Shetland Space Centre Receives £2 Million for Launches this Year

Plans that would see a remote island in the far north of Scotland become home to the UK’s first spaceport have come a step closer to fruition after a major funding boost, this according to a report in The Scotsman national newspaper’s infosite.

Unst in Shetland, the most northerly inhabited island in the UK, has been selected as the ideal spot to construct a commercial satellite launch pad as the nation bids to join the new and rapidly growing global space sector.

Photo of the Shetland Space Centre is courtesy of the company.

Now Shetland Space Centre (SSC) is set to benefit from investment of more than £2 million from private equity firm Leonne International, which will own a 20 per cent stake in the venture. The cash will be used to develop the Unst facility, including a vertical-launch site for smallsats and a ground operations station.

The first high-altitude, commercial, payload launches are set to take place later this year, with the spaceport expected to be fully operational by 2021. A mixture of commercial and government clients will be able to use the space hub, but it is also predicted to attract an increasing number of tourists to the rugged outpost.7

To read the entire, informative article, please access this direct link to The Scotsman infosite…

Financial Inflow of 3.1 Million Euros for Kleos Space S.A.

Kleos Space S.A. (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1) has secured a €3.1 million loan agreement with Dubai-based family office Winance to progress its commercialization plans and repay the extant convertible note— Winance will further provide optional €6.0 million through a convertible note agreement, subject to final documentation.

Dubai-based Winance reached out to Kleos Space during the trade mission organized in Dubai by the Chamber of Commerce of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Economy, the Luxembourg Embassy and the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

Artistic rendition of Kleos Space’ Scouting Mission smallsat.

Image is courtesy of the company.

These funds will allow Kleos to repay extant Evolution Equities convertible notes for the development and launch of the firm’s second cluster of satellites and increase its presence within the US defence sector. The Loan Agreement ensures Kleos is well-funded to execute its commercialization plans while awaiting revenues from early adopter contracts.

Kleos will commence generating first revenues after the launch of its Scouting Mission satellites from Chennai, India, in the coming weeks. This initial satellite cluster is the foundation of a larger constellation which will geolocate radio frequency transmissions to provide global activity-based intelligence irrespective of the presence of positioning systems, unclear imagery and targets out of patrol range.

CEO of Kleos Space, Andy Bowyer, said that the Loan Agreement provides Kleos with working capital to progress the development of the company’s second cluster of satellites while awaiting revenues from the Scouting Mission satellites. Luxembourg has a successful economic partnership with the UAE, developed over the past decades. This collaboration provides Luxembourg-based organisations operating in the space sector, such as Kleos Space, with access to investment and financing opportunities.

Waqas Ibrahim, Director & CFO of Winance, added that this new partnership is in line with Winance’s vision of investing in proficient and progressive thinking management teams. The firm is convinced that this collaboration can serve as a springboard for both our companies in the GCC, Australian and Luxembourg markets. Kleos technology has never been more relevant than today in addressing a real world need and has attracted interest from governments and private organizations.

Marc Serres, CEO of the Luxemboug Space Agency, noted that Luxembourg and the UAE share the same commitment to support the economic development of the commercial space industry. The agreement between a Luxembourg-based company and a Dubai family office shows that our bilateral cooperation with the UAE is successful when it comes to developing high technology space products and services through financing instruments tailored to meet the needs of private companies.

New Satellite Manufacturing Facility is Opened by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503)  has completed construction of a new facility for the production of satellites at the company’s Kamakura Works in Kamakura, Japan.

Together with existing facilities, Mitsubishi Electric’s combined annual capacity will increase to 18 satellites, up from 10 at present, which will enable the company to satisfy the growing demand for governmental satellites in Japan and commercial communication satellites worldwide. New facility at Kamakura Works.

Photo of the new Mitsubishi satellite factory is courtesy of the company.

The new facility will increase production efficiency, shorten production time, reduce costs and elevate product quality for enhanced competitiveness. It will incorporate information technologies based on Mitsubishi Electric’s e-F@ctory solutions, which extract hidden benefits from existing resources through integrated automation to realize improved efficiencies, reduced costs and increased productivity.

In addition, the new facility will incorporate Mitsubishi Electric products, such as a heat pump air-conditioning system, LED lights and high-efficiency transformers to further reduce energy consumption.

The Japanese market for governmental satellites is expected to grow under the country’s Basic Plan for Space Policy, which calls for the development of observation, communication and positioning satellites that support daily life and facilitate the commercial use of space for the enhancement of Japan’s industrial and scientific foundations.

Last year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced its participation in the U.S. government’s Gateway project targeting a manned station near the moon, which is expected to stimulate increased demand for governmental satellites. Separately, the global market for small communication and observation satellites also is envisioned growing.

Mitsubishi Electric’s long involvement with satellites includes the Himawari-7, -8 and -9 weather satellites, the Superbird-C2-Japan’s first commercial communications satellite, QZS high-accuracy positioning satellite systems, and the Es’hail-2 for Qatar Satellite Company in Qatar. Going forward, Mitsubishi Electric aims to more widely apply technologies it cultivates for governmental satellites to enhance its position in expanding fields, such as next-generation-engineering test satellites.

Another First for Gilat — ESA Terminal Achieves In-Flight Connectivity over NGSO

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT) has announced that Gilat’s first-to-flight Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) terminal achieved another industry-first with in-flight connectivity over NGSO (Non-Geostationary Orbit) — this success well-positions Gilat to win opportunities within the ESA market.

Artistic rendition of Telesat’s Phasae 1 LEO satellite.

Image is courtesy of the company.

The demonstration showed high performance and instantaneous Ka-band switchovers between and operating on Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite and its Anik-F3 GEO satellite, onboard Honeywell’s Boeing 757 commercial test aircraft, across several flight tests.

Gilat’s high throughput and small form factor ESA operated continuously over GEO and then instantaneously switched connectivity to operate on LEO when it came into view and then back to GEO after operating on LEO. The ESA terminal demonstrated high performance, with broadband throughput of up to 58 Mbit/sec on both FWD and RTN, round trip delay as low as 18 msec. and robust operation at low elevation angles of down to 20 degrees.

Gilat’s ESA has a no moving parts and is a full electronic beam steering flat panel antenna with an extremely low profile. The company’s innovative design combines the benefits of ESA with the advantages of Ka-band, as highlighted by the performance achieved in this testing. The ESA terminal serves both GEO and NGSO constellations and, as such, opens the market to low latency, real-time applications.

Michel Forest, Director of Systems Engineering for the LEO Program at Telesat, said that Gilat’s multi-orbit ESA switchover capabilities will enable airlines to future-proof their connectivity decisions. Airlines will be able to access high-performing Ka-band connectivity today and easily incorporate LEO low-latency connectivity without replacing terminals. The company’s ongoing development efforts with valued partner Gilat will ensure airlines have flexibility and ability to meet their inflight data requirements of the future.

Roni Stoleru, the VP of Antenna Products & Strategy at Gilat, added that the company’s innovative ESA terminal opens up great opportunities in the commercial and business aviation markets with a winning proposition that addresses the two major ESA industry growth dynamics: mobility, with emphasis on in-flight connectivity and the upcoming NGSO constellations. Gilat is appreciative of the collaboration with the firm’s long-standing partners, Honeywell and Telesat, and looks forward to continued cooperation.

Note: Gilat’s ESA terminal will be displayed at Satellite 2020 in Washington DC, booth #1017.

ICEYE US Acquires a CEO

ICEYE has named Dr. Mark Matossian as the CEO of ICEYE US, Inc.—he most recently served for more than a decade in program management at Google, including carrying the responsibility of manufacturing and launch of the Terra Bella Earth imaging constellation. This hire marks a significant expansion in the US activities of ICEYE, including plans to extend satellite manufacturing to the US.

Dr. Mark Matossian

Initially, Dr. Matossian will be working with ICEYE’s current partners in the US, including R2 Space, Ursa Space, RS Metrics, and others, to fully use ICEYE’s growing satellite constellation with three satellites operating in orbit and additional satellites launching later this year. In addition, Dr. Matossian will be focused on evaluating ICEYE satellite manufacturing in the US. The ICEYE US, Inc subsidiary is evaluating locations for manufacturing based on access to facilities, people, suppliers, partners, and interest from the local governments.

A veteran of Silicon Valley telecom and IT startups, Dr. Matossian most recently spent 13 years managing global projects at Google – from data centers to Android to satellites. There, he specialized in scaling up new products and services, leading projects across Asia, Europe, and South America. He is a co-founder of Solstar Space Co., which partnered with Blue Origin and NASA to develop innovative satellite constellation telecom services for spacecraft.

As part of his aerospace work at Google, Dr. Matossian worked on the precursor to OneWeb; led program management of the Titan Aerospace UAV effort; and guided substantial growth at Terra Bella. At Terra Bella, he managed Earth imaging spacecraft production and launch operations, shifting the organization from a prototype-focused startup to a process-driven, scalable venture. Prior to moving to Silicon Valley, Dr. Matossian worked on the first wave of commercial constellation efforts, including Iridium and Teledesic, as well as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder, ICEYE, said Mark’s leadership is instrumental as the company fully expands into the American market. His experience will be invaluable in this exciting new chapter for ICEYE. While the firm already works with customers around the globe, Mark’s expertise will help ICEYE focus on the value the firm creates for customers in the US, building higher quality and faster technology capabilities to meet their needs.

Dr. Matossian added that ICEYE’s leadership in New Space technology is already undeniable in Europe and he’s looking forward to further expanding ICEYE’s best-in-class imaging capabilities to US government and industry leaders. ICEYE’s innovative SAR technology, growing constellation, and compelling value are a winning combination for the sophisticated US SAR market.

NASA Announces … Awards CAPSTONE CubeSat Contract to Rocket Lab

The following is NASA’s announcement regarding the selection of Rocket Lab to deliver CAPSTONE CubeSat to the Moon.

Part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Launch Complex 2 is Rocket Lab’s second launch site for the Electron rocket. Rocket Lab will launch NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat mission to the Moon from the Virginia launch site in early 2021. Credits: Rocket Lab

NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.

Rocket Lab, a commercial launch provider licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, will launch the 55-pound CubeSat aboard an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. After launch, the company’s Photon platform will deliver CAPSTONE to a trans-lunar injection. The engine firing will allow the CubeSat to break free of Earth’s gravity and head to the Moon. Then, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion system to enter a cislunar orbit, which is the orbital area near and around the Moon. The mission is targeted for launch in early 2021 and will be the second lunar mission to launch from Virginia.

“NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is pleased to provide a low-cost launch service for CAPSTONE and to work with Rocket Lab on this inaugural NASA launch from their new launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia,” said Ana Rivera, LSP program integration manager for CAPSTONE at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. LSP will manage the launch service. 

“This mission is all about quickly and more affordably demonstrating new capabilities, and we are partnering with small businesses to do it,” said Christopher Baker, Small Spacecraft Technology program executive at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This is true from the perspective of CAPSTONE’s development timeline, operational objectives, navigation demonstration and its quickly procured commercial launch aboard a small rocket.”

Updated illustration of NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat. The spacecraft design has changed since the mission contract award in September 2019. Credits: NASA

Following a three-month trip to the Moon, CAPSTONE will enter a near rectilinear halo orbit, which is a highly elliptical orbit over the Moon’s poles, to verify its characteristics for future missions and conduct a navigation demonstration with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. CAPSTONE will serve as a pathfinder for the lunar spaceship Gateway, a key component of NASA’s Artemis program.

“CAPSTONE is a rapid, risk-tolerant demonstration that sets out to learn about the unique, seven-day cislunar orbit we are also targeting for Gateway,” said Marshall Smith, director of human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters. “We are not relying only on this precursor data, but we can reduce navigation uncertainties ahead of our future missions using the same lunar orbit.”

The firm-fixed-price launch contract is valued at $9.95 million. In September, NASA awarded a $13.7 million contract to Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, to develop and operate the CubeSat.

After a final design review this month, Advanced Space and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. of Irvine, California, will start building and testing the spacecraft.

CAPSTONE is managed by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. Advanced Exploration Systems within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate supports the launch and mission operations.

Read Satnews’ article about Rocket Lab’s contract with NASA.

Learn more about NASA’s Launch Services Program.


Rocket Lab’s Announcement …  Selected by NASA to Launch Pathfinder Mission to the Moon

The following is Rocket Lab’s announcement regarding the selection by NASA to become launch provider for a small satellite mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway.

Rocket Lab, a space technology company and global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has been selected by NASA as the launch provider for a small satellite mission to the same lunar orbit targeted for Gateway – an orbiting outpost astronauts will visit before descending to the surface of the Moon in a landing system as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Updated illustration of NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat. The spacecraft design has changed since the mission contract award in September 2019. Credits: NASA

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is expected to be the first spacecraft to operate in a near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. In this unique orbit, CAPSTONE will rotate together with the Moon as it orbits Earth and will pass as close as 1,000 miles and as far as 43,500 miles from the lunar surface. CAPSTONE will demonstrate how to enter into and operate in this orbit as well as test a new navigation capability. This data will help to reduce navigation uncertainties ahead of future missions for Gateway, as NASA and international partners work to ensure astronauts have safe access to the Moon’s surface.

The satellite will be launched on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle from Launch Complex 2, located within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA. After launch, Rocket Lab’s high performance configurable satellite bus platform, Photon, will deliver CAPSTONE on a ballistic lunar transfer. Photon’s Curie propulsion system will allow the satellite to break free of Earth’s gravity and head to the Moon. After launch, CAPSTONE take approximately three months to enter its target orbit and begin a six-month primary demonstration phase to understand operations in this unique orbit. The mission is targeted for launch in early 2021.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said that small satellites like CAPSTONE will play a crucial role in supporting the return of human missions to the Moon and they’re proud to be supporting NASA in this unique and pivotal mission. As a dedicated mission on Electron, they’re able to provide NASA with complete control over every aspect of launch and mission design for CAPSTONE, something typically only available to much larger spacecraft on larger launch vehicles. In the same way we opened access to low Earth orbit for small satellites, we’re proud to be bringing the Moon within reach to enable research and exploration.

Supporting the mission on Electron is Space Exploration Engineering, who will contribute to mission planning, trajectory analysis, orbit determination, as well as KSAT who will provide global ground station coverage for the mission.  

Note: see Satnews’ article regarding NASA’s announcement regarding CAPSTONE project.

$90 Million for Astranis to Support the Launch of the Company’s First Satellite

Astranis has received $90 million in a financing round to launch the company’s first commercial satellite and build the foundation for the internet infrastructure of the future — the round was led by Venrock, with significant participation from existing investor Andreessen Horowitz.

Astranis aims to solve a problem in the modern space race that hasn’t been cracked: bringing the next four billion people online with low-cost, reliable internet. The $120 billion market is growing quickly – demand for internet is rising 40% per year, every year – but until now, there has been no practical, cost-effective solution for bringing internet access to remote parts of the world. Astranis is singularly focused on solving this problem.

Astranis is building a first-of-its-kind micro-geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite that is 20 times smaller in size than that of its predecessors – just 350 kg. – compared to traditional satellites that are upwards of 6,500 kg. The satellite’s secret sauce is a flexible, ultra-wideband software-defined radio technology that allows Astranis to replace heavy and bulky analog radio hardware with lightweight, compact, digital alternatives. The satellites are small enough to be manufactured and launched in months instead of years, all with more bandwidth than was previously possible with the same form size.

The Series B round includes $40 million of equity financing led by Venrock with continued investment from Andreessen Horowitz and participation from existing investors Fifty Years, Refactor Capital and Y Combinator, among other funds and angel investors. The recent fundraising also includes a debt facility of up to $50 million from TriplePoint Capital, which Astranis will use to support current and future projects.

The company is in talks to kick off new projects around the world in 2020 and 2021 by partnering with internet service providers (ISPs), established satellite operators, governments and many others. Astranis has raised more than $108 million in financing to date. As part of the most recent financing round, Ethan Batraski and Dan Berkenstock, founding CEO of Skybox, joined the Astranis Board of Directors.

Astranis was founded in 2015 by John Gedmark and Ryan McLinko. Astranis’s  team includes leaders and engineers from premier satellite and space programs, including SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Skybox, Planet Labs, and NASA, in addition to top talent from Qualcomm, Apple and Google. After tripling its headcount in 2019, Astranis is now a team of more than 100 people.

Ethan Batraski, partner at Venrock, said that global connectivity is an industry prime for disruption. Astranis’s team and microsatellite technology put them in a strong position to fulfill the needs of the new market, which is vastly different than the market of 20 or 30 years ago.

John Gedmark, CEO and co-founder of Astranis, added the the company knows that increasing internet access can change lives for the better, especially for people living in developing countries and the world’s most remote locations. By connecting those who need connectivity the most, Astranis is encouraging health, learning, and entrepreneurship across the world.

Spaceflight Industries Sells Their Rideshare Launch Business

Curt Blake, the CEO and President of Spaceflight Industries, has posted news that the company has signed a definitive agreement to sell their rideshare launch business to Mitsui & Co., Ltd., of Japan (via a partnership with Yamasa Co., Ltd.).

Blake wrote that the firm can now shift their focus to ensure they are setting up the infrastructure to support their growing commercial and government business.

The transaction is now subject to the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) review, as this transaction is not yet official. While that review process can take several months to complete, the company is researching and putting plans in place to ensure the firm hits the ground running when all is  approved—hopefully in 2Q 2020. Once approved, Spaceflight, Inc. will operate as an independently run U.S. company.

Blake wrote that the company is committed to building the necessary business infrastructure to ensure their customers, both commercial and government, are fully supported and poised for growth. While the transaction is under review, Spaceflight will explore the specific infrastructure recommendations. (We anticipate Spaceflight will be governed by a Board of Directors with a majority of U.S. persons. In addition, we will also be establishing a separate subsidiary with a Board of Directors composed of U.S. persons, to minimize any impact to our U.S. government customers’ launch experience.) The firm’s name, team, and the contracts will all remain the same. There will be the hiring of a handful of new positions this year to support the business operations and the ever-growing launch schedule.

The company engaged in this acquisition for the following reasons, according to Blake. The biggest, most obvious benefit is growth. The commercial space industry is evolving rapidly, and Spaceflight is 100 percent committed to providing the most innovative and cost-effective launch options for their customers. Now the firm is able to reinvest directly in the core launch business and have the financial and operational support from a large corporation to further expand Spaceflight services, technology capabilities and the partnerships.

With Mitsui’s backing, Blake write that the company will be able to expand even further, pushing the industry to new levels and making launch even simpler and more affordable for customers. He added that the firm truly believes there is no limit to the potential of space.

NewSpace Networks Raises $200 Million for Edge Computing Via Space Connectivity

NewSpace Networks has raised $200 million to transform the industry from being hardware-focused to software-centric — the company will accomplish this through a combination of acquisition, investment and internal product development and lready has products under development that will be available later this year, along with key acquisition targets identified and in process.

Deploying aerospace infrastructure is currently slow, costly and highly proprietary, which limits its use to a small segment of the commercial and government market, stifling innovation and adoption. NewSpace is focused on changing this by addressing four areas: affordability, efficiency, scalability, and adaptability to multiple market segments. The founding team has unique acquisition and operational experience from aerospace and enterprise software companies such as Lockheed Martin, VMware, Citrix, RSA Security and Akamai.

According to some estimates in the press, $48 billion will be spent deploying more than 10,000 next-generation communication satellites which will connect to more than 15 million remote locations around the globe. These require a wide-ranging set of advanced two-way communication solutions in order to maximize network efficiency. Additionally, the explosion of remotely-generated data by a variety of devices will produce over 175 Zettabytes annually by 2025, stressing current Cloud connectivity and necessitating data reduction at the source (IDC, 2019). These two market dynamics will create significant new opportunities and the need for a more holistic approach to the way solutions are designed and built.

NewSpace has developed a targeted list of integrated innovations and investment areas. The company’s initial products will address the unique challenges of edge computing via space connectivity. Additional technologies will include:

  • Data analytics and analysis
  • Cloud integration
  • Network optimization
  • Virtualization and Hyperconvergence
  • Space and air integration
  • Security and encryption
  • Application lifecycle management
  • IoT enablement


NewSpace founders bring decades of experience across aerospace, cloud, information security, and networking. The company was co-founded by Shaun Coleman, John Metzger and Robert Cleave, who have collectively founded multiple startups resulting in acquisitions by Ungermann-Bass Networks, McAfee, and VMware. Coleman was the first investor and co-founder of space access company Vector Launch, Inc., and led its GalacticSky satellite division, which created the world’s first intelligent software-defined satellite. He co-authored, with Cleave and Metzger, more than 20 issued U.S. and international patents that Lockheed Martin is currently seeking to acquire.

NewSpace has partnered with GlobalView Strategic Advisors, a member of GlobalView Group, to assist with strategy, capital raising and M&A. GlobalView’s principals, David Orner and Ryan Orner, bring years of experience developed across top-tier finance and investment banking firms, including Merrill Lynch, CIBC World Markets, CIT Aerospace and Defense and ING Group.

Jim Simon, a former senior government official and industry executive, said NewSpace is applying modern enterprise software technology to the aerospace industry to horizontally integrate diverse air and space systems. This strategy positions it well to fundamentally change the industry. Quick and less expensive innovation is absolutely critical to not only commercial but government customers as well.”

NewSpace’s co-founder, Shaun Coleman, commented that digital terrestrial transformation would not be occurring without the internet and Cloud computing. The successful commercialization of space will only be achieved with similar software-based infrastructure to innovate upon. Yet, today, there is no purpose-built Amazon AWS, VMware or Cisco for aerospace deployments. NewSpace is building, partnering and acquiring this much-needed capability.

David Orner, Partner at GlobalView, said the company is thrilled to be working with the talented management team at NewSpace. They have developed a clear and actionable vision for the future of aerospace and satellite technologies.