Intelsat ends debt swap efforts, likely leading to a collapse of its planned merger with OneWeb
The company announced early Thursday that it was unable to work out deals with bondholders to exchange current bonds with new ones that would lower the company’s overall debt load.
That debt swap was a condition of a planned investment by Japan’s SoftBank as part of a merger with OneWeb announced earlier this year.
Intelsat said that it expects OneWeb and SoftBank to terminate the deal, but added the companies will continue to honor a commercial agreement to jointly develop integrated solutions.
In early trading on European exchanges, shares in Eutelsat, Inmarsat and SES all rose on speculation they could become new takeover targets for SoftBank. [Intelsat / Reuters]
An H-2A rocket successfully launched a Japanese navigation satellite Wednesday night. The H-2A lifted off at 8:17 p.m. Eastern from the Tanegashima Space Center and placed the Michibiki satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit a half-hour later. The spacecraft is the second in Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, which will augment the GPS system to provide service in urban areas and other locations where buildings or terrain block GPS signals. [Spaceflight Now]
SpaceX is ready to launch its first reused Dragon spacecraft today on a mission to the International Space Station. Launch of the Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. Eastern from the Kennedy Space Center. This Dragon first flew on a cargo mission in 2014, and was then refurbished to fly again. Some components, such as the spacecraft’s heat shield, were replaced, but the company said the “majority” of the spacecraft has previously flown. The Dragon is carrying more than 2,700 kilograms of cargo, primarily scientific investigations and related hardware, to the station. [SpaceNews]
Stratolaunch rolled out its giant aircraft for its air-launch system for the first time. The aircraft moved out of its hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California Wednesday in preparation for ground tests in the coming weeks and months, followed by flight tests. The twin-fuselage aircraft is the largest in the world by wingspan, and is powered by six jet engines. Stratolaunch, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, originally developed the aircraft to serve as the platform for a rocket that could launch medium-class payloads, but the company initially plans to use it for launching the far smaller Pegasus XL from Orbital ATK. [SpaceNews]
United Launch Alliance is laying off more than 40 people at a Texas factory, raising questions about that facility’s future. The company is expected to lay off 26 union workers and 17 non-union employees at its Harlingen, Texas, factory, leaving about 75 employees there. The factory makes components for the Atlas 5, and union officials there said they have been told they will not be involved in ULA’s next-generation rocket, the Vulcan. [Brownsville (Texas) Herald]
British space companies may need to establish subsidiaries elsewhere in Europe to remain involved in some European space programs after Brexit. ESA Director General Jan Woener said in an interview that British firms may have problems remaining part of space programs funded by the European Union, such as Copernicus and Galileo, unless they have subsidiaries in countries that remain part of the EU. That would not be needed for ESA-funded programs, as Britain will remain a member of the space agency even after withdrawing from the EU. [Reuters]
NASA has renamed an upcoming mission to the sun after a space scientist. NASA said Wednesdaythat its Solar Probe Plus spacecraft will now be known as the Parker Space Probe, after University of Chicago physicist Eugene Parker. In the 1950s, Parker predicted the existence of the solar wind and shape of the sun’s magnetic field, which NASA spacecraft confirmed in the 1960s. It’s the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living scientist. The spacecraft is on schedule for launch in mid-2018. [SpaceNews]
Ruag Space has opened a new factory in Alabama. The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday on the 130,000-square-foot factory in Decatur, Alabama, near ULA’s rocket assembly facility there. Ruag Space plans to hire 100 people to work at the factory to make composite structures for launch vehicles. [Huntsville (Ala.) Times]
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says he will resign from councils advising President Trump should he decide to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Musk said in a tweet Wednesday he would have “no choice but to depart councils” such as the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum if Trump decides to withdraw the U.S. from the climate change deal. Trump plans to announce his decision on the agreement this afternoon. [Politico]
Alaska Aerospace Corp. has “turned the corner” and found new business. The company hit a low point in 2014 when a failed missile test damaged its launch complex on Kodiak Island. That facility has been rebuilt and the company has found additional business, including providing range support for Rocket Lab’s recent Electron launch from New Zealand. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker recently released $2.2 million earmarked for launch site improvements. [AP]
Weather has postponed the launch of a sounding rocket that could provide a early morning display in East Coast skies. NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility said high upper level winds forced them to postpone this morning’s scheduled launch of a Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket until Friday morning between 4:26 and 4:41 a.m. Eastern. The rocket will create blue-green and red artificial clouds that may be seen from North Carolina to New York as part of studies of upper atmospheric conditions. [NASA/Wallops]
The Lego Saturn 5 rocket kit is on sale, but be prepared to spend plenty of time building it. In one demonstration, it took two people a little more than four hours to build the rocket, which features 1,969 pieces and stands one meter tall. The process of building the rocket was a lot of work but “remained thoroughly enjoyable.” The kit goes on sale today for $119.99, although as of early this morning was already backordered by up to 30 days. [Ars Technica / Lego]