Space 

Telesat to announce manufacturing plans for LEO constellation in coming months

TORONTO — Telesat, with one demonstration satellite for its planned broadband satellite constellation in orbit, expects to announce plans for manufacturing the full system in the coming months as it seeks partners to help fund its development. Speaking at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 15, Erwin Hudson, vice president of Telesat LEO, said the company was currently reviewing proposals for the 117-satellite constellation submitted by a number of major satellite manufacturers. “We’ve spent the last several months digging through” about 5,000 pages of proposal documents, he said. Those reviews…

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Space 

Canadian Space Agency president not surprised by NASA ISS transition plans

TORONTO — The president of the Canadian Space Agency said he is taking a “wait and see” approach to NASA’s plans to end funding of the International Space Station in the mid-2020s, citing the lack of detail. In an interview after a speech at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 13, Sylvain Laporte said he was not particularly surprised by the plans, included in NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal released the day before. Those plans call for stimulating the development of commercial low Earth orbit capabilities, including those that…

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Space 

UN committee approves space sustainability guidelines

TORONTO — A United Nations committee reached agreement last week on nine guidelines intended to reduce the risk of collisions in space and other harmful space activities. The non-binding guidelines, approved by a working group of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), are intended to improve the long-term sustainability of space. They join 12 other guidelines on the topic approved by the committee in 2016. Speaking at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 13, David Kendall, chairman of COPUOS,…

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Space 

FCC chairman urges approval for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants his agency approve SpaceX’s 15-month-old application to serve the U.S. with its proposed megaconstellation. In a statement released just days before SpaceX launches its first two prototype satellites, Pai urged support of the company’s application within the FCC, saying Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX can help reach rural and isolated parts of the country with high-speed Internet. “To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application — along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S.…

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Space 

Planet sets deadline for Canadian ground station license

TORONTO — Stymied by extended regulatory delays, Planet is planning to remove a ground station it built in Canada if it does not receive a government license for it by June. Speaking at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 13, Mike Safyan, senior director of launch and ground stations for the San Francisco-based company, said Planet was still waiting for the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to decide on a remote sensing license the company needs to operate a ground station it has at Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Planet filed the application…

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Space 

Largest cubesat operators say 25-year deorbit guideline a priority

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Planet and Spire, operators of the two largest commercial cubesat constellations in orbit, say they manage their fleets to prevent retired spacecraft from lingering in space beyond internationally accepted guidelines. Speaking at the SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 7, officials from Planet and Spire said the companies have self-imposed rules to ensure their satellites burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years of shutting down, as suggested by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) committee. Earth-observation company Planet has 200 satellites in low Earth orbit, making its…

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Space 

ESA awards five smallsat launcher study contracts

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — The European Space Agency on Feb. 8 announced five companies will study potential small launch vehicles for the agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). ArianeGroup, MT Aerospace, European Launch Vehicle, Deimos and PLD Space are all proposing “microlaunchers” for dedicated missions to low-Earth orbit that can be “economically viable,” and “commercially self-sustaining” but “without public funding,” ESA said. “A European commercial microlauncher can meet the growing need for dedicated launch services to companies with small satellites,” Jerome Breteau, manager of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme,” said…

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Space 

International ground stations tricky for smallsat operators to license

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Small satellite operators wanting to build ground stations in multiple nations to connect with their satellites are finding it complicated dealing with different sets of regulations. Those regulations vary to the point that trying to establish a ground station in one country might create disagreements between different nations over how those stations are controlled, industry representatives said Feb. 6 at the SmallSat Symposium here. For NOAA’s licensing office for remote sensing satellites, the increasing globalization of the space industry means more countries are starting to regulate…

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Space 

Op-ed | How will the Earth-observation market evolve with the rise of AI?

This op-ed originally appeared in the Jan. 29, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine. For the Earth-observation industry, 2017 was an eventful year. Several trends emerged that could transform the market landscape as profoundly as the proliferation of smallsats already have. We witnessed significant investments in Earth-observation startups leveraging machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, or AI, to extract invaluable insights from the growing abundance of satellite imagery.We also saw the continued transition of Earth-observation satellite operators from merely selling imagery to selling value-added services. Last year, startups building…

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Space 

SoftBank interested in more satellite, OneWeb-related investments

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — SoftBank is actively considering future investments in the satellite industry, including investments related to low-Earth orbit broadband startup OneWeb, the head of SoftBank’s merger and acquisition and corporate finance division said today. Alex Clavel, executive vice president at SoftBank, said the Japanese tech giant, which in December 2016 invested $1 billion in OneWeb, is “very actively looking at new opportunities for OneWeb,” as well as “new opportunities throughout the smallsat space, and advances in manufacturing and communications.” OneWeb is building a first-generation constellation of 900 high-throughput,…

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