Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Contract Watch: OneWeb Purchases Hughes Terminals, NASA Orders Giant Boosters & Spacesuits, Vega-C Launches Awarded & More

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 15, 2022
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Updated 12/16 at 12:08 p.m. PST with information about Planet Labs acquisition of Salo Sciences.

‘Tis the season for contracts, MOUs and LOIs. There’s been a lot going on as we enter the last weeks of 2022.

Let’s take a look at agreements involving OneWeb, Hughes, Boeing, Collins Aerospace, Arianespace, Kongsberg NanoAvionics, Hanwha Aerospace, Absolut Sensing, Gravitics, mPower Technology, Constellr, Vyom Space Exploration, Satellogic, Planet Labs, Salo Sciences and AST SpaceMobile. Space agencies involved include NASA, ESA, UK Space Agency, ISRO, KARI and the Mexican Space Agency.

SLS Core stage for Artemis I mission removed from the test stand at Stennis. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has finalized a $3.2 billion contract with Boeing to continue manufacturing core and upper stages for future Space Launch System (SLS) rockets for Artemis missions to the Moon. Boeing will produce SLS core stages for the Artemis III and IV missions, procure critical and long-lead material for the core stages for Artemis V and VI flights, and provide the exploration upper stages (EUS) for Artemis V and VI.

Satellite broadband provider OneWeb has ordered 10,000 low Earth orbit (LEO) terminals from Hughes Network Systems to enable networking services for enterprise and government customers. The HL1100 terminals feature electronically-steered antenna and compact indoor and outdoor equipment. The compact, “out of the box” terminals will provide speeds up to 195 Mbps down and 32 Mbps up. Hughes will begin production the second half of 2023.

Next-generation spacesuit. (Credit: Collins Aerospace)

NASA has awarded a contract worth $97.2 million to Collins Aerospace to develop a new spacesuit for spacewalks at the International Space Station. Collins Aerospace will complete a critical design review and demonstrate use of the suit on Earth in a simulated space environment by January 2024. NASA will have the option to extend the contract for a demonstration by agency astronauts outside the space station. Collins, which is a Raytheon company, is partnered with ILC Dover and Oceaneering on the contract.

Hanwha Aerospace has been awarded a $216.7 million (286 billion won) contract from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to oversee the production of and improvements to South Korea’s Nuri launch vehicle, which placed satellites in orbit for the first time in June. Hanwha will oversee launch vehicle integration and manage suppliers. KARI, which developed the booster, will transfer technology to the company. Nuri, also known as KSLV-II, is South Korea’s first domestically produced launch vehicle.

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace has won a launch contract from ESA for five launches of the Vega-C booster. The rocket will launch the Copernicus Sentinel-1D, Sentinel-2C, Sentinel-3C, Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide-A and Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide B spacecraft. Launches of the Earth observation satellites will be conducted at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana from 2024 to 2026.

StarMax space station in orbit. (Credit: Gravitics)

Gravitics has tapped mPower Technology to provide its DragonSCALES solar power systems for the company’s StarMax space station modules. DragonSCALES solar systems are composed of flexible, interconnected mesh of high-efficiency silicon solar cells that can be aligned with the curved configuration of the StarMax modules.

Planet Labs announced it has signed an agreement to acquire Salo Sciences, a San Francisco company that specializes in measuring Earth’s changing ecosystems. Salo Sciences’ products include a Planet-powered forest measuring tool. Planet plans to further develop the company’s offerings to monitor forests, carbon stocks and carbon offsets. The deal is expected to close early next year. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Kongsberg NanoAvionics has won a contract to build a demonstration satellite to measure greenhouse gases for Absolut Sensing. NanoAvionics will provide its 16U nanosatellite bus, payload integration services, a satellite testing campaign, launch services and satellite operations. The spacecraft, named GEN1, will be launched in the first half of 2024. Absolut Sensing is planning a constellation of 24 satellites designed to measure emissions of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide that will be launched between 2025 and 2027.

Kongsberg NanoAvionics will provide Constellr with two of the companies flagship MP42 microsatellite buses. Germany-based Constellr will use the two satellites to develop the world’s first scalable water stress monitoring system. Constellr recently raised 10 million euros (US $10.65 million).

The UK Space Agency has announced awards of £2.7 million (USD $3.35 million) for 13 early-stage technology projects across England, Scotland and Wales to support the growing satellite launch sector. The funding was awarded to Space Prime, UKLSL, Rocket Engineering, European Astrotech, SmallSpark Space Systems, Lúnasa, Magdrive, Shetland Space Centre, Gravitilab Aerospace Service Ltd, AltaRange Ltd, Discover Space and TISICS Metal Composites.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a private company named Vyom Space Exploration and Services Private that is developing a reusable capsule that will transport cargo and eventually astronauts to and from space. Company founder and CEO Manish Kukreti told Indian media that the first capsule will be delivered to ISRO for evaluation within 16 months. Kukreti said Vyom Space has been developing the capsule with partners in Europe and funding from international investors.

Indian Coast Guard recovering ISRO’s Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) at 114 nautical miles South West of Indira point. [Credit: Indian Coast Guard (GODL-India)]

Satellogic Inc. signed a letter of intent (the “LOI”) with the Agencia Espacial Mexicana (Mexican Space Agency) to develop a fully-featured and operational Constellation-as-a-Service program to monitor approximately 2 million square kilometers of the nation. Satellogic satellites will deliver high-resolution multispectral (70cm GSD) imagery to support Mexico’s innovation and participation in the NewSpace economy with multipurpose, country-wide monitoring up to three times a year. Satellogic recently signed a three-year agreement with Albania for a similar service.

AST SpaceMobile, Inc.‘s subsidiary, AST & Science, LLC, signed an agreement with NASA to formalize both organizations’ dedication to maintaining and improving safety in the shared environment of space. The Space Act Agreement formalizes the prompt, detailed, and open sharing of information between AST SpaceMobile and NASA, enabling a deeper level of coordination, cooperation, and data sharing, defining the arrangement, responsibilities, and procedures for flight safety coordination.

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