January Investment Round-Up
January 16 – The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg announced the closing of the initial funding round for Orbital Ventures, a new investment fund based in Luxembourg dedicated to supporting early stage innovative space companies, with a focus on businesses generating or expected to generate revenues in the near term. The funding round raised 70m from nine investors, including SES S.A., OHB AG, BNP Paribas, Promus Ventures and Luxembourg's state-owned Socit Nationale de Crdit et d'Investissement (SNCI), with SNCI's investment accounting for 36m of the total.
January 16 – SpinLaunch Inc. (SpinLaunch), a Californiabased launch services startup, announced that it raised $35m in a new investment round, bringing to $80m the total amount of funding raised by the company to date. Participants in the investment round included Airbus Ventures, GV, KPCB, Catapult Ventures and Lauder Partners. SpinLaunch is developing an alternative launch system based on a large mass accelerator capable of achieving hypersonic velocities.
January 22 – The European Investment Bank agreed to provide a 10-year contingent loan for 100m to ArianeGroup to support introduction and early stage commercial operation of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. ArianeGroup will not have to repay the loan if Ariane 6 is not a commercial success, which will be determined based on specified annual launch cadence metrics.
Kepler Decides to Manufacture Its Own Satellites
Citing congestion in the smallsat manufacturing supply chain, Kepler Communications Inc. announced on January 28 that it will manufacture all 140 of the satellites that are expected to comprise its planned low Earth orbit constellation for the provision of narrowband Internet-of-Things and wideband communications services globally, at a new Toronto facility.
Eutelsat Confirms Solar Array Failure
On January 17, following an investigation into a malfunction of one of the solar rays of the EUTELSAT 5 West B satellite, Eutelsat Communications S.A. (Eutelsat) confirmed the failure of the satellite's South solar array. Due to the resulting loss in power, Eutelsat is now limited to operating only 45% of the satellite's capacity. EUTELSAT 5 West B was launched in October 2019 to replace the EUTELSAT 5 West A satellite; it is insured for up to $191m against partial and total loss.
January Launch Services Performed
January 16 – ExPace Technology Corporation, a commercial subsidiary of China Aerospace and Industry Corporation, successfully launched the Yinhe-1 commercial 5G satellite into low Earth orbit on a Kuaizhou-1A launch vehicle.
January 16 – Arianespace S.A. successfully launched the EUTELSAT KONNECT satellite for Eutelsat S.A. and the GSAT-30 satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. EUTELSAT KONNECT was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space as the first satellite based on the Spacebus NEO platform; it will provide coverage of Europe and Africa. GSAT-30 was manufactured by ISRO; it will provide services across the Indian subcontinent.
January 6 & 29 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. successfully performed its third and fourth launch missions for its Starlink broadband constellation, on each occasion orbiting 60 satellites using the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
HISPASAT Selects Thales for Amazonas Nexus
On January 10, HISPASAT announced that it selected Thales Alenia Space to manufacture the Amazonas Nexus satellite, which will replace the Amazonas 2 satellite at the 61W orbital position to provide communications services to users across the Americas, Greenland and the North Atlantic corridor.
January Launch Services Orders
January 13 – Arianespace S.A. (Arianespace) announced that it will launch the Falcon Eye 2 satellite of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a Soyuz launch vehicle in March, rather than on a Vega launch vehicle later this year, pursuant to an option under the contract between Arianespace and the satellite's manufacturer, Airbus Defence and Space. Vega remains grounded as a result of the July failure that destroyed the UAE's Falcon Eye 1 satellite.
January 21 – Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly) announced that it entered into a launch services agreement with launch services broker Innovative Space Logistics BV (ISILAUNCH), whereby Firefly will provide multiple dedicated and rideshare launch opportunities to customers of ISILAUNCH on the Alpha launch vehicle beginning in 2020.
January 24 – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. announced that it was selected by Nilesat to launch the Nilesat-301 satellite on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle in 2022.