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Telespazio signs European distribution deal for NorthStar’s SSA data

PARIS — European space mission integrator Telespazio said Sept. 14 it has signed a deal to distribute Canadian startup NorthStar Earth & Space’s planned space domain awareness services.

Telespazio, a joint venture between aerospace giants Thales Group of France and Italy’s Leonardo, said the deal makes it NorthStar’s exclusive distributor for European governments, agencies, and institutions.

NorthStar plans to deploy its first space situational awareness (SSA) payloads in low Earth orbit in early 2023 onboard three spacecraft that satellite operator Spire Global is developing.

Each of these satellites will be the size of 12 cubesats. The Canadian company had previously ordered three larger SSA satellites from Thales Alenia Space, another joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, but has canceled this agreement in favor of Spire to accelerate its constellation plans.

Stewart Bain, NorthStar’s CEO, said the company has options for up to 30 satellites with Spire for monitoring near-Earth orbits, which the startup says will be able to track objects down to five centimeters in LEO.

The network will be able to track objects down to 10 centimeters in medium Earth orbit, according to NorthStar, 40 centimeters in geostationary orbit, and between 10-40 centimeters in highly elliptical orbit — depending on the target’s altitude.

Telespazio plans to integrate NorthStar’s space-based SSA data into its existing space domain awareness solutions, which use ground-based sensors to track debris and satellites in near-Earth orbit in addition to asteroids.

Luigi Pasquali, Telespazio’s CEO, said NorthStar’s space-based SSA data would help the Italian company refine its ability to detect, track, predict, identify, and characterize objects in space.

This is “critical to address sophisticated market requirements,” Pasquali said, including defense.

In addition to its headquarters in Italy, Telespazio has subsidiaries in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Romania that it plans to leverage to distribute NorthStar’s SSA capabilities to European customers.

The company is also an investor in NorthStar, which has raised more than $90 million for its planned constellation.

NorthStar is developing its SSA data products in partnership with SES, a satellite operator based in Luxembourg, where the Canadian company is setting up its European headquarters.

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