FCC set to vote on license for OneWeb, following potential collapse of Intelsat merger

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The FCC is set to vote on a license for OneWeb later this month.

The agenda for the commission’s next meeting, scheduled for June 22, includes an item to approve an order granting a license for the company’s broadband satellite constellation.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled his support for the company, saying its system “holds unique promise to expand internet access in remote and rural areas.” [Wall Street Journal]


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OneWeb said its progress won’t be hindered by the impending end of a merger agreement with Intelsat. Company founder Greg Wyler said OneWeb was “extremely focused on the major events that are unfolding for us,” including the launch of its first broadband satellites in March 2018. He added that OneWeb and SoftBank, the Japanese company that brokered the original merger agreement with Intelsat, were open to merging with other satellite operators. [SpaceNews]

An Ariane 5 successfully launched two communications satellites Thursday night. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:45 p.m. Eastern and placed the ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat-172b satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. Arianespace has now caught up on three launches delayed by protests in French Guiana earlier this year, using time previously allocated for spaceport maintenance. After the launch, Eutelsat announced a new launch contract with Arianespace, bringing the number of future Eutelsat satellites to be launched by the company to three. [SpaceNews / Eutelsat]

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two people undocked from the station this morning bound for Earth. The Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft undocked from the station at 6:47 a.m. Eastern, carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The spacecraft is scheduled to land in Kazakhstan at 10:10 a.m. Eastern, ending the 196-day mission for the two men. Three people remain on the ISS, with a new crew scheduled to launch in July. [NASA]

Lightning grounded Thursday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9. A lightning strike in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center within a half hour of the scheduled launch violated launch rules, triggering a scrub. The launch is rescheduled for 5:07 p.m. Eastern Saturday, with a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather. A launch Saturday would allow the Dragon to arrive at the station Monday morning, a day after the departure of a Cygnus spacecraft. [SpaceNews]

Inmarsat has ordered another Global Xpress satellite, this time from Thales Alenia Space. Inmarsat announced Friday that Thales will build the fifth Global Xpress high throughput satellite for launch in 2019, at a cost of $130 million. The satellite will serve the Middle East, Europe and India. Boeing built the first four Global Xpress satellites, the last of which was launched last month. [Inmarsat]

Virgin Galactic conducted another test flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane Thursday. The vehicle made its fifth glide flight, and the first in a month, in the skies above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. This flight tested the handling characteristics of the vehicle with a tank of water simulating a fuel tank. The company said it would now go into “a period of ground-based activity” to prepare for fueled, and then powered, test flights in the coming months. [SpaceNews]

Scientists announced Thursday they have discovered another gravitational wave from a black hole collision. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the gravitational wave in January, and scientists said they had confirmed that the signal was a real event, likely from the merger from two black holes with masses 19 and 31 times that of the sun. The detection is the third gravitational wave found by LIGO in a little more than a year, suggesting that the black hole mergers that create them may be relatively common in the universe. [Space.com]

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed Thursday he was stepping down from two White House industry councils he had been members of after President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Musk had said Wednesday he would resign if the president decided to withdraw. Shortly after Trump made his announcement Thursday afternoon, Musk tweeted his plans to resign. “Climate change is real,” he wrote. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.” [Daily Breeze]

China has a busy month in spaceflight scheduled for June. China plans to launch its first astrophysics observatory, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, in mid-June, followed by the launch of the Shijian-18 experimental communications satellite on the second Long March 5 near the end of the month. The Tianzhou-1 spacecraft, launched in April, will perform another docking and refueling test with the Tiangong-2 module during the month. China will also host the Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing next week. [gbtimes]

Iran is ending efforts to launch humans into space. An Iranian news agency reported this week that the country’s space agency had canceled the program, citing costs of $15-20 billion over 15 years. Iran launched a monkey on a suborbital flight in 2013, which at the time was seen as a first step for a human spaceflight program that could see its first mission in five to eight years. Iran’s space program has attracted Western scrutiny as a cover for missile development activities. [New York Times]