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Two U.S. Senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to be careful about how much C-band spectrum it lets non-satellite users access. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying the agency “must consider whether sufficient spectrum will remain available to accommodate today’s C-band services,” among other issues. The Senators also urged the FCC to evaluate alternatives to C-band, the risk that new users will introduce signal interference with satellite systems, and “how to reiumburse C-band earth station operators for costs incurred.” The FCC voted in July to open C-band for 5G wireless communications, but has not decided how much of the band, used mainly for satellite television and radio, will be repurposed. [Multichannel News]
India launched a communications satellite early Wednesday. The GSLV Mark 3 rocket lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 6:38 a.m. Eastern and released the GSAT-29 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit less than 20 minutes later. The 3,400-kilogram satellite will operate from 55 degrees east in GEO to provide Ka- and Ku-band services, as well as test experimental Q- and V-band transponders. The launch was the second orbital mission for the GSLV Mark 3, which previously launched the GSAT-19 satellite in June 2017. [NASASpaceFlight.com]
France’s aerospace research lab ONERA said it will collaborate with European satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space on space activities for both commercial and defense applications. Topics the two will work together on include telecom, optical imaging and monitoring the space environment. Jean-Loïc Galle, Thales Alenia Space president and CEO, said the partnership will give the company an advantage in “winning the innovation ‘battle’, to keep pace with the fast-evolving space sector.” Thales Alenia Space and ONERA have worked together in the past on high-altitude platform systems. [Thales Alenia Space]
German satellite and rocket hardware manufacturer OHB Group saw a 17 percent increase in revenues for the first nine months of this year, reporting 633.7 million euros ($718.4 million) in revenue on Nov. 13. OHB’s Space Systems division grew revenues by 94.6 million euros to 498.6 million, while the company’s Aerospace and Industrial Products division shrank by 4.6 million euros. OHB is the prime contractor for the European Commission’s Galileo navigation constellation and a supplier for the Ariane 6 rocket. The company said firm orders in backlog amounted to 2.4 billion euros. [OHB]
The Australian government’s NBN Co. said it will start offering satellite broadband plans that don’t count email, general web browsing and required software updates towards monthly data allowances. NBN will no longer throttle the internet service, based on the twin Sky Muster satellites, for such functions when data limits are reached, according to NBN CEO Stephen Rue. Kristy Sparrow, co-founder of the advocacy group Better Internet for Rural Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) called the move a “very positive step in the right direction.” BIRRR estimates 42 percent of Sky Muster customers have no alternative mobile data services. [Queensland Country Life]
Inmarsat plans to introduce a new maritime connectivity product to fend off growing competition. Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce announced the Crew Xpress product last week as part of efforts to retain customers in its largest market segment, having identified broadband for social use among crews as the missing component of Inmarsat’s maritime service offering. KVH has emerged as Inmarsat’s principal competitor in maritime VSAT connectivity, winning customers with a network built on capacity from Intelsat and Sky Perfect JSAT. [SpaceNews]
Satellite TV broadcaster Globecast is providing satellite capacity from Spacecom’s Amos-7 satellite to an undisclosed public broadcaster in Africa. Spacecom said the broadcaster is one of the largest in the continent, and that the satellite newsgathering service began in September. Jacob Keret, Spacecom’s senior vice president of sales, said Amos-7’s Ku-band footprint is advantageous for newsgatherers desiring to upload content because a single beam covers all of Southern Africa. [Spacecom]
Virgin Orbit is one step closer to its first test flight. The company said Tuesday it performed high-speed taxi tests at a California airport of its 747 carrier aircraft with a mockup of its LauncherOne rocket attached to the plane’s left wing. Those taxi tests suggest the first captive carry flight of the system, where the rocket remains attached to the plane, will begin shortly. A series of captive carry flights, culminating in a drop test of the rocket, are planned before the first LauncherOne mission, expected late this year or early next year. [GeekWire]
Maxar Technologies’ MDA Corp. received two new contracts to provide hardware for Germany’s experimental Heinrich Hertz telecom satellite. The contracts with satellite manufacturer OHB and space hardware provider Tesat Spacecom cover communications subsystems for links between Heinrich Hertz and ground-based antennas. Maxar said the contracts are worth more than 15 million Canadian dollars ($11.3 million), and follow an earlier contract from June 2017 for control electronics and other communications systems. [Maxar Technologies]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.