Satellite industry in April

Read our monthly briefing on satellite industry developments.

Assure Space decided to cancel satellite collision insurance amid growing risks of pay out

Assure Space is an insurance company established in 2011 to provide insurance for space industry players. Since 2016 it has been operating as a part of AmTrust, a larger multinational insurance provider based in New York.

Assure Space has been insuring rockets, geostationary satellites, low earth orbit satellites and ISS missions. However, it plans to remove the satellite collision coverage from its portfolio, as a number of satellites orbiting earth is expected to increase steadily.

Until now satellites collisions on the orbit have not been frequent. Recently, there was a risk of collision between ESA’s Aeolus and SpaceX’s Starlink satellites in September 2019, but the incident has been avoided.

Momentus and orbital launch services

LEO (Low Earth Orbiting) satellites, also called microsatellites are at the forefront of satellites industry development. Due to their low cost in manufacturing and launching, LEO satellites make an entry to space industry for numerous new private sector players possible.

Government players offer shared rocket launching for private LEO satellites constellations, to minimize the cost. After LEO satellites find themselves in space however, they need to find the separate optimal orbits for themselves. There Momentus’ offering comes to help. Momentus developed a unique type of micro spacecraft that uses water and microwaves to generate propulsion to carry LEO satellite to its optimal orbit. According to the information issued by Momentus , a micro satellite, with weight up to 600 kg can be put into orbit with an accuracy of ± 100 m. Momentus acquired series A funding last year and continues to acquire customers. The company services address a very special need in fast growing space sector and represent a very interesting sub-segment of the industry to watch.

Interstellar Technologies, Marubeni and D-Orbit announced business alliance for small satellite launches

The companies decided for a tie-up based on natural synergies. Interstellar Technologies (IST) is a Japanese company that builds low cost rockets, with universally accessible components. IST transplanted the idea of democratizing space from satellite industry, where cube satellites disrupted the decades old business models. Launching a rocket into space remains expensive, state governed enterprise – a status quo that IST aims to change.

IST successfully launched its “MOMO” rocket, with support of crowdfunding campaigns. MOMO can reach a maximum altitude of 120 km and take with it 20 kgs of equipment. It weights 1.1 ton together with a propeller and is 9.9 m long. “ZERO” rocket which is under development will be able to reach altitude of 500 km and take with it 100 kg of equipment.

Marubeni, a large Japanese trading house (sōgō shōsha) through its network has been providing clients for IST in the past.

Italian D-Orbit developed its flagship solution – ​InOrbit NOW, a launch and deployment service designed to transport cube satellites to space and release them into precise, independent orbital slots.

The closer cooperation of 3 companies has a chance to turn into a comprehensive, highly competitive launching service for cube satellite companies.

Synspective signs launch agreement with Rocket Lab

Japanese start-up Synspective that develops and operates small SAR satellites, announced that it has signed a launch contract with the US based Rocket Lab for its first unit. The launch is scheduled for 2020, but there is a risk of delay due to coronavirus epidemy.

Synspective uses machine learning to analyse data harvested from its SAR satellites to detect and measure patterns in human activity, that can be used as economic indicators. To create a SAR (Synthetic-aperture radar) image, successive pulses of radio waves are transmitted to “illuminate” a target scene, and the echo of each pulse is received and recorded. Since its establishment in 2018, Synspective has raised a cumulative total of ¥ 10.9 billion ($ 101.3 mil) what makes it the largest space start-up in Japan.

Northrop Grumman succeeds in extending satellite life

Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle docked with Intelsat’s IS-901 satellite, fuelled it and steered it into a correct orbit. Thus, providing another 5 years of service to 20 years old satellite.

This type of the mission has been executed for the first time in history. In a press release, Intelsat rated the service as “cost-effective and efficient,” and for the latter half of 2020, ordered Northrop Grumman to extend the life of Intelsat-1002 satellite.

If services as provided by Mission Extension Vehicle become popular, reduction of space debris can be expected. The drawback, might be a negative impact on the demand for satellite deployment services.