FIRST UP Satcom | Facebook, Viasat join forces on rural internet • Exotrail wins 1.55M euros • Es’hailSat to host BridgeSat lasercomm station

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TOP STORIES

Facebook is joining Viasat in establishing satellite-connected Wi-Fi hotspots across Mexico. Viasat, in a news release, said Facebook is investing in the rollout and helping to identify areas for future deployments. Facebook and Viasat are collaborating first in Mexico, but are open to expanding globally, Viasat said. Facebook Connectivity vice president Dan Rabinovitsj described Viasat’s community Wi-Fi hotspot service, now accessible to more than 1 million people, as “an example of a model that can help overcome the global connectivity challenges of accessibility and affordability, particularly in hard to reach rural areas.”

Qatari satellite operator Es’hailSat will host one of BridgeSat’s laser ground stations at its new satellite teleport in Doha, Qatar. The BridgeSat ground station, using optical light instead of traditional radiofrequency airwaves, will support communications with satellites in low Earth orbit that also have optical links. Es’hailSat agreed to host BridgeSat’s first Middle East-based ground station. In an interview, BridgeSat CEO Barry Matsumori said the company hopes to have 10 stations around the world by the end of 2020. The company has announced two other ground stations, one in Fresno, California and another in the “Italian region” with Italian smallsat company Sitael. [BridgeSat]

French propulsion startup Exotrail received a 1.55 million euro ($1.76 million) prize from BPIFrance for winning an “Innovation Contest,” enabling the company to add around 10 hires and purchase new test equipment. The startup is designing miniaturized Hall-Effect thrusters for small satellites ranging from 10 kilograms to several hundred kilograms. Exotrail CEO and co-founder David Henri said the award will help the company, founded in 2017, start meeting customer demand in 2020. [Exotrail]

MORE STORIES

Eutelsat hopes to see revenue grow this year after a decline in 2018. The company reported a 4.4 percent decrease in revenue in the second half of 2018 and a 5.1 percent decrease in earnings. Eutelsat said its Konnect Africa broadband business, now active in 19 countries, had a slower than anticipated start because of logistical issues, but expects that service to generate more revenue this year. The company continues to make video its primary market, accounting for two thirds of its revenue, but sees satellite broadband as its growth opportunity in the future. [SpaceNews]

Canadian ship-tracking company exactEarth activated the last six hosted payloads it has on Iridium Next. ExactEarth has 65 Harris-built sensors in orbit, of which 58 are operational and seven are spares. The payloads track Automatic Identification System signals from space, tracking more than 500,000 vessels with gaps between signals of less than one minute. [exactEarth]

Australia’s National Broadband Network remains on track to complete its rollout by mid-2020, while hitting projected revenue of 5 billion Australian dollars ($3.6 billion) by 2021 to 2022. The state-owned network, which uses fiber and satellite to bring internet access to rural Australians, has more than 4.6 million premises connected and another 8.1 million ready. Revenue for the latter half of 2018 grew 46 percent to 1.3 billion Australian dollars year over year, while average revenue per user inched up to 45 Australian dollars. [The Canberra Times]

Existing infrastructure may pose a challenge to continued growth in the smallsat sector, NSR warned. Heightened stresses on satellite manufacturers for serial production, the “challenging business case” for smallsat launch, and insufficient space traffic management resources all present hurdles to continued smallsat growth, the research firm said. Despite these challenges, NSR said it expects more than 7,000 smallsats to launch by 2027, the vast majority for communications services. [NSR]

The CEO of the company that took over Sea Launch is stepping down.Sergei Sopov said he plans to resign from S7 Space, with a formal announcement expected by the end of the week. He didn’t discuss why he was resigning from the company. S7 Space announced an agreement in 2016 to take over Sea Launch from RSC Energia, and expects to resume launches no sooner than the end of this year. [TASS]

The U.K. Space Agency is providing funding to OneWeb to support an effort to connect its satellites into terrestrial 5G networks. The U.K., with its $23.3 million contribution, is the first of six ESA member states plus Canada to commit funding for the OneWeb Sunrise program that will study how OneWeb’s satellite constellation can interoperate with 5G systems. Other aspects of OneWeb Sunrise include artificial intelligence for flying the satellites, new payload and user terminal technology, spectrum and signal interference management and active debris removal. [SpaceNews]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.