4.1 billion people online • Iridium completes $1.45 billion refinancing • SES exec to chair Space Data Association
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An estimated 53.6% of the world’s population now has access to the internet, according to a new report from the International Telecommunication Union.While 4.1 billion people can go online, another 3.6 billion remain unconnected. A gender divide also exists among who has internet access. Some 52% of the world’s women are offline, compared to 42% of men. According to the ITU, 97% of the world’s population lives within reach of cellphone coverage, and 95% with 3G speeds or better. Several state-run and private satellite operators are deploying capacity to bring internet connectivity to offline populations. [ITU]
Iridium completed a $1.45 billion refinancing to pay off loans it acquired to purchase its second-generation constellation, which is now in orbit. Iridium borrowed $1.45 billion Nov. 4, which it used, along with cash, to pay back $1.55 billion in export credit loans through Bpifrance Assurance Export. The new loan is due in 2026, and includes a $100 million five-year revolving credit line. “This transaction simplifies Iridium’s capital structure and adds financial flexibility to benefit our shareholders,” Tom Fitzpatrick, Iridium’s chief financial officer, said. Iridium said the refinancing gives it room to consider “shareholder-friendly activities,” such as share buybacks, dividends and strategic investments, as the company seeks to reduce its overall debt. [Iridium]
The Space Data Association, a collective of companies and space agencies who share spacecraft position data to avoid collisions and signal interference, has elected an SES executive as its new chairman. Pascal Wauthie, space operations senior vice president at SES, will lead the group of 30 entities on its space sustainability efforts. Wauthie joined SES in 1990 as a flight dynamics engineer. Today he is responsible for operating SES’s geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites with teams in Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Manassas, Virginia, and Princeton, New Jersey. [Space Data Association]
Internet of Things cubesat operator Hiber has started commercial trials using its first two satellites. Hiber, formerly Magnitude Space, says it has more than 70 customers globally who signed up for the trials. Early uses of the service include space-based data collection for crop monitoring, measuring beehive health and soil moisture levels. Hiber plans to operate a constellation of dozens of cubesats. Its next two are scheduled to launch in early 2020 from Sriharikota, India. [Gigabit Magazine]
A Raytheon-built hosted payload is now in service after two years of integration and testing. The Wide Area Augmentation System payload, built for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, launched aboard the SES-15 satellite in 2017, and was declared operational this week. The WAAS payload increases the accuracy of GPS signals to comply with air navigation requirements for aircraft procedures, including landing. Designated GEO-6, the payload is one of three WAAS payloads in orbit that augment GPS, along with a network of 49 terrestrial stations spread across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. [Intelligent Aerospace]
Italian ground station startup Leaf Space gained an Indian remote-sensing startup as a customer. Pixxel, a Bengaluru company planning a constellation of 24 Earth observation satellites, will use Leaf Space’s network of ground stations to communicate with its future spacecraft. GK Launch Services will send Pixxel’s first demo satellite into orbit in July 2020 on a Soyuz-2 rocket. [Inc42]
A European Commission official said the outage of the Galileo navigation satellite system earlier this year was “unacceptable.” Pierre Delsaux, deputy director-general of the European Commission, said the weeklong outage of the system can’t be allowed to happen again. An investigation concluded that human error, compounded by a backup system being out of service, brought down Galileo’s position, navigation and timing system. He rejected criticism, though, that the EC was not transparent about the outage, saying a “reasonable amount” of information was provided at the time. [GPS World]
Maxar Technologies says it’s won an order for a GEO communications satellite from an undisclosed customer. Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky said in an earnings call Monday that the order, still being finalized, is a sign of a turnaround in the industry, with the expectation it will win other contracts in the near future as well. Maxar executives said that an effort to resize what was once known as Space Systems Loral progressed further with a $291 million property sale, the proceeds of which will be used to reduce the company’s $3.13 billion of long-term debt. The company also disclosed that its WorldView Legion constellation will consist of six satellites launching in 2021, and will triple the company’s ability to collect 30-centimeter resolution imagery. [SpaceNews]
Deployment milestones for satellite megaconstellations is a priority for American officials at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). Grace Koh, the ambassador leading the U.S. delegation at WRC-19, said establishing deployment milestones that require satellite operators to continue launching spacecraft to maintain their spectrum priority status is “quite critical” for the delegation. The U.S. is backing one proposal that calls for satellite operators to launch 10% of their satellites in three years, 50% after five years and 100% after seven years, but that proposal is competing against several others with different requirements. Koh said the U.S. is also following discussions on spectrum coordination between nongeostationary orbit systems and satellites in higher up geosynchronous orbit. [SpaceNews]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.