Ariane 6 launch site gets ready • BulgariaSat-1 capacity sales at 15% • U.K. to study MEV-1 docking
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The Guiana Space Center is preparing for the first launch of Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket. Spaceport staff rolled the Ariane 6 mobile gantry out to its prelaunch position over the launchpad in July and December. The gantry, used to transport the rocket, weighs 8,200 tons and stands 90 meters high. Four lightning rods have been placed around the launchpad to protect the Ariane 6 rocket. Arianespace plans to conduct the maiden flight of Ariane 6 in the fourth quarter of this year. [ESA]
Bulgarian satellite operator Bulgaria Sat expects 2020 will be the company’s first year without an operating loss. Bulgaria Sat launched its first and only satellite, BulgariaSat-1, in 2017 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The company has sold 15% of the capacity on the communications satellite, an amount Bulgaria Sat CEO Maxim Zayakov said is enough to break even. Zayakov said BulgariaSat-1 has enough fuel to operate for 21 years thanks to a better than expected launch. The U.S. Export-Import Bank financed the majority of the $235 million BulgariaSat-1 program. [SeeNews]
A British laboratory will observe the docking of Northrop Grumman’s satellite servicer with an Intelsat spacecraft later this month to gain new understandings in space situational awareness. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory will use ground-based telescopes and space-based sensors to track the docking for a study called Phantom Echos. Representatives from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. will participate in the study. Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle 1 will dock with Intelsat-901 in a graveyard orbit 300 kilometers above the geosynchronous arc. Once connected, MEV-1 will maneuver both spacecraft as a single entity, extending the life of Intelsat-901. [DSTL]
Australia’s National Broadband Network is mulling a formal disaster response satellite service in the wake of the country’s bush fires. NBN Co., which has 23 sites using free Wi-Fi from its twin Sky Muster satellites, said it will begin testing the formal service later this month. The formal disaster service includes a satellite dish, Wi-Fi access and an emergency power supply. [ITNews]
Intelsat is the mystery customer of a Maxar commercial GEO satellite order announced last year. Maxar said Monday that the order, which the company announced last year without identifying the customer, is for the Intelsat-40e satellite, which will provide high-throughput coverage of North America and Central America. Intelsat said the satellite is an expansion of the company’s fleet and not a replacement for Intelsat-29e, a three-year-old satellite that failed in April. The satellite will also include a NASA hosted payload, Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO). [SpaceNews]
Leidos said Jan. 31 it completed its $1.65 billion acquisition of Dynetics. Leidos used cash on hand and $1.25 billion of short-term borrowing capacity to finance the purchase, announced in December. Space solutions and hypersonics comprise about 25% of Dynetics’ revenue. Dynetics will function as a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos. [Leidos]
A French smallsat company has raised more than $100 million to deploy an Internet of Things constellation. Kinéis raised 100 million euros ($110 million) from a mix of public and private investors to fully fund the development of a constellation of 25 16U cubesats to provide IoT connectivity services, along with tracking ships using a secondary Automatic Identification System payload. The company plans to launch its satellites in groups of five during the second half of 2022, with service starting early in 2023. Kinéis spun out last year from Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), a French maritime and environmental monitoring company. [SpaceNews]
Jeff Bezos has sold $1.8 billion in stock, perhaps for funding Blue Origin. Regulatory filings show that Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, sold more than 900,000 shares of that company’s stock over the last several days, generating $1.84 billion in cash. Bezos has previously said he provides his space company, Blue Origin, with $1 billion a year to fund its activities. Bezos conducted similar sales of stock in 2019 and 2017. [CNBC]
Radio-frequency signal mapping startup Kleos Space will ship its first four satellites to India on Feb. 10 to launch on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s next PSLV launch. Kleos Space said the launch was originally planned for December, but slipped for reasons unrelated to the company. Kleos Space did not give a launch date for the mission, designated PSLV C49. “[W]e will be working hard to get the satellites operational and generating revenues as quickly as possible,” Kleos Space chief executive officer Andy Bowyer said in a statement. [CSO]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.