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Biz Briefs – SpaceX Files to Launch 30,000 Additional Satellites

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 12, 2023
Filed under , ,
Biz Briefs – SpaceX Files to Launch 30,000 Additional Satellites
Starlink satellites being deployed.
Image credit: SpaceX.

Welcome to Biz Briefs! In this edition, SpaceX filed to launch nearly 30,000 additional communications satellites, and received an investment from Italy’s largest bank, Intelsat signed a multi-launch deal with Relativity Space, Axiom and the European Space Agency (ESA) deepened their partnership, Arnhem Space Centre got a new general manager, and much more.


SpaceX files to deploy nearly 30,000 satellites

SpaceX has filed paperwork with the International Telecommunications Union to launch 29,988 satellites that would use W-band frequencies. The ESIAFI II constellation would occupy 288 orbital planes at altitudes ranging from 350-614 km (217-382 miles). The filing was submitted through the Kingdom of Tonga. SpaceX already has permission from the Federal Communications Commission to deploy nearly 12,000 Starlink broadband satellites.

Intesa Sanpaolo invests in SpaceX

Italy’s largest banking group, Intesa Sanpaolo, announced an investment in SpaceX. The bank said the investment is in line with its 2022-2025 business plan that stresses the importance of innovation. The size of the investment was not disclosed.

“The aerospace sector can play a crucial role in driving the development and growth of the world’s economies and SpaceX has shown a cutting-edge vision for the future in this field,” the bank said in a press release.

Starlink to connect directly to cell phones

SpaceX announced that its Starlink broadband constellation will be capable of providing communications directly to cell phones for business customers beginning next year. The company said it would begin delivering text messages in 2024, followed by voice, data, and Internet of Things services in 2025. Partners in the venture include:

  • T-Mobile in the United States
  • Rogers in Canada
  • Optus in Australia
  • One NZ in New Zealand
  • KDDI in Japan
  • Salt in Switzerland.

Maersk to install Starlink on container ships

Maersk announced the company will install SpaceX’s Starlink broadband terminals on more than 330 company-owned and operated container ships. The agreement comes after a pilot program in which Starlink was tested on more than 30 Maersk vessels.

NASA astronaut and Crew-7 Commander, Jasmin Moghbeli, goes for a hug with NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen after entering through the hatch following Crew-7's arrival to the International Space Station on August 27, 2023.
NASA astronaut and Crew-7 Commander, Jasmin Moghbeli, goes for a hug with NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen after entering through the hatch following Crew-7’s arrival at the International Space Station on August 27, 2023. Image credit: NASA.

NASA announces ISS crew rotation schedule

NASA announced its plans to rotate crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS) using SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner spacecraft. It will be the first crewed flight test of Starliner.

Mission: Crew-8
Spacecraft: SpaceX Crew Dragon
Crew: NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick (commander), Michael Barratt (pilot), and Jeanette Epps (mission specialist); Russian mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin
Launch date: No earlier than mid-February 2024

Mission: Crew Flight Test
Spacecraft: Boeing Starliner
Crew: NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams
Launch date: No earlier than mid-April 2024

Mission: Crew-9
Spacecraft: SpaceX Crew Dragon
Crew: TBA
Launch date: No earlier than mid-August

Mission: 10th commercial crew rotation
Spacecraft: TBA
Crew: TBA
Launch date: Early 2025

Terran R launch
Artist’s conception of a Terran R rocket launch. Image credit: Relativity Space.


Intelsat signs multi-launch agreement with Relativity Space

Intelsat and Relativity Space have signed a multi-year, multi-launch agreement. Relativity Space will begin launching Intelsat communications satellites aboard its Terran R rocket as early as 2026. The US launch provider said it has signed nine launch customers and has a total back of $1.8 billion.

IAI signs satellite contract with Azercosmos

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has signed a contract to supply two multi-spectral, electro-optical satellites to Azerbaijan’s space agency, Azercosmos. The satellite will possess better than 0.5-meter native resolution.

AAC Clyde Space receives $1.1 million satellite order

AAC Clyde Space won an order worth £902,000 (USD $1.1 million) for a 3U CubeSat that will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2024. The spacecraft will be equipped with a VHF data exchange system payload designed to meet the increasing need for data communication between maritime users. The company did not identify the customer.

Momentus signs contract with RIDE! Space

Momentus signed a contract with RIDE! Space for transportation and orbital delivery services in the first quarter of 2024. Momentus will deliver RIDE! Space’s Gaindesat and Djibouti payloads on a single mission.

Illustration of a future lunar outpost
Illustration of a future lunar outpost. Image credit: NASA.

DARPA announces finalists in LunA-10 study

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced finalists in its 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) study, which is focused on the habitation and development of the Moon. Finalists include:

  • Firefly Aerospace for market analysis
  • Blue Origin, Honeybee Robotics, and Fibertek, Inc. for power
  • Sierra Space, CISLunar Industries, and Helios for mining and in-situ resource utilization
  • Crescent, Nokia Bell Labs, and Redwire for communications, position, navigation, and timing
  • Northrup Grumman and SpaceX for transit, mobility, and logistics
  • Gitai and Icon for construction and robotics.


Castelion raises $14.2 million

California-based defense company Castelion has raised $14.2 million in initial funding in a round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Lavrock Ventures. The company is focused on the agile development of rockets, hypersonic vehicles, and related areas.

Pale Blue raises $7.5 million

Pale Blue, a Japanese startup that manufactures water-based thrusters for small spacecraft, has raised $7.5 million (JPY 1 billion) in a Series B round funded by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital and Incubate Fund and recent bank loans. The company has also been selected by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization for a grant under the Deep Tech Startups program. Pale Blue will use the funds raised and grant to establish a new production facility to mass-produce propulsion systems.

Aurgia Space secures $5 million

Aurgia Space has secured $5 million in initial funding to develop an electromagnetic system to launch satellites. “With this initial funding, we’re advancing prototypes and expanding our Los Angeles facilities. The team is growing, and we’re honored to add Blake Scholl, Founder & CEO of Boom Supersonic, and Ashley Johnson, COO & CFO of Planet Labs as advisors,” the company said in a press release.

PickNik Robotics raises pre-seed round

PickNik Robotics raised $2 million in a pre-seed investment round led by Stellar Ventures and Cypress Growth Capital. The investment supplements the company’s existing $5 million in Small Business Innovation Research contracts with NASA and the US Space Force. The funding will be used to further develop their powerful robotics platform MoveIt Studio, which enables any developer or engineer to create advanced applications with robot arms.

Bright Ascension secures funding for HELIX product suite

UK-based Bright Ascension announced it had secured an additional £1.5 million (USD $1.8 million) through a bridging loan to develop its HELIX suite of space software products. The investment follows rounds that brought in £1.5 million (USD $1.8 million) in equity funding in 2021 and 2022.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini sign a memorandum of understanding.
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher and Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini sign a memorandum of understanding. Image credit: ESA.


Axiom Space and ESA forge new partnership

Axiom Space and ESA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on human spaceflight, spacesuit development, and research and development activities.

ispace signs MoU with Skyroot & HEX20

Japanese lunar delivery company ispace has signed an MoU with Indian launch provider Skyroot Aerospace and HEX20, an Australian company that supplies components for CubeSats and small satellites, to conduct joint market development in the Indo-Pacific region to accelerate the number of lunar orbiting satellite missions.


Arnhem Space Centre announces new GM

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA), owner and operator of Australia’s Arnhem Space Centre, announced the appointment of Craig Gibbons as the new general manager of the spaceport. The former Australian Army officer and helicopter pilot most recently served as CEO of Northern Rescue Helicopter Ltd. in Auckland, New Zealand.

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