Google’s Skybox Imaging has new name, business model

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A Google-owned satellite imaging company has a new name and business model. Skybox Imaging announced Tuesday it had changed its name to Terra Bella.

The company, founded in 2009 to develop small, high-resolution imaging satellites, was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500 million.

Terra Bella still has plans to deploy more than a dozen imaging satellites over the next few years, but will move beyond providing just imagery to a variety of information products using that imagery and other data sources. [VentureBeat]

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An Ariane 5 successfully launched a Eutelsat communications satellite overnight. The Ariane 5 lifted off from French Guiana at 12:20 a.m. Eastern Wednesday and placed the Eutelsat 65 West A satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The launch was the second straight Ariane 5 mission that carried only one satellite, contrary to Arianespace’s usual approach of launching two satellites at a time. Eutelsat, like Intelsat before it, was willing to pay a premium to accelerate the launch of its satellite. [SpaceNews]

Blue Origin plans to hire several hundred employees this year to work on its BE-4 engine and orbital launch vehicle. Company founder Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that Blue Origin, which currently has about 600 employees, will grow to 1,000 or more in the next year. Work on the BE-4 is on track, the company said, with full engine tests planned to start before the end of this year. Bezos also said that the company plans another test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle “soon,” without being more specific. Bezos offered these details in the company’s first media tour of its Kent, Washington, headquarters. [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK is nearing a satellite servicing deal with Intelsat. The agreement, which could be announced as soon as next month, will be the first contract for Orbital’s Mission Extension Vehicle, a spacecraft that would attach to a satellite to help extend that satellite’s life. Intelsat had previously worked on another satellite servicing concept with MDA, but cancelled that agreement in 2012. [Wall Street Journal]

Lockheed Martin expects to complete the first GPS 3 satellite in August. The satellite is the first of at least eight that Lockheed Martin is building for the Air Force. While the spacecraft will be completed and ready for launch by August, its launch is not expected until 2017 or possibly even 2018 because of delays in the development of the next-generation ground system for the satellites. [SpaceNews]

The countdown for Thursday’s launch of an Indian navigation satellite is proceeding smoothly. The launch of the IRNSS-1F satellite on a PSLV is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. Eastern on Thursday. The spacecraft is the sixth of seven planned satellites that will provide navigation services for India and the surrounding region. [PTI]
SpaceX’s “drone ship” returned to port Tuesday with what appeared to be debris from Friday’s attempted Falcon 9 first stage landing. Photos of the ship as it arrived at Port Canaveral, Florida, showed what appeared to be “charred debris” on its deck, presumably from the Falcon 9 that attempted to land there on the company’s latest launch. That landing, the fourth attempt by SpaceX to land the stage on a ship, was considered to have lows odds of success given the mission’s profile. [Florida Today]

The next Cygnus cargo spacecraft to go to the ISS will be named after an astronaut who died in the Columbia accident. Orbital ATK said the Cygnus spacecraft launching March 22 will be named the S.S. Rick Husband, after the astronaut who was commander of the STS-107 mission. The spacecraft will deliver about 3,500 kilograms of supplies to the station. [collectSPACE]

You’ll now be able to get a drink before your flight at Spaceport America. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Tuesday that allows the state-owned spaceport to seek a liquor license. That license is primarily intended to be used for events hosted by the spaceport, as it seeks to diversity its customer base and revenue beyond spaceflight activities. [AP]


Words of Wisdom

“I’ve always said that space is easy to overhype. There are very few things in the world where you can get more attention… the ratio of the attention you can get to what you’ve actually done can be extreme.”

– Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, explaining why his company has kept a low profile during its first-ever media tour of its headquarters Tuesday

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos poses with part of a BE-4 engine nozzle during a media tour of the company's headquarters in Kent, Washington, on March 8. Credit: SpaceNews photo by Jeff Foust
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos poses with part of a BE-4 engine nozzle during a media tour of the company’s headquarters in Kent, Washington, on March 8. Credit: SpaceNews photo by Jeff Foust