SATELLITE INDUSTRY NEWS (23rd JULY)

Failed IST rocket launch

On July 19, Interstellar Technologies (IST), which aims to provide launch transportation services, tried to launch the observation rocket “Neji no Rocket”, but could not confirm the temperature rise of the igniter of the main engine and stopped.

This launch was originally scheduled for July 18th, but changed to 19th due to weather conditions. Strong winds continued in the morning window as well, and we were not seeing the launch, but there were many voices that it was finally possible to launch in the evening.

On June 14, the company launched the MOMO No. 5 observation rocket, but the nozzle was damaged during the ascent and an emergency stop was made. At the press conference on the same day, Mr. Inagawa, company’s CEO, expressed his regrets and present his policy to improve quality, but fortunately this time, he was spared the loss of the aircraft. At a press conference held on July 19, Mr. Inagawa said that he would like to take measures such as replacing parts around the igniter and aim for another launch in July.

Peter Kant joins satellite propulsion venture

On July 17, it was announced that Peter Kant has joined Accion Systems, which develops a propulsion system for satellites as CEO.

Mr. Kant was vice president of SRI International, one of the world’s largest research institutes, and CEO of Synapse Technology, which develops artificial intelligence-based services for the security industry, and is familiar with technology and business.  In the future, he will focus on the growth of the company and the commercialization of ionic liquid propellants, which is its core product. Natalya Bailey, who previously served as CEO, will become CTO.

OneWeb receives permission from court to pay satellite manufacturer to restart business

OneWeb, which went bankrupt in March of this year, will be able to resume the production of communication satellites in order to improve the communication constellation network.

OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space , with a satellite manufacturing plant located in Florida.

The UK Government and Bharti Global are planning a total investment of $1 billion in OneWeb. After deducting administration fees, debt payments, and bridge loans, about $640 million will be available to fund OneWeb.

OneWeb Satellites spokeswoman Molly Townsend said she is currently working on changes from OneWeb’s first announced 648 satellite constellation plan. However, they are not making a clear statement about the number of satellites OneWeb Satellites will produce in the future.

Communications satellite giants Iridium and Global Star have also succeeded in rebuilding their business after experiencing Chapter 11. 

SES claims Intelsat at least $1.8 billion in damages

Luxembourg’s communications satellite giant SES announced that it has filed a suit against communications satellite giant Intelsat for damages of at least $1.8 billion.

In May of this year, Intelsat had filed for reorganization procedures under Section 11 (Chapter 11) of the US Bankruptcy Code due to poor business performance.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking the lead in trying to reallocate the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz frequency band called the C band, which is mainly used for satellite broadcasting, in an auction format. Along the way, SES and Intelsat, which own many C-bands, were big beneficiaries.

However, at the same time Intelsat applied for Chapter 11, they also left the C-Band Alliance. As a result of this, the complaint filed that Intelsat and SES have no longer be able to fulfill the agreement that they had agreed to evenly distribute the revenue that they would have collected from the C-band Alliance auction.

SES says the $1.8 billion it is seeking includes compensatory and punitive damages. The specific complaints are three points: Intelsat breach of contract, violation of duty of due care of the prudent manager, and unjust profit.

The problem of frequency distribution is an unavoidable problem as many satellites are planned to be launched in the future. Reassignment of C-band may affect future 5G network development.

Satellite electric propulsion maker Exotrail announces Series A Round Financing

Exotrail, a French venture company that develops electric propulsion mechanisms and orbital transportation solutions for small satellites , announced that it has raised $13 million in series A funding.

The funding round is led by European VCs Karista and Innovacom as lead investors, with IXO Private Equity, NCI-Waterstart, Turenne Capital, 360 Capital Partners, Irdi Soridec Gestion and Bpifrance were also participating.

Exotrail, which has already raised three rounds in angel and seed rounds since its establishment in 2017, raised a total of $17.4 million in this series A round.

The funds that Exotrail has acquired this time will be used for propulsion system development costs, solution development that will help reduce space debris, and employment of business development staff in Europe and North America.

The company’s founder and CEO, David Henri, plans to increase the current production capacity of about 10 propulsion systems per year to about 100 by 2023, and increase the number of employees from 27 to 50. 

Exotrail is currently working on equipping various CubeSats with propulsion systems for demonstration purposes. One CubeSat is to be launched at SpaceX’s Falcon 9 at the end of this year, and two Cubesats are to be manufactured by Clyde Space for Eutelsat next year and equipped with a propulsion system for demonstration.

In addition, a propulsion system for demonstration was also planned to be installed in CubeSat launched by PSLV of Indian Space Agency, which was scheduled to be launched in November last year, but the launch rocket PSLV was postponed due to the impact of the new coronavirus. It seems that it is quite unlikely that a launch will occur by the end of autumn.

Exotrail will continue to launch such demonstration propulsion systems, and will work on developing a propulsion system to be mounted on a small satellite of 10 to 250 kg, which is larger than CubeSat, over the next year.

By 2024, Exotrail is planning to provide a new space transportation system called Space Van. This system allows the small satellites to be brought to the desired orbit after they are separated from the rocket. The French space agency CNES has also won a contract of 100,000 euros to finance the Space Van, and development seems to be going well.

Exotrail says that it aims to become a leading player in the new space market in Europe. 

RR