The annual European Satellite Navigation Competition opened on 1 April 2016. The competition allows businesses, scientific institutions and individuals with ideas for innovative satellite-navigation-related products or services to compete for prizes that include cash awards, business incubation and coaching, technical support, prototype development, market and feasibility studies as well as access to funding and a network of experts in the field. The closing date for applications is 30 June 2016.

Blue Origin – reusable launcher

Blue Origin has again achieved a successful launch and vertical landing of its reusable vehicle, New Shepard (2 April 2016). The vehicle reached a height of 339,178 feet, before returning to land, with the engine for the propulsive landing restarting at just 3,600 feet above the ground. This is the third successful launch and vertical landing for the company.

Massive growth in UK space sector jobs

The number of registered jobs in the UK space sector has leapt 250% in Q1 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, according to specialist recruitment consultants Huxley Engineering. (Source: City A.M) Huxley also predicts an additional 100,000 skilled jobs in the sector by 2030.

Skynet 5

Spacenews.com reported on 13 April 2016 that Airbus Defence and Space is considering its strategy should the MoD decide not to renew the Skynet 5 contract. Skynet 5 is a PFI contract signed in 2003 and due to expire in August 2022 under which Airbus Defence and Space and its wholly owned subsidiary, Paradigm provide military satellite communications to the MoD using the Airbus-owned secure Skynet satellite constellation and ground network.

Orbital ATK and Intelsat deal

Intelsat is to be the first customer for Orbital ATK's new satellite life extension service, it was announced 12 April 2016. Orbital ATK will provide in-orbit satellite servicing using its Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1). MEV-1 will service the target satellite by docking with it and taking over its propulsion and altitude control functions. The vehicle has a 15-year design life and can carry out multiple dockings and undockings during its life span. Orbital ATK plans eventually to deploy a fleet of vehicles that will be able to deliver a wide-range of in-orbit services such as refueling and repairs. In-orbit testing of MEV-1 with an Intelsat satellite will take place between late 2018 and early 2019, after which MEV-1 will service a target Intelsat satellite over a five year period.

Europe's Space Strategy – Commission consultation

The European Commission announced on 19 April 2016 that one of its key objectives for 2016 is to put in a place a Space Strategy for Europe. The purpose of the strategy will be to set out a strategic vision for the EU's space activities through to 2030, complementing individual EU Member States and European Space Agency activities. Stakeholders can have their say on the proposed strategy by responding to the Commission's public consultation, which is open until 12 July 2016.

OneWeb high-volume manufacturing facility and US licence

OneWeb Satellites, the joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space, announced on 19 April 2016 that it will locate its planned high-volume satellite manufacturing facility in Exploration Park, Florida. The 100,000+-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in 2017, will be the first satellite factory designed to mass-produce spacecraft cost effectively using automated assembly and test capabilities similar to those used in aircraft production facilities. OneWeb has also applied to the US Federal Communications Commission for a licence for its planned low earth orbit satellite constellation.

ESA and ViaSat partnership

The European Space Agency and ViaSat announced on 28 April 2016 that they will be collaborating on a three-year pilot programme to boost innovation in high capacity satellite (HCS) products, applications and services. The main goal of the programme – named the High Capacity Satellite Applications Factory Initiative - is to make it easier for start-ups, SMEs and new market entrants to apply for funding and to reduce time to market for HCS-related products and services. As a first step, the ESA, the UK, Switzerland and Belgium will provide €30m of funding and ViaSat will provide and manage an online portal that will enable the ESA, Member States and participating organisations to collaborate and identify potential partners and opportunities. Up to 50% funding is available to projects selected under the programme as well as support and assistance from ViaSat.

Galileo satellites pass in-orbit testing

It was announced on 25 April 2016 that Galileo satellites 11 and 12 have passed in-orbit testing and have been officially commissioned for use. The European GNSS Agency and the European GNSS Service Centre confirmed that both satellites have been successfully integrated with the Galileo ground network. Two more Galileo satellites are scheduled for launch in May 2016 and a further four satellites will be launched in Autumn 2016.