Intelsat applied for Chapter 11 & OneWeb announces frequencies auction

Intelsat applied for Chapter 11

On May 13th, major satellite communications service company – Intelsat announced that it has applied for company rehabilitation proceedings under Section 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code (Chapter 11).

By applying for Chapter 11, Intelsat seems to want to eliminate half of its $ 15 billion debt and fund its further operations.

The company is a long-established player in the space sector that succeeded in launching a commercial communication satellite in 1965 as the first company in the world. Stock prices continued to fall from the end of 2019, and the media reported in February 2020, that Intelsat is considering bankruptcy application.

The company has stressed that it will continue to serve its customers, and has already made a $ 1 billion loan.

Virgin Group to sell stake in Virgin Galactic

Virgin group founder Richard Branson, facing business difficulties due to the coronavirus impact, has announced the sale of Virgin Galactic’s $ 400 million worth of shares. Virgin Galactic aims to provide space travel services. 

Virgin Atlantic, an airline company affiliated with the Virgin Group, announced on May 5th that it will let go 3,150 people, which accounts for around 30% of its employees, due to a sharp drop in demand for airline services.

Virgin Galactic made its first public listing as a space travel agency in October 2019, and its stock price soared to $ 37 in February this year. It’s now down to  around $15, and the sale of 25 million shares is expected to raise at least $ 400 million.

Morgan Stanley forecasts that Virgin Galactic will not reach its profit margin and earn free cash flow until deploying more than 150 flights a year for space travel services. 

NASA purchases additional Soyuz seats

NASA announced that it will pay more than $ 90 million to purchase additional Soyuz seats for the second half of 2020.

Last October, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstein already suggested that NASA was considering buying a seat from Soyuz Corporation.

Since the Space Shuttle retired, Soyuz is the only way to transport astronauts to the ISS, so it operates as a monopoly. The price of seats continues to soar.

Breidenstein explains that purchasing a seat is an insurance measure for NASA astronauts to continue to board the ISS. 

Soyuz Corporation is an international holding that consolidates design, trade, production and service organizations with offices in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

OneWeb frequencies auction

OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy in March, plans to auction the frequencies owned to compensate creditors.

According to the Space Intel Report, two Chinese companies, Eutelsat, Amazon, SpaceX and Cerberus Capital Management are considering bidding. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that SpaceX will not participate in the OneWeb spectrum auction.

Amazon, together with its wholly-owned subsidiary Kuiper Systems LLC, is advancing its own satellite broadband service plan, “Project Kuiper,” but no satellite launch has been announced.

SpaceX requested on April 17 to lower the orbit altitude of 2824 Starlink satellites of Ku-band and Ka-band from 1100-1330km to 540-570km. 

Amazon filed a protest letter with the FCC on May 1st. In the document, Amazon points out that Starlink satellites do not publish sufficient data regarding the percentage and number of satellites that have been operating.

In light of this, the FCC has sent SpaceX a document on May 6 requesting that SpaceX submit additional information. The FCC requires that they provide the following information within the document:

(1) Calculation of the on-orbit collision risk of the Starlink satellite using the NASA debris evaluation software under the condition that the Starkink satellite cannot change its orbit.

(2) An explanation of the case that SpaceX has taken so far regarding efforts to deal with the risk of collision with other satellites that have already been licensed or will be operated in the future.

(3) Of the Starlink satellites launched so far, examples of semi-permanent loss of function at the planned orbit altitude and the corresponding altitude are specified.

(4) Approximate number of Starkink satellites launched during the 15-year FCC license period and a clear statement of the mission life per satellite.

As more companies enter the orbit with their satellite constellations, in order to assess the risk of collision on orbit, more detailed disclosures will likely be required in the future by regulators.