Eutelsat renews major broadcast contract • Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions gets new CEO
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Analysts see a limited opportunity for satellite broadband companies in the connected car market. Northern Sky Research projects revenue from the connected car market, in which it includes buses and trains, to crest $1 billion by 2029, even though more than 99% of cars will remain unconnected by satellite. Top adopters of satellite links will be first responders such as fire trucks, ambulances and police. Starting around 2025, NSR expects luxury car makers will start incorporating flat panel antennas into some vehicles, creating a market there. A key limitation for the connected car market is the absence of a must-have application requiring 100% connectivity that can’t be served by cell phones or narrowband L-band solutions. Pricing for satellite connectivity to cars will also be a challenge, NSR said. [NSR]
Eutelsat has renewed a satellite capacity contract with Sky Italia, a large television broadcaster. Eutelsat describes Sky Italia as the “pre-eminent anchor customer” on Hotbird, its trio of broadcast satellites over Europe. The multi-year contract adds roughly 450 million euros ($532.3 million) to Eutelsat’s backlog, which the company said guarantees “broadly stable annual revenues for Eutelsat in the medium term.” The Sky Italia contract includes extension options that could result in additional revenue, Eutelsat said. Eutelsat has two Hotbird satellites in production with Airbus Defence and Space that will replace its older satellites in 2021. [Eutelsat]
Cobham has selected a new chief executive for its Advanced Electronic Solutions division, which supplies waveguides and other components for satellites. The company announced Mike Kahn, a former Northrop Grumman weapons systems executive, as CAES CEO effective Sept. 1. Kahn succeeds Shawn Black, who is leaving to pursue other opportunities. Cobham said Kahn has experience supporting the U.S. Defense Department and NASA, as well as commercial customers. [Cobham]
Japanese startup Skygate Technologies has raised a seed round to jumpstart development of a ground-as-a-service offering centered on an entirely cloud-based ground station platform. The amount raised in the round, led by Keio University-based venture capital firm Keio Innovation Initiative, was not disclosed. Formed in February 2020, Skygate is developing a ground platform to support communications rates up to 2 gigabits per second for spacecraft such as remote sensing satellites that need to download large volumes of imagery. Satellite operators using Skygate will be able to work with multiple cloud providers including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and others, according to Skygate. [Skygate]
Intelsat expects strong growth for the commercial aviation connectivity business it is buying from Gogo. Samer Halawi, Intelsat’s chief commercial officer, said in an interview that the company projects that business will return to 2019 levels by 2023 as the broader commercial aviation industry recovers from the pandemic. Intelsat also believes it can make that business more efficient by using Intelsat’s own satellites to provide connectivity, although some other companies will continue to offer service where Intelsat lacks coverage or sufficient capacity. Industry analysts said the deal is a good fit since it allows Gogo’s customers to retain their existing Ku-band terminals. [SpaceNews]
L3Harris will build an L-band reflector antenna for the Thuraya-4 NGS satelliteunder a contract with Airbus Defence and Space, the satellite’s manufacturer. Thuraya-4 NGS is projected to launch in 2024, providing connectivity for sensors, devices and mobile platforms across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Central Asia. Airbus is building the satellite for Yahsat, the Emirati operator that owns Thuraya. L3Harris said the 12-meter reflector antenna will be manufactured and tested at its Palm Bay, Florida, facilities. [L3Harris]
Elon Musk says that SpaceX is making “good progress” on its Starship vehicle despite delays in flight tests of the next-generation launch system. In an interview Monday during the Humans to Mars Summit, Musk emphasized the work the company had done building up a production system for the vehicle at Boca Chica, Texas, claiming that effort was harder than building prototypes. The company has fallen short of an ambitious schedule Musk announced nearly a year ago. At the time, he predicted a first orbital flight of Starship in about six months. Musk said the first orbital flight of the system will take place “probably next year.” [SpaceNews]
A court trial to determine whether Comtech can cancel its merger with Gilat is scheduled for October. Gilat filed a complaint against Comtech in the Delaware Court of Chancery after Comtech sought to walk away from the merger, citing a “material adverse effect” to Gilat’s revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gilat says it has not suffered such an effect and urged the court to lift a condition that Russian regulatory approval be obtained prior to the termination date of the merger agreement. Gilat reported $38.3 million in second quarter revenues, released Sept. 1, compared to $59.7 million for the second quarter of 2019. Adi Sfadia, Gilat’s interim CEO, said Gilat is seeing a recovery in its business areas and expects the second half of 2020 to be “meaningfully better than the first.” [Gilat]
Lockheed Martin is partnering with Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and Telesat on its Space Development Agency contract. Lockheed will use buses from Tyvak for the 10 satellites it will build for the SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 0 set of low Earth orbit communications satellites. Telesat will provide technical advice for the system. Lockheed won a $187.5 million contract earlier this week for the satellites, one of two awards made by SDA for the program. [SpaceNews]
Azerbaijani satellite operator Azercosmos has signed a new contract with Globecast for additional C-band capacity over Africa. Globecast will use the capacity on the Azerspace-1 satellite to provide television broadcasts for news, sports, special events coverage and general entertainment. [Azercosmos]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.