FIRST UP Satcom | Argos constellation completed • S7 Group wants reusable launcher • GetSAT releases new antenna
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Last night’s Soyuz launch completed not one, but two constellations. The Arianespace launch of Eumetsat’s Metop-C satellite completed the agency’s polar fleet of three satellites and carried a ship-tracking sensor for Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), a subsidiary of the French space agency CNES. CLS now has seven Argos payloads in orbit. The company will transfer Argos operations next year to Kineis, a CNES-backed startup preparing a constellation of 20 nanosatellites for Internet of Things connectivity. Kineis’ low-Earth-orbit constellation is expected to start service in 2021. [CLS]
S7 Group wants to retrofit Sea Launch’s Odyssey floating launch base to support a reusable launch vehicle. After completing the purchase of Sea Launch in April, S7 Group now views expendable rockets as uncompetitive. “It is not even funny to compete with reusable and cheap offers entering the market with a non-reusable carrier,” S7 Space CEO Sergei Sopov said in an interview. S7 Space is planning a reusable variant of Russia’s future Soyuz 5 rocket called the Soyuz 7 Sea Launch, or Soyuz 7SL. Sopov said S7 Space has not determined how it would recover the rocket’s first-stage booster. [TASS]
Satellite antenna company GetSAT of Rehovot, Israel, released an electronically steered antenna for L-band communications. The antenna, called Ultra Blade, weighs less than 2.4 kilograms and has no moving parts. GetSAT says the antenna is compatible with any L-band satellite. [GetSAT]
A team of companies competing to become the third licensed telco in the Philippines hoped its use of the Kacific-1 broadband satellite set to launch in 2019 would provide a leg up over competitors. That team, formed by LCS Group and TierOne Communications, ultimately lost to Mislacom — a different consortium led by Udenna Corp. and China Telecom, though losing teams can appeal their disqualification. LCS-TierOne bought an equity stake in Kacific last month, and argued that having satellite connectivity would enable them to immediately reach all of the country. Luis “Chavit” C. Singson, head of LCS-TierOne, said before the Mislacom victory that LCS-TierOne would keep striving to expand, noting that other countries have four and five telcos. [Inquirer.net/Philstar/BusinessWorld]
Viasat has reduced the size of its planned satellite constellation. The FCC disclosed the change in the company’s system last week, trimming the number of satellites in medium Earth orbit from 24 to 20. The constellation would otherwise stay largely the same as first described to regulators two years ago, according to Viasat. The FCC is scheduled to vote Nov. 15 on proposed constellations from Internet-of-Things startup Kepler Communications and high-speed broadband startup LeoSat, along with expansions to approved constellations from SpaceX and Telesat. [SpaceNews]
The British military’s plans for a next-generation communications satellite system is suffering from “paralysis by analysis.” The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans to hold a meeting this week with satellite executives to discuss its plans for the Skynet-6 series, an estimated $8 billion effort to modernize the satellite constellation that provides telecommunications for the British military. Among the issues the MoD is grappling with is how to mix government satellites with commercial broadband systems, as well as how to introduce competition to the program. MoD awarded a sole-source contract to Airbus last year for Skynet 6A, a contract that has not been formally signed yet but which government officials said won’t be reversed. [SpaceNews]
The head of the company that runs the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska said he plans to retire at the end of March. Alaska Aerospace’s board accepted the retirement request of CEO Craig Campbell, the state-owned company said Nov. 5. Campbell oversaw repairs at the spaceport, formerly called the Kodiak Launch Complex, after the failure of a U.S. Army hypersonic weapon test in 2015. Alaska Aerospace also secured a multilaunch contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and conducted its first commercial launch under his leadership. [Alaska Aerospace]
A startup seeking to develop orbiting propellant depots will test some of its technology on the ISS. Orbit Fab said it will fly an experiment to the station on a Dragon cargo spacecraft next month intended to demonstrate technologies for transferring propellant in weightlessness. Orbit Fab, which raised its first round of funding in August, has proposed launching propellant tanks as soon as next year to support future satellite servicing efforts. [SpaceNews]
Arianespace hired a new sales and business development executive to replace Jacques Breton who is leaving the launch company. Arianespace did not state a reason for Breton’s departure. Emmanuel Franc is joining Arianespace from Swiss company ABB where he worked as senior vice president of sales and marketing for a business unit specialized in high-voltage electrical grids. Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said Franc’s experience with “major international contracts” will be beneficial in the launch provider’s sales efforts for the new Ariane 6 and Vega C rockets. “I would like to wish Jacques all the best for the future, and welcome Emmanuel as we focus on new successes in the launch services business,” Israël said. Franc starts his job with Arianespace Jan. 1. [Arianespace]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.