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The Orbiter Rising


A Barn to Build, and a Day to Do It In

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Photo Album: The 2017 Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner

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Looking to the Future at the Chapter Leaders Breakfast

The Lives We Save

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New Leaders Rise: The 2017 Rising Five

Thanks for a Job Well Done

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Leaders Become Legends: The 2017 Inductees to the Satellite Hall of Fame

Upcoming Student Competitions and Deadlines

New Century Workforce Webinar Series

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Upcoming Events MEMBERS ONLY - SSPI Board Elections, April 7. Click here for more information. Webinar: The First 100 Days - Turning New Hires into “Keepers”, May 5. Click here for more information.

6th Annual Mid-Atlantic Chapter Golf Outing, May 8, Reston, VA, USA. Click here for more information.

Learn more about upcoming events at

Cover Photo By SpaceX, used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. See the original photo here.

DELIVERING INFLIGHT CONNECTIVITY SES’s data network combines an extensive ground infrastructure with global widebeam satellite coverage and high-throughput satellites (HTS) to meet the growing demands of the airline industry. Satellites make a better world! Experience the SES advantage on flight paths across land or sea.

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A Barn to Build, and a Day to Do It In

By Robert Bell, Executive Director Back when America and Canada were nations of farmers, the land was dotted with barns, that all-purpose storage building without which no farm is complete. Those barns were built by hand, and the story of their building – called barn-raising – is worth knowing. Barns are big and are designed to provide a lot of uninterrupted floor space. That means the walls, rather than a lot of internal columns, must hold up the roof. Building a barn takes a lot of people working together to construct that frame, to raise it into place and to prop it up while carpenters nail it together. That need, in sparsely populated rural areas, gave rise to the tradition of barn-raising. To build a barn, you first built the big framing pieces on the ground. Then you invited all your neighbors to come and raise them, prop them and hammer on the roof and walls, all in one long day. (To get the feel, see the clip of the barn-raising scene from the Peter Weir film Witness.) All that free assistance, of course, came with a price. When your neighbor raised a barn, you joined in, no questions asked.

Raising the Roof

Barn-raising came to mind, believe it or not, at SATELLITE 2017. Everywhere I turned, I saw people joining forces to raise the roof. At our Chairman’s Reception on March 7, we announced our firstever list of The Rising Five. An editorial advisory board of editors and publishers from all the industry trade media worked with SSPI to honor five companies from among the dozens of the new entrants to the satellite and space business. The goal was to identify the firms that have made the most meaningful progress toward their ambitious goals over the past year. We thought this group of experts was uniquely qualified for the job, because they have seen satellite companies come and go for decades and know what it takes to reach the finish line. You can learn more about the Rising Five in this issue. At the Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner, we showed the latest video in our Better Satellite World campaign, “The Lives We Save.” That campaign has worked for 2 years to raise awareness of the immense contribution satellite technology makes to the world. We are grateful to our many sponsors for supporting the campaign and making it possible for us


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to deliver 2.3 million impressions and $600,000 in media exposure. Look for the link in this issue that lets you view it.

Leaders Quest sponsors:

Raising a New Generation

The primary target of the Better Satellite World campaign is the next generation of people to work in our business. Over the past decades, the satellite industry has made one big mistake. It allowed itself to become invisible. Invisibility comes with cost: our industry got a wake-up call in the WRC negotiations when the mobile industry argued persuasively that they needed our spectrum more than we did. Everybody has a mobile phone. Everybody uses satellite every day – but hardly any of them know it. The shocking thing is that even young people who are building cubesats at university know absolutely nothing about what we do, how big our industry is and where they can fit in it. So SSPI targets them for awareness-raising. Through our Next Generation campaign, we bring them to events like SATELLITE but we also bring the industry to them through a growing range of research competitions for student teams. We’re also working to make our industry better at attracting and engaging new talent. Some of our companies do an outstanding job in this area – but many more are still focused on recruiting grey-haired veterans from a shrinking pool. Our New Century Workforce campaign helps them raise their game with a series of webinars on smart talent management, and talent recruiting missions to student space conferences.

The Campaign of Your Choice

To do all this barn-raising, we have raise something else as well. Funds. Our fundraising goes on throughout the year and gives companies a chance to support the SSPI campaign they feel most passionate about. Everyone in the satellite and space business has reason to thank Intelsat, Space Systems Loral, SES, Arianespace, Boeing and Hughes/Echostar for putting significant money behind our campaigns. And they are hardly alone. The support of our sponsors also enables our rising network of chapters and affiliates, where members hone their leadership skills while creating valuable content and network for their colleagues. Together we build the barn. It may have parabolic antennas, electric propulsion units and rockets in it instead of cows. But it is the product of our combined labor, made mighty by our ability to collaborate for the common good.

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Better Satellite World sponsors:

Next Generation sponsors:

New Century Workforce sponsors:


Leaders Become Legends The SSPI Hall of Fame recognizes the invaluable contributions of the visionaries who have transformed life on planet Earth for the better through satellite technology. Members of the Hall of Fame are recognized pioneers in communications, satellite-related aerospace, scientific research, or the development and delivery of applications for business, institutions and government via satellite. On March 7, 2017 at the Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner, SSPI inducted four new members.

Dr. Walter Scott

Founder and CTO, DigitalGlobe Walter Scott was driving home from a paintball game 26 years ago, according to an article in SpaceNews, when he came up with an idea – one that would help give rise to the US commercial remote sensing industry and change how people see the world. At the time, he worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on space-related projects such as the Brilliant Pebbles missile defense program. When the US Congress passed the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act in 1992 – which legalized commercial satellite imaging – Dr. Scott founded WorldView Imaging Corporation. The company won the first government license to collect and sell imagery at a resolution of 3 meters across, then unprecedented outside military and intelligence applications. The early years of the company were filled with challenge, starting with the need to raise money for something no company had done before. WorldView, as well its new competitors that entered the market, were also plagued by an early string of launch and satellite failures. With a patient group of investors and Dr. Scott’s laser-like focus and sense of purpose – he describes it as “boundless enthusiasm and a lack of common sense” – the company finally launched its first successful satellite, QuickBird, in 2001. By 2009, the company went public as DigitalGlobe and launched a second satellite with multispectral capabilities. Four years later, it combined with competitor GeoEye, and over the next few years, launched WorldView-3, which offered higher resolution and shortwave infrared sensing, followed by WorldView-4, which doubled the


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The 2017 Inductees to the Satellite Hall of Fame company’s capacity to collect images at a remarkable 30cm resolution. By the end of its 2015 fiscal year, DigitalGlobe had a record $702 million in revenues after five years of 20% revenue growth. But its financial success pales in comparison to its impact on business, the economy, security, human welfare and our daily lives. Commercial satellite imaging contributes to agriculture, property development and urban planning, energy and mining, government, border protection and national security, disaster response and recovery – the list is almost endless. Most of us carry it in our pocket in the form of Google Maps. By giving planet Earth a mirror in which to see itself, Dr. Scott has changed the lives of billions for the better.

Mary Cotton

CEO, VT iDirect September 2017 marks Mary Cotton’s 10th anniversary as CEO of iDirect. Mary has led the company through a decade of tremendous growth, guiding the development of new satellite technologies and steering iDirect toward a leading position in key vertical markets around the world. The company has a remarkable 57% share of the VSAT hub market and has grown to become the leading enterprise TDMA supplier. Eight of the top ten maritime service providers and the top three names in in-flight broadband have made iDirect their platform of choice. During Mary’s tenure, iDirect Government, a wholly owned subsidiary of iDirect, grew its presence to become the leading player in the defense and intelligence communities. Early on, she told Satellite TODAY that “satellite communications is an unsung part of many networking solutions and the industry tends to think of itself as being marginalized. I look at satellite connectivity as … something that drives business for our partners and customers.” That focus on customer value, innovation, and her ability to “see around corners” has translated into substantial success. The company was first to combine TDMA and SCPC technology on one platform, dramatically reducing costs and increasing flexibility. iDirect Evolution®, a broadband network platform introduced in 2008, was powering over 1,600 networks with more than 350,000 remote terminals by 2016. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the company’s innovative spirit came with the advent of HTS technology. Under Ms. Cotton’s leadership, iDirect won a major contract to develop Inmarsat’s Global Xpress ground network infrastructure. Through this partnership and others with leading satellite operators, Mary further secured iDirect’s name as an integral player in satellite. The Orbiter Rising


iDirect Velocity® and iDirect Pulse®, focused on unleashing new HTS capacity, were gamechanging technologies. Today that innovative drive grows even stronger with transformational iDirect DVB-S2X technology designed to set a new standard for ground infrastructure performance, removing every barrier to growth for partners and customers. Beyond revenue and market share, however, is the human impact of iDirect’s success. The company’s technology supports communication with ships that carry the world’s trade, and with energy exploration and production that power its economy. Its cellular backhaul technologies connect the unconnected, while portable VSAT terminals coordinate disaster relief and emergency response. Millions of schoolchildren around the world connect to the Internet and access distance education through iDirect VSAT networks. By driving the growth of her business in service to customers, Ms. Cotton has contributed directly to the world’s prosperity, understanding and security.

James Monroe III

Chairman and CEO, Globalstar Jay Monroe has built companies worth billions of dollars by relying on a sharp eye for changes in technology, changes in regulation and new business or consumer trends. In the process, he has transformed a bankrupt satellite service provider into an international brand-name company that has saved literally thousands of lives and brought hope to thousands more. Mr. Monroe was selling equipment for Stewart & Stevenson, a supplier to the oil and gas industry, when he founded the Thermo Companies in 1984 with US$40,000 he and his wife made from selling their home. He saw an opening to develop cogeneration plants under a new energy deregulation law, but his employer did not want to own power plants; it wanted to sell equipment to them. It helped Monroe win US$60 million in financing to build a 76-megawatt plant in Colorado. It was the first of four plants and the Thermo Companies went on to found or acquire companies in natural resource development, industrial equipment distribution, real estate, telecommunications and financial services. In 2004, Mr. Monroe seized the opportunity to buy a satellite phone company called Globalstar out of bankruptcy, believing it could be turned around by simplifying and reducing prices to attract more customers. After Globalstar restructured the billing model for monthly subscriptions, sales rose 124 percent to $137 million within three years. Mr. Monroe both invested and raised more than a billion dollars allowing Globalstar to successfully launch the company’s second-generation satellites, offering the fastest mobile data speeds in the industry. During that time, Mr. Monroe saw a need in the market for an affordable handheld satellite tracking and messaging device, leading to the development of the first generation SPOT Messenger. SPOT, now on its 5th iteration, gives users the ability to share their location data and short messages, to track vehicles and other mobile assets, and to hit an SOS button to call for help. To date, it has documented nearly 5,000 rescues on land and sea. A satellite Wi-Fi hub called Sat-Fi followed, which has become vital to field operations for businesses, the newest


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version of which also includes an SOS button embellishing the company’s core life-saving message. The company’s satellite phone technology is a staple of disaster relief operations as well as being incorporated into communication and tracking systems for aircraft and vessels around the world. With an entrepreneur’s sharp eye for value, Mr. Monroe and SPOT have helped save lives and make the world a safer, more prosperous place.

Thomas Choi

Co-Founder and CEO, ABS Global Thomas Choi is a successful serial entrepreneur whose innovations have greatly expanded the contribution of satellite to the economies, societies and people of the developing world. He entered the satellite industry through an executive position with Hughes that made him responsible for all business development in Asia-Pacific. In 1999, he left Hughes to found SpeedCast, a ground-based satellite service provider, in a joint venture with AsiaSat. SpeedCast focused on providing satellite-based voice and data networks to support such critical industries as maritime, energy and finance, while delivering connectivity crucial to education, government operations and disaster recovery. In 2005, Mr. Choi left SpeedCast to help found another company, ABS Global. He seized the opportunity created by the sale of the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik-1 satellite to do something highly unusual in the satellite business: launch a business with a working satellite on orbit. The success of ABS-1, previously LMI-1, made it possible to commission ABS-2, one of the biggest satellites ever launched at the time, for which the company won crucial financial support from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It was launched in 2014 with most of its capacity already committed. With 89 transponders, the satellite brought a significant increase in capacity over the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and CIS/Russia to support television distribution and satellite newsgathering, cellular backhaul, broadband trunking and maritime connectivity. Other satellites followed, either acquired from other operators or ordered by ABS. ABS-3A and ABS-2A satellites were launched in 2015 and 2016 respectively extending the coverage to include the Americas. These additional satellites completed ABS’ three satellite build investment of approximately US$700M and have ushered in the era of highly capital efficient all-electric satellites. Today the company operates a 7-satellite fleet serving 93% of the world’s population, and was recently awarded a telecommunications license in Papua New Guinea. By expanding the reach of satellite both in the sky and on the ground, Mr. Choi has enjoyed entrepreneurial success while helping to raise standards of living across the most populous developing regions of the world.

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New Leaders Rise New Space (by whatever name you call it) is generating the headlines these days. Revenues, profits, reliable technology and sustainable business models, however, are somewhere in the future for whichever companies survive. The Rising Five, chosen by an international editorial advisory board, are the five New Space Companies in the satellite industry that have made the most substantial progress over the past year. SSPI named the first ever Rising Five on March 7, 2017 at the Chairman’s Reception just before the Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner.

Kymeta Corporation

The Kymeta Corporation was named one of the 2017 Rising Five in the Ground Systems Sector. Kymeta Corp. was spun out of Intellectual Ventures, a patent holding company, based on the metamaterials technology for electronic beam steering developed in that company’s labs. It was launched in 2013 with a $12m investment from Bill Gates, Lux Capital and Liberty Global. Before the year was out, it closed a $50m round from existing investors plus Osage University and Kresge Foundation. Early in 2014, they won a $6.2m engineering contract with Inmarsat to accelerate that company’s product development. Over the next two years, it entered a series of partnerships: with Intelsat for antennas optimized for EpicNG; with Airbus and Intellian to integrate Kymeta technology into maritime antennas; and with Sharp to manufacture Kymeta antennas using glass-on-glass technology pioneered for flat-panel displays. Commercial tests were begun in 2015 with Intelsat, including an 8,000-mile demonstration drive in a connected car. In 2016, Panasonic agreed to order a large number of antennas for maritime use, and Kymeta closed another $62m in funding to finance its commercial introduction in 2017.



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OneWeb was named one of the 2017 Rising Five in the Communications Sector. OneWeb emerged in 2014 from WorldVu. The company plans a $3.5bn LEO constellation of 700 satellites providing broadband connectivity worldwide including support for LTE, 3G and WiFi

The 2017 Rising Five terminals. It plans to launch its initial 10 satellites in early 2018 and the launch of broadband access in 2019. Projected applications include aeronautical connectivity, vehicle-based cell networks for first responders, direct service to homes and schools, and rural coverage for mobile operators. Its business model is based on mass production of microsatellites, patent-pending low-cost terminals and “progressive pitch� technology that claims to avoid interference with GEO satellites. It has raised substantial sums from the Virgin Group, Qualcomm, Intelsat, Coca-Cola, and most recently $1.2bn from a group led by SoftBank of Japan. It has contracted with Airbus to manufacture the spacecraft and Arianespace and Virgin Galactic for launch, and has opened a factory in Florida to manufacture the spacecraft.


Planet was named one of the 2017 Rising Five in the Earth Observation Sector. Founded in 2010, the company launched two demonstration cubesats in 2013, when it also announced a plan to loft a constellation of 28 EO satellites. These were deployed from ISS in 2015, when the company also raised $95m in funding, bringing its total raised to $183m. In July of that year, it acquired BlackBridge, a Canadian company that bought the German RapidEye EO smallsats (which went operational in 2009) out of bankruptcy in 2011. The company currently operates 63 spacecraft and claims to serve 100 customers. The spacecraft are in a continuous upgrade process (14 upgrades through August 2016) made possible by their 9-18 month lifespan and low-cost launches. It has twice suffered loss of multiple satellites in launch failures but has remained in business. It remains privately held.

Spire Global

Spire Global was named one of the 2017 Rising Five in the Earth Observation Sector. The company was founded in 2012 to create ArduSat, a crowd-funded satellite launched in 2013. From that year through 2015, the company raised $66m from venture investors. As of 2015, the company had launched four cubesats to conduct space-based experiments. It launched a further 17 through October 2016 through The Orbiter Rising


Nanoracks and Orbital’s Cygnus launcher. They are equipped with multiple sensors to conduct ship-tracking using AIS, weather data collection using radio occultation, and air traffic tracking. The company focuses on turning this information into products including Sense (ship-tracking), a weather data portal and AirSafe (aircraft tracking) in a vertical market play. The company remains privately held and has offices in San Francisco, Glasgow, Singapore and Boulder.

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic was named one of the 2017 Rising Five in the Launch Sector. Virgin Galactic’s original business plan was for space tourism: suborbital flights to give people an experience of weightlessness aboard SpaceShipTwo. In 2012, the company announced plans for LauncherOne, with a goal of placing 200-300 kg in sun-synchronous orbit for under $10m per mission. LauncherOne is carried to high altitude aboard an aircraft (originally White Knight Two, now a Boeing 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl) and air-launched from there, similar to the Pegasus system of Orbital ATK. In 2015 the company established an R&D and manufacturing center for LauncherOne in Long Beach, California and it expects to begin test flights in 2017 of an improved launcher with 400 kg capacity. The manufacturing facility has a capacity to produce 20-30 rockets per year with a goal to conduct three missions per month. Virgin Galactic has won a 39-satellite contract from OneWeb, Venture Class Launch Services contract from NASA, and a letter of intent from Millennium Space Systems. It is targeting 2018 for the start of commercial services.


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Thanks for a Job Well Done By Robert Bell, Executive Director The March meeting of SSPI’s Board of Directors marked an important transition. Chairman Bryan McGuirk stepped down from the Board, and Dawn Harms was appointed our new Chair, while David Myers was named President. These three leaders deserve our thanks for having added yet another job to their full schedules – and for doing it because they believe in SSPI’s mission and want to do their part to keep the SSPI strong. Bryan first became involved with SSPI while working for SES. It was our mission of talent attraction and engagement that attracted him then, and continued to do so through his time as chief operating officer of ViviSat and now chief commercial officer of Globecomm. Dawn has served on the Board since 2010 when she was working for Space Systems/Loral and then International Launch Systems. Now vice president for business development at Boeing Satellite Systems International, she has already formed two new Board committees to examine how we can make our mission-based campaigns even more effective. David, President and CEO of DataPath and our 2016 Mentor of the Year, lives his commitment to nurturing talent by hosting an annual career day for universities and community colleges in his region. At our March meeting, he won a similar commitment from Board members to begin doing the same at their companies. In our next issue, we will introduce you to new members of the Board who represent companies outside the traditional satellite domain and who will bring new perspectives to management of our 34-yearold association.

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Looking to the Future at the Chapter Leaders Breakfast By Tamara Bond-Williams, Membership Director As part of our mission to make the satellite industry “one of the world’s best at attracting and nurturing the talent that powers innovation” – SSPI has frequently pointed to participation with local chapters as professional development activity. This is especially true of those who are priviledged to serve on local chapter boards of directors. The volunteers of our local chapters both build and expand their own professional networks, and acquire and hone important organizational skills as part of their service. Nowhere was this more evident than at the 2017 Chapter Leaders Breakfast, hosted by Hogan Lovells, Wednesday March 8th during the Satellite Show. Chapter leaders from around the world met together and discussed the mission of SSPI. Together they brainstormed ways to further the mission in their regions. What an exciting time! I encourage you to contact the local chapter leadership in your region and ask how you can get involved! You may have the opportunity to participate in a particular project, as a stepping stone to joining the local board. We’re especially grateful to Hogan Lovells for their supporting work in bringing the chapter leaders together for the breakfast (which they supplied!), and to all of our local chapter leaders who labor throughout the year to further the mission and keep satellite professionals connected, engaged, and excited about our transformative and innovative industry.


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The Lives We Save

Sponsored by

The Lives We Save debuted at the SSPI Chairman’s Reception on March 7, 2017, just before the Hall of Fame Benefit Dinner. This short video is ideal for sharing - it’s only a minute long, and it celebrates our heroic industry and the reasons we do what we do every day. Click here or on the image above to watch the video.

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Upcoming Student Competitions and Deadlines SSPI works with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) to attract talent to the satellite industry. The non-profit organization has chapters at universities across the US and around the world, reaching thousands of graduate and undergraduate students. Both SEDS USA and UKSEDS have announced their student competitions for 2017!

2017 SEDS USA Student Competition

Commercial satellite operators are already thinking about designs for communications satellites that not only point their antennas down at Earth but upward to support future communication requirements of the Space Economy. In 2017, we challenge students to determine what communication capability will be needed to support operations in Earth orbit and far beyond, how much can existing technology contribute and what technology advances may be required, and what will it cost to create a basic network capability and see it deployed? Click here to learn more.

2017 UKSEDS Student Competition: Smallsats - The Next Generation

We challenge student teams to develop a design for a small communications satellite capable of delivering 50 Mbps of data connectivity from LEO to small antennas on the ground without exceeding a weight limit of 150 kilograms, while handing off communications traffic to other satellites as they pass over the user, and maintaining their orbital station. Click here to learn more.

Scholarships Deadline

The SSPI Scholarship Program assists deserving students with meeting the high costs of undergraduate and post-graduate study in satellite-related disciplines. Through the generosity of Scholarship Sponsors, SSPI provides scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 to high school seniors, undergraduate and graduate students from locations around the world. Applicants must be current high school seniors, college or university undergraduate students or graduate students who are studying or intend to study satellite-related technologies, policies or applications. The deadline to submit scholarship applications for 2017 is April 14. Click here to learn more.


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The Next New Century Workforce Webinar The First 100 Days: Turning New Hires into “Keepers” Last September, SSPI began a New Century Workforce free webinar series that explores talent recruitment and management issues in the satellite industry. Human resource executives and those who manage and assess employees can attend to discuss the changing market, share their expertise with others in the industry, and learn from our guest speakers. The series began with Disruptors in the Talent Market, in which attendees heard from Korn Ferry’s sector leader for satellites and space, Clarke Havener, on the changing talent market and the results of SSPI’s 2016 Workforce Study. The second webinar in the series, The First 100 Days: Turning New Hires into “Keepers”, is coming up on May 5. The first 100 days in a new job have an outsized ability to set expectations and steer an employee’s future. What experiences should make up that 100 days, and what onboarding practices contribute most to creating a productive, engaged employee in years to come? What should companies expect from their new hires at the end of that period? Click here to learn more.

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Advertising Opportunities are available! As you know, SSPI has transformed its monthly news vehicle, The Orbiter, into a beautiful, pageturning digital magazine you can read from your desktop, tablet or phone, or as a handy print-out to carry with you on travel trips. The Orbiter brings Society news, coverage of the Better Satellite World campaign, and the annual Workforce Study to more than 6,000 members and industry contacts. Advertise With Us We invite companies to advertise in the new Orbiter. Full-page and half-page ads are available Some SSPI sponsorships include one or more ads with the sponsorship – but now you can purchase an ad directly! Download the media kit or email Tamara Bond-Williams for more information.


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Copyright 2017 by the Society of Satellite Professionals International

Profile for Space & Satellite Professionals International

The Orbiter - Rising  

Everywhere we turned at SATELLITE 2017, we saw people joining forces to raise the bar for our industry. The constant growth of our industry...

The Orbiter - Rising  

Everywhere we turned at SATELLITE 2017, we saw people joining forces to raise the bar for our industry. The constant growth of our industry...