Sponsored By Viasat
04 Mar 20. Viasat, Blacktree Technology Sign Agreement to Enhance Support for the Australian Defence Force and Five Eyes Partners.
Agreement Focuses on Providing Advanced Manufacturing and Support Services for Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications Terminals.
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, today announced it signed a Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) with Blacktree Technology,Pty Ltd (Blacktree), an Australian-based communications systems design and integration company, in November 2019. The SAA will enable Viasat and Blacktree to meet the needs of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) requirements, by providing rapid and cost-effective in-country manufacturing and support services for Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications (SATCOM) systems.
Colin Cooper, general manager, Government Systems, Viasat Australia commented, “Our agreement with Blacktree will play a critical role in supporting and expanding UHF support and maintenance resources in Australia, and will provide opportunities to investigate export of UHF products and services to Five Eyes (FVEY) and coalition UHF military SATCOM user nations.”
“Blacktree welcomes the formalisation of the alliance with Viasat, which strengthens a relationship that enhances ongoing innovation and development of UHF SATCOM solutions and support for Defence customers in Australia and internationally,” said Joe Nevin, director, Blacktree Technology.
Viasat’s leadership in critical technology segments such as SATCOM, tactical networks and cybersecurity offers an opportunity for Australia to modernise systems used by the ADF. Viasat is a leader in UHF SATCOM and is working to assure global 25-kHz Demand-Assigned Multiple-Access and next-generation Integrated Waveform (IW) networks and services, enabled by Viasat’s Visual Integrated Satellite communications Information, Operation and Networking (VISION) software platform continue to meet military mission requirements.
Viasat’s Ka-band broadband satellites combined currently offer more bandwidth than any other satellite operator in the world. Viasat is a vertically integrated satellite communications technology and services company, and is a leading provider of highly integrated GEO payloads, components & subsystems, gateway/teleport antenna systems, networking systems, user terminals for fixed & mobile applications, ASICs, MMICS, and/or modules for third party terminal developers.
Importantly from a defence perspective, beginning in 2021, Viasat plans to launch a new, global ViaSat-3 constellation of resilient, flexible and agile high-capacity communications satellites that will improve responsiveness of current and emergent defence mission threats.
Viasat’s Australian Government Systems business is headquartered in Canberra and provides a wide range of defence technology capabilities and sovereign resources to meet Australia’s needs.
The range of products being developed and supported by Blacktree include high-gain UHF helical antenna’s, static and remote-control pedestal systems, filters and diplexers, HPA’s, LNA’s and RF management components. Blacktree’s products are manufactured in Perth, complemented by support teams located in Darwin and Canberra, Australia. (Source: PR Newswire)
06 Mar 20. Aus, New Zealand plan to roll out super accurate satnav by 2023. Australia and New Zealand have moved closer to super accurate navigation with a joint agreement to implement a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS), to operate across both countries.
That will give positioning accuracy to 10 centimetres, down from the current accuracy of the global positioning system (GPS) of 5-10 metres.
The new Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SPAN) will be led by Geoscience Australia and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) under the Australia –New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement.
It’s expected SPAN will be operational by 2023.
Geoscience Australia chief executive officer Dr James Johnson said Australia and New Zealand were working together to bring this world-leading technology to our region, joining countries such as the US, Europe, Russia, India and Japan, which had all successfully invested in an SBAS capability.
“We know through an 18-month trial of SBAS in Australia and New Zealand that decimetre level accuracy will significantly improve productivity and safety in our modern world,” he said.
“The benefits of SBAS were recognised in an independent report by Ernst and Young (EY) in 2019, which showed improved positioning could provide more than $7bn in economic benefits to Australia and New Zealand.”
LINZ chief executive Gaye Searancke said Geoscience Australia and LINZ have a strong and productive working relationship on mutual interests.
“Geoscience Australia and LINZ worked together on the trial of SBAS and our relationship has continued to grow across the Tasman,” she said.
“This means we are confident that SPAN will provide economic efficiencies and safety improvements to sectors important to both our nations, such as agriculture, construction and transport. For example, improved precise positioning will make regional aviation safer and more efficient, which is essential to both our rugged countries.
“Our partnership will also provide a more informed region through better location-based data and mapping, shared marine data and information, and through Earth observations from space.”
The agreement to roll out SPAN was officially announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her visit to Australia late last month.
“The prime ministers welcomed the expansion of collaborative activities under the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement, including the launch of a trans-Tasman cyber security research program, completion of the ground breaking satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) trial and investigations into the feasibility of developing a shared trans-Tasman SBAS service,” the PMs said in their joint statement.
That follows 18 months of successful trials, assessing the usefulness of SBAS in 27 projects across a range of industries including agriculture, aviation and transport.
SBAS uses both space-based and ground-based infrastructure to improve the accuracy and integrity of basic Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, such as those currently provided by GPS.
SBAS is well developed internationally with systems such as WAAS in the US and EGNOS in Europe.
SBAS works by monitoring satellite GPS signals, calculating corrections, and uploading them to a satellite in geostationary orbit for broadcast to aircraft and other users. (Source: Defence Connect)
06 Mar 20. Mission Microwave Technologies, LLC, a manufacturer of highly efficient Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs) and Block Upconverters (BUCs) is introducing new Ka-band high power products at the SATELLITE 2020 industry event in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Mission Microwave has produced a family of wide-band Ka-band SSPAs to support LEO, MEO or GEO constellations from a single gateway station. Offered in commercial models within the range of up to 27 GHz to 30 GHz, these GaN based SSPAs are designed to be form, fit and function drop in replacements for Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) commonly used on gateway ground stations. These new products take advantage of the knowledge and experience gained from deployment of Mission’s existing product lines, which already lead the industry in mobile Ku and Ka-Band BUC deployments for commercial and Government SATCOM terminals.
“Customers have long been demanding high power SSPAs to replace TWT Amplifiers,” offered Mission Microwave’s President and CEO, Francis Auricchio. “Our latest amplifier is the most advanced GaN SSPA on the market and can provide up to 166 watts of linear power in a multi-carrier environment and over 200 watts of linear power for a single carrier; providing an effective replacement for a 500 watt TWTA. The amplifier is designed for outdoor mounting and sustained operation at 60°C. Our team and the initial customers for this product have been very excited by the prospect of replacing their TWTA amplifier deployments with more reliable and efficient SSPAs.”
The new Ka-band version of Mission’s SSPA/BUC platform will be on display in Mission booth #1524 at the 2020 Satellite show along with the company’s signature Stinger, Javelin and Titan model BUCs that have already captured a leading position in the SATCOM terminal industry. Mission Microwave products will also be on display in over a dozen stands across the venue, incorporated in industry-leading products in top-tier mobile, maritime and transportable terminals.
At the SATELLITE 2020 event Mission will exhibit its complete product line of high power X, Ku and Ka Band amplifiers and BUCs and will have example terminal designs from key industry partners on display in the Mission Microwave booth.
04 Mar 20. The Pentagon has relaunched its Space Command location search. Here’s why. The future location of U.S. Space Command, and all its associated jobs and dollars, won’t be coming before the November election, thanks to a directive by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to relaunch the department’s search process.
On Tuesday, Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson told the House Armed Services Committee that department leaders are “going to take a holistic look at all of the potential options, all the potential locations” being considered for the combatant command.
“We’ve been directed to go back, open up the aperture, and look at all of them. And so, that includes — that include bases. It includes perhaps some nontraditional locations. We will absolutely establish the criteria we need for each of these organizations and then base them accordingly,” he added.
And on Wednesday, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett confirmed that the Air Force would be restarting the national competition for Space Command’s location.
“We’re going to reopen the process, and put forward criteria in detail and invite all who think they have a good shot at it to come and represent their communities for that possible basing choice,” the secretary said. Barrett added that an announcement on the new competition would come “this spring.”
Those comments led to a pointed line of questioning to Esper from Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., who during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing directly asked if the decision to recompete was tied up in electoral politics.
Thompson testified that “the Air Force was directed — and I emphasize the word ‘directed’ — to go back and open this up,” Jones said. “A cynical person in today’s world would think there are some electoral politics coming into play in this.” He then pointedly asked if the decision came from the White House.
A leaked 2019 memo of potential bases listed four locations in Colorado — Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base — as well as the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. There has been heavy political push from the Florida delegation as well.
Awarding Space Command and its myriad of jobs could benefit politicians running in a swing state such as Colorado or Florida; Jones, a surprise winner in a 2017 special election, is a top target for Republicans in November’s election and could potentially benefit should the award go to his native Alabama.
Esper, however, denied there was any push from the White House to influence politics, stating bluntly: “It came from me. I’m the responsible party.”
The reason for the change, he explained, came from discussions with members as far back as his August nomination process.
“During my talks on the hill prior to my nomination, particularly after my hearing here, I visited the House and heard from members on both sides of the aisle that they thought the process that had been run was unfair and not transparent. And there were a number of complaints,” Esper said. “So I directed at that time that we pause in place.
“I took a briefing on it along with [Deputy Secretary of Defense David] Norquist. We did not feel it was transparent enough; that enough states, members etc. had a chance to participate. So we directed it be revisited, and a different approach be taken where [the department would] outline the criteria, the screening criteria by which a place would meet as a qualifier, throw that to all members and offer them to nominate locations,” while being transparent about the criteria and giving rolling updates to Congress as the work progressed.
However, that process took time to get going, and until a month ago was not fully underway, Esper conceded, meaning it will now take “several months” before anything is finalized — almost certainly after November’s election is over.
“I’m the one who did it. It was my initiative, simply to make sure that transparency and buy in and consent with the process,” he said. “If it helps assure you, I don’t see anything being announced before the election.” (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
04 Mar 20. Here’s what we know about the Space Force’s acquisitions plan. The newly establish United States Space Force is expected to deliver a report outlining its acquisition plans to Congress by the end of the month, but in a series of hearings this week lawmakers got a first look at how Space Force leadership is approaching the problem.
One of the primary issues the Space Force faces in organizing its acquisitions is the relationship between the three main space acquisitions entities: the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Space Development Agency and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office. SMC is the largest of the three and has been responsible for most Air Force space acquisitions, while the other two organizations were established in the last two years to address specific capability gaps. Legislation passed by Congress called for creation of a position in fiscal year 2022 to oversee the three organizations, but it did little to clarify their roles or relationships, leading to some concerns of redundancy.
The Space Force seems set to follow that model. Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson reportedly stated that the three entities would be put under the jurisdiction of a new Space Systems Command, although they will continue to be three separate organizations.
When asked about this proposal at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 3, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein assured lawmakers the Space RCO would remain independent, as Congress intended.
“While there will be a lot of discussions about (administration) and bureaucracy, our job is to deliver capability and to deliver it fast—at the speed of relevance—because that’s exactly what the threat companies are doing,” said Goldfein. “Space RCO (…) needs to stay independent, and it needs to be able to move fast without a lot of lines and boxes that all get a chance to vote on what they’re doing.”
In a separate hearing before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense March 4, Thompson emphasized that leaders were already working to ensure the three organizations were on the same page.
“We have already begun the process even before the Space Force was established (…) of working between the SMC, the SDA, the Space RCO (…) and others to ensure that their acquisition processes are synchronized, complementary and not duplicative in many senses,” Thompson said.
Thompson also briefly outlined the expected roles of the three organizations. SMC will continue to develop and acquire those unique capabilities the military has depended on for decades, including protected communications, missile warning and GPS, he explained, while the Space RCO, which was established two years ago, will continue to rapidly develop and prototype new capabilities. Finally, the SDA’s focus will be on leveraging commercial technologies, especially when it comes to utilizing proliferated constellations in low earth orbit. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
04 Mar 20. Parsons and ALS Create Strategic Space Partnership. Team eyes opportunities in the expanding space market. Parsons Corporation (NYSE: PSN) and Adaptive Launch Solutions (ALS) have established a strategic partnership for launch and space system engineering, operations, and integration opportunities with the U.S. government and commercial customers.
Parsons and ALS are both on the U.S. Space Force Launch Manifest Systems Integrator (LMSI) program, with Parsons serving as the prime contractor. The Parsons and ALS team successfully completed the first launch as part of the LMSI program in August 2019. The second launch is scheduled for March 2020.
“The combination of Parsons and ALS will continue unlocking the potential of the space domain for our customers,” said Aarish Gokaldas, executive vice president of the Parsons Space and Geospatial Solutions market. “The team’s scalable, end-to-end launch operations will optimize the space mission, from planning to hardware solutions and payload integration, and finally to separation in orbit, resulting in more options and simpler launch vehicle systems interfaces.”
Parsons has more than 60 years of experience supporting U.S. Air Force and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launch operations, space domain awareness, data analytics, and payload development and integration.
“United States government organizations and commercial companies are realizing the benefits from advancements made in small and mid- size satellite capabilities,” stated Phil Smith, chief executive officer of ALS. “Together ALS and Parsons will help our customers meet their program objectives and achieve their business plans by providing reliable, responsive launch integration.”
ALS provides the full spectrum of small satellite multi-manifest launch services including marketing, contracts, program management, mission integration, engineering, manufacturing design, integration, assembly, test management and launch campaign support. (Source: PR Newswire)
04 Mar 20. SpaceLogistics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been selected by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as its commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. The groundbreaking mission will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft and aims to expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics technology. The program objectives include enhanced capabilities such as in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites.
Under the agreement, DARPA will provide the robotics payload for the Space Logistics Mission Robotic Vehicle. This payload, developed and integrated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. SpaceLogistics will provide its Mission Robotic Vehicle bus leveraging technologies developed for the industry’s first- ever satellite servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).
MEV-1, designed and built by Northrop Grumman, launched in October 2019 and successfully completed the first docking in geosynchronous orbit with an Intelsat satellite on Feb. 25. Northrop Grumman will also channel its deep expertise in spacecraft development and on-orbit servicing to lead the system level design, integration, testing, launch and mission operations over the life of the satellite.
“Our selection as DARPA’s commercial partner expands our leadership in space logistics,” said Tom Wilson, president, SpaceLogistics LLC. “The new robotics technology on this mission advances our vision to build a fleet of satellite servicing vehicles that provide customers with a variety of options to select the type of life-extension or in-orbit repairs they need.”
In addition to the Mission Robotic Vehicle for SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman is developing expanded life extension services for the mission that include Mission Extension Pods. The new pods augment the propulsion system of aging satellites and provide six years of orbital life extension. The Mission Robotic Vehicle will be used to install these augmentation platforms on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives.
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.
04 Mar 20. Top Space Command Official Details Strategies, Needs to House Subcommittee. The U.S. Space Force has to maintain operations in the space domain while setting up operating procedures and other aspects of establishing a new armed force, a top Space Command official said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, the vice commander of the Space Command, testified about the fiscal 2021 budget request before the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee yesterday.
Thompson said some people who are already working in the U.S. Space Command will ultimately be assigned to the Space Force.
The command aims to develop, field and maintain the U.S. combat edge in space and ensure U.S. freedom of action in the domain, he said.
“Building that U.S. Space Force is our top policy priority,” Thompson said. “The department is moving quickly to stand up a lean, agile and mission-focused organization.”
There is a lot to the effort, Thompson noted, and the mission of the service cannot be ignored while this process moves forward. “The important question when it comes to readiness is ‘ready for what?'” he said.
The answer lies in the National Defense Strategy, Thompson said. “Progress along the lines of effort in that document increasingly improve[s] our ability to address near-peer threats in space.”
The Space Force mission is to deter hostile action, defend and protect American interests, and if necessary, fight in, through and from the space domain, Thompson said.
The budget submission includes money to protect and defend the satellite systems crucial to today’s fight. The command needs money to field assets that are designed to be resilient under attack and deliver space capabilities through all phases of conflict, he said.
The command also needs funds to develop warfighters.
“The Space Force is making significant investments to harden our assets and strengthen our posture in space and on the ground,” he said. “For example, we are continually improving our space domain awareness network needed for that deep understanding of activities in space to treat it as a warfighting domain.”
The service is modernizing vital warfighting capabilities, including improvements in GPS to ensure it is resistant to jamming and spoofing.
“Assured access to all orbits is also fundamental to sustaining the United States’ freedom of action in space,” Thompson said.
The Space Force looks to broaden the space industrial base to bring cutting-edge technology to space prototyping.
“With all the physical assets of the Space Force and everything that [it] has to execute its missions, it’s the people who power the Space Force and who are our most important asset,” he said. “We’re developing detailed plans and, by fiscal year 2021, expect to transfer more than 6,000 personnel into the U.S. Space Force. Ultimately, we will expand the cadre to more than 12,000 space professionals across 15 career fields to protect U.S. interests in space well into the future.” (Source: US DoD)
03 Mar 20. 3D-Printed Thrust Chamber Passes 1st Tests for Vega Evolutions. The 3D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the methane-fuelled M10 rocket engine has passed its first series of hot firing tests. The M10 engine will power the upper stage of future Vega evolutions from 2025.
“These test results are encouraging, confirming that our propulsion teams are right on track along the development path identified for such novel technology for Vega evolutions,” commented Giorgio Tumino, managing ESA’s Vega and Space Rider development programmes.
M10 will improve propulsion efficiency and environmental sustainability by reducing emissions and combustion waste thereby increasing the competitiveness of European small launchers and lowering their cost.
The M10 is restartable and uses a system of smart pressure control. This improves fuel management and offers mission flexibility.
Avio in Italy built this TCA in two parts via additive layer-by-layer manufacturing (ALM) using metal alloys, then welded the two parts together. ALM enables more complex internal geometries to be built in fewer parts with a reduced need for additional machining, which benefits cryogenic technology, speeds up production time and cuts costs.
M10 is a 10 t-class liquid oxygen–methane expander cycle engine, intended to replace the second and third stages (Zefiro 9 solid-propellant motor and AVUM upper stage) of the current Vega configuration.
ALM with metal alloys has become more reliable and of better quality but product inspection is challenging. Non-destructive inspection (NDI) such as tomography and ultrasound is used to detect defects, geometry distortions and potential obstructions within cooling channels.
Subscale models demonstrated in 2018 that ALM produces thrust chambers that are comparable to those built in the traditional way and that NDI was successful in detecting defects during manufacturing. This opened the way for the development of the full-scale ALM thrust chamber.
During this test campaign, the TCA was fired 19 times for a total of 450 seconds at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in the USA.
By comparing this data with the results from previous models, engineers will better understand the engine behaviour and performances in the up-scaled model. This will help to optimise the configuration of the first M10 development model.
The hot firing of the first development model of the M10 engine will be carried out at the end of the year. Ground qualification is foreseen for 2024 followed by its use in future Vega launch vehicles by 2025.
“These tests prove new technologies and methods that will keep Europe competitive in the launch services market into the future,” added Stefano Bianchi, Head of the Space Transportation developments at ESA. (Source: ASD Network)
03 Mar 20. New RF over Fiber Products Launching at the SATELLITE Show. RF over fiber manufacturer, ViaLite Communications, will be launching a selection of new products when the company returns to the SATELLITE Show, in Washington D.C., this March.
Helping with SATELLITE’s aim of driving innovation within the Satcom market, ViaLite’s new products offer improvements in dynamic range capabilities and for those working with low power RF signals or high losses in the fiber connection.
ViaLite’s new L-Band HTS Hyper Wide Dynamic Range (HWDR) Series 2 link offers even greater dynamic range than the ground-breaking Series 1; now covering 400-2500 MHz with up to 115 dB/Hz2/3 spurious-free dynamic range.
“It is ideal for improving intermodulation performance and reducing the minimum signal that can be detected in high optical loss environments,” said Product Manager, John Golding. “This is extremely important in HTS and Signals Intelligence applications.”
The new High Sensitivity Receiver (HSR), in turn, has been designed for high loss environments where there are lots of splices/interconnects or low quality infrastructure. It mitigates the need for EDFAs, even working with CWDM and long distance systems. The HSR also covers a lower optical input range, accepting > 20 dB less than standard ViaLite receivers.
“The HSR offers a get out of jail free card in situations where the infrastructure is particularly challenging. It can be used in long distance deployments to reduce or even do away with the need for an EDFA, saving OPEX & CAPX cost and improve availability” explained John Golding. The HSR is available in rack chassis card format.
03 Mar 20. Envistacom Announces its Transport Virtualization Ecosystem. As an independent integrator of solutions, Envistacom’s transport virtualization ecosystem will benefit both users and waveform companies.
Envistacom, LLC, a leading technology enterprise which delivers advanced communications, cyber and other related services and solutions to customers in the aerospace, defense, and intelligence communities, outlined its plan to develop a “Transport Virtualization Ecosystem” which will enable customers to benefit directly from gaining access to leading technology applications all in an open architecture environment and provide a distribution reducing time to market for waveform companies.
As recently cited in the US Space Force’s Enterprise SATCOM Vision document, the Space Force identified five key attributes of future SATCOM networking to achieve their objective for “Fighting SATCOM”:
- Rapid, resilient, sustainable and global access to SATCOM capabilities. This includes the ability for all DoD users to quickly obtain and maintain satellite communications through all operating environments relevant to their mission.
- Terminal and modem agility. This allows terminals to operate on a variety of waveforms over varying frequencies, with quick transition or, when possible, simultaneously.
- Network agility. This enables users to maintain their networks when transitioning to a different beam, antenna, satellite or system.
- Cyber, link and operational security. This will provide cyber resiliency for warfighters, protecting their information and control systems in the face of a determined and sophisticated attacker.
- Data interoperability with joint command and control systems. This is the ability of warfighters and space enterprise C2 systems to effectively exchange information.
Envistacom’s Transport Virtualization Ecosystem will enable the US Space Force and commercial service providers alike to realize their vision of ubiquitous connectivity without forcing standards which have traditionally constrained innovation by creating common denominator specifications or consuming lengthy development cycles resulting from common standards review and certification processes.
“We are pleased our transport virtualization technology and strategy concepts align with the Department of Defense as well as our commercial customers,” said Michael Geist, Envistacom’s Senior Vice President of Strategy & Technology. “We are poised to enable our technology partners to deliver truly resilient connectivity in preparation for the intersection of terrestrial and space-based networking referred to as 6G.”
Envistacom’s virtualization efforts build upon the company’s recently announced technology patents leading to the establishment of this open-architecture Transport Virtualization Ecosystem. The Ecosystem is an environment where real-time continuous processing application technologists can bring their latest developments to be tested; and ultimately available in the marketplace faster than through the traditional development and integration of purpose-built hardware. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
03 Mar 20. Peraton to acquire SATCOM for US Africa Command. Peraton will receive $219m to provide satellite communications for US Africa Command, the company announced. Mar. 3. Under the five-year contract, Peraton will be expected to rapidly acquire commercial satellite services to meet the needs of AFRICOM and its mission partners in the region. The company will utilize communications services from multiple satellite communications companies.
“As an independent service integrator, Peraton takes a neutral, vendor-agnostic approach to leverage the best technologies available from across the entire commercial satellite industry,” said David Myers, president of Peraton Communications sector, in a statement. “As a result, customers like AFRICOM are assured a solution tailored to prioritize consistent mission performance, without being dependent on any particular satellite fleet or vendor assets.”
Peraton has a longstanding relationship with AFRICOM, acting as a consultative mission partner to the command for more than 10 years and currently supporting it through other task orders.
The contract was awarded via a blanket purchase agreement issued by Air Force Space Command in coordination with the Defense Information Systems Agency. The task order is the first of its kind to be awarded under the Future Commercial SATCOM Acquisition program. (Source: Defense News)
03 Mar 20. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN), the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Green Bank Observatory entered a cooperative research and development agreement to detect and characterize near-earth asteroids large enough to cause significant damage.
The Raytheon-NRAO/GBO collaboration will integrate a radar transmitter into the Green Bank Telescope and use the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array as a receiver to provide a very detailed radar image. The GBT and the VLBA will each point at the same celestial body, such as the moon, to conduct radar experiments. This approach increases the probability of detection and characterization of objects out to the orbit of Jupiter and possibly farther. To put this in perspective, objects around Mars are hard to detect, and Jupiter is hundreds of millions of miles farther than that.
“Very energetic dusty asteroids – we’re talking from several hundred feet to miles in size – don’t reflect sunlight very well, and that makes them incredibly difficult, if not impossible to detect in our solar system,” said Art Morrish, vice president, Raytheon Advanced Concepts & Technologies. “We’re collaborating with the NRAO to combine radio astronomy and radar techniques to bring new capabilities to the astronomical community to solve problems like this.”
“Using the radio astronomy facilities of the National Science Foundation in these new research areas is incredibly exciting,” said Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and Associated Universities Inc. vice president for Radio Astronomy Operations. “This partnership between Raytheon and NRAO/GBO is one of several promising research and technology collaborations we’re exploring that may greatly benefit our next-generation Very Large Array project.”
The NRAO and the GBO are facilities of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
02 Mar 20. Astra Space falls just short of winning the DARPA Launch Challenge. Astra Space cancelled its first ever rocket launch just 53 seconds before liftoff Mar. 2, disqualifying it from winning a $2m cash prize through the DARPA Launch Challenge. The company was the sole competitor remaining in the DARPA Launch Challenge, a competition established in 2018 to find companies capable of providing rapid access to space, potentially offering launch services within days of a request. The challenge required companies to launch a rocket into space on short notice, without early knowledge of the payload or destination orbit. If they succeeded, they would then be asked to repeat the process with a second rocket just days later at another location.
“We set a really, really aggressive but achievable set of goals that we were looking for our competitors to achieve. We actually came very close to getting there,” said DARPA Launch Challenge Program Manager Todd Master in a conference call with media.
Astra Space was given details of the launch location and requirements about 30 days ago, with a Mar. 1 deadline to launch their rocket into orbit from Kodiak, Alaska. After previous launches were scrubbed due to weather conditions, the company scheduled a final launch attempt for Mar. 2, with DARPA extending the window by one day.
But despite favorable weather conditions and the start of a 15 minute countdown to launch, Astra Space halted the launch with just 53 seconds to lift off.
“As we neared the end of the count (…) we saw some data from a sensor that really concerned us and we huddled up as a team and really just made the call that as wonderful as it would have been to (win the prize money), we wanted to try to get to orbit in these three launches and if that data were real, it could have caused a problem with the flight,” said Astra Space CEO Chris Kemp about the decision to cancel the launch.
The company said that it would likely take a week or more to sort out the issue with the sensor before moving forward with a launch as soon as possible.
According to Kemp, the company knew completing the challenge would be a long shot. Their first rocket was even named “One of Three” because they expected it would likely take three rocket launches to successfully place a payload on orbit.
There were originally around 50 applicants competing for the challenge when it was announced in 2018, but by March 2019 only three remained: Vector Launch; Virgin Orbit, and a third, unnamed competitor. Formed in 2016, Astra Space spent the first few years of its existence in stealth mode, only recently revealing themselves and their participation in the challenge. Now public, Astra Space is offering dedicated launch services of 50kg-150kg payloads in 2020 and 2021 on its website, as well as cubesat delivery services.
The finalists were each given a $400,000 prize, with $2m more promised following delivery of the first payload to orbit. A second launch would win them $10m, $9m or $8m. While Vector Launch and Virgin Orbit dropped out before October, Astra Space pushed forward until the final day. Still, the company will now join its competitors in forgoing any more DARPA Launch Challenge prize money.
Though ultimately unsuccessful, Master said Astra Space’s efforts had proven their goals of being able to provide flexible launch services and while operating with limited infrastructure, noting that the company’s capabilities could be of service to the military.
“We’re in the very very early stages of discussion with our partners in the Department of Defense, probably most directly US Space Force and US Space Command, as to how we can integrate responsive launch capability directly into a military exercise,” said Master. “So could we take a major military exercise and in the course of that exercise actually demonstrate the ability to put something on orbit in true rapid fashion where war fighters are really waiting for it, to show that you could deliver new data that didn’t previously exist prior to that exercise starting and sort of change their perspective on how they use space in a way that’s more tactical.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
02 Mar 20. USMC wanted to know if a Navy satellite could withstand jamming. Pentagon leaders are increasingly worried that the satellite signals they need for operations will become a target for adversaries during future conflicts. But Maj. Gen. Robert Castellvi, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said March 2 that the Navy’s narrowband communications satellites were able to withstand significant interference during a December exercise.
Marines Corps leaders asked the Army’s Threat Systems Management Office to intentionally jam parts of the spectrum that the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System operates in for the Steel Knight 20 exercise in California.
MUOS, a constellation of five on-orbit satellites built by Lockheed Martin, operates over a span of about 20 MHz. Marines learned that the signal could survive jamming of up to about 50 percent of that threshold. That’s a significant amount, officials said, because jamming a greater portion of the spectrum more would require more power and, in turn, compromise an enemy’s position.
“This thing has been a game changer,” Castellvi said of MUOS, speaking at the annual West 2020 conference in San Diego. “It has bridged the digital divide gap we have between our higher headquarters, that require high bandwidth systems into the battalion, and below command posts that are dependent on very narrowband systems … It fared remarkably well.”
In addition, a new firmware upgrade to software defined radios that use the MUOS waveform provides further layer of protection, he said.
During the same exercise, Marines also focused on reducing the electronic footprint of their command posts to avoid giving away their location.
“It was amazing to see how low they can bring our signature down,” he said.
Essentially, operators were emitting a signature that “the enemy would have seen equivalent to a single PRC-117G. We’re really testing the network in order to simulate the full range of friction that we would anticipate in a near peer conflict.”
Castellvi also pointed to using wireless internet at the secret level in combat operations center. This technology can reduce the time it takes to build and take down command posts.
The move “provided freedom and versatility unseen in any COC,” he said. “We have to be able to move, we have to be able to be survivable, we have to be more lethal. And that means a setup and takedowns have to be faster and wireless is a way to get you there.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
03 Mar 20. China set to launch last two BeiDou satellites. China plans to complete its BeiDou navigation system this year with the launch of the final satellites to fill out the constellation this month and in May.
Both launches, aboard Long March 3B rockets, will place a single satellite into orbit, completing the planned constellation of 35 satellites, most in medium-Earth orbit.
The constellation orbits are designed to provide optimal coverage for China and neighbouring countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, China’s ambition is to create a satellite navigation system serving all the world.
The BeiDou navigation and positioning system (BDS) is China’s version of the US GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo. India has its own regional network with NavIC, as does Japan with QZSS.
China conceived BeiDou in the 1980s with the first satellite launched in 2000. The aim was to create a domestic positioning capability so the country was not reliant on the US GPS system, particularly for military use. As with GPS in other countries, BeiDou is used across China in public security, transportation, fishing, power, forestry, disaster reduction and much more. (Source: Space Connect)
03 Mar 20. Blue Origin launches new rocket engine manufacturing facility. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has launched its rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, Alabama, as the high-profile billionaire-backed space race enters its next stage.
The Rocket City will conduct high rate production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre on the historic Test Stand 4670. BE-7, and the company’s lunar landing engine, is also currently in test at NASA Marshall.
Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, welcomed the milestone, stating, “At the core of every successful launch vehicle program are the engines that power those vehicles to space.
“Early on in Blue Origin’s history, we made a crucial decision to invest in developing the next generation of reusable rocket engines. And now, it’s an exciting time for Blue, our partners and this country – we are on the path to deliver on our promise to end the reliance on Russian made engines – and it’s all happening right here, right now, in the great state of Alabama.”
The Blue Origin BE-3 engine generates 490 kilonewtons thrust at sea level (over a million horsepower). When returning to Earth, it uniquely throttles down to 90 kilonewtons, enabling a gentle vertical landing on the pad.
Like the Space Shuttle’s main engines, BE-3PM uses high performing liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. BE-3PM is designed for operational reusability with minimal maintenance between flights. Our approach increases availability while lowering operating costs.
Two BE-3U engines power New Glenn’s restartable upper stage, enabling the full range of customer missions including direct injection to geostationary orbit. Building on years of operational experience and rigorous testing, BE-3U will be one of the best understood rocket engines when it launches into space.
The company’s BE-4 is the most powerful liquefied natural gas fuelled rocket engine ever developed. Using an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle, BE-4 is capable of producing 2,400 kilonewtons thrust with deep throttle capability.
BE-4 was designed from the beginning to be a medium-performing version of a high-performance architecture. It’s a conscious design choice made to lower development risk while meeting performance, schedule and reusability requirements. With our hardware-rich approach, multiple developmental units and redundant test stands enable a high test tempo and rapid learning.
Smith added, “We couldn’t be prouder to call this our home for engine production.”
It is expected that the Blue Origin facility will add more than 300 jobs to the local economy with an investment of over US$200m ($307m) in the facility. (Source: Space Connect)
02 Mar 20. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN), in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade, has welcomed more than two dozen British businesses to a UK Space Supplier Conference in Los Angeles, California. The conference created opportunities for small and medium-sized British businesses to enter the fast-moving and dynamic space sector.
“In 2016 and 2017, this sector contributed £14.8bn to the UK economy, while exports reached £5.5bn,” said Mike Short, chief scientific advisor at the UK Department for International Trade. “This conference represents an excellent opportunity for British businesses to gain experience of global supply chains. As we work with more partners overseas, I hope to see the sector continue to grow.”
The conference featured speakers from across Raytheon functions, including program leadership, business development, engineering and supply chain. Raytheon shared space technologies and business opportunities, as well as detailed requirements about how to become a supplier to Raytheon.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are integral to the success of the UK’s space industry,” said Matt Magaña, senior director for Raytheon Space Systems. “Our collaboration with the Department for International Trade boosts the country’s rapidly expanding space industry even further.”
Raytheon is committed to deepening its investments in the UK’s Space technologies and skills over the long term. This and future trade missions will support UK’s ambitious growth plans for the sector.
01 Mar 20. UK’s Galileo rival delayed amid wrangling and rising costs. Satellite system hailed as symbol of post-Brexit independence loses its way. Britain’s plan for a new sovereign satellite navigation system — pushed by the government as a symbol of post-Brexit independence — has been delayed for at least six months amid disagreements about the scope and costs of the multibillion pound space project. A feasibility study for the programme was launched in 2018 after the UK was shut out of the EU’s £10bn Galileo programme because of Brexit. That study was due to be published this month, sketching out the shape of the project and paving the way for work to begin. However, several industry and official sources say the project has now been put on hold amid wrangling between ministers and officials over what the final system should look like. Until now industry and the UK Space Agency have been working closely only with the Ministry of Defence on a potential design that would be similar to the EU’s Galileo. The EU system aims to have 24 satellites in medium earth orbit to provide both an openly available navigation service as well as a highly encrypted positioning platform designed for public service authorities or the military.
However, the costs of such a system are now expected to run to £5bn, substantially higher than the initial expectations of £3bn-£4bn when the programme was launched. Now a Cabinet Office review across ministries has questioned whether a full global system is necessary, according to several industry sources with knowledge of the subject. “The problem is that this programme was launched in the political environment of Brexit, but there has been no discussion among stakeholders about what the requirement is,” said a space industry executive with knowledge of the situation. “We are having a pause.” One alternative is a slimmer and less costly version that would use openly available signals from US or European satellites to deliver the positioning, while a smaller subset of British satellites would refine and encrypt the data. In the meantime, work on the feasibility study has come to a standstill. “In recent months there has been delay after delay,” said one industry figure. “It seems the UK lacks the expertise to judge the industry proposals so everything is taking much longer.”
The hold-up has dismayed many in the industry, which has already been locked out of EU space projects as a result of Brexit. Britain has set a target to snare 10 per cent of the commercial space market — covering a range of commercial applications from broadcast satellites to earth observations — by 2030, which will be difficult to meet without access to EU space programmes. However, some suggested that the pause offered an opportunity to do something radically different from Galileo, given the advances in technology since the system was designed nearly two decades ago. “This is an opportunity to do something that goes well beyond Galileo,” said Stuart Martin, chief executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult and a member of the UK Space Council. “If we do this it will give us an immediate export opportunity and we would be adding to the systems already there.” (Source: FT.com)
27 Feb 20. USAF, SpaceX to test Starlink capabilities in upcoming live-fire demonstration. The Air Force will test SpaceX-developed technology in an upcoming demonstration that will reportedly include a live-fire exercise targeting drones and cruise missiles, the latest test of experimental technologies.
The April 8 event, the next iteration of the military’s Advanced Battle Management System exercises, takes place at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Defense Daily reported.
The demonstration will include elements of the U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command working with SpaceX’s Starlink mission, which aims “to provide internet access via proliferated constellations made up of thousands of small satellites in low earth orbit,” Defense News, a sister publication, previously reported.
The U.S. military hopes to utilize the satellite broadband service for its warfighters.
The Advanced Battle Management System, which will replace the military’s E-8C JSTARS surveillance planes, aims to rapidly integrate information and data collected on various platforms for real-time battlespace usage.
The system was first tested in late December 2019 and again in the field late last month.
“We’ve come so far in ABMS that we realize that it’s bigger than just replacing the capability that JSTARS provides,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, according to TheDrive. “If you get ABMS right, you’ve just built the military’s ‘internet of things.’ That’s super exciting.”
In December, the three-day field test integrated Air Force and Navy fighter jets and the Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to detect and respond to a simulated cruise missile attack through ABMS technology, C4ISRNet, another sister publication, reported.
In the January exercise, the Air Force tested the ability of its stealth F-35 and F-22 fighters to communicate with each other in flight via ABMS, as each aircraft currently utilizes different data link systems.
The service plans to further test this data transmission capability to include Kratos Defense’s unmanned XQ-58A Valkyrie drone during the April exercise. This system is being developed to accompany manned fighter jets and other aircraft in manned-unmanned combat teams.
Also tested in January was the Air Force’s ability to connect its AC-130 gunships with the SpaceX Starlink constellation. Air Force Chief Architect Preston Dunlap previously confirmed the aircraft was able to “pass data” through the satellites.
United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command listed improving satellite communications capabilities as their No. 1 unfunded priority for fiscal 2021, specifically naming satellite connectivity in the Arctic region, Defense News previously reported.
In January 2018, SpaceX launched a secret U.S. government satellite — known as Zuma — aboard its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission ended in an apparent, although unconfirmed, failure. SpaceX, however, has denied its rocket was to blame.
The news of the upcoming demonstration complements the unveiling of the U.S. Space Force Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications by Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command, last week.
“The Enterprise SATCOM Vision outlines the new Service’s vision to evolve SATCOM into a single enterprise that can continue to deliver effects to warfighters from and through a contested, degraded and operationally limited (CDO) environment,” a press release stated. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Airforce Times)
28 Feb 20. Relativity Space Secures New Headquarters Facility in the Heart of Southern California’s Next-Generation Aerospace Community. Autonomous Factory Will Produce World’s First 3D Printed Rocket In Long Beach. Relativity Space, the first company to utilize additive manufacturing and robotics to build an entire launch vehicle, today announced that it has secured a new headquarters in Long Beach, California. Located at 3500 E Burnett, Long Beach, the 120,000 sq. ft. space will house both the company’s business operations and an unprecedented manufacturing facility. Relativity integrates machine learning, software, and robotics with metal additive manufacturing technology and will produce Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed rocket, at the Long Beach facility.
“Relativity is disrupting nearly sixty years of prior aerospace technology by building a new manufacturing platform using robotics, 3D printing, and AI. With no fixed tooling, Relativity has enabled a massive part count and risk reduction, increased iteration speed and created an entirely new value chain,” said Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space. “I’m confident our autonomous factory will become the future technology stack for the entire aerospace industry.”
Relativity has already begun migrating staff to its new headquarters, and is transitioning its patented additive manufacturing infrastructure as it builds out the first-ever autonomous rocket factory. The factory will house all production for Terran 1, the Aeon engine assembly, as well as integrated software, avionics and materials development labs. The new facility enables production of the entire Terran 1 rocket, including an enlarged fairing, now accommodating double the payload volume. The combination of agile manufacturing and payload capacity makes Relativity the most competitive launch provider in its class, meeting the growing demands of the expanding satellite market.
“The space economy continues its growth in Long Beach with the addition of Relatively,” shared Long Beach Mayor, Dr. Robert Garcia, “3D printing is groundbreaking for new jobs and new technologies in the space sector.”
“Long Beach has an extensive history as a leader in aerospace and aviation, and now we are at the forefront of the space economy,” said California Senator Lena Gonzalez. “We are excited to welcome Relativity to our ever-growing community of innovative tech companies.”
“I am proud to welcome Relativity to our community and wish them success as they go higher, further and faster to the stars,” said 70th District Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell. “The aerospace industry is undergoing an economic resurgence in Long Beach, providing the prospects of good paying jobs and further opening up the bounds of space for research.”
The new headquarters and factory mark another milestone in Relativity’s steady execution towards its first launch. Relativity recently closed a $140m funding round led by Bond and Tribe Capital, and has already secured a launch site Right of Entry at Cape Canaveral Launch Complex-16, an exclusive-use Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) agreement for NASA test sites, including E4 at the NASA Stennis Space Center, and a 20-year exclusive use lease for a 220,000 square feet factory also at the NASA Stennis Space Center. The Long Beach facility was constructed and is managed by Pacific Industrial.
Relativity is the first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations. The company’s vision is to build the future of humanity in space — starting with rockets. Disrupting 60 years of aerospace technology, Relativity’s platform vertically integrates intelligent robotics and 3D autonomous manufacturing technology to build the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1. Terran 1 has 100x lower part count than traditional rockets, a radically simple supply chain, and will be built from raw material to flight in less than 60 days with unparalleled iteration speed. Relativity deploys and resupplies satellite constellations with industry-defining lead time, flexibility, and cost, better connecting and securing our planet.
Relativity is backed by leading investors including Bond, Tribe Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator, Social Capital, Phillip Spector formerly of Intelsat, and Mark Cuban. For more information, please visit https://www.relativityspace.com/. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
25 Feb 20. New Japanese Spy Satellites. On February 9th Japan launched another spy satellite using one of its own H-2A SLVs (satellite launch vehicle). With this new satellite in orbit, Japan has two digital camera photo satellites and five radar satellites operational. Japan is in the process of expanding its spy satellite fleet to ten photo and radar satellites. Japan has long been a major producer of satellites and SLVs but the spy satellites are relatively recent.
Japan launched its first satellite in 1970 and became the fourth nation (after Russia, America and France) to do so. For decades Japan mainly launched scientific satellites. In the late 1990s Japan, alarmed at the threat of attack by North Korea, began developing and launching military satellites. The first two were launched in 2003, the third in 2006 and the fourth in 2007. Japan continues to build and launch photo, radar ELINT (electronic intelligence) satellites. While Japan buys some launcher and satellite tech from foreign nations (mainly the U.S.) Japan has become quite proficient and self-sufficient in both areas.
By 2010 the cameras onboard Japanese photo satellites could make out objects as small as one meter (39 inches) in diameter. By 2013 a new Japanese photo satellite could detect objects .6 meters (two feet) in size. The best U.S. spy satellites can make out much smaller objects, but for Japan’s needs, .6-1 meters was adequate. The radar satellites provide all-weather coverage.
Technically, the satellites are in violation of a 1969 Japanese law, which mandated Japan only use space for non-military purposes. To get around this these satellites are technically non-military and are not controlled by the military. Japan had long refrained from launching military satellites but this changed when North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan in 1998. Japan promptly set out to get eight surveillance satellites in orbit by 2006, in order to keep an eye on North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile efforts. This proved impossible to do. While two Japanese satellites were launched in early 2003, another two were destroyed during late 2003, when the rocket malfunctioned.
Japan had long relied on commercial photo satellites and whatever they could get from the Americans. But for high-resolution shots, on-demand, of North Korea, and electronic eavesdropping from space, they needed their own spy satellites. It is believed that Japanese spy satellites are also being used to watch military developments in China and Russia.
The Japanese program has cost over three billion dollars so far. Much of this was spent to develop SLVs large and reliable enough for satellite work. The latest launch was the 35th successful launch for the H-2A, which has a 97.5 percent success rate. The similar H-2B SLV has carried out ten successful launches. Japanese SLVs have put nearly a hundred satellites into orbit since 1970. Most have been non-military and several were for other nations. Japanese SLVs are locally designed and manufactured. These rockets operate from a launch complex in southern Japan.
The two-stage H-2A was first used in 2001. It was originally a 285 ton rocket that could put 10 tons into orbit. Later versions of the H-2A weighed up to 445 tons with a max payload of 15 tons. The H-2B variant weighs 531 tons and can put 16.5 tons into orbit.
A new SLV, the 574 ton H-3 is in development and close to entering service. The first test launch will be in 2020. The H-3 will specialize in putting satellites in high orbits. Because of the breakthroughs, American firm SpaceX has made with their reusable (they land under their own power after launch) rockets Japan is now working on an H-4 SLV that would have that feature.The Japanese photo satellites weigh about a ton, while the radar one weighs about a third more. The United States provided a lot of technical assistance on the design and construction of the satellites initially and Japan now builds its own rockets to launch them. Like most spy satellite users, Japan does not report on how effective they are. It is known that Japan could get more detailed photos from commercial satellites. But those are not controlled by the Japanese government. (Source: Satnews/StrategyPage)
24 Feb 20. SpaceX’s Next Military Launch Cleared for Historic Rocket Landing Attempt. SpaceX officially has permission to perform a Falcon 9 booster recovery after its next launch for the US Air Force, now guaranteed to be the first time a rocket booster attempts to land during an operational launch for the US military.
Alongside their booster landing attempt confirmation, the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) also posted the first official SpaceX video of a rocket acceptance test released in almost 2.5 years, a test it says was completed just days after the GPS satellite it’s scheduled to launch arrived in Florida. The very same Falcon 9 booster was shown off in unprecedented detail just last month and now SMC says that SpaceX fired up the rocket at its McGregor, Texas development facilities for a routine static fire on February 13th. The company is currently scheduled to launch its second USAF GPS III satellite – Space Vehicle 03 (SV03) – no earlier than 7am EDT (11:00 UTC), April 29th, a target set just days ago.
With the spacecraft in Florida and factory-fresh Falcon 9 booster successfully proofed, all that remains is for SpaceX to test and deliver the mission’s Falcon upper stage and payload fairing (if it hasn’t already). After the booster – believed to be B1060 – is inspected and its tanks are cleaned, it can also be packaged and transported by road the rest of the way to SpaceX’s Florida launch facilities, setting the company up for the critical mission and historic landing attempt.
While SpaceX has technically already landed Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters after its NROL-76 and STP-2 launches for the NRO and USAF, the company only officially began operational military launches once its Falcon 9 rocket was fully certified. STP-2, for example, was effectively high-stakes make-work designed to help the USAF fully certify SpaceX’s brand new Falcon Heavy rocket to launch expensive – verging on irreplaceable – military satellites.
Its first truly operational US military launch occurred in December 2018, when Falcon 9 booster B1054 was intentionally expended in support the USAF’s inaugural GPS III launch, successfully placing the first of 10 (or 32) planned upgraded navigation satellites into orbit. It’s believed that the USAF required such extreme safety margins (extra propellant and performance) that SpaceX couldn’t even attempt booster or fairing recovery. This made B1054 the first (and hopefully only) Falcon 9 Block 5 booster to launch without even the basic hardpoints needed to attach landing legs.
Effectively confirming that B1054’s demise was was a contrivance and by no means a technical necessity, the SMC announced on February 20th that SpaceX’s GPS III SV03 mission is officially “the first time a booster is planned to land on a drone ship during a NSS [National Security Space] launch.” Effectively identical to B1054 aside from the addition of grid fins and landing legs, this means that Falcon 9 booster B1060 will be able to attempt a landing aboard a SpaceX drone ship shortly after launch.
Just like GPS III SV01 satellite launched by SpaceX in December 2018 and the GPS III SV02 satellite launched United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched in August 2019, GPS III SV03 is a more than $500m spacecraft designed to upgrade the US GPS navigation constellation. SpaceX has already won five (of five) competitively-awarded GPS III launch contracts thanks to its Falcon 9 rocket’s exceptionally competitive pricing, meaning that there is an excellent chance the company will win many more in the near future.
GPS III SV03 is one of 10 “Block IIIA” satellites to be launched between 2018 and 2026 and will be followed by another 22 “Block IIIF” satellites to be built by Lockheed Martin for ~$330m apiece. All 26 unassigned spacecraft will need launches of their own between now and the mid-2030s, worth anywhere from $1-2.5Bbnto SpaceX if the company performs well on all five of its first contracts and continues to crush competitor ULA on launch costs.
With the USAF already demonstrably interested in supporting Falcon booster reusability and now open to SpaceX recovering Falcon 9 boosters after moderately-challenging GPS III launches, it’s safe to say that SpaceX’s ultra-competitive pricing is here to stay. (Source: Satnews)
27 Feb 20. Finally, Some Good News for GEO Satellite Manufacturers. All can acknowledge that the past few years have been bad for satellite builders. And, as journalist Chris Forrester reports at the Advanced Television infosite, he cites the examples that, in 2017 and 2018, there were only 14 orders for geostationary satellites.
As good as last year was, production is still well below a typical c20 units a year ordered a few years ago. The proof that times were bad was proven when Lockheed Martin announced the company had lost some $410m on the production of their latest three satellites.
Airbus Space & Defence led the order book for 2019 with six large commercial satellites. Three were for Inmarsat, one for Malaysia’s MEASAT and two that are being built with Thales Alenia Space for Spain’s Hisdesat as well as SATRIA for Indonesia, Eutelsat 10B, Nilesat 301 and Amazonas NEXUS for Hispasat, all geostationary craft.
There are other orders pending for 2020, with a likely commitment from Intelsat for a replacement for that firm’s failed I-29e craft. A potential order for a Nepalese craft was expected by Thales Alenia, but that has been delayed, according to news reports.
This year, it seems that some optimists suggest there will be around 20 satellites ordered, but most will be happy to see 12 to 15 such order, which will represent good news for the manufacturing sector.
Adding to the portfolio could be the commitments from the (perhaps now defunct) C-Band Alliance (CBA), which talked about eight satellites being needed to replace and augment capacity being surrendered to the FCC. Even should the demise of the CBA occur, the likelihood is that Intelsat and SES will each need to order about four satellites. This will help US manufacturers such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Maxar (the former Space Systems/Loral). (Source: Satnews)
23 Feb 20. Advantech and TXMission Reveal a Technology and Distribution Partnership. Combining their talents and business acumen Advantech Wireless Technologies Inc. (“Advantech”), has signed a sales and distribution agreement with the California and Watford, England based TXMission, a designer and manufacturer of high performance SmallSat modems for the New Space Industry. This announcement precedes their participation at Satellite 2020 in Washington, DC, March 10-12 where Advantech Wireless Technologies will be available at booth #1216.
The companies will together develop a comprehensive suite of SmallSat, Airborne and Comms-On-The-Move (COTM) communication products for markets requiring versatile, extremely low size, weight and power (SWaP) products that provide leading-edge performance. The range of fully integrated SmallSat and UAV/Airborne products to be developed will include advanced RF transceivers, multi-gigabit modems for onboard and ground segment applications, low SWaP satellite terminals, antennas, network management systems and 5G technology solutions.
John Restivo, President of Advantech Wireless Technologies is pleased to announce the partnership with TXMission, a professional off-the-shelf, end-to-end satellite communications company. He said that Advantech plans to integrate their microwave RF technology with the TXMission modem, resulting in a system level solution that will work across multiple Satcom markets. They are certain this relationship will present new opportunities for Advantech.
Steve McHugh, Chairman of TXMission added that this is an exciting development that combines their unique SDR technology with Advantech’s renowned RF capabilities. (Source: Satnews)
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