Bloomberg has an intriguing report about Apple, Boeing and te emerging battle to provide global broadband services via constellations of satellites.
The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.’s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple’s private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn’t respond to requests for comment….
In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It’s unclear if those talks will result in a deal….
Still, TMF’s Farrar said there’s no guarantee Apple will get involved in the Boeing project. The satellite industry is littered with bankruptcies and other failures. Satellite telephone company Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago.
Indeed, Apple may have hired the Google executives for something other than satellite work. It’s already trying to use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans. And in 2015, it acquired Aether Industries LLC, which develops near-space technology such as high bandwidth radio transceivers and high-altitude balloons.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The portfolio of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will soon include large-scale satellite manufacturing following Thursday’s groundbreaking for a 150,000-square foot spacecraft factory in the center’s Exploration Park.
SpaceX has filed a new application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites to provide communications in the little used V band.
The system is in addition to another constellations of 4,425 satellites (plus orbital spares) SpaceX proposed in November that would operate in the Ku and Ka bands. In total, the two constellations would have 11,943 spacecraft plus spares.
“When combined into a single, coordinated system, these ‘LEO’ and ‘VLEO’ constellations will enable SpaceX to provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis,” SpaceX said in its application.
Competitor OneWeb has submitted a new application that would add an additional 2,000 satellites capable of operating in the V-band to its planned constellation of 720 satellites.
Luxembourg, Jersey, and Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2017 (Intelsat PR) — Intelsat (NYSE: I) and OneWeb today announced that they have entered into a definitive combination agreement pursuant to which Intelsat and OneWeb will merge in a share-for-share transaction. Intelsat and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) also entered into a definitive share purchase agreement pursuant to which SoftBank will invest $1.7 billion in newly issued common and preferred shares of the combined company. Both the merger and the SoftBank investment are subject to, among other conditions, successful completion of debt exchange offers to certain existing Intelsat bondholders as well as receipt of certain regulatory approvals.
The Japanese technology investor SoftBank is hatching plans for a multi-billion dollar merger of two major satellite companies – OneWeb and Intelsat – in a deal that would create a global powerhouse in the fast-changing arena of space technology.
Sky News has learnt that discussions involving a combination of OneWeb – shareholders in which include Airbus, The Coca-Cola Company and Virgin Group – and Intelsat are at an advanced stage.
Intelsat is also a small shareholder in OneWeb.
One source indicated that a deal could be outlined when Intelsat, which is listed in New York, reports financial results on Tuesday.
If the talks are successfully concluded, an announcement would come just two months after SoftBank invested $1bn in OneWeb, a move designed to help it build the world’s first high-volume satellite production facility in Florida.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (SolAero PR) –- SolAero Technologies Corp (SolAero), a leading provider of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and composite structural products, announced a $10 million program investment to augment its existing solar panel production capabilities in support of the growing market for commercial satellite constellations. This significant commitment includes the construction of a new 40,000 square foot facility at its headquarters in Albuquerque, NM. Once complete, this facility will contain the world’s only vertically-integrated, end-to-end satellite solar panel production capability. The project will create more than 100 new jobs at SolAero and its partners and will represent the leading industry benchmark for space solar power technology.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to expand, with the company setting up a satellite research and development (R&D) laboratory in Washington State and expanding the space it leases from the Port of Los Angeles.
The R&D laboratory is designed for SpaceX’s planned 4,425-satellite constellation that would provide Internet and other communications services around the world.
SpaceX has taken on a 40,625-square-foot facility in Redmond, Wash., that will become a research and development lab for its ambitious satellite operation.
The warehouse-style space in the Redmond Ridge Corporate Center, owned by M&T Partners, is slated for a $2.1 million interior remodeling job, according to a permit application filed last month with King County.
SpaceX is already using a 30,000-square-foot office building that’s about a 10-minute drive away in Redmond. (more…)
A new analysis of SpaceX’s plans to have revenues of $30 billion per year for its global satellite Internet project is “too optimistic” and could damage the industry’s credibility by creating unrealistic expectations. It also claims that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly manipulated financial analysts with “totally unrealistic” schedules and projections.
Here’s an excerpt from the story. [Emphasis original]
WSJ’s [Wall Street Journal’s] article notes that SpaceX expects to attract over 40 M subscribers by 2025. The largest satellite Internet network today is operated by HughesNet, which has slightly above 1M subs after nearly a decade of operation. Combining ViaSat’s Exede and HughesNet, the year with the highest number of new subscribers was in the 300-350,000 range, which hints at how difficult it is to build the distribution channels for this kind of service. Of course, cheap, self-installation terminals and a global operation infrastructure could accelerate service take-up, but it appears very difficult to reach the 40M installed base in just 5 years. Compounding all of the above, one must not forget regulatory barriers as SpaceX would need to pursue landing rights in each and every country it wants to operate….
The best way to predict the future is building it, and NSR will only be pleased to see the satellite industry growing to the levels forecasted by SpaceX, as it would be beneficial for everyone. While it is true that forecasting revenues for such innovative ventures has a significant level of uncertainty, NSR nonetheless believes the $30 billion revenue projection is too optimistic no matter what assumptions are made and could stoke unrealistic expectations undermining the industry’s credibility.
One must also consider that SpaceX are masters of strategic communications and have repeatedly made extravagant announcements to push analysts, the financial community, the industry and employees in its favor. It is its CEO managing style, the day after he announced a totally unrealistic schedule and sales target for Tesla’s Model 3, auto analysts universally moved their own estimates up satisfying what probably was the original goal, shifting the paradigm. SpaceX has said very clearly that it plans a step deployment of the constellation starting commercial operations with a “modest” 800 satellite constellation (compared with the 4,420 of the full deployment), which hints at the venture having different growth scenarios with more reasonable assumptions. When analyzing SpaceX projections, being an investor, a competitor or an industry watcher, one must keep its independence and not fall in this expectations trap. Otherwise, industry’s credibility would be at risk.
LONDON, 26 July 2016 (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer.
The battle over the allocation of Ku-band spectrum is heating up.
A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX.
SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.
In a June 8 submission to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the coalition says the low-orbiting satellite constellations in Ku-band have provided no credible evidence that they will ever be built. Even if they are, there is plenty of spectrum available in both Ku- and Ka-band, the coalition said.
“There is simply no basis to jeopardize 5G [Multi-Channel Video Distribution and Data Service, or MVDDS] deployment to give additional spectrum to a speculative NGSO service that already has access to ample spectrum,” the MVDDA Coalition said in its FCC petition, referring specifically to OneWeb.
Speaking at a satellite convention in Hong Kong on Tuesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell downplayed the company’s commitment to building a 4,000 satellite constellation to deliver Internet around the world.
Addressing CASBAA’s convention Oct. 27, Shotwell sought to dispel the impression that SpaceX — already busy returning from a launch failure with an upgraded rocket, developing a Falcon Heavy variant, upgrading its Dragon cargo freighter to carry crew for NASA — was moving full-speed-ahead with what would almost certainly be a multibillion-dollar investment in satellites.
“I would say that this is actually very speculative at this point,” Shotwell said of the satellite Internet idea. “We don’t have a lot of effort going into that right now.
“Certainly I think that from a technical perspective this could get done. But can we develop the technology and roll it out with a lower-cost methodology so that we can beat the prices of existing providers like Comcast and Time Warner and other people? It’s not clear that the business case will work,” Shotwell said.
The story also mentions that Shotwell has always said that the $1 billion investment that SpaceX received from Google and Fidelity Investments has gone into the space company’s treasury for company purposes and has not been earmarked for the satellite constellation program.
OneWeb is looking to raise up to $2.5 billion more to fund its global Internet from space constellation:
Sky News has learnt that OneWeb, whose shareholders include some of the world’s biggest companies, is to hold a beauty parade of investment banks ahead of a fundraising planned for next year.
The talks with bankers, which are at an early stage, follow a $500m investment in OneWeb in June as it seeks to build a network of solar-powered terminals that will be connected to almost 650 ‘micro satellites’ in low-earth orbit.