FIRST UP Satcom | 2019’s first Ariane 5 launching Feb. 5 • Goonhilly going global • NBN gets CFO
Updated Feb. 1 at 1:27 p.m. Eastern.
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Arianespace’s first mission of the year is scheduled for Feb. 5. The Ariane 5 launch will carry two telecom satellites: Arabsat’s SaudiGEOSat-1/Hellas Sat 4, and the Indian space agency ISRO’s GSAT-31. SaudiGEOSat-1/Hellas Sat 4 is a condosat from manufacturer Lockheed Martin, with the SaudiGEOSat-1 payload providing Ka-band spot beam communications services for Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and Hellas Sat 4 providing Ku-band capacity for Arabsat’s Greek-Cypriot subsidiary Hellas Sat. ISRO’s GSAT-31 will provide Ku-band coverage of the Indian subcontinent. [Arianespace]
UK-based Goonhilly Earth Station is planning to expand globally with two new ground stations, one in Australia and one in California. CEO Ian Jones said the company expects to finalize plans over the next few months, with Australia likely to be the first location. Goonhilly will decide on a location in California once construction is underway on the Australian site, he said. Goonhilly plans to build large ground station antennas to support communications with space missions, including those in deep space. Jones said Goonhilly’s global expansion will position the company to complement NASA’s Deep Space Network and the European Space Agency’s Estrack network. [Via Satellite]
Australia’s National Broadband Network hired Philip Knox, a past chief financial officer of satellite and cable company Austar United Communications, as its new chief financial officer. Knox fills the void after NBN’s former CFO Stephen Rue was promoted to replace departing chief executive Bill Morrow last August. NBN is two years away from its target goal of completing its broadband rollout across Australia. Rue said Knox’s “extensive experience across the technology and media industries” will be beneficial to the state-owned enterprise. Knox starts with NBN on Feb. 6. [iTnews/ZDNet]
Space Systems Loral backed out of a contract with DARPA to build a satellite servicer, citing a need to “focus its resources on ensuring optimal returns when weighed against other capital priorities, such as WorldView Legion.” The Maxar Technologies division also canceled a contract with a company it created called Space Infrastructure Services that would have commercialized the servicer, known as the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites, or RSGS. DARPA said it is evaluating multiple options to continue RSGS, including a recompete or restructuring of the program. [SpaceNews]
Permit filings by SpaceX confirm the company is planning its next Falcon Heavy launch for no sooner than early March. Filings with the FCC sought communications licenses for both the Falcon Heavy launch itself as well as landings of the three booster cores. The launch of the Arabsat-6A satellite will be the second flight of the Falcon Heavy, which made its debut last February. Another Falcon Heavy launch, reusing the same set of booster cores, is scheduled for this spring for the long-delayed Air Force Space Test Program-2 mission. [Ars Technica]
The solid rocket motor that will be used on two European rockets under development completed a second static-fire test Monday. A P120C motor fired for 135 seconds in French Guiana in a successful test. The motor, jointly developed by ArianeGroup and Avio, is the largest monolithic carbon fiber solid rocket motor, and will be used on the strap-on boosters for the Ariane 6 and the first stage of the Vega-C. [ArianeGroup]
ArianeGroup supplier GKN Aerospace also demonstrated new engine tech, this time for a future upper stage. GKN said Jan. 29 it completed hot-fire tests of an actively-cooled engine nozzle extension called the Expander Technology Integrated Demonstrator, or ETID. The company used 3D printing to build the ETID nozzle extension, which is expected to shorten production times and make more cost-competitive rocket nozzles. The European Space Agency and ArianeGroup are partners on the nozzle extension. ESA told SpaceNews Feb. 1 that ETID has completed three of four hot-fire tests. A fourth and final test campaign in early 2019 will include longer burns and additional technologies, ESA said, setting ETID technologies on a path for future upper stage flight applications. [GKN]
Harris Corporation and L3 Technologies reported contrasting financial performances in their space business as the companies press ahead with their merger. L3 reported a decline in sales from its business unit that sells traveling wave tube amplifiers for communications satellites, and the company blamed it on a misreading of commercial space demand, self-inflicted supply chain issues and lost talent resulting from factory consolidation. Harris, meanwhile, reported an 11 percent increase in revenue from its space and intelligence systems division, with a number of classified smallsat programs driving growth. The companies said their $34 billion merger, announced in October, remains on track for completion by mid-2019. [SpaceNews]
Austria’s Research Promotion Agency became the seventh signatory to a joint statement from European agencies and governments signaling support of the future Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers. The signatories say the statement reflects their recognition of “the benefit of aggregating their institutional demand for launch services to ensure an independent, cost-effective, affordable, and reliable access to space for Europe.” So far European governments have not bundled together their launch demand as anticipated, creating tension with Europe’s launch industry. The European Space Agency and the space agencies of Spain, France, Germany and Italy, signed the joint statement in October, along with the Swiss Federation. [ESA]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.