Space News in Brief 19 December 2021

Inmarsat, PASCO, Airbus, Intelsat

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Inmarsat ORCHESTRA activates first satellite: Inmarsat ORCHESTRA, the future network for global mobility and government communications, achieved its first milestone in space recently with the successful activation of a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite payload. The LEO satellite is testing new concepts and system configurations for ORCHESTRA’s proposed LEO constellation, which will seamlessly integrate with geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and highly elliptical orbit (HEO) satellites, and a terrestrial 5G network, to deliver a uniquely powerful global communications solution for mobility and government customers. ORCHESTRA is the first global network of its kind; creating a global, multi-dimensional, dynamic mesh netork that will redefine connectivity at scale with the highest capacity for mobility worldwide and at hot spots across the world.  It will deliver the fastest average speeds and the lowest average latency of any network, planned or in existence. While details of the in-orbit testing remain confidential, Inmarsat has confirmed that the LEO demonstration satellite payload is testing concepts for LEO-to-ground and LEO-to-GEO communications, which are key steps in delivering the unique capabilities proposed for ORCHESTRA. As the LEO satellite features a reprogrammable payload, additional concepts will be tested over the coming months.

PASCO to distribute Pléiades Neo satellite imagery: Airbus and Japanese geospatial solutions provider PASCO have signed a new partnership agreement for a Pléiades Neo Direct Receiving Station (DRS) with associated data distribution rights on the Japanese market. This deal marks a new milestone in the very long-term collaboration between the two companies, which started 20 years ago, when PASCO introduced the industrial geo-production system of Airbus. In 2005, PASCO became the exclusive distributor of TerraSAR-X radar satellite data for the Japanese market, in 2011, the first distributor for Pléiades data, even before the satellite was launched, and in 2014, the exclusive distributor of SPOT 6/7 data. Airbus and PASCO will work together to expand the provision of geospatial information services by utilising and offering 30cm native resolution data from Pléiades Neo and will be able to answer to any highly demanding needs in terms of tasking reactivity, revisit, or coverage capacity in various fields such as disaster prevention and preparation activities both in peaceful time and emergency situation, for the national security in broad sense. Comprising four identical satellites, the 100 percent Airbus manufactured, owned and operated Pléiades Neo constellation offers a native resolution of 30cm with an imaging swath of 14km, the widest in its category. Thanks to their unmatched agility, the constellation will be able to cover the entire Earth landmass five times per year. First two satellites are already in orbit and the last two will be launched mid-2022.

Intelsat reorganisation plan approved: Intelsat announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, has approved its Chapter 11 plan of reorganisation, marking the final court milestone in the company’s financial restructuring process. Intelsat is poised to emerge from the process in early 2022 upon receipt of regulatory approvals, completion of certain corporate actions, and satisfaction of other customary conditions. The confirmed plan will reduce Intelsat’s debt by more than half – from approximately US$16 billion to US$7 billion. The plan was supported by all creditor groups across Intelsat’s capital structure following extensive negotiations and the ultimate consensual resolution of a multitude of complex issues. Under the terms of the plan and with exit financing commitments already obtained, Intelsat is set to emerge as a private company, with the support of new equity owners, access to US$7.875 billion in capital, and a significantly deleveraged balance sheet. The company is well positioned to continue to reduce its debt upon receipt of US$4.87 billion of accelerated relocation payments in connection with the C-band spectrum clearing project, with US$1.2 billion of the total already approved by the Federal Communications Commission for anticipated receipt in January.

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