To receive FIRST UP Satcom, a weekly SpaceNews newsletter for satellite and telecom professionals, sign up here.


Thales InFlyt’s new CEO Philippe Carette said he wants the company to offer worldwide Ka-band satellite connectivity for aircraft, a service that would position the company as a competitor with Viasat and Inmarsat. Thales InFlyt plans to use capacity on SES-17 in 2021 for service over North America, and Inmarsat’s Global Xpress for the rest of the world. Thales will continue using Global Xpress capacity, but “the need will be there soon” for additional capacity in Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere, he said. Carette said last week’s announcement that Inmarsat will be Panasonic’s exclusive Ka-band supplier for aviation (Panasonic has championed Ku-band) was validating for Thales Inflyt’s Ka-first approach. [Runway Girl Network]

Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit that is building a fleet of 60 plastic collector screens in the Pacific Ocean, will connect its fleet using Iridium satellites for broadband. Iridium said Sept. 25 that it is providing two terminals per screen in order to provide data, imagery and video for the environmental initiative, which aims to halve the amount of plastic debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years. Each plastic collector screen measures 600 meters long and three meters deep, and uses wind and ocean movements to trap plastic that a boat then retrieves for recycling. Iridium service provider The AST Group is providing the satellite operator’s L-band terminals to Ocean Cleanup.  [Iridium]

SES opened a new teleport in the Isle of Man outside the capital city of Douglas. The facility links into SES’ satellite fleet, supporting broadcast, voice and data services. Local telecoms firm Sure provided fiber connectivity to the teleport, and Stewart Clague Services assisted with teleport design, installation, construction and maintenance. SES CEO Steve Collar said in addition to supporting SES’ satellite fleet, the teleport will contribute to broadcasts of the annual International Isle of Man TT motorcycle races and other events. [Isle of Man Government]


Airbus has tested a high-altitude balloon system that it says could one day work as part of an integrated comms network that uses satellite and terrestrial infrastructure. The balloon carried an Airbus LTE AirNode up 21 kilometers, where it was able to cover a 30-kilometer diameter area with secure communications. The test, conducted in Canada with support from the Canadian and French space agencies, showed speeds of 0.5 to 4 Mbps. The balloon supported 4K video streaming to simulate an information, surveillance and reconnaissance mission. [Airbus]

A ThinKom phased array antenna successfully tracked an O3b satellite in medium Earth orbit for 30 minutes during a ground test, ThinKom said Sept. 25. The test precedes a flight demonstration planned for later this year to show the antenna’s ability to auto-track and perform seamless beam switching through aircraft roll, pitch, and yaw motions. ThinKom and Telesat also announced a partnership Sept. 24 to develop Ka-band user terminals for Telesat’s future low-Earth-orbit constellation. ThinKom will use one of its current antennas to run tests with Telesat’s orbiting prototype satellite over the next few months. [ThinKom]

Israeli satellite operator Spacecom confirmed it’s cancelling its Amos-8 contracts, but said little about its future plans. Spacecom said Tuesday it was cancelling the contracts with SSL to build Amos-8 and with SpaceX to launch it. While the Israeli government announced earlier this month an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries to build Amos-8, Spacecom was vague about its plans to replace the destroyed Amos-6 satellite. “The company is examining the program’s feasibilities with several options, including potential joint efforts with the Government of the State of Israel,” it stated. [SpaceNews]

On its 100th mission Tuesday night, an Ariane 5 successfully launched two communications satellites. The Ariane 5 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:38 p.m. Eastern, at the end of its 45-minute launch window because of an issue with ground equipment. The rocket deployed into geostationary transfer orbit the Horizons-3e and Intelsat-38/Azerspace-2 satellites, built by Boeing and Space Systems Loral, respectively. Intelsat is a co-owner of both satellites, with Horizons-3e serving as the final spacecraft in Intelsat’s Epic fleet of high-throughput satellites. [SpaceNews]

MT Mechatronics Germany received a contract from Scisys to build five ground stations for Germany’s Heinrich Hertz satellite. The ground stations, ranging from 7.3 to 13 meters in diameter, are for control of the satellite, including the use and assessment of experiments and new communications technologies. Heinrich Hertz will carry around 20 experimental technologies and a dedicated military payload for the federal armed forces of Germany. Scisys is the prime contractor for the Heinrich Hertz ground segment. OHG Systems is building the satellite for the German Space Agency, DLR, in anticipation of an Ariane 5 launch in 2021 or 2022. [Scisys]

Satellite radio company SiriusXM is acquiring streaming music firm Pandora for $3.5 billion.The all-stock deal, announced Monday, is expected to close in early 2019, pending approval of Pandora’s shareholders. The agreement gives SiriusXM, which provides subscription-based services, a foothold in ad-supported online streaming. SiriusXM gave no indication it would abandon its satellite broadcasting services with this deal. [Los Angeles Times]

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...