Volume V, No. VI June 2020
Table of Contents
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
Patee Sarasin, former CEO of Nok Air:
"Unlocking the Riches of In-flight Wi-Fi" (pg. 4)
David Bruner, former V.P. Panasonic Avionics:
"Buckle Up! :Turbulence Ahead in Airline Connectiviy Markets"
"The Promise of the New Iridium and Aireon Services: Big Advancements in Air Traffic Management on the Horizon" (pg. 26)
Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO Hiber: "Disrupting the Satellite IoT Connectivity Market: The Promise of Hiber" (p.31)
"Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events"
Highlighting Disruptive, New, Mobility-Focused Satellite Ventures and Technologies
"As Intelsat Goes Bankrupt It's Happy Times At the Honey Pot"
"Time Bomb Ticking: The OneWeb Tragedy that Never Had to Be"
"The Future of Investment in Space - A Venture Capital View" with Mark Bogget of Seraphim and Chris Boshuizen of DCVC
"Intellian and the New World of High-Speed Broadband at Sea" with Intellian CEO, Eric Sung
"Inmarsat vs. Iridium and The Battle for The Rail Market" With Thales Director of Channel Marketing, Mike Kreiner
"Wi-Tronix, IoT and Freight Rail"
Satellite mobility World
In This Issue...
Welcome to the June 2020 Issue of Satellite Mobility World. Like most industries, Satellite is feeling the effects of the Covid -19 crisis. Cruise and Aero segments are hard hit, and Intelsat and Speedcast, already in financial trouble, were pushed into bankruptcy.
This month we're leading with an editorial on Intelsat, As Intelsat Goes Bankrupt, It's Happy Times at the Honeypot. In it, we examine management's past performance and question whether the management team is worthy of their enormous retention bonuses.
Moving on, in an interview with two well-known Space industry venture capitalists, Mark Bogget of Seraphim and Chris Boshuizen of DCVC, we examine the effects of Covid-19 on Space VC investment. Here, you'll find out if capital is still available and what companies are generating the most interest in the Space investment community. Next, we focus on IoT and learn how the Rocky Mountaineer, Canada's famous sightseeing train, stays connected as it traverses the Canadian Rockies. We conclude with an interview with Intellian's innovative CEO, Eric Sung.
Satellite Mobility World
Published by Gottlieb International Group, Inc.
For Information on advertising opportunities
Satellite Mobility World
Published by Gottlieb International Group
Arlington, Virginia, USA
Satellite Mobility World is published by Gottlieb International Group, Inc.
1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA 22204 USA
© Copyright 2020
1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington VA USA 22204
Published by Gottlieb International Group, Inc.
Arlington, VA USA
Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204 © Copyright 2019
Click Here To Subscribe
Table of Contents...
"Hot News and Commentary" (pg.3)
"SmallSat News and Ventures" (pg. 4)
Editorially Speaking: "As Intelsat Goes Bankrupt, It's Happy Times at the Honey Pot" (pg. 6)
"Time Bomb Ticking: The OneWeb Tragedy that Never Had to Be" (pg. 11)
"The Future of Investment in Space" with Mark Bogget of Seraphim and Chris Boshuizen of DCVC (pg. 14)
"Intellian and the New World of High-Speed Broadband at Sea" with Intellian CEO, Eric Sung (pg. 28)
"Inmarsat vs. Iridium: The Battle for the Rail Market" with Thales Director of Channel Marketing, Mike Kreiner (pg. 36)
"Wi-Tronix, IoT and Freight Rail, The Next Mobility Market? (Pg. 42)
"Recommended Upcoming Industry Events
SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
Viasat Announces Plans to Build 300 Satellite LEO Constellation
Hopes to Participate in Phase II of FCC Rural Opportunities Fund
May 26, 2020 - Carlsbad, California: During its Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 and full-year results, CEO Mark Dankberg announced the company was abandoning its plans to build a MEO constellation and instead will build a 300 satellite LEO constellation. According to Dankberg, the move is based on the hope that the FCC will allow LEO constellations to participate in Phase II of the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund - a total of $20.4 billion to be awarded over 10 years. Up to $16 billion will be made available for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction. The remaining Phase I budget, along with $4.4 billion, will be awarded for Phase II of the auction.
Space X is also courting the FCC to secure the opportunity to participate. Whether or not LEO constellations will be able to participate in the FCC's Phase I and Phase II auctions is a hotly contested issue. Rural organizations, including NRECA and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, oppose LEO participation because the technology is not being used in commercial service today and is unproven at a scale sufficient to demonstrate its viability. In a letter to the FCC on March 9, the NTCA wrote "An essential corollary to this is that, if a particular technology is not being used to offer commercial service today in rural areas on a comparable scale to the bids it would place, such service should be ineligible to bid in the auction at such a level – and this should certainly hold true for any experimental technology that is not offering commercial service at all. Indeed, rather than presuming experimental technologies can and will deliver service until a vetting process might find otherwise, the presumption should be that such technologies cannot perform at the asserted level unless and until they make a detailed showing that they can."
In our May 2020 Editorial, we also pointed out that technology alone shouldn't be the only criteria for participation in the fund. Any solution must demonstrate that it is economically viable, lest the Federal Government need to provide an endless stream of subsidies - a situation similar to AMTRAK.
Anokiwave and Ball Aerospace Complete the Portfolio of Affordable Flat Panel Phased Array Antennas with a Ku-Band Antenna Option that Now Allows Customers a Choice in Selecting their Service Needs
San Diego, CA, 27 May 2020: Anokiwave, Inc. and Ball Aerospace are continuing their collaboration to develop and enable the next generation of SATCOM terminal solutions adding a Ku-band option to the portfolio of flat panel phased array antennas. With the new portfolio of either Ku- or K/Ka-band antennas, customers have the flexibility to meet their broadband service needs.
Ball Aerospace brings an innovative approach to the design of either a Ku- or K/Ka-band system. Each antenna can be designed with the same footprint, allowing a consistent terminal baseplate, chasses, and interfaces that can be swapped based on the user’s broadband service needs. Using the same architecture to target both Ku- and K/Ka-band allows development efficiency and cost advantages by leveraging the same manufacturing, test, and qualification infrastructure. Anokiwave continues to provide Ku-band Silicon SATCOM beamforming ICs that improve performance, reduce cost, simplify thermal management, and provide a host of unique digital functionality to simplify overall system design.
“The Anokiwave SATCOM IC portfolio offers Ball Aerospace options for both Ku- and K/Ka-band ICs with unmatched performance and features,” said Abhishek Kapoor, Anokiwave vice president of Sales. “This is a unique first in the industry as Ball Aerospace can now deliver flat panel electronically steered antennas that meet performance, operating band, and total cost of ownership targets. Driving the delicate balance of cost and performance of the ICs has been a key challenge to the mass adoption of active antennas for satellite communications.”
“The industry is starting to move to a model where SATCOM communications equipment is disaggregated from satellite operators and service providers,” said Jake Sauer, vice president and general manager, Tactical Solutions, Ball Aerospace. “Ball has developed an antenna architecture with the Anokiwave ICs that gives customers the choice to target either Ku- or K/Ka-band broadband service for LEO, MEO, and GEO satellites and allows the end user the flexibility to meet both their short- and long-term service needs.”
Ball Aerospace brings an innovative approach to flat panel electronically steered antennas with modular subarrays that can be tiled together to form an antenna that is optimized to the mission needs of the customer without the cost of antenna re-design. Ball Aerospace has completed over-the-air testing of both its Anokiwave IC enabled Ku- and K/Ka-band subarrays and has measured results showing transmit and receive performance over scan, switchable polarization and tapering. These test results matched, and in most cases beat, modeled estimates.
Thuraya and Cygnus Telecom Provide Satellite Connectivity to Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services
Abu Dhabi, UAE, June 3, 2020: Thuraya, the mobile satellite services subsidiary of the UAE’s Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) has announced that it is providing always-on satellite connectivity to Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services through its partner, Cygnus Telecom. As the UAE steps up its efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services is playing a critical role in the implementation of health measures introduced to protect the country’s residents. The UAE has deployed the latest technologies to help its health responders eradicate the threat of coronavirus within its borders.
Following the launch of Mobile Laboratory Units (MLUs) by Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services to provide free home-based testing for the elderly and ‘people of determination’, Cygnus Telecom, the Master Distributor of Thuraya’s voice solutions has equipped 12 ambulances with the X5-Touch satellite phones so that paramedics remain connected while on duty in the remote areas of Dubai such as Hatta, or on marine ambulances at sea.
Khalifa Hassan Aldrai, Executive Director of Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services welcomed the companies’ contribution: “The decision by Thuraya and Cygnus Telecom to fit our vehicles with satellite phones is both timely and commendable. The ongoing collaboration among us is a testament to the cooperation across organizations and individuals to support the government’s efforts to protect our people. Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services is committed to providing effective medical care anywhere within Dubai, and through such tie-ups, we are able to raise the standards of COVID-19 preparedness and response within the emirate.”
Thuraya and Cygnus Telecom have a rich legacy of supporting medical missions within the Middle East and Africa with satellite-powered telemedicine solutions, including teleconferencing kits and connected ambulances. The extensive knowledge and expertise gained from these collaborations are now being used to save lives in the UAE.
Intellian’s v85NX Antenna System Gains Telenor Satellite Thor 7 Type Approval
20 May 2020 – Intellian is delighted to announce that its v85NX antenna has earned type approval for Telenor Satellite’s Thor 7 Ka-band service, following successful sea trials. Significantly the v85NX – which is the first 85cm antenna to be certified on the Thor 7 network – will benefit from the same airtime pricing as 1m antennas. As service provision for smaller antennas is usually more expensive owing to their lower gain, this recognizes the outstanding performance of the v85NX and makes it a competitive choice for customers looking for a compact design with low capital and operational expenditure.
Offering up to 25 simultaneously active spot beams, the Thor 7 service is designed to provide optimal HTS Ka-band VSAT connectivity across Europe, covering busy shipping lanes in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Jan Hetland, Director, Data Service Division at Telenor Satellite, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Intellian’s v85NX antenna to our leading Thor 7 service. A satellite service providing high-powered performance for maritime applications requires premium hardware, and Intellian’s NX Series systems have a range of attributes which position them at the forefront of antenna technology, reflecting Telenor Satellite’s forward-looking service provision. We look forward to working together in delivering outstanding global communications to our loyal customers.”
The RF design of NX Series antennas outperforms rival products, resulting in unmatched data rates. A major advantage is that dual antennas – often employed to avoid the satellite being obstructed by vessel superstructure – may be easily configured thanks to the mediator built into the ACU. Before, a separate mediator unit was required. The antennas can be easily converted between Ku- and Ka-band by swapping out the center-mounted RF assembly and feed, and there is also a range of BUC options – 5W and 10W for Ka-band and from 8W to 25W for Ku-band – which are interchangeable with no need to rebalance the system following their installation.
Eric Sung, Intellian CEO, commented: “This certification from Telenor Satellite, and the competitive price bracket in which Telenor has placed the v85NX, underlines the performance and versatility of our NX Series antennas. New customers can purchase a v85NX antenna pre-configured for Ka-band off the shelf, while users who already own a v85NX antenna on a Ku-band network can easily convert it to Ka-band operation for use with Thor 7. We are delighted to join with Telenor in facilitating flexible, high-speed communications across Europe.”
NX Series antennas are shipped pre-slung to facilitate installation, and the use of modular components common to the entire antenna range has cut the number of spare parts required by up to 40%. This in turn simplifies maintenance, enhances reliability and brings about further cost savings for end users.
Curvalux Signs JV to Open Advanced Communications R&D and Manufacturing in the UK
Curvalux UK, Sheffield. (May. 6, 2020)— CurvaLux UK (“CurvaLux”), the innovative developer and manufacturer of new generation wireless broadband solutions and Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority (“SCR”) announce a joint investment to open a state-of-the-art telecommunications R&D Centre and production facility (“the Facility”).
Curvalux announces that it will bring state-of-the-art digital communications R&D and manufacturing to the UK – with an initial investment in Sheffield.
The company is developing next-generation broadband wireless systems based on smart multi-beam phased-array antennas and aims to bring low-cost, high-speed internet access to rural communities and underserved urban areas across a £multi-billion global market. Curvalux has been demonstrating its systems with major service providers in Asia, Middle East, and USA since 2018 with further trials planned for 2020 including Europe and South Africa. The patented low-energy technology avoids costly power infrastructure.
The investment will bring high-quality technology jobs to Sheffield and the company plans to attract suppliers from across the UK including the Sheffield City Region.
SCR is supporting the company’s investment with an initial R&D grant of £8 million.
Curvalux is part of Airspace Internet Exchange Inc., a company established by Tom Choi - a renowned satellite industry executive - to pursue the next generation of low-cost satellite and wireless broadband systems. Aimed principally at export markets, Curvalux’s technologies are also relevant to the UK’s digital infrastructure.
Thomas Choi, Executive Chairman of Curvalux, said: “I look forward to working with the Sheffield City Region as we develop our next generation of innovative digital solutions. The UK’s renewed commitment to R&D and desire to grow in global markets makes it a natural location for us. We expect to attract high-calibre employees and capable suppliers from across the UK and will engage with the AMRC and wider High Value Manufacturing Catapult as an integral part of our approach.”
Curvalux is an advanced wireless access and backbone technology with built-in backhaul relay architecture. The system provides frequency re-use, directed beam and high antenna gain, dramatically increasing the throughput and range of wireless broadband connectivity to low power and low-cost user terminals, mobile phones and tablets. Curvalux sets new standards of low-cost, energy consumption, size and weight compared with other next generation mobile and fixed wireless access systems.
Spacecom and Comtech Telecommunications Corp. Demonstrate 1.3 Gigabit C-band Link over AMOS-17 Using Comtech EF Data Modems with Telemedia South Africa
May 12, 2020 at 9:00 AM EDT
TEL AVIV, Israel & MELVILLE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 12, 2020-- May 12, 2020 -- Spacecom (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange: SCC), operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, and Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (NASDAQ: CMTL) today announced the successful demonstration of a 1.3 Gbps link using Comtech EF Data’s CDM-760 Advanced High-Speed Trunking and Broadcast Modems operating over AMOS-17 C-band HTS payload. The exceptionally high throughput of 1.3 Gbps on a single link was established between two Telemedia facilities over AMOS-17’s C-band spot beam using a single CDM-760 modem per facility. Telemedia is a leading provider of broadcast and teleport services in South Africa.
In addition, using the DoubleTalk® Carrier-in-Carrier® adaptive cancellation functionality of the CDM-760, the team established a symmetrical 270Mbps/270Mbps link between two Telemedia sites using a total of only 62.8MHz on AMOS-17, achieving spectral efficiencies of 8.6 bits/Hz in such a high capacity C-band link.
Ping tests showed that these links had a round-trip delay of less than 500ms, including the satellite link, modems and external routers, which is extremely low latency for a GEO satellite link.
According to Eran Shapiro, Director of Business and Technology Ventures at Spacecom, “We were thrilled to partner with Comtech EF Data and Telemedia to demonstrate the very high throughput customers can enjoy on AMOS-17 C-band spot beams, without having to compromise on service availability or on solution complexity. The throughput and efficiencies of AMOS-17’s spot beams are unique over Sub Saharan Africa. Comtech EF Data’s modems and team proved this, while only using one modem per site. Engaging the African market with key enabling connectivity technologies for commercial and government sectors is a strategic goal for Spacecom. Together with Comtech EF Data, we are able to address important market segments with cost-effective, easy to deploy and maintain solutions.”
Mark Toppenberg, President of the Commercial Group at Comtech EF Data stated, “It is exciting to see the AMOS-17 satellite performance that fully utilizes the functionality, horsepower and efficiency of Comtech EF Data’s high-performance satellite modems. Customers will really benefit from the high data rates that can be achieved even with small antennas. The combination of HTS throughput, C-band reliability and low latency makes the solution ideal for IP trunking, mobile backhaul, critical applications and remote enterprise offices.”
AsiaSat Reports Linear TV Viewing Witnessing an Upsurge Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
Hong Kong, 21 May 2020 – Recent media reports have revealed shifts in consumers’ viewing behavior as COVID-19 situation evolves with individuals and families spending more time at home, which noted a spike in linear TV viewing, in terms of penetration and time spent across multiple markets and all generations.
News channels and programs have seen a surge in viewership as news updates and government announcements on new regulations and the pandemic development become profoundly important to the public. During this period of uncertainty, satellite continues to be a reliable and cost effective means for content delivery, serving audiences nationally and abroad with critical and timely news and information.
Isotropic Networks Puts the Power in the Hands of First Responders with its New Emergency Communications Platform
Agile solution provides always-on, fail safe connectivity for emergency teams at any location
LAKE GENEVA, WI, May 4, 2020 – Isotropic, the trusted provider of global internet services offering unrivaled certainty, has announced the availability of its new Emergency Communications Platform (ECP). The platform is rapidly and easily integrated into emergency vehicles to provide an instant means of communication no matter where it is needed, allowing emergency managers to effectively coordinate a response using voice, data, and video services as well as manage available bandwidth.
With its compact design and just-add-power portability, the ECP can be installed on any vehicle in a fraction of the time of traditional solutions, without the need for large clusters of rooftop equipment that introduce more opportunities for technical difficulties. The ECP is built on a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) connection that automatically shifts between VSAT and LTE networks in microseconds.
“It’s said that the first five minutes of an incident dictate the next five hours of its operations,” said Ryan Zbierski, Director, Mission Assurance, Isotropic. “It is essential that connectivity is made instantly available wherever it’s needed. Our software-defined solution enables first responders to share information from the outset. We take the worry out of the communications so they can focus on the job at hand.”
The technology behind the ECP features the Kymeta™ GEO flat panel antenna with an integrated iQ 200 modem board from ST Engineering iDirect at its core, promising unfailing, always-on connectivity. This is coupled with the Isotropic Datadragon™ bandwidth management platform that puts the power to monitor, control, and optimize data usage in the hands of relief teams. The platform is supported by Isotropic’s customizable flat-rate flexible service plans designed to scale and work not only with the ECP, but also with pre-existing technology configurations.
“We are proud to play a part in this innovative solution for emergency services,” said David Harrower, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Kymeta. “To see the Kymeta antenna playing such a key role in the ECP and enabling mobility of communications to the heart of where people need help means a great deal to us.”
ST Engineering iDirect and Spacecom Join Forces on High Throughput Low Power Demonstration on AMOS-17 with iDirect iQ 200
Combined satellite and ground segment technology facilitates high throughput low power VSAT return capabilities, enabling users to address new applications
Herndon, Va., and Ramat-Gan, Israel, 5 May 2020 - ST Engineering iDirect, a company of ST Engineering North America, and its long-term partner, Spacecom (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange: SCC), operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, today announced the successful demonstration of VSAT return capabilities on AMOS-17.
The demonstration resulted in an exceptionally wide return link for a small VSAT of 40Mbps using the iDirect iQ 200 modem’s Adaptive TDMA return over AMOS-17’s high power C-band HTS beams. The combination of the 2.4m C-Band terminal and AMOS-17’s high-performance beams generated a highly efficient solution. The large return data rate enabled simultaneous transmission of multiple high data streams from South Africa to Europe with a small antenna, resulting in the low-power Communications-on-the-Pause (COTP) solution. This opens up many operational and business opportunities to customers, such as emergency deployments, government applications, coverage of events and backhaul services.
Conducted from the UK-based SMS Teleport, an AMOS-17 European Gateway partner, the modem and antenna were installed in a communications truck located between Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa. The truck was provided by Telemedia, a leading provider of broadcast and teleport services across Africa.
The iQ 200 is a DVB-S2/DVB-S2X modem with Adaptive TDMA returns, combining high-performance features with mobility, making it an ideal solution for real-time, cost-effective, small to medium enterprise applications, such as IP trunking for disaster response and emergency services as well as mobility solutions such as maritime.
“By utilizing the iDirect Evolution platform and iQ 200, we can now offer a unique low footprint, low power and high capacity return links from any remote location, enabling users to enter new markets and facilitate new applications,” said Tsachi Dahan, VP of Vertical Solutions at Spacecom. “AMOS-17’s C-Band spot beams provide superior throughput and efficiencies over Sub-Saharan Africa with connections to Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. We look forward to presenting this unique value proposition to our customers brought about by this combination of satellite and ground segment.”
"We are excited to be involved in this important demonstration that brings out the greater potential of combining the right ground segment and high throughput satellite capacity,” commented Jerome Clapisson, Regional Vice President of Sales, Europe at ST Engineering iDirect. “This opens up a whole new array of applications for users that span many different applications and markets, and is synonymous with our goal of expanding market access to our customers by setting an industry benchmark in performance and efficiency.”
The solution is available to AMOS Spacecom customers today.
Hot News and Commentary
Astroscale U.S. Enters the GEO Satellite Life Extension Market
Denver, CO, USA, June 3, 2020 - Astroscale U.S. Inc., the U.S. unit of Astroscale Holdings Inc., the market leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the intellectual property and other assets and to hire certain members of the staff of Effective Space Solutions R&D Ltd. (“ESS”), an Israeli satellite life-extension and servicing company.
These moves make Astroscale the only company solely dedicated to on-orbit services across low-earth (“LEO”) and geostationary (“GEO”) orbits and bring the company closer to realizing its vision of orbital sustainability for future generations. The closing of the transaction is contingent upon receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. “Imagine if rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars to replace a GEO satellite, you could affordably extend the life of that satellite in orbit — that is the opportunity we welcome today with our outstanding new colleagues and capabilities ,” said
ESS has developed some of the most promising and novel on-orbit servicing technologies in the market and has deep experience designing complex GEO missions and programs. Its Space Drone program, which will evolve into an Astroscale U.S. life-extension platform, has been widely acknowledged by leading satellite operators — including prospective customers Astroscale U.S. is in discussions with — as a cost effective, innovative and compatible solution for satellite servicing.
Satlantis Optical Telescope Arrives at the International Space Station
It is the first time a Spanish optical telescope arrives into Space.
It is the first sub-meter resolution imager that weighs less than 15 kg.
It is the first time a non-Japanese optical instrument is installed on the i-SEEP-KIBO module.
May 25, 2020: After 5 days of orbital journey, on Monday May 25th at 14:13 CEST, the Japanese freighter HTV9 has been successfully captured by the International Space Station, carrying the Satlantis iSIM-170 instrument onboard.
After 2 hours of careful maneuvering, ISS Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA, in charge of operating the station’s robotic arm, has successfully berthed the HTV supply ship to the Harmony module of the ISS.
On June 10th, an astronaut will install Satlantis telescope, iSIM-170, on the i-SEEP platform outside the KIBO module, from which the payload will capture images of our planet in 80 cm resolution. On this very special occasion, a ceremony involving Japanese and Spanish authorities will be organized to celebrate the success of the mission.
Kleos Space (US) Awarded Contract on Micro-Satellite Military Utility Project
May 19, 2020: Kleos Space (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1), a space-powered RF reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, has been awarded a contract to prepare Kleos data to be accessed by the Micro-Satellite Military Utility (MSMU Project) Project Arrangement (PA) which is an agreement under the Responsive Space Capabilities Memorandum of Understanding involving the Departments and Ministries of Defense of Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom and United States.
Karyn Hayes-Ryan, Director commented “Our satellites and our data will enhance defense capabilities when fused with other data sets in the Government environment, as well as providing timely monitoring of illegal fishing, oil embargoes and other illicit action that both damages our environment and hurts our economies.”
LeoLabs Collision Avoidance Now Available
May 13, 2020: For the past year and a half, Leo Labs been hard at work maturing their capabilities to accurately identify and monitor potential collisions in LEO. They activated their internal conjunction screening service in early 2019, a first of its kind system that performs a continuous full catalog search for potential collisions and stores hundreds of thousands of conjunction data messages (CDMs) to our cloud-based servers every day. They continued to refine their system, study the data, and even publicly report some of the high risk events our system detected such as the IRAS/GGSE-4 close approach of January 2020.
Now, they are ready to offer these same advanced risk monitoring capabilities to satellite operators around the world. We’re excited to release LeoLabs Collision Avoidance, our commercial suite of services for operational safety of flight. This is the first time a single commercial company has been able to offer end-to-end services for operators in LEO; from radar observations of space debris to web analytics.
Capella Space Will Provide On-Demand, High-Resolution SAR Data and Analytics for the U.S. Navy
SAN FRANCISCO, May 13, 2020 — Capella Space today announced it has signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for the purpose of providing airborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data to the U.S. Navy. Facilitated through the Defense Innovation Unit’s Commercial Solutions Opening, Capella will also provide the DoD with in-house analytics services to interpret the data. This marks the latest in a series of contracts Capella Space has signed with federal agencies, including the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office.
Capella will provide the DoD with SAR data collected by an airborne collection campaign using Capella’s synthetic radar flown on board a specially equipped and outfitted airplane. This aerial campaign will give the DoD early access to Capella’s SAR imagery and user console ahead of its first operational satellite launch planned later in the year.
SAR systems image in all weather, day or night, and capture amplitude and phase history data enabling the extraction of highly valuable information such as material properties, moisture content, elevation, and precise changes and movements, which are not available with optical imagery. When fully deployed, Capella’s satellite constellation will collect sub-0.5 meter SAR imagery, which can identify types of aircraft or vehicles on the ground and provide 24/7 monitoring and change detection in any weather and lighting conditions.
“Defense & intelligence agencies utilize Capella’s SAR data for a variety of purposes, including disaster recovery, infrastructure monitoring and indications and warnings of potential threats,” said Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space. “The continuous work we receive from these Agencies is a testament to the future they see where Capella services play an important role in our national security. We’re pleased to receive this contract from the Department of Defense. We have a highly motivated, innovative team, and we’re committed to providing reliable, persistent Earth observation data for the DoD and other federal agencies we work with.”
The U.S. Department of Defense is among a growing list of interested users of Capella’s high-resolution SAR imagery. This award will further deepen the partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and Capella. By establishing a trusted partnership with the U.S. Navy, Capella is well-positioned to take on evermore advanced projects while ensuring a high level of security standards are met.
Firefly Aerospace Achieves AS9100 Quality Certification
Important quality milestone reached as Firefly transitions from developmental phase to first launch of the Firefly Alpha rocket
CEDAR PARK, TX – May 6, 2020 – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced it has secured AS9100 quality certification as it advances from developmental to production phase ahead of the inaugural flight of its Alpha launch vehicle later this year.
Firefly has passed all quality audit requirements and received its AS9100 certification, the widely adopted and standardized benchmark designed to ensure quality management practices across the aerospace industry. Additionally, Firefly requires all suppliers to be AS9100 certified, which has bolstered its quality assurance program as qualification tests this spring lead to full production capabilities.
“Our AS9100 certification marks a key milestone in the maturation of Firefly as we move from development into the production phase of the Alpha launch vehicle. We are well positioned to take on new contracts and development opportunities,” said Dr. Tom Markusic, Firefly CEO. “At Firefly, we blend heritage-space principles used to achieve high reliability with New Space nimbleness and flexibility, allowing us to rapidly develop economical and high-quality products.”
Firefly will leverage its AS9100-certified quality assurance program in support of a broad range of spacecraft, including its Alpha launch vehicle, Beta launch vehicle, Genesis lunar lander, and Orbital Transfer Vehicle.
The Alpha launch vehicle will meet the demands of the burgeoning small-satellite market by combining the highest payload performance, 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 630 kilograms to 500 kilometers Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), with the lowest cost per kilogram to orbit in its vehicle class. Alpha will provide launch options for both full vehicle and rideshare missions.
“This important AS9100 certification formalizes the strict focus on quality that Firefly has always demanded of itself and its suppliers and partners,” noted Paul Garland, Firefly’s Director of Quality Assurance, who has nearly 35 years of experience driving quality operations for leading aerospace companies. “Firefly’s certified quality processes provide further assurance to our commercial and government customers that we will successfully execute their critical space missions.”
Smallsat News and Ventures
For More Information
At Intelsat, it's good times - at least for management. As the company crashes into bankruptcy, the “team” at the top is reaping rich rewards.
Unlike other companies whose management has driven their companies to insolvency and been terminated, Intelsat executives are getting big fat retention bonuses.
Space News just reported that CEO Steve Spengler is getting just over $1 million. CFO David Tolley, with just under a year at the company, will receive $650,000 and several other executives including Samer Halawi, Michael Demarco, and Michelle Bryan, hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t think there are a lot of companies out there ready to offer bigger incentives to lure away this team of poor performers.
Instead, Intelsat's executives are being showered with cash, while the company has suffered declines in revenue and stock price that far exceed anything reported by its peers. Of course, management would like to level the blame for the bankruptcy on Covid-19 and the pair of leveraged buyouts that crippled the company with debt.
However, we believe that the real reason for the failure was management's inability to shore up the company's rapidly eroding revenue stream. When the last Leveraged Buyout was completed, the revenue was sufficient to manage the debt. Unfortunately, since then, it has spiraled downward at an alarming pace. A look at Intelsat's revenue vs. that of SES and Telesat tells the sad story.
Since 2013, it’s been one loss after another for Intelsat. Between 2014 and 2019, Intelsat reported a revenue drop of 17 per-cent vs. 4 per-cent for Telesat and 1.5 per-cent for SES Global. Revenue projections for 2020 have been pulled but could fall as much as 5 per-cent as suggested by a decline in the backlog from $8.1 billion at the end of 2018 to $7.0 billion in 2019. That's despite a $2 Billion CAPEX investment in the Epic constellation, which, so far, has failed to boost the company’s fortunes. Even in a market where the demand for bandwidth has soared, Intelsat executives failed to perform.
Their record is so dismal that the company can’t roll over its debt any more at reasonable interest rates. The last refinancing in 2017, which rolled the debt forward to 2025, was at a 9.75 per-cent instead of the previous rate of 7.25 per-cent. While on the one hand management has failed miserably to increase revenue or even stabilize it, they been equally inept at reducing the debt. Two major initiatives have been unsuccessful.
Consider the abortive merger with OneWeb. Comprised of a $1.5 Billion equity injection from Softbank combined with a $3.5 billion roll over to new debt for bond holders at just $.46 on the dollar, the deal crashed. It simply made no sense to merge a company so heavily in debt with a cash-hungry, start-up with unfathomable capital requirements. In essence, the deal would have turned the bondholders into venture capitalists, a position incompatible with their conservative mindset. Intelsat’s next ploy, an ill-conceived plan designed to leverage its C-Band licenses and the demand for 5G bandwidth into a multi-billion-dollar fortune, also took a hard fall.
Touted as a high-speed alternative to a traditional FCC auction, Intelsat led an industry consortium, the CBA, in proposing that it and other satellite operators should be allowed to reallocate and sell a portion of their C-Band spectrum to mobile operators. Not only was the legality of this "Hail Mary" proposal questioned by numerous public interest groups as well as members of Congress, the prospect of awarding billions of dollars to foreign satellite operators, who never paid a dime for the spectrum, met with enormous resistance. Ultimately, under pressure from Congress, the FCC nixed the CBA proposal, and Intelsat’s stock crashed.
Now, with prospects for the windfall crushed and with limited cash on hand, the company is bankrupt and had to negotiate a loan to enable it to meet the FCC’s mandate to transition C-Band customers to other frequencies.
Despite the failure of the merger and the C-Band initiatives and the decline in the company’s financial position, last November, it made a $50 Million loan to BlackSky, a start-up company in the imaging business. Just what is a company in Intelsat’s perilous position doing playing venture capitalist? The BlackSky deal, consummated shortly after CFO, Private Equity veteran David Tolley took on the CFO role, was a new act in the theater of the absurd.
Imaging is relatively unrelated to Intelsat’s core business and is rife with competitors, old and new. Planet Labs has pioneered low-cost optical imaging solutions and GeoEye and Maxar dominate the high-end business. Start-ups Iceye and Capella are entering the market with low-cost SAR imaging capability, and Hawkeye360 is leading the market in RF visualization. This hotly competitive environment makes BlackSky high risk. Should a company in Intelsat’s financial position be funding it?
Pardon me, but I fail to see why any of these executives are worthy of any bonuses, retention or otherwise. Most other boards have ousted their management teams for failure to grow revenue, let along preside over its precipitous decline.
Given such performance, how could any responsible board of directors allow these executives to continue to steer the “ship,” let alone award them bonuses to stay? Perhaps, it’s time for Intelsat’s management-cozy Board, the same board, whose members are accused of insider trading, to take their responsibility seriously. Isn’t it time to throw out, not cash out, the poor performers who ran the company into the ground? Isn't it time for a new team of executives to steer the ship?
(Editor's Note: Following our March Editorial "Let's Bailout and Intelsat and Save 5G," and in late March, well before the Intelsat bankruptcy, we offered Steve Spengler the opportunity for an interview and were rebuffed. We continue to offer Steve that opportunity).
As Intelsat Goes Bankrupt, It’s Happy Times at the “Honey Pot”
Click For more information
Will Starlink be Different?
OneWeb wasn’t killed by COVID-19. It died a natural death. Built on the shaky foundations of other failed constellations that also hoped to provide ubiquitous broadband to the un-served, OneWeb was nothing but a mesmerizing fantasy. It was a venture that violated most serious investment criteria and raised many red flags.
With billions lost on WeWork, Wag, Brandless, Zume and others, and having already written down $500 M on OneWeb, it's little wonder that given OneWeb's fading prospects, Softbank decided to pull out and cut its losses.
In our September 2018 Editorial, The Unspoken Risks of OneWeb and the Mega LEOs, we noted its incredible risks and uncertain payback.
Here’s why no experienced venture capital investor would have invested a dime in OneWeb. The red flags were everywhere. Ominously, they are waving for Starlink as well.
Undefined Target Market: OneWeb claimed the market was everyone. The entire project was based on the high-level assumption that billions of the un-served needed, wanted and could pay for Internet service, and that assumption was never proven.
Multiple Failures of the Business Model: Teledesic and O3b chased the same dream. Teledesic died a quick death, and O3b was only able to save itself through the pursuit of high-value niche markets such as cruise ships and Pacific Islands.
Mega-Project Cost with Potential for Massive Cost Escalation: Projects in the multi- billion-dollar range almost always understate their costs. True to form, the price of OneWeb’s Satellites, doubled from $500 K to over $1 Million, and ground stations and global fiber connectivity were also exposed to similar cost overruns.
A Costly Global Business Infrastructure: Satellites and ground stations were a small percentage of the costs. A complicated and expensive global business was needed to market, sell, and service billions of customers.
Complicated Regulatory Obstacles: OneWeb had to secure landing rights and license a global network of ground stations in a vast network of countries with varying and complex regulatory requirements.
Multiple Competitors: Starlink, ViaSat, Hughes, Epic, SES mPower, Telesat, and Amazon (announced post-launch of OneWeb project), fiber, and wireless networks were all in a position to compete with OneWeb.
Limited Time to Build a Revenue Stream: With only a five-year life span for its satellites, OneWeb would have to quickly generate a substantial revenue stream to justify reconstituting the constellation. Given the complexity and risks of the venture, the odds of achieving critical mass in three years were very low.
While we believe the future is bleak for Starlink, we have a more optimistic view of the Telesat and Amazon LEO ventures.
Unlike Starlink and OneWeb, Telesat was focused on the enterprise market from the very start. Their constellation was designed for the enterprise and is built to serve it. Accordingly, its infrastructure is significantly more robust than the consumer-focused LEOs.
Telesat also avoids most marketing expense by selling it's LEO capacity through existing satellite integrator distribution channels. Amazon's Kuiper initiative is also unique.
Unlike Starlink and OneWeb, its constellation is a natural strategic fit. In addition to nearly unlimited capital, its Project Kuiper is a complement to its AWS and e-commerce business, advantages that could enable it to even exist as a loss leader. So, of the remaining players, Amazon and Telesat have the best chance of survival.
Time Bomb Ticking: OneWeb -The Tragedy that Never Had to Be
For more Information
Recently, we have witnessed a boom in Space investment. Many new companies have received venture capital funding, and many are in the process of raising new capital. Across the Space industry, there is a growing concern that the recent economic downturn could throttle this new wave of Space investment.
To better understand the impact of the Covid crisis, we met with two well-know venture capitalists, Market Boggett of Seraphim and Chris Boshuizen of DCVC. Both Mark and Chris invest heavily in the Space segment.
SMW: Can you give us some background on your companies? How did the firms evolve, and how much capital have you raised so far?
Mark Bogget: We are more than a fund. We are a space-focused investment firm, and we have a range of different initiatives that all focus on Space. In terms of investment vehicles, we have the $90 Million Seraphim Space Fund. Our venture “Accelerator” program should also be of interest to your readers.
The “Accelerator” is like a “boot camp” for operating businesses, a three-month program in which companies refine their business plans, validate their technologies, learn how to talk with prospective investors and hopefully, win some customers.
Chris Boshuizen: DCVC is a diversified Silicon Valley venture fund. In terms of available capital, we were fortunate to close a major fund, Fund V, at the end of last year - before the onset of the Covid-19 Virus. The Fund is $750 Million in size - split fifty-fifty between core investment and new ventures.
SMW: What is the situation in the venture field? Is it more difficult now for companies to raise Venture Capital? Are you still investing in new ventures?
Mark Bogget: In times like these, VCs traditionally curtail new investments and withhold cash for use in their existing portfolio companies. we take a more opportunistic view.
We have thirteen portfolio companies at the moment, and we are going to add to that over the next twelve months. We are very much open for business. However, now the investment “bar” is higher. Despite the crisis, we are still looking to back bold visionaries. For example, we just closed on an investment in Xona Space, a LEO GPS business, providing subscription service to the autonomous vehicle market.
While we are still investing, Space has a smaller number of interested investors. It’s a specialty area, and most venture funds don’t have any experience in it. Most of the money so far has gone into launch, and that’s a very narrow field. The next largest sum has gone into the new satellite constellations. I have some statistics that may be of interest to your readers.
At the end of 2019, available venture capital was a record amount of $185 Billion, with seventy percent of it was raised between 2018 and 2019. There will be funds available with VCs mandated to invest a significant amount of that capital during the next few years. However, only a small portion is likely to be in Space-related ventures.
Chris Boshuizen: I would say that we are still open for business, but I think the condition of the economy in every sector suggests a degree of caution on the part of investors. The big change is that we are focusing on deals that make sense in today’s environment, not just deals that we may like.
SMW: Investment in space-related ventures was on the rise before the Covid-19 crisis. Yet, much of the has been concentrated in launch companies and new constellations. What else is of interest?
Mark Bogget: There are several technologies that we find attractive. We like quantum encryption, satcom direct to mobile phones, flat panel phased array antennas, and drones capable of flying autonomously beyond the line of sight. We also like hyperspectral satellites that provide real-time or close to real-time data.
Chris Boshuizen: We are very focused on security, be that digital security, network protection, network forensics, defense. For example, Capella is one of our flagship investments, and they focus on synthetic aperture radar (SAR). We think Capella is a company that can bring additional security to the world.
Besides, we like companies that have different approaches. What’s interesting about Hawkeye360 and also Astranis is that both companies have unique business plans.
SMW: Quite a few companies are entering the optical and SARS imaging and IoT markets - Are there still opportunities in these segments, or are the markets becoming overcrowded?
Mark Bogget: In the SAR market, there are many opportunities. To date, no one has yet achieved real-time coverage of events. Real-time SAR coverage is what’s exciting, and we are far away from that.
Another capability that will enhance the value of SAR data is the ability to take raw data from several SAR imaging companies and combine it with other data sets to produce a higher value product. Planet Watchers and Ursa are good examples. I think the SAR market is years from the market being over-crowded.
Regarding your question on the IoT market, that’s a different story. I think it is becoming crowded. That is a market where I see the lowest cost provider as the winner.
Chris Boshuizen: I also don’t think the SAR market is overcrowded. The demand for these services is just increasing. I believe there is a market for both Capella and Iceye. Iceye looks at northern areas and Capella, primarily equatorial regions. So, I think Iceye and Capella are complementary rather than competitive. Together, they make a complete system.
SMW: When presented with an investment opportunity, how do you evaluate the investment?
Mark Bogget: When evaluating an investment, we look at several areas:
First, our evaluation starts with people. You have to be able to read people. Is the team capable of executing the plan, and are they able to raise money from other venture funds?
Are they able to engage with shareholders and negotiate complicated deals, and can they empathize with and motivate their teams?
Second, is it large enough to support a venture level return? Does it exist today, or does the company have to go out and create it?
Third, how is their technology different, and is the differentiation sustainable?
Fourth, does the company have traction? Has the company demonstrated progress toward completing a product or generating its first revenues?
Finally, we have to consider the Covid crisis. In today's market the mix of customers and the capability of existing shareholders and the capacity of co-investor syndicate is absolutely key.
Chris Boshuizen: I agree with everything Mark just said. One of the factors that make a difference is the skills of the CEO. We spend a lot of time coaching them. We look at how well they understand the technology and the business. We need to feel that the CEO is in command of the business.
To be successful, a chief executive needs to understand the people, the supply chain, the sales process, the entire history of the industry, etc. They need to demonstrate that they are absolute experts in the market and have answers to any questions we might have, especially the obvious ones.
SMW: What about corporate executives. How do they usually fare in a start-up situation?
Mark Bogget: The cycle for a business requires different skills at each level. At the pre-revenue stage, the CEO has to be someone who does everything.
As the business grows beyond twenty staff, another set of skills comes into play. It’s now about managing the managers rather than the underlying business. Often, a successful executive from a large corporation doesn’t do well in an entrepreneurial environment.
SMW: How has the failure of OneWeb affected space investment and, in particular, the prospects for investment in Starlink and Telesat LEO? Will these ventures still be able to raise capital?
Mark Bogget: Obviously, it plays into sentiment for the broader sector when one of the leading start-up companies fails. However, in this case, it seems to be more of a problem with shareholder Softbank and their reluctance to continue funding the venture.
I think we are going to see OneWeb come back with different owners shortly. When we look closely at the failure, many will see it as a shareholder issue. I don’t think it will keep other companies from raising money in the sector. In the end, my money is on Amazon, because they already have the business model that fits. Only they can afford to launch a mega constellation as a loss leader.
Chris Boshuizen: The failure of OneWeb isn't damning for the industry. Many people saw it coming, and investors are still investing in other companies doing the same thing, i.e. Starlink and Telesat LEO.
OneWeb was the least well-positioned of all the new entrants. The cost structure, technology, and access to the market were all factors precipitating the failure. It took too long for them to launch the constellation, and it cost too much. I think most observers were not surprised that it failed.
OneWeb had none of the advantages of SpaceX and Amazon, and Amazon has advantages that SpaceX and Telesat don’t have. As Mark mentioned, for Amazon, a mega constellation is a natural extension of its businesses. It fits with AWS and e-commerce. No other company has that advantage, and the almost unlimited capital required to make a mega constellation possible.
The Future of Investment in Space: A Venture Capital View
With Mark Bogget of Seraphim and Chris Boshuizen of DCVC
Click for more information
"There are several technologies that we find attractive. We like quantum encryption, satcom direct to mobile phones, flat panel phased array antennas, and drones capable of flying autonomously beyond the line of sight. We also like hyperspectral satellites that provide real-time or close to real-time data."
For more information..
About Dr. Chris Boshuizen
Dr. Chris Boshuizen is an Operating Partner at DCVC (Data Collective) leading investment in space (Capella Space, Rocket Lab) and other deep tech companies.
Chris was co-founder of Planet Labs, a DCVC company providing unprecedented daily, global mapping of our changing planet from space. As the company’s CTO for 5 years, he took the company from the drawing board to having launched more satellites into space than any other company in history, completely transforming the space industry along the way.
Chris was previously a Space Mission Architect at NASA Ames Research Center. After working on a number of traditional spacecraft programs at NASA, Chris co-created Phonesat, a spacecraft built solely out of a regular smartphone.
Chris received his Ph.D. in Physics (with honors) and a BSc. in Physics and Mathematics, both from the University of Sydney.
About Mark Bogget
Mark Boggett is CEO of Seraphim Capital a London based venture firm.
He manage the Seraphim Space Fund, a pioneering $90 m fund backed by a range of leading space related companies seeking investments in space related start-ups.
He is also director of Seraphim Space Camp an accelerator backed by Rolls Royce, DSTL, Inmarsat, ESA and UK Space Agency. Mark is a director of
Prior to Seraphim he was at YFM Equity Partners serving on their main board for a number of years.
He has a Degree in Accounting & Finance, MA in Economics & Finance from the University of Leeds and a range of professional investment qualifications.
For more information
Intellian and the New World of High-Speed Broadband at Sea
We like to write about success stories. In the satellite industry, there is no company more inspiring than Intellian.
Lead by CEO Eric Sung, the company, through innovation and risk-taking, has pushed slow-moving competitors aside and become the leading provider of maritime satellite antennas. Intellian's story is an example of what it takes to succeed in a fast-moving, technology environment.
Investing heavily in R&D and working closely with industry partners, Sung developed the first Tri-Band Antenna for the cruise industry.
Able to switch between C, Ku-and Ka-Bands, the Antenna has brought high-speed Internet connectivity to cruise ships. Where once cruise passengers paid $.50 per-minute or more for snail-like connectivity, thanks to Eric, they now enjoy Internet web surfing and streaming - just like home.
To find out more about Intellian's long and productive journey, we are pleased to share Eric's story with our readers.
SMW: Intellian initially listed on the Korean stock market in October 2016, raising around $26 Million in IPO funding. Since then, the company has introduced new products, most notably its highly successful 2.4 Tri-Band antenna, and annual revenues now topping $125 Million. That’s a compelling story. Can you tell us how you achieved such a remarkable performance?
Eric Sung: Intellian has consistently invested heavily in R&D as we saw this as a way to build a strong business based on technology innovation and product reliability. For the past three years, around $35M was invested in R&D and engineering. In 2020, the R&D and engineering budgets are about $20M.
v240MT development is one of the good examples of investment in technology. Tri-Band antenna revenue was $20M in 2019, and in the last three years, we have deployed $50M worth of Tri-band Antennas in the Cruise and Energy industries.
The v 240 MT became a reality because we believed in what we do. Even though we didn’t have a firm purchase order, we saw strong demand from customers, operators, and passengers for an antenna that could support 5 to 10 X faster data throughput at sea. Because our customers were very excited about the promise of the new Antenna, and we believed in the technology, we took a risk and invested.
However, before committing to purchase the product in volume, our customers wanted to see and test a working prototype. During product development, SES and Carnival worked together with our engineering team to perfect and launch the new antenna thereby creating a new era in high-speed communication.
SMW: I understand that much of your success is attributable to your R&D program. Can you tell us more about it?
Eric Sung: When we were establishing the company back in 2004, antennas were not “smart.” In the past, ships traveling from one region to another had to manually change hardware. I envisioned antenna that could electronically switch and connect in all regions. That’s how I created the Intellian name. It stands for “intelligent antenna.”
From that time onward and following the success of the v240 MT, we continue to invest heavily in R&D. Antennas are getting smarter, but there is still room for improvement. The satellite industry is evolving fast from GEO to NSGO. Networks and modems will be more complex, and antennas will need to function in the new environment. These changes need to be accommodated in antenna system and terminal design, traditional parabolic antennas, and the new phased arrays.
From the customer perspective, we all know that NGSOs are coming in the future. However, phased array antennas are not yet available at competitive prices, and customers have to make a CAPEX decision based on currently available products. To accommodate the current need and facilitate upgradability, we developed the Intellian NX series antenna systems that can support GEO, MEO, or LEO constellations, including Inmarsat GX, SES mPower, and Telesat LEO - ranging in size from 60cm, 85, 1M, 1.2M, 1.5M, and all convertible. For example, when a customer decides to use Intellian v100NX for Ku, it could be used for any Ku service.
To support the development of our advanced antennas, including the new phased arrays, we have committed $10 Million for a new R&D facility at our Innovation Center in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. This new seven-story facility will add 63,000 square feet of research labs, production, offices, and staff welfare facilities to the current facility and will open at the beginning of November 2020. We already have the biggest and fastest near field chambers for antenna measurement. In addition, we are investing $3M for compact test range chambers, which are the core facility for the development and production of phased array antennas.
We are also building a new European Headquarters in Rotterdam in The Netherlands. The building will house our European logistics and support center. This state-of-the-art facility will be complete in October. This new Logistics Center will enable Intellian to serve partners and customers in Europe with larger stock levels and warehousing of the v240MT antennas.
SMW: The Tri-Band v240MT antenna, along with the Aptus platform and “Intelligent Mediator,” is a major advancement in maritime VSAT communication. How did the idea come about, and how was it developed and commercialized? How many cruise ships and cruise lines now use the technology?
Eric Sung: The initial idea for a multi-band, multi-orbit solution came about from discussions with a major cruise line. Cruise companies needed extremely flexible, future-proof systems ready to connect to new satellite constellations. Collaborating with the industry, we developed a state-of-the-art communications solution that addresses the high (and ever-increasing) bandwidth demands of thousands of data-hungry cruise passengers and crew.
After five years of development and fleet testing, the collaboration between Intellian, Carnival, and SES resulted in the birth of the revolutionary 2.4m v240MT, the world’s first tri-band, multi-orbit antenna system. Capable of operating proficiency on the C-, Ku- and Ka-band frequency ranges, the v240MT system will also track GEO (Geostationary Earth Orbit), MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) and LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites.
A significant element of the v240MT is the system’s Intelligent Mediator, which governs the auto-switching between multiple antennas, frequency bands, networks, and constellations. As a vendor-agnostic, multi-orbit solution, the v240MT system can connect to any global service. At the same time, its multi-band capabilities can automatically shift between bands in less than 40 seconds. While also supporting dual data centers for safety and redundancy. If one data center has a problem, the system switches over to the other data center with no loss of data and without any operator intervention.
We have deployed over 200 systems on a wide range of cruise vessels and in other market sectors such as Energy, and very large private luxury yachts.
SMW: Orbit antennas were used initially with the O3b installations. Is the Tri-Band compatible with O3b’s MEO satellites?
Eric Sung: We are pleased to confirm that our v240MT antenna systems have delivered a consistently high Bits Per Hertz using the O3b MEO constellation. The improved RF performance and accuracy of tracking all add to produce better throughput and reduced costs of operation for high bandwidth users. We continue to work very closely with SES, and we plan to make v240MT Gen2 support their mPower service, enabling mPower to deliver multi-Gigabits per antenna system.
SMW: Can you give us a high-level overview of your Aptus platform and take us through some actual usage scenarios? Please explain how the Aptus platform used in the troubleshooting and maintenance process. Can diagnostic and maintenance functions be performed remotely?
Eric Sung: The Aptus NX software management and control platform is incorporated in our antennas and facilitates their rapid and efficient deployment. The name Aptus comes from the Latin, meaning attached to or fastened. That is how we use Aptus. It’s a tool attached to the antenna system that manages the way an antenna is deployed and provides detailed information on its operation. It also incorporates an Installation Wizard deigned to automate onboard deployment, ensuring the fastest possible setup time.
AptusNX also monitors the Antenna while in operation and can provide system information and preventative maintenance guidance, in a similar way to the check engine light on your car, thereby assuring higher levels of uptime.
SMW: I see that you recently introduced a new series of antenna systems, the NX series. Can you explain how this new series delivers a better user experience and lowers the total cost of ownership?
Eric Sung: Our recently introduced NX-series extended our product portfolio with antennas from 60cm to 1.5m that can operate in either Ku- or Ka- bands. This series is designed with the future in mind. It can operate on a GEO network today, and with a software update can run on a MEO or LEO network.
SMW: While the v240MT is mostly deployed on cruise vessels, do you have plans to downsize the technology for use in other markets, yachts, or cargo maritime? How will the smaller iterations of the product differ in other markets, for example?
Eric Sung: The v240MT antenna system provides automatic band switching, but due to its size is limited to use on large vessels. Our smaller NX Series antennas already have the same multi-orbit support and capability and operate in Ku- or Ka-bands. They are future proof and offer smaller vessels the flexibility necessary to support future networks and constellations as they come online. We are not downsizing the v240MT. We provide more suitable solutions for smaller vessels, yet still offer flexible solutions with some very high throughput options.
Intellian has always been the major supplier to multiple vessel types. In many markets, we are the leading provider of antennas, especially for vessels looking for high bandwidth, such as survey vessels, Offshore Support Vessels, and new vessels such as offshore windfarm maintenance ships. One of these ships has recently gone into service with four Intellian antennas used for data and TV entertainment.
SMW: While many companies are involved in the development of phased array antennas, high cost, relatively low bandwidth capability, and high look angles have been barriers to adoption in maritime markets. Are there any maritime markets where such an antenna could compete against traditional parabolic antennas in GEO or LEO scenarios?
Eric Sung: Many companies are trying to develop Phased Array Antenna systems, not only for maritime markets but also for land and consumer markets. Overall, it is a positive move and the right direction over the long-term.
However, based on our recent development and engagement with multiple operators and maritime market, we think that in the Maritime market, the value of a phased array antenna in the maritime market is low – at least for the next 5-10 years.
First of all, parabolic antennas are becoming very affordable. While reliability and performance are getting better, phased array antenna technology is still costly, and performance is limited.
No phased array antenna can even come close to the performance of a 60 cm parabolic antenna. A phased array antenna of the same size is comparable to a 37cm aperture parabolic. Using it means that operators and service providers will have to pay 2 to 3 times more in terms of space segment to operate and will experience limited throughput.
For example, even if a phased array antenna is available today for use under the current GEO, MEO satellite service, it can’t transmit and perform like a 1.5M or 2.4M antenna system. In Cruise and energy markets, where high throughput is a critical requirement, Phased Array Antennas can only be used for backup, not for the primary communication. Pricing of phased arrays is also a problem. Merchant ships have a lot of deck space available. The flat form factor presents very little advantage when the higher acquisition and operating costs of a phased array are considered. Look angle is also a problem.
Due to loss of efficiency at higher latitudes, flat panel phased array antennas will need to be tilted toward the equator and mounted on gimbaled infrastructure, which means they will still need radomes similar to the current parabolic antennas. However, when LEOs come into play, these antennas could be useful, but parabolic antennas, as well, could access LEOs when installed in a two-dome configuration.
SMW: Do you see any adverse effects on your business due to the Covid-19 crises? Are companies continuing to purchase antennas at normal levels installs and are installs proceeding as scheduled – in cruise and cargo vessels? What’s your view of business in the next 24 months?
Eric Sung: As a company with a headquarters based in South Korea, we have been very aware of the effects on business of the Covid-19 situation. Things have slowed down, partly due to the slowdown in available installation resources and reduction in new vessel construction. We see that normal business is changing. I believe the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate digital transformation in the maritime community. Of course, at the moment, the effect of the Virus is different in each maritime segment.
The cruise market is challenging and will be for the next few years. It will take time to recover. The demand for data may increase, and cruise operators will try to deploy new antenna systems to differentiate their service to passengers. Passengers may not choose to cruise if they can’t have home-like internet to watch Netflix. The outlook in Merchant shipping is more hopeful.
Merchant shipping seems to be very busy, and ironically, Intellian is doing better in merchant shipping markets despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately the maritime VSAT market will recover in all sectors. The need to communicate is unstoppable and will continue to drive the demand for satellite services.
With Intellian CEO Eric Sung
For More Information...
Eric Sung is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of Intellian Technologies, the world leader in maritime satellite communication antenna systems. He established Intellian in 2004, bringing technology industry leadership, extensive Telco experience to the company. Under his leadership, Intellian has grown to be the No.1 market leader and went public on KOSDAQ in 2016.
Eric designs and executes corporate vision and strategy at Intellian, facilitating team’s activity across global business units, product strategy, strategic business development and finance. He is also responsible for sharing Intellian’s strategy and vision with Intellian team, customers, partners, shareholders and investors.
Previously, he established a software and IT consulting company in 2000, where he served as chairman of the board and CEO and led the company’s IPO in 2003.
IoT is taking on a critical role in the race to improve the efficiency of railroad operations. As railroads rely more heavily on IoT, reliable, real-time data and voice communication between the locomotive and the operations center is a priority. Due to its weather resistance and small form factor, L-Band satellite combined with cellular is the preferred method of communication.
With over 7,000 locomotives operating in the U.S. alone, serving this connectivity market is a huge opportunity, and the two major L-Band satellite providers, Inmarsat and Iridium, are fighting for it. Inmarsat sells its BGAN service and Thales provides a competitive offering via its Iridium-powered, MissionLINK solution.
To find out how the two services compare, we turned to recent trials of the two services on the famed Rocky Mountaineer, a sight-seeing train for tourists that traverses the Canadian Rockies. To find out more about how BGAN and MissionLINK performed, we met with Mike Kreiner, Thales’ Director of Global Channel Sales.
SMW: How did the relationship between Thales and Rocky Mountaineer evolve?
Mike Kreiner: Rocky Mountaineer was one of our Beta testers. Before they engaged with us, they tried Inmarsat BGAN in combination with cellular. With it, the train was able to stay connected only 60 per-cent of the time. Ultimately, the Rocky Mountaineer, frustrated by Inmarsat’s failure to provide reliable service along its mountainous routes, heard about the new NEXT constellation and contacted us for a trial. Our engagement with them started in 2018, and in 2019, the company was one of the first users of our service.
The Rocky Mountaineer operates in some of the ruggedest terrain imaginable. In its journey from Vancouver to Banff and Jasper, the train transverses deep valleys and goes up and around high mountains. In this kind of environment, where blockages abound, it’s easy to understand why GEO based satellite systems like BGAN, with their low look angles, are at a significant disadvantage, especially at far northern latitudes.
SMW: Can you tell us about the MissionLINK trial, and does the Rocky Mountaineer still rely on the Thales MissionLINK solution?
Mike Kreiner: The trial went exceptionally well, and the customer is still using the service today. There are several reasons why the Thales service significantly outperformed BGAN, and the majority are physics related.
As I mentioned, Inmarsat has to depend on a GEO satellite positioned on the equator. For example, at the latitude of Jasper, 52 degrees north, the equator is only 38 degrees above the southern horizon, which means a train traversing mountainous terrain would only be able to intermittently see the satellite due to the low look angle. In this environment, a LEO satellite constellation has enormous advantages.
Iridium’s satellites ascend much higher in the sky, resulting in much better look angles. As their satellites are constantly in motion, a continuing parade of rising satellites becomes available, offering multiple connectivity options. The net result is near-continuous connectivity, more than 98 per-cent of the time and at latency far superior to that of a GEO. However, dependable connectivity is only one advantage of the MissionLINK solution. MissionLINK uses a solid-state, phased array antenna, one far superior to the mechanically stabilized antenna used by Inmarsat.
An antenna mounted on top of an engine is exposed to extreme vibration, and temperatures can vary from sub-freezing in the winter to boiling hot in the summer. Because it is solid state, the MissionLINK antenna has no moving parts to fail. Rated to -60 degrees C, vs. only -25 degrees C for the Inmarsat antenna, it can operate at extreme temperatures without a heating element.
The MissionLINK form factor is also much more compatible with a rail environment. Unlike the BGAN Explorer 727 antenna, that uses a 6.3” tall radome, the MissionLINK antenna is smaller and more aerodynamic - an advantage in passing through rail tunnels with minimal clearances.
SMW: I understand that an L-Band/cellular combination is superior to simply using satellite or cellular. Why is that?
Mike Kreiner: It’s all about accommodating different kinds of blockages. In cities, trains are likely to pass through tunnels and urban canyons, making satellite reception problematic, even for a LEO. Used in combination with cellular, the two services complement each other, assuring near-continuous connectivity. Our MissionLINK terminal easily accommodates a hybrid satellite/cellular approach. You plug in a cellular modem, and MissionLINK automatically routes traffic accordingly.
SMW: Exactly how is the Rocky Mountaineer using the MissionLINK solution and what will they do with it in the future?
Mike Kreiner: While voice is the primary application at the moment, in the future, IoT will enable the railroad to do predictive maintenance, monitor engine performance, oil pressure, the heath of hydraulic systems, temperature – virtually any type of sensor data. With it, they will be able to determine when repairs might be needed, even before the train pulls into the station.
Finally, IoT has a role in Positive Train Control (PTC). Using MissionLINK, Train movement and speed can be tracked using the GPS capability of the Iridium satellites, and a signal sent to slow the train when required. As you know, PTC is a hugely important technology. The 2016 tragic derailment outside of Philadelphia, in which dozens of people were killed and injured, could have been prevented with it.
SMW: How do you sell the service? Do you go direct or are you going through re-sellers?
Mike Kreiner: We don’t go direct. Although we “open doors” to customers and support Iridium’s channel partners, we don’t sell directly. We see a great opportunity and want to support our partners as much as possible.
SMW: What about other markets? Now that you have proven the suitability of MissionLINK the rail environment, where do you go next?
Let me emphasize that we are focusing on freight vs. passenger rail. Geographically, we are focusing on the U.S., Europe and Australia. We currently have trials in all of these regions and expect to announce several new projects this year.
An Interview with Mike Kreiner, Thales' Director of Global Channel Sales
Inmarsat vs. Iridium - The Battle for The Rail Market
for more information
About Mile Kreiner:
Mike Kreiner has a progressive background in telecommunications with over 20 years of industry experience.
Mike has served in various leadership and design roles that have developed into some of the leading technologies used today.
Currently, Mike serves as Director of Global Channel Sales for Thales Defense and Security, Inc. while also utilizing his engineering background to help create new and improved uses for SATCOM.
In this role, Mike enjoys leveraging his past L-Band experience with the new Iridium Certus service to push broadband and extensive communications into areas that are in dire need of truly global, reliable communications.
While much attention in the satellite world has focused on maritime and aero mobility markets, a promising new opportunity is emerging for satellite. It’s freight rail. The Industry, once conservative and slow to accept new technology, is now embracing IoT, video, and voice applications, and it’s using them to monitor every phase of train operation. Even with these capabilities, in remote and rural areas, the lack of connectivity limits these sensor-based solutions. Here’s why the Industry needs IoT and always-on data communication via satellite.
A look at Wi-Tronix, a Bloomington Illinois based company, tells the story best. The company is at the center of the effort to satisfy the demand for IoT and real-time monitoring of freight train operations. They provide a hardware and software solution that combines aggregation of locomotive sensor data with continuous video recording.
Their principal product, the Violet or “Purple Box” combines the locomotive data acquisition recording system (LDARS), event recorder (ER), digital video recorder (DVR), crash hardened memory module, and business-critical data acquisition system (Wi-PU). It is the first device capable of streaming locomotive event data and video in real-time.
Using the data, Wi-Tronix can provide engine health monitoring and predictive analysis, enabling customers to avoid costly unscheduled costly breakdowns. Using full-time video recording, the Violet Box continuously records activity outside the locomotive and in the cab. Combined with the Event Data Recorder, it monitors nearly all facets of train activity. It’s a robust and competent system, supported by an intense customer focus.
While a very useful and popular system installed on over 11,000 locomotives, to reach its full potential, Wi-Tronix needs full-time connectivity. This goal has proven elusive due to the lack of cellular coverage in rural and remote areas. Unfortunately, today's GEO satellite constellations are unable to fill the coverage gap.
Unlike at sea or in the air where views to GEO satellites are unobstructed, long-distance freight rail journeys face constant blockages – buildings, mountains, and other obstacles. Today, all Ku and Ka-Band satellite systems are GEOs and suffer from the same low look angles, a problem that becomes more acute the higher the latitude. Even the Inmarsat L-Band BGAN system is delivered by GEO. That leaves Iridium NEXT, the only operable LEO service available today.
Fortunately for Wi-Tronix and other IoT providers, the data they need to transmit is largely telemetry and within Iridium NEXT’s capabilities. With 720 X 320 Kbps speed capability, and the high look angles characteristic of a LEO, NEXT offers more than enough bandwidth to handle the 200 Megabytes per-month required to cover gaps in cellular service.
In addition to full coverage, Iridium’s service, delivered via a solutions partner, Thales’s MissionLink service, employs a phased array antenna, with no moving parts and capable of withstanding the severe vibration and temperature extremes encountered on top of a locomotive. While several broadband LEO constellations could ultimately offer a service with these characteristics, it’s uncertain whether they will be built.
Of that group, Telesat and Starlink need to raise more capital and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, while well-backed financially, is still in latent stages of development. Given the OneWeb bankruptcy, Starlink and Telesat’s ability to raise capital remains in question. While Starlink has already launched satellites, there is no assurance that it can find enough investors to complete the constellation or justify its enormous build cost. Today, it’s still unclear when a LEO broadband system, along with a suitable electronically steered antenna, will be available.
Despite these obstacles, developers of LEO constellations need to take the rail market seriously. With over 59,000 locomotives in North America alone, Rail is a large and rapidly evolving global market. LEO constellations, in concert with companies like Wi-Tronix, are in an excellent position to dominate this rapidly growing market.
Wi-Tronix, IoT and Freight Rail - The Next Mobility Market
For More Information..
for more information....
There are many mobility related satellite industry events and unless you have an unlimited budget, here are the "must attends" (in blue) and others that may be of interest.
****RESCHEDULED: Asia Pacific Maritime: 30 September- 2 October, Singapore
Biggest maritime show in Asia.
****CABSAT: RESCHEDULED: October 28-Nov l: Dubai, Emirates: The major satellite show in the Middle East. Global VSAT Forum is presenting a special program at the show. For further information contact Martin Jerrold of GVF.
*****SeaTrade Cruise Global, Miami: RESCHEDULED: 12-15 April 2021: The Cruise Industry is a huge user of VSAT services. making this show an important venue. It should not be missed - an important event for satellite service suppliers.
****Posidonia: RESCHEDULED 28-30 October Athens, Greece: Another important show maritime VSAT, especially for those targeting the tanker and container segment.
****CommunicAsia: RESCHEDULED September 30 -October 1, Singapore
The biggest communications trade show in Asia. Not to be missed.
****Global Connected Aircraft: RESCHEDULED
June 2-3, 2021 Denver: A popular conference address in commercial aircraft connectivity.
*****Small Satellite Conference: August 1-6.
Now, Virtual - Register on line
Unquestionably the best small satellite conference available. With over 3,000 attendees, this conference is enormously popular.
****SMM: Hamburg, Germany' September 8-11 September 2020: A must attend for those interested in VSAT use in the cargo segments.
******World Satellite Business Week: Paris, France: RESCHEDULED 9-11 November. Unquestionably, the best satellite conference of the year. WSBW bring together all of the top executives in the industry in an intimate, networking atmosphere at the Westin.
Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events
Click for more Information