Editorial 01: Impact of the Eutelsat & OneWeb Agreement (KUZUOKA)

On July 26, French satellite communications company Eutelsat and U.S. communications satellite company OneWeb agreed to merge their respective operations.

Eutelsat, as an intergovernmental organization that initiates satellite communications in Europe, is a French company that goes back to 1977, when the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization was created. Following a liberalization of telecommunications, in July 2001, it became a private company known as “Eutelsat S.A.” Fast forward to April 2005, and the company’s main investor recreated it as a new entity: Eutelsat Communications, which is now a holdings company. Its major shareholder is the French state-owned investment bank Bpifrance, which holds a 20% stake. According to Refinitiv data, the fourth-largest shareholder is China Investment Corporation, a Chinese government fund. Eutelsat owns 40 geostationary communications satellites, its sales are the third largest in the world for a satellite communications company, and its main locations of business are Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

On the other hand, OneWeb is a U.S.-based satellite communications company with a low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation under its domain. On March 27, 2020, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings. In July of that same year, it was announced that OneWeb would be acquired by a consortium led by the British government and India’s Bharti Global, with management to be restructured.

It was then announced that the acquisition’s purpose is to counter Starlink, by U.S. company Space-X, which is the main player leading satellite communications services using low-orbit satellite constellations. This is certainly one reason, but I would like to raise another important point: This is also the realization of satellite communications mixed with different orbits.

OneWeb was originally envisioned as a low-orbit satellite constellation provider, and the optical inter-satellite communications that Starlink is currently preparing is said to be of a next generation. Then, although communication within the visible range of one constellation satellite is possible, for communications between points that cannot be covered by a single satellite, it is necessary to repeat the satellite-to-ground-to-satellite link several times. For example, so when you want to communicate with the other side of the Earth, efficiency is low.

Eutelsat, on the other hand, currently has a large number of geostationary communication satellites under its domain but does not have a low-latency transmission solution via a low-orbit satellite constellation. Therefore, by combining the respective solutions of these two companies, an effective solution that combines satellite communications in different orbits can be expected. Eutelsat’s competitor is Starlink, of course, but another major competitor is SES, which is also based in Luxembourg, Europe. SES owns and operates a medium-orbit (MEO) O3b satellite that does not operate in low orbit. Currently, there are no services provided via cooperation between the geostationary orbit communication satellites of SES and the O3b medium-orbit satellite, but in the future, it might be possible to integrate communications from satellites in different orbits.

This corporate merger of Eutelsat and OneWeb is not only intended to compete with Starlink, but it’s also a new type of satellite communication that integrates satellites in different orbits. Perhaps it is a preconceived expectation of mine that I tend to think that this might actually become the first step in constructing a “space mesh” that connects multiple points.

For the construction of a “space mesh,” which, as said, connects multiple points—just like any type of mesh would—the U.S. government itself has started the construction of such a mesh via its SDA Tranche Transport Layer. Furthermore, Space Compass, which is a joint venture between NTT and Sky Perfect JSAT and which has been launched in Japan, is also about to move forward with a “space mesh” through the integrated use of geostationary satellites and HAPS. Against this backdrop, we hope that the merger of Eutelsat and OneWeb will act as a big step toward the realization of inter-orbital satellite communications and a “space mesh.”

Editorial 02: Hybrid architectures of military/private-sector satellites (OISHI)

In the second half of this month, in addition to “Impact of the Eutelsat & OneWeb Agreement” as written above by Mr. Shigeki KUZUOKA, there was also a series of reports on trends related to multi-orbital systems, such as in headlines for “ESA selects Viasat for multi-orbit satellite communications study.”

Against this backdrop, one of the trends that I’m watching is the hybrid architecture that DIU (see note below) aims to build and that can share data from commercial, civil, and military satellites across multiple orbits.

Note: DIU (Defense Innovation Unit) is the only Silicon Valley-based DoD organization dedicated to the deployment and expansion of commercial technology across the U.S. military. The DIU’s objective is to accelerate the adoption of commercial technologies across the military and to enhance national security by strengthening the innovation base of allies and national security.

As part of this, DIU has signed contracts with Anduril, Aalyria Tech., Atlas Space Operations, and Enveil for a demonstration project this month. The initial goals of the project include demonstrating on-demand collection and analysis of imagery and other tactical data collected by commercial and government satellites operating in different orbits. The demonstration project focuses on the following four areas:

4 main areasDetails
Secure software-defined networksA secure switch-defined network for integrating various communication systems across low, medium, and geostationary orbits and cislunar space (currently, inter-orbit communication limited)
Combining data from multiple sourcesCombinations of data requiring common data standards and interfaces; requires a common command & control interface for managing data collection
Cloud-based analyticsCloud-based analytics using AI and machine learning
Variable trust protocolsVariable trust protocol for protecting information; with need to avoid introducing vulnerabilities through the proliferation of access points

At Asia Satellite Business Week (ASBW) hosted by Euroconsult in Singapore in June this year, achieving connectivity between different satellite systems deployed in multiple orbits has become a hot topic, and hybrid architectures can be considered to be a demonstratable version of doing just that.

According to DIU, an on-orbit demonstration is planned for within the next 24 months. Along with the demonstration results, we would really like to monitor future trends regarding this, including the development of terrestrial terminals, which was discussed at ASBW. Because everything is connected through a hybrid architecture, ensuring access and cybersecurity is essential, but at the same time, it is said that the private satellites that make up the architecture will aim to be designed to support a profit model, and the contents of that will also attract attention.

Promoting the procurement and use of commercial systems and services by various governments has been a long-proclaimed need, but progress has been slow. However, due to the current crisis in Ukraine, we are in a unique environment where the actual conditions of the conflict are being reported on almost every day. Against the backdrop, when U.S. military satellites are attacked, the needs for hybrid architectures that allow for flexibility in access to commercial systems and improved overall system resilience also appear to be more pressing. Therefore, it is highly likely that the long-standing stagnation in the use of commercial systems will be resolved all at once.

Editorial 03: Regarding post-International Space Station plans (MURAKAMI)

Twenty-five years have passed since the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) began.

Japan is participating in the ISS as the only country from Asia and has been contributing to ISS operations and experiments, mainly by transporting cargo via the H-II Transfer Vehicle (also known as the “Kounotori”). In the fall, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will make his third long-term stay, and final preparations are currently underway.

The ISS is scheduled to remain operational until 2024, and at the end of last year, the U.S. decided to operate it until 2030. Although the ISS was once delayed due to a Space Shuttle accident and as planning was significantly revised, it managed to reach a certain point of construction, and there was a time when means of transportation from the U.S. was lost. In cooperation with Russia, however, the ISS has been operated without any major problems up to the current day.

Now, however, relations with Russia, the ISS’s main operational partner, have become difficult. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has become politically sensitive to the economic sanctions that it has been subjected to by the West, making it difficult to have constructive talks, and direction is being dictated simply by the Russian president’s will. In the past, the ISS has been administered as a symbol of friendship with other dimensions to it, but this current situation has become difficult. The U.S., which stands in political opposition to Russia, cannot compromise easily. On the 26th, there was also a report that Russia will withdraw from joint operations in 2024. In the worst-case scenario, if Russia were to drop out, countermeasures such as disconnecting the obsolete Russian modules are being considered. It is ironic that the future of the ISS, which should have been a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Russia, is casting a dark shadow instead.

Meanwhile, another issue is post-ISS planning. As for space exploration, as a facility where experiments can be performed easily, although it has been decided to promote the Artemis program, with it focusing on the lunar surface, considering the distance to the Moon, there is the common understanding that a small-scale facility is necessary in low Earth orbit. NASA thus has an intention to start operations for this by 2030, when ISS operation ends, and is accelerating its study of the matter going forward.

Then, Axion Space is developing a module that can be attached to the ISS, and this is scheduled to be launched in 2024. Apart from that, three companies, Blue Origin, Nanoracks, and Northrop Grumman, also have hardware in development, and the plan is to finally narrow down the choice to one company by 2025. However, these plans do not have abundant funds and are being carried out as projects led by the private sector, thus concerns are being raised about possible delays.

Somewhere fresh in my memory, after the Space Shuttle was retired, it was suggested that the same thing could have happened during the four-year gap up to the debut of a new U.S. transportation system. I think it is necessary to ensure NASA’s commitment to operations and to accelerate the investment of funds.

China is also accelerating the construction of its own space station, and that is expected to be completed by the end of the year. This facility is said to be for military purposes rather than for peaceful use.

Japan has no plans to have its own facilities and is thus in a situation where it has no choice but to follow the U.S. The difference with China is becoming clear, and this situation does very much concern me.

Global Space Business Monthly News WSBW 2022

July 2022 Space Business-related Topics by Business Position/Market Field

OldSpace, etc.Mixed space, etc.NewSpace, etc.
Satellites■ Thales Alenia Space reaches major milestone in CRISTAL mission development for Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program
■ China successfully launches three “Yaogan 35-02” satellites
■ Northrop Grumman selects Airbus to supply satellite buses for US military constellation (Fig.1)
■ Satellite companies watching where DoD goes with 5G
■ Kongsberg orders satellites for Norwegian maritime surveillance constellation
■ China launches 2nd-gen Tianlian data relay satellite
■ South Korea launches KASS satellite to augment GPS (Fig.2)
■ China successfully launches Siwei 03/04 satellites
■ US contracts L3Harris, Northrop Grumman for missile-tracking satellite manufacturing
■ UAE announces plans for radar satellite constellation and space fund (Fig.3)
■  SES’s O3b mPOWER satellites to provide global high-speed connectivity
■ DirecTV says 5G plan would degrade satellite TV reception
■ ESA funds Skimsat demonstrator study for VLEO (Fig.4)
■ ESA selects Viasat for multi-orbit satellite communications study
■ L3Harris makes strategic investment in Mynaric
■ Kongsberg to acquire majority stake in NanoAvionics
■ Defense Innovation Unit selects contractors to build hybrid space network
■ Dish says SpaceX’s Starlink 5G interference study is flawed
■ National Reconnaissance Office seeks proposals from commercial providers of RF space imagery (Fig.7)
■ GeoOptics, PlanetIQ, and Spire to supply NOAA with space weather data
■ Oxford Space and SSTL unveil Wrapped Rib SAR antenna (Fig.8)
■ OneWeb and Hanwha partner to tap Australia’s military broadband market
■  Terran Orbital successfully completes next step in demonstrating space-to-ground optical link on NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 Satellite (Fig.9)
■ Millennium Space Systems demonstrated advanced small satellite constellation technology
■ Eutelsat and OneWeb agree on multi-track merger plan
■ BlackSky and Esri unveil tasking through ArcGIS Online
■ Planet signs a new contract with the German BKG for daily hi-res satellite data
■ Capella Space satellite imagery now available on Amazon Web Services cloud
■ Georgia approves Starlink services in Eastern Europe
■ Spire adding microwave sounders to improve weather forecasts
■ SpaceX: Toward maritime operations, employing satellite and rocket recovery ships
■ SpaceX: Requesting spectrum to upgrade Starlink mobile services
Launches■ China looks to launch liquid propellant rockets from the seas
■ ISRO successfully launches PSLV-C53 with three Singapore satellites onboard
■ ULA’s Atlas 5 launches US Space Force experimental missile-warning satellite
■ South Korea to launch first-ever spacecraft to the moon in cooperation with the US
■ ArianeGroup chosen by EU to speed up development of reusable rockets
■ Vega-C successfully completes inaugural flight
■ China: Possible shift to fully reusable super heavy-launchers
■ Chinese booster rocket debris could fall to Earth early next week, now out of control
■ SpaceX launches SES-22 C-band replacement satellite
■ Virgin Orbit launches Space Force mission
■ SpaceX successfully launches German SARah-1 satellite (Fig.10)
■ OneWeb to launch second-generation satellites with Relativity Space (Fig.12)
■ Kepler books orbital transfer vehicle for next launch
■ Spain’s PLD Space launches smallsats via reusable rockets, first for Europe’s private sector, market rushes toward commercialization
■ China’s first spaceport for commercial launches starts construction in Wenchang, Hainan
Others■ Northrop Grumman wins $22M smallsat carrier bus manufacturing contract from US Space Force (Fig.5)
■ Average of 1 ton/day of smallsats to be launched over the next 10 years (from a Euroconsult report) (Fig.6)
■ 10% chance of casualties due to uncontrolled rocket falling to Earth
■ US House passes 2023 National Defense Authorization Act
■ Gilat receives million$+ contract from an APAC MNO for 4G cellular backhaul network expansion
■ Three killed in missile attack on Ukrainian space facility
■ Airbus + Australian Space Agency, etc., sign strategic agreement with the Australian Department of Defense
■ Kratos receives US Army contract to demo a virtualized SATCOM ground system
■ China successfully launches first lab module for its own space station
■ NASA safety advisor warns of ISS transition plan “uncertainty”
■ DoD signaling demand for satellite support services in geostationary orbit
■ NASA and ESA remove rover from Mars Sample Return plans
■ Russia says it will quit the International Space Station after 2024
■ CAPSTONE: Communications recovery
■ Raytheon to acquire UK startup Northern Space and Security
■ Microsoft Azure launches “Space Partner Community”
■ Startical receives support from EU for air traffic management, etc.
■ Startup Wallaroo Labs wins Space Force contract to model performance of AI on edge devices (Fig.11)
■ Plasmos to build a reusable space tug (Fig.13)
■ Impulse and Relativity announce proposal for joint Mars landing mission
■ Amazon sends AWS Snowcone into space on ISS
■ Masten Space Systems files for bankruptcy
Japan■ Japan’s government expands its own SBIR program, opening up to a stage of commercialization
■ NICT communications device: A 60 GHz band-compatible planar antenna
■ NEC detects bridge deflection in millimeters using satellite SAR and AI
■ NICT: Advanced research/operational automation of satellite optical communications
■ Tokio Marine & Nichido: Space business risks and the importance of space insurance
■ JAXA collaborates with BizReach to expand human resources in space
■ Kanden invests in Space One rocket launch support
■ ispace launches lander within the year: European experimental base to support lunar project
■ Kyoto University and Kashima Space Technology Center jointly research living on the Moon and Mars
■ Synspective releases the first SAR satellite images of three cities around the world (Fig.14)
■ First surveying in Hokkaido, with 54 companies joining the space business of Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry
■ Canon Electronics releases images taken by the CE-SAT-IIB microsatellite, with samples on the Tellus satellite data platform (Fig.15)
■ GITAI: Demonstration of a robot arm on ISS in 2023 (Fig.16)
■ ispace’s lunar lander to be launched in November 2022, at the earliest (Fig.17)
■ Kajima Corporation and Kyoto University start joint research on artificial gravity facilities