Sponsored By Oxley Developments
06 Aug 20. Northrop Grumman and Seatrec Recognized for Self-Sustaining Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Charging Station Design. Northrop Grumman and Seatrec, Inc. were recently winners of an Explorer Prize, which concluded the Discovery competition phase of the Powering the Blue Economy™ Ocean Observing Prize, sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The competition is designed to bring innovative technology in marine renewable energy to enable more persistent and pervasive ocean observing, a growth multiplier in the overall contribution of the ocean to the economy also known as the Blue Economy.
The two companies teamed and submitted the Mission Unlimited UUV Station, to power and transfer data from unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). The next phase is the Develop competition, where the winners of this prize will actually produce their designs.
Endurance and range improvements for UUVs have seen incremental improvements over the last 20 years as batteries gradually improved, but UUVs and autonomous undersea vehicles (AUVs) are still energy-limited. Typically, they must make a near surface approach at least once a day to offload data to assets above the water line or receive a power recharge by a costly surface vessel reducing the time spent on mission.
The Mission Unlimited UUV Station proposal submitted by the team can significantly reduce daily vessel costs and extends operational time, by integrating three key technologies working together to seamlessly power and transfer data from unmanned underwater vehicles (click here to watch the video):
- NiobiCon™ connectors charge the UUVs: Northrop Grumman’s self-insulating electrical connector can be mated or de-mated while the fully powered electrical contacts are submerged underwater.
- Thermal energy harvesting provides unlimited energy: Seatrec’s innovation extracts energy from the ocean’s vertical temperature gradient and converts it to stored electricity.
- Data bubbles transfer data: Northrop Grumman’s data bubbles transport large amounts of data from the subsea to the end-user by radio frequency (RF) satellite communications.
“The Mission Unlimited UUV Station design will provide scalable underwater charging and data transfer,” said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. “Extending the endurance, working time and utility of unmanned underwater vehicles directly supports the U.S. Navy’s focus on distributed maritime operations.”
“This DOE and NOAA prize provides a unique opportunity to combine Seatrec’s technology to harvest energy from temperature differences in the ocean with Northrop Grumman’s innovation of NiobiCon™ connectors and data bubbles,” said Dr. Yi Chao, founder and CEO, Seatrec. “We believe this strategic partnership will provide a transformative solution for persistent and sustainable ocean observing systems.”
The Mission Unlimited UUV Station design will increase the endurance and range of any existing UUV and dramatically reduce the data latency between collection and analysis. The proposed solution will also increase the types of data that can be collected by providing the increased power needed to improve spatial coverage, temporal resolution, and types of variables from new, higher power sensors.
04 Aug 20. NRO Taps AI For Future ‘Hybrid Architecture.’ “Artificial intelligence and machine learning onboard the satellites to help us control the constellations is absolutely critical,” says NRO Director Chris Scolese. For ground stations, too.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be crucial to NRO’s efforts to use large constellations of small satellites in the future to fill the huge appetite within the Intelligence Community and the military services for remote sensing data, Director Chris Scolese says.
“The satellites themselves are going to have to be, to some degree, able to take care of themselves. Artificial intelligence and machine learning onboard the satellites to help us control the constellations is absolutely critical,” he told the Virtual Small Satellite Conference yesterday afternoon. “In our case, we’re very interested in resiliency and maintaining the capability of the system through all kinds of conditions. And, in which case, we need to know how are we going to self-heal the architecture. If we suffer any losses for any reason.”
It’s not only satellites that will need AI. Ground stations, he explained, will require it — not just to coordinate data flow from the myriad sites needed to communicate with large constellations, but to be able to rapidly fuze many different types of data.
“We’re going to want to use data from multiple sources and, you know, just thinking about it, you’re gonna have different look angles, different lighting conditions, a whole bunch of different things we’re going to have to go off and address and coordinate,” he said.
As Breaking D readers know, the NRO is considering how to build a hybrid architecture for obtaining and using space-based ISR, expanding its traditional approach of building handfuls of large, highly-capable and extremely expensive satellites — the so-called exquisite approach. Its new approach includes opening its doors wider to commercial providers of electro-optical imagery, as well as exploring buys of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and other non-traditional sensing capabilities such as the use of radio frequency (RF) transmissions to track targets.
Scolese would not be drawn about the specifics of the planned architecture, saying only that “there’s a role for the whole spectrum of capabilities that are out there and available to us.”
As tensions rise, ISR demand will increase exponentially as will the need for kinetic response to threats.
He did mention that the spy agency is soliciting innovative ideas for its “Architecture of the Future,” with the bidding window closing on Sept. 30.
The specific NRO website for the “Arch-F” program, as Scolese called it, is down for maintenance, but the general NRO site explains the Broad Area Announcement (BAA) covers “multiple Areas of Interest” and provides an opportunity for “traditional and non-traditional developers” to participate in “building the NRO of the 21st century by presenting innovative ideas.”
Scolese noted that NRO is working closely with Space Force, Space Command and the Space Development Agency as it forges its new approach.
“We don’t want to duplicate efforts,” he stressed, saying that if a capability already exists within another government agency, “we will use it.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
04 Aug 20. Kopin OLED Microdisplay Exhibits Breakthrough 7000 Nits Brightness with Good Color Fidelity. Duo-stack OLED Structure Achieves Very High Current Efficiency (14 Candela per Ampere). Kopin Corporation (NASDAQ: KOPN), a leading developer and provider of transmissive and reflective active matrix liquid crystal and organic light emitting diode (OLED) micro displays, today announced its latest Lightning® 720p OLED display (1280 x 720 resolution) on silicon has exhibited very high brightness of 7000 nits (candela per square meter) with good color (nearly 100% sRGB) and high contrast (> 4,000: 1). This display combines a duo-stack OLED structure to achieve super high brightness and Kopin’s ColorMaxTM technology for high color fidelity. A duo-stack OLED is two OLED structures on top of each other and connected in series so that carriers (electrons-holes) pass through the duo-stack OLED and generate photons twice, instead of once like in a conventional single-stack OLED structure currently used in OLED micro displays. It would be natural to think that a duo-stack OLED can have a Current Efficiency increase of up to 2 times a single-stack OLED. However, a duo-stack structure provides a lot more flexibility in the OLED stack design and OLED materials selection than a single-stack structure, which can result in much higher Current Efficiency (> 5 times in our current estimate), much higher brightness, lower power consumption and longer lifetime.
A major challenge in the duo-stack OLED structure, especially for small pixels, had been serious color mixing among subpixels, resulting in unacceptable color performance. Kopin’s patent-pending ColorMax technology incorporates a specially configured anode structure in the Si backplane to suppress the inherent color mixing among tiny sub-pixels of high-resolution micro displays. The ColorMax technology, first integrated into Kopin’s 2.6K x 2.6K OLED display, has now been applied to its 0.49-inch-diagonal 720p display with red, green, and blue stripe color sub-pixels of 2.8µm × 8.4µm size.
Kopin’s color display is made with a duo-stack white OLED structure and color filters. Kopin has been working with its partner, Lakeside Optoelectronic Technology Co., Ltd., to optimize the duo-stack OLED structure to output color spectrum to match the bandpass of the color filters for high color fidelity, coupled with very high Current Efficiency and low operating voltage. These 720p displays fabricated from multiple wafers exhibited average Current Efficiency of about 12 candela per ampere (cd/A), with the maximum value about 14 cd/A. These values are much higher than the best publicly available values of the alternative approaches. Kopin’s best 720p display exhibited 7,000 nits with a contrast ratio of >4000: 1. The contrast ratio of the display at 5000 nits is higher than 100,000:1. The power consumption of the display, including the backplane power, is about 500 mW when displaying a full white image at 7000 nits. The 720p display’s color fidelity is about 100% sRGB.
“We are extremely excited that our OLED micro display has achieved the very high brightness with good color fidelity by using the duo-stack OLED structure and ColorMax technology. This is truly a shocking achievement,” said Dr. John C.C. Fan, President and CEO of Kopin Corporation. “This breakthrough high Current Efficiency is very important for low power consumption and longer lifetime for OLED micro displays. We now expect the Current Efficiency could be optimized even further which means that our present value of 7,000 nits may be increased further. In addition, the duo-stack OLED structure and ColorMax technology are manufacturable as we have obtained such great results from multiple production ColorMax wafers in Lakeside’s OLED production line. We believe by incorporating another innovative structure on our micro display such as a microlens array to enhance the output coupling efficiency, the brightness can be significantly increased further, opening many applications for the OLED micro displays, especially for the AR/VR wearables.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
04 Aug 20. Spirent Federal Supports New BFEA Wave Forms for Major U.S. Military Agencies. Spirent Federal Systems, the nation’s leader in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) testing solutions, announced the delivery of new capabilities of a GNSS simulator to support testing of a seven element Controlled Reception Pattern Antenna (CRPA) system. The Spirent simulator features a wide range of programmable interference sources, which include the capability to generate Blue Force Electronic Attack (BFEA) wave forms, allowing agencies to create scenarios to test Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) TRD threshold and objective requirements.
The flexible custom wave form capabilities create scenarios with multiple interferers. As threat models are updated the Spirent GNSS simulators have the flexibility to change and create new scenarios. These capabilities supplement an already robust MNSA M-Code test environment for MGUE developers and integrators alike.
“It’s important that our customers can easily utilize application-critical wave forms during testing,” said Roger Hart, Director of Engineering. “The enhanced programmability envelops current requirements and anticipates future interference testing needs.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
31 Jul 20. The Air Force’s Latest GPS Alternative: Earth’s Magnetic Fields. Officials just launched a public challenge to help create the artificial intelligence needed to turn the planet’s magnetic fields into readable maps. Military leaders have been warning of the fragility of GPS for years and researchers have been working on a variety of solutions, from quantum clocks to inertial navigation. The Air Force is adding a new one, using the earth’s magnetic fields as a secure way to detect location for aircraft and possibly other vehicles.
Magnetic fields emanating from the earth’s surface vary in intensity, just like topography, and so-called magnetic anomaly maps of those fields have existed for years. Back in 2017, Aaron Canciani, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology, set out to see if magnetic sensors (magnetometers) affixed to aircraft could measure the intensity of those magnetic fields and, thus, locate the plane based on where it was in relation to those “landmarks.” His paper (and this video) shows how to outfit a Cessna plane with magnetometers in the rear and the front. Forty flight-hours worth of data and a lot of work reducing noise from the readings proved the idea viable.
But swapping magnetic fields for GPS isn’t easy. Unlike a crisp clear signal from space, factors such as the electrical operations of the plane itself — can interfere with a sensor’s ability to detect the strength of the field. This is where artificial intelligence comes in, canceling out the noise from the sensor readings to allow for a better signal and more accuracy.
Researchers in the Air Force’s-MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator. community, working with scientists at MIT, continued to work on the problem, publishing their own paper in July. They showed that magnetic field readings can be accurate to ten meters, only slightly inferior to GPS, which is accurate down to three meters. But magnetometer readings are much less easy to jam than GPS signaling. GPS readings rely on a signal sent along a specific wavelength across vast distances. Magnometers just have to read the magnetic environment around the vehicle.
“Because of the size of the earth and the magnetic field… it takes a whole lot to jam a signal coming from the earth, and by a whole lot I mean on the scale of a nuclear blast,” Maj. David “Stitch” Jacobs with the accelerator told Defense One. “Apart from that, it would take a giant scale of a machine to block what’s coming from the earth’s crust. But then you could also cancel it out with machine learning”
The Air Force, working with MIT as part of a new joint accelerator program, has posed a challenge to the open AI community to help with refined AI tools to improve the magnetic field navigation. The challenge closes on August 28.
In something of an unusual step for the military, Air Force leaders are sharing their dataset with the open research community as part of the program. The government generally doesn’t “like to just give up data,” said Michael Kanaan who directs AI and machine learning for the deputy director of Air Force Intelligence. Instead of using the more burdensome contracts that the military typically uses with defense contractors, Jacobs worked with the Air Force general counsel to create a new sharing license for the program that much more closely resembles the sort that academics use when working on open-source data programs. The clickthrough agreement stipulates that the user has to be using the data for research purposes and will report the results back to the AI community as whole. “That was something we created just this year and it’s already being executed in several projects, including this one,” Kanaan said. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense One)
04 Aug 20. Altitude Angel to Power Sky-Drones ‘In-App Experience.’ Altitude Angel, a global UTM technology provider, has announced that it is to integrate its best-in-class data with UAV avionic solutions provider Sky-Drones, to enhance its drone management platform, Sky-Drones Cloud. Sky-Drones creates professional full stack UAV avionics solutions (hardware and software) including flight control, ground control and communication systems as well as a cloud-based management platform, which in turn allow its global customers to build and operate drones for security and commercial applications.
By integrating Altitude Angel’s best-in-class data, Sky-Drones has been able to develop an enhanced range of products and services, improving its in-app experience. Operators will now be able to subscribe to UTM services, providing situational awareness through the display of NOTAMS, Temporary No Fly Zones, and ground hazards.
Sky-Drones will also be making available a more advanced ‘Pro’ subscription available for additional services which will include Altitude Angel’s ‘game changing’ Conflict Resolution Service (CRS), airspace alerts, and the ‘Universal Flight Gateway’ for access to flight authorisations from ANSPs where available.
On partnering with Sky-Drones, Richard Ellis, Altitude Angel, Chief Business Officer, said:
“By bringing together Altitude Angel’s data-set with its full stack UAV avionics and ground control suite, Sky-Drones will be able to offer drone operators an exceptional tool to allow performance monitoring, mission planning, real-time control and post flight AI analytics.”
Kirill Shilov, Sky-Drones, Chief Executive Officer, added:
“At Sky-Drones we highly prioritise and always make efforts to enhance the safety of drone operations. Growing number of drones and more complex mission scenarios require reliable airspace regulator and it’s obvious Altitude Angel is leading this sector. Upcoming integration will that Sky-Drones users will be among the first worldwide able to fly in controlled airspace without the need to switch between drone control and airspace authorisation apps.” (Source: UAS VISION)
03 Aug 20. Seattle company developing breakthrough approach to recharging underwater vehicles. Oscilla Power, Inc. is proud to announce the receipt of a $200k grant from the US DOE to further develop technology that enables autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to recharge themselves using ocean waves. In this Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) project, Oscilla Power will collaborate with Lockheed Martin, through their Rotary and Mission Systems group, to explore how this capability can be incorporated into their AUV and UUV systems.
AUVs are now seeing significant use across a wide range of marine applications and the AUV market is projected to grow rapidly at a compound annual growth rate of 20.8% to over $1.6bn by 2025. However, the capability of an AUV is limited by its battery capacity. An NREL report noted that there were a number of key advantages in increasing the amount of power available, particularly the ability for longer duration missions. Oscilla’s technology offers the ability for the vehicle to recharge its batteries using only the environment, potentially enabling unlimited range and duration.
According to Balky Nair, President of Oscilla Power, “The development of a capability that can be integrated into commercial AUVs to provide enough power to recharge the on-board batteries could be potentially game-changing for ocean science and military operations.”
Solar panels have been used previously for AUV recharging, however, this approach suffered from very low power and constrained operations to daytime only. A significant advantage of using waves for this purpose is that ocean waves are more than 100 times more energy dense than solar, allowing for much higher power to be produced. AUV’s spend the majority of their time working at depth so higher power is advantageous to minimize surfacing and recharging time.
Oscilla expect to demonstrate a fully working laboratory prototype early next year. If successful, Oscilla plans to work with Lockheed Martin to progress to a full ocean demonstration shortly afterwards, with the ultimate objective of transitioning the technology to commercial and military platforms.
About Oscilla Power, Inc.: Oscilla Power, Inc. is focused on developing advanced technology to extract energy from ocean waves. http://oscillapower.com (Source: PR Newswire)
04 Aug 20. Optisys LLC has recently completed the development and production of an ultra large flat panel slotted antenna tile for use in sea, ground, aerospace and satellite applications. The nearly 1 meter long antenna was printed in metal as one continuous piece using DMLS equipment, a technology that is core to Optisys unique product offering.
“We have been developing ways we can increase the size and cost efficiency of our large array offerings,” commented Janos Opra, CEO of Optisys. “Today marks the conclusion of an incredible R&D effort to obtain this capability.”
The ultra-large tile can form the basis for a much larger array, made up of many of these building blocks and is suitable for any application already covered by Optisys technology from sea to space. The flat panel slotted antenna was chosen as a development piece because of its reliance on flatness and tight tolerances, attributes which are challenging to achieve on such a large scale using 3d metal printing.
Optisys’ successful production of this antenna, and the information gained in doing so, further extends its capability over legacy technology and competitors.
“We have been able to produce any size antenna or radar array, using tiling, for a while now,” said Michael Hollenbeck, CTO of Optisys. “However this development brings a new level of cost effectiveness and we have demonstrated our scalability to truly ground breaking sizes.”
03 Aug 20. Horizon Technologies Awarded Important New Patent for its Transformational Xtender SIGINT Technology. Horizon Technologies, a UK-based global provider of airborne Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) products for NATO and Allied governmental end-users, announced today that on July 28, 2020, it was issued a patent (US 10,727,932 B2) by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This patent covers Horizon Technologies’ fundamental Xtender technology which allows the smallest UAVs and CubeSats to detect, geolocate, and intercept Sat Phone communications, remotely, from a miniature software-defined radio. It is Horizon Technologies’ 2nd registered patent.
John Beckner, CEO, stated, “This new patent for our transformational Xtender technology represents a key milestone for Horizon Technologies. Xtender enables the users of even the smallest UAVs to have the same Sat Phone SIGINT capability of larger UAVS and manned aircraft. Even more importantly, our patented Xtender technology is one of the building blocks of our Amber™ CubeSat constellation and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) space-based intelligence system. Our Amber™ CubeSat constellation, will not only have the ability to geolocate L-band emitters like Sat Phones, but actually allow for the real-time demodulation of the signals. This capability is unique in the emerging field of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) CubeSat-driven SIGINT.” Beckner also added “We also believe that the issuance of this patent enhances Horizon Technologies’ ability to attract financial and industry strategic partners to help further the company’s continuing profitable growth.”
31 Jul 20. BAE Systems adds LEXI intel software into DCGS solution. Programme engineers at BAE Systems are integrating the company’s main, end user software interface application for intelligence data into its offering for the army’s latest version of the Distributed Common Ground Sensor-Army (DCGS-A) battlefield management system.
The Lead Exploitation Intelligence (LEXI) software, when teamed with the company’s Intelligence Knowledge Environment (IKE) software framework, will provide army intelligence analysts with a level of flexibility in accessing and evaluating data from disparate sources not seen in previous DGCS-A variants, BAE Systems Senior Executive Jeff Bongianino said. That flexibility is rooted in the LEXI system’s commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) design and open-source architecture, he said on 27 July.
“At the end of the day, it is an open platform . . .[and] that really allows us to bring in anybody’s COTS products to the table,” he said. “Let’s say you’re working for the army and you want to use Oracle as the database, for instance . . . and then the air force wants, let’s say IBM. The platform we are providing under LEXI allows for that plug and play” capability, with very minimal integration time, due to the open architecture construct the system is based on, Bongianino said.
Capable of operating on either a cloud-based or fixed server network, the commercially-based LEXI interface application leveraged embedded fusion algorithms that can “associate geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, publicly available information, and other reporting” coming into DCGS-A to track enemy and friendly forces in a given area of responsibility, according to a company fact sheet. The system’s open-source architecture approach allows for rapid integration of new machine learning and artificial intelligence analytics packages, via LEXI’s open application planning interfaces, the fact sheet added. (Source: Jane’s)
29 Jul 20. Advantech Wireless Introduces STAN Family of RF Converters. The new STAN dual-frequency converters from Advantech Wireless Technologies (AWT) are designed specifically for applications that require two-channel coherent signal processing, such as telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Tracking & Navigation. STAN Converters, available in C-, X- and S-Band variants, are built upon the latest RF conversion technology with an emphasis on spectrum purity. Housed in a 1RU shelf, each converter contains two independent block converter modules (up or down) that are both phase-coherent and phase-matched. Setup and fault monitoring are achieved either remotely via a full-featured monitor and control platform or locally using user-friendly front panel menus. Also included are independent I/O attenuators and sample ports.
Executive Comment: “Global Satellite Navigation Systems (GNSS) pose a number of unique challenges for ground stations. The lack of an on-board atomic clock coupled with the fact that the trajectory and speed of LEO satellites are both dynamic and subject to tracking errors, poses the need for periodic correction. With independent phase and gain-matched channels plus low phase noise, STAN Converters can add and subtract coherent signals to identify tracking errors. Corrections can then be applied, yielding a massive reduction in location errors. This is an extremely beneficial feature for complex 5G+ Satcom unmanned navigation systems,” said Cristi Damian, AWT’s VP Business Development. (Source: Satnews)
30 Jul 20. Kratos Releases Latest RF Channel Simulator with Widest Bandwidth and Most Realistic Testing for Today’s Highly Dynamic and Data Intensive Communication Systems. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS), a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced today the release of the latest RF Channel Simulator with the widest bandwidth and most realistic testing to address the needs of today’s highly dynamic and data intensive communication systems.
As more and more data is being transmitted with High Throughput Satellites (HTS), Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations, aircraft, UAVs, missiles and a range of other applications, it is more critical than ever to realistically test the devices used in these systems, especially the modems and general receiver/transmitter subsystems thoroughly to assure communication systems will operate as planned.
Kratos’ wideband Channel Simulator is a hardware-in-the-loop instrument that can be inserted between modems, receivers and transmitters, or other communications devices to replicate the most challenging RF conditions without ever leaving the lab. RF engineers are able to test and simulate a wide variety of operational conditions, including multi-path, fading, phase noise, Doppler shifts, and other channel effects to facilitate ground based testing before any live operational missions occur. This in turn reduces costs and program risk by assuring reliable communications.
“We are delivering innovative technology systems for NGSO constellations, so testing and simulation is critical to our success,” explains Dubi Lever, CTO, R&D Division at Gilat Satellite Networks. “We have a long history of using Kratos’ Channel Simulator and the new wideband platform is working flawlessly in our lab to validate the performance of our systems for NGSO constellations prior to the deployment to customers. With a very short setup time, our engineers are able to emulate the behavior of NGSO satellites in the most challenging RF conditions on the ground and in the air.”
“Leveraging the intellectual property used in Kratos’ narrowband Channel Simulator that has been implemented successfully in hundreds of deployments, the wideband model offers enhanced capabilities to emulate virtually any of today’s wideband RF and highly dynamic scenarios,” said Dave Wilkinson, Product Manager for Kratos. “RF engineers can virtually test scenarios in the lab before live operations with advanced capabilities including 600 MHz of Instantaneous Bandwidth, the ability to simulate combined signal distortions simultaneously and to replicate the real world physics of fast changing scenarios with industry leading fidelity. Wilkinson added, “We would like to thank Gilat, our valued partner and early adopter of the wideband simulator for providing invaluable feedback.”
Kratos’ wideband Channel Simulator is available in a range of instantaneous bandwidth options from 600MHz, 300MHz to 125MHz to meet the varying needs of customer applications. (Source: ASD Network)
28 Jul 20. The Dawn Mk-II Aurora Spaceplane Designed For Smallsat Deliveries Debuts From Dawn Aerospace. Dawn Aerospace has unveiled the firm’s suborbital spaceplane, the “Mk-II Aurora,” ahead of an intensive 12 month flight test campaign.
The Mk-II Aurora is the latest development in a series of test vehicles that will one day launch satellites into space. It is the second rocket-powered aircraft or “spaceplane” produced by Dawn Aerospace. It will be capable of flights to above 100 km altitude, the border to space, before returning to land at an airport. Upon landing it can be refueled and flown again within hours. The Mk-II Aurora will be the first vehicle to ever be capable of such a feat multiple times per day.
The Mk-II Aurora will demonstrate the core technology for daily access to space in a subscale vehicle. It has a modest payload capacity, enough to bring scientific experiments to space, but too little for an orbital second stage. The later generation Mk-III will be based on the Mk-II design, but with a larger payload capacity. This will allow a 50-100 kg smallsat to be delivered to orbit.
The Mk-III will deliver smallsats into orbit using an expendable second stage. After releasing a satellite, the second stage burns up in the atmosphere and accounts for about 6 percent of the whole vehicle, making the whole system 94 percent reusable.
Current rockets have to fly out of special launch sites and secure, exclusive airspace. This means they have to shut down busy travel routes, such as around Cape Canaveral in Florida, or travel to far-flung places where air and sea traffic is low. Dawn Aerospace will fly its spaceplanes from existing airports under aircraft laws. They are working closely with the NZ Space Agency (NZSA) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to make that happen.
Dawn signed an MOU with Waitaki District Council earlier this year for suborbital flights out of Oamaru Airport. The company is also in talks with other airports around New Zealand.
Dawn Aerospace acquired seed funding of 3.3m NZD in December 2018, as well as funding for the project through Callaghan Innovation. They were awarded a grant of $500,000 from NZSA for development of non-toxic satellite propulsion. The company also has a major facility in Delft, The Netherlands.
Test flights of the Aurora will start in late 2020. For preliminary testing, it will be powered by two jet engines and will fly the first scientific experiments in 2021. The paint scheme was designed by the winner of the “paint my plane competition,”,Prague-based company, LOOP Studios.
“The Aurora represents a massive step forward in space transportation,” said Stefan Powell, Chief Technology Officer of Dawn Aerospace. “Using the same vehicle hundreds or even thousands of times means we don’t need a factory to produce rockets. We can operate a fleet of vehicles to access space daily. And we don’t have to pollute the ocean with rocket debris as we do it.”
“The challenge of getting to space is equal parts the vehicle, the launch infrastructure and the regulation,” said James Powell, General Manager and CFO. “Building a cheaper rocket, as many are trying to do, only helps with the first part. Dawn’s spaceplane addresses all three factors. The CAA and NZSA have established the best regulatory system in the world, which makes this possible. We are privileged to be working with them.”
The first scientific experiment will fly on the Aurora in 2021 and will be built by the Centaurus High School Physics Club from Denver, Colorado. The experiment will measure airborne pollutants in the mesosphere, which is too high to be measured by any other means.
Although primarily a technology demonstrator for the Mk-III, the Aurora will also be extraordinarily useful for scientific research. It will be capable of accessing parts of the atmosphere too high for regular aircraft or balloons, but too low for satellites.
“We know very little about these parts of the atmosphere,” said Stefan Powell. “In some cases, we have less data to go on than we have on Jupiter or Saturn, yet we know that these high layers in the Earth’s atmosphere have a profound effect on weather down on the surface and long-term climate models. The Aurora could allow us to get 1000x the data within a year which will dramatically improve climate models. That’s very exciting for the scientific community.” (Source: Satnews)
Oxley Group Ltd
Oxley specialises in the design and manufacture of advanced electronic and electro-optic components and systems for air, land and sea applications within the military sector. Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA and enjoys representation worldwide. The company’s products include night vision and LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components. Oxley has pioneered the development of night vision compatible lighting. It offers a total package incorporating optical filters, equipment modification, cockpit and external lighting along with fleet wide upgrade services including engineering, installation, support, maintenance and training. The company’s long experience of manufacturing night vision lighting and LED indicators, coupled with advances in LED technology, has enabled it to develop LED solutions to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting in existing applications as well as becoming the lighting option of choice in new applications such as portable military hospitals, UAV control stations and communication shelters.