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U.S. Congress deals blow to commercial satellite launches on Russian Proton, Soyuz rockets, but delays it to 2023

LONDON — The commercial satellite industry dodged a bullet on Nov. 9 when the U.S. Congress stopped just short of barring U.S. Defense Department purchases of services from satellites launched on Russian rockets. Instead, a compromise between the more-aggressive U.S. House version and the Senate version, which contained no such ban, ended up with the restriction still in place, but not taking...

Europe’s Vega ushers Morocco into the group of reconnaissance satellite owners

LONDON — The Kingdom of Morocco on Nov. 7 joined the club of nations with their own space-based intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance systems with the successful launch of the 50-centimeter-resolution Mohammed VI-A satellite. Built by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defense and Space, Mohammed VI-A is the first of two identical spacecraft produced under a 2014 contract with a total value...

Telesat revenue/EBITDA down, backlog/fill-rate up; Telstar 19V satellite’s Ka-band selling well

PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Telesat Canada’s third-quarter results constitute a mixed bag of positive and negative, with revenue and EBITDA down but both backlog and fleet fill rates up. The highlight the quarter was the lease by Bell Canada, of the entire Canadian Ka-band payload on the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite to launch in 2018. Telesat is likely to see a revenue bump in the fourth...

Iridium, its satellites & launches on track, now focusing on cash-flow stability

Key takeaways from Iridium financial filings and investor call: — Iridium secured a lower cost from SpaceX to use previously flown Falcon 9 first stages on the next two Iridium launches. — Iridium has renegotiated payment terms with prime contractor Thales Alenia Space, and won covenant concessions from the French export-credit agency, Bpifrance. — Iridium will look to replace the Bpifrance...

Space Angels counts $519 million in satellite equity investment so far in 2017

PARIS — The commercial space industry is likely to see a record number of investments — both entries and exits — in 2017, with the launch sector dominating the figures because of big-slash financings of Blue Origin and SpaceX, according to angel and venture-capital investor Space Angels. A first look at the numbers suggests that investors have eyes only for rockets, which given the launch...

SES tells satellite builders to prepare for a total rethink of their business

BREMEN, Germany — Satellite fleet operator SES on Oct. 25 served notice to satellite manufacturers that the company its revamping its procurement practices, moving to all-digital payloads, commercial components, and a 50% reduction in satellite service life and launch mass. SES expects to order 4-5 geostationary-orbit satellites per year in the coming years, which may be more than any other...

From satellite fleet operators, a plea for more regulation of satellite mega-constellations

BREMEN, Germany — Current and prospective satellite fleet operators on Oct. 25 made their case to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee for how the U.S. government might help, or at least not hinder, their business. Each of them — SpaceX, OneWeb, ViaSat and Intelsat — had a separate story, but there was at least one common plea: The industry needs more regulation. SpaceX Satellite Government...

Spacecom gets $50-million SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite launch, buys option for 2nd at $62 million

PARIS — Israeli satellite fleet operator Spacecom on Oct. 18 said it had contracted with SpaceX to launch two telecommunications satellites, the Amos-17 in 2019 and an Amos-8 in 2020. Spacecom, whose Amos-6 satellite was destroyed in September 2016 during an on-pad explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during prelaunch testing, said it would use previous Amos-6 launch payments to SpaceX to...

Will insurance force Russia’s Proton rocket out of the commercial satellite business?

TOKYO — In what may be a first in the space industry, the cost of insuring a major veteran commercial-launch vehicle is so much higher than its two competitors as to raise questions about the rocket’s commercial viability. Insurance premiums for launches of International Launch Services’ Russian Proton rocket, which satellite operators and insurers say is a necessary third leg for the commercial...

China Great Wall Industry Corp.: A ‘bumpy’ year for satellite launches, but returning to flight

TOKYO — China’s Long March rocket series has suffered three at least partial failures in the past 10 months on three different rockets — the small Long March 2D, the commercial-geostationary satellite Long March 3B and the new heavy-lift Long March 5. At the APSCC conference here on Oct. 11, China Great Wall Industry Corp. (GCWIC) Executive Vice President Fu Ziheng discussed the status the...

Blue Origin: We’re looking for satellite customer for 1st New Glenn flight; ‘nice pricing’

TOKYO — Being a start-up launch-service provider backed big-time by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos means never having to to financial roadshows or smile to venture-capital investors. That’s the enviable position of Blue Origin, which is honing a space-tourism vehicle called New Shepard and building a very large rocket called New Glenn. Bezos has agreed to invest around $2.5 billion in New Glenn,...

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