Cyber firm catches Chinese hackers probing US satellites • ESA’s EDRS-C satellite nears completion • Israel close to buying satellite from IAI

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Chinese hackers tried to gain control of U.S. satellites in late 2017, leading a cyber firm to notify the U.S. government. Symantec’s protection software blocked some of the tools used by attackers known as “Thrip” that attacked two satellite companies, a Defense Department contractor, and a geospatial-imagery firm. Thrip appears to have reemerged after two years of dormancy. Thrip had ceased activity after a 2015 agreement between then U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping on cyber espionage. The attacks were discovered about four months ago amid talk about a U.S.-China trade war. Symantec did not disclose which satellite operators were affected, but said Thrip did gain access to some company networks. [Cyberscoop]

A long-awaited European Space Agency laser relay satellite is undergoing final tests ahead of a 2019 Ariane 5 launch. ESA’s European Data Relay System-C satellite, EDRS-C, is being prepared for thermal vacuum chamber tests at private company IAGB’s Munich, Germany facility. The satellite was originally expected to launch in 2015, but ran into manufacturing setbacks. OHB System is building the satellite with optical terminals from Tesat-Spacecom. EDRS-C also carries an MDA Corp.-built Ka-band hosted payload for Avanti to provide broadband connectivity services. The EDRS system uses lasers to beam information from low Earth orbit up to geostationary satellites and then to users on the ground in near-real time. EDRS-A, the first node, launched in 2016 on the Eutelsat-9B satellite. [ESA]

The Israeli government will likely buy a telecommunications satellite from state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, but not “just for the sake of IAI,” according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. IAI lost a competition to build the Amos-8 satellite for Israeli operator Spacecom, threatening the company’s ability to maintain a telecom satellite manufacturing capability. Lieberman hinted that interest in buying from IAI is rooted in national security, but didn’t say outright that IAI would get the contract. “We need to see in detail the satellite being offered and its price and compare offers. … There’s no room for protectionism,” he said. [Haaretz]

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Satellite operators Intelsat and SES asked the FCC for an extension on registration of C-band dishes. The companies, in a letter to the FCC Monday, said that the commission’s current rules for registration remain too cumbersome for most customers to complete, which could result in a database that under-represents the actual number of C-band satellite antennas in service in the United States. The companies asked the FCC for a 60-day deadline extension and to allow one application per organization, rather than one application per dish. On June 21 the FCC approved their request, granting a 90-day extension and allowing for grouped registrations. The FCC plans to use the database to study the use of C-band spectrum as it decides on whether and how that spectrum should be shared with terrestrial users. [SpaceNews]

Viasat promoted an executive who used to lead Boeing’s international satellite division to run the operator’s Space Systems Business. Dave Ryan, a Viasat employee since 2016, was formerly president of Boeing Satellite Systems International. In his new role, Ryan will oversee “Viasat’s highly-technical and complex global satellite constellation roadmap,” the company said. His responsibilities include spacecraft development and the procurement of satellites and launch vehicles. [Viasat]

The new owner of Sea Launch wants to resume production of Soviet-era rocket engines. The general director of S7 Space, Sergey Sopov, said in an interview that his company is in discussions about acquiring the technical capabilities to produce the NK-33 and NK-43 engines from United Engine Corporation, and would build a new factory to resume production of those engines. Sopov suggested those engines, originally developed a half-century ago for the Soviet N-1 moon rocket, could be put to use on a version of the Soyuz-5 rocket that could launch from Sea Launch’s oceangoing platform. [Sputnik]

Hispasat is connecting an undersea Mediterranean pipeline between Spain and Algeria to enable remote control by satellite. The Spanish operator announced a contract with Algerian internet service provider Divona Algerie to connect the Medgaz pipeline, an infrastructure that provided a quarter of the natural gas used in Spain in 2016. The contract is Hispasat’s first business in Algeria, and one the company hopes will lead to more opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa energy sector. [Hispasat]

Australian satellite company Fleet has plans in place for the launch of its first two cubesats. The company said its first cubesat will launch later this year on an Indian PSLV rocket, followed by the second on a SpaceX Falcon 9 as part of a rideshare mission. The company plans to develop a constellation of such spacecraft to provide communications services for sensors and other devices. [Manufacturers’ Monthly]

Italian smallsat builder Sitael is opening up a new division in Adelaide, Australia. The facility will be able to manufacture satellites up to 300 kilograms. Sitael did not say when its Australia location will start building satellites. Mark Ramsey, a member of the Space Industry Association of Australia advisory board with previous experience at Thales Alenia Space, NewSat and Lockheed Martin, will lead Sitael Australia as general manager. [Sitael]