Good morning. With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, and December imminently upon us, Christmas lights are coming out in full force across the US. While we’re not 100% sure of it, we’d wager some lighting shows/installations are so bright, they can be seen from space.
In today’s newsletter...
🛰️ Starlink India
🚀 CCAF recap
📝 The week ahead
The catalyst:On Friday, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) tweeted that it noticed Starlink presales are open to potential users in Indian territory.
The hang-up: SpaceX needs a DoT license to operate the high-speed, satellite-based broadband internet service in India—and accept Starlink pre-orders.
The backstory:India’s DoT has been scrutinizing Starlink since April, according to the Economic Times, and probing whether the service could violate national telecom law and regulations.
SpaceX’s POV:SpaceX registered Starlink in India on Nov. 1 and created a fully Indian subsidiary for the service. The $100B space company is currently hiring Starlink leads for the unit—and accepting preorders for a $99 refundable deposit. Over 5,000 Indian customers have signed for the service (and Dishy McFlatface, the accompanying terminal). Starlink plans to sell and ship 200k user terminals in India by the end of next year.
Competition…?Starlink India would be competing with Reliance Jio, a ubiquitous national telco, along with firms like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Bharti is the largest shareholder in OneWeb, following a cash infusion that helped pull the LEO constellation developer (and Starlink competitor) from the brink of bankruptcy.
The Broadband India Forum, a think tank representing Amazon, Facebook, Google, and more, has come out swinging against Starlink.
On sovereignty: Earlier this year, Elon Musk said Starlink’s intersatellite links would enable connectivity in countries without local downlinks. As for how regulators could stop Starlink transmission within their borders, “they can shake their fists at the sky,” Elon tweeted in September.
But given the size of the prize in rural India—and Starlink’s formal, growing local presence—SpaceX isn’t taking the full-on cavalier approach to setting up shop within the country. As evidenced by DoT’s latest directive, the ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’ model of selling and operating abroad won’t cut it in many foreign jurisdictions.
While it’s not clear what the next steps are, it’s possible SpaceX may have to pull the plug on user acquisition in India until it jumps through all the required regulatory hoops.
China Space Forum Wrap-Up
A Kuaizhou 1A carrier rocket launch last week. Image: Xinhua
Last week, the seventh annual China Commercial Aerospace Forum (CCAF) convened in Wuhan, China. Leaders from China's civil, commercial, and military sectors met to discuss the country's ascendant space program—and positive spillovers in the private sector.
State updates: China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. (CASIC), the country’s state-owned aerospace company, hosted the forum. CASIC reps laid out plans for the next few years:
An Earth observation (EO) remote-sensing constellation aimed at disaster relief and ecological supervision.
An 80-satellite IoT constellation, Xingyun-2, meant to aid in communications struggles. CASIC launched two Xingyun-2 satellites earlier this year and expects to send 12 operational satellites to orbit in 2022.
Lots of launches for the Kuaizhou 1A carrier rocket through subsidiary company Expace. CASIC announced ten commercial launches planned within six months beginning September 2021. If you’re keeping score, that leaves seven more in the next few months.
No mention of Hongyun, CASIC’s previously planned ~300-satellite broadband constellation. Analysts speculate that the project has been absorbed into Guowang, a ~13,000-satellite mega-constellation announced earlier this year.
On the private side... A range of commercial (or quasi-commercial) players provided updates on launch and satellite development in the coming calendar year. A couple highlights: iSpace is doubling down on space tourism, developing a spaceplane with windows for suborbital and orbital flights. Commercial launch company Deep Blue Aerospace announced plans to develop two new rockets, Nebula-1 and Nebula-1H.
Those solving the hardest challenges in space will define its future. At Lockheed Martin, we have a bold vision for what that future will be. From exploration to defense, Lockheed Martin helps our customers protect, connect and explore, with products like missile warning systems, GPS, weather satellites, and Mars rovers. Learn more.
In Other News
Russia’s Prichal module docked with the ISS. Prichal has six docking ports where spacecraft can connect to the station.
NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope is undamaged after an incident Nov. 9 that caused vibrations in the observatory. The telescope is set to launch Dec. 22.
China launched its classified technology development satellite, Shiyan-11, to orbit.
Intelsat and SES have vacated a region of C-band spectrum ahead of an FCC deadline, unlocking over $2B in payments.
Saber Astronautics, a private spaceflight company, partnered with Axiom to begin an Australian astronaut program.
The Week Ahead
Monday:SpaceX plans to launch a second batch of next-gen Starlink satellites into polar orbit.
Tuesday:Rocket Lab will launch “A Data with Destiny,” the second of three consecutive Electron launches, and send two more BlackSky satellites to orbit.
US Vice President Kamala Harris will chair the first National Space Council meeting.
The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on the Astro2020 decadal survey.
SpaceX sends yet another batch of 53 Starlink satellites to orbit.
Arianespace will launch two Galileo navigation satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket.
Rocket Lab will provide updates on Neutron, its 8-ton-payload, reusable rocket under development.
Virgin Orbit plans to launch its “Above the Clouds” mission, sending 10 satellites to space for the US and Poland on a LauncherOne rocket.
Sunday:ULA is scheduled to launch the Space Test Program 3 on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral.
The View from Space
Image: NASA, ESA, and J. Bally (University of Colorado at Boulder); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)