No near-term satellite orders for ABS • Amazon joins SIA • Speedcast, Australian Space Agency team up
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Fleet operator ABS expects to wait until 2021 before planning additional satellites. Jim Frownfelter, ABS’s new chief executive, said the company’s current focus is gaining customers for its newest satellites. ABS launched three satellites since 2014 — ABS-2, ABS-2A, and ABS-3A — and canceled a fourth, ABS-8, when the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s 2015 charter lapse undercut financing plans. Frownfelter estimated ABS has a fill rate of 50% to 70% on its most recent three satellites. He estimated it will take roughly five years to fill the capacity on each satellite. [Via Satellite]
Amazon’s Kuiper Systems subsidiary has joined the Satellite Industry Association, a Washington-based trade group that represents the satellite industry on policy matters. Kuiper Systems is preparing a constellation of 3,236 satellites split into three low Earth orbits for high-speed Ka-band broadband internet. The company is joining SIA’s board of directors and is the group’s newest executive member. “We look forward to working with Kuiper and their leadership as the Company prepares to roll out its next-generation high speed satellite broadband and global 5G connectivity services,” Tom Stroup, SIA president, said. [SIA]
Satellite network operator Speedcast has formed a collaborative agreement with the Australian Space Agency. The two gave few details on the nature of the partnership other than that it is focused on growing Australia’s space industry. Speedcast said it will support the agency’s goal of tripling the nation’s space sector in size by 2030. The Australian Space Agency said Speedcast is “opening its supply chain” to partner with local industry and grow Australia’s international market share. [Speedcast/Australian Space Agency]
Software company Bluestaq is creating a space situational awareness marketplace under a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The marketplace, described by SMC as a “digital storefront,” is to function as a central hub connecting Defense Department customers with commercial providers of space situational awareness data. Companies will offer real-time bids in response to customer submissions, from which customers can choose the best product. The marketplace is intended to streamline data acquisition. [SMC]
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a ground station in the neighboring country of Bhutan. The Thimphu Ground Station supports GSAT-9, an Indian satellite launched in 2017 with the stated intention of being a regional gift for nearby countries to use. GSAT-9 is also known as the South Asia Satellite. Bengaluru, India-based Alpha Design Technologies built the ground station in nine months. India is preparing additional ground stations in Nepal, Afghanistan and elsewhere to support satellite communications. [The Wire]
Australian satellite operator Optus is partnering with smallsat company Myriota.Optus, which operates five geostationary satellites covering Australia, said the partnership will combine its “national networks and digital enablement capabilities” with technology Myriota is developing for low-cost connectivity to millions of devices. Myriota is an Australian startup planning a constellation of about 50 smallsats for Internet of Things services. [SpaceNews]
A Chinese satellite launched Monday is still malfunctioning. The Chinasat-18 satellite launched into a geostationary transfer orbit Monday, but Chinese officials said it is suffering “abnormalities” but didn’t disclose details about them. While the launch itself was successful, it was not without its own incident: falling stages from the Long March 3B rocket reportedly killed two cows. [SpaceNews]
Hughes Network Systems has created a new set of products developed with Virtual Network Communications, Inc. (VNC) that combine satellite and cellular connectivity. The products use Hughes Jupiter networking technology and VNC’s deployable LTE technology to support 4G communications. The products are designed for government users, such as militaries and first responders, as well as mobile network operators. VNC is preparing 5G technologies and said it anticipates integrating those with Hughes’ Jupiter platform as well. [Hughes]
Viasat has awarded Blue Canyon Technologies a contract to build a smallsat to demonstrate a military communications terminal. The 12-unit cubesat, equipped with Viasat’s Link 16 terminal, will launch in 2020, according to a contract announced by Blue Canyon Monday. U.S. military and NATO allies rely on Link 16, an encrypted radio frequency, to relay information in a line-of-sight from aircraft, ships and ground vehicles. The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles directorate awarded Viasat a $10 million contract earlier this year to test whether a Link 16 terminal on a small satellite could serve as a communications network relay. [SpaceNews]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.