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Good morning, and happy Tuesday. It’s been great meeting many of you face-to-face at Satellite 2022 in DC. If you’re also here and haven’t said hi yet, just look for the guy walking around in a Payload hat. Can’t miss it.  

Separately, we’ve welcomed 48 new readers so far through our one-day-old referral system. You, too, can bring your friends, coworkers, and fellow space geeks on board the Payload rocket ship—and earn swag in the process. Get sharing using your referral hub at the bottom of the newsletter. 

In today’s newsletter…
🚀 LEO broadband frenemies
🛰️ Astranis Q&A
🔃 On the move

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  OneWeb and SpaceX Sign Launch Services Agreement

In an absolute plot-twist of a partnership, OneWeb and SpaceX have let bygones be bygones and signed a launch services agreement.

OneWeb had an outstanding agreement with Roscosmos through European launcher Arianespace to launch aboard Soyuz rockets. But those satellites became stranded amid sanctions and rising tensions between the West and Russia.

A batch of OneWeb satellites was slated to launch with Soyuz from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan about a week after Russia invaded Ukraine. In the run-up to the launch, Russian space chief, Dmitry Rogozin, declared Roscosmos would only launch the satellites if 1) The satellites would not be used for military purposes 2) The UK divested from OneWeb.

Spoiler alert: The UK said no, the launch fell through, and future batches of OneWeb were left without a ride to space.

Enter cross-LEO rival, SpaceX

Yesterday, OneWeb said it had entered into an agreement with SpaceX to launch OneWeb satellites starting later this year. The partnership wouldn’t appear to make much sense, as both companies are in the process of deploying satellite broadband constellations. 

But…Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulatory, and engagement at OneWeb, told The Verge that the companies don’t view one another as competition. One is consumer-focused; the other is B2B.

  • “We see them as being a broad-based consumer internet supplier. They do a very good job there. We see ourselves as a more niche, government, polar enterprise service,” McLaughlin told The Verge. 
  • OneWeb is also in a more exploratory phase of development, as opposed to Starlink, which recently surpassed 250,000 active users.

“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a press release

And?…The partnership announcement left a lot unsaid. OneWeb declined to reveal the value of the launch contract or how many rides they’ve procured. We also don’t know when the first (only?) launch is happening, which launch vehicle will be used, or how many satellites will deploy per launch. But we can begin to fill in the dots—OneWeb said its full constellation would only be delayed by a few months. 

Arcturus is (Nearly) Ready for Alaska

Astranis employees prep Arcturus for TVAC testing. Photo via Astranis.
Astranis employees prep Arcturus for TVAC testing. Photo via Astranis.

Space unicorn Astranis recently announced that it had completed final tests for its first MicroGEO satellite. Payload recently caught up with Astranis CEO and cofounder John Gedmark to discuss next steps, launch, cellular backhaul, and everything in between. You’ll have to head to our site to read the full interview, but here’s a sneak peek:

On serving Alaska: “We’ll be providing reductions at the wholesale level, bringing the cost of satellite bandwidth to roughly ⅓ of existing costs. This will translate into a consumer service that is roughly ½ the cost of existing services.”

On all-perils insurance coverage: “Because this is the first time a completely new satellite platform from a new space company has ever secured this level of coverage, it required us to build the insurance community’s confidence in us as a company, as well as in our satellite as a piece of hardware that they expected to work.”

On next steps: “We’ll start prepping Arcturus for shipping to the Cape.” Arcturus = the $1.4B startup’s internal codename for its first MicroGEO satellite.

Read the full interview here


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In Other News

  • Viasat (NASDAQ:VSAT) has made assurances to the UK government to help win approval for its proposed $7.3B Inmarsat merger.
  • Of note: Viasat has pledged to 1) boost UK R&D spend by 30%, 2) “ensure continued ownership of Inmarsat’s current satellite fleet by a UK company,” and 3) locate global business HQ of the combined entity in London. 
  • Sentinel-1B’s radar recovery prospects aren’t looking great, SpaceNews reports.  
  • Gary Lai, the chief architect of Blue Origin’s New Shepard, will take Pete Davidson’s seat on NS-20. The flight is scheduled to take place one week from today.
  • SpaceX will end its longtime partnership with Spaceflight Inc. after completing the current mission manifest, the company said in an email to rideshare partners. Spaceflight was reportedly blindsided by the decision.
  • NASA has confirmed the discovery of 5,000 exoplanets.

On the Move

  • OneWeb says the US approved its appointment of three former national security officials to serve as members of a proxy board for OneWeb Technologies. The board will ​be ​led ​by Chairman of the Board Susan M. Gordon, former U.S. Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence; Richard V. Spencer, the 76th U.S. Secretary of the Navy; and Ryan D. McCarthy, the 24th U.S. Secretary of the Army.
  • NSF (the National Science Foundation) selected Erwin Gianchandani to be the inaugural assistant director for its newly formed Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) directorate.
  • ArianeGroup brought on Yohaan Leroy to lead MaiaSpace, its launch startup. Leroy was previously CTO of Eutelsat.
  • Hadrian Space promoted Lars Lider to director of business and finance.
  • Loft Orbital promoted Mitchell Scher to director of commercial business development. Scher was previously a senior manager of marketing and sales.
  • The New Mexico Spaceport Authority board appointed Stephanie Luongo, chief of mission operations for aerospace company Sceye, to its board.
  • Space Capital promoted Justus Kilian to partner in October 2021, the VC firm announced last week.
  • Muon Space hired former SpaceX director Jim Martz as engineering leader.

The View from Space

Damage in Mariupol. Image via Maxar. ©2022 Maxar Technologies.