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New Shepard’s shepherd leaves Blue Origin

The changing of the guard is continuing at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture with the departure of Stephen Bennett, a senior vice president who led the team behind the company’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship.

Bennett will become Toronto-based Kepler Communications’ chief operating officer on Sept. 20, Kepler said in a news release.

Blue Origin’s vice president of communications, Linda Mills, told GeekWire in an email that Bennett’s deputy, Phil Joyce, “was promoted and has taken on leadership of the New Shepard team with a seamless transition plan.”

Kepler is rolling out Aether, a connectivity service for space assets in low Earth orbit, or LEO. The Aether system is due to go through flight validation early next year.

“The opportunity to join Kepler as this point in their journey speaks to me on multiple levels,” Bennett said in the news release. “The goal of delivering a LEO network that will provide real-time connectivity to other orbital missions is a bold one, but one that this team has demonstrated they are on track to achieve.”

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Satellite link tested in the Arctic’s deep freeze

Kymeta Corp. — the hybrid connectivity venture that’s based in Redmond, Wash. — says it has demonstrated how its flat-panel antenna can hook up with Kepler Communications’ satellite constellation for high-speed data transfers under the chilliest of circumstances.

It’s the latest team-up between Kymeta, which counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among its backers; and Kepler, a Canadian space startup that graduated from the Techstars Seattle incubator program back in 2016.

Kepler is one of several companies that are putting satellites into low Earth orbit, or LEO — a group that also includes SpaceX and OneWeb, plus Amazon’s yet-to-be-launched Project Kuiper constellation.

Those other companies are focusing on consumer and enterprise internet access. In contrast, Kepler is concentrating on satellite-based, high-capacity networking for smart devices that make use of the Internet of Things. One of its leading products is called the Global Data Service.

Over the past winter, Kepler put Kymeta’s next-generation u8 satellite-cellular data service to the test in the Canadian Arctic community of Inuvik, where temperatures can drop to tens of degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Today the two companies announced that the cold-weather test was a success.

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FCC OKs plan for 7,500 SpaceX satellites

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

The Federal Communications Commission today gave the go-ahead for SpaceX to operate a constellation of more than 7,500 broadband access satellites in very low Earth orbit — and also gave the go-ahead for other satellite constellations chasing similar markets.

SpaceX’s plan to put 7,518 V-band satellites in 215-mile-high (345.6-kilometer-high) orbits meshes with a complementary plan to put more than 4,400 satellites in higher orbits for Ku- and Ka-band service. Last week, SpaceX filed an amended application seeking to put 1,584 of those satellites into 342-mile orbits instead of the originally specified 715-mile orbits.

The different orbital altitudes are meant to provide a mix of wide-angle and tightly focused transmission beams for global broadband access. SpaceX could start offering satellite internet services as soon as 2020, if all goes according to plan and the company sticks to its launch schedule.

SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., has the lead role in satellite development for the Starlink constellation. The first Starlink prototypes were launched in February.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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Kepler expands ‘Internet of Things’ to space

Toronto-based Kepler Communications says its first Ku-band telecommunications satellite is in working order after a Jan. 19 launch from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Kipp nanosatellite, which is about the size of a loaf of bread, was one of six spacecraft delivered to orbit by a Long March 11 rocket. It’s designed to demonstrate technologies for providing in-space connectivity between spacecraft — and potentially for networks of connected devices on Earth, also known as the Internet of Things.

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