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16 Jan 20. The Pentagon wants help for its satellites to talk to each other. Optical intersatellite links will be critical to the success of the Department of Defense’s future threat-based space architecture in low earth orbit. But in order to utilize them, the military needs to establish open standards. The Space Development Agency wants its satellites to be able to easily talk to each other and is considering using optical intersatellite links for communications within its future low earth orbit space architecture. Now, the organization is looking for industry’s help on what standards should be used for those links.
On Jan. 15, the agency issued a request for information to industry to inform its attempt to establish an Optical Intersatellite Link Open Standard.
Most satellites don’t speak with each other directly. Instead, they utilize radio-frequency communications with a ground station to relay communications between satellites. Some satellites, however, are able to use optical links to provide direct communications between satellites without a ground station acting as an intermediary. The SDA wants to use this technology for what it calls its “transport layer,” the backbone of its plans for a new space architecture in low earth orbit.
The SDA was established in March 2019 to design the Department of Defense’s future threat-driven space architecture, a setup it has since defined as a multi-layered constellation of hundreds of small satellites providing several capabilities from LEO. The SDA will not be directly responsible for every layer or constellation within the architecture — most notably, the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor is being developed primarily by the Missile Defense Agency — however, the SDA will be the agency in charge of integrating those various efforts into a single architecture.
Key to the entire enterprise is the Tracking Layer, a family of satellites in low earth orbit that will facilitate the flow of data between satellites in orbit and between satellites and the ground. The Transport Layer will be essential in connecting the various sensors and capabilities on orbit with weapons systems on the ground or in the air.
In order to build that capability, the SDA plans to use Optical Intersatellite Links. The optical links will also need to provide range estimates of the distance between satellites in orbit and between satellites and the ground to within a meter in order to provide highly precise timing and positional data for the constellation. The SDA also envisions each satellite utilizing a chip-scale atomic clock as well as GPS signals.
The problem is that there are currently no industry standards for those links. To ensure the interoperability of various vendor technologies used for those links, the SDA wants to establish that standard, and it’s asking industry for help.
Responses are due by Feb. 5. More specifics about what the SDA is considering for its standards is available on beta.sam.gov.
According to the request, the SDA plans to issue a solicitation for Tranche 0 of the Transportation Layer in Spring 2020, with additional solicitations for the other capability layers to follow in the summer. That first tranche, known as the war fighter immersion tranche, will consist “of tens of satellites providing periodic, regional sensing and data transport capabilities, including the capability to detect hypersonic glide vehicles and to disseminate time sensitive targeting solutions over tactical data links.” According to the agency, that initial tranche could be delivered as early as fiscal year 2022
16 Jan 20. The Space Force gets its first member, and Trump gets his first briefing on the new service. Just a day after officially swearing in as the U.S. Space Force’s first member, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond sat down with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to brief him on the new service’s progress, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
The goal of the briefing, which was also attended by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, was to inform the president of upcoming milestones as the Space Force gradually comes into being, said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
“Gen. Raymond has a very specific, very thorough plan on things that need to take place — moving pay systems, assigning individuals to the Space Force, looking at basing, figuring out if we’re going to be transferring bases to the Space Force,” Hoffman told reporters.
The meeting was about “laying out for the president what the process looks like — what are the next steps, what are the things that are going to be happening over the next couple months — to give him an expectation,” he added. “This is something [Trump has] been very forward leaning on and is something that he is interested in, so we’ve been trying to keep him informed.”
Trump established the Space Force on Dec. 20 after signing the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, which created the Space Force as an independent sixth branch of the military under the Department of the Air Force. During the signing ceremony, Trump also tapped Raymond as the service’s first chief of space operations.
On Jan. 14, Vice President Mike Pence officially swore in Raymond as the Space Force’s first service chief and a new member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Raymond also leads U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, giving him the responsibility of overseeing the organization, training and equipping of space forces as well as their operations.
While Hoffman did not elaborate on upcoming milestones as the Space Force nears the end of its first 30 days, the service is approaching a Feb. 1 deadline by which Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett must submit to Congress a proposed organizational structure. Other tasks, such as devising a Space Force logo, uniform and its official song, are still in progress. Asked whether the Defense Department had considered starting a contest where service members could submit ideas for the Space Force’s anthem, Hoffman said: “That entire idea makes me uncomfortable. I will check with Gen. Raymond the next time I see him on anthem plans.” (Source: Defense News)
16 Jan 20. Lockheed Martin Launches First Smart Satellite Enabling Space Mesh Networking. Experimental nanosat payload developed in nine months tests new software-defined mission, on-board multi-core processing and orbital cloud communications
A new era of space-based computing is now being tested in-orbit that will enable artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud networking and advanced satellite communications in a robust new software-defined architecture. Recently, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) launched the Pony Express 1 mission as a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft.
“Early on-orbit data show Pony Express 1 is performing its important pathfinding mission very well. Lockheed Martin’s HiveStar™ technology on board will give our customers unparalleled speed, resiliency and flexibility for their changing mission needs by unlocking even greater processing power in space,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “This is the first of several rapid, self-funded experiments demonstrating our ability to systematically accelerate our customers’ speed to mission while reducing risk from new technologies.”
Pony Express 1, an example of rapid prototyping, was developed, built and integrated in nine months, and was funded completely by Lockheed Martin Research and Development funding. This orbital proving ground is validating payload hardware and software, and is packed with new technology that fits into a satellite the size of a shoebox. Some of the key technologies being flight-tested include:
- HiveStar™ software validates advanced adaptive mesh communications between satellites, shared processing capabilities and can take advantage of sensors aboard other smart satellites to customize missions in new ways previously difficult to achieve in space.
- A software-defined radio that allows for high-bandwidth hosting of multiple RF applications, store-and-forward RF collection, data compression, digital signal processing and waveform transmission.
- 3D-printed wideband antenna housing developed by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Research Technology Center.
Pony Express 1 is a dual-use payload that enables mesh networks in space through HiveStar™ and a second function that tests space to ground remote sensing. Future research missions this year, like Pony Express 2, will further advance cloud networking concepts among satellites, as well as validating Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat™ software-defined satellite architecture which enables streamlined hosting of flexible mission apps. This mission consists of two 12U cubesats with faster, more capable ultra-scale processors that unlock in-orbit data analytics and artificial intelligence. Equipped with miniaturized cross-link and precision timing, Pony Express 2 is a trailblazer for autonomous teaming in space and true cloud networking.
15 Jan 20. Rocket Lab expands footprint with new California HQ and production complex. US and New Zealand-based Rocket Lab has announced it will open a new facility that will serve as its corporate headquarters, provide incremental production capacity and bring mission control centre capabilities to Long Beach, California.
Construction on Rocket Lab’s Long Beach Complex has begun, with the facility scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2020.
The Complex has been designed to produce more than 12 full Electron launch vehicles each year to support a monthly launch cadence from Rocket Lab’s first US launch site, Launch Complex 2 in Wallops Island, Virginia.
Production facilities for Rocket Lab’s flagship Rutherford engine will also be expanded, with the company planning to produce more than 150 engines for the Electron launch vehicle in 2020.
Rocket Lab’s rapidly growing satellite manufacturing capabilities are a key driver behind the new Long Beach complex. In 2019, the company expanded beyond launch services and began designing and manufacturing Rocket Lab satellites to provide an end-to-end mission service.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said the new Long Beach Complex will mean larger production facilities, purpose-built customer experience areas and room to grow as the company enters another busy launch year.
Based on flight-proven technology employed in the Electron Kick Stage, Rocket Lab satellites are a complete spacecraft solution for a range of LEO and lunar orbit missions, from constellation development, through to technology demonstrations and hosted payloads.
“As we enter our third year of orbital launches and expand into satellite manufacturing, we’re investing in major infrastructure and growing our team to provide frequent and reliable access to orbit for small satellites,” Beck explained.
The new Long Beach Complex will support end-to-end production and testing of Rocket Lab satellites, with the first satellites booked to launch on Electron from Q3 2020.
“Long Beach is an ideal location for our team; it has a vibrant space community, it’s close to many of our suppliers and offers room to grow as our operations do. The City of Long Beach has been incredibly welcoming, and we look forward to working with them to continue growing the local space economy,” Beck added.
Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia welcomed the announcement, saying, “We are incredibly excited to see Rocket Lab move to Long Beach. The expansion of this company in a city with an aerospace history as rich as ours will support new jobs and economic growth in the region.” (Source: Space Connect)
15 Jan 20. RAND suggests USAF consider three providers for heavy launch services rather than two. The US think tank RAND Corporation reckons the US Air Force should support three heavy launch providers in the short term to ensure it has reliable longer-term access to space.
A RAND study said that doing so could mitigate risk that new big rockets now under development won’t be available on time.
Under the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement (LSP), two vendors will be selected this year for around 34 missions over the next five years starting in 2022.
One will get 60 per cent of launches, the other 40 per cent. This is serious money, with the USAF and National Reconnaissance Office expected to spend some around a bn dollars per year on national security launches.
The RAND study was conducted last year and SpaceNews obtained a copy, noting concerns had been expressed about the USAF launch procurement plans.
“These concerns led the USAF to ask us to perform an independent analysis of the heavy lift launch market to assess the impact its near-term decisions might have on domestic launch service providers,” the study said.
Right now, USAF and NRO launches are provided by United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are also expected to compete for the two Phase 2 contracts.
The RAND study does not recommend the USAF alter its decision to award the national security launch contracts to just two providers but said it should find a way to keep a third supplier in the national security market as backup.
Retaining a viable third launch provider out to at least 2023 would allow more clarity on future commercial launch demand and give the Air Force more certainty that new rockets are ready on time.
Only SpaceX is proposing to use an existing rocket, while the other companies are developing new vehicles. RAND said there is significant risk they will run late.
The SAF is now in the process of certifying the ULAs Vulcan, Northrop Grumman’s OmegA and the Blue Origin New Glenn.
RAND said new rocket engines that made space flight possible had always been high development risk and first launch dates were highly uncertain.
The study said the risk can be reduced in a number of ways.
The USAF could exercise options with ULA and SpaceX under the previous Phase 1A contract to secure use of legacy launch systems.
Alternatively, it could select a third provider under the Phase 2 contract.
That would have longer-term benefits in allowing time for US companies to position themselves in the launch markets to allow market forces rather than the USAF to determine which firms were strongest. (Source: Space Connect)
15 Jan 20. Former fighter pilot picked to lead British military’s space command. It’s not exactly boldly going where no man’s gone before, but Britain has appointed its first space commander to lead the country’s developing military space campaign.
Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth will take up a new position next month, directing Britain’s military space effort at the Ministry of Defence, a spokesman confirmed. Smyth is moving over from his role as the commander of the Royal Air Force’s No. 1 Group, which oversees operations related to fast jets as well as aerial intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
Smyth, an ex-fighter pilot, steps into his new role as the British government moves to increase its presence in space to respond to the opportunities and intensifying threats to defense and security.
Creation of a new Space Command and setting up of a Cabinet-level national space council are among the initiatives being pursued by the British.
On the capabilities front, new Skynet 6 communications satellites, planned new ballistic missile defense radars, the possible creation of a UK Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), surveillance and reconnaissance assets, and space-launch systems are on the agenda.
An MoD search profile distributed to potential candidates for the new director space post last year said the role would touch on a wide number of issues, including high-level policy, industrial policy and a military space strategy.
“This is a new role which has been established to contribute to the development of UK policy towards space and to design and implement a defense space strategy, including by connecting activity across all parts of defense,” said the document.
A military space strategy was completed more than a year ago but has never been published.
“The role requires substantial leadership within Defence, across government more widely, and with a wide range of international partners and stakeholders,” the document noted.
Based in the MoD’s main headquarters in central London, up to 25 civilians and military personnel involved in finance, policy and capabilities will support the new space directorate.
The defense space portfolio is expected to be worth at least £7 bn, or roughly $9 bn, over the next 10 years as related capabilities move closer to the top of Britain’s military agenda.
Space operations will continue to be conducted by the Royal Air Force.
The RAF’s 23 Squadron has been reformed as a space squadron responsible for day-to-day space command-and-control, including the flying of satellites.
Together with Smyth’s appointment and the space-operations assignment the RAF has for now gained effective control of the space effort here.
That’s probably to the detriment of the Strategic Command, which has been scrapping with the RAF for control of the space sector, said one industry executive who asked not to be named.
The Strategic Command, known as Joint Forces Command before it changed its name late last year, continues, though, to have a sizable interest in space as part of its revised tasking.
How all this fits into the pre-election pledge made by the new Conservative Government to create a space command for the first time is unclear.
The MoD is part of a wider government effort now working on what a Space Command might look like.
The Space Command idea is likely to mature as the government holds its first National Space Council meetings and during the upcoming strategic and defense security review due to be completed later this year.
The United States and France already have space commands and others, like Japan, are heading in a similar direction.
The previous Conservative Government had already been leaning in the direction of an increased effort for defense and civil space development. That was prompted in part by the European Union’s refusal to give the British access to the military-grade signals from its Galileo system once the UK exits the bloc.
One of Smyth’s jobs will be to act as the MoD lead for a comparable program undertaken nationally, or, more likely, with allies.
The makeup of the Cabinet-level National Space Council hasn’t been confirmed yet but it’s likely to include the defense secretary.
It’s hoped the council will help deliver a space strategy putting military and commercial space development at the heart of government policy.
Last July, then-Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt outlined part of the MoD’s space program, committing £30m, or $39m, to fast-track the launch of a small satellite demonstrator.
The demonstrator is being run by a trans-Atlantic team of UK and U.S. defense personnel in a partnership known as Team Artemis.
The British have previously run a successful small satellite earth observation demonstrator program on a 100 kg spacecraft known as Carbonite-2, which is owned and operated by Airbus company’s Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd. The British have also seconded an RAF test pilot to the Virgin Orbit small-satellite launch program. (Source: Defense News)
09 Jan 20. ESA and EDA joint research: advancing into the unknown. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) are embarking on new cooperative projects for exploring unknown and potentially hazardous environments: harnessing drones for the monitoring of disaster-stricken regions or toxic spill sites and making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to navigate across the surface of asteroids or other terra incognita.
These two new joint projects have been authorised by the ESA Council and Steering Board of EDA. They are the latest in a long history of cooperation enabled by the ESA-EDA Administrative Arrangement, originally signed in 2011 and recently extended for a second time.
Innovation in disaster response
Space-based services have fast become essential to Europe’s safety and security. In 2017, a previous ESA-EDA Implementing Agreement demonstrated the use of space-based assets to respond to threats from toxic and hazardous materials. The project showed that space systems were beneficial to fast and accurate response to such threats in terms of situational awareness, early warning, detection and response planning.
Based on this success, the two agencies decided to extend their cooperation in this area, and in December signed an implementing agreement to carry out a next-stage demonstration project called Autonomous Drone Services (AUDROS).
By integrating space assets in sectors such as telecommunications, navigation and Earth observation, the partners will demonstrate the benefits of using autonomous and/or remotely piloted aerial vehicles to both detect toxic material and carry out rapid response to large-scale disasters. This activity will lead to the development of operational services that will deliver support to defence and security users on a permanent basis.
Flying into the unknown
ESA and the EDA are also cooperating in the development of new AI-based capabilities in the field of guidance, navigation and control (GNC) – knowing where an asset is and steering where it is going. Advanced, autonomous GNC is set to become an indispensable element of ambitious future space missions such as rendezvousing with asteroids and comets or the active removal of hazardous space debris from orbit.
This joint project, dubbed ATENA, will develop AI-based systems with the capability of flying safely over unknown territory, such as an asteroid, to achieve enhanced navigation performance compared to current vision-based techniques based on feature tracking.
Deepening ESA-EDA cooperation
Through the two partners’ deepening cooperation, Europe is better equipped to implement priority objectives across cyber and maritime security, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, remotely piloted aircraft systems, secure satellite communications, autonomous access to space and ongoing Earth observation.
“The role of space-based services for security and defence actors is a recognised priority for Europe. The importance of space assets and applications for defence capabilities is reflected in the revised Capability Development Plan (CDP) approved by Member States at the EDA Steering Board in June 2018”, said EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq. “ESA is a natural and trusted partner for us. Over the years we have built a cooperation that has yielded numerous successful projects, through eight Implementing Agreements totalling over €5m in shared investments, covering several priority areas.”
For ESA, its partnership with EDA is a key component of the Agency’s relationship with the EU and of Agency commitments to the safety and security of Europe. “Through our political and technical dialogue, we are able to identify joint priorities hand-in-hand with users of space systems and security communities”, comments Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General. “This virtuous dynamic is a key driving force of ESA’s space safety initiatives, recently endorsed and funded at our Space19+ Council at Ministerial Level.” (Source: EDA)
15 Jan 20. Space Force will host its own pitch day. The Space Force may be less than a month old, but it’s already scheduled its first pitch day, following in the footsteps of a new Air Force acquisition setup intended to find innovative solutions from small, nontraditional companies.
Modeled on the popular network show “Shark Tank,” the Air Force’s pitch days see commercial vendors present proposals for technologies or procedures to Air Force personnel, who are authorized to award Small Business Innovation Research contracts on the spot. The biggest attraction of the event is the possibility of forgoing the usual lengthy Department of Defense contracting period. For example, at the first pitch day held March 2019, the Air Force boasted that they were able to award one contract within three minutes of the business’ presentation.
“We have to do this across the country, across all places that do Air Force acquisition,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, following the initial event. “Now that we’ve wrung all the lessons out of the process, we’re ready to box it up as a tool that can be executed by the work force out in the field.”
The Air Force has held a number of pitch days since then, including one dedicated to space in November, but the upcoming March 4 pitch day will be the first space-focused pitch day since Air Force Space Command was officially re-branded as Space Force, a separate service within the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force pitch day was set up to find cutting edge solutions to a range of needs for the 45th Space Wing, whose mission is to assure U.S. access to space, primarily through launch. The Space Force has specified 20 challenges to be solved by commercial vendors, divided broadly between space operations support and installation support. The Air Force wants solutions to include areas such as collecting weather data from multiple sources and integrating it into one display or monitor, artificial intelligence that can identify abnormalities such as a loss of power at the base, and a way to deliver lightning warnings to personnel based on their GPS location. The full wish list can be viewed on the federal government’s contracting website.
The pitch day materials also noted that businesses do not need to submit new technologies, they just need to be new to the Space Force. Additionally, the new branch is open to considering innovative technology proposals that don’t necessarily fit into the problem sets outlined by the service.
Submissions are due Feb. 5. Once Space Force personnel have reviewed the proposals, they will invite select vendors to pitch their ideas at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida March 4. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
14 Jan 20. L3Harris Technologies’ Shadow™ Satellite Terminal Now Qualified to Operate with Intelsat General FlexGround Service.
- Gives flat panel terminal users access to High-Throughput Satellites (HTS)
- Single terminal can be configured for use on government and shared commercial services
- First terminal equipped with the iDirect 950mp modem to receive operational qualification
L3Harris Technologies’ (NYSE:LHX) Ku-band, flat-panel Very Small Aperture Terminal has been qualified to operate with the Intelsat General FlexGround managed service.
FlexGround is a high-throughput service offering that meets the increasing requirements for high data-rate speeds for Comms-on-the-Pause communications for ground forces. The service is offered via Intelsat’s global, high-throughput, multi-layered Ku-band satellite network.
“Our expanded terminal offerings now include HTS operation on the Intelsat General FlexGround network, giving our customers more service options,” said Jerry Adams, General Manager, SATCOM Products, L3Harris. “The global HTS coverage that Intelsat provides gives users additional control over their usage in a cost effective, managed space.”
“As a complete, end-to-end global managed service, FlexGround enables always-on broadband capabilities worldwide, with reliable satellite connectivity made simple for the government user,” said Rick Henry, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, Intelsat General. “We are pleased to pre-certify the L3Harris Shadow antenna, making access to the network easier than ever.”
14 Jan 20. Search is on for young space entrepreneurs across the UK. The UK Space Agency is offering young people expert advice and a share of £50,000 for their ideas of how satellites could improve life on Earth. The SatelLife Competition, now in its fourth year, is looking for innovative proposals that could use data collected from space to benefit daily life, such as growing new businesses, improving health services or tackling climate change.
Winning ideas from last year’s competition included tracking abandoned shopping trolleys, fighting crime with drones and designing a mobile app to locate public toilets.
Satellites support the economy and everyday life, and this competition gives young people the chance to test their ideas with space experts and perhaps one day become part of one of the UK’s fastest growing industries. The UK space sector already supports 42,000 jobs and could create a further 30,000 opportunities in the next decade.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:
The SatelLife Competition will help our next generation of scientists and innovators unleash their imaginations and turn their ideas into real-life proposals that could eventually transform our lives – from saving our planet from climate change, to improving healthcare services.
UK space is booming, and we are at the forefront of the space industry. I would encourage all young people who are fascinated by space to enter the SatelLife Competition and play a key part in the second space age.
Last year’s individual winner Lowena Hull, an A-Level student from Portsmouth, has continued to develop her idea to track abandoned supermarket trolleys using satellites and has secured a meeting with a major supermarket chain later this month.
Lowena, 17, said: Since winning the SatelLife Competition I’ve had interest in my idea so that shows that anything can happen if you enter. SatelLife is such an amazing opportunity and it’s a great introduction for young people to the space sector, which is important especially with the UK’s space sector growing.
The competition, which is open to those aged 11 to 22 and split into three age groups, aims to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills.
Lowena is one of a number of previous winners making progress on turning their ideas into reality. In 2018 medical students Christopher Law, 21, Thomas Franchi and Hammad Jeilani, both 22, from London came up with an idea to use satellites and drones to help people in isolated areas who cannot access basic healthcare such as vaccines, birth control or medicine.
They set up a company, MEDeus Ltd, which has gone on to win multiple international awards and are currently planning a test drone flight from a private clinic to an NHS hospital. The trio have recently been appointed as NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs and are working alongside the National Institute for Health Research to uncover the potentially life-saving impacts of drones on patients.
Hammad said: The SatelLife Competition is great because not only do you win money but the support that you get afterwards to develop your idea is incredible. The space industry is only getting bigger here in the UK so if you’re successful in this competition there’s a high chance you can go on to achieve something in the industry.
The judging panel will be made up of experts including industry representatives and the UK Space Agency, Satellite Applications Catapult and European Space Agency (ESA). The UK is the leading investor in satellite business applications across Europe and hosts the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire.
All winners will go on to pitch their ideas to a panel of ‘dragons’ at the Harwell Space Cluster on 16 June for the chance to win further prizes. Over the last three years these prizes have included further funding, patent advice and invitations to discuss job opportunities as well as introductions to the other relevant experts for further help.
The competition closes on 3 March 2020. Click here to enter. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/satellife-competition-2020-how-to-enter-and-other-resources (Source: News Now/Gov.uk)
10 Jan 20. DoD Wants Army, Navy To Join Space Force; May Ask Hill For Help. Space Force is looking to establish an independent identity, based on the legacy of the Air Force space community, but focused on “22nd century warfare,” says Maj. Gen. John Shaw.
Top Pentagon officials are hammering out a legislative proposal to Congress to bring personnel from the Army, Navy and Marines into the newly inaugurated Space Force.
DoD and military sources say Air Force Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier, charged by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett with planning how to flesh out the nascent Space Force, is crafting the plan, that will ultimately be sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The Army and the Navy Department maintain significant space capabilities and forces that so far are barred from Space Force integration under the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 20.
If approved, these sources say, the proposal then would be sent to Congress — with a particular eye to convincing the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which has been skeptical about the whole idea of a Space Force. Breaking D readers know that it was SASC language in the 2020 NDAA that limits DoD to transferring only Air Force billets to Space Force, and bans the creation of any new ones. Republican SASC Chair Jim Inhofe’s goal is to have the 2021 NDAA approved by Memorial Day, his spokesperson confirmed today.
Barrett owes Congress a report on plans for Space Force organization the first of next month, Air Force Maj. Gen. John Shaw told the Mitchell Institute at a breakfast this morning. Shaw is now head of the Space Force Space Operations Command, formerly the 14th Air Force under Air Force Space Command, at Vandenberg AFB.
“Congress has asked for additional legislation with regard to Space Force ideas as part of the whole work that we’re going to be doing this year. And I suspect that that will be a topic that will come up,” he said. “How do we need to look at laws and see how they might change to make us get to that?”
Shaw stressed that the Space Force is looking to establish an independent identity, that builds not just on the Air Force’s legacy but also brings in lessons learned from other services. In particular, he said, the new service needs to focus on “22nd century warfare” when speed of decision-making and reaction is paramount.
“We have the opportunity to create a new service, from scratch, that can be a warfighting service — and I’ve been telling the team, ‘Don’t even think about a warfighting service for the next decade or even this century; create a warfighting service for the 22nd century’,” he said. “What is warfighting look like at the end of this century, and into the next. We’ve started with that.”
“I’m sure we didn’t get it 100 percent right,” he added. “We didn’t have the ‘Time Infinity Stone’ that we could kinda just jump into the future and come back. But the general feeling is that it’s going to happen fast. … It’s going to happen across the planet and beyond the planet very quickly.” (For those who aren’t sci-fi aficionados, the Infinity Stones are key to the plot of the hit Marvel Comics “Avengers” movie and comic book series.)
He noted that a key to future warfighting will be incredibly rapid shift in technology, “maybe even by the second,” as automated software development and artificial intelligence capabilities kick in. Warfighting will become “highly technology dependent and not human capital dependent.”
Those issues are all on the table as DoD and military leaders ponder Space Force organization, he said, including during a two-hour teleconference yesterday in Colorado Springs. Space Operations Command’s Combat Development Division is eying “how do we best leverage technology and wield it at the speed of war?” That division is looking first at what technological capabilities are currently available and figuring out how to “plug them in” to space warfighting operational capability as quickly as possible.
In order to underpin the Space Force’s independence of thought, given the uniqueness of the space environment, Shaw said it is being given a number of billets dedicated to the development of space doctrine and there will be a conference on space doctrine in Colorado Springs next month. The idea will be to pull doctrine and concepts of operations from not just the Air Force, but also other services.
“There are things we can learn from the Navy, we can learn from the Army,” Shaw said. “I think the domain that’s closest to space is the undersea one. … Attribution is really hard, awareness is hard; you don’t see it, you have to kind of visualize it.”
Breaking D readers will remember that crafting new space doctrine –– currently embedded in both Air Force doctrine such as Counterspace Operations Doctrine and Joint Doctrine 3-14 on Space Operations — is also on the mind of Gen. Jay Raymond, wearing both his Space Force and Space Command hats.
Cooperation and coordination with allies is another major thrust in figuring out what Space Force will look like, said Shaw, who also serves as the head of Space Command’s Combined Space Force Component Command (CSFCC), that includes allies and coalition partners.
Office of Director of National Intelligence Five-Eyes Banner
“We have a lot of ground that we can still cover in integrating with our allies, and getting together as an alliance from a space domain perspective. We have made a lot of progress, don’t get me wrong,” he said.
For example, there is a now a weekly meeting between all the Space Operations Centers of the so-called Five Eyes — an intelligence-sharing alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. New Zealand was the latest of the Five Eyes to join CFSCC in December, Shaw said.
Next steps in 2020 will include a number of cooperative efforts with Japan, including launch of a US space domain awareness payload on Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) position, navigation and timing payload. Washington and Tokyo have been working on that effort for about two years, Shaw explained, by he now expects a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) to be signed and the hardware to be delivered this year.
The US and Japanese militaries are also collaborating on Japan’s development of a deep space radar, that DoD hopes will provide space domain awareness data that can be integrated with its own database. In addition, a US-Japan bilateral space conference will be held next month, Shaw said. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
12 Jan 20. 2 goals for one of the military’s new space organizations. U.S. military space leaders are focusing on the integration of space capabilities with the services and improving partnership with allies, the head of the new Combined Force Space Component Command said Jan. 10.
As the leader of that organization, Maj. Gen. John Shaw is in charge of delivering space capabilities to the war fighter. As the U.S. military continues to reshape its space forces with the establishment of U.S. Space Command in August and the Space Force in December, Shaw is guiding those efforts through two questions.
“The first is, how do we continue to relentlessly drive integration into all domains across the full spectrum of warfare?’ said Shaw, who also heads up the Space Force’s Space Operations Command, formerly known as the 14th Air Force.
To do so, U.S. Space Command needs to set up chains of communication with those services. With 21st century warfare is expected to move more quickly than ever, those lines of communication will need to be able to transfer information fast, he added. He spoke Jan. 10 at a Mitchell Aerospace Institute event.
Next, Shaw said he is “pursuing strength and partnerships with allies and partners.”
“We, I think, have a lot of ground that we can still cover on integrating with our allies and getting together as an alliance from a space domain perspective.”
Already, progress has been made in recent months. In December, New Zealand joined the weekly meetings between the Five Eyes space operations centers, which includes the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the United States. According to Shaw, New Zealand determined toward the end of 2019 that it was finally in a place to partake in those meetings.
“It may seem like a small thing to you, it’s actually a really big thing because now we’re updating all allies at the same time on things that are going on in space,” said Shaw.
Additionally, in 2019 a U.K. group captain was hired as deputy director of the Combined Space Operations Center, the command and control organization in charge of global military space operations in cooperation with multinational forces. This means that an ally was holding a leadership position within the CSpOC. Having liaison officers from France and Germany at CSpOC is also a priority, he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. Space Command is set to take more steps in enhancing its partnerships with other countries in 2020. For example, Shaw pointed to Japan, where the United States is closing the deal on placing a space domain awareness payload on the Japanese QZSS navigation satellite. That will be the culmination of two years of effort, he added. Then there’s the Japanese deep space radar, which the U.S. is working to ensure that the data collected is compatible with how the U.S. and its allies use space situational awareness data.
Later this month, the two nations are set to hold a bilateral space conference to discuss these and further collaborations. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 Jan 20. Are China’s Civilian Satellites Being Used to Spy on a Japanese Airbase? Photographs of a Japanese military base have been published on Chinese social media, suggesting that China’s civilian satellites are being used to gather intelligence for military purposes.
Three animated GIFs were posted on microblogging platform Weibo on Thursday by an account called China Aerospace – also the name of the Chinese space programme’s main contractor. The account is not officially that of the company, but features news and videos closely related to its work.
The GIFs showed planes taking off from and landing at a Japanese air force base in Naha, in southern Japan’s Okinawa prefecture.
A zoomed-in image showed more than 10 planes stationed at the Japan Air Self-Defence Force base, and vehicles could be seen driving past the base. The images were credited to Chang Guang Satellite Technology, China’s first commercial remote sensing satellite company, which owns the Jilin-1 satellites. The three images were taken on December 14, according to the Weibo post.
In recent years, Japan has used the Naha base to dispatch its fighter jets to expel foreign aircraft, especially after the Chinese air force stepped up its activities in the East China Sea.
Chinese military aircraft were involved in 638 of the 999 interceptions in the 2018-19 financial year, Japanese officials said last April. Nearly all of those incidents were in airspace close to the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which are claimed by China but controlled by Japan, which knows them as the Senkaku archipelago.
Record number of Chinese ships identified near Diaoyu Islands
The Jilin-1 satellite constellation is a set of remote sensing satellites. The latest of them, Jilin-1 Gaofen-02B, was launched last month in China’s north, joining the 14 Jilin satellites already in orbit in a network used for environmental monitoring, forest management, energy, mining, land planning and more, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.
Jilin’s broad observation power made it usable for military applications such as monitoring activities in a particular location, Malcolm Davis, a space security analyst from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said, adding that it could support the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s space surveillance tasks.
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, said that China could not rely solely on satellites for real-time information but they could provide a good source of relatively up-to-date background information.
Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute explained, “Since high-resolution satellite images require days to analyse, the military still needs surveillance planes or unmanned drones to gather intelligence,” Zhou said.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said space-based remote sensing or earth observation satellites always had the potential for military as well as civilian application.
“It enhances its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. And similar to civilian marine scientific research [which China conducts in the disputed South China Sea], these programmes often present a grey area that can give the user strategic ambiguity,” Koh said.
Charlie Lyons Jones, a researcher from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s defence and strategy programme, said that although the US still led the way in space technology and research, China had made great strides in developing dual-use space capabilities such as tactical microsatellites.
“Such technologies might have important civilian uses but could also be deployed for military operations in space, complicating US war plans predicated on deploying weapons systems,” Jones said. (Source: Satnews/South China Morning Post)
07 Jan 20. Blue Canyon Technologies to Build Smallsat Bus for MethaneSAT. Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) has been selected by MethaneSAT LLC (“MethaneSAT”) to develop and build the spacecraft bus for this groundbreaking mission. MethaneSAT is a subsidiary of the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The donor-funded mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2022, will provide global, high-resolution detection and quantification of methane emissions from oil and gas facilities, as well as measure emissions from other human-generated methane sources.
This comprehensive data will be made available to the public, and provide companies, governments and other stakeholders with a new way to track, quantify and take actionable steps to reduce methane emissions.
Human-generated methane emissions are responsible for more than 25 percent of global warming we currently experience. EDF calculates that reducing global oil and gas methane emissions 45 percent by 2025 would deliver the same near-term benefit to the climate as closing 1,300 coal-fired power plants.
Blue Canyon’s diverse spacecraft platform has the proven capability to enable a broad range of missions and technological advances for the New Space economy, further reducing the barriers of space entry. BCT is currently building more than 60 spacecraft for government, commercial and academic missions. The company has doubled in size over the past 12 months and plans to open its new 80,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in 2020.
The satellite will be designed using BCT’s newest X-SAT line of spacecraft, specifically the X-SAT Saturn-Class which can carry payloads up to 200 kg. As with other BCT X-SAT buses, the X-SAT Saturn-Class is a high-agility platform, enabling the onboard instrument to collect data and revisit sites frequently. The X-SAT Saturn-Class’s compact profile is designed to maximize the volume, mass and power available for the methane measuring instrument.
George Stafford, President and CEO of Blue Canyon Technologies, said that reducing methane emissions is critical to slowing the pace of climate change, and the firm is proud that the company’s small satellite technology will help MethaneSAT [and Environmental Defense Fund] with this important mission. Blue Canyon’s technology will make it less expensive and quicker to launch, allowing them to collect more data sooner.”
Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT project co-lead, added that MethaneSAT has a unique and demanding mission involving some of the most seasoned, innovative organizations and individuals from both the commercial and public aerospace sectors. Blue Canyon Technologies is a best-in-class bus provider and the organization is in their ability to deliver a spacecraft that meets the demanding performance requirements of this mission. (Source: Satnews)
09 Jan 20. Is It Terminal? Mess Threatens DoD SATCOM Multi-Domain. The third GPS III satellite sporting the jam-proof, spoof-proof military signal called M-Code is due to be launched next month. Sadly, troops won’t be able to use that encrypted signal until at least 2021 (if then, given the program’s history of delays) because there aren’t any receivers for it yet fielded.
Even though satellite communications are critical to future multi-domain operations (MDO), the Pentagon seems incapable of fixing long-standing problems with ground terminals and mobile receivers that stop users in the field and weapons platforms from communicating efficiently.
What’s the problem? Some satellite terminals/receivers link to only one frequency or one type of satellite; ships and Humvees use outdated terminals that would be too expensive to replace; and sometimes new satellites end up orbiting the Earth for years without any users because the terminals to make them useful weren’t built on time. (For example, the first Navy’s Mobile Objective User System, or MUOS, satellite was launched in 2012 and the constellation of five sats was declared fully operational in November, but according to GAO “the user community still cannot monitor and manage MUOS.”)
“Satellite communications is like the air we breathe. Absent that inherent capability, missions cannot be executed, whatever that mission may be,” says Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president for government strategy and policy at Inmarsat Government.
As Breaking D readers know, satellite communications are central to the Pentagon’s vision for Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), which in turn is central to enabling the MDO strategy and allowing linkages across all five domains of warfare (air, land, sea, space and cyber) and integrating all sensors with all shooters.
But DoD lacks a coherent strategy for acquiring satcom terminals necessary to access even its own military satellites, as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in its December 19 review of the Pentagon’s June 2018 analysis of alternatives (AoA) for optimizing wideband satellite communications.
“The sheer number and types of wideband terminals DOD currently uses presents a very large challenge for changing how DoD acquires wideband SATCOM capabilities,” GAO’s Cristina Chaplain told me. “Additionally, DoD faces questions on how to govern terminal acquisitions, which currently take place in many programs spread across the services.”
DoD currently maintains 17,000 terminals that use “approximately 135 different designs,” GAO said. Those terminals operate across diverse platforms—such as ships, backpacks, vehicles — and all have differing system requirements. Many can talk to only one type of satellite. Further, while the Air Force builds satellites, terminals/receivers are usually bought by the service or command that will use the data — resulting in mismatches in timing.
GAO warned that “both our past work and the Wideband AoA found that DoD faces ongoing risks in aligning its satellite and ground control systems.”
DoD “officials estimate spending an average of $4bn each year to acquire and sustain wideband satellite communications capabilities, including developing and fielding military satellite systems, contracting for commercial satellite communications services, and acquiring and operating satellite ground terminals,” GAO said. Note the word estimate, because in reality the Pentagon doesn’t quite have its arms around current satcom usage by the services and combatant commands — all of which have their fingers in the satcom acquisition pie.
Wideband communications satellites provide DoD with fast and reliable voice, video, and data communications to support critical military operations around the globe. Wideband satellites operate in different radio frequency spectrum bands. DoD typically relies on C, X, Ku, and Ka-bands to provide wideband connectivity, depending on where and how users are operating.
Each of these frequency bands has advantages and disadvantages for various applications. Satellite transponders operating at the lower C-band frequencies are more robust, especially when it rains (water degrades some RF signals.) Under US law, X-band usage is limited to the US government and NATO. The Ku-band can communicate with smaller antennas and is useful for mobile operations. Ka-band satellites can transmit more data, including high-speed video, than satellites using the other frequencies, but their signals are more susceptible to rain and fog.
Commercial satcom providers traditionally have used the Ku-band, but many are now expanding services to Ka-band to offer customers higher data rates.
Currently, DoD relies on the aging Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system for much of its milcoms, along with buying commercial satellite bandwidth on a piecemeal basis. The WGS satellites, built by Boeing, can provide full-motion video in the Ka- and X-bands. There are 10 in the current constellation, and Congress in 2018 added funds for two more, overturning Air Force plans to stop procurement.
Boeing announced on Dec. 26 that it has completed development of WGS 11, to be delivered to the Air Force in 2024. According to the company, this new satellite will “deliver hundreds of coverage beams and provide a more flexible and efficient use of bandwidth. These innovations will enable the spacecraft to support more users in theater and allow dedicated beams to follow aircraft in flight.”
And, as I reported in October, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of SPACECOM and at the time also head of Air Force Space Command, is mulling a new SATCOM Enterprise Vision. That effort is aimed at creating a seamless network of military and commercial communications satellites in all orbits, accessible to troops, vehicles, ships and aircraft via ground terminals and mobile receivers that would automatically “hop” from one satellite network to another.
In addition, “DoD concluded in the Wideband AoA that integrating purpose-built satellite systems and commercially provided systems into a hybrid architecture would be more cost effective and capable than any single purpose-built or commercial system alone,” the GAO report said.
As Breaking D readers know, major commercial satcom providers, such as Inmarsat, have been pushing DoD to move toward buying so-called “managed services” (kinda like your average mobile phone or cable TV/Internet plan) rather than leasing commercial bandwidth in fits and starts for short periods of time. This, they argue, will substantially reduce the high costs of pay-as-you-go rental of commercial bandwidth.
Inmarsat GX satellite
Congress has agreed with this argument, and included $49.5m in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for DoD to pursue commercial satcom-as-a-service acquisition. However, DoD has been slow to allocate the funds as it continues to study the broader issues, and did not request new funding in 2020. Congress, however, forced another $5m into Air Force’s budget for commercial satcom service buys in the 2020 NDAA.
Indeed, the AoA study determined that DoD needs more information about industry capabilities before pulling the trigger on buying satcom as a service. The AoA also found that buying new terminals to work with commercial systems can be expensive, due to development and integration costs.
One of the cost-drivers is that vehicles like Humvees or ships have maintenance periods that are scheduled years in advance. Thus, putting in new satcom terminals can require unscheduled maintenance that incurs not just direct costs, but also indirect costs in personnel and mission delays.
At the same time, the GAO report explains that a separate DoD study found that some terminals can be modified to operate with more types of satellites by adding new modems or software, thus reducing replacement costs. “This capability, aligned with regular terminal recapitalization schedules, can help improve terminal affordability, according to officials,” the GAO report said.
GAO welcomed the Wideband SATCOM AoA recommendation that DoD develop an “Enterprise Satellite Communications Terminal Strategy” to “reduce complexity of terminal diversity and governance; facilitate rapid modernization through flexible terminals that can use new waveforms; and optimize cost, schedule, performance, and interoperability.”
But, the watchdog agency worries, the Pentagon does not yet have a plan for implementing the AoA’s findings. One key concern is that the ongoing musical chairs regarding space acquisition is complicating decision-making. This includes the establishment of Space Command, the launch of the Space Development Agency and the new Space Force. (Source: Satnews)
05 Jan 20. Commercial Technology Leveraged by SMC to Enable WGS-11+ to Deliver 2x Capabilities. Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ is a Space and Missile Systems (SMC) Center Pacesetter for the rapid application and fielding of commercial technology. The SMC Production Corps and Portfolio Architect’s Mission System Integration team jointly championed a successful first-ever, cross-corps Systems Requirements Review (SRR) to help the Government and Boeing reach a mutual agreement on a system performance specification to satisfy warfighter needs quickly.
The WGS program office, leveraging enterprise partnerships and a collaborative culture with Army, Navy, and Boeing systems engineers, worked closely together to ensure the system’s technical baseline will maximize value to the warfighter on an aggressive 5-year schedule.
The WGS team, embedded at the Boeing facility, has been able to apply lessons learned from extensive testing performed by a similar commercial space program utilizing the same digital payload technologies. With SRR complete, the WGS-11+ team has initiated production and prototyping of Pathfinder hardware units to reduce risk for the final production build on its “Road to Preliminary Design Review” campaign.
WGS capability evolves significantly with each generation of spacecraft. WGS-11+ adapts innovative technologies to provide more coverage beams, more beam formed bandwidth and more frequency re-use than heritage systems. WGS-11+ will be capable of forming unique coverage areas anywhere within the field of regard—each sized optimally as mission needs demand. The satellite will have much greater inherent resilience to threats than prior vehicles.
The ability to provide seamless broadband interconnectivity for X-band and Ka-band users, and features to operate in a contested environment—provide the global responsiveness for U.S. and Allied Forces to support missions ranging from warfighting to humanitarian relief efforts. Additionally, the system remains a viable government host platform for rapid prototyping and additional enhancements with mission partners are being considered.
Colonel John Dukes, Chief of the Geosynchronous/Polar Division, SMC Production Corps, said the resilient design will deliver Combatant Commanders twice the mission capability through contested environments—improving capacity and coverage to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
Dr. Mark Peterson, WGS Aerospace Platform lead, noted that WGS-11+ enhances operational flexibility and performance to better serve the warfighter—the system will provide more coverage beams than the entire existing WGS constellation.
Major Brandon Castillo, WGS-11+ Program Manager, added that SMC is excited to deliver this game-changing capability to the warfighter.
Boeing developed a new variant of its 702 satellite for the WGS-11 addition to the constellation, one that offers greater bandwidth efficiency and signal power than previous satellites in the fleet.
Advances in Boeing digital satellite technology mean WGS-11 will deliver hundreds of coverage beams and provide a more flexible and efficient use of bandwidth. These innovations will enable the spacecraft to support more users in theater and allow dedicated beams to follow aircraft in flight.
Troy Dawson, Boeing VP, Government Satellite Systems, said that WGS-11 incorporates the latest advances in Boeing commercial satellite technology combined with a resilient and robust design specifically for military use in contested environments, with delivery of this critically important asset to the U.S. Air Force in 2024. (Source: Satnews)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.