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Iridium moved closer to launching an emergency maritime communications service by signing a public services agreement with the International Mobile Satellite Organization. The agreement sets the regulatory framework for IMSO to oversee Iridium’s provision of Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) services. Last May Iridium became the second entity after Inmarsat to gain recognition from the International Maritime Organization that it could support GMDSS — a safety-of-life system for maritime rescue operations. Iridium said its first GMDSS-capable terminal, now under development by Lars Thrane, is tracking for completion before the end of the year. Iridium anticipates starting GMDSS service in January 2020. [Iridium]
Cubesat constellation startup Kepler Communications will fly a new thermal control system on its third satellite. Kepler said April 16 it intends to be the first to use a Smart Radiator Device from Magellan Aerospace and MPB Communications. The smart radiator changes its heat emission or retention properties with temperature, allowing a satellite to stay within desired thermal parameters. Kepler said such a radiator could reduce the need for survival heaters when spacecraft get too cold. Kepler’s third satellite is scheduled to launch later this year. [Kepler]
Scisys, a Dublin-based company involved in several European Union space programs, broke ground on a new facility in Bochum, Germany. The company is preparing to expand its presence in Germany to ensure its continued involvement in European Union programs, such as the Galileo navigation satellites. Scisys’ new facility will be located at a technology campus called “MARK 51°7.” Scisys has other German facilities in the cities of Dortmund, Darmstadt and Munich. [Scisys]
Viasat has formed a partnership with a Brazilian company to distribute its satellite broadband service across the country. Viasat announced April 16 that Ruralweb, a company that connects schools, power companies and other customers, will help the California-based satellite operator expand across rural parts of Brazil. Viasat provides Ka-band connectivity in Brazil through capacity on Telebras’ SGDC-1 satellite. Ruralweb is Viasat’s first wholesale distribution partner in the country. [Viasat]
Smallsat constellation company Sky and Space Global says it needs to raise several million dollars in the next two months to stay on schedule.The company, which plans to deploy a constellation of more than 200 cubesats for low-data-rate services, said two companies intending to underwrite part of a previous round backed away from those plans. The company is seeking to raise $5.2 million through stock sales by May to avoid additional delays. The company already said the first launch of its cubesat constellation had been pushed back from the middle of this year to early 2020, but didn’t disclose the reasons for that delay. [SpaceNews]
The government of the island nation of Tonga signed a 15-year deal with future satellite operator Kacific for high-speed satellite broadband. The agreement comes after Tonga experienced a 12-day subsea cable outage in January, during which Kacific provided satellite connectivity using leased capacity. Kacific’s satellite, Kacific-1, is scheduled to launch later this year on a Falcon 9 rocket. Bandwidth from the satellite will connect government facilities, such as schools, post offices and police stations, as well as business and other end users, Kacific said. [ZDnet]
Aerojet Rocketdyne is looking for partners to develop a medium-lift launch vehicle powered by its AR1 engine. The company is continuing work on the engine after United Launch Alliance selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 for its Vulcan rocket, and Aerojet expects to have a prototype engine completed by the end of this year. Company executives think that a new rocket, using the AR1 as well as an upper stage powered by its RL10, could fill a niche between heavy-lift rockets and small launchers, but the company is still examining the market for such a vehicle. [SpaceNews]
The Bolivian Space Agency has installed ground infrastructure from Newtec to support the rollout of residential internet service. The Agencia Boliviana Espacial (ABE) operates the Tupac Katari 1 satellite, which launched in 2013, providing coverage of Bolivia and other parts of Latin America. Newtec said April 16 that it deployed a communications hub at ABE’s Amachuma ground station. The hub will enable ABE to expand Ka-band connectivity to at least 6,000 users, Newtec said. Entry plans come with data rates of 4 megabits per second downlink and 1 megabit per second uplink, Newtec said.
The Russian government is working on an updated national space policy to be completed by this summer. Officials said at a meeting of Russia’s Security Council that they will complete an update of “basic principles of national space exploration” and a strategy for the state corporation Roscosmos by July 15. The update will build upon a 2013 space policy, with a greater emphasis on developing national capabilities versus international cooperation. [TASS]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.