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Via Satellite’s Top Stories of 2021 

By | December 22, 2021

      Via Satellite illustration.

      2021 was an exciting year for the satellite and space industry, from major consolidation deals, technological developments, and the wave of special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) mergers. Here is a look back at some of Via Satellite‘s most popular web stories and most-read executive interviews of the year.

      OneWeb, Hughes to Demonstrate LEO Connectivity for US Air Force Research Lab

      In May, OneWeb signed its first commercial services contract with Hughes Network Systems for the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). Hughes is the prime contractor on the project, and agreed to work with OneWeb to demonstrate managed Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications services to connect AFRL sites in the Arctic region. 

      John Deere Exec Examines LEO Possibilities in Agriculture

      John Deere, which operates the global satellite-based augmentation system StarFire Network, could deepen its relationship with the satellite industry in the future. In this interview, Al Savage, manager of the StarFire Network, spoke with Via Satellite about how the company is looking at LEO, and the agriculture industry’s connectivity and remote sensing needs. 

      Telesat Picks Thales for Lightspeed LEO Constellation

      Telesat made a long-awaited announcement on its LEO constellation in February, with a $3 billion deal with Thales Alenia Space to manufacture Lightspeed. The LEO project is worth $5 billion in total. Since then, the operator has had a steady drumbeat of announcements as it has closed financing agreements, finalized plans to build the constellation in Canada, and became a publicly traded company. 

      Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck Explains SPAC Strategy, Growth Targets, and Plans for Neutron

      Rocket Lab joined the wave of SPACs in the first half of the year, as one of the more established space companies to go public. In this March 2021 interview, CEO Peter Beck explained the company’s decision to go public and outlined his vision for Rocket Lab as a vertically integrated, end-to-end space company.

      Latest Starlink Satellites Equipped with Laser Communications, Musk Confirms

      In January, SpaceX Founder Elon Musk confirmed a question many had about the Starlink constellation, that it was working on optical inter-satellite links to connect the LEO satellites. At the time, Musk said that a small batch of Starlink satellites launched in January to Polar Orbit were equipped with the links. Recently, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX vice president of Starlink and Commercial Sales, said that the next generation of Starlink will begin launching around early 2022, with inter-satellite links

      Viasat to Acquire Inmarsat in $7.3B Satellite Industry Consolidation Deal

      Viasat made a major announcement in November that it will acquire Inmarsat in a $7.3 billion deal. The acquisition will bring together two large satellite operators with businesses in broadband, mobility, and defense. The acquisition came less than a year after Inmarsat brought in a new CEO, and as Viasat is ramping up its go-to-market strategy for the ViaSat-3 constellation. 

      A Battle Against Physics: Building the Perfect Low-Cost Satellite Antenna

      This episode of the On Orbit podcast addresses one of the most important questions in the satellite industry — How can the industry overcome design constraints and build the perfect low-cost antenna? Guest Whitney Lohmeyer, assistant professor of engineering at Olin College and a research affiliate at MIT in aeronautics and astronautics, shares her ground station expertise in this popular episode. 

      Eutelsat Deputy CEO Explains Rationale Behind OneWeb Deal

      Satellite operator Eutelsat made a significant play into the LEO market in April with a $500 million investment into OneWeb. The deal brought Eutelsat into the OneWeb consortium on par with the United Kingdom government, and Japan’s Softbank. Michel Azibert, deputy CEO of Eutelsat, spoke to Via Satellite about why this was such an important move for Eutelsat.

      Outspoken LEO Critic Tom Choi Details Plans for New CurvaNet Constellation

      After having been one of the biggest critics of LEO constellations like OneWeb, Tom Choi, chairman of the Airspace Internet Exchange, detailed his own plans for a LEO system called CurvaNet in this interview.