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Friday, August 19, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 15 – Aug 22 2016)

NASA test fires former shuttle engine for 420 seconds

The latest static fire test of the development RS-25 engine (E0528) has taken place at the Stennis Space Center. The test is part of a series aimed at validating hardware and software elements, such as the improved engine controller, as the former Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME) prepare to launch the opening Space Launch System (SLS) missions.
That engine was E2059, which flew on five Space Shuttle missions; it first flew three times on Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis (STS-117, STS-122, and STS-125) and then on Orbiter Endeavour’s last two flights (STS-130and STS-134). It is currently assigned to fly installed in the second Core Stage on Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which is planned to be the first crewed SLS/Orion flight.
The tests are designed to validate a new engine controller and how the RS-25 engine design functions in the SLS operating environment, which has functional and environmental differences from the Space Shuttle.

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Delta 4 lifts off carrying two Air Force space surveillance satellites

WASHINGTON —A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying twin space surveillance satellites for the U.S. Air Force lifted off early this morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The mission, known as AFSPC-6, short for Air Force Space Command-6, launched around 12:52 a.m. local time and included the third and fourth satellites in the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, also known as GSSAP. The Air Force has said those satellites provide a kind of “neighborhood watch” for the geosynchronous belt, home to some of the Defense Department’s most exquisite and expensive satellites.
The launch went into a news blackout several minutes after liftoff.

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Inmarsat extends Fleet Xpress service in Northern Europe

Inmarsat announces at Nor-Fishing 2016 that Fleet Xpress is being extended in Northern Europe, demonstrating a new market-specific commitment for the high-speed broadband service, powered by Global Xpress, that is revolutionising maritime connectivity.
Launched at the end of March 2016, Inmarsat Maritime’s Fleet Xpress service sets a new standard in broadband maritime communications. It achieves the highest levels of reliable high speed connectivity and exceptional performance across the world’s oceans, as well as facilitating innovative applications to enhance safety, crew welfare and operational efficiency. The extension of Fleet Xpress will reach across the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea and Baltic Sea.

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Industry remains optimistic about continued growth of cubesats

LOGAN, Utah — Despite concerns about reliability and access to launch vehicles, the small satellite industry expects the number of cubesats to continue to grow as they find new commercial and government applications.
In a presentation at the Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University here Aug. 8, Bill Doncaster of SpaceWorks Engineering said his company was maintaining a forecast issued earlier this year that predicted about 200 satellites weighing between 1 and 50 kilograms would launch this year, a number that would break the record of 158 set in 2014. That vast majority of those satellites would be versions of cubesats weighing 10 kilograms or less.
SpaceWorks, in a similar forecast last year, forecast 163 such satellites would launch in 2015, but only 131 actually flew. “That was an anomaly based on available launch slots,” he said. He noted that both Antares and Falcon 9 rockets, which have launched many such spacecraft on cargo missions to the International Space Station, were recovering from launch failures. “The number of opportunities was somewhat limited.”

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Iridium-Based Portable Tracker Tested on Scandinavian AirAmbulance

A Swedish air ambulance helicopter, along with a fixed-wing aircraft, recently took part in trials testing Marlink and IDG Europe’s portable tracking system operated on the Iridium satellite network. An Airbus Helicopters AS365 Dauphin N2 operated by Sweden’s Scandinavian AirAmbulance (or MediCopter) was outfitted with Smalltrack, a mobile device that can be used anywhere wirelessly. Testing was performed daily for three weeks.
Marlink’s Smalltrack can operate on a single charge for one week and provides tracking to support flight safety and logistics, and manual and automatic emergency alerts. The system is also designed to start up using the built-in accelerometer, which Marlink Enterprise President Danny Cote said makes it ideal for small aircraft such as helicopters, without adding an additional pre-flight check requirement.

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Globosat, Tektronix Support Live IP Media Production for Rio Olympics

Globosat, one of the largest pay TV providers in Latin America, has partnered with Tektronix, a video quality monitoring solutions provider, to support live IP media production of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This represents the first use of IP for live production on this scale in Latin America, according to Tektronix.
Globosat, which produced the worldwide content for the 2016 Olympics, deployed 16 linear channels by satellite, and more than 56 by internet amounting to 16 produced channels and 40 channels of audio ambience, for the Games. At the center of this network infrastructure are two Tektronix SPG8000A master sync and PTP grandmaster clock generators that offer support for both traditional SDI-based and IP-based media infrastructures. Alongside these instruments are two Prism IP/SDI media analyzers that offer the ability to diagnose and correlate both SDI and IP signal types.

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Globalstar Supports Communications Needs During Catastrophic Louisiana Flooding

COVINGTON, La., Aug. 18, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE MKT:GSAT) announced today the deployment of its satellite communications solutions to the Louisiana regions most affected by flooding in conjunction with its partner Disaster Tech Lab, a first responder communications specialist.
Coordinating with local Globalstar team members, Disaster Tech Lab has set up base operations in Prairieville, LA and will deliver much needed communication support to Southeast Louisiana by troubleshooting and fixing network issues as well as providing the use of satellite phones and satellite hot-spot units where traditional forms of communication have failed. Having traveled from all over the world, the team will be monitored via SPOT tracking as they carry out relief efforts.
Disaster Tech Lab is meeting with Incident Commanders and representatives of the affected communities, the Department of Homeland Security, First Responder organizations and Law Enforcement to assess needs for internet access and communication services.

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Europa mission planning for possible budget cuts in 2017

While NASA says its support for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa is now aligned with Congress, project officials are preparing for a possible “squeeze” on mission funding in the next fiscal year.
In presentations at an Aug. 11 meeting of NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) in Flagstaff, Arizona, officials involved with what’s widely known as the Europa Clipper mission said they are looking for ways to cut costs in 2017 while keeping the mission on track for a 2022 launch.
“There is this squeeze in FY17 that we have,” said Bob Pappalardo, the mission’s project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said. “We’re asking the instrument teams and various other aspects of the project, given that squeeze, what will it take in the out years to maintain that ’22 launch. We’re actively pursuing that question as we speak.”

Europa Clipper
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Satcom Global partners with Intellian on strategic hardware deal

Satcom Global, a leading maritime satellite communications provider, and Intellian, a global leader in satellite antenna development and manufacture, have signed a strategic partnership agreement covering the global supply and distribution of maritime satellite equipment.
Under the partnership, Satcom Global will have access to Intellian’s full range of Ku-Band, Ka-Band and FleetBroadband hardware, supporting the delivery of its portfolio of VSAT and L-Band services to maritime customers across the globe.
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NASA moves ahead with Asteroid Redirect Mission despite cost increase

WASHINGTON — The robotic element of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has cleared a major review despite a $150 million cost increase that the agency blames on a delayed mission schedule.
NASA announced Aug. 15 that it had approved a review of ARM’s robotic segment known as Key Decision Point B (KDP-B), which allows the mission to move into Phase B of its design and development. That KDP-B review took place last month.
NASA said that, as a part of the review, it increased the mission’s cost cap from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion, an increase the agency said was based on a decision earlier this year to delay the launch of the robotic mission by one year, to 2021. The new estimate, like the earlier one, does not include launch or operations costs.

ARM boulder return
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Friday, August 12, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 8 – Aug 15 2016)

SpaceX successfully launches JCSat-16 satellite, Lands Booster at Sea

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Aug. 14 successfully placed the JCSat-16 commercial telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit and landed the rocket’s first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Satellite builder Space Systems Loral reported the satellite was healthy in orbit and sending signals after separation from the Falcon 9 some 33 minutes after launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The launch appeared as a repeat of SpaceX’s May 4 liftoff of the JCSat-14 satellite, also owned by Sky Perfect JSat of Japan, which successfully landed the first stage. That stage has since been test-fired three times at SpaceX’s Texas facility as the company accumulates data on how its first stages perform after reentry and landing.

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NanoRacks to Launch SpaceVR’s First Virtual Reality Camera Satellite

SpaceVR, a platform for creating cinematic, live, virtual space tourism, has signed a launch agreement with NanoRacks to send Overview 1, a virtual reality camera satellite, into space. Overview 1 will travel to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-12 mission. The satellite will then be deployed into Low Earth Orbit from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD).
Overview 1, will use 4K sensors to capture extremely high resolution, fully immersive, 360-degree video of our planet. The content will be viewable on any virtual reality device, ranging from smartphones to Oculus Rift to extreme resolution devices such as the StarVR.

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Deep Space Industries unveils first asteroid prospecting spacecraft

LOGAN, Utah — Deep Space Industries plans to launch a small satellite by the end of the decade to survey a near Earth asteroid, the next major step in the company’s long-term ambitions to mine asteroids for resources.
The company, based in Mountain View, California, announced its Prospector-1 mission Aug. 9. The 50-kilogram satellite is designed to visit an asteroid and look for deposits of water ice that could, in the future, be mined and used as propellant by other spacecraft.
“This is intended to be a very low cost first commercial mission to an asteroid,” said Grant Bonin, chief engineer of Deep Space Industries, in a presentation about Prospector-1 Aug. 9 during the 30th Annual Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University here.

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Spectacular New Video of SpaceX’s Nighttime Rocket Launch and Landing

An amazing new video from the private company SpaceX captures incredibly detailed views of fired-up rocket engines as they blast into space and drop back down to Earth for a landing.
The new video shows high-speed footage of some of SpaceX's nighttime Falcon 9 rocket launches, and makes it possible for viewers to see details that are typically washed out in low-res footage. For example, while the column of fire spewed by a rocket engine typically appears as a bright white blur, the high-res video shows some of the texture and structure inside that fiery pillar.

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NASA adds companies to program to develop deep space habitats

LOGAN, Utah — NASA is casting a wider net in its search for designs of a habitat module that could support deep space missions, awarding contracts Aug. 9 to six companies for a new round of studies.
NASA awarded the contracts, with a combined value of $65 million, as part of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 program to develop concepts for habitats that could be used on missions in cislunar space and eventually to Mars. Each company is expected to contribute at least 30 percent of the total cost of the selected project.
In 2015, NASA awarded contracts to four companies in the original NextSTEP solicitation for habitat concepts: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK. Each of those companies won a NextSTEP-2 award as well, which will focus on refining those concepts and building module prototypes for ground testing.

Ixion concept
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Blue Origin's Sweet Spot: An Untapped Suborbital Market for Private Spaceflight

With multiple flights of its New Shepard vehicle under its belt, Blue Origin is appraising the research market for scientific and technological experiments that can be lofted to suborbital space.
Blue Origin is run by billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, who has adopted the motto "Gradatim Ferociter" — Latin for "step by step, ferociously" — for the Washington-based company. And those words are proving to be apt: Blue Origin's reusable New Shepard rocket system has flown to suborbital space five times to date, with the first liftoff coming in April 2015 and the latest occurring this past June.
The rocket is topped by a crew capsule that slips into suborbital space before both craft return to Earth in separate landings. The New Shepard booster lands vertically, using the same BE-3 engine that launched it; the six-passenger capsule returns to Earth under parachutes.

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SpaceX offers large rockets for small satellites

LOGAN, Utah — SpaceX, which retired its Falcon 1 small launch vehicle several years ago, believes it can more effectively serve the growing small satellite market through rideshare accommodations on its larger vehicles, the company’s president said Aug. 9.
In a keynote speech at the 30th Annual Conference on Small Satellites at Utah State University here, Gwynne Shotwell said the company was working with companies that aggregate secondary payloads, such as Seattle-based Spaceflight, to fly on the Falcon 9 and future Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.
“We really love and appreciate working with aggregators of small satellite missions,” she said. “We’ve got a brand-new agreement with Spaceflight for four additional flights over the next four or five years.”

Falcon 1 Flight 5
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New Certification Program for Maritime Satellite Communications Operators

The Global VSAT Forum (GVF) and Intellian have launched an Intellian Specialist Certification program, including an initial course in terminal operation, GVF 562N, specifically for seafarers, in response to strong demand for satellite-based maritime connectivity. Follow-on courses, intended for field technicians, will cover stabilized platform installation and maintenance.
For maximum service availability, crew operators can now receive Intellian online certification training, enabling them to perform critical operational tasks after the installation technician has departed. In this way, Intellian will use the new course to support its partners throughout the world.

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U.S. Air Force turns to industry to plug weather satellite gaps

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force is asking industry how it could head off  looming  gaps in the collection of high-priority weather data.
In a broad agency announcement released Aug. 3, the Air Force said it was looking for solutions to provide cloud characterization  and theater weather imagery by 2019.
In 2014, the Air Force examined potential gaps in space-based weather data. That study ranked cloud characterization, used for long-range strike operations, and theater weather imagery, used in forecasting and battlespace awareness, as the Pentagon’s top priorities. The Air Force foresees a gap in coverage in both areas around 2020.
Marines Afghanistan
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Friday, August 5, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 1 – Aug 8 2016)

First two Iridium Next satellites shipped to Vandenberg

The first two next-generation Iridium satellites, designed to connect global subscribers with data and voice traffic, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday, where they will join eight more message relay craft for launch in September on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
This week’s shipment via truck from an Orbital ATK satellite manufacturing plant near Phoenix to Vandenberg on California’s Central Coast will be followed by the arrival of eight more spacecraft at the launch site.
Like the first two craft, subsequent satellites will be transported two-and-a-time inside self-stabilizing, climate-controlled containers on a truck to SpaceX’s clean room at Vandenberg, where Orbital ATK engineers will prepare the satellites for launch.

Technicians load the first two Iridium Next satellites into their shipping containers at Orbital ATK's manufacturing facility in Gilbert, Arizona. Credit: Iridium
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Marlink and Telemar to join forces to create the world’s leading maritime communications, digital solutions and servicing group

Apax Partners has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Telemar Group from its current shareholders, the company said in its press release.
The combined activities of Telemar and Marlink will create the world’s leading maritime communication, digital solutions and servicing specialist for all customer segments at sea including: Shipping, Offshore, Cruise & Ferry, Yachting and Fishing. Marlink and Telemar customers will benefit from an unmatched integrated servicing offering, covering all existing maritime technologies. The newly combined group will generate US $450 Million in revenues with more than 800 employees worldwide serving at least 1 in 3 vessels operating globally.

 Marlink and Tampnet deliver North Sea 4G network
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China Eastern to upgrade 737 fleet with Rockwell Collins Iridium SATCOM Boeing-approved aftermarket solution

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, 4 Aug. 2016. China Eastern Airlines engineers have selected Rockwell Collins’ Iridium satellite communications (SATCOM) aftermarket solution with which to upgrade the airline’s fleet of more than 100 Boeing 737 commercial passenger jet aircraft. Installations are currently underway.
The voice and data communications solution, installed via a Boeing service bulletin for Next-Generation Boeing 737s, will enable reliable, long-range global voice communications, flight tracking, and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS). The solution is also capable of enabling Future Airspace Navigation System (FANS) for airlines that need it for their operations.

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Dish Prepares 4K, Versatile Viewing Features for 2016 Rio Olympics

Dish Network has announced multiple features for customers watching NBCUniversal‘s multi-platform coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the upcoming availability of a new, dedicated linear 4K channel. Dish subscribers will also have access to NBCUniversal’s 6,755 hours of Olympic programming, including coverage of all competition sessions, on-demand.
Dish’s Hopper 3 and 4K Joey customers can watch NBC’s coverage in 4K on a linear channel as well as in the video-on-demand catalog.The coverage will be made available on one-day delay. One event from the previous day’s competition will be provided daily and looped in three-hour intervals from August 7 through August 22, the day after the games conclude. Dish will also make the same 4K video assets available as part of its on-demand catalog.

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U.S. Navy narrows MUOS-5 problem to orbit raising propulsion system

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy said its newest communications satellite was about halfway to geosynchronous orbit when its orbit raising propulsion system failed during a transfer maneuver June 29.
Following a June 24 launch, the fifth satellite in the Navy’s next-generation narrowband communications constellation, known as the Mobile User Objective System, had expected to reach geosynchronous orbit and a test location about 35,400 kilometers above Hawaii by July 3.
But in an Aug. 2 statement, the Navy said the satellite “experienced a failure of the orbit raising propulsion system,” five days into a 10-day climb, halting the transfer maneuver that would push the satellite from its initial elliptical launch orbit to geosynchronous orbit.

An Atlas 5 rocket carrying the MUOS-5 satellite lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida June 24. Credit: ULA/Ben Cooper.
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Inmarsat, citing SpaceX delays, to miss European deadline for aeronautical broadband service

PARIS – Mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat is all but certain to miss a European regulatory deadline for its satellite-terrestrial aeronautical broadband service, raising the possibility that one or more governments could revoke Inmarsat’s rights to the radio spectrum, industry officials said.
Inmarsat said the Europasat/HellasSat-3 satellite, co-owned by Inmarsat and fleet operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia and built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, has met its construction milestones but is facing delays at launch-service provider SpaceX of Hawthorne, California.
It remains unclear when the satellite will be launched, but it will be well after the Dec. 1 deadline imposed by its license and may not occur before mid-2017.

Inmarsat Thales EAN sat- TAS photo
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Moon Express wins U.S. government approval for lunar lander mission

WASHINGTON — Moon Express said Aug. 3 that it has won a first-of-its-kind regulatory approval from the U.S. government for a commercial lunar lander the company is developing.
The approval, dated July 20, comes in the form of a payload review of the Moon Express MX-1E spacecraft by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, part of the launch licensing process run by that office. That payload review involved discussions among several government agencies, including the State Department and NASA.
“The FAA has determined that the launch of the payload does not jeopardize public health and safety, safety of property, U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, or international obligations of the United States,” the FAA said in an Aug. 3 fact sheet about the payload review.

Moon Express's MX-1 lander. Credit: Moon Express artist's concept
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ILS wins contract for Angara launch of South Korea’s Kompsat-6

International Launch Services (ILS) announces the first commercial Angara 1.2 launch contract was signed recently with Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) for the launch of the Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite (Arirang) 6 also known as the KOMPSAT-6 satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northwestern Russia around 2020.
The Angara 1.2 vehicle is the newest Russian launch vehicle, designed and built by Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center (Khrunichev), serving the small to medium range satellite market, with the capability to launch up to 3.5 Metric Tons to Low Earth Orbit or Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO). The KOMPSAT-6 mission will be launched by Angara 1.2 into an SSO orbit.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 25 – Aug 1 2016)

Atlas 5 launches NRO mission from the Cape

WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched July 28 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The launch went into a news blackout typical for NRO missions several minutes after its 8:37 a.m. Eastern liftoff. Almost all missions for the NRO, which buys and operates U.S. spy satellites, are classified, meaning few details are released.
In a July 28 press release, Air Force officials said the mission, known as NROL-61, was successful.

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SpaceX estimated to spend $300 million on Red Dragon mission

WASHINGTON — NASA estimates that SpaceX is spending on the order of $300 million on its Red Dragon Mars lander mission, a down payment on the company’s long-term ambitions for human Mars missions.
At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s technology committee in Cleveland July 26, Jim Reuter, deputy associate administrator for programs in NASA’s space technology mission directorate, provided an overview of NASA’s agreement with SpaceX, announced in April, to support that company’s plans for an uncrewed Mars landing mission that could launch as soon as May 2018.
That agreement, in the form of an unfunded Space Act Agreement, does not include any exchange of funds between NASA and SpaceX. Reuter said NASA estimates it will spend approximately $32 million over four years, primarily in the form of NASA personnel providing technical support for SpaceX. About $6 million of that will be spent this fiscal year, he added.

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New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon

A new company aims to provide the communications capacity required for the ongoing private spaceflight revolution.
Around Aug. 1, California-based Audacy plans to close a Series A fundraising round of at least $15 million to begin creating three satellites and two Earth stations. The goal is to raise four major rounds of funding, build the ground stations and get the satellites launched by 2019. All told, the plan will cost about $750 million — $250 million in funding and $500 million more in government-backed debt, Audacy representatives said.
The three satellites could support perhaps 2,000 tiny cubesats, all working at the same time, anywhere in Earth orbit. Alternatively, Audacy could have up to 12 high-capacity customers and perhaps 1,000 smaller ones sharing the bandwidth simultaneously.

New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon
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Watch SpaceX's 1st Test-Fire of a Used Falcon 9 Rocket

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's private spaceflight company, SpaceX, is another step closer to making its Falcon 9 rockets fully reusable.
Late yesterday (July 28), the company released this video of its first test firing of a used Falcon 9 rocket stage, one that already launched and landed during a mission in May. The burn lasted for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and a brief description of the video said the test was "full duration."
Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability at SpaceX, said on July 16 that the company plans to launch one of its used rockets this fall, assuming it has a customer for the flight. The company also plans to reuse one of its Dragon cargo capsules for a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station, representatives of SpaceX and NASA said earlier this month.

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Inmarsat Approves DataPath QCT90 Man-Pack Terminal for Global Xpress

DataPath’s new QCT90 man-packable antenna has achieved full Inmarsat Type Approval for use on commercial Ka-band frequencies over the operator’s Global Xpress (GX), high-throughput wideband service. Introduced to the market last fall, the QCT90 man-pack terminal employs a 90-cm antenna with a carbon fiber reflector and cast magnesium frame for maximum durability while maintaining a light weight.
The system’s fully integrated design avoids loose cables and includes a GPS-enabled Graphical User Interface (GUI) to allow an operator to take the antenna from case to connection within three minutes. The terminal also fits into a single backpack style case.

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NASA approves Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser plan

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level. 
Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024.  The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 18 – Jul 25 2016)

Weather outlook favorable for Thursday’s national security launch by Atlas 5

CAPE CANAVERAL — Good weather for launching a rocket is forecast for Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast on Thursday morning when a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 is scheduled to take flight.
Meteorologists with the 45th Weather Squadron at the Cape give 80 percent odds of acceptable conditions for the launch at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT).
“On launch day, mid-level dry air remains over Central Florida resulting in favorable weather conditions,” Air Force meteorologists said today. “There will be a slight chance of a coastal shower and weak southerly wind flow with gusts in the 10 to 12 knot range during the window. The primary concern for launch is cumulus clouds.”

File photo. Credit: NASA
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3.9 Billion People Still Unconnected to Internet

An estimated 3.9 billion people — more than half of the global population, remain cut off from Information and Communication Technology (ICT), according to the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) “ICT Facts & Figures 2016” report.
The study finds developing countries now account for the vast majority of internet users, with 2.5 billion users compared with 1 billion in developed countries.
Internet penetration, however, stands at 81 percent in developed countries, compared with 40 percent in developing countries and 15 percent in the Least Developed Countries (LDC). Furthermore, despite falling prices for ICT services, the study finds mobile broadband growth is slowing.
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Thales Alenia Space Finishes Europasat Construction for Inmarsat IFC Network

Thales Alenia Space has completed the construction, integration and associated sub-system tests of Inmarsat’s Europasat satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) solution. The manufacturer finished the satellite on schedule following an extensive two-year build process in Toulouse and Cannes, France. The satellite is now undergoing rigorous system end-to-end testing before it is declared ready for flight in 2017.
Europasat is half of a joint satellite between Inmarsat and Hellas Sat, with Hellas-Sat’s payload, Hellas Sat 3, carrying 44 Ku-band transponders plus one for Ka-band. Along with the space segment, EAN also leverages an Air-to-Ground (ATG) network across the European Union (EU). Inmarsat partner Deutsche Telekom will operate the ATG LTE network of approximately 300 towers. The satellite has been custom-designed to provide Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) to aircraft flying over dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an on–board network communicator.
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Mars 2020 rover mission to cost more than $2 billion

WASHINGTON — As NASA’s next flagship Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover, moves into its next phase of development, agency officials say the mission will cost $2.1 billion, more than originally estimated for a mission that they argue will also be more capable than first planned.
NASA announced July 15 that the Mars 2020 mission passed a development milestone known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), allowing the mission to proceed into Phase C design and development work. The rover is scheduled for launch in mid-2020 and land on Mars in February 2021.
The rover’s primary mission will be to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. “The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoff Yoder, NASA’s acting associate administrator for science, in a statement.

Mars 2020
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Euroconsult Forecasts 20 New National Space Programs by 2025

Euroconsult projects 20 countries will invest in their first space program by 2025, with the total number of Emerging Space Programs (ESPs) reaching 47 by the same year. The research firm identified 24 countries as ESPs in 2015 having launched a total of 69 satellites in the last 20 years, based on its recent “Trends and Prospects for Emerging Space Programs” report. As satellite technology has become more accessible and affordable, the number of countries investing in their first satellite system has increased dramatically. Last year set an all-time record with nine satellites launched, by the research firm’s count.
Euroconsult has developed a metric called the ESP Index that seeks to model the probability for a new country to invest in a satellite system. The ESP Index is based on a three-part process consisting of data gathering, analysis, and ranking of 148 countries.

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Facebook reports successful flight of full-scale Internet-delivery drone

PARIS – Facebook on July 21 said the first flight of its full-scale Aquila solar-powered aircraft designed for regional internet connectivity was a success, lasting longer than expected despite an unspecified “structural failure” just before landing.
The 96-minute flight, conducted in Yuma, Arizona, confirmed the validity of Aquila’s structural design and avionics, Facebook said. But the company cautioned that many months of testing – at higher speeds and altitudes, and for longer durations – would be necessary before Aquila can move into industrial-scale production.
“We will push Aquila to the limits in a lengthy series of tests in the coming months and years,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, said in a statement published July 21 – more than three weeks after the June 28 flight. He said the structural failure, which he did not detail, was still be analyzed.

facebook global mobile connectivity
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SpaceX launches Dragon spacecraft, successfully lands first stage

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully lifted off early July 18 and placed a Dragon cargo spacecraft in orbit, while the vehicle’s first stage landed on land.
The Falcon 9 lifted off on schedule at 12:45 a.m. Eastern July 18 after a routine countdown. The vehicle placed the Dragon spacecraft into orbit nine and half minutes after liftoff.
The first stage, after stage separation, made a series of three burns to return to Cape Canaveral, landing on a pad at the former Launch Complex 13, a decommissioned launch site at Cape Canaveral now known as Landing Zone 1 by the company. The landing was a success, with video showing the first stage standing upright on the pad after landing, about eight minutes after liftoff.
“It’s exciting to have Dragon back in orbit,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS deputy program manager for utilization, at a post-launch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center. “It’s a great day for SpaceX. It’s a great day for NASA.”

SpaceX timelapse
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Satellite sector mulls how to live with FCC’s 5G decision

PARIS – The U.S. regulatory decision that denied protected status to satellite systems that have been investing in Ka-band spectrum, and cast doubt about the viability for satellite systems of other slices radio spectrum, has been met with a curiously muted response by the satellite sector.
The same companies that before the July 14 decision had invested heavily in high-powered legal talent to urge the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse its course had surprisingly little to say once the ruling was announced.
Several industry officials said they would need time to study the implications of the complex ruling, designed to open spectrum above 24 gigahertz to next-generation, or 5G, wireless broadband services.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 11 – Jul 18 2016)

Iridium satellites rolling off assembly line in Arizona

Construction is complete on the first batch of 81 new satellites to overhaul Iridium’s mobile communications network, and the data relay stations will soon head from their factory near Phoenix to California’s hilly Central Coast for launch in September on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellites will be shipped in pairs on a truck to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where they will be fueled and mated with the Falcon 9 launcher for liftoff at 10:33 p.m. PDT on Sept. 11 (0533 GMT; 1:33 a.m. EDT on Sept. 12) from Space Launch Complex 4-East.
The flight will mark the third Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg, and the first launch from there of an upgraded “full-thrust” version of the booster with higher-power Merlin engines and super-chilled propellants. SpaceX is finishing up modifications to the launch pad this summer to support the latest Falcon 9 configuration.

The first two fully-complete Iridium Next satellites. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now
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Inmarsat and VT iDirect form joint R&D partnership to develop next generation services

Inmarsat and VT iDirect today announced an extension of their long-term strategic partnership with the formation of a joint research & development (R&D) team – i2 – to support the development of the next generation satellite communications (satcom) technologies. This venture is a logical next step in the Inmarsat and VT iDirect relationship, having worked successfully together over the past four years to develop the GX programme.
The R&D project team, which will be based at Inmarsat’s headquarters in London, will focus on the proof-of-concept and prototype phases for new satcom technologies. Inmarsat and VT iDirect will jointly assess the commercial potential of each new technology before the decision is taken to deploy it in the form of a new product or service. Both companies’ partners and end-users will enjoy privileged access to the new technologies.

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Hughes Does Testing of HM300 Portable X-band Terminal

The Defense and Intelligence Systems Division (DISD) of Hughes Network Systems has completed successful operational demonstrations of its HM300 terminal. Designed for military applications, the HM300 is a portable X-Band communications system developed in conjunction with partners Airbus Defence and Space of United Kingdom and Tampa Microwave.
During tests in December between a satellite Earth station located in the U.K. and Fort Bragg, North Carolina operating over Airbus’ Xebra service, the HM300 demonstrated Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLoS) capabilities with data rates up to 512kbps symmetrically, transmitting video, voice and data. A second mission scenario demonstrated autonomous operation transmitting to and from a 4-meter Gatr antenna located at Fort Bragg, providing Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and live video using an encoder. In January the HM300 terminal saw use during a combat airborne training operation when a paratrooper jumped the HM300 terminal while another jumped baseband equipment, demonstrating the terminal’s Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) benefits and earning it a “jumpable” designation.
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Moon Express takes over Cape Canaveral Delta 2 launch site

WASHINGTON — Moon Express, a Florida company developing commercial lunar landers, announced July 12 an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to take over a former Delta 2 launch site at Cape Canaveral.
The company said it reached an agreement with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to use Launch Complex 17 as a research and development facility, including tests of the company’s lunar landers. The agreement also covers adjacent Launch Complex 18, used for Vanguard launches in the late 1950s but inactive for the last several decades.
Moon Express also announced an agreement with Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, to renovate building at Launch Complex 17 for use by the company. Space Florida will contribute up to $1.85 million for that work, an amount Moon Express will match.

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Airbus, Boeing Outlooks See Strong Market for Satellite-Connected Aircraft

Airbus and Boeing both released their 20-year global market forecasts on the first day of the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow. Airbus was less optimistic in it’s long term view of global demand for passenger jets, predicting airlines will require 33,000 new aircraft worth $5.2 trillion in the next two decades, while Boeing increased it’s 2016 outlook by 4.1 percent compared to 2015 predictions, projecting a global demand for 39,620 aircraft worth $5.9 trillion. While the two airframers’ expectations over the next 20 years differ, both forecasts — combined with recent moves by Airbus and Boeing as well as activity on the first day of Farnborough — shows that a significant number of the aircraft delivered between now and 2035 will feature advanced forms of cockpit and cabin-based satellite-powered broadband connectivity.
The average between the figures released by the two Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) is equal to a 20-year demand for 36,310 aircraft worth $5.5 trillion. Both companies also expect the global in-service fleet to double from today’s nearly 20,000 to 40,000 new aircraft or more by 2035.

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Longliner first Bering Sea user of Inmarsat Fleet Xpress

Freezer-longliner fishing vessel operator Alaskan Leader Fisheries, Lynden, WA, has chosen Inmarsat's new high-speed broadband maritime communications service Fleet Xpress to support its daily business operations.
Inmarsat partner Network Innovations (NI), together with Fusion Marine Technology, have signed a contract with Alaskan Leader that marks the first commissioning of Fleet Xpress in the remote and hostile waters of the Bering Sea.
Inmarsat says that Fleet Xpress delivers high levels of reliable high speed broadband connectivity and performance across all of the world's oceans and facilitates innovative Connected Ship applications.

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FCC adopts new rules for the foundation of 5G networks

We knew it was coming, and now the FCC has made it official. The commission voted today to adopt new rules that would facilitate the development of 5G wireless networks in the US. More specifically, the guidelines relate to wireless spectrum above 24 GHz and makes the United States the first country in the world to make the spectrum available for so-called next-gen networks.
The FCC said in a press release that it's taking a similar approach that it did when 4G (LTE) networks were developed, a strategy that will "set a strong foundation for the rapid advancement to next-generation 5G."

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Inmarsat Secures Chinese Government Approval For Launch Of IsatPhone 2

Satellite communications provider Inmarsat PLC on Thursday said it has secured approval in China for its IsatPhone 2 technology.
The approval from the government of China will make Inmarsat the only international operator legally allowed to sell handheld satellite phones in the country.
Inmarsat said it is working alongside partners MCN Beijing and China Telecom Satellite on the launch of the phone.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 4 – Jul 11 2016)

Inmarsat, O3b, SES throw support behind ViaSat calls for preserving status of space stations

Satellite companies are adding their support to ViaSat's assertions made earlier this month when it expressed concern about proposals to effectively make new mobile wireless operators the "gatekeepers" over satellite users of the 28 GHz band, signaling continued turmoil between the terrestrial mobile and satellite industries.
Inmarsat, SES Americom and O3b Limited are all throwing their support behind the analysis that ViaSat outlined in its July 1 letter to the FCC, whereby it "conclusively demonstrates that terrestrial wireless interests have blatantly and repeatedly mischaracterized the Commission decisions on which FSS [fixed satellite service] operators have reasonably depended in developing and deploying satellite networks using 28 GHz spectrum," wrote Karis A. Hastings, counsel for SES and O3b, in a July 7 filing.

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Thales Alenia Space Stratobus eyes contract in 2017, radio frequency approval in 2019

TOULOUSE, France – Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space and six partners are investing their own money, plus grants from the French government, into the Stratobus high-altitude platform station (HAPS) on the assumption that the development yields a contract in 2017, the program manager said.
The Stratobus backers are focusing only on Earth observations in the tropical regions for the moment, but expect to add telecommunications payloads once international regulators have authorized HAPS systems to operate in Ka-band.
Current International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rules limit HAPS systems to the Q- and V-bands for fixed services communications, between 47 and 48 GHz. These higher frequencies are not well suited to rainy conditions.

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Kongsberg Norspace wins orders for deliveries to Inmarsat 6

Kongsberg Norspace wins order with Airbus Defence and Space for state-of-the-art converters for two Inmarsat-6 satellites worth up to 300 MNOK
Kongsberg Norspace AS (KONGSBERG) has won a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for providing highly integrated L-band Pre and Post processors for the first two Inmarsat-6 satellites. The contract covers development and delivery of flight hardware with a value of 250 - 300 million NOK. The development is supported by ESA through the ARTES 3-4 program.
This contract comes six months after Inmarsat awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the first two mobile communications satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation fleet. The spacecraft contain the Airbus Defence and Space developed new generation modular digital processor and will provide full routing flexibility over up to 8000 channels and dynamic power allocation to over 200 spot beams in L-band, in addition to a Ka-band co-payload. The SAW-based (Surface Acoustic Wave filters) L-band processors from KONGSBERG will provide the phase coherent down and up-conversion from L-band to the digital processor.

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One year after kickoff, OneWeb says its 700-satellite constellation is on schedule

TOULOUSE, FRANCE – Satellite Internet startup OneWeb Satellites has completed the preliminary design review for its 700-satellite constellation and expects to have its entire satellite subcontractor team committed by by early August, Chief Operating Officer Eric de Saintignon said June 30.
The next step, he said, is a design-to-manufacture period to be followed by production of the first 10 pilot satellites, to be built at Airbus Defence and Space’s production facility here.
The 10 pilots will be launched aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket in late 2017 and then tested in orbit before full-scale production of the remaining 890 satellites is committed.

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Marlink Releases Smalltrack, Iridium-Powered Asset Tracker

Marlink has unveiled Smalltrack, a new compact location-based tracking device operating on the Iridium satellite network. The device can be used in any location without connecting to external power or antenna sources for tracking of personnel, equipment and vehicles.
With embedded battery and antennas, Smalltrack can operate on a single charge for a minimum of one week, with the ability to use external power and antennas if required. The device has manual rescue buttons, automatic alarms based on embedded shock sensors and geo-fencing functions, and comes with a web-based monitoring and management platform to provide deep control of users, devices and data.

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New Crew Launches on Two-Day Journey to Space Station

Three new crewmembers launched toward the International Space Station in an upgraded Russian Soyuz spacecraft today (July 6), beginning a two-day journey to the orbiting lab.
At 9:36 p.m. EDT (0136 on July 7 GMT), the trio — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi — successfully lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Russian Soyuz rocket. 
The three spaceflyers will spend their two-day trip testing the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft's modified systems before docking with the station early Saturday morning (July 9).

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IoT Set to Overtake Mobile Phones as Largest Connectivity Market

The Internet of Things (IoT) will overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018, a new report by Ericsson finds, creating a burgeoning opportunity for satellite companies.
According to Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing, business unit radio at Ericsson, today there are more than 15 billion connected devices, including smartphones, the connected car and wearable devices, which ultimately bring humans into the IoT web, among others. While mobile phones currently make up the largest segment of connected devices, with 7.2 billion mobile phones currently connected, by 2018 the company predicts that IoT-connected devices, currently at 4.6 billion devices, will dwarf mobile phones as the largest segment.
“Looking forward, we expect mobile phones to grow at an average of 3 percent annually over the next six years, which is vastly overshadowed by the growth we expect in IoT,” said Cerwall. According to the report, between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT-connected devices is expected to grow 23 percent annually. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT enabled.

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World Vision International Talks Satellite for Humanitarian Work

Charity organization World Vision International operates in more than 50 countries around the world, providing support for a multitude of humanitarian efforts ranging from combating disease and malnutrition to addressing refugee crises and improving access to education. With efforts in a diverse range of countries and geographies, the nonprofit relies on satellite communications to facilitate programs in hard to reach areas.
Anthony Kimani, IT and business analyst, humanitarian technologies, World Vision International, told Via Satellite that the organization primarily uses VSATs in established office locations that do not have other means of internet access. World Vision also uses portable satellite phones and Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) modems for voice and data communication.
“It is vitally important that our staff are able to communicate, and to be able to access and share information,” he said. “If an office is located in a location without other reliable means of data communication, we would install a VSAT. Secondly, satellite phones are critical in locations without reliable means of secure voice communication,” he said.

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Euroconsult Study Says SmallSat Market Could be Worth $22 Billion Over Next 10 Years

Counting more than 3,600 SmallSats expected to launch over the next 10 years, research firm Euroconsult anticipates the manufacturing and launch market value of SmallSats will total $22 billion from now until 2025. This value constitutes a 76 percent increase over that of the 2006 to 2015 time frame, according to the firm’s “Prospects for the Small Satellite Market” report.
“Earth observation is expected to exhibit the strongest growth in terms of units launched; over 2,100 satellites are anticipated from 2016 to 2025. Four companies plan to launch more than 1,400 satellites during this period alone: Planet, Spire Global, BlackSky and Satellogic,” said Adam Keith, managing director of Euroconsult Canada and editor of the report. “Satellite communication SmallSats will also increase significantly to nearly 800 during the same period of time (discounting SpaceX‘s Steam constellation). There are six constellations foreseen, however OneWeb makes up the bulk of these units.”
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SES Gets Shareholder, Regulatory Approval for O3b Acquisition

SES exercised its call option on July 1 to acquire the remaining shares and warrants of O3b Networks, having received all of the necessary regulatory approvals. The other O3b shareholders have agreed to accept the SES offer. Non-tendering warrant holders will be cashed out, paving the way for the transaction to close on Aug. 1, 2016, according to company expectations.
SES will pay $730 million to directly increase its fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1 percent to 100 percent using proceeds from the company’s recent equity raising. On completion, SES will consolidate $1.2 billion of O3b net debt and will, following completion, refinance a significant proportion of the most expensive debt facilities using the proceeds secured by the recent hybrid bond issuance and the remaining proceeds from the equity raising. According to the company, this move will significantly reduce O3b average cost of debt of 9.5 percent; SES’ current average cost of financing is approximately 4 percent.

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