ILS Proton arrives at Baikonur • Kepler, Kymeta test antenna • GSMA takes aim at satellite spectrum
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A Proton rocket for International Launch Services’ (ILS) first and only mission of the year has arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome for a Q4 2019 launch. The rocket, built by ILS’s parent company Khrunichev, is undergoing preparations to launch Eutelsat Communications’ Eutelsat 5 West B satellite and Northrop Grumman’s first Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1. Eutelsat 5 West B will replace Eutelsat 5 West A, covering Southern Europe and North Africa. MEV-1 will provide life extension services for an Intelsat satellite starting in 2020. [TASS/Eutelsat/Intelsat]
Canadian startup Kepler Communications linked its two demonstration satellites with an electronically steered antenna from Kymeta in a series of trials. The tests demonstrated the antenna’s ability to track the low Earth orbit satellites and repeatedly achieve 15 megabits per second downlinks and 5 megabit per second uplinks, Kepler said. Kepler is designing a constellation of nanosatellites for Internet of Things connectivity. Its first two satellites can move gigabits of data around the planet by storing data and downlinking to ground stations when visible. [Kepler Communications]
Cellular operators are gearing up for a battle with the satellite industry to allow terrestrial 5G signals in millimeter-wave frequencies. The GSM Association estimates that using millimeter waves — spectrum above 24 gigahertz — for terrestrial 5G would trigger $565 billion in economic growth, equivalent to 2.9% of global gross domestic product growth by 2034. Brett Tarnutzer, head of spectrum at the GSMA, described the space industry’s stance on millimeter waves as “overly protectionist.” Regulators will decide on spectrum allocations at the World Radiocommunication Conference from Oct. 28 to Nov. 22 in Egypt. [GSMA]
Intelsat believes an external event, and not a design flaw, disabled one of its satellites earlier this year. The company announced Tuesday that investigators concluded either a harness flaw in conjunction with electrostatic discharge linked to solar weather activity, or a micrometeorid impact, caused the sudden failure of the Intelsat 29e satellite in April. The investigation appeared to rule out an issue with the design of the Boeing-built satellite that could affect other Intelsat satellites. Intelsat stated that it concluded there was a “very low risk” of a similar problem occurring on those other satellites. [SpaceNews]
Spacecom says it has learned lessons from the loss of its last two satellites, and hopes the upcoming launch of its Amos-17 satellite will mark the beginning of a rebound. Amos-17 launches Aug. 3 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite had a budget of $250 million, including manufacturing, insurance and launch. Amos-17 will provide communications services over Africa, expanding the Israeli satellite operator’s fleet to four. Spacecom lost contact with a satellite in 2015, and lost another in 2016 when its Falcon 9 rocket exploded days before launch. [Reuters]
A Soyuz rocket launched a Russian military communications satellite July 30 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The launch, conducted under the supervision of the Russian Space Forces, carried a Meridian satellite into a highly elliptical orbit for polar coverage. Russia’s military said the launch was successful. The launch was the tenth of a Soyuz rocket this year. [Spaceflight Now]
Australian small launch startup Gilmour Space says its One Vision suborbital rocket failed seven seconds after liftoff Monday because of a third-party component. Gilmour Space traced the cause to a malfunctioning pressure regulator inside the rocket’s oxidizer tank. While the launch was unsuccessful, the test mission did provide a chance to use the company’s mobile launch platform and mission control center. Gilmour Space says the mobile platform enables it to launch from anywhere in Australia. The company plans to launch an enhanced suborbital rocket “in the near future” to test more technologies for future orbital launches. [Gilmour Space]
The launch of a suborbital rocket by a Japanese company failed on Saturday.Interstellar Technologies’ Momo-4 rocket malfunctioned shortly after takeoff Saturday from a launch site on the island of Hokkaido, reaching a peak altitude of 13 kilometers before falling into the sea. The company suffered two launch failures of the sounding rocket in 2017 and 2018 before the Momo-3 rocket flew to 113 kilometers on a successful flight in May. [Kyodo]
Chinese commercial launch company iSpace plans to increase its launch rate now that it has successfully reached orbit. The company’s Hyperbola-1 rocket successfully launched several payloads into low Earth orbit last week, making it the first private country in China to reach orbit. With that sucecss under its belt, iSpace says it will perform up to eight launches next year. It was also critical of other Chinese startups that have tried and failed to reach orbit: “If you don’t have a rocket that can go into orbit, that shows that you don’t have a product. What business model can you speak of then?” a company vice president said. [Reuters]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.