Hughes rolls out what it says is fastest broadband service for U.S. consumers

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Hughes is rolling out what it says is the fastest satellite broadband service for consumers in the U.S.

The HughesNet Gen5 service will provide 25 megabits per second download speeds starting at $50 a month for residential customers and $70 a month for business customers.

Hughes, facing competition from other companies offering broadband access with geostationary satellites as well as from low Earth orbit constellations under development, hopes to double its number of residential subscribers with this new service. [Wall Street Journal]


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Blue Origin announced the first customer for its New Glenn orbital rocket. In an on-stage interview at the Satellite 2017 conference Tuesday, company founder Jeff Bezos said Eutelsat has signed a contract to launch a satellite on New Glenn in 2021 or 2022. Bezos revealed some details about the rocket, giving a payload capacity of 13 metric tons to GTO and 45 metric tons to LEO. The rocket’s first stage is designed to be reused, landing on a ship downrange from its Cape Canaveral launch site. New Glenn is scheduled to begin launches in 2020. [SpaceNews]

Inmarsat is considering launching additional satellites to build up its Global Xpress broadband system.Speaking at Satellite 2017 Tuesday, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said he was “highly expecting” the company to add incremental capacity to the system where needed. Global Xpress currently uses three Inmarsat-5 satellites, with a fourth awaiting launch. The company ordered two Inmarsat-6 satellites, with much greater throughput, in 2015 for launch in the early 2020s. [SpaceNews]

The House passed a NASA authorization bill Tuesday, clearing the way for the bill to be signed into law. The House passed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 on a voice vote, two and a half weeks after the bill cleared the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill authorizes funding for NASA in fiscal year 2017 and includes a range of policy provisions, including a requirement for NASA to develop a detailed exploration plan. The bill is the first NASA authorization to be passed by Congress since the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. [SpaceNews]

Both government and industry see an opportunity to make greater use of commercial capabilities in military acquisition reform. During a Satellite 2017 panel, industry officials said the military needs to make more effort to evaluate when it makes sense to use commercial systems, particularly given limited resources and the growth of new capabilities like small satellites. An Air Force official said the Pentagon is taking “very proactive steps” to address the use of commercial offerings to support its needs. [SpaceNews]

NASA is seeking information about flying payloads on future commercial missions to Mars. The agency released a request for information last week seeking information from organizations planning their own Mars missions who would be willing to accommodate NASA payloads on those flights. NASA said it will use the responses to determine whether to formally issue a call for proposals for Mars payload services, and how such a procurement would be structured. [SpaceNews]

Smallsat companies are benefiting from a deeper supply chain in the industry. In a Satellite 2017 panel, company executives said they can turn to various companies for components or entire spacecraft, rather than developing everything in house for their planned smallsat systems. Technology advances are also allowing companies to “iterate early and often” by rapidly developing new generations of spacecraft. [SpaceNews]

A California company plans to perform the first flight test of its plasma propulsion technology later this year. Phase Four announced Tuesday that its propulsion system will be flown on a Landmapper spacecraft by Astro Digital, a commercial remote sensing company, that is scheduled to launch late this year. Phase Four won a $1 million DARPA contract in 2015 to develop the technology, licensed from the Univ. of Michigan, that promises more effective propulsion for small satellites. [SpaceNews]

Plans for a new control tower at Houston’s Ellington Airport could also support its spaceport aspirations. The Houston City Council is scheduled to consider a request Wednesday for $12.4 million to build a new control tower for the airport, replacing one built 60 years ago and damaged in a 2008 hurricane. The new tower, twice as tall as the current one, would support existing aircraft activitiy as well as proposed future spaceflights. The airport received an FAA spaceport license in 2015. [Houston Chronicle]

Blue Origin wasn’t the only company to unveil a new rocket Tuesday: so did… Chanel? The fashion giant held a space-themed fashion show Tuesday at the Grand Palais in Paris, with the centerpiece a replica rocket, in Chanel livery, standing several stories tall. At the end of the show, after models showed off silvery boots and dresses with spacesuit prints, the rocket “launched,” its tail retracting towards its nose. [Washington Post]