Credit: Screen Capture of Audacy - SpaceConnected video

A Silicon Valley startup is planning a space-based communications network for cubesats.

Audacy is wrapping up a $15 million Series A funding round, and plans to eventually raise $750 million to build three satellites and two ground stations.

That system, the company believes, can support communications for up to 2,000 cubesats in Earth orbit, and could be extended to support missions in cislunar space. The company hopes to have its system fully operational by 2019. []

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A Chinese venture is planning a global mobile broadband satellite system. APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong is partnering with mainland Chinese institutions on a joint venture called APT Mobile Satcom Ltd. to develop a network of three high-throughput satellites in geostationary orbit. The satellites would provide broadband services primarily for the aeronautical and maritime markets. APT hasn’t disclosed the total cost of the system and whether it would operate in Ka- or Ku-band. [SpaceNews]

SpaceX will spend about $300 million of its own money on its Red Dragon Mars mission, NASA estimates. In a presentation to a NASA Advisory Council committee meeting Tuesday, an agency official said that NASA will spend about $30 million to support its contributions to a Space Act Agreement with SpaceX, providing advice and other support in a variety of areas. NASA estimates SpaceX is matching than on a 10-to-1 basis, putting SpaceX’s costs for the mission on the order of $300 million. Red Dragon will land a Dragon spacecraft on the surface of Mars, with launch on a Falcon Heavy scheduled for May 2018, a schedule NASA considers “extremely aggressive.” [SpaceNews]

Telesat reported an increase in revenue and gross profit in its latest quarter.The Canadian satellite operator said Tuesday reported revenue of US$178.4 million in the quarter ending June 30, an increase of 1 percent over the same quarter of 2015 after accounting for the increase in value of the U.S. dollar over the Canadian dollar. The company said it recently won a major contract to provide Ku-band capacity on its upcoming Telstar 19V satellite for a Brazilian customer. [SpaceNews]

An Atlas 5 was rolled out to the pad Tuesday for a launch Thursday morning.The Atlas 5 421 is scheduled to launch at 8:37 a.m. Eastern on Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral, carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. Weather forecasts remain favorable for the launch. [Spaceflight Now]

Jeff Bezos and Neil deGrasse Tyson have joined a Pentagon advisory board.The two are among 15 members of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, who will provide advice on how the Defense Department can adopt Silicon Valley culture and technologies. Bezos is founder of Blue Origin and Tyson is an astrophysicist and science communicator. The two are the only members of the board with strong space backgrounds. [SpaceNews]

International Launch Services has hired a new senior director of sales. Kevin Reyes joins the company from Boeing, where he worked in Asian and European business development for Boeing Network and Space Systems and customer engineering for Sea Launch and Delta launch services. At ILS, Reyes will be responsible for sales and business development activities for the Proton and Angara rockets in the Asia-Pacific region. [ILS]

Mud may be responsible for the lack of large craters on the dwarf planet Ceres.Planetary scientists expected to find 10 to 15 impact craters at least 400 kilometers wide on its surface, but images from NASA’s Dawn mission spotted no craters bigger than 280 kilometers across. Scientists believe that a mix of ice and clay in Ceres’ outer layer creates a kind of mud that causes large impact craters to relax and fade away, resulting on large depressions that are seen in the Dawn data. [New Scientist]

Today is the formal end of the mission for Europe’s comet lander Philae.Mission controllers will instruct the Rosetta comet orbiter to turn off the system that relays communications with Philae, formally ending efforts to restore contact with the lander. Philae landed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014 and communicated for about two and a half days before exhausting its batteries. Although engineers did detect sporadic signals from the lander in mid-2015, they were unable to restore full contact with the lander and resume its science mission. Rosetta’s mission will end in late September, when it descends to the surface of the comet. [Nature News]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...