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21 Feb 20. NSW government confirms new Sydney Space Industry Hub for tech precinct. The NSW government has confirmed it will fund a National Space Industry Hub as an anchor tenant for the new, multibillion-dollar Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct located in the heart of the Sydney CBD. The NSW government is planning a space industry hub for Sydney to rival the Lot Fourteen precinct in Adelaide.
State Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said NSW aimed to be at the forefront of the rapidly growing multibillion-dollar space industry, an ambition set out in the new Space Strategy launched this week.
Minister Ayres said the NSW Space Industry Development Strategy would maximise opportunities for NSW businesses to take advantage of the growing demand for space technologies, estimated to be worth $420bn globally. He said NSW currently accounted for the largest concentration of Australia’s space activities – 41 per cent of all Australian space businesses and 35 per cent of Australia’s university space research and development.
“Nearly every industry is looking to increase its output and improve its efficiency through space-enabled technologies,” he said.
“Space is not just about what’s up there, it’s also about what’s down here. These technologies are used in robotics, agriculture, energy, communications, transportation, aviation, advanced manufacturing, information technology and construction. They are in the technology we all use in our daily lives.”
The $5m space strategy will include the delivery of a National Space Industry Hub, planned to be the anchor tenant at the new Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct to be created in the redevelopment of Central Station.
That’s yet to be formally approved and will require some two years of construction.
The NSW government has called for expressions of interest from incubators, accelerators and facilitators with space experience to run the new National Space Industry Hub. That closes on 22 March.
The expressions of interest process is also looking for a delivery partner to facilitate access to space for start-ups and researchers looking to commercialise their technologies through a space qualification mission.
The NSW Space Strategy also backs the NSW government commitment to develop a space manufacturing and test facility at Aerotropolis, an industry and research hub to be built in conjunction with the new Western Sydney Airport.
That will include space, aviation, defence and advanced manufacturing industries, and training and research institutions.
Release of the NSW space strategy follows the launch of the Queensland Space Industry Strategy earlier this week, with both intended to maximise their share of the booming space sector.
“New manufacturing, design and software technologies have reduced barriers to entry into the space sector,” the NSW strategy document said.
“They have also ushered in a new era of low-cost satellites and payloads, known as Space 2.0, in which small companies and start-ups can play a larger role.
“The NSW government is committed to ensuring that the state’s space industry is well positioned to benefit from continued rapid growth in international demand for emerging space technologies.”
However, Adelaide has a head start, with a growing space sector and the Lot Fourteen precinct, home to the Australian Space Agency. (Source: Space Connect)
20 Feb 20. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) has successfully ground tested its Airborne Laser Communication System (ALCoS) by establishing a link with a satellite in Geo-synchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). GA-ASI conducted the test with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT), the leader of space-based laser communication (lasercom), using their GEO Laser Communication Terminal (LCT), the LCT 135. This was the first demonstration of an air-to-space lasercom system with Size, Weight and Power (SWAP) that is compatible with a Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
GA-ASI tested the ALCoS from an optical observatory located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and closed link with TESAT’s LCT 135 terminal onboard the GEO satellite Alphasat. The test successfully demonstrated acquisition and tracking, and sufficient power to close the link with the LCT 135. GA-ASI is completing the development of the flight system for use on a GA-ASI-produced MQ-9 RPA.
“This test was a critical step towards enabling our aircraft with a high-bandwidth communication system that cannot be jammed or detected by an adversary,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “ALCoS allows a new generation of high-performance sensors by breaking the data bottleneck of current RF SATCOM technology.”
ALCoS is the result of a five-year, GA-ASI-funded effort to deliver Low Probability of Intercept (LPI), Low Probability of Detect (LPD) communications link to the MQ-9. With 300 times the data carrying capacity of conventional RF SATCOM systems, ALCOS will be able to operate as a gateway to the Joint Aerial Network for forward-deployed forces.
The system has the capability to work in two optical wavelengths, 1064nm and 1550nm. TESAT brings more than 12 years of experience with deployed lasercom systems for space. TESAT’s LCT 135 terminals are currently in use on seven satellites in orbit. These LCTs make over 60 satellite-to-satellite links over a distance of 45,000 km per day and have logged over 30,000 links total. TESAT has proven the commercial viability of laser satellite communications.
21 Feb 20. Curtin Uni and Japanese company set to launch small satellite from ISS. West Australia’s Curtin University and Japanese space start-up Space BD Inc are set to launch a pair of miniature satellites from the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo on the International Space Station (ISS).
Curtin University has been developing the satellites, named Binar-1 and Binar-2 since 2018. These are small satellites – Binar-1 is a 1U CubeSat, based on a 10-centimetre cube, while Binar-2 is a 3U CubeSat.
Space BD Inc is the official service provider selected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in the area of ISS utilisation and satellite launch.
These will be Curtin’s first satellites to be launched, as well as the first originating in WA.
The project is led by Professor Phil Bland, who leads a team of 12 staff and student engineers at Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre.
“The Space Science and Technology Centre at Curtin University is looking forward to working with Space BD, using their expertise and guidance to bring our two miniature satellites into orbit, which will be such an exciting and rewarding experience for our design and engineering team,” he said.
Space BD’s engineering team will provide Curtin University with technical integration services throughout the project, including safety assessment reviews, the launch to the ISS and deployment of the satellites from the Kibo module.
Daisuke Takahashi, Space BD marketing manager for satellite launch services, said he was honoured to be involved in such a special satellite launch mission with Curtin University.
“Space BD believes that our service using the ISS Kibo is the easiest and most efficient in-orbit demonstration platform in space,” he said.
“We are glad that utilising Japanese space assets will contribute to the progress of the space industry in Australia. As the Japanese leading company in the ISS utilisation, Space BD will continue our best efforts to accelerate the commercialisation of Kibo by accommodating and stimulating a diverse range of missions and users.”
The Binar CubeSat Bus is about the size of a small sandwich, with satellite power, computer, steering and communications all on a single, eight-layer printed circuit board, leaving more room for the payload – a camera that will capture images of Australia from orbit.
No date for the launch has yet been announced. (Source: Space Connect)
20 Feb 20. What will the NRO’s new cubesats do? On Jan. 31, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule departed the International Space Station following a successful resupply mission. But instead of immediately deorbiting, the capsule deployed several small cubesats—some belonging to NASA, some belonging to the Aerospace Corporation, and two belonging to the National Reconnaissance Office, the intelligence organization responsible for the nation’s spy satellites.
Collectively referred to as AeroCube 14, those two cubesats are part of the NRO’s IMPACT program, an effort led by the agency’s Advanced Systems and Technology (AS&T) directorate to test new space technologies with relatively small and cheap cubesats. According to the NRO, the “program provides a risk tolerant workspace for experimental payloads, matures multiple novel technologies per launch, and drives miniaturization—all while helping both new and seasoned commercial partners rapidly develop, mature, qualify, and transition new technologies into NRO systems.”
“With IMPACT, our goal is to take the pioneering research areas we’re exploring and test their survivability and performance in space,” Susan Durham, the directorate’s leader said in a statement at launch.
Each the size of a loaf of bread, or 30 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, the NRO’s cubesat duo serve as a host to 14 technology demonstrators which will be evaluated for their utility for future NRO missions. Those technology demonstrators include new materials, thermal straps, solar cells, on-board processors and star tracker experiments.
The AeroCube bus used by the NRO is highly adaptable, meaning the agency can easily install or remove new technology demonstrators without redesigning the entire cubesat. The new cubesat deployments brings the total number of Aerospace CubeSats on orbit to 25, the Aerospace Corporation noted at the November launch of the Cygnus capsule.
Four of the experiments are also part of the NRO’s new Greenlighting program, an effort launched in 2017 to streamline the evaluation of emerging technologies developed by commercial partners for NRO missions. The Greenlighting program allows commercial partners to test their technology on orbit without having to worry about how to deliver it to space. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 Feb 20. Raymond OKs New Vision For Secure Battlefield Comms.
“Adversaries understand the advantage SATCOM brings our warfighters and are working to deny, degrade, and destroy these capabilities,” says the new strategy, released today.
. Jay Raymond, double-hatted as head of the Space Force and Space Command, has signed the long-awaited Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications (SATCOM) that may change how DoD buys and uses satellite communications.
The plan is designed to create a seamless network of military and commercial comsats 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.
The goal is to ensure connectivity even when adversaries have successfully degraded access to spectrum during a conflict by jamming or launching kinetic attacks on satellite networks. “Adversaries understand the advantage SATCOM brings our warfighters and are working to deny, degrade, and destroy these capabilities,” says the vision document, signed on Jan. 23 but only released today.
“The single, integrated SATCOM enterprise will enhance integration between the military and private sectors, with a goal to enable warfighters with the ability to transition between their networks and terminals to alternate resources with little or no disruption,” the Space Force announcement said.
The document also puts an emphasis on speeding development of future SATCOM capabilities. It states: “We must move faster than our adversaries … . We must adopt faster acquisition processes and faster command and control constructs to maintain the advantage in any conflict.”
“Despite the global, instantaneous reach of our satellite communications systems, which includes both military and commercial capabilities, the current loose federation of SATCOM systems needs to improve in resiliency, robustness, flexibility, and manageability,” said Maj. Gen. Bill Liquori, Space Force director of Strategic Requirements, Architectures and Analysis.
The SATCOM Vision was put together over about an 18-month period by Air Force Space Command, which now has been subsumed into the Space Force. (An expert team from the Space Force, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Space Force Commercial SATCOM Office was heavily involved in defining key requirements and concepts, the Space Force explained.)
Key elements of the vision include: “Global Situational Awareness & Common Operating Picture, Command & Control Management System, SATCOM terminals, SATCOM governance, and Acquisition & Provisioning.”
Space Force’s immediate priority is to create a “team of core experts” to develop a road map to “ensure near-term budgeting priorities are in-line with the SATCOM vision.”
Also, the announcement says, the Space Force “will develop a flexible modem interface (FMI) standard to support agile SATCOM roaming for Department of Defense users and develop a strategy to replace the current Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) capability.”
The WGS satellites, built by Boeing, currently provide most military satellite communications bandwidth. In a surprise move, Congress in 2018 extended the program by adding $600m to the Air Force budget for Boeing to produce the 11th and 12th satellites. WGS 10 was launched in March. In April 2019, Boeing received a contract modification that pumped $605m into production of the 11th satellite.
The firm announced on Dec. 26 that it has completed development of WGS 11, to be delivered in 2024. Boeing said 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.”
In what will no doubt be music to the ears of the commercial satcom industry, the Space Force says it: “will continue engaging commercial partners to evaluate opportunities that may complement or possibly replace portions of a traditional military SATCOM purpose-built system.”
Capabilities acquired to support the vision “will be a mixture of military and commercial, U.S. and non-U.S., and leverage commercial and defense industrial bases for innovative technologies, products, tools, services, and processes.”
Commercial providers have been frustrated about what they have seen as a lot of talk over a decade, but little action by DoD to better integrate commercial satellites into DoD’s SATCOM architecture. Industry leaders — including Viasat, Hughes, Intelsat, Inmarsat, SES and Eutelsat — have been arguing the Pentagon would save money, and speed capabilities, by buying satcom “managed services” (like your average mobile phone or cable TV/Internet plan) instead of leasing commercial bandwidth in fits and starts for short periods of time.
Congress added $49.5m in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act for DoD to pursue commercial satcom-as-a-service acquisition. However, the military has been slow to allocate the money as it studied the issues, and did not request new funding in 2020. Congress, for its part, forced another $5m into Air Force’s budget for commercial satcom service buys in the 2020 NDAA. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
20 Feb 20. SmartSat CRC to prioritise disaster communications research. The SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has announced details of its first research and development projects, with disaster communications at the head of the list.
SmartSat chief executive Professor Andy Koronios said following the nation’s crippling summer of bushfires, the top priority for the CRC was the development of accurate, reliable communications technology for disaster management.
That will see SmartSat collaborate with NASA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and local industry partner, Safety from Space, on a project with broad international implications.
“Critical communications infrastructure is often damaged during a major fire incident, which may complicate rescue efforts and put lives at further risk,” he said.
“We are meeting with NASA this week to discuss a project that will adapt existing emergency beacon technologies into a form of miniaturised satellite radio, connected into a national incident data management system that will deliver a complete, real-time picture of disaster zones and ensure reliable communication for individuals and communities in danger.”
In another project, SmartSat will work with partners and relevant agencies to establish a national network to monitor the quality and quantity of surface and ground water.
Called the AquaWatch Australia Mission, this project is to be undertaken in partnership with the CSIRO. It will feature a national mission to establish a mini constellation of dedicated AquaWatch satellites, complemented by a network of thousands of terrestrial water sensors uploading data continuously in near real-time.
“In conjunction with government, industry and scientists, we will be enabling the development of a comprehensive, national monitoring system to provide precise, decision-ready information on quality and quantity across Australia’s waterways and reservoirs, essential for the operation of all levels of government in sustaining basic water services for all Australians,” Professor Koronios said.
The SmartSat-CSIRO Aquawatch program will initiate a suite of additional projects benefiting regional stakeholders including primary producers, environmental managers and resource companies, representing just one part of SmartSat’s broader commitment to regional development.
“One major impediment to growth in many regional areas is lack of communication infrastructure, which is often far inferior to that found in capital cities,” he said.
“That not only prevents business and industry from investing in these regions, but also makes individuals reluctant to relocate, even while many experts point to the great need to grow Australia’s regional areas.”
The SmartSat CRC was launched in April to boost Australia’s growing space sector, leveraging national expertise in satellite capabilities.
That involves 99 industry and research partners, including 13 global companies, 20 Australian firms, 17 universities and more than 40 space sector start-ups.
The federal government contributed funding of $55m and total funding is now $245m. The organisation has its headquarters in Adelaide.
“With the Space Agency, SmartSat and the many fast-growing space start-ups at Lot Fourteen, it’s obviously an exciting time in Australia’s space journey,” Professor Koronios said.
“However, the impact of all this activity will not be in space – the real impact will be the solutions and opportunities these initiatives deliver back on Earth.”
SmartSat CRC’s other first round R&D projects address various technical elements of this national communications challenge, with the goal of establishing cost-effective, sovereign satellite capability to deliver secure, high-speed data nationwide.
“These technologies represent the future of how the world communicates and Australia is home to internationally recognised experts in the field,” Professor Koronios said.
“Now, the mission for the SmartSat CRC is to co-ordinate research in a way that not only solves the unique challenges posed by Australia’s sprawling geography, but in doing so, shows the world a better way to communicate.” (Source: Space Connect)
20 Feb 20. DEWC Systems signs contract with Southern Launch. Adelaide-based based DEWC Systems has signed a launch service provider contract with Southern Launch to be the first company to launch a payload aboard a suborbital rocket at the recently announced Koonibba Test Range.
Flown aboard a T-Minus Engineering Dart rocket, the DEWC Space Payload 1 will travel up to 100 kilometres in altitude before being ejected from the launch container and beginning its descent to Earth.
During its descent, the payload will demonstrate DEWC Systems’ ability to detect, identify and locate radar emissions through various altitudes and environments using miniaturised sensors.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s Plan Jericho has sponsored the development of the radio frequency receiver prototype payload to explore the utility of affordable, rapid launch capabilities for Defence situational awareness.
DEWC Systems chief executive Ian Spencer said, “This mission is an exciting collaboration between Australian space industry players and demonstrates that Australian space industry has evolved and is ready to make its mark in the NewSpace era.”
The payload itself is 27 centimetres long and three centimetres in diameter, and carries a suite of miniaturised sensors, antennas and communications equipment that will allow real-time tracking from the DEWC ground station.
Working with Southern Launch and using the Koonibba Test Range will accelerate the development of our MOESS satellite constellation.
“The launch of the DEWC Systems payload at the Koonibba Test Range, supported by the First Nations people at Koonibba, marks the start of Australia entering the NewSpace race and a future where all Australians can truly reach for the stars,” said Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp.
DEWC Systems is a wholly Australian owned and operated electronic warfare systems company based at Technology Park in Mawson Lakes. DEWC Systems develops novel, state-of-the-art solutions to help the Australian Defence Force combat sophisticated challenges on land, air, sea and space.
Developed by Southern Launch in conjunction with the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation, the Koonibba Test Range extends for 145 kilometres from the township of Koonibba and covers an area of 10,000 uninhabited square kilometres. (Source: Space Connect)
19 Feb 20. Teledyne Paradise Announces Innovative New SSPA: A Dual Band SSPA that Offers Lower Cost, Higher Reliability for Satellite Command & Control. Covering both L and S-bands, the SSPA is the ideal solution for Tracking, Telemetry, and Control applications with benefits far superior to aging klystron platforms.
Teledyne Paradise Datacom (Paradise), part of the Teledyne Defense Electronics Group, today announced the wide availability of a new, leading edge L- and S-Dual Band solid state power amplifier (SSPA) for today’s evolving satellite command systems.
Both S- and L-band frequencies have been the industry’s bands of choice for positioning and tracking applications like global positioning systems (GPS) and Tracking, Telemetry, and Control (TTC) ground stations. This new dual band product offers customers a virtual ”two for the price of one” SSPA solution that dramatically lowers the costs of command and control, leaves a much smaller footprint, but also delivers higher reliability compared to traditional klystron power amplifiers. Download the Product Overview.
For more information, visit Teledyne booth #708 at the Satellite 2020 show in Washington, DC March 9-12.
“Smaller satellites and new deployment technology are reducing satellite launch costs, and the number of satellites in-orbit is increasing dramatically. This is increasing the demands on operators performing station keeping, and the need for reliable command and control systems,” said Mike Towner, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing. “The introduction of the industry’s first outdoor dual band SSPA gives the flexibility of a single amplifier covering both bands, and the reliability and reduced maintenance costs that come with a solid state solution.”
An ideal fit for both Military and Commercial command and control environments, the L/S-band SSPA provides the high reliability of solid state technology required to support critical communications between the earth and satellites, in a rugged outdoor-rated enclosure.
Compared to older vacuum-based technology, the enhanced reliability and ease-of-use gives operators the opportunity to support command and control facilities with non- or semi-technical staff. In instances where modular solid-state deployments with n+1 redundancy are used, it is often even possible to benefit from unmanned or remotely manned uplinks.
The L/S Dual Band SSPA is available in two power levels, both of which are housed in rugged, outdoor-rated enclosures. Power levels up to 800W are available in the High Power Outdoor SSPA package, part number HPAS2800GHXXXXXG, and up to 400W in the Compact Outdoor SSPA enclosure, part number HPAS2400GCXXXXXG. Both units are available covering sub-band “G” (1.75 to 2.12 GHz).
18 Feb 20. DARPA Doubles Dough For Nuclear-Powered Cislunar Rocket. DARPA’s budget documents say cislunar orbit is the “new high ground” at risk of being taken over by US adversaries.
DARPA has slated $158m in its 2021 budget for space programs and technology, a basket of space-related programs that include its long-standing robotic servicing satellite effort and a new nuclear-fueled rocket for operations in deep space between Earth and the Moon.
DARPA’s 2021 funding request for space programs (PE 0603287E) is down $32m from $190m in 2020. This reflects the plan to wrap up the DARPA Launch Challenge competition to demonstrate a capability to rapidly launch small payloads to orbit, and the decision to terminate the Experimental Space Plane effort following the completion of the critical design review.
The sole remaining competitor in the $12m DARPA Launch Challenge, California-based Astra, will make its first launch attempt sometime between Feb. 25 through March 1, program manager Todd Master told reporters today. It will then have to launch again from Kodiak Island in Alaska between March 18 and April 1. DARPA originally chose three competitors for the prize, but Virgin Orbit dropped out and Vector Launch went bankrupt last year. Astra will carry three different payloads on the first launch, including a DoD experimental cubesat called Prometheus to test rapid data dissemination to users on the ground.
Besides the flagship Blackjack program, the projects in DARPA’s space basket for 2021 include:
- Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) — $46.3m, a slight slip from $47.3 allocated in 2020. The RSGS program is aimed at establishing the capability to provide a variety of robotic services for satellites in GEO such as re-fueling or repairs. DARPA’s budget request says the program will be transitioned to a commercial partner who will provide the satellite to carry the robotic payload and operate it. DARPA has been looking at a launch date of 2022 for RSGS, after a series of problems that included the withdrawal last year of its commercial partner Maxar. The RSGS funds also support the Consortium For Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing (CONFERS) that brings together private sector and government experts to develop voluntary standards for on-orbit operations involving maneuverable satellites.
- Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO), formerly known as “Reactor on a Rocket (ROAR)” — $21m, up from an initial $10m in 2020. DRACO “will develop and demonstrate a High-Assay LowEnriched Uranium (HALEU) nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system.” NASA is working on similar nuclear thermal propulsion rockets, which use low-enriched — between 5 and 20 percent — uranium-235 (U-235). U-235 is the basic nuclear fuel for commercial light-water reactors when enriched to between 3 and 5 percent; the Navy’s nuclear reactors use U-235 fuel enriched to 90 percent. The new rocket would allow the US military to operate spacecraft in cislunar space, which DARPA’s budget documents call the “new high-ground” that is “in danger of being defined by the adversary.” DARPA budget documents say the Air Force is the targeted customer for DRACO. As Breaking D readers know, senior Air Force and DoD officials are increasingly speaking publicly about the need for the United States to expand its military space activities to cislunar space to counter China — which has a robust civil lunar exploration program that many in the US national security community suspect is a cover for military ambitions. Indeed, SDA’s planned space architecture includes sensors in cislunar space. DARPA’s funding boost for the project reflects its intentions to move from feasibility studies this year to an actual demonstration in a testing environment in 2021.
- Planer Imager — $12m, up from $5m in 2020. “The Planar Imager program seeks to disrupt the state-of-the-art in optical sensors by developing a lightweight, compact, affordable optical payload that can be integrated into a ride-share compatible satellite bus with equivalent imaging performance to current commercial conventional optical imaging satellites,” DARPA’s budget documents explain. “This technology will significantly lower the size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) of high-resolution intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites enabling persistent coverage by an affordable satellite constellation and with a rapid reconstitution ability.” Further, the documents say, these small sensors could be carried on small satellites that could be deployed simultaneously by one launch vehicle — thus pushing down the price of launch. DARPA envisions this program eventually being taken up by the Air Force. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
19 Feb 20. Eyes on the prize for Australia’s space sector, new report reveals. KPMG has released a new report Investment in the Australian Space Sector that reveals an explosion in the nation’s space industry capability and diversity as more capabilities emerge around Australia, but there is room for improvement.
Australia’s space economy grew by 5 per cent in the year since the Australian Space agency was formed with industry revenues exceeding $5bn, a very substantial increase from the $1.4bn in 2009-10.
A new study of the space sector by consultancy firm KPMG projects revenue and employment to continue rising, with revenues of $7bn and some 18,000 jobs by 2023-24.
The government’s space strategy sets an ambitious target of tripling the sector’s contribution to GDP to $12bn and creating an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030.
“Australia is making strong advances in the space sector. While its space agency may be young it is making an impact on the global stage; signing agreements with the world’s leading space agencies and companies and attracting additional funding to the local sector,” KPMG said.
“The industry is growing revenue at a greater rate than the global economy, with regular investment announced from local and foreign sources.
“Compared to Australia’s peers, there is still significant catching up to do. In order to move quickly and sustain the growth the sector is currently enjoying, government, industry and academia will have to work collaboratively and focus on key initiatives to grow the economy further.”
The report said Australia is heavily reliant on start-up companies for its growing space economy, with these businesses make up 87 per cent of the Australian space market.
Global companies including Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Viasat also make significant contributions to the local space economy.
For Australian space companies to grow and develop sustainable revenue, a range of investment sources is required, as well as a strong customer base.
“Venture financing in Australia hit a record high in 2018. While this was dominated by software and technology companies, a number of space companies had successful raises, including Gilmour Space Technologies and Myriota, placing them firmly in the global market,” it said.
“While venture financing softened in 2019, both Fleet Space and Flurosat completed successful funding rounds. Nine Australian space companies were recently listed in the top 250 most admired space companies globally, indicating the diversity and strength of the local space sector.”
The report said industry revenue was growing strongly and remained dominated by satellite communication and broadcasting services, particularly Telstra and Foxtel.
However, reliance on these two players was decreasing.
“Instead, there’s been an increase in direct-to-home TV and satellite communications competition, growing Australian capabilities in manufacturing and broader satellite service offerings, such as Earth observation,” it said.
Government funding had also grown, with more than $200m committed over the next five years, including $41m to establish the Space Agency, $19.5m for the Space Infrastructure Fund, $6 m for the Space Discovery Centre and $150m to support Australia’s participation in NASA’s Artemis and Lunar Gateway missions.
While momentum is growing, the report identified a number of challenges facing the space sector.
There’s the perennial problems of insufficient skilled workers, of attracting and retaining qualified workers and of research institutions successfully engaging with industry.
The Defence Integrated Investment Program was providing a catalyst for investment in Australian defence industry and the space sector would benefit from a similar approach.
KPMG said other nations had been highly successful in accelerating the growth of their space sectors through government and industry initiatives. It cited a number of case studies, including New Zealand’s success with its space sector and Rocket Lab, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck.
“While Rocket Lab have established as a majority US entity, it uses over 1,500 New Zealand companies in the supply chain and launch their rockets domestically,” it said.
The report made a number of recommendations.
“Seek opportunities to address the challenges of other government departments through space applications, such as the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. This will enable the allocation of funding which will encourage international brands to establish in Australia and new, local space companies to grow with them,” it said.
“Encourage all jurisdictions to contribute to the Agency’s vision of market growth, based on each ones unique strengths.
“Generate a long-term plan to allow all stakeholders to understand prioritisation and future long-term requirements. This will facilitate access to funding, greater integration and longer-term investment in Australian space sector organisations.” (Source: Space Connect)
18 Feb 20. SD, the business, military, and government aviation solutions provider, is expanding its hardware portfolio with the launch of a new tail-mounted antenna series. The announcement, which heralds the launch of the SD Plane Simple™ antenna portfolio, positions SD as a single source provider of end-to-end connectivity solutions for business jet and government operators worldwide.
The new tail-mounted antenna system offers two variants for operation in Ku- or Ka-band frequencies. The Ku-band variant is expected to be available for STC in early 2021, followed by the Ka-band version later in the year. With only two line-replaceable units (LRUs) and a network agnostic design, the common form factor and wiring simplify the installation, which allows owners and operators to equip aircraft with a connectivity system compatible with future technological developments. Partnerships with Inmarsat for Jet ConneX service delivery and Intelsat for FlexExec connectivity have already been established.
The Plane Simple antenna series also provides SD with greater insight into system performance thus streamlining and enhancing the SD support process. “Until now customers may have had to contact two or three companies to integrate or troubleshoot the equipment and services needed for consistent connectivity. Now with the Plane Simple antennas added to the SD portfolio, we can rapidly predict and respond to issues before or as they occur,” says Jim Jensen, SD Founder and CEO.
SD is investing in antenna development to make secure, flexible, reliable solutions available to a wider segment of the business and government aviation communities than ever before. The tail-mounted antennas will support super-mid to large-size jets and are being developed in partnership with Germany-based QEST Quantenelektronische Systeme GmbH, a worldwide market leader in innovative aeronautical antennas. SD is already partnered with QEST to develop an electronically steered, fuselage mounted phased-array antenna. The lightweight, low profile, modular antenna will deliver high-speed connectivity via upcoming LEO constellations, when it comes to market in late 2022. SD is also developing the Plane Simple Certus terminal, which will enhance operational safety and provide access to consistent connectivity through the global Iridium NEXT constellation. This builds on the existing agreement which sees COMSAT, an SD company, as the exclusive Iridium Certus service provider for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
“We are committed to delivering the best-in-class aircraft connectivity experiences, which augment operational efficiencies through the SD ecosystem of hardware, software, infrastructure, and data synchronization, all of which is supported by an award-winning customer care team. For the first time, operators will be able to choose the connectivity system that best meets their mission requirements and also positions their aircraft ahead of technological changes in the satellite sector,” concludes Jensen.
19 Feb 20. NSW government positions state to take advantage of booming space economy. NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres has announced the launch of the state government’s $5m ‘NSW Space Industry Development Strategy’.
The NSW Space Industry Development Strategy will maximise opportunities for NSW businesses to take advantage of the growing demand for space technologies estimated to be worth $420bn globally.
The $5m space strategy will include the delivery of a National Space Industry Hub, located in the Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct, with expressions of interest to run the hub being released shortly.
NSW Space Industry Development Strategy will maximise opportunities for NSW businesses to take advantage of the growing demand for space technologies estimated to be worth $420bn globally.
“Nearly every industry is looking to increase its output and improve its efficiency through space-enabled technologies. As a state and a nation we have been experiencing a catastrophic and unprecedented bushfire season. The Rural Fire Service was able to use space-enabled technologies to assist in predicting the conditions and arming the first responders with the right information and resources,” Minister Ayres explained.
The state is also searching for a delivery partner to facilitate access to space for start-ups and researchers looking to commercialise their technologies.
“As the country’s leading high-tech research and manufacturing state, NSW has the necessary combination of technical expertise, advanced manufacturing and university support to seize and nurture these opportunities,” Minister Ayres added.
NSW space industry ambassador Dr Paul Scully-Power said, “The highly innovative and technically sophisticated global space industry is rapidly expanding, and this strategy will help NSW solidify its position as the nation leader in the commercial space sector.”
Kirby Ikin, managing director of Sydney-based space consulting firm Asia Pacific Aerospace Consultants, added, “Australia is second after the USA in the creation of start-up companies in space related fields and the majority of those are located in NSW, along with most of the venture capital funds which make these businesses possible.”
The NSW Space Industry Development Strategy identifies the areas of competitive advantage NSW enjoys, including:
- Space systems;
- Launch and support services;
- Ground systems;
- Space-enabled services and applications;
- R&D; and
- Education and training.
Minister Ayres’ ministerial statement articulated NSW’s position within Australia’s growing space industry: “NSW is well placed to unlock the benefits provided by these opportunities. It has the largest concentration of space-related activity in the country, with more than 40 per cent of the nation’s space businesses and more than a third of space start-ups.”
NSW currently accounts for 41 per cent of all Australian space businesses and 35 per cent of Australia’s university space research and development.
The full NSW Government Space Industry Development strategy is available here https://www.business.nsw.gov.au/industry-sectors/industry-opportunities/space (Source: Space Connect)
19 Feb 20. Shetland Space Centre Receives £2m Boost to Initiate Satellite Launch Programme. Shetland Space Centre’s (SSC) plan to build and operate the UK’s only satellite launch site has been given a major boost by a £2,050,000 investment from Leonne International, the international private equity firm. The cash injection, which gives Leonne a 20 per cent stake in the business, will be used for future growth of the company, such as the development of the launch site and ground station at the most northerly tip of Britain – the island of Unst in Shetland. This was identified in the Sceptre Report, an independent report commissioned for the UK Space Agency, as the optimal location in the UK for launching small satellites into space, a rapidly growing sector of the international economy.
SSC’s integrated business model creates revenues from launch, ground and tourism. Shetland’s space economy should be seen as a unique and very valuable asset to the UK where it can support the work done by the other sector initiatives and clusters in the rapidly growing “New Space” economy.
SSC also has support from within the Unst and broader Shetland communities, as well as a proactive and supportive relationship with the local authority, Shetland Islands Council. Critically, the landowner and crofting community have recognised the benefits both locally and to Scotland and the UK and have agreed to lease the required land to the project and SSC does not anticipate any major environmental issues. SSC intends to create an international exemplar by developing a green space centre and showcasing that space and its numerous applications are a “force for good” as well as creating employment and attracting new business opportunities to Shetland in particular.
For the last two-and-a-half years SSC has been developing its plans and collaborating with space industry giants such as Lockheed Martin, Aecom and ArianeGroup and also working closely with legitimate industry newcomers such as Rocket Factory Augsburg and Skyrora, the Edinburgh-domiciled Scottish Launch Provider, Raptor Aerospace, B2Space and C6 as well as Scottish Enterprise, Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities and the Technical University of Munich. SSC has also partnered with Goonhilly and the Cornwall Space Centre, ensuring the UK makes the most of its geography by having a space footprint at both its northern and southern tips. SSC is also working very closely with Faroese Telecom as it seeks to build relationships around the Arctic economy.
Frank Strang MBE, CEO of Shetland Space Centre, comments:
“We are delighted to have Leonne International as a partner in realising the benefits of space exploration for the UK, and for Shetland’s economy: bringing jobs, revitalising the economy, attracting visitors and establishing Shetland as a northern hub supporting vertical launch and ground station activity. Mike Haston and his team at Leonne International bring tremendous enthusiasm, drive and belief to the business which will turbo charge an already dynamic and fast moving project. Just as his grandfather Dougal, a thoughtful visionary and one of Scotland’s legendary rock climbers, pioneered Scottish winter climbing and conquered the world’s biggest and most dangerous mountains, I have no doubt that Mike will lead the way into this next frontier and help us conquer the new space economy for Britain.
“Importantly, the investment enables us to proceed with the first stages of gaining the necessary permissions and licenses required to operate the facility and get on with building our launch site and ground station.
“Furthermore, the funding validates what we and, crucially, the wider space industry has been saying for several years now – that Shetland is absolutely the right location for kick-starting the UK’s entry into this rapidly growing market.”
Michael Haston, CEO, Leonne International, said: “We are always excited to partner with firms which exhibit ambition, innovation and excitement, and Shetland Space Centre exceeds this criteria with the plans they have in place for their satellite launch programme. With the help of the SSC, Shetland’s space economy is unique and will inevitably become a very valuable asset to the UK.” (Source: PR Newswire)
18 Feb 20. Two space-related projects receive R&D support from CRC Project grants. Two space-related projects have been selected for funding in the latest round of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grants, which support short-term collaborative research activities.
These were announced by Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, who said $289m in funding has been committed to CRC-Ps since 2016, building on the government’s plan to strengthen Australian industry and create 1.25 m new jobs in the next five years.
The first space project grant of $2.85m went to Liquid Instruments, the Australian National University (ANU) and EOS Space Systems, which are developing next-generation test and measurement devices for photonics sensing.
“This project will commercialise advanced test and measurement technology to enable high-performance optics and photonics sensing for industrial, education and defence applications,” the grant announcement said.
“It will enhance the competitiveness of Liquid Instruments and EOS Space Systems in global markets. Optical technologies are transforming a range of industries.
“Today, Australia’s ground water is monitored by a satellite laser system. Soon, high-power laser systems will defend airports against drones, autonomous cars will use laser ranging systems and laser communications will provide a deep-space internet and globally accessible, secure military communications. These sensing technologies will unlock access to $100bn global markets for Australian companies.”
The overall project is worth $7.78m and will run for three years.
The second, worth $3m, went to Gilmour Space Technologies, The Trustee for the Teakle Composites Trust and University of Southern Queensland for the manufacture of lightweight rocket fuel tanks.
That’s intended to make access to space more affordable.
The three organisations will develop composite rocket fuel tanks for low-cost space transport, and will manufacture composite fuel tanks up to two metres in diameter and trial them in rocket flights.
“The project will demonstrate the critical technologies in manufacturing linerless, filament wound composite tanks for liquid oxygen,” the announcement said.
“The consortium will manufacture cryogenic linerless composite fuel tanks up to two metres in diameter and trial them in rocket flights. The project outcomes will achieve up to 30 per cent weight savings and 25 per cent cost savings for Gilmour commercial rocket launch services.”
Gilmore Space founder and chief executive Adam Gilmour welcomed the federal government funding as the company prepares to launch its first commercial rocket to orbit in 2022.
“We are grateful to receive this funding, which will allow us to develop world-class composite materials and components for our orbital launch vehicles – making our rockets more efficient and reducing the cost of access to space,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Feb 20. Japanese space junk removal firm Astroscale to work with JAXA. Japan’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has selected space company Astroscale as its partner for the first ever mission specifically to remove space junk.
The large piece of junk is an upper stage of an old Japanese rocket and success could open the way for commercial space debris remediation.
What’s called the JAXA Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration project (CRD2) comprises two phases, with the first awarded to Astroscale and to be conducted in 2022-23.
Astroscale’s part will be to manufacture, launch and operate a satellite that will survey the rocket body and the debris environment.
The objective is to find out more about its movement and the surrounding debris to facilitate safe and successful removal by phase two.
Should Astroscale be awarded the phase two contract, and there would appear to be no reason why it wouldn’t, it will have until 31 March 2026 — the end of Japan’s fiscal year — to de-orbit the derelict upper stage.
“The data obtained in Phase I of CRD2 is expected to reinforce the dangers of existing debris and the necessity to remove them,” said Astroscale founder and chief executive Nobu Okada.
“Debris removal is still a new market and our mission has always been to establish routine debris removal services in space in order to secure orbital sustainability for the benefit of future generations. The international community is growing more aware of the risks of space debris and we are committed more than ever to turning this potential market into a reality.”
Okada founded Astroscale in 2013 with the sole purpose of cleaning up orbital space. He sees this as necessary for long-term sustainable activity in orbit.
The growing problem of space junk has long been recognised and is increasing as more satellites are placed in orbit by more nations and companies.
Risk of collision in space is growing. Just last month two derelict satellites, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4), came perilously close to colliding, missing each other by a matter of metres.
Any collision would produce a field of fast moving space debris that could endanger other satellites.
The worst possible outcome would be a chain reaction thatt produced so much debris in low-Earth orbit that space was rendered inaccessible, potentially indefinitely.
Okada, who made his money in IT, developed a passion for space when attending Space Camp in the US as a student. In 2013, he attended a space conference in Germany at which space junk was discussed in detail.
Unimpressed that no one had a firm plan to do something, he went straight out and founded Astroscale.
Others are also interested in commercial debris removal. Last December, the European Space Agency awarded Swiss start-up ClearSpace a contract to remove another derelict rocket upper stage by 2025. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Feb 20. Queensland launches space strategy to create high value added niche capability. Queensland has launched its own space strategy, with ambitions to play a niche role in the global space economy, which could be worth as much as $1.7bn to the state with 6,000 new jobs over the next two decades.
The strategy, prepared by consultancy Deloitte Access Economics, said the Queensland space economy has grand ambitions of its own, to grow and to be globally recognised.
But, these ambitions are grounded in the reality that Queensland is a small player in a global supply chain, it said.
“The aim is not to compete with the entrenched agglomerations in the US, China and Europe. The aim is to continue to develop niche, globally competitive, high value added goods and services that can be exported to the world,” it said.
The report said Queensland’s competitive advantages lie in its geographic location, which provides unique opportunities for space systems, launch activities, ground systems and space-enabled services.
“This has fostered pockets of niche capability across the space supply chain created by a small, yet highly specialised community,” it said.
“Evidence of this is particularly poignant in the research and development sub-sector in Queensland that has grown from sustained long-term investment by Queensland universities.”
Queensland is home to two of the most active rocket launch proponents in Australia, Gilmour Aerospace and Black Sky Aerospace.
Both have access to interim launch facilities but not a fully operational launch site capable of supporting commercial launches.
Queensland’s geography – proximity to the equator, wide open spaces and long coastline – give the state considerable advantages for launching rockets into equatorial and polar orbits.
However, the report said that geographic location is not yet being exploited to its full potential and a lack of the respective physical infrastructure in the launch activities and ground systems sub-sectors may hinder growth.
The study outlined three scenarios for growth of the state’s space sector.
The conservative growth scenario puts the Queensland space industry around $1.1bn in value added and 4,000 jobs, the medium at $1.3bn in added value added with around 5,000 job, and high growth scenario projects value added of $1.7bn in value added and 6,000 jobs.
The strategy said the future of Queensland’s space industry is strong and there are opportunities.
“However, this is an industry where connections matter, where reputations matter and where entrenched competitive advantages arise as the result of decades of investment in specialised capability – this is not an industry that can be built overnight,” it said.
“Queensland is fortunate that decisions made decades ago have created the conditions for an industry ripe for growth.”
The report notes that Australia and its states and territories have not had the same history of long-term government investment in space as other international jurisdictions.
“The global space economy today is characterised by an increasing number of private organisations and investors – and so too will Queensland’s growing space industry. The changing nature of space activities and the growth of non-traditional space actors requires consideration be given to the appropriate role of governments in emerging space economies,” it said.
That can include regulation and legislation and approval processes.
“Ensuring the optimisation of skills development in Queensland will provide an important platform for the space industry and its development in Queensland,” the report said.
“Physical infrastructure can, in some instances, act as the catalyst for space activity to grow at a rapid rate.” (Source: Space Connect)
17 Feb 20. Mitsubishi Electric Completes New Satellite Production Facility. Expanded capacity expected to help grow space systems business. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503) announced today that it has completed construction of a new facility for the production of satellites at the company’s Kamakura Works in Kamakura, Japan. Together with existing facilities, Mitsubishi Electric’s combined annual capacity will increase to 18 satellites, up from 10 at present, which will enable the company to satisfy the growing demand for governmental satellites in Japan and commercial communication satellites worldwide.
The new facility will increase production efficiency, shorten production time, reduce costs and elevate product quality for enhanced competitiveness. It will incorporate information technologies based on Mitsubishi Electric’s e-F@ctory solutions, which extract hidden benefits from existing resources through integrated automation to realize improved efficiencies, reduced costs and increased productivity. In addition, the new facility will incorporate Mitsubishi Electric products, such as a heat pump air-conditioning system, LED lights and high-efficiency transformers to further reduce energy consumption.
The Japanese market for governmental satellites is expected to grow under the country’s Basic Plan for Space Policy, which calls for the development of observation, communication and positioning satellites that support daily life and facilitate the commercial use of space for the enhancement of Japan’s industrial and scientific foundations. Last year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced its participation in the U.S. government’s Gateway project targeting a manned station near the moon, which is expected to stimulate increased demand for governmental satellites. Separately, the global market for small communication and observation satellites also is envisioned growing.
Mitsubishi Electric’s long involvement with satellites includes the Himawari-7, -8 and -9 weather satellites, the Superbird-C2—Japan’s first commercial communications satellite, QZS high-accuracy positioning satellite systems, and the Es’hail-2 for Qatar Satellite Company in Qatar. Going forward, Mitsubishi Electric aims to more widely apply technologies it cultivates for governmental satellites to enhance its position in expanding fields, such as next-generation-engineering test satellites. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
15 Feb 20. MDA-Developed Columbus Ka-Band Terminal (COLKa) Starts Journey to the International Space Station. MDA, a Maxar Technologies company (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), today announced that technology developed by its UK division in partnership with the UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency has begun its journey to the International Space Station (ISS). The European Space Agency (ESA)’s Columbus Ka-Band Terminal (COLKa) was launched today aboard the NG-13 Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS. The MDA-built terminal will complement existing communication systems on board the ISS and utilise the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS). Operating in the Ka-band, COLKa will enable dramatically higher communications bandwidth between ESA’s Columbus laboratory module on the ISS and ground stations and will provide ESA with an independent connection for faster delivery of scientific data and high-definition video. As a result, UK and European scientists and researchers will be able to see results of their ISS science experiments almost instantaneously.
COLKa was designed, developed and integrated by MDA Space and Robotics Limited in the UK, using funding provided by the UK Space Agency through the ESA Human Spaceflight program, the Canadian Space Agency through its cooperation agreement with the ESA, through the ESA ARTES program as well as through internal investment. MDA was supported on the project by Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace and Antwerp Space, both of which made significant contributions to the development of key subsystems.
“This is the first major industrial contribution from the UK to the ISS, and it will revolutionise the ability of scientists in the UK and Europe to access the results of their experiments,” said Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency. “This is yet another example of the UK economy benefiting, through investment, jobs and new skills, from our continued collaboration with the European Space Agency.”
“The COLKa program has firmly established MDA in the UK as a leading provider of high-quality space equipment, positioning us for continued business growth and new jobs in both communications and space sensor markets,” said David Kenyon, Managing Director of MDA Space and Robotics Limited in the UK. Two astronauts will carry out a spacewalk later this year to mount COLKa to the outside of the Columbus module on the ISS. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
13 Feb 20. $90m for Astranis to Support the Launch of the Company’s First Satellite. Astranis has received $90m in a financing round to launch the company’s first commercial satellite and build the foundation for the internet infrastructure of the future — the round was led by Venrock, with significant participation from existing investor Andreessen Horowitz.
Astranis aims to solve a problem in the modern space race that hasn’t been cracked: bringing the next four billion people online with low-cost, reliable internet. The $120bn market is growing quickly – demand for internet is rising 40% per year, every year – but until now, there has been no practical, cost-effective solution for bringing internet access to remote parts of the world. Astranis is singularly focused on solving this problem.
Astranis is building a first-of-its-kind micro-geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite that is 20 times smaller in size than that of its predecessors – just 350kg. – compared to traditional satellites that are upwards of 6,500kg. The satellite’s secret sauce is a flexible, ultra-wideband software-defined radio technology that allows Astranis to replace heavy and bulky analog radio hardware with lightweight, compact, digital alternatives. The satellites are small enough to be manufactured and launched in months instead of years, all with more bandwidth than was previously possible with the same form size.
The Series B round includes $40m of equity financing led by Venrock with continued investment from Andreessen Horowitz and participation from existing investors Fifty Years, Refactor Capital and Y Combinator, among other funds and angel investors. The recent fundraising also includes a debt facility of up to $50m from TriplePoint Capital, which Astranis will use to support current and future projects.
The company is in talks to kick off new projects around the world in 2020 and 2021 by partnering with internet service providers (ISPs), established satellite operators, governments and many others. Astranis has raised more than $108m in financing to date. As part of the most recent financing round, Ethan Batraski and Dan Berkenstock, founding CEO of Skybox, joined the Astranis Board of Directors.
Astranis was founded in 2015 by John Gedmark and Ryan McLinko. Astranis’s team includes leaders and engineers from premier satellite and space programs, including SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Skybox, Planet Labs, and NASA, in addition to top talent from Qualcomm, Apple and Google. After tripling its headcount in 2019, Astranis is now a team of more than 100 people.
Ethan Batraski, partner at Venrock, said that global connectivity is an industry prime for disruption. Astranis’s team and microsatellite technology put them in a strong position to fulfill the needs of the new market, which is vastly different than the market of 20 or 30 years ago.
John Gedmark, CEO and co-founder of Astranis, added the the company knows that increasing internet access can change lives for the better, especially for people living in developing countries and the world’s most remote locations. By connecting those who need connectivity the most, Astranis is encouraging health, learning, and entrepreneurship across the world. (Source: Satnews)
12 Feb 20. Spaceflight Industries Strikes Deal to Sell Rideshare Launch Business; Will Focus on BlackSky Satellites. Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries says it has signed a deal to sell Spaceflight Inc., its satellite rideshare launch subsidiary, to one of Japan’s largest trading companies.
The definitive share purchase agreement, reached with Mitsui & Co. Ltd. in partnership with Yamasa Co. Ltd., will have to be reviewed over the next few months by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to evaluate national security aspects of the acquisition — but the companies expect the deal to be approved by midyear.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Spaceflight Industries said it would leverage the capital from the Spaceflight Inc. deal to accelerate the growth of BlackSky, its geospatial intelligence business. BlackSky already has four of its own Earth-observing satellites in orbit and plans to add eight more to the constellation this year. Four of those satellites are due to be sent into orbit on the maiden launch of India’s SSLV rocket.
Brian O’Toole, president of Spaceflight Industries and CEO of BlackSky, said the deal is a win-win for BlackSky and Spaceflight Inc.
“Both companies are poised for a new phase of rapid growth,” he said today in a news release. “This acquisition is a significant step in driving our strategy forward. BlackSky will continue to partner with Spaceflight’s ridesharing and launch service experts to meet our aggressive launch schedule.”
Spaceflight Industries also has a Tukwila, Wash.-based joint venture with Thales Alenia Space, known as LeoStella, which builds satellites for BlackSky and other customers. The deal announced today has no impact on LeoStella.
Spaceflight Inc. will continue operations as an independent U.S.-based company headquartered in Seattle, and Curt Blake will continue to serve as CEO and president. He’ll report to a newly formed board of directors established with a majority of U.S. based members.
In a blog posting, Blake said a separate subsidiary will be established with a board of directors composed of U.S. persons, so as to minimize any impact on U.S. government customers.
“We are committed to building the necessary business infrastructure to ensure our customers, both commercial and government, are fully supported and poised for growth,” Blake said.
Since its founding in 2010, Spaceflight Inc. has handled launch logistics for 271 satellites on 29 rockets. It’s planning more than 10 missions in 2020 across five different launch vehicles.
Its most notable rideshare mission came a little more than a year ago when it arranged for the launch of 64 small satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Since then, SpaceX has gotten into the satellite rideshare launch business in its own right, basically leaving out Spaceflight Inc. as the middleman. The advent of small-scale launch providers such as Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit has further complicated the rideshare market.
At the same time, Spaceflight Industries’ investors and executives have turned increasing attention to BlackSky’s side of the business. Although the parent company has been headquartered in Seattle since its founding, the center of gravity has been shifting to Herndon, Va., where O’Toole is based. Spaceflight Industries’ founding CEO, Jason Andrews, left the company more than a year ago.
In today’s news release, Spaceflight Industries said the planned acquisition is “a unique opportunity for Spaceflight to further invest and expand its commercial and government rideshare launch services while Mitsui & Co. expands its portfolio to offer space services.”
Blake said Spaceflight Inc. will remain committed to its goal of enabling routine, reliable and affordable access to space.
“The acquisition provides an opportunity to be part of a high-growth international portfolio, which offers deep expertise and investment opportunities,” Blake said.
In his blog posting, Blake said “the biggest, most obvious benefit is growth.” Spaceflight Inc. will keep its current team intact and will be “hiring a handful of new positions this year to support our business operations and ever-growing launch schedule,” he said.
Mitsui, whose interests range from energy and infrastructure to food and fashion, was one of investors participating in a $150m Series C funding round for Spaceflight Industries that closed in 2018.
“Spaceflight has demonstrated its ability to push boundaries and achieve success, and we are eager to bring them into the Mitsui & Co. portfolio,” Tomohiro Musha, general manager of Mitsui’s aerospace systems and rail leasing division, said in the news release.
In addition to Mitsui, Spaceflight Industries’ investors include Vulcan Capital, the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment arm; PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management; RRE Venture Capital; Razor’s Edge Ventures; and The Space Alliance, a partnership involving Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio. (Source: Satnews)
10 Feb 20. NewSpace Networks Raises $200m for Edge Computing Via Space Connectivity. NewSpace Networks has raised $200m to transform the industry from being hardware-focused to software-centric — the company will accomplish this through a combination of acquisition, investment and internal product development and already has products under development that will be available later this year, along with key acquisition targets identified and in process.
Deploying aerospace infrastructure is currently slow, costly and highly proprietary, which limits its use to a small segment of the commercial and government market, stifling innovation and adoption.
NewSpace is focused on changing this by addressing four areas: affordability, efficiency, scalability, and adaptability to multiple market segments. The founding team has unique acquisition and operational experience from aerospace and enterprise software companies such as Lockheed Martin, VMware, Citrix, RSA Security and Akamai.
According to some estimates in the press, $48bn will be spent deploying more than 10,000 next-generation communication satellites which will connect to more than 15 million remote locations around the globe. These require a wide-ranging set of advanced two-way communication solutions in order to maximize network efficiency. Additionally, the explosion of remotely-generated data by a variety of devices will produce over 175 Zettabytes annually by 2025, stressing current Cloud connectivity and necessitating data reduction at the source (IDC, 2019). These two market dynamics will create significant new opportunities and the need for a more holistic approach to the way solutions are designed and built.
NewSpace has developed a targeted list of integrated innovations and investment areas. The company’s initial products will address the unique challenges of edge computing via space connectivity. Additional technologies will include:
- Data analytics and analysis
- Cloud integration
- Network optimization
- Virtualization and Hyperconvergence
- Space and air integration
- Security and encryption
- Application lifecycle management
- IoT enablement
NewSpace founders bring decades of experience across aerospace, cloud, information security, and networking. The company was co-founded by Shaun Coleman, John Metzger and Robert Cleave, who have collectively founded multiple startups resulting in acquisitions by Ungermann-Bass Networks, McAfee, and VMware. Coleman was the first investor and co-founder of space access company Vector Launch, Inc., and led its GalacticSky satellite division, which created the world’s first intelligent software-defined satellite. He co-authored, with Cleave and Metzger, more than 20 issued U.S. and international patents that Lockheed Martin is currently seeking to acquire.
NewSpace has partnered with GlobalView Strategic Advisors, a member of GlobalView Group, to assist with strategy, capital raising and M&A. GlobalView’s principals, David Orner and Ryan Orner, bring years of experience developed across top-tier finance and investment banking firms, including Merrill Lynch, CIBC World Markets, CIT Aerospace and Defense and ING Group.
Jim Simon, a former senior government official and industry executive, said NewSpace is applying modern enterprise software technology to the aerospace industry to horizontally integrate diverse air and space systems. This strategy positions it well to fundamentally change the industry. Quick and less expensive innovation is absolutely critical to not only commercial but government customers as well.”
NewSpace’s co-founder, Shaun Coleman, commented that digital terrestrial transformation would not be occurring without the internet and Cloud computing. The successful commercialization of space will only be achieved with similar software-based infrastructure to innovate upon. Yet, today, there is no purpose-built Amazon AWS, VMware or Cisco for aerospace deployments. NewSpace is building, partnering and acquiring this much-needed capability.
David Orner, Partner at GlobalView, said the company is thrilled to be working with the talented management team at NewSpace. They have developed a clear and actionable vision for the future of aerospace and satellite technologies. (Source: Satnews)
10 Feb 20. SMC’s $253m to Northrop Grumman for Anti-jam Communications to Warfighters and More. The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Development Corps. has signed a $253.6m payload development award to Northrop Grumman for the first of up to four separate payload development awards for the Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) acquisition.
This effort, in alignment with SMC delivering warfighting capability at E.P.I.C. Speed (Enterprise, Partnership, Innovation, Culture and Speed), uses the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 804 – “Middle Tier of Acquisition for Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Fielding,” and the FY 2016 NDAA Section 815 – “Amendments to Other Transaction Authority” to achieve an affordable, rapidly delivered, operational capability for tactical warfighters.
PTS is the space component of the Protected Anti-jam Tactical SATCOM family-of-systems architecture that will provide resilient, worldwide, beyond line-of-sight, anti-jam communications to our tactical warfighters, resulting in improved combat effectiveness and fewer combat losses. PTS is a SMC Pacesetter program, demonstrating new processes while delivering rapid capabilities, and supporting SMC’s commitment to radically reducing time from acquisition to warfighter use.
Colonel Dennis O. Bythewood, program executive officer for SMC’s Development Corps., stated the organization is excited to partner with Northrup Grumman to enable the rapid development of a protected communications prototype payload. The technology maturation and prototyping effort conducted under the SpEC (Space Enterprise Consortium) Other Transaction Authority will allow SMC to harness the innovation of partnerships between traditional defense and non-traditional/small business contractors with a projected on-orbit capability three years earlier than a traditional acquisition.
Additionally, the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) communications satellite was successfully transferred to Space Operations Command (SpOC).
After successful completion of AEHF-5 on-orbit testing, SMC transferred Satellite Control Authority to the SpOC with AEHF-5 now under the control of military operators located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. This significant achievement marks the final AEHF-5 milestone and the first transition of a satellite to the warfighter under the United States Space Force.
Launched on August 8, 2019, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V 551 launch vehicle, AEHF-5 continues to ensure the health of the protected satellite communications constellation and its vital national security mission. AEHF is a joint-Service satellite communications system providing survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets. AEHF provides 10 times the throughput with a substantial increase in coverage for users, satisfying the ever-growing need to provide higher rates of data to support the warfighter worldwide.
AEHF provides connectivity across the spectrum of mission areas, including land, air and naval warfare; special operations; strategic nuclear operations; strategic defense; theater missile defense, and space operations and intelligence. AEHF also provides protected satellite communications to our International Partners Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia. AEHF is the follow-on to the Milstar system, which augments, improves and expands DOD’s Military Satellite Communications architecture.
The sixth and final AEHF-6 satellite is scheduled to launch next month aboard an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Colonel John Dukes, senior materiel leader, Space Production Corps’ Geosynchronous Orbit Division, said this was very much a team effort from industry partners and dedicated Government professionals, with their focus on mission success this major milestone was accomplished. AEHF satellites play a critical role for the warfighter and the defense of the nation. Space is fundamental to everyone’s way of life… the nation’s economy relies on space and this reliance will continue to grow. (Source: Satnews)
10 Feb 20. Alba Orbital Introduces Turn-Key Ground Station System. Alba Orbital has unveiled AlbaConnect, a new Rapidly Deployable combined UHF/S Band Ground Station System for a global satellite network that allows clients to control satellite communications and process data without having to worry about building, leasing or managing their own satellite ground station infrastructure.
The AlbaConnect service provides secure satellite access and an affordable turn-key solution to satellite communications optimized for smallsats in LEO using UHF/S Band frequencies, democratizing access to space in the process. Customers can either buy access to Alba Orbital’s own infrastructure or can purchase their own Rapidly Deployable Ground Station at a competitive price.
The features and benefits of AlbaConnect include…
- A complete ground station solution for those looking to communicate with LEO satellites
- A steerable UHF/S-Band antenna system
- Compact, portable and rapidly deployable setup
- Capable of delivering telemetry, tracking and control to users during the complete satellite lifespan
Tom Walkinshaw, CEO and Founder at Alba Orbital Ltd, said that as accessing ground stations or other ground infrastructure is expensive, the company aims to provide a commercially viable alternative to this at a competitive price by developing and supporting global satellite ground infrastructure development. AlbaConnect fills in the gaps for teams looking to deploy their MVPs in orbit for the first time. (Source: Satnews)
10 Feb 20. Forrester Reports: Doubts Remain for the C-Band Alliance. A new posting by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite relates that it has been a worrying month or two — the industry saw strong reports that Intelsat was considering a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, that the C-Band Alliance’s members would simply walk away from handing over their long-held U.S. spectrum and that, in the event of a negative response from the FCC, there would follow years of litigation. Not the least of which, there’s been the never-ending battle of filings to the FCC arguing the merits – and otherwise – of a private vs. public auction.
That dark scenario was lifted a little on Thursday, February 6, when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai delivered positive news for the Alliance. While Pai’s decision wasn’t quite what the more optimistic number crunchers had hoped for (anything from $20-$77bn), but $9.7bn as an incentive payment, plus up to $5bn for restructuring and relocation including the cost of new satellites, could be much, much worse.
The $9.7bn incentive offer does come with caveats: first, the CBA (and Eutelsat) must clear the first 100 MHz of C-band spectrum by September 2021 (Phase 1) and wrap the complete 280 MHz clearances by September 2023 (Phase 2). There is an absolute deadline of September 30th 2025 (see below).
The FCC’s full 185-page/360+ paragraph draft ruling unveiled quite a few challenges for the CBA (and Eutelsat), not least the penalties for failing to meet the FCC’s timetable.
“Given that the members of the C-Band Alliance and Eutelsat manage most of the C-band satellite traffic today and are the most knowledgeable parties about their operations in the C-band, we are inclined to give the C-Band Alliance and Eutelsat the opportunity to make good on their claims that they can relocate existing C-band operations into the upper 200 megahertz quickly and to provide incentives for them to do so. We nonetheless recognize that the transition may take longer than the C-Band Alliance and Eutelsat claimed was necessary as a technical matter. Given the reasoned skepticism of many in the record and our own agreement with commenters that this transition will be an enormous and complex task, we adopt a somewhat longer Relocation Deadline of five years to ensure the protection of incumbent earth stations should the transition take longer than the C-Band Alliance has forecast,” states the FCC.
“Space station operators that fail to clear their existing services from the lower 300 megahertz by the final Relocation Deadline will not receive reimbursement for their reasonable relocation costs or any additional Accelerated Relocation Payments, and will also be subject to penalties,” adds the FCC.
Investment bank Berenberg, in a note to clients on February 10, said that after months of speculation, it could now say, with reasonable certainty, what C-band reallocation is worth to the satellite operators.
The bank’s main focus was SES and they stated, “SES will receive just under $4bn gross. The FCC has also established the allocation of payments. It proposes that SES should receive $983m for clearing the first 120MHz of spectrum (Phase I) and $3bn for the remainder (Phase II). Phase I must be completed by 30 September 2021, while Phase II is due by 30 September 2023. However, both payments are dependent on meeting the Phase II deadline, so SES will have to provide a letter of credit that covers the Phase I payment, such that if it does not meet Phase II, it will have to repay the money received in relation to Phase I.”
The payments are worth €5 a share to SES, said the bank. “We have assumed, per SES management prior guidance, that the company will pay tax on the accelerated relocation payments, at a rate of 25 percent. After also adjusting for the fact that the money will be received at the end of 2021 and then the end of 2023, we estimate that these payments should be worth around €5 per SES share. This is significant, both relative to the current share price but also considered versus the fair value of SES without these payments: we estimate this as just over €11/share.”
However, there are risks, said the bank. “While it may be tempting to think we should just add the €5 to our core value, there are risks. There may be opposition to the amount of accelerated relocation payments (Senator Kennedy has been vocal in this regard) and the FCC’s proposal may not pass. Equally, SES may not succeed in meeting the Phase II deadline, in which case it will not receive any money at all. We take a 25 percent haircut to our €5 to set a new price target of €14.9. While this implies 20 percent upside, we believe that SES will have to lower guidance for 2020, and see the balance sheet as strained, given the significant spike in capex in 2021. We question whether rating agencies (or indeed shareholders) will give the company the benefit of the C-band payments until the Phase II deadline has been met.”
The prospects for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring by Intelsat have not totally vanished. It is still one possibility for the giant operator to put its hugely-indebted house in order. A note to clients by investment bank JPMorgan Chase on February 7 said there is “no reason for bankruptcy in the near-term” given the magnitude of the payments. JPMorgan analyst Philip Cusick said the FCC’s Chairman Pai’s proposal to free up spectrum quickly for 5G networks leaves “little hope” for equity investors.
Cusick downgraded Intelsat to a rare underweight rating after being at neutral the past three months, and at overweight for seven months before that — he removed his price target of $9, writing in a note to clients that “we see little to no fundamental equity value in shares,” given Pai’s proposal. (Source: Satnews)
13 Feb 20. Trump wants US to be less reliant on GPS with new executive order. President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on position, navigation and timing services Feb. 12, encouraging the development of a resilient PNT infrastructure that isn’t exclusively reliant on the Global Positioning System of satellites.
“It is the policy of the United States to ensure that disruption or manipulation of PNT services does not undermine the reliable and efficient functioning of its critical infrastructure,” the executive order reads. “The Federal Government must increase the nation’s awareness of the extent to which critical infrastructure depends on, or is enhanced by, PNT services, and it must ensure critical infrastructure can withstand disruption or manipulation of PNT services. To this end, the Federal Government shall engage the public and private sectors to identify and promote the responsible use of PNT services.”
GPS technology has become ubiquitous over the decades. Developed by the Air Force as a space-based source of PNT data for the military, the system has also enabled significant economic growth, including in such disparate areas as agriculture, telecommunications, financial services, weather forecasting, the electrical grid and much more. GPS has become so critical that a 30-day GPS outage could result in $35-45bn in economic losses, according to an RTI International report sponsored by the National Institute of Standards of Technology.
At the same time, the GPS signal has become a popular target for jamming and spoofing by adversaries hoping to take away the United States’ information advantage.
“Yesterday’s Executive Order signals that the U.S. is taking steps to mitigate the threat of disruption to critical infrastructure that relies on PNT services,” Kevin Coggins, a Booz Allen Hamilton vice president and a former U.S. Army official who oversaw GPS resilience, said in a statement. “This is an important step forward for our national security because the Global Positioning System is among the world’s most-used utilities, yet it is increasingly vulnerable to disruption and cyberattack.”
As part of its efforts, the government will develop PNT profiles meant to describe the responsible use of PNT services, highlight systems dependent on PNT, and detect disruptions or even manipulation of those services. In order to build those profiles, the government plans to test the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to a disruption of GPS or other PNT services.
The policy also calls for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a national plan to develop other PNT services independent of GPS or other global navigation satellite systems, such as the European Union’s Galileo system. The plan, which will be updated every four years, will also look into how the United States can utilize multiple PNT sources to make its critical infrastructure more resilient.
Additionally, the executive order requires the Secretary of Commerce to provide a public source of Coordinated Universal Time that is independent of any global navigation satellite system.
“Today’s Executive Order represents a crucial next step in ongoing efforts to maintain the security, robustness, and redundancy of PNT capabilities, including GPS, that millions of Americans rely on every day. (The GPS Innovation Alliance) looks forward to working with key government stakeholders to support the implementation of this effort,” GPS Innovation Alliance executive director J. David Grossman said in a Feb. 12 statement.
While acknowledging that the new policy is an important step forward, Coggins added that there is more work to do to ensure a more resilient PNT infrastructure.
“As a next step, the federal government should consider cross-industry standards that call for system diversity, spectral diversity, and zero-trust architectures. System diversity addresses the dependence on a single system, such as GPS – some PNT alternatives have a dependence on GPS, therefore will fail should GPS become disrupted,” he said. “Spectral diversity involves using additional frequencies to carry PNT information – such as in systems using eLORAN or multi-GNSS – rather than just having a single frequency that is easy to target. Finally, zero-trust architectures would enable PNT receivers to validate navigation and timing signals prior to using them – rather than blindly trusting what they are told.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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.