OneWeb Satellites Factory

Intelsat announced a “conditional combination agreement” with OneWeb this morning.

Under the agreement, the two companies would merge in a stock transaction, with Japanese technology company SoftBank investing $1.7 billion to reduce Intelsat’s debt.

Intelsat shares soared Monday on news the company was in talks for such a merger.

Intelsat’s shares rose by 25 percent, closing at its highest level since late 2015, after reports that SoftBank was leading discussions about a merger of the two satellite operators.

SoftBank led OneWeb’s $1.2 billion financing round announced in December, while Intelsat is one of OneWeb’s original investors. [Intelsat / SpaceNews / Sky News]

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SpaceX announced Monday it plans to send two private individuals on a commercial circumlunar mission as soon as late 2018. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he had been approached by two unnamed individuals about the flight, which would involve the Falcon Heavy launch of a Dragon 2 spacecraft NASA is developing for the commercial crew program. The flight would go around the moon and return a week after launch. Musk declined to disclose the identity of the individuals or the cost of the mission, but said they paid a “substantial deposit” on the per-person price, which he estimated to be similar to or slightly higher than a trip to the International Space Station. The mission, Musk said, would take place after SpaceX performs its first crewed flights to the ISS. [SpaceNews]

NASA has signed a deal with Boeing for up to five additional Soyuz seats through 2019. The deal, quietly closed last week, covers two Soyuz seats for a fourth U.S. crew member in late 2017 and early 2018, and options for three additional seats in 2019. NASA announced last month that it was considering the unsolicited Boeing proposal. Boeing obtained the seats from RSC Energia as part of a settlement over a suit between the two companies involving Sea Launch. The total value of the contract is $373.5 million, or an average of $74.7 million a seat, about 10 percent less than what NASA is paying Roscosmos in its most recent contract for Soyuz seats. [SpaceNews]

A House vote on a NASA authorization bill is on hold. The House was originally scheduled to vote on the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 on Monday, one of several bills to be considered under a legislative procedure known as suspension of the rules, but the bill was removed from the list released by the House on Monday. Consideration of the bill is reportedly delayed until at least next week, with no reason given for the delay. The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent earlier this month. []

Spacecom has started service using a rebranded AsiaSat satellite to replace the destroyed Amos-6 spacecraft. Spacecom said Monday that Amos-7, a satellite previously known as AsiaSat-8, has started service at 4 degrees west in GEO. Spacecom is leasing the satellite for four years at a total cost of $88 million. The spacecraft will support customers who has been using Amos-2, which is reaching the end of its life. That role was to be filled by Amos-6, a satellite destroyed in a Falcon 9 pad explosion in September. [SpaceNews]

A company planning to provide commercial space situational awareness services has raised $4 million. LeoLabs said Monday that it raised the round to support its effort to track satellites and debris in Earth orbit. The company started operating a phased array radar in Midland, Texas, this month, along with one in Alaska. The radars allow the company to track 94 percent of the objects at least 10 centimeters across in low Earth orbit. The company spun out of SRI International, and its financial backers include Airbus Ventures, the aerospace giant’s early-stage investment group. [SpaceNews]

ESA is looking for smallsats that can fly on a Vega mission in 2018. In an announcement earlier this month, ESA and the European Commission said they were looking for satellites weighing between 1 and 400 kilograms for launch into sun-synchronous orbit in late 2018. The mission is part of ESA’s Small Spacecraft Mission Service program to demonstrate that Vega can be used as a dedicated launcher for clusters of small satellites. [SpaceNews]

Russia’s deputy prime minister told Russia’s space industry to improve its performance. Dmitry Rogozin said that labor productivity at Russian space enterprises “lags several times behind” that of major U.S. space companies and that Russian companies are not running at full capacity. Rogozin said companies needed to increase their output or risk “possible social problems” such as layoffs. [TASS]

If an asteroid hits the Earth, the impact itself likely won’t kill you. A new study estimates that the vast majority of casualties from an impact would come from the blast wave created by overpressure as the asteroid deposits energy into the atmosphere. An ocean impact would create a tsunami that could also cause deaths and injuries far from the impact site. Only about three percent of the people killed by such an impact would die directly due the impact itself and debris thrown up by it. [New Scientist]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...