China completes its own satellite positioning system and other satellite industry news

China successfully launches all satellites that make up its own satellite positioning system

On June 23, China Aerospace Exploration Group (CASC) announced that it launched a positioning satellite, Beidou (BD3 GEO-3), into geosynchronous orbit with a long-distance 3B rocket. With this launch, all the satellites that make up the Beidou Satellite Positioning System (BDS), which is China’s own positioning system, have been put into orbit.

This will allow China to operate its own satellite positioning system (GNSS) that is independent of the GPS operated by the United States.

BDS is a satellite positioning system that utilizes three types of orbits, such as medium orbit, IGSO orbit, and geostationary orbit. With 35 satellites configured, Beidou has become the most active positioning satellite in the world. (31 GPS and 22 Galileo)

Since BDS is capable of providing positioning and navigation services to the world, it has joined GPS in the US, GLONASS in Russia, and Galileo in Europe to become the fourth global satellite positioning system.

BDS is expected to be used for civilian purposes as well as for military purposes in China.

SPACE WALKER succeeds in raising finance

SPACE WALKER Co., Ltd., which is engaged in the production of suborbital space planes , announced that it has recently raised 155 million yen . As a result, the company’s total funding has reached 525 million yen.

This time, they are using convertible equity, which is ideal for raising venture companies during the seed period. Convertible equity is a stock acquisition right that can be converted into stock in the future while postponing the determination of valuation (corporate value). Convertible equity is typically converted to preferred stock in the next eligible funding round (generally a series A).

The funds raised this time will be mainly used for the design/development and manufacturing of suborbital space plane for 2022 experiment mission. 

The first space plane has the transportation capacity to launch a payload of 100 kg at an altitude of 120 km.

Next the company plans to launch a small satellite by mounting a small rocket on top of the suborbital plane in 2024. The LOX/Methane engine developed by IHI Co. , Ltd. will be mounted on the small rocket .

By 2027, the company plans to use its suborbital plane for manned space travel. Two pilots and six passengers will be on board to provide space travel at an altitude of 120km.

In the United States, a suborbital manned space trip will take place as early as this year. 

Maxar Technologies announces acquisition of Vricon

Maxar Technologies (Maxar), a major satellite ompany that provides the WorldView series of the world’s highest performance optical satellites, will acquire Vricon, which creates 3D maps from satellite images, for approximately $140 million. 

Established in 2015 as a joint venture between Maxar Technologies and Swedish-based aircraft manufacturer Saab , Vricon has leveraged the strengths of the two companies to bring highly accurate and immersive 3D products to the market.

“Vricon is a global leader in satellite-derived 3D data for defense and intelligence markets, with software and products that enhance 3D mapping, Earth intelligence data, military simulation and training and precision-guided munitions. The company was formed as a joint venture between Maxar and Saab in 2015 to combine patented Saab IP with Maxar commercial satellite imagery to build highly accurate, immersive 3D products at scale.

Maxar intends to appoint Gilman Louie, Chairman of Vricon’s Board of Directors, to the Maxar Board of Directors once the transaction closes. Louie is co-founder and partner of Alsop Louie Partners, an early-stage technology venture capital firm founded in San Francisco in 2006. Louie is the founder and former CEO of In-Q-Tel, a strategic venture fund created to help enhance national security by connecting the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. intelligence community with venture-backed entrepreneurial companies. He also serves as a commissioner on the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.” (from Maxar’s press release)

Redwire acquires orbital 3D printer maker Made In Space

On June 23, it was announced that Redwire acquired Made In Space , a pioneer in developing 3D printers that can be used in outer space, and its European base.

Made In Space is a US-based startup company founded in 2010. There is a subsidiary Made In Space Europe in Luxembourg . In 2014, Made In Space worked with NASA to remotely operate a 3D printer that was shipped to the ISS to successfully manufacture the tool. Furthermore, in 2019, the company signed a contract with NASA for the Archinaut Project to build a power system for small satellites in orbit .

AE Industrial Partners, LP (“AEI”), a private equity firm specializing in Aerospace, Defense & Government Services, Power Generation, and Specialty Industrial markets, launched Redwire in June 2020 through the combination of portfolio companies Adcole Space and Deep Space Systems. Both companies were acquired by AEI earlier this year.

Communication satellite company Iridium signs launch transportation contract with Relativity

Relativity Space is a venture company that manufactures and develops rockets with 3D printing. The first launch of the Terran 1 rocket developed by the company is planned for February 2021, and it is announced that commercial operation will start within the same year.

Each Iridium Space satellite weighs 850 kg and will be launched individually on Terran 1. Suzanne McBride, COO of the company said, “SpaceX’s Falcon9 is big for satellites, and Rocket Lab’s Electron is too small, so Reranivity Space’s Terran1 is our sweet spot.”

SpaceX launch cost is about $4 million for 830 kg. In case of more than that, inquiries are required. The launch price of Terran1 has not been announced, but it can be estimated from Suzanne’s comment that the cost will be lower than SpaceX. From the OneWeb example, it can be said that efforts to reduce satellite launch costs are extremely important for sustaining service.

Iridium Space has launched nine satellites with Falcon 9 seven times between 2017 and 2019.