Isotropic, Avanti test antenna • Atlas Space to link Aevum launches • Globalstar, Nokia partner on African connectivity

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Isotropic Systems has completed two-way communications tests of its electronically steered antenna using Avanti’s Hylas-4 satellite. The tests, announced Nov. 12, included voice calls, online gaming, emails and other transfers of digital traffic. Isotropic Systems said the tests showed its modular antennas can maintain links with satellites at lower angles than flat-panel and phased-array antennas it expects to compete with. Isotropic Systems didn’t include a product release date in its testing announcement. In January the company estimated its first products will be ready in 2021. [Isotropic Systems]

Smallsat launch startup Aevum has selected Atlas Space Operations to provide ground station communications for future flights of its drone-launched rockets. Atlas Space Operations, which is building a network of 31 ground stations around the world, will provide telemetry, tracking and command data during Aevum launches, the first of which is planned for 2021. Atlas Space Operations said the deal also positions the company to provide ground communications for Aevum customers after payload separation. [Atlas Space Operations]

U.S. satellite operator Globalstar and Nokia have teamed up to provide communications solutions in Africa. The two companies collaborated on a product that links Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud platform using Globalstar’s S-band spectrum for terrestrial LTE services. Globalstar has market access to use its S-band spectrum for terrestrial networks in South Africa, Mozambique, Gabon, Botswana, and Rwanda. Nokia has become a value-added reseller for Globalstar through their partnership. [Globalstar]

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Constellation startup Kepler Communications and satellite terminal provider Cobham have launched a trial service where prospective customers can link to Kepler’s satellites using Cobham terminals. Kepler and Cobham have started marketing a “User Terminal-as-a-Service” offering based on monthly payments for equipment and maintenance costs. Kepler has two of a planned 140 Internet-of-Things satellites in low Earth orbit. Kepler and Cobham have demonstrated connections with speeds reaching 40 megabits per second for downlinks and 120 megabits per second for uplinks. [Kepler]

BlackSky announced Tuesday it has secured a $50 million loan from Intelsat for its geospatial data system. BlackSky said the Intelsat funding will finance its infrastructure and product development for commercial and government customers. BlackSky is developing a constellation of imaging satellites, whose data will be used to create information products. BlackSky and Intelsat are also establishing a commercial partnership to jointly develop data and imagery products to be distributed via Intelsat’s communications services, while Intelsat will gain access to new markets and customers that will be moving content through their networks. [SpaceNews]

Gilat Satellite Networks has received a five-year, $10 million contract to expand a Peruvian network through 3G and 4G cellular backhaul. Gilat said the contract is for a large mobile infrastructure operator whose network infrastructure Gilat has begun operations. Gilat has in the past built communications infrastructure in Peru funded by Peru’s Telecommunications Investment Fund, Fitel. The new contract will help the unnamed mobile network operator reach geographically difficult regions of the country, Gilat said. [Developing Telecoms/Gilat]

OneWeb and its largest investor, SoftBank, are seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Intelsat. That suit, filed in a New York court in September, argued that OneWeb and SoftBank breached contracts, committed fraud and conspired to steal confidential and proprietary information. OneWeb terminated a deal with Intelsat where Intelsat would have exclusive rights to OneWeb’s capacity in four industry sectors. OneWeb and SoftBank say the suit should be dismissed since a finalized purchase agreement and a service-level agreement was never reached. [SpaceNews]

Qatari television operator BeIN Media says its content is still being pirated by beoutQ, but is now transferred over terrestrial infrastructure instead of satellites. BeIN MENA’s director of programming, Duncan Walkinshaw, says the company believes illegal satellite broadcasts may resume after beoutQ completes a series of upgrades, based on information the piracy operation has shared on social media. Anti-piracy experts Cisco, Nagra and Overon say beoutQ is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and broadcasts using Arabsat satellites — claims Saudi Arabia and the Riyadh-based satellite operator have denied. [DigitalTVEurope]

Lab tests suggest that orbital debris models may be underestimating the amount of small, untrackable debris. A satellite mock-up, called DebrisSat, was hit with a projectile fired by a hypervelocity gun to simulate a collision with orbital debris. That test found a far larger amount of millimeter-scale debris was created than expected based on satellite breakup models, perhaps because of differences in materials used in spacecraft today. Those findings could increase the risk of damage to spacecraft from orbital debris, and could explain the greater than expected amount of “micro-debris” impacts seen on shuttle orbiters during their missions. [Technology Review]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.