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ESA chief steps into launcher hornet’s nest, gets stung, attempts course correction

PARIS — European Space Agency chief Jan Woerner stepped into the hornet’s nest of European launcher policy on Feb. 11. Predictably, he got stung, and on Feb. 15 he tried to change course. He said he did not mean to cast doubt on ESA’s 2014 decision to invest several billion euros in the new Ariane 6 and upgraded Vega-C rockets. He only wanted to suggest that even as Europe prepares this...

China’s Long March 2D launches GomSpace, Satellogic and Chinese satellites

PARIS — Fast-growing cubesat builder GomSpace and nascent high-resolution/hyperspectral Earth observation constellation operator Satellogic said their combined four satellites launched Feb. 2 aboard a Chinese Long March 2D rocket and are healthy in orbit. The two 8-kilogram GomSpace COMX-4 and and 4b satellites and Satellogic’s Ada and Maryam were part of a seven-satellite complement on...

After Spain, GMV and EU Commission, now comes ESA with investment in PLD Space

PARIS — Microsatellite launcher developer PLD Space of Spain, after key investment backing by veteran ground-segment provider GMV in mid-2017 and further support by the European Commission, said it has won an additional contract from the 22-nation European Space Agency (ESA). The latest contract is small, about 300,000 euros ($350,000) and to continue analysis into the development in Europe of a...

Luxembourg government, private sector on space investment boom and its side effects

PARIS — An Capricorn Investment Group principal downplayed worries of a space-sector investment bubble. The former CEO of DigitalGlobe said there is one and it could be dangerous. Luxembourg’s prime minister said the public-private partnership that created SES remains valid today, and Lockheed Martin’s space chief called for international regulations on space debris. A panel discussion titled...

European satellite launch policy for now remains all booster, no payload

BRUSSELS — European government and industry officials insist they’re closer than ever to agreeing to a Buy European Act for government satellites despite the headlines they expect in the coming weeks as U.S.-based SpaceX launches European government telecommunications and reconnaissance satellites. In the coming days SpaceX is scheduled to launch GovSat-1, a joint venture of fleet operator SES...

Ariane 5 rocket suffers first anomalies in 15 years; consequences for SES minimal, Yahsat unclear

PARIS — Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket on Jan. 25 suffered its first serious anomaly in 15 years but the extent of the damage to its customers — fleet operators SES and Yahsat — was not immediately clear 12 hours after the launch. Launch-service provider Arianespace said both satellite payloads were in orbit and communicating, but the company did not say whether the orbital injection was on...

Kepler Communications breaks ground with Ku-band satellite in LEO; more to come

PARIS — Startup narrowband data-communications satellite constellation operator Kepler Communications of Canada has reached the crucial “bringing into use” milestone for international regulators following the successful Jan. 19 launch of its first satellite aboard a Chinese Long March 11 rocket. It was Canada’s first launch with China and makes Toronto-based Kepler the first commercial operator...

India’s PSLV launch brings relief to Telesat, and $31,700 per kilogram to ISRO’s Antrix

PARIS — India’s PSLV rocket returned from an August failure to successfully place 31 satellites, including three for future commercial constellations, into low Earth orbit on Jan. 12. The mission was a relief not only to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which was able to demonstrate a relatively rapid return to flight after the PSLV fairing failed to separate in August. ISRO...

Arianespace: We fought SpaceX to a draw in commercial orders in 2017

PARIS — The Arianespace launch consortium reported an approximately 7% decline in revenue in 2017 compared to the previous year, saying the weakening of the U.S. dollar — down 14% against the euro for the year — had once again become a headwind. Foreign exchange fluctuations are a big deal for a company whose business is two-thirds commercial and one-third from European governments — a much...

Brazil says ground test of micro-satellite launcher developed with Germany to occur this year

ROCHEFORT-EN-TERRE, France — The Brazilian government has pushed back by one year, to 2019, the planned inaugural flight of its Microsatellite Launch Vehicle, VLM-1, being built under a bilateral cooperation agreement with Germany. In a submission to the United Nations General Assembly as part of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), which the UN published in...

Small-satellite builder AAC Microtec buys cubesat builder Clyde Space for $35 million

PARIS — Swedish small-satellite builder AAC Microtec is buying fast-growing cubesat manufacturer Clyde Space for five times Clyde’s fiscal-year 2017 revenue in the expectation that the combined company will grow to dominate a market growing from $200 million to $3 billion in the coming years. The transaction, which is expected to close by February, makes the Nasdaq First North exchange of Sweden...

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