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Global fleet operator Intelsat has joined GSMA, a mobile network operators’ association that has sparred with the satellite industry over spectrum. Intelsat said it joined GSMA to “further strengthen the integration of satellite and terrestrial technologies and advance 5G deployments.” GSMA counts more than 750 network operators among its ranks, along with more than 350 companies and organizations from within and outside the cellular industry. Jean-Philippe Gillet, Intelsat’s vice president and general manager of networks, said joining GSMA will enable more collaboration with cellular companies and hybrid networks that make use of both satellite and terrestrial technologies. [Intelsat]

British smallsat manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) has completed its first geostationary satellite platform. The company built the platform for Eutelsat Quantum, a telecom satellite that will carry a reconfigurable payload capable of changing coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency. SSTL said it will now transfer the platform from its facility in Guildford, U.K., to parent company Airbus, which will finish assembly and testing of the satellite in Toulouse, France. Eutelsat Quantum features technology developed through the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program, with support from the U.K. Space Agency. SSTL Managing Director Sarah Parker said the satellite platform’s completion “represents our first venture into the global commercial telecoms satellite market.” [SSTL]

High-throughput satellite startup Kacific has selected Newtec’s Dialog hubs to support the ground segment for its upcoming Kacific-1 satellite. Newtec said the initial hub contract is worth $10 million, and will likely be followed by additional orders of satellite terminals worth “several million in the first years of service.” Kacific-1 launches late this year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite features 56 Ka-band spot beams for coverage of Southeast Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. [Newtec]


Infostellar, a Japanese startup that pools unused capacity on ground stations, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Satellite Applications Catapult in the U.K. The new partnership adds the Catapult’s Goonhilly station to Infostellar’s network of ground stations, enabling organizations to upload and download information remotely. Infostellar said the Catapult, a not-for-profit research organization, can share unused capacity with the StellarStation network as part of the agreement. Infostellar said that as a result of the agreement, it plans to open an office at the Catapult’s Harwell, U.K., location later this year. [Infostellar]

SpaceX has confirmed plans to attempt a Falcon 9 launch of 10 Iridium Next satellites Friday. The launch of the Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base is scheduled for 10:31 a.m. Eastern with a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather. That launch was previously scheduled for Tuesday but postponed for unspecified technical reasons. [Twitter @SpaceX]

Smallsat builder and component supplier Akash Systems received approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch a satellite carrying its proprietary gallium nitride-on-diamond transmitter technology. The 12-unit cubesat is scheduled to launch in early 2020, and is intended to demonstrate the ability to beam more than 5 gigabits per second down to Earth from a 3-unit transmitter. Jeanette Quinlan, Akash Systems director of space systems, said the launch will help prove the spaceworthiness of the company’s components. Akash Systems says its gallium nitride-on-diamond technology will enable satellites to be smaller, lighter and higher performing. [Semiconductor Today]

Two Chinese startup companies have performed key tests of engine and reusable rocket systems. Landspace tested last week the gas generator for its Tianque-12 engine, powered by methane and liquid oxygen. The company plans to use the engine in its Zhuque-2 medium-class launch vehicle under development. Linkspace performed a tethered hover test of its RLV-T5 technology demonstrator, part of the company’s efforts to develop a reusable launch vehicle. Linkspace plans to perform a suborbital launch of its RLV-T6 test vehicle later this year. [gbtimes]

Satellite component supplier Sodern will lead a consortium of companies on a European Commission-funded project to develop technology for photonics payloads and optical inter-satellite links. Sodern said Jan. 7 it received funding alongside MDA, DAS Photonics and Huber+Suhner Polatis to develop and produce a payload demonstrator by December 2020. The goal of the project is to create technologies for low Earth orbit communications satellites. Sodern said photonic payloads and laser links could enable 30 gigabit-per-second connections between satellites, up from current radio-frequency intersatellite links that max out at 10 megabits per second. [Sodern news release]

The company fined by the FCC for launching satellites without licenses has hired an expert to handle its regulatory activities. Kalpak Gude, who previously led regulatory activities at OneWeb and Intelsat, will be Swarm Technologies’ new general counsel and head of regulatory affairs. Swarm ran into trouble with the FCC last year when it launched four small satellites without an FCC license, an incident that led to a $900,000 fine and requirements to develop procedures to comply with FCC regulations. Gude said he will not be the compliance director stipulated by that FCC ruling but will instead guide Swarm’s efforts to win regulatory approvals worldwide for its planned constellation of 150 satellites for Internet of Things connectivity. [SpaceNews]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.

Caleb Henry is a former SpaceNews staff writer covering satellites, telecom and launch. He previously worked for Via Satellite and NewSpace Global.He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a minor in astronomy from...