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Satnews Daily
May 17th, 2020

Forrester Reports: Branson's Twenty Percent Virgin Galactic Selloff + Delay Likely for the Jupiter 3 Build

Chris Forrester

Journalist Chris Forrester is reporting at the Advanced Television infosite that Richard Branson has sold more than 20 percent of his Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space tourism and satellite launching project.

The stake is held by Branson’s Vieco 10 holding company and the sale represents about 22 percent of the rocket and space tourism company. As at May 11t,h that would be worth around $485 million at the $19.40 share price.

In a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Virgin Group says the sale will “support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19”.

Last year, Branson “merged” Virgin Galactic with investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia, a holding company with a number of technology investments.

Forrester also files that Maxar Technologies is building a new high-power satellite for EchoStar’s Hughes Network Systems — the craft is likely to suffer a delayed launch because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Jupiter-3 satellite is huge and capable of carrying up to 500 gigabit/second of transmissions and was planned to launch in 2021 and serve North and South America and provide satellite-based broadband. Maxar has sent letters to all its satellite clients warning them that delays could occur.

EchoStar has yet to select a launch provider “partly out of prudence,” said EchoStar’s Chief Strategy Officer, Anders Johnson. EchoStar’s rationale is that, once it places an order, it would be obliged to make various stage payments to the launch contractor. EchoStar admits that it is difficult to pin down a precise date when the satellite might be ready for launch and their best guess currently is later in the second-half of next year.

The extra capacity is needed. In the most recent quarter-year (to March 31st), EchoStar/Hughes said they had added 39,000 new subscribers taking their total to about 1.52 million.

EchoStar says that they do have some capacity on its existing Jupiter-2 satellite but that capacity is not near city and urban areas where demand is the greatest. Capacity is also needed over South America. Recently, for example, Hughes – working with Facebook – has recently added more than 1,000 WiFi hotspots in Brazil.