Northrop Grumman made a big show of its mainly solid rocket-based OmegA, aimed at the military and government market, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2019) in Washington DC in October. But it was not until 12 December that the company announced that it had signed for a commercial OmegA launch in 2021 of one or two “NationSat” bus/platform satellites to operate in geostationary Earth orbit. These are being built by start-up manufacturer Saturn Satellite Networks, a firm set up by Tom Choi, former CEO of the regional satellite operator ABS. Saturn Satellite Networks has yet to announce which client/clients will be operating the satellite(s).

Meanwhile, Kepler Communications, which is planning a small low Earth orbit (LEO) “Internet of Things” communications nanosat constellation, signed launch booking reservations (on 11 December) with SpaceX to launch up to 400 kg on two shared Falcon 9 launches in 2020. The contract has a measure of flexibility in it with the spacecraft able to use one launch or more than two. The deal was slightly unexpected given that SpaceX is planning a grander scale LEO constellation, called Starlink, and there has been friction between the two firms over the altitude at which each constellation will fly.

Artist’s impression of OmegA rocket in flight. Courtesy: Northrop Grumman