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Defense and transportation company Cubic has received a contract worth up to $172 million to provide inflatable GATR satellite communications antennas to the U.S. military. The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract from United States Special Operations Command is split into five one-year ordering periods for Cubic’s 1.2-meter and 2.4-meter GATR antennas, which are often used to rapidly deploy communications in military or emergency response situations. [Cubic]
The former chief technology officer of Phasor has switched antenna companies, joining Isotropic Systems. John-Paul Szczepanik took the role of senior vice president of engineering at Isotropic Systems, the company announced Aug. 11. There he will help the company transition from product development to production over the next 18 months. Isotropic Systems is developing a low-profile multibeam user terminal to link with broadband satellites in geostationary, medium and low Earth orbit. Phasor was developing a phased array antenna that would also link with a wide variety of satellites, but entered a bankruptcy-equivalent state earlier this year and was later acquired by South Korean defense company Hanwha Systems. [Isotropic Systems]
Swedish satellite communications company Ovzon has expanded an agreement with Intelsat to lease capacity on two satellites. Ovzon said Aug. 11 it signed a four-year agreement for capacity on the Intelsat-37 and Intelsat-39 satellites. The agreement provides additional capacity while Ovzon awaits the launch of its first satellite, Ovzon-3, in 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket. [Ovzon]
The pandemic will further delay the first ViaSat-3 launch. Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg said in a recent earnings call that the pandemic has slowed work on the first of three broadband satellites, although he said the spacecraft should still launch by the end of next year. Dankberg said the pandemic continued to weaken demand for in-flight connectivity services, but did not have as strong an impact as feared on Viasat’s overall financial performance. Demand for residential broadband and government connectivity grew during the quarter. [SpaceNews]
Communications & Power Industries says it can provide more products to the inflight connectivity market thanks to its acquisition of General Dynamics Mission Systems’ Satcom Technologies division. CPI is working on a next-generation antenna for aircraft following the acquisition, which added about 1,000 people to CPI’s head count. The company says it now has the resources to cover the “full gamut” of components, products and solutions, instead of just being a component supplier to the inflight connectivity market. Around half Satcom Technologies’ business is focused on the U.S. Defense Department, with the other half centered on commercial products. [Runway Girl Network]
Satellite companies are operating their spacecraft for much longer than before.A new study found that some 31% of commercial geostationary communications satellites are currently in service past their expected retirement, more than double the percentage in 2009. TelAstra, which performed the study, believes that companies are operating satellites longer because they have ordered fewer replacement satellites and are buying more powerful models that can do the job of multiple earlier spacecraft. [SpaceNews]
Kongsberg Satellite Services will provide commercial ground station services to the Norwegian university of science and technology (NTNU) for an upcoming hyperspectral smallsat mission under a contract announced Aug. 11. KSAT will connect the satellite, called HYPSO-1, using its ground station in Svalbard, Norway. HYPSO-1 is a six-unit cubesat based on a NanoAvionics bus, and once launched will monitor the Norwegian coast for harmful algae blooms that can kill salmon. [KSAT]
The FCC’s approval of Amazon’s Project Kuiper constellation is another cause for concern among astronomers. That system is designed to place more than 3,200 satellites into orbits somewhat higher than SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Astronomers, who have been working with SpaceX for more than a year to reduce the brightness of the Starlink satellites in order to mitigate interference with their observations, say Project Kuiper could have a similar impact. Amazon participated in a recent workshop with astronomers about the effect of satellite constellations on astronomy, and the company said in a statement it will share more information in the future on its mitigation plans. [New York Times]
Startup Accion Systems received a $2.25 million contract from the U.S. Air Force’s technology accelerator AFWERX to further develop the company’s smallsat propulsion technology for defense applications. The contract is a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research contract, and follows a Phase 1 program the company finished last year. Accion Systems’ electric propulsion uses postage stamp-sized thruster chips that run on liquified salt, a feature the company says helps keep the system small by obviating the need for large ionization chambers, pressurized tanks and other components. [Accion Systems]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.