SES, OHB and ESA sign Electra deal

The European Space Agency, satellite operator SES and system specialist OHB System announced on 11 March 2016 that they have signed contracts for the next phase of the Electra programme. Electra is a programme that sits under the umbrella of the ESA's ARTES 33. Its aim is to develop, launch and validate in orbit a telecommunications satellite system below three tons launch mass, based on a platform using full electric propulsion. Under the contract, OHB will develop a fully electric satellite platform, while SES will define the satellite mission and lead the procurement phase. The launch of the first Electra mission (to be defined at a later date) is currently targeted for 2021.

UK spaceport

The UK government has confirmed its ambition for the UK to be ready for commercial space flight during this Parliament. The Department for Transport and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are currently assessing the technical requirements for the spaceport. An announcement on the process for selecting the site for the spaceport is expected by the end of 2016. Among the contenders for the site are Newquay airport in Cornwall, Glasgow Prestwick airport, Campbeltown airport, and Llanbedr airport in Snowdonia.

Competition concerns over ASL acquisition of Arianespace

The European Commission announced on 26 February 2016 that it has opened an investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL). ASL is a 50/50 joint venture set up by Airbus and Safran. The Commission is concerned that the transaction might lead the merged entity to (i) discriminate against satellite manufacturers competing with Airbus in relation to access to Arianespace's launch services, (ii) give priority to launch services connected to Ariane launchers and (iii) procure payload adapters and dispensers exclusively from Airbus and ASL. The Commission must conclude its investigation and reach a decision by 12 July 2016.

Galileo - two more satellites to be launched

Two Galileo navigation satellites are to be launched in May 2016, ahead of schedule. Galileo is Europe's global navigation satellite system under development by the European Commission and European Space Agency. The European Commission is keen to speed up the deployment of the Galileo constellation, and efficiencies in the Galileo production line mean that more satellites are available for launch this year than were originally planned. The satellites are scheduled to be launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana on 24 May 2016.

Satellogic

In an interview with Via Satellite, the founder and CEO of Argentinian small satellite start-up Satellogic, Emiliano Kargieman, said that the company is aiming to have an initial constellation of six earth observation satellites by the end of 2016, rising to 16 by Q2 2017. Eventually, the company aims to have a constellation of 300 small satellites.

UN agency calls for space travel regulation

The International Civil Aviation Organization has called for governments, international organizations and other stakeholders to work together to develop global aerospace standards and regulations to support space travel and tourism (15 March 2016). Dr Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, President of the ICAO Council, said at the recent ICAO Symposium in Montreal, that a revised regulatory framework is needed to support expected growth and innovation in the sector.

Intelsat bond

Intelsat announced on 21 March 2016 US$1.25bn of senior secured debt by Intelsat Jackson Holdings at 8% interest, due in 2024. Moody's assigned a B1 rating to the borrowing and also downgraded Intelsat S.A.'s probability of default rating to Caa3-PD from Caa2-PD. Intelsat plans to use the proceeds from the offering "for general corporate purposes, which may include repayment of indebtedness, capital expenditures and working capital and to pay fees and expenses related to the offering".

Forecast payloads valued at US245bn

Aerospace and defence consultancy, Teal Group, have valued payloads currently proposed for build and launch between 2016 and 2035 at US$245bn. The payloads comprise some 5,095 satellites, probes and capsules, a 10% increase on the Group's forecast last year for the period 2015 – 2034. Teal Group attributes the increase to the CubeSat market.