OHB and Surrey Satellite have won a contract for another eight Galileo navigation satellites.
The companies signed the contract Thursday with the European Space Agency, which procures the satellites on behalf of the EU.
The companies won the contract despite Brexit-related complications for U.K.-based SSTL, which will require some kind of agreement to allow the company to continue working on classified parts of the Galileo payload after the country exits the EU. [BBC]
The leadership of the Air Force and key members of the House Armed Services Committee are at odds over establishing a “Space Corps.” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, pushed back against criticism of his Space Corps proposal by the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff. At a markup of a defense authorization bill Thursday, Rogers responded to Air Force comments that a Space Corps was not needed. “I have to say I’ve been shocked by the response by the Air Force leadership,” he said, saying he would press ahead with language in the bill that would create a Space Corps within the Air Force. [SpaceNews]
OneWeb has won FCC approval for its broadband satellite constellation. The FCC said Thursday it approved plans by OneWeb to provide broadband services in the United States, a key milestone in the company’s development of its satellite system. The FCC added it is examining several other applications for satellite constellations to provide similar services in the U.S. [Washington Post]
India launched a PSLV carrying 31 satellites overnight. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Thursday night. The rocket placed into a sun-synchronous orbit a Cartosat-2 Earth imaging satellite as well as 30 smallsat secondary payloads, including eight satellites for Spire and three for Sky and Space Global. [The Hindu]
Layoffs have hit Space Systems Loral because of a downturn in commercial satellite orders. The company confirmed Thursday it laid off employees at its California manufacturing facility, citing an “extended slowdown” in orders for commercial GEO satellites. The company declined to say how many people were laid off, but a source familiar with the layoffs said eight percent of the company’s more than 2,000 employees were affected. Other satellite manufacturers have also reported weak demand for GEO satellites, not expecting the market to rebound until 2018 or 2019. [SpaceNews]
The CEO of BulgariaSat said the launch of his venture’s first satellite would not be possible without SpaceX. Maxim Zayakov said the reduced launch costs offered by SpaceX made the satellite project feasible. The SSL-built satellite is scheduled for launch this afternoon on a Falcon 9 from Florida. [Spaceflight Now]
ESA has started funding a new reusable engine. The agency has provided a first tranche of funding for Prometheus, an engine being developed by ArianeGroup that uses liquid oxygen and methane propellants and promises to cost one-tenth the price of the Vulcain 2 engine used on the Ariane 5. Prometheus is on track to begin test firings in 2020, although ESA does not contemplate using it in future launch vehicles until 2030. [SpaceNews]
SpaceX is looking to lease more property at Port Canaveral for storing recovered rocket boosters. The company is seeking to lease 2.2 acres of property at the port, where it would construct a 67,000-square-foot hangar. SpaceX is already leasing a 50,000-square-foot building at the port to store and refurbish Falcon 9 first stages. [Orlando Sentinel]
NASA has kicked off an independent review of its next flagship astronomy mission, WFIRST. The agency announced Thursday the membership of the review panel, which will examine any cost and schedule issues with the spacecraft. That review will postpone plans to move the mission into Phase B of development, previously scheduled for this fall. A report last year warned of potential cost increases for WFIRST that could adversely affect other NASA astrophysics programs. [SpaceNews]
ESA is seeking to privatize its Space Rider uncrewed spaceplane under development. Space Rider is being developed by Thales Alenia Space and Lockheed Martin, with a first test flight scheduled for 2020 on a Vega-C rocket. Five more test flights would follow as Arianespace, who would operate the spaceplane commercially, decides how many reusable vehicles to build for commercial flights. ESA foresees using Space Rider to fly microgravity research and other payloads for an estimated $9,200 per kilogram. [SpaceNews]
An ESA initiative with industry will look for roles satellites can play in 5G networks. The Satellite for 5G initiative, planned for 2018 through 2020, would examine the roles satellites, both in low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit, can play in supporting 5G networks. The upcoming demonstrations as part of the initiative will focus on various 5G applications such as connected transport solutions, public safety and entertainment. [SpaceNews]