First Ariane 6 to carry 30 OneWeb satellites • Viasat seeking to raise $500 million • Hispasat trials Wi-Fi hotspots in Colombia
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Arianespace’s first Ariane 6 mission will carry 30 OneWeb satellites to low Earth orbit. The launch, slated for the second half of 2020, will use the “62” version of the rocket, which has two side boosters. Arianespace said the launch will deliver the satellites into a near-polar orbit at 500-kilometers. OneWeb’s launch contract includes options for two more Ariane 6 missions. Arianespace said the 62 version can carry up to 36 OneWeb satellites, while the heavier 64 version with four strap-on boosters can carry up to 78. [@arianespaceceo/Arianespace]
Viasat is seeking to raise $500 million through a new offering of senior secured notes, the company announced March 19. Proceeds from the offer would go toward paying off debt and for “general corporate purposes,” which the company said could include acquisitions, joint ventures, building and launching satellites, or other actions. Viasat said it also expects to reduce available commitments under its revolving credit facility from $800 million to $700 million. [Viasat]
Hispasat is the latest satellite operator to deploy Wi-Fi hot spots in rural areas as a method of expanding consumer broadband access. Hispasat, working with local partner Bansat, deployed 10 trial Wi-Fi hot spots in Colombia. Bansat installed the hot spots, which draw on capacity from the Hispasat 70W-1 satellite. U.S. satellite operators Viasat and Hughes have also deployed Wi-Fi hot spots in Latin America, viewing the approach as a favorable way to reach lower revenue customers. Hispasat said it plans to add another 10 trial locations across the country. [Hispasat]
Inmarsat revealed Tuesday it has received another takeover offer. Apax Partners, Warburg Pincus International, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board made an offer of $3.3 billion in cash to acquire the satellite operator. Inmarsat said it remains in discussions with the consortium, which under British law has until April 16 to make a binding offer. Inmarsat received, but ultimately rejected, offers from EchoStar and Eutelsat last year. Inmarsat shares rose 16 percent in trading Wednesday morning in London. [SpaceNews / Reuters]
Satellite operator APT Satellite is enjoying increased revenue but is worried about conditions in the Asia-Pacfic market. The company reported Tuesday $160 million in revenue in 2018, a 2.5 percent increase. However, in its annual financial report, APT Satellite described 2018 market conditions as bleak, with no sign of reprieve coming in 2019. The company said it “has actively explored new markets and new businesses” to deal with the oversupply of satellite transponders and corresponding decline in prices. [SpaceNews]
Firefly Aerospace and Airbus Defence and Space signed a memorandum of understanding for “several launches” intended to fast-track launches of Airbus-built satellites. Firefly CEO Tom Markusic highlighted Airbus’ Arrow satellite platform, which is a derivation of the platform Airbus co-created with OneWeb, as having caught Firefly’s attention. Frederic Sotenberg, Airbus Space Systems head of constellations launch solutions, said Firefly’s still-in-development Alpha vehicle “addresses an unmet need in small satellite launch and will provide a further option for our customers in addition to legacy medium and large launchers in Europe.” Airbus builds Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets through a joint venture with Safran, but Europe’s most direct competition to Firefly is the Italian company Avio, which builds the light-lift Vega rocket and upcoming Vega C. [Via Satellite]
Laser communications terminal provider Mynaric has raised $12.5 million from a mystery satellite constellation company. Mynaric said the investment came from the “lead investor of a satellite constellation it is working with” that previously signed an MOU with the company to purchase terminals. That constellation company plans to purchase up to 1,000 terminals for potential use as laser inter-satellite links. Three notable constellation ventures plan to use optical intersatellite links — SpaceX, Telesat and LeoSat — though none exactly fit the profile of Mynaric’s unnamed investor. [SpaceNews]
Airbus is applying lessons learned from its aviation business to the mass production of satellites. Airbus is partnered with OneWeb on OneWeb Satellites, the joint venture responsible for producing OneWeb’s fleet of hundreds of satellites. Nicolas Chamussy, Airbus Defence and Space’s executive vice president of space systems, said building the OneWeb satellites required a complete rethink of how to design a satellite with an emphasis on repeatability. Airbus is leveraging a supply chain it already uses for manufacturing airliners for the mass production of OneWeb satellites. [SpaceNews]
Inmarsat Government and Israeli satellite terminal builder Orbit Communications have released a satcom terminal specialized for aeronautical communications with Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellites. Orbit Communications’ GX46 terminal can link with Global Xpress as well as the U.S. military’s Wideband Global Satcom constellation. The terminal supports Inmarsat’s “Satcom as a Service,” offering that features both commercial and military Ka-band frequencies. [PR Newswire]
Ruag is making use of automation for the production of components for satellite constellations. Ruag turned to robotic technologies to make the structures for OneWeb’s satellites given the large volume of structures that need to be produced in a short time. Before constellations changed the market, Ruag optimized satellite parts for technical excellence. Now, the company balances that with the need to be inexpensive and easily mass produced. [SpaceNews]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.