FIRST UP Satcom | Arianespace schedules last 2018 launch • Over half the world will be online next year

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Updated Dec. 13 at 6:42 p.m. Eastern.

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Arianespace’s final launch of the year is scheduled for Dec. 18 at 11:37 a.m. Eastern. The company will launch a French military Earth observation satellite called CSO-1 on a Europeanized Soyuz rocket from Sinnamary, French Guiana. Arianespace will conclude the year with 11 missions, three short of its target of 14. CSO-1 is the first in a constellation of three defense and security-focused Earth observation satellites under development by the French space agency CNES and the French defense procurement agency DGA. Airbus Defence and Space is building the CSO satellites, using optical cameras from Thales Alenia Space. [Arianespace]

For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population will use the internet, according to a report from the International Telecommunication Union. By the end of the year, an estimated 3.9 billion people, or 51 percent of the population, will use the internet, up from 48 percent in 2017. Many new internet users come from Africa and Asia, according to the report. The International Telecommunication Union said 96 percent of the global population lives within range of a cellular network, with 90 percent having access to 3G speeds or higher. [Gizmodo/VOA]

A NATO research body is equipping ocean buoys with Globalstar tracking devices to study marine currents using satellites. Globalstar is supplying its Spot tracking devices to NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in La Spezia, Italy for a monitoring program that will assess surface currents in the Mediterranean and the Arctic. CMRE studies sea currents to help inform NATO operational planning. The research organization plans to deploy additional buoys in the Barent’s Sea, a body of water near Norway and Russia, and further into Arctic waters this coming summer. [Globalstar Europe Satellite Services]

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Hughes’ satellite internet is now available in Ecuador. The service launch, announced Dec. 9, follows the expansion in recent years of HughesNet into Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Hughes is using Ka-band capacity on Telesat’s Telstar 19 Vantage satellite rebranded as Hughes 63 West. The satellite covers more than 90 percent of homes in Ecuador, which has a population of 16.7 million. Hughes said the service will offer download speeds of 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of 5 megabits per second. [EchoStar]

The Australian Space Agency will establish its headquarters in Adelaide.The agency said Tuesday that it selected the South Australia city because of its strong existing space industry, including a number of space startups. The headquarters is scheduled to be open there by mid-2019. The agency, which formally started operations in July, has a goal of tripling the size of the country’s space industry by 2030. [AAP]

Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and Sky Perfect JSAT have signed their first customer for the joint ground service offering the two companies announced in late 2016. Earth observation startup Axelspace, which recently raised $22.8 million, will use the joint ground network service to connect with Grus-1, a satellite slated to launch Jan. 27 on a Soyuz rocket. KSAT will use Sky Perfect JSAT’s Ibaraki Network Control Center ground station in Japan and its own Svalbard, Norway ground station to connect the Grus-1 satellite. [KSAT]

Despite a downturn in demand for large communications satellites, one supplier is ramping up production. Sodern, a subsidiary of ArianeGroup that builds star trackers, plans to double its production rate from 60 units a year in 2018 to 120 units a year in 2020. The company said demand for its star trackers from developers of small satellites is more than compensating for decreased demand from manufacturers of large geostationary communications satellites. [SpaceNews]

Boeing has canceled a deal to build a communications satellite for a startup funded by China. The decision to cancel the order came after a report that found that Global IP was being funded, and allegedly controlled, by a Chinese state-owned entity. Global IP’s founders, who left the company, said they were concerned the Chinese government could gain access to sensitive, export-controlled technologies through the Boeing contract. Boeing formally cited default for nonpayment as the reason to cancel the contract. [Wall Street Journal]

Harris Corp. plans to spend more than $125 million on research and development that will be concentrated in the state of Florida. The company’s central Florida locations will conduct most of the work in fields including small satellites robotics, electronic warfare and avionics. Central Florida will receive more than a third of Harris’ $300 million-plus annual R&D spend. Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), praised Harris’ local investment in a statement, saying he was “pleased to see that they are continuing to invest in our state’s aerospace industry and economy as well as the future of U.S. national security. ”Harris Corp. is headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, a location that will not change as a result of the company’s ongoing merger with L3 Technologies. [Florida Today]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.