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Biz Briefs – Maxar Goes Private, Seraphim Selects Next Accelerator Group

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 4, 2023
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Biz Briefs – Maxar Goes Private, Seraphim Selects Next Accelerator Group
Rob Desborough, Managing Partner at Seraphim Space and CEO of the Accelerator.
Image credit: Seraphim Space.

Welcome to Biz Briefs. In this edition, Maxar is going private, a consortium of aerospace heavyweights will bid for Europe’s Starlink rival, Seraphim Space selects nine companies for its next business accelerator, ESA funds a study for a reusable heavy-lift launcher, Lockheed and Raytheon teams win defense contracts, AeroVironment receives a Mars helicopter contract, CesiumAstro to provide Raytheon with antennas, NASA awarded contracts for a weather satellite, and Thales Alenia Space conducted a cybersecurity demonstration with an active satellite.

Maxar Becomes Privately Held Company

U.S. private equity firm Advent International and minority investor British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (“BCI”) have completed their $6.4 billion acquisition of satellite manufacturer Maxar Technologies.

Maxar will remain a U.S.-controlled, owned, and operated company. Common stock was acquired for $53 per share in cash. Stock in the now-private company has ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock will also be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

European Consortium to Bid on Starlink Rival

A group of major European aerospace companies have formed a partnership to bid on the European Commission’s Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite (IRIS²) constellation.

Airbus Defence and Space, Eutelsat, Hispasat, SES, and Thales Alenia Space will govern the consortium. Core team members include Deutsche Telekom, OHB, Orange, Hisdesat, Telespazio, and Thales.

IRIS² is widely seen as Europe’s answer to SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation, which already has more than 4,300 Starlink satellites in orbit.

“The integrated team aims to foster collaboration among all European space players across the whole connectivity value chain with a view to enabling EU’s strategic autonomy through the delivery of sovereign, secure and resilient government services to protect European citizens,” reads a consortium press release.

“The team will leverage synergies between government and commercial infrastructures,” the release continues. “The teaming partners are also well positioned to provide commercial services to bridge the digital divide across European territories and to increase Europe’s global outreach and competitiveness as a space and digital power on the global market.”

Seraphim Space Selects Nine Companies for Accelerator

Seraphim Space (a.k.a., Generation Space in the U.S.) has selected nine space technology companies from five countries to take part in its 11th business accelerator program. The three-month program will assist the companies from inception to initial public offerings.

The nine companies are focused on optical communication systems, financial hedging tools, multi-sensor imaging satellites, and Internet of Things (IoT) nano-satellites.

Astrolight (Lithuania): Optical communication system for low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites offering 10 times more bandwidth at 50 percent of the cost of the existing radio-based communication systems.

EarthEye (Singapore): Marketplace platform to discover and use geospatial data and insights for startups, enterprises, governments, small and medium enterprises, non-governmental organizations, and research organizations.

GalaxEye (India): Multi-sensor imaging satellite addressing the deficiencies of current satellite images.

Kurs Orbital (Italy): Developing docking technology to enable reusability, maintenance, and life extension services for satellite operators.

Allocation Space (USA): Building a swap execution facility to provide the space industry with financial hedging tools to offset resource, event, and operational risks.

Amini (USA): Pioneering the development of African data infrastructure with its own constellation of IOT-integrated nano-satellites, enabling near real-time and low-cost data collection over Africa.

Orbital Composites (USA): Using robots, artificial intelligence, and recyclable materials to 3D print advanced composites for terrestrial and in-space applications, enabling greater payload capacity.

SPACEIUM (USA): Developing fully reusable in-space refueling stations to store and transfer cryogenic fuel with a unique docking mechanism to support current and future space vehicles.

Virtus Solis (USA): Developing commercial space-based solar power systems to provide clean, firm, dispatchable, low-cost energy globally.

The program has helped 81 startups raise over $270 million from 80 venture capitalists since 2018.

ESA Funds Reusable Heavy-lift Study

The ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (ESA-FLPP) has commissioned a study to explore the feasibility of a reusable and cost-effective heavy lift launch vehicle that could fly at a high cadence.

The agency has signed contract for the PROTEIN study with ArianeGroup and Rocket Factory Augsburg that will run until September 2023. The companies will assess the feasibility of the European Heavy Lift Launcher (EHLL) and identify key technologies needed to make it a reality.

“ESA is projecting a fully reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle, initially optimised for missions to LEO and built with the minimisation of environmental impact in mind, that will be able to advance European capability in space and enable the deployment of large-scale in-space infrastructure projects like In-Space Datacenters, Solar Power and Manufacturing,” the space agency announced.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Win Defense Contracts

Teams led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon each won $30 million contracts from the U.S. Space Systems Command to develop prototype systems that would allow the military to maintain communications in the event of a nuclear attack.

The Evolved Strategic SATCOM system “will provide the survivable and endurable satellite communications capability for the Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) mission in all operational environments. It will provide space and control segments for worldwide arctic DoD strategic, secure and jam-resistant, survivable communications for ground, sea and air assets around the world,” Space Systems Command announced.

Team Lockheed Martin includes Stratagem, Integrity-Communications-Solutions, Infinity and BAE Systems. Team Raytheon includes Dell, Seed Innovations, Infinity, Kratos, Northrop Grumman, Rocket Communications, Parsons, Polaris Alpha, Quantum Research, Koverse, Caliola Engineering, Kythera, Northstrat Inc., Optimal, RKF Engineering and Ascension Engineering. Grumman, Rocket Communications, Parsons, Polaris Alpha, Quantum Research, Koverse, Caliola Engineering, Kythera, Northstrat Inc., Optimal, RKF Engineering and Ascension Engineering.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Image credit: NASA.

AeroVironment Gets Mars Helicopter Contract

AeroVironment has won a $10 million contract from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to co-design and co-develop conceptual designs and development units of Mars Sample Recovery Helicopter flight systems.

“Future efforts could include detailed design, build, and test of qualification and flight hardware. The helicopters build upon the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter design heritage and feature upgraded robotics to supplement aerial mobility,” AeroVironment announced in a press release.

“AeroVironment engineers from the MacCready Works team previously worked with NASA JPL to co-design and develop the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which has completed 52 successful flights to date on Mars and survived 781 sols on the surface, far outperforming its design objectives,” the company added.

Raytheon Tranche 1 satellites. Image credit: Raytheon.

CesiumAstro Selected to Provide Seven Multi-Beam, Active Phased Array Communications Payloads to Raytheon Technologies for SDA’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer

CesiumAstro will supply phased array communications payloads to Raytheon Technologies for the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer infrared missile warning and missile tracking satellites.

“CesiumAstro’s Vireo payload will be the first Ka-band, multi-beam communications system operating in SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA),” the company announced. “Using next-generation AESA technology to create multiple steerable, shapeable beams, Vireo is a step change from legacy, single-beam systems optimized for connecting to single, static ground stations. The system’s groundbreaking modular slice-based design and software-defined backend will set a new standard for resilient, low-latency, high-volume data transport to simultaneous users.”

NASA Awards Contracts for NOAA Coronagraph Instrument

NASA has awarded study contracts to five companies to define concepts and mature technologies for coronagraphs that will fly on NOAA’s Space Weather Next Program L1 Series satellites. The selected firms include:

  • EO Vista, Acton, MA.
  • Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, MD.
  • Raytheon Intelligence & Space, El Segundo, CA.
  • Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO.
  • University of Colorado, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Boulder, CO.

Each eight-month contract is worth $800,000 with a four-month option valued at $400,000. A contract to manufacture the instruments will be awarded in 2024.

Thales Alenia Space Conducts In-orbit Cybersecurity Demonstration

Working under ESA supervision, Thales Alenia Space performed a cybersecurity demonstration using the space agency’s OPS-SAT spacecraft.

“Once the Thales team successfully accessed the control layer of the satellite, they were able to demonstrate how they could tamper with images taken with the satellite’s camera and rotate the spacecraft away from its normal pointing,” the ESA said in a press release.

OPS-SAT is a flying test satellite that allows companies across Europe to test innovative software that would be too risky to load on operational spacecraft.

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