Regional Roundup: April 2015

Top satellite industry news from around the world

India and EIAST Look to Foster Space Collaboration

Delegates from the EIAST and ISRO meet at the EIAST facility in Dubai.Photo: EIAST

Delegates from the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) met with representatives from the Indian Consulate in Dubai to discuss possible cooperation between EIAST and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in the field of space and related areas.

During the meeting, the group was briefed on EIAST’s achievements, such as the launch of DubaiSat 1 and 2, and given a tour of the institution, including the soon-to-be-completed satellite manufacturing facility, that will be home to the KhalifaSat project. KhalifaSat is the first to be designed and built purely by an Emirati team of engineers on UAE soil.

NBN Co Completes Final Satellite Ground Station, Preps for LTSS

Australia’s state-owned National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has finished construction of the last ground station needed for its Long-Term Satellite Solution (LTSS) broadband service. Now complete, the stations are set to connect approximately 400,000 households and businesses in rural areas.

NBN Co is tasked with expunging the digital divide in Australia by providing broadband services to all areas where commercial solutions are inaccessible or insufficient. The company aims to connect 8 million locations and reach $4 billion in annual revenue by 2020. The LTSS, slated to begin in 2016, will provide download speeds of 25 Mbps, and upload speeds of 5 Mbps, according to NBN Co.

The company’s first satellite is scheduled to launch later this year with Arianespace. To encourage youth education, NBN Co has created a competition known as “Shoot for the Stars” for Australian school children.

New SmallSat Research Lab to Open in Singapore

NTU and Thales officials at the launch of S4TIN.Photo: NTU

Thales Alenia Space and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are establishing a joint research laboratory on NTU’s campus dedicated to developing new concepts and technology for small satellites. The lab, named Smart Small Satellite Systems-Thales in NTU (S4TIN), will focus on spacecraft with a mass of less than 100 kilograms.

Thales Research and Technology Singapore and NTU have worked together on previous projects in the past. Together, Thales Alenia Space and NTU have agreed on joint satellite programs to pursue, including one on space-based infrared imaging, and another on Automatic Identification System (AIS) for maritime security.

Optus Thuraya SatSleeve Turns iPhone 6 into Satellite Phone

The Optus Thuraya SatSleeve, which transforms a smartphone into a satellite phone, is now available for the iPhone 6. The SatSleeve attaches to the back of a compatible device and is activated through the SatSleeve app. It enables iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users to quickly turn their handsets into a satellite phone with one click and allows customers to access voice, SMS and data in remote areas outside of mobile range.

SatSleeve is now available for the iPhone 6, 5s, 5, 4s and 4, as well as Samsung Galaxy S5, S4 and S3 handsets.

Comtech Scores Contract to Expand Asian Communication Network

Comtech Telecommunications’ subsidiary Comtech EF Data has been awarded $5 million in orders for satcom equipment and services to expand a communication network in Asia. The unidentified customer will use Comtech EF Data’s CDM-570A/L-IP satellite modems and CDD-564A IP demodulators to dynamically allocate bandwidth and optimize data traffic as required among many different sites.

Mustang Project Set to Create Hybrid Satellite-Terrestrial M2M Network

Airbus Defense and Space has started work on the Mustang project for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, in partnership with the SMEs Sigfox and Sysmeca, and the CEA-Leti research center. The project focuses on low-cost exchange of short messages in the fast-growing M2M market, with the aim to develop a global, hybrid terrestrial/satellite access solution for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Satellite links will use a dedicated communication protocol to ensure coverage using a small form factor terminal, while 868 and 915 MHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band will be used to communicate with the Sigfox terrestrial network. The dual-mode satellite/terrestrial terminal will enable automatic switching between the two communication channels in response to resource availability in the areas where connected devices are located.

The three-year project will involve the development of the terminal’s modem chipset, the optimization of communication protocols and the validation of the system through an aircraft application demonstration.

OHB Finishes Integration of Hispasat AG1 Satellite

The Hispasat AG1 satellite inside OHB’s cleanroom.Photo: OHB

OHB System has completed the integration of Hispasat’s upcoming satellite Hispasat Advanced Generation 1. The satellite is the first to be based on the small-GEO platform jointly developed by OHB and the ESA.

Hispasat AG1 will go through environmental impact testing at the space center operated by IABG in Ottobrunn, Germany. The satellite will experience a simulation of the space environment in a thermal vacuum chamber, along with functional testing of mechanical and electro-magnetic strain.

Arianespace will conduct the launch of Hispasat AG1 later this year. The satellite will carry Ku- and Ka-band payloads, along with an active antenna sporting reconfigurable beams. Following its responsibilities with in-orbit testing and start-up, OHB will provide real-time support throughout the satellite’s expected 15-year lifespan.

Avanti, Chemring and Spectra Trial Secure Cellular Over Satellite

Avanti Government Services, in collaboration with Chemring Technology Solutions and Spectra Group, conducted a series of secure cellular communications over satellite trials for defense and security applications in remote areas. The tests used both Spectra Group’s Spectra Hostile Area Deployment Environment (SHADE) and µSHADE solutions to connect to Chemring Technology Solution’s SmartLink “cellular network in a box” through Avanti’s Ka-band satellite system.

HD Households in Germany Crests 17 Million

Berlin, Germany at night.Photo: Alexander Steinhof

New research from SES pegged the number of houses receiving HD television in Germany at 17.6 million in 2014, an increase of roughly 24 percent from 2013. The company’s own German HD platform HD+ surpassed 3 million households by the end of 2014, with 1.65 million paying for the service and another 1.4 million using the free-trial period.

SES’ HD+ service provides an HD broadcast platform for 20 main private broadcasters in Germany, along with more than 30 Free-to-Air (FTA) channels. According to the company, more than 10 million German households received HD television by satellite in 2014, 6.6 million via cable and 1 million through IPTV. SES’ research shows 18.2 million of 38 million TV households use satellite.

SSC Sounding Rocket Tests Cryogenic Fuel for Ariane 6

Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has launched a Cryofenix sounding rocket from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden filled with liquid hydrogen to study the propellant’s behavior in microgravity. The French space agency CNES and partner Air Liquide Advanced Technologies conducted the experiment and will use the data to validate and refine simulation tools for the next generation Ariane 6 and other Ariane launchers, which are powered by liquid hydrogen.

Star One Exec Sees 2016 Olympics Ushering 4K into Latin America

Gustavo Silbert, executive director of Embratel Star One.Photo: Embratel Star One.

Gustavo Silbert, executive director of Embratel Star One, told Via Satellite the operator saw year-over-year growth from 2013 to 2014, and that 2014 was a strong year overall. He expressed enthusiasm at having both of Star One’s new satellites in orbit and operational in time for the 2016 Olympic Games, which Brazil is hosting in Rio de Janeiro. The new spacecraft will augment the operator’s existing fleet, and bring growth potential in time for 4K, which Silbert believes will come to stay in Latin America well past the end of the Olympics.

“Ultra-HD 4K starts to be a reality in Latin America. By the time of the Olympics, the demand for TV transmissions with this quality will be necessary. We don’t have any doubt about it,” he said.

DirecTV LatAm Goes From Strength to Strength

Last year DirecTV’s Latin American subscriber base crested 19 million, growing to nearly match the number of subscribers in the United States. The company added 903,000 net new subscribers in Latin America during its 2014 fourth quarter, coming close to the stated goal of 1 million. However, rapidly depreciating currencies have posed a challenge to the company.

To deal with depreciating currencies, DirecTV has been seeking to keep pace with rates of inflation while pricing locally in order to maintain a solid Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Bruce Churchill, president and EVP of DirecTV Latin America, said this can be challenging in markets with explicit or quasi-explicit price controls.

Of DirecTV’s top Latin American markets, Venezuela, has suffered the worst inflation. The Central Bank of Venezuela reported 63.3 percent annualized inflation by November 2014. For DirecTV, the country represented slightly more than 25 percent of revenues from Pan-Americana (which excludes Brazil) and 45 percent of Operating Income, before Depreciation, Amortization, Tax and Interest (OIBDA).

Panasonic Eyes IFC Customers in Latin America

Panasonic Avionics Coverage Map.Photo: Panasonic Avionics

Outside of North America, where many airlines have already committed to an In Flight Connectivity (IFC) provider, David Bruner, VP of global communications at Panasonic Avionics, told Via Satellite the company is seeing new activity in South America and Oceania, which are starting to experience the growth found in Europe two to three years ago.

Connected aircraft flying from places such as North America, Europe and the Middle East are spurring on airlines in some of these areas that have been last to move forward with IFC broadband services. As areas with dense air traffic pursue IFC, they become prime candidates for HTS.

CNES, Agencia Espacial Mexicana Tighten Partnership

CNES, the French space agency, and the Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM), Mexico’s space agency, have agreed to step up the cooperation initiated in April 2014 on space-based telecommunications, remote sensing and disaster relief. CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall met with AEM Director General Francisco Javier Mendieta Jimenez to review the progress between France and Mexico, and to begin ramping up their partnership through actions such as exchanges between the University of Mexico and the Toulouse Space Center.

IDC Deploys Pro Audio Radio Network Across Peru

Peru’s Grupo Panamericana de Radios has deployed International Datacasting Corporation’s (IDC’s) Star Pro Audio Solution to distribute radio programming to listeners across the country.

IDC has delivered the Star Pro Audio solution and reports that the network is fully deployed and operational in the Latin American country.

Aireon Inks ADS-B Agreement with Central, West African ANSP

Inside view of an Air Traffic Control tower.Photo: Aireon

Aireon has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Agency for the Security of Aviation Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) to provide Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities to the West and Central African regions. ASECNA, the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) for 17 African states, plans to use Aireon’s satellite aircraft tracking services to improve Air Traffic Management (ATM) across the airspace under their control. Aireon plans to provide its global air traffic surveillance services as early as 2017.

Companies will assess the requirements and benefits of space-based ADS-B services in their airspace, which covers six Flight Information Regions (FIR) including the Dakar oceanic FIR that connects Western Africa and Europe to South America and the Caribbean.

SpeedCast Acquires Geolink Satellite Services to Bolster Africa Business

Hong Kong-based SpeedCast International has purchased CETel Group company Geolink Satellite Services. The acquisition is expected to boost the company’s presence in Africa, where Geolink is active in more than 20 countries.

In a statement, SpeedCast said a growing number of its customers in the Asia-Pacific are requesting services in Africa. Geolink, specializing in Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) and fixed VSAT solutions, has customers in oil and gas, mining, media, maritime and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). SpeedCast anticipates using this acquisition to expand particularly in energy, maritime and a growing number of VSAT services in Africa.

Geolink is SpeedCast’s third acquisition in 12 months, following that of SatComms Australia and Oceanic Broadband. The company is located in Paris, France, and uses a network of technical field partners to provide services across the African continent. Geolink’s management team will become part of the SpeedCast group.

SatLink Communications Orders NovelSat Modems for Maritime Customers

A cargo ship in the Gulf of Mexico.Photo: Louis Vest

SatLink Communications has purchased what it described as a “sizeable quantity” of NovelSat’s NS3000 satellite modems. The equipment is targeted for maritime communications customers.

SatLink plans to replace existing Ku-band based systems with the NS3000 equipped with NovelSat’s software based band reuse technology, NovelSat DUET Channel Echo Cancellation (CeC). Band reuse, coupled with smart Automatic Coding and Modulation (ACM) to adjust for rain fade, optimizes maritime communications to stay effective during poor weather.

MDA Provides Payload Equipment to Aselsan Electronic

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) has signed a contract valued at more than $23 million with Aselsan Electronic Industries to provide Ku-band payload equipment for a communications satellite subsystem. Aselsan, a space and defense company located in Turkey, is a prime contractor for the construction of the Ku- and X-band payloads, which are scheduled to provide government and other communication services once it is launched in 2020.

Gilat Brings in $235 Million in 2014 Revenue

Gilat Satellite Networks reported $235.1 million in revenue for 2014, almost exactly where revenues stood in 2013, at $234.9 million. Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA), however, increased year over year by 43 percent.

Gilat’s goal for 2015 is to reach annual revenues between $250 and $260 million, along with EBIDTA around $26 to $28 million. Q4 2014 was a standout quarter for the company, with $73.1 million compared to $55.7 million for the same period in 2013. Erez Antebi, CEO of Gilat, said he expects the second half of 2015 to significantly stronger than the first, like 2014.

DigitalGlobe Begins Commercial Sales of 30 cm Satellite Imagery

Auckland, New Zealand seen at 30 cm resolution.Photo: DigitalGlobe

DigitalGlobe has started selling high resolution, 30 cm imagery from its latest satellite, WorldView 3. At this resolution, rated 5.7 on the National Imagery Interpretability Rating Scale (NIIRS), details such as above-ground utility lines in residential neighborhoods, manhole covers, building vents, fire hydrants, and individual seams on locomotives can be discerned from space.

DigitalGlobe plans to enter head to head competition with aerial imagery providers, who have held a competitive advantage by offering high-resolution imagery taken by aircraft. According to the company, satellite imagery can be delivered in days or weeks, compared to months, and is added to a growing collection of archived imagery.

WorldView 3 can see through smoke, haze, and smog by using shortwave infrared (SWIR) capabilities.

Orbital Sciences Adds All-Electric Capability to GEOStar 3 with Aerojet Rocketdyne Thrusters

Orbital Sciences will use Aerojet Rocketdyne’s XR-5 Hall thrusters on its newest satellite bus, the GEOStar 3, for an all-electric design. The contract provides electric propulsion systems for the next three years, capable of both orbit raising and station-keeping.

Orbital Sciences introduced the GEOStar 3 in March 2014 as an evolution of the GEOStar 2. GEOStar 3 satellites can be stacked for dual launch aboard the Ariane 5, Proton and Falcon Heavy rockets, and are compatible with the H2A, Sea Launch and Land Launch rockets for single launches.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne XR-5 subsystem is comprised of 5-kilowatt class Hall thrusters with integral flow regulation valves, power processing units with built-in thruster selection units and all associated electrical harnessing. The company is transitioning production of the thruster to European Space Propulsion. Aerojet Rocketdyne has 12 XR-5 thrusters currently in production.

Intelsat and Azercosmos Team up to Expand Global Coverage

Azerscosmos engineers visiting Orbital Sciences during the construction of the Azerspace 1/Africasat 1a satellite.Photo: Azercosmos

Intelsat and Azercosmos, have signed a strategic agreement at the 45 degrees east orbital position. The two companies will collaborate on the design, manufacture and operational phases of development for the Azerspace 2/Intelsat 38 satellite.

The new satellite, slated for launch in 2017, will provide continuity of service for the Intelsat 12 satellite currently stationed at 45 degrees east, an orbital location which hosts DTH TV platforms and provides connectivity for corporate network services in Africa.

Virgin Galactic to Increase LauncherOne Production

Boosted by its contract to launch satellites for OneWeb’s ambitious 648 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) telecommunications satellite constellation, Virgin Galactic has opened a new facility to increase the production of LauncherOne rockets. The facility is located at Long Beach Airport in California, where it can be flown along with customers’ satellites using the reusable WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

LauncherOne, a two-stage orbital launch vehicle, is designed to launch small satellites weighing up to 225 kilograms (500 pounds). It is slated for a first launch in 2016.

Harris Buys Exelis for $4.75 Billion

Harris is purchasing Exelis for $4.75 billion in an acquisition expected to close by June 2015. Both boards of directors unanimously approved the acquisition, and Harris has secured $3.4 billion from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding for fully committed bridge financing. The company anticipates permanent financing in the form of term loans and unsecured bonds prior to closing.

According to Harris, the pre-tax cost synergies with Exelis range from $100 million to as high as $120 million. The company anticipates the purchase will be slightly accretive in the first full year, evolving into a significant contributor in the years following. Harris expects to achieve annual run-rate by year three.

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