comes just after the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

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OneWeb, Airbus Open High-production Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Florida

Inside OneWeb’s satellite manufacturing facility in Florida. (Credit: OneWeb)

EXPLORATION PARK, Florida, USA, July 22, 2019 – OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus – today officially opened the world’s first high-volume, high-speed advanced satellite production facility to bring transformative internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere.

Historically, satellites are custom built, costing tens of millions of dollars to build, and taking more than a year to produce a single one. The OneWeb Satellites facility is the first to employ industrial-scale mass production techniques for satellites, enabling dramatically reduced costs and production times that can deliver one satellite per production shift or two a day, while significantly expanding internet connectivity and making space technology far more accessible.

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OneWeb’s Satellites Deliver Real-Time HD Streaming from Space

  • OneWeb proves satellite constellation can deliver high-speed, low-latency services from Space.
  • Comprehensive tests delivered live Full HD (1080p) streaming video at latency of less than 40 milliseconds and with speeds of over 400 Mbps.
  • All satellites in orbit, launched in February 2019 are performing well.
  • Test conducted in partnership with Intellian, developer of OneWeb user terminals.

LONDON, July 16, 2019 (OneWeb PR) – OneWeb, whose mission is to enable internet access everywhere for everyone, is delighted to announce the successful test of its six satellites in Low Earth Orbit. All satellites delivered high-speed, low-latency services, with speed of more than 400 Mbps which enabled the fastest real-time video streaming in Full HD from Space. The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date, proving its ability to provide superior broadband connectivity anywhere on the planet.

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SpaceX Wins Launch Contract to Launch Space Norway Arctic Broadband Satellites

Northrop Grumman will design, manufacture and integrate two satellites for Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission systems in addition to providing critical ground infrastructure. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

OSLO, Norway (Space Norway PR) — Space Norway will cooperate with the satellite operator Inmarsat and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence to offer mobile broadband coverage to civilian and military users in the Arctic. Two satellites will be built by Northrop Grumman and are scheduled to be launched by SpaceX in late 2022. The ground station will be established in North Norway and ensure Norwegian control of this critically important capability.

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Northrop Grumman to Deliver Space-Based Broadband Satellites for North Polar Region for Space Norway

Northrop Grumman will design, manufacture and integrate two satellites for Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission systems in addition to providing critical ground infrastructure. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Dulles, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been awarded a contract by Space Norway to deliver its Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) system. Northrop Grumman will design, manufacture and integrate two satellites in addition to providing critical ground infrastructure.

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Amazon Files for Approval to Launch 3,236 Satellites for Internet Services

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com marked Independence Day by filing an application with the Federal Communications Commission to launch 3,236 satellites to provide global Internet services from space. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Amazon in its FCC application said its satellites would operate at altitudes of about 370 to 390 miles (590 to 630 kilometers).

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos last month said the Kuiper project would cost “multiple billions of dollars.” The project is separate from Bezos’ space launch vehicle maker, Blue Origin.

In its FCC filing, Amazon said it would help serve U.S. communities “by offering fixed broadband communications services to rural and hard-to-reach areas.” The Kuiper System will help mobile network operators to expand wireless services, Amazon said in its application. It also offered the prospect of “high-throughput mobile broadband connectivity services for aircraft, maritime vessels and land vehicles.”

Amazon is in a race with OneWeb, SpaceX and other companies to provide global broadband services from space. SpaceX has received approval for nearly 12,000 satellites and launched the first 60 spacecraft of its Starlink constellation in May. OneWeb launched the first six of a planned 648 satellites in February.











AAS Issues Position Statement on SpaceX’s Satellite Constellations

Telescopes at Lowell Observatory in Arizona captured this shot of galaxies May 25. Their image was marred by the reflected light from more than 25 Starlink satellites as they passed overhead. (Credit: Victoria Girgis/Lowell Observatory)

American Astronomical Society Statement

On May 23rd entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX launched 60 Starlink communication satellites aboard a single rocket. Within days skywatchers worldwide spotted them flying in formation as they orbited Earth and reflected sunlight from their shiny metal surfaces. Some people, unaware that artificial satellites can be seen moving against the starry background every clear night, reported UFO sightings. Astronomers, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were seeing — and immediately began to worry.

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Virgin Orbit Loses 35 OneWeb Launches, Sues Over Termination Fee

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When the contract was announced in June 2015, it seemed like a blockbuster deal:  satellite Internet provider OneWeb had placed an order for 39 launches with options for 100 more for Virgin Galactic’s (now Virgin Orbit’s) LauncherOne.

What made the order extraordinary was not just the large number of launches, but the fact that the rocket really didn’t even exist yet. (The fact that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was an investor in OneWeb probably helped.)

Four years later, the blockbuster deal is a bust. According to a lawsuit filed this week by Virgin Orbit, OneWeb last year canceled 35 of the 39 planned launches., slicing most of the value from the $234 million deal.

SpaceNews reports that Virgin Orbit orbit is suing for $46.32 million it claims OneWeb owes it from a $70 million contract termination fee.

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