Top commercial space developments in 2017 for ADG companies

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

Thinking big and small(sat) satellites

The Huffington Post recently identified “Top 10 Tech Trends Transforming Humanity.”1 The first of these transformative tech trends was labeled “we are hyper-connecting the world” and the Huffington Post cited five independent drone-based or satellite-based projects that promise to bring broader and faster internet service to the globe. 

But large-scale projects such as these are not the only exciting developments in the commercial space industry. Startup companies are also shaping the industry with disruptive new technologies and innovative business models. Many startups are drawn to smallsats, which can be manufactured, launched, replaced, and built out into constellations for a fraction of the cost and time of larger, more traditional satellites. Thus, satellites are now viewed as another platform (along with terrestrial and drone systems) that can be deployed to address a variety of earth-based problems including those related to tracking and logistics, emergency and humanitarian response, environmental monitoring, machine-to-machine  communications, and others. 

Given the nature of these smallsats, many systems are launched as pathfinder programs at relatively reasonable cost, to test out the system, market, and desired characteristics before launching of a full constellation. The growth of the smallsat industry has given rise to a parallel market for launching smallsats on either small launch vehicles that have been developed and/or planned, and/or ride-sharing on larger vehicles (or in combination with many other smallsats). This sort of cost-effective launch market has only started to come into its own over the past several years.

Beyond the startups, the traditional industry players as well as those from Silicon Valley continue to invest in drone technologies, but are also investing in improved satellite technology. For example, the new high throughput satellites (HTS) offer vastly increased capacity. Improved capacity from these and other HTS has the potential to unlock new technical solutions and business models, similar to the revolution in smallsats. Advances in computing power and efficiency are driving investment in on-orbit data processing. Many of the new businesses in the satellite sector feature the data processing and data analytics so critical to producing the useful information that customers are demanding. Some satellite companies are providing the entire ecosystem for such big data applications but others are relying on existing satellite-system agnostic platforms to serve customer needs, and yet others are teaming with other providers (including other satellite systems) to deliver the best suited applications sought by customers in different market segments.  

Advances in robotics and 3D printing have also made on-orbit manufacturing a real possibility, and even manufacturing of satellite and launch components on a less costly basis. In the spring of 2016, NASA entered a US$20m contract, which aims to demonstrate the ability to perform on-orbit, additive manufacturing capable of creating large, complex structures by 2018.  

The space industry is driven by technological advances and there are no shortage of those advances in 2017. Below, we summarize the recent key business, regulatory, and legal developments that will shape aerospace, defense, and government services (ADG) companies’ abilities to harness these exciting opportunities.

U.S. Government-commercial convergence on smallsat platforms

U.S. Government interest in commercial platforms is at an all-time high, attracted by the joint opportunities of exciting new technologies and potential cost savings. New RF-detection solutions, for example, will bring to the market new technologies that promise to locate pirates and human traffickers by identifying “dark ships” that hide from traditional location-monitoring systems. Rapidly refreshing geo-imaging systems, will support the ability to observe floods, forest fires, refugee crises, war zones, and other hotspots with improved accuracy. Other companies implementing space-based aircraft tracking are anticipated to complement the Federal Aviation Adminstration’s ongoing Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast program. And by combining these and similar advances with innovations in data analytics and artificial intelligence, smallsat technology can unlock possibilities we are only beginning to imagine. 

U.S. Government funding comes in all shapes and sizes. In 2016, smallsat startups received funding from a range of U.S. Government sources and programs. One such program was NOAA’s weather data pilot program, which in September 2016 awarded two contracts, totaling over US$1m to secure radio occultation data on atmospheric temperature and humidity. The pilot program is expected to lead to further use of commercial data by NOAA in its weather forecasting systems. On the defense and intelligence side, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) recently entered into a US$20m commercial contract with a commercial imagery provider to gain access to a global imagery refresh every 15 days. In June, it was announced that an investor group including a strategic investor for the U.S. defense and intelligence communities would contribute to a Series B round of over US$20m in a geospatial data company focused on satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle imagery. This level of mixed investment from private equity and venture capital, side-by-side with U.S. Government investors, is by itself an interesting and important development.  

Some of these investments are part of the “Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution” initiative, announced by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy in late 2016. As part of the initiative, the Department of Defense, NASA, and other agencies committed to spending over US$110 m over the next five years. NASA’s participation will include up to US$30m: US$25m for purchasing smallsat data from non-governmental sources and US$5m to advance new smallsat constellation technologies. NASA will also create a central repository for smallsat technical know-how, to be called the Small Spacecraft Virtual Institute, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in Silicon Valley. The NGA’s role in the initiative, in addition to its ongoing commercial contracts described above, will be to partner with the General Services Administration to develop a more efficient process for all government customers to obtain earth-imaging data and related services—these efforts are referred to by the acronym CIBORG. If CIBORG is able to achieve commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) status for earth-imaging, it could drive growth in the industry, particularly in the U.S. 

Other global governments are similarly exploring and developing strong innovation, accelerators, and legislative and financial support, including the UK (e.g., Catapult), Luxembourg, and the European Space Agency.


Large satellite defense manufacturers, meet the smallsat community: Successful teaming arrangements require creative problem solving

If trends continue, we expect 2017 to see an increase in creative teaming arrangements. Teaming arrangements between NewSpace entrants and traditional space companies can be a win-win for both parties. Potential benefits range from simple cost savings, to access to technology, to expanded networks both in and out of government, and others. For the NewSpace partner, joining up with a traditional company can provide access to legacy platforms and capital beyond what could be achieved with a typical seed or Series A funding. And for the traditional space participant, teaming with a NewSpace company can be a means to enter a market without competing with its existing customers, or being perceived as threatening to other legacy companies. Teaming with a NewSpace partner also provides an opportunity for cross-cultural interaction and exposure to disruptive thinking. Even teaming arrangements between two NewSpace participants brings potential cost-savings, shared learning opportunities, leveraging of innovative developments, and a win-win to each business plan.

A successful teaming arrangement requires mutual understanding and creative problem-solving from both sides. One potential pitfall is that small company partners are often at risk of being overwhelmed by their larger investors, such that the small company ends up orbiting the large company, responding to its needs and unable to pursue its own business plan. To counter this, a strategic investor’s role should be limited as much as possible to a normal customer role, and the transaction should be structured to preserve the smaller company’s ability to earn a decent profit—even on sales to the strategic investor. Another potential issue is that a typical startup is often focused on the short-term: how the proceeds of an investment will be applied and what milestones need to be met before the next funding round. Traditional companies tend to be more focused on the long-term investment, such as how the NewSpace company or a jointly-developed technology will fit in with the investor’s long-term strategic objectives. Traditional companies are also wary of the risk that a NewSpace partner will suffer continuous shortfalls, and as a result will keep coming back to the strategic investor for more money, time, and support. A NewSpace company should be aware of these concerns; it should also be prepared to provide a more detailed roadmap and to be subjected to more extensive due diligence than it may have experienced in prior investments. In all cases, each company must work to ensure that the deal structure and documentation preserves its core business rights and essential flexibility.


Innovative NewSpace technologies create regulatory uncertainty

Innovative NewSpace technologies have pushed dated satellite-related regulations to the limit. Much of the technology emerging in today’s commercial space industry does not neatly fit within existing regulations. Activities such as asteroid mining, the launch and operation of large numbers of non-geostationary (NGSO) satellites, and mission extension services raise novel and interesting questions about the applicability of existing regulations and international treaties. While agencies stretch existing rules to accommodate NewSpace innovations, they are also pursuing regulatory solutions to better facilitate growth and development of the smallsat industry. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for example, recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing changes to existing rules to better facilitate and coordinate use of large constellations of NGSO fixed-satellite service systems (IB Docket No. 16-408) and announced its intention to act on such applications this year. The FCC has also stated its plans to initiate a rulemaking to determine a regulatory framework to facilitate the development for smallsat systems. Others are exploring creating new agencies or new authorizations to regulate NewSpace technologies, including the grant of mission authority to the FAA, whereby the FAA would authorize all space missions, including non-traditional activities, such as asteroid mining, via a process similar to the existing payload review process.


Public-Private Partnerships form to facilitate development of smallsat systems 

To facilitate the growth of the commercial smallsat sector and government interest in promoting commercial space development, public and private stakeholders have voluntarily come together informally to form the Commercial Smallsat Spectrum Management Association (CSSMA). The goal behind the CSSMA is simple: by working together to streamline the current frequency coordination process, CSSMA participants can facilitate commercial access to shared spectrum and minimize interference among all users. The CSSMA meetings have brought together representatives from the FCC, NASA, NOAA, and NTIA and numerous smallsat operators. Attendees participate in a wide range of discussions on issues smallsat operators are facing at the FCC and internationally, and also share experiences, lessons learned, and best practices for spectrum coordination efforts with government agencies.



Exciting new technologies and innovative business models are opening many new opportunities in the commercial space industry. But, as with all cutting-edge industries, the satellite industry is also shaped by business risk and regulatory uncertainty. As you develop your own plans in this sector, be sure to involve a multidisciplinary team that can help to identify risks throughout the life of the program, as well as opportunities for new sources of revenue. And regardless of the size of your company, consider creative, strategic teaming arrangements that can lower your costs, provide access to a partner’s technology, and multiply your opportunities to develop even more innovative products and services.





Written by:

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide

JD Supra Privacy Policy

Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC ("JD Supra" or "we," "us," or "our") collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at (our "Website") who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our "Services"). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

Collection of Information

Registration Information. When you register with JD Supra for our Website and Services, either as an author or as a subscriber, you will be asked to provide identifying information to create your JD Supra account ("Registration Data"), such as your:

  • Email
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Title
  • Country

Other Information: We also collect other information you may voluntarily provide. This may include content you provide for publication. We may also receive your communications with others through our Website and Services (such as contacting an author through our Website) or communications directly with us (such as through email, feedback or other forms or social media). If you are a subscribed user, we will also collect your user preferences, such as the types of articles you would like to read.

Information from third parties (such as, from your employer or LinkedIn): We may also receive information about you from third party sources. For example, your employer may provide your information to us, such as in connection with an article submitted by your employer for publication. If you choose to use LinkedIn to subscribe to our Website and Services, we also collect information related to your LinkedIn account and profile.

Your interactions with our Website and Services: As is true of most websites, we gather certain information automatically. This information includes IP addresses, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp and clickstream data. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the Website and our Services, to improve the content and performance of our Website and Services, and to track users' movements around the site. We may also link this automatically-collected data to personal information, for example, to inform authors about who has read their articles. Some of this data is collected through information sent by your web browser. We also use cookies and other tracking technologies to collect this information. To learn more about cookies and other tracking technologies that JD Supra may use on our Website and Services please see our "Cookies Guide" page.

How do we use this information?

We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

  • Operate our Website and Services and publish content;
  • Distribute content to you in accordance with your preferences as well as to provide other notifications to you (for example, updates about our policies and terms);
  • Measure readership and usage of the Website and Services;
  • Communicate with you regarding your questions and requests;
  • Authenticate users and to provide for the safety and security of our Website and Services;
  • Conduct research and similar activities to improve our Website and Services; and
  • Comply with our legal and regulatory responsibilities and to enforce our rights.

How is your information shared?

  • Content and other public information (such as an author profile) is shared on our Website and Services, including via email digests and social media feeds, and is accessible to the general public.
  • If you choose to use our Website and Services to communicate directly with a company or individual, such communication may be shared accordingly.
  • Readership information is provided to publishing law firms and authors of content to give them insight into their readership and to help them to improve their content.
  • Our Website may offer you the opportunity to share information through our Website, such as through Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button. We offer this functionality to help generate interest in our Website and content and to permit you to recommend content to your contacts. You should be aware that sharing through such functionality may result in information being collected by the applicable social media network and possibly being made publicly available (for example, through a search engine). Any such information collection would be subject to such third party social media network's privacy policy.
  • Your information may also be shared to parties who support our business, such as professional advisors as well as web-hosting providers, analytics providers and other information technology providers.
  • Any court, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or other third party where we believe disclosure is necessary to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, or otherwise to protect our rights, the rights of any third party or individuals' personal safety, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or safety issues.
  • To our affiliated entities and in connection with the sale, assignment or other transfer of our company or our business.

How We Protect Your Information

JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at

Children's Information

Our Website and Services are not directed at children under the age of 16 and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 16 through our Website and/or Services. If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 16 has provided personal information to us, please contact us, and we will endeavor to delete that information from our databases.

Links to Other Websites

Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Information for EU and Swiss Residents

JD Supra's principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

  • Our Legal Basis for Processing: Generally, we rely on our legitimate interests in order to process your personal information. For example, we rely on this legal ground if we use your personal information to manage your Registration Data and administer our relationship with you; to deliver our Website and Services; understand and improve our Website and Services; report reader analytics to our authors; to personalize your experience on our Website and Services; and where necessary to protect or defend our or another's rights or property, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, safety or privacy issues. Please see Article 6(1)(f) of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") In addition, there may be other situations where other grounds for processing may exist, such as where processing is a result of legal requirements (GDPR Article 6(1)(c)) or for reasons of public interest (GDPR Article 6(1)(e)). Please see the "Your Rights" section of this Privacy Policy immediately below for more information about how you may request that we limit or refrain from processing your personal information.
  • Your Rights
    • Right of Access/Portability: You can ask to review details about the information we hold about you and how that information has been used and disclosed. Note that we may request to verify your identification before fulfilling your request. You can also request that your personal information is provided to you in a commonly used electronic format so that you can share it with other organizations.
    • Right to Correct Information: You may ask that we make corrections to any information we hold, if you believe such correction to be necessary.
    • Right to Restrict Our Processing or Erasure of Information: You also have the right in certain circumstances to ask us to restrict processing of your personal information or to erase your personal information. Where you have consented to our use of your personal information, you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You can make a request to exercise any of these rights by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

You can also manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard.

We will make all practical efforts to respect your wishes. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Please note that JD Supra does not use "automatic decision making" or "profiling" as those terms are defined in the GDPR.

  • Timeframe for retaining your personal information: We will retain your personal information in a form that identifies you only for as long as it serves the purpose(s) for which it was initially collected as stated in this Privacy Policy, or subsequently authorized. We may continue processing your personal information for longer periods, but only for the time and to the extent such processing reasonably serves the purposes of archiving in the public interest, journalism, literature and art, scientific or historical research and statistical analysis, and subject to the protection of this Privacy Policy. For example, if you are an author, your personal information may continue to be published in connection with your article indefinitely. When we have no ongoing legitimate business need to process your personal information, we will either delete or anonymize it, or, if this is not possible (for example, because your personal information has been stored in backup archives), then we will securely store your personal information and isolate it from any further processing until deletion is possible.
  • Onward Transfer to Third Parties: As noted in the "How We Share Your Data" Section above, JD Supra may share your information with third parties. When JD Supra discloses your personal information to third parties, we have ensured that such third parties have either certified under the EU-U.S. or Swiss Privacy Shield Framework and will process all personal data received from EU member states/Switzerland in reliance on the applicable Privacy Shield Framework or that they have been subjected to strict contractual provisions in their contract with us to guarantee an adequate level of data protection for your data.

California Privacy Rights

Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

Some browsers have incorporated a Do Not Track (DNT) feature. These features, when turned on, send a signal that you prefer that the website you are visiting not collect and use data regarding your online searching and browsing activities. As there is not yet a common understanding on how to interpret the DNT signal, we currently do not respond to DNT signals on our site.

Access/Correct/Update/Delete Personal Information

For non-EU/Swiss residents, if you would like to know what personal information we have about you, you can send an e-mail to We will be in contact with you (by mail or otherwise) to verify your identity and provide you the information you request. We will respond within 30 days to your request for access to your personal information. In some cases, we may not be able to remove your personal information, in which case we will let you know if we are unable to do so and why. If you would like to correct or update your personal information, you can manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard. If you would like to delete your account or remove your information from our Website and Services, send an e-mail to

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our Privacy Policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use our Website and Services following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, your dealings with our Website or Services, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

JD Supra Cookie Guide

As with many websites, JD Supra's website (located at (our "Website") and our services (such as our email article digests)(our "Services") use a standard technology called a "cookie" and other similar technologies (such as, pixels and web beacons), which are small data files that are transferred to your computer when you use our Website and Services. These technologies automatically identify your browser whenever you interact with our Website and Services.

How We Use Cookies and Other Tracking Technologies

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to:

  1. Improve the user experience on our Website and Services;
  2. Store the authorization token that users receive when they login to the private areas of our Website. This token is specific to a user's login session and requires a valid username and password to obtain. It is required to access the user's profile information, subscriptions, and analytics;
  3. Track anonymous site usage; and
  4. Permit connectivity with social media networks to permit content sharing.

There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

  • "Session cookies" - These cookies only last as long as your online session, and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari).
  • "Persistent cookies" - These cookies stay on your computer or device after your browser has been closed and last for a time specified in the cookie. We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.
  • "Web Beacons/Pixels" - Some of our web pages and emails may also contain small electronic images known as web beacons, clear GIFs or single-pixel GIFs. These images are placed on a web page or email and typically work in conjunction with cookies to collect data. We use these images to identify our users and user behavior, such as counting the number of users who have visited a web page or acted upon one of our email digests.

JD Supra Cookies. We place our own cookies on your computer to track certain information about you while you are using our Website and Services. For example, we place a session cookie on your computer each time you visit our Website. We use these cookies to allow you to log-in to your subscriber account. In addition, through these cookies we are able to collect information about how you use the Website, including what browser you may be using, your IP address, and the URL address you came from upon visiting our Website and the URL you next visit (even if those URLs are not on our Website). We also utilize email web beacons to monitor whether our emails are being delivered and read. We also use these tools to help deliver reader analytics to our authors to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

Analytics/Performance Cookies. JD Supra also uses the following analytic tools to help us analyze the performance of our Website and Services as well as how visitors use our Website and Services:

  • HubSpot - For more information about HubSpot cookies, please visit
  • New Relic - For more information on New Relic cookies, please visit
  • Google Analytics - For more information on Google Analytics cookies, visit To opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites visit This will allow you to download and install a Google Analytics cookie-free web browser.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Network Cookies. Our content pages allow you to share content appearing on our Website and Services to your social media accounts through the "Like," "Tweet," or similar buttons displayed on such pages. To accomplish this Service, we embed code that such third party social networks provide and that we do not control. These buttons know that you are logged in to your social network account and therefore such social networks could also know that you are viewing the JD Supra Website.

Controlling and Deleting Cookies

If you would like to change how a browser uses cookies, including blocking or deleting cookies from the JD Supra Website and Services you can do so by changing the settings in your web browser. To control cookies, most browsers allow you to either accept or reject all cookies, only accept certain types of cookies, or prompt you every time a site wishes to save a cookie. It's also easy to delete cookies that are already saved on your device by a browser.

The processes for controlling and deleting cookies vary depending on which browser you use. To find out how to do so with a particular browser, you can use your browser's "Help" function or alternatively, you can visit which explains, step-by-step, how to control and delete cookies in most browsers.

Updates to This Policy

We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at:

- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.