FIRST UP Satcom | Avio takes 10M euro loan • Iridium launches Certus  • NanoAvionics opens UK office

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TOP STORIES

Italian rocket builder Avio is borrowing 10 million euros from the European Investment Bank. The funds will support new space propulsion technologies for Europe’s next-generation Vega C and Ariane 6 launchers, the company said. Avio is the prime contractor for Vega C, which will have the same first-stage booster as the Ariane 6 strap-on side boosters. Avio said the new loan will help the company expand its industrial capacity at its plant in Colleferro, Italy, to meet anticipated production volumes. The financing follows a 40-million-euro loan Avio received from the European Investment Bank in 2017, and has the same conditions, Avio said. [Avio]

Iridium has launched a new suite of connectivity products and services that use its new, $3 billion Iridium Next satellite constellation. Iridium’s Certus broadband service provides L-band connectivity for voice and data services, starting with maritime and land applications. Iridium Certus solutions for aviation are expected later this year. Iridium expects Certus revenue to reach approximately $100 million by the end of 2021. Satellite terminal manufacturers Cobham, Thales, Collins Aerospace, L3, Gogo and Satcom Direct are building Iridium Certus user equipment, and 36 service providers have received Iridium authorization to provide Certus services around the world. [Iridium]

Smallsat bus and propulsion supplier NanoAvionics of Lithuania and Florida is opening a sales office in the United Kingdom. The company appointed Tariq Sami as its U.K. sales director for the new office, located in the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. More than 950 people across 89 organizations work at the space cluster. Harwell Campus partner and director Angus Horner said he was confident the new office “will be a catalyst for even stronger collaboration between NanoAvionics and the leading research facilities and space companies located at Harwell.” [NanoAvionics]

MORE STORIES

The European Defence Agency has started the Govsatcom demonstration program, pooling military satellite capacity from member states. The purpose of the demonstration is to test the use of shared bandwidth and satellite services that the EDA says can’t be obtained commercially “with sufficient level of guaranteed access and security.” Spain is leading the program, which counts 15 member states and Norway as contributors. [EDA]

Intelsat Chief Financial Officer Jacques Kerrest is retiring after three years in the role. Kerrest, who joined Intelsat in February 2016, is expected to stay onboard until a successor is identified. Intelsat said Kerrest was instrumental in completing debt and equity transactions totaling $15.5 billion. Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler said Kerrest’s “expertise in capital markets and strategic engagement with debt and equity investors enhanced Intelsat’s position as a respected issuer.” [Intelsat]

Harris Corp. received a $75 million order from the U.S. Marine Corps to upgrade user terminals for compatibility with the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System(MUOS) satellite constellation. The Marine Corps placed the order though a five-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract from 2017. Under the new contract award, Harris will upgrade the Marine Corps Falcon 3 AN/PRC-117G manpack radio fleet so that Marines can use the radios to talk and share data more easily around the world using the MUOS constellation. Harris said it will also provide ancillary devices such as antennas that make radios capable of supporting satcom-on-the-move while connected to MUOS. [Harris]

In-flight connectivity provider Gogo said more than 1,000 aircraft are now online with the company’s 2Ku satellite antennas, and that it has installed satellite connectivity systems on approximately 1,300 commercial aircraft. Gogo said it completed 477 aircraft in-flight connectivity system installations in 2018, marking the second consecutive year where installs topped 450 aircraft. As of Dec. 31, around 1,000 more aircraft were in backlog awaiting 2Ku installations, the company said. [Gogo]

Arianespace is planning to carry out at least a dozen launches in 2019, including a record number of Vega missions. The launch services provider has scheduled four Vega launches in 2019, as well as the inaugural flight of the new Vega C rocket. Arianespace expects to carry out three to four Vega launches a year in the future given small satellite demand. Also on the company’s manifest are five Ariane 5 missions and at least three Soyuz launches, including one carrying the first 10 OneWeb satellites. Additional Soyuz launches of OneWeb satellites, from Baikonur rather than French Guiana, could also take place later in the year depending on satellite readiness. [SpaceNews]

Maxar Technologies replaced its chief executive Monday. The company announced that Howard Lance was leaving the positions of president and CEO, and would be replaced by Daniel Jablonsky, who had been president of DigitalGlobe, a division of Maxar. Lance led Maxar for less than three years during a time that it was shifting from a Canadian to an American company, a process that included the acquisition of DigitalGlobe. Maxar has suffered from a number of recent problems, including soft demand for geostationary orbit satellites that led the company to consider divesting Space Systems Loral, as well as the failure earlier this month of the WorldView-4 satellite. [SpaceNews]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.