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


Thales Alenia Space received a contract from Egyptian satellite operator NileSat to build a new geostationary communications satellite. The Franco-Italian manufacturer will build the NileSat-301 satellite using its Spacebus 4000-B2 platform, along with ground control infrastructure. NileSat-301 has a projected weight of 4,100 kilograms and is expected to launch in January 2022. It will eventually replace NileSat-201, which retires in 2028. NileSat-301 has a design life of 15 years. The contract follows a week after the launch of the Egyptian government’s TIBA-1 satellite, for which Thales Alenia Space provided the communications payload. [Egypt Independent/Thales Alenia Space]

Two military communications payloads passed their critical design review, keeping them on track for a December 2022 Falcon 9 launch aboard the semi-commercial Space Norway satellites. The Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization payloads are now cleared to begin production at Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Air Force said Dec. 3. Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has a $410 million contract to develop the payloads, which will provide protected tactical communications over the arctic. Space Norway is including the payloads on its twin Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission satellites, which will also carry communications payloads for the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and British commercial satellite operator Inmarsat. [SMC]

The launch of Saturn Satellite Networks’ first NationSat satellite has slipped to the second quarter of 2021 due to a delay from its launch provider. Saturn CEO Tom Choi said the rest of the small-GEO program is on track. He didn’t name the launch provider, but Saturn Chief Technology Officer Ken Betaharon identified it as SpaceX during a June presentation in Indonesia. Choi estimated the size of the small-GEO market at six or more satellites a year, of which Saturn hopes to win two annually. He said the company is also working on products for low- and medium-Earth orbits. [Via Satellite]


A new study on space debris says that deorbiting low Earth orbit satellites within 25 years of retirement is insufficient to avoid collisions. The University of Southampton study simulated LEO constellation activity over the next 1,000 years and concluded that, for altitudes above 1,000 kilometers, the rate of destructive satellite collisions doubled every 200 to 300 years. “At the beginning of a simulation, catastrophic collisions above 1000 km were occurring roughly every 50 years,” Southampton professor Hugh Lewis said. “By the end, the interval was down to six years despite the fact that only one or two satellites had been added to this region each year.” Lewis said the study also showed an increase in collisions at lower altitudes, since satellites performing deorbiting maneuvers created additional traffic on their way to Earth’s atmosphere. [University of Southampton]

Blue Origin is continuing to expand the number and size of its facilities. The company has opened an office in the Los Angeles area to work on propulsion systems, tapping into the expertise in the area, although only a few of its approximately 700 job openings companywide are for that new office. Blue Origin is continuing to work on an expansion of its headquarters in the Seattle suburb of Kent, as well as a new engine production factory in Huntsville and launch vehicle facilities in Florida. [GeekWire]

Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has selected Satellite Mediaport Services in Great Britain as a ground segment partner for its recently launched Amos-17 satellite. Satellite Mediaport Services will help Spacecom by enabling C- and Ku-band uplinks to Amos-17 for television and broadband internet connections in Africa. Amos-17, a Boeing-built satellite, launched in August on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite’s coverage reaches Europe, Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, including India. [Broadband TV News]

Globalstar says a recent refinancing of its debt should stabilize the company’s finances through the mid-2020s. The company announced last month it borrowed $199 million led by fleet operator EchoStar and Thermo, Globalstar’s largest shareholder, using the money to make three payments toward the company’s French loans and to negotiate more favorable terms for future payments. Globalstar’s revenues had been failing to keep up with loan payments, and efforts to monetize its S-band satellite spectrum for terrestrial applications were taking longer than anticipated. With the refinancing in place, the company believes it will have sufficient cash flow through 2025. [SpaceNews]

Hughes Network Systems received contracts from SES and Speedcast for Jupiter ground segment infrastructure. SES will use a Jupiter system, including data centers and hub equipment, to provide broadband services from SES-17, a satellite Thales Alenia Space is building for a 2021 launch. The satellite is designed to provide Wi-Fi on aircraft and boats, as well as to office buildings and network operators. Speedcast is deploying a Jupiter gateway and 3,000 satellite terminals to provide Wi-Fi in public areas throughout the Philippines as part of a Filipino government program supported by the United Nations. [Hughes Network Systems]

Northrop Grumman believes that its financial stability should be a strength in an Air Force launch competition. In a speech Tuesday, Charlie Precourt, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of propulsion systems, said that its ability to leverage existing assets for its OmegA rocket, along with a diversified product line, means it would not need many Air Force launches to remain a viable supplier. That, he said, would allow it to better deal with future downturns in launch demand than competitors that are more dependent on government and commercial customers for launch services. Northrop is one of four companies competing for two Air Force launch services contracts. [SpaceNews]

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...