ICYMI: Space Industry News Round-Up from the Holiday Break
As the new year kicks off and many return from a holiday hiatus, here is a brief recap of news you might have missed from Via Satellite over the last two weeks.
Two separate groups that have been working on open standards in satellite ground technology are joining together. The Digital IF Interoperability Consortium (DIFI) and the Digital Interface Standards Working Group (DIS) jointly announced on Dec. 22 that DIFI will consolidate the seven members of DIS within the consortium. The group is working to extend and adapt an interoperable digital interface/Radio Frequency (IF/RF) standard based on digital radio standard VITA 49.2.
NASA is on track to complete certification of fight safety software to be used at the Wallops Flight Facility by the end of February. This clears the way for a Rocket Lab launch from Wallops in the near future. Rocket Lab has been working with NASA and will use the software. Both NASA and Rocket Lab expect an Electron launch from Virginia in 2022, a milestone that has been delayed.
Hughes Network Systems has formed a joint venture with Bharti Airtel (Airtel) to provide satellite broadband services in India. HCIPL will combine the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) businesses of both companies. This is the completion of a joint venture first announced in May 2019. In addition, Hughes and OneWeb already have an MoU in place for Hughes to distribute OneWeb capacity in India via HCIPL.
Virgin Orbit is now a publicly traded company after shareholders of NextGen Acquisition Corp. II approved the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger on Dec. 28. The launcher comes away with approximately $228 million in gross proceeds — substantially less than the $483 million Virgin Orbit projected it would take away. This points to a large number of redemptions by SPAC shareholders. Virgin Orbit stock is down about 40% since trading began this week.
Relativity Space has hired its first vice president of Software Engineering, bringing on Scott Van Vliet, former Microsoft corporate vice president for the role. The company said this is a significant investment in the future of its software-driven manufacturing platform. “We’re on a mission to create an entirely new tech stack for aerospace manufacturing,” CEO Tim Ellis said.
OneWeb closed out 2021 with its 12th satellite launch on Monday, Dec. 27. The Arianespace launch brought OneWeb’s constellation to 394 satellites, 60% of its total size. This was OneWeb’s eighth launch of 2021, all Arianespace missions.
This year is set to be a big one for satellite launches, as a number of major satellite operators launch satellites that mark the culmination of years-long business plans and investments. Check out our round-up of the top satellite launches we’ll be watching and covering in 2022.