Will Apple Put Satellite Connectivity In Its Next iPhone? — Aerospace — Quartz

Dear readers,

Welcome to Quartz’s newsletter on the economic possibilities of the alien sphere. Please pass on a lot and let me know what you think. This week: The most mysterious satellite customer, Boeing vs. Aerojet, and Russia hacks ViaSat.

The rumors have been circulating after satellite operator Globalstar this week announced an agreement with “a major, global customer” to build out a new communications network, just months after announcing that an unidentified “potential customer” has spent more than $ 300 million to finance the purchase of 13 new satellites.

Analysts believe that the customer is a single entity. The problem is that Apple is behind these deals, aiming to use Globalstar to provide satellite connections to a future iPhone. Globalstar says it has been working with this client since 2020 “in connection with the assessment of a potential service using certain of our assets and capacity.”

Why Apple? In 2021, Bloomberg News quoted anonymous sources as saying that Apple is considering adding satellite communications to its mobile devices. And whoever the customer is, they’ve already paid about $430 million to “assess” a potential service, so they must have deep pockets. That said, Globalstar has previously worked with both Nokia and Qualcomm, and both qualify as major global customers.

Why Global Star? This is a more interesting question. It’s not a very successful satellite company, losing more than $1.5 billion in the last ten years, with stock trading at about $1 a share. Its main business is to provide low-bandwidth telecom services, such as SMS messages and data relays with internet of things devices. What it does have is a license to operate on a valuable piece of spectrum.

Globalstar’s exclusive electromagnetic property is located near frequencies reserved for use on Earth. While previous attempts to monetize this spectrum have encountered regulatory hurdles, it remains valuable in theory. “Everyone in the aerospace industry is all looking at it,” said Caleb Henry, senior analyst at Quilty Analytics, as it promises the ability to seamlessly link affordable cell phones to both cell towers and satellites.

While most populated areas have reliable cellular coverage, satellite connectivity can be useful in rural areas or when traveling. Satellite operators are salivating at the opportunity to tap into the much larger terrestrial communications market, and other companies, such as AST SpaceMobile and Lynx, are working on their own plans to connect cell phones to satellite networks.

Applications can be for emergency messages and location tracking, or for regular text messages, when a user goes out of range of terrestrial networks. Based on Globalstar’s current satellite network, it is unlikely to be able to provide the bandwidth for phone calls immediately.

If the potential customer deal becomes an actual partnership with a leading mobile device maker like Apple, it would be a major comeback — and a surprising confirmation from Globalstar’s upstanding chairman Jay Monroe, who bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2004 and financed it through years of losses.

Two cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev, donned spacesuits in April to activate a new robotic arm on the International Space Station.

In April 2022, cosmonauts will work on the International Space Station (ISS).

Image copyright: NASA

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SPACE DEBRIS

The battle for Boeing’s expensive valve failure. Reuters’ Joey Roulette reports on the conflict behind Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which has been delayed due to problems with valves in the propulsion system. Those valves were built by Aerojet, and the two firms scrapped what was responsible for their failure, with NASA apparently siding with Boeing. The Starliner program has lost nearly $600 million to Boeing so far, and it wants Aerojet to cover some of those costs even as the US space agency awaits a final design.

The other scoop that caught everyone’s attention reported on a terrifying accident in 2017 that injured a Boeing subcontractor and had his leg amputated. If you are aware of a previously unreported security issue with an aerospace company, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask for my signal number.

Russia hacks US satellite. Researchers have confirmed that before Russia invaded Ukraine, hackers broke into a communications satellite owned by the US company ViaSat and used by the Ukrainian military. The attack disabled thousands of satellite terminals, as well as thousands of wind turbines in Germany, underscoring the importance of satellite communications for global infrastructure.

Virgin Orbit plans launch in UK† The Richard Branson-backed SPAC’d company, which uses rockets launched from modified 747s to launch satellites into orbit, is planning its first mission from the UK, with a payload from the National Reconnaissance Office, a American Satellite Intelligence. It will be the first private space launch in Western Europe.

Is your canoe sinking? The electric-car company chosen by NASA to provide a vehicle for transporting lunar-bound astronauts to the launch pad said it would go out of business. The choice of Canoo was seen as a little odd given the company’s lack of track record, but the vehicles won’t be needed until 2024 or so. NASA is trying to replace the “Astrovan” that served the Shuttle program with a more modern vehicle. For those tracking astronaut transport over the ground at home, SpaceX prefers Teslas, Blue Origin uses Amazon-backed Rivian vehicles, Virgin Galactic has Range Rovers (and time-traveling bicycles), while Boeing is developing “Astrovan II.”

Valuable Canadian initiative. Canada joined the US in passing a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons that generate debris in orbit. Although Canada has never done this before, the announcement could help build consensus at the meeting of a UN-sponsored working group trying to adopt new safety standards in orbit. Jessica West, who studies space security issues at Plougshares, a gun control group, has been the ins and outs twitter at the meeting, noting that the UK, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea and Ireland have expressed support for the ASAT ban without fully endorsing it.

your friend,

Timo

This was number 132 of our newsletter. I hope your week is out of this world! Send all your Globalstar rumors, unreported aviation accidents, tips and informed opinions to [email protected]

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