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Spacecraft Repo Operations

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Soon, the number of active satellites in low-Earth orbits (LEO) will likely increase by a factor of 10 to 15. Just last week, Amazon announced it has filed for a license to operate a constellation of 3,234 satellites in low orbits. Several other entrepreneurial companies are either planning to launch or already have launched part of huge new constellations.

Each of these companies hopes to eventually establish constellations containing hundreds or thousands of broadband and other satellites, and all in the most active zone of space. Many of these constellations will be financed by banks, capital investment firms and billionaires.

Of course, some constellation operators will fail due to competition, evolving technologies and other issues. When they fail, investors lose their investments. Thus, this is a high-risk business.

On the other hand, if the on-orbit assets of a failed company can be repossessed, the investors may be able to recoup some of their capital. Recapturing and removing valuable satellites has not yet been seriously considered.

However, the international commercial space economy is growing from its current annual $400 billion to an estimated $1 trillion in the near future. This is attributed at least in part to a significant reduction in launch costs plus the push to commercialize space.

The original Iridium constellation of telephony satellites require all 66 birds (plus spares) to be in orbit before the system was fully operational. By the time all of these were launched, the company had to file for bankruptcy and investors eventually had to write off several billion dollars in losses. Iridium Satellite LLC then purchased the company for 1 USD on the condition it continued to operate what was then one of two operational satellite phone systems, and was of critical importance to the Pentagon’s global operations.

Today, with low-cost launches and satellite servicing technologies, the possibility of safely removing perfectly good spacecraft from orbit appears to be much more affordable.

It seems that this situation may be advantageous to some commercial salvage entrepreneurs. With 10,000 to 15,000 new satellites going up soon, business failures are almost certain. Satellite Repo may be just the thing for high-risk adventurers.

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Inmarsat agrees to $3.4 bn takeover from consortium

London (AFP) March 25, 2019

British satellite operator Inmarsat on Monday agreed to a $3.4 billion cash takeover from a consortium of investment funds.

The bid for the London-listed telecommunications group was pitched at $7.21 per share, consortium bid-vehicle Triton Bidco said in a statement.

“Triton Bidco believes that the satellite sector is attractive,” said a statement from the consortium, which comprises private equity groups Apax and Warburg Pincus, as well as Canadian pension funds CPPIB and OTPP.

“Triton Bidc … read more

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