FIRST UP Satcom | China allegedly seeking US satellite tech via startup; Inmarsat gets favorable ruling in RigNet dispute
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China is allegedly using a startup to gain access to advanced American satellite technology. Global IP, a U.S.-based company, ordered a high-throughput satellite from Boeing in 2016, with financial backing from Chinese investors. The founders of the company said they left after concerns its investors, supported by the Chinese government, were using the company as a means to gain access to satellite technology prohibited for export to China under U.S. law. The satellite remains under construction although Global IP has yet to raise the $200 million needed to complete it. [Wall Street Journal]
Arbitrators sided with Inmarsat in the company’s ongoing dispute with RigNet about a satellite capacity contract from 2014 that RigNet canceled. A panel at the International Centre for Dispute Resolution concluded that a take-or-pay obligation from the January 2014 contract had commenced and that RigNet owed Inmarsat $50.8 million. As an interim ruling, RigNet said it is not required to pay anything to Inmarsat until after the panel rules on “Phase II counterclaims,” which is expected in the spring of 2019. RigNet said the amount owed is subject to any offsets from its counterclaims during the Phase II arbitration. In a statement to SpaceNews, Inmarsat said it is “very pleased with [the] result of the first phase of arbitration.” [RigNet]
NSSLGlobal has acquired part of SES. The maritime connectivity provider acquired the assets and activities of Station 711, a division of SES subsidiary MX1 that also supports connectivity at sea. NSSLGlobal did not reveal the size of the acquisition, announced Dec. 3. In a statement, Henrik Christensen, CEO of NSSLGlobal Continental Europe, said the acquisition brings new customers, markets and products, and that the company now serves more than 3,000 vessels around the world with L-band, Ku-band and Ka-band services. [NSSLGlobal]
Spain’s Council of Ministers has approved a 76 million Euro loan ($86.2 million) to Spanish fleet operator Hisdesat for the development of the military communications satellites SpainSat 1 and 2 NG. The loan kickstarts financing to replace Hisdesat’s SpainSat and Xtar-Eur satellites, as well as a new satellite control center. SpainSat 1 and 2 NG are planned to launch in 2023 and 2024. The SpainSat NG system will carry X-band, military Ka-band and ultra-high frequency payloads. Hisdesat is implementing the program through a public-private partnership with the Spanish government. [Infodefensa]
Emirati satellite operator Yahsat started service in Brazil last month, marking the beginning of a significant expansion outside its core markets in the Middle East and Africa. Service start was pushed back by the off-course launch of Al Yah 3 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket this January. Yahsat said Nov. 29 it is present in 234 municipalities with Al Yah 3, which is now in its orbital slot covering 95 percent of Brazil’s population across 5,000 municipalities. “We continue to meet our goal of bringing Yahsat’s services to rural and other underserved areas around the world through our fleet of state-of-the-art satellites, and the backing of our trusted local Service Partners,” said Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Yahsat CEO.
DirecTV owner AT&T doesn’t expect to buy any more satellites. At a recent analysts’ day event, John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said the company has “launched our last satellite” and will transition its customers over time to internet-delivered video services. AT&T bought DirecTV three years ago, at the time valuing its satellite fleet at $2 billion. That decision may trigger new debates about the future of direct-to-home television services, a large part of the satellite services sector, and demand for large geostationary communications satellites that provide those services. [SpaceNews]
Novelsat CEO Itzik Wulkan is retiring after 11 years leading the company he co-founded. Gary Drutin, Novesat’s chief business officer, will succeed Wulkan as CEO and as a board member. Drutin joined Novelsat, which makes satellite modems, modulators and other transmission technology, a year ago, following previous careers as CEO of FST Biometrics and business development director for Broadcom’s Microwave business. [Novelsat]
Argentine satellite network operator Servicio Satelital has deployed a network from VT iDirect to support connectivity from Intelsat’s first Epic high-throughput satellite, Intelsat-29e. The so-called DVB-S2X network demonstrated throughputs up to 110 megabits per second. “By partnering with VT iDirect, we can ensure an attractive business case — providing higher data rates at a lower cost per bit — as the market for Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) services expands across the nation,” said Eduardo Lema, Servicio Satelital shareholder and director of operations. [iDirect]
An Ariane 5 launched satellites for India and South Korea Tuesday. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 3:37 p.m. Eastern and placed the GSAT-11 and GEO-Kompsat-2A satellites into geostationary transfer orbits about a half-hour later. GSAT-11, developed by the Indian space agency ISRO, will provide Ku-band services for India. That satellite was scheduled to launch earlier this year but it was shipped back to India for inspections after problems with another satellite. GEO-Kompsat-2A is the first in a pair of civilian geostationary weather satellites built by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. [SpaceNews]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.