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September 30, 2020
Rapid innovation is transforming the space sector. Welcome to our first weekly report on the companies racing to enhance Earth observation, expand global communications and improve space access.

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  • A Japanese firm details radar satellite plans
  • Swissto12 and Thales Alenia Space expand reliance on 3D-printed parts
  • Germany’s Wurzburg Center for Telematics sends cubesats into formation
  • Emergency response team lauds SpaceX Starlink service
Japan’s Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space (iQPS) plans to create a constellation of 36 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites by 2025 to offer customers global one-meter-resolution imagery within 10 minutes. IQPS plans to launch its second 100-kilogram SAR satellite as early as December on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of Spaceflight’s SXRS-3 rideshare mission. [SpaceNews]

SWISSto12 is working with Thales Alenia Space to expand the use of additively manufactured parts for geostationary communications satellites. The Swiss startup has spent years designing, manufacturing and testing waveguide signal interconnects for Eutelsat Konnect Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS), a Ka-band communications satellite scheduled to launch in 2021. Through its work with Thales Alenia Space, Swissto12 hopes to gain flight heritage and credibility for additively manufactured parts. [SpaceNews]

A Russian Soyuz-2.1b rocket launched Sept. 28 carrying 19 small satellites alongside three Russian Gonets communications satellites. Iceye, Kepler Communications, Lacuna Space and Spire Global satellites traveled on the Soyuz with satellites from Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Technical University of Berlin, Wurzburg Center for Telematics and two United Arab Emirates schools: Khalifa University and American University of Ras Al Khaimah. [SpaceNews/]

The Wurzburg Center for Telematics NetSat mission launched on the Russian Soyuz rocket is designed to showcase technology to make four cubesats fly in a three-dimensional formation. If the mission proves successful, the technology could be applied to Earth observation and telecommunications, according to the NetSat principal investigator at the Center for Telematics, which worked with German startup S4 (Smart Small Satellite Systems GmbH) to develop the four-kilogram cubesats. [SpaceNews]

Emergency teams responding to wildfires in Washington State laud the SpaceX Starlink constellation for low latency communications and ease of ground terminal setup. Since early August, Washington State Military Department emergency personnel have tested seven Starlink ground terminals in fire-ravaged areas. Richard Hall, who heads emergency telecommunications for the department's IT division, told CNBC the state is in discussions with SpaceX to obtain Starlink service for rural areas that lack broadband. [CNBC]

Swarm Technologies announced prices for its satellite communications products including data services starting at $5 per device per month and $119 satellite modems. Swarm launched its first 12 operational Spacebee satellites in early September aboard an Arianespace Vega rocket. The company plans to construct an internet-of-things constellation by the end of 2021 with 150 hockey-puck-size satellites. [SpaceNews]

Geospatial intelligence company BlackSky unveiled its third-generation Global satellites. BlackSky Gen-3, will offer imager with a resolution of 50 centimeters per pixel and carry shortwave infrared and low light sensors. By comparison, BlackSky’s Gen-2 satellites capture imagery with a resolution of one meter. The U.S. Army plans to task BlackSky Gen-3 satellites and downlink imagery to remote terminals. [SpaceNews]

Intelsat will have enough capacity to support Delta Air Lines’ plan to offer free in-flight internet to passengers once its $400 million acquisition of Gogo’s commercial aviation unit is completed, according to Mark Rasmussen, Intelsat senior vice president for mobility. Delta offered passengers free internet access on 55 daily domestic flights per day during a two-week trial earlier this year in an effort to gauge demand. [Runway Girl]

The British government will consider ways to replace the Galileo satellite navigation system other than developing its own satellite constellation. "Capitalising on the ingenuity of British businesses and academics, the programme will explore the use of different kinds of satellites at various levels of orbit by exploiting technologies offered by companies at the cutting-edge of innovation such as OneWeb, Inmarsat and Airbus," according to a Sept. 24 news release. [SpaceNews/Gov. UK]

Kymeta won FCC approval for its new phased array antenna. Kymeta won a blanket authorization for its u8 antenna terminal and type approvals from satellite operators including Intelsat, Echostar, Hellasat, KTSAT and Telesat. The u8 antenna is currently in beta testing. A commercial rollout is expected late this year. [GeekWire]

The U.S. Space Force, meanwhile, is looking at using phased array antennas to modernize satellite ground stations. In a test this summer, an electronically steered phased array antenna made by Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace communicated with four military satellites across multiple orbits. The test was part of the Multi-Band Multi-Mission program, which is examining how such antennas could be used to replace 15 existing dish antennas that can only talk to one satellite at a time. [SpaceNews]


Sept. 29-Oct. 1
ConnecTechAsia | Virtual

Oct. 6-8
Satellite Innovation 2020 | Virtual

Oct. 13-15
Planet Explore | Virtual
Planet Labs user conference featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore  

Nov. 9-10
Cabsat | Virtual

Nov. 9-11
World Satellite Business Week | Virtual

Nov. 9-13 
AfricaCom | Virtual

Nov. 16-18
ASCEND | Virtual

Thank you for reading this week's issue of SN Commercial Drive. For the latest commercial space news, visit and follow Debra Werner (@SpaceReportr) on Twitter. 

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