FIRST UP Satcom | Telstra stirs NBN privatization talk • Mynaric lands supplier deal with constellation venture

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Australian government officials say it is too early to speculate about the privatization of NBN Co. despite an unsolicited offer from Telstra to eventually buy the public telecommunications company. NBN Chairman Ziggy Switkowski estimated NBN should be worth around $50 billion in the early 2020s, but cautioned that modeling privatization scenarios may not be useful until the network is complete. Another factor would be if NBN privatization included splitting up the business’ fixed wireless and satellite divisions, or segmenting by geography, he said. “I think [any sale of the NBN] will happen later rather than earlier,” he said. [ITNews]

German laser communications company Mynaric signed a memorandum of understanding with an undisclosed constellation venture planning a system of “several hundred satellites” in low Earth orbit. Mynaric said the full constellation will likely require upwards of 1,000 laser communications terminals, and that it is in close collaboration with the constellation’s satellite manufacturer. The constellation venture’s demonstration satellites, planned to launch late next year, will carry Mynaric laser products. [Mynaric]

Smallsat constellation startup Sky and Space Global (SAS) said it has begun construction and integration of its operational nanosatellite fleet with manufacturer GomSpace after completing a preliminary design review. SAS said Oct. 22 the communications nanosatellites, known as Pearls, passed the review, keeping the constellation of around 200 satellites on track for completion in 2020. The first launch of Pearl satellites is planned for next year. [SAS]

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Telesat and Global Eagle successfully connected an aircraft with a prototype satellite in low Earth orbit, conducting multiple video-conference sessions and demonstrating a roundtrip signal latency of 19 milliseconds, less than a twentieth the time a geosynchronous signal takes to complete its trip. The test included live switching between Telesat’s LEO prototype and its geosynchronous Anik F3 satellite using Gilat modems. Telesat is planning a constellation of almost 300 satellites for global broadband connectivity. [Global Eagle]

SpaceX has five more Falcon 9 launches planned for the rest of 2018. The company’s current launch manifest calls for a Falcon 9 launch of the Es’hail 2 communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in mid-November, followed a few days later by the SSO-A smallsat rideshare mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base. In December, SpaceX will launch a Dragon cargo mission and the first GPS 3 satellite from Florida before ending the year with the final Iridium launch from California. If the company maintains that schedule, it will end the year with 22 launches, a new company record but short of earlier goals of as many as 30 launches. [NASASpaceFlight.com]

Spanish space hardware supplier Sener received a contract Oct. 24 from the European Space Agency to further develop an electric propulsion system it is building with UC3M, the Leonardo Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Sener and UC3M are continuing work on the helicon plasma thruster, a propulsion system expected to have a higher thrust-to-power ratio per unit than other electric propulsion systems such as Hall Effect thrusters. The ESA contract funds the production of an engineering model for an in-orbit demonstration in 2022. Sener and UC3M test-fired a prototype in 2015. [Sener]

A group of satellite operators has increased the amount of C-band spectrum it’s offering to terrestrial providers. The C-Band Alliance announced Monday that it is willing to transfer 200 megahertz of C-band spectrum for 5G mobile services, double its original proposal. The terrestrial operators who would receive the spectrum would compensate the satellite operators for the costs of shifting satellite customers to other bands. The increased offer came after many in industry, as well as one FCC commissioner, argued that the original proposal of 100 megahertz would be inadequate for 5G services. [SpaceNews]

Satellite antenna company Kymeta tested a communications network that used both satellite and cellular connectivity along the New Mexico border. The test, according to Kymeta, helps advance “hybridized” services that make use of different communications infrastructure. Kymeta relied on satellite connectivity from SES, and blended cellular LTE connectivity through a Cradlepoint router. Federal agents used TrellisWare radios to connect to the network from a moving vehicle. [Kymeta]

Increased government demand is aiding the bottom line for Thales Group’s space business. The company said that “institutional” business from European governments has compensated for a drop in demand for commercial communications satellites. Thales reported 3.04 billion euros in aerospace revenue in the first nine months of 2018, roughly unchanged from the same period of 2017. [SpaceNews]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.