FIRST UP Satcom | Six Protons and an Angara launching this year • Airbus invests $25M in German plant

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TOP STORIES

Russia plans to conduct six Proton launches this year, as well as a second flight of the Angara 5A, according to Khrunichev, the manufacturer for both rockets. The Angara 5A mission is scheduled for December 2019. The rocket launched for the first and only time so far in 2014 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos, had previously tweeted that the Angara 5A launch would be this summer. Russia plans to start tests of the Angara A5V, a variant with more lift capacity, in 2026 at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. [TASS]

Airbus plans to spend 25 million euros ($28.2 million) revamping facilities in Germany for solar array production and optical satellite instruments. The upgrades include expanding a solar array production facility from 800 square meters to 5,500 square meters, and introducing a robotic assembly line. Airbus said the improvements should halve time and costs, safeguard 170 jobs, and position the company for work on constellations of satellites. [Airbus]

Sky Perfect JSAT CEO Shinji Takada will step down from his position April 1following a decision by the Japanese satellite operator’s board of directors. The company cited the need to “promptly respond to changes in the business environment surrounding SKY Perfect JSAT Group and to achieve further growth through a new structure.” Takada’s successor is Eiichi Yonekura, who was previously representative director and senior executive vice president at JSAT. Yonekura joined JSAT in June 2018, having previously worked at the trading giant Itochu Corporation. [JSAT]

MORE STORIES

Arianespace will include a cubesat deployer from British startup Open Cosmos on a Soyuz mission scheduled near the end of the year. The Open Cosmos platform will have a total capacity of 12 “one-unit” cubesats, split among multiple satellites. Arianespace will release the cubesats into a sun-synchronous orbit above 500 kilometers. The main payloads for the Soyuz mission are the Italian Space Agency’s Cosmo-SkyMed second-generation radar satellite and the European Space Agency’s exoplanet telescope CHEOPS. The launch will also carry two cubesats for the French space agency CNES. [Arianespace]

Gilat will pay shareholders a dividend this quarter even as it reserves money for acquisitions and other investments. The Israeli provider of satellite networking and related hardware said $25 million in dividends will still give the company ample reserves for potential acquisitions and increasing R&D work. That R&D work is focused on ways to support 5G networks and broadband satellite constellations. [SpaceNews]

Dutch Internet of Things startup Hiber tested one of its cubesats at the European Space Agency’s Hertz antenna chamber in the Netherlands. Hiber has two of a planned 48 satellites in orbit. The Netherlands Space Office arranged for Hiber’s recent satellite test with ESA. Maarten Engelen, Hiber’s chief technology officer, said the company hopes to find ways to improve the spectral efficiency of its satellites “resulting in firmware upgrades to our terminals as well as guiding our follow-on satellite designs.” Dutch smallsat specialist Innovative Solutions In Space has built Hiber’s cubesats. [ESA]

Spanish satellite operator Hispasat has been sold for $1.1 billion. Spanish power company Red Eléctrica Corporación announced an agreement Tuesday to buy the 89.7 stake in Hispasat owned by Abertis. Red Eléctrica says the acquisition will transform the power company into a leading telecommunication company in Spain, while Abertis said the sale of Hispasat was part of a divestiture strategy to allow it to focus on its primary business of operating toll roads. The sale will require approval from regulatory bodies and Spain’s Council of Ministers, which the companies expect to obtain by the second quarter. [SpaceNews]

German satellite manufacturer OHB received ESA funding to create a methodology for designing multifunctional satellite components, the company said Feb. 11. OHB and its partners will use advanced manufacturing technologies and lightweight materials to design satellite structural and payload parts. The company did not state the size of the contract, which started in December and concludes at the end of 2019. OHB Czechspace in the Czech Republic and Rhea Group in Belgium are partners on the project.

The companies bidding on Telesat’s broadband constellation are considering setting up manufacturing operations in Canada. Airbus and a Maxar-Thales Alenia team are the finalists for the contract to build the Telesat LEO system that would ultimately feature nearly 300 satellites. The two teams said they’re exploring options to produce the satellites in Canada as an incentive to Ottawa-based Telesat. A final decision is expected from Telesat later this year. [SpaceNews]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.