Yahsat hires new CFO • Vega launch delayed to August • Tim Peake joins Skyrora advisory board
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Emirati satellite operator Yahsat has appointed a former SES executive as its new chief financial officer, effective July 1. Andrew Cole, SES’s group financial controller from 2015 to 2019, succeeds Yahsat’s retiring CFO Balakrishnan Doraisamy, who worked at Yahsat for close to 12 years. “As we continue to intensify our expansion program across the globe, Andrew’s wealth of experience, especially in the satellite sector, will be highly beneficial to us,” Yahsat CEO Masood M. Sharif Mahmood said in a June 30 statement. Yahsat said Doraisamy will continue to help the company as a strategic advisor. [Yahsat]
A Vega launch postponed by high winds is now facing a long delay. Arianespace announced early Wednesday that it has pushed back the small launch vehicle’s upcoming mission, carrying 53 smallsats, until at least Aug. 17. The company cited “exceptionally unfavorable” upper-level winds that scrubbed several previous launch attempts in June for the delay, saying there was no sign of improved conditions in the near term. Arianespace will turn its attention to its next Ariane 5 launch, carrying satellites for Intelsat and B-SAT, scheduled for July 28. [Arianespace]
The European Space Agency is preparing to test satellites that use flat, “reflectarray” antennas instead of parabolic dishes. Curved antennas are one of the bulkiest elements of a satellite, according to ESA, making them expensive. Reflectarrays use software ESA developed with Danish company TICRA to guide radio frequency signals that would otherwise need a concave surface for pointing. ESA will test its first reflectarray satellite, the GomX-5 cubesat from GomSpace, in 2022. A second mission, ESA’s Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer, will launch a year or two later, according to the agency. Both satellites will use triple-panel reflectarrays that unfold in space to provide communications. [ESA]
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has established a business unit devoted to the space industry. The new “Aerospace and Satellite Solutions” unit brings together its existing cloud computing business serving customers such as Capella Space, Lockheed Martin and Maxar, and its AWS Ground Station service. AWS’s push into the space sector may result in increased competition with rival Microsoft, whose Azure cloud business already has satellite operators Intelsat, Inmarsat, SES and Viasat as customers. [SpaceNews]
A cubesat on Rocket Lab’s July 3 mission will carry an experimental payload from Airbus that can detect when radars are tracking the satellite’s location. Faraday-1, a satellite from In Space Missions Ltd, will carry Airbus’ Prometheus-1 reprogrammable radio, which can survey radio spectrum usage across the world from orbit. By passively monitoring radio frequency sensing, Prometheus-1 will test the ability to detect potentially hostile satellite tracking. The radio will also be able to detect and locate signals from search and rescue beacons. Airbus plans to launch a second mission, Prometheus-2, in the latter half of 2021, consisting of cubesats with multiple sensors and inter-satellite links. [Airbus]
British astronaut Tim Peake has joined the advisory board of Skyrora, a U.K. small launch startup developing suborbital and orbital rockets. Skyrora said Peake’s experience as an ESA astronaut, a former International Space Station crew member, and a British Army Air Corps officer will be “invaluable” to the company. Skyrora plans a first launch of its suborbital Skylark-L in 2021, followed by an inaugural orbital mission with its Skyrora XL rocket in 2023. [Skyrora]
Swiss insurance company Helvetia has established a new team focused on providing insurance to the space sector. Jan Schmidt, the former head of Swiss Re’s space insurance division, will lead Helvetia’s team. Helvetia said it will concentrate on launch and in-orbit insurance, providing a maximum coverage of $25 million. Swiss Re shuttered its space insurance division last year after a string of high-profile satellite and launch failures put pressure on the insurance market. [Helvetia]
Two satellite operators argue that new C-band satellites, subsidized by the FCC as part of a spectrum-clearing process, could put them at a disadvantage. In a letter to the FCC this week, Hughes Network Systems and Inmarsat asked the FCC to ensure that payments it provides to Intelsat and SES to cover the cost of new C-band satellites serving the United States are not used to subsidize the cost of deploying new satellite capacity in frequency bands besides C-band or capacity in markets outside the United States. The FCC, under the rules governing a spectrum auction set for December, is requiring winning bidders to cover the costs of satellite operators vacating 300 megahertz of the band, which could be as much as $5.2 billion. Hughes and Inmarsat have no C-band satellites, but the operators are asking the FCC to avoid unintentionally reshaping the commercial satcom market to favor the two largest geostationary satellite fleet operators in the world. [SpaceNews]
British trade group UKspace has appointed an Inmarsat executive as its new leader. Nick Shave, Inmarsat’s vice president for strategic programs will serve as chair of the group for a two-year term. Shave said the U.K. space industry will work with the British government to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and boost the nation’s share of global space sector revenues. UKspace also selected John Hanley, the vice president of consulting services for space, defence and intelligence at CGI’s U.K. division, as its vice chair. UKspace’s custom is to promote the vice chair to the chair position, positioning Hanley to take the role in July 2022. [Inmarsat]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.