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13 Mar 20. More satellites mean more congestion of radio frequency spectrum. An Australian space company operator has warned of escalating spectrum battles as more and more nations and companies compete for access to the increasingly congested radio frequency spectrum.
Keith Rosario, founder and chief executive of Cingulan Space, which provides ground services for satellite operators, said current reviews of existing rules for spectrum sharing by national and international regulators were welcome.
Rosario said mega satellite constellations such as Elon Musk’s Starlink have enormous spectrum and orbital footprints.
“How might all users be assured of access in a congested orbit and spectrum domain? Sharing between satellite networks, and with other services, entails complex policy and technical compromise,” he said in a post on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) The Strategist blog.
“Perhaps a more proactive sharing approach is required, based on actual transmitter characteristics measured by spectrum monitoring and with the application of artificial intelligence and cognitive radio, for the benefit of all spectrum users.”
In order for a satellite to do anything useful, it needs to communicate with Earth, with the suitable radio frequencies increasingly crowded.
That’s managed globally by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency charged with facilitating international information and communications technologies.
In Australia, the regulator is the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The US equivalent is the Federal Communications Commission.
Rosario said these regulators were increasingly placing tighter constraints on allocation, use and sharing of spectrum.
“Competition is fierce, and Space 2.0 businesses can succeed or fail based on their access to secure, long-term spectrum rights, whether directly as a spectrum licensee or indirectly as a consumer of space-based data,” he said.
“In recent years, space has re-emerged as desirable high ground for national and commercial interests alike. Spectrum battles are likely to become fiercer, with states and commercial parties staking and defending spectrum claims. There’s an emerging imperative for national-interest space-spectrum policy and objectives to be defined and pursued.”
Rosario said global spectrum co-ordination was an important facet of developing global markets.
In 2019, the ITU allocated more than 17 GHz of globally harmonised spectrum to future 5G services but some of that eroded the historical allocation to geostationary satellite services.
“However, innovation is highest in the Space 2.0 low-Earth orbit satellites, and new services and business models are being developed as a result of the lower-cost and easier access to space created by companies such as SpaceX, Rocket Lab and Gilmour Space Technologies,” he said.
“New satellite technologies are pushing the envelope of space-based data services, including the internet of things, daily imagery of the whole planet, and detection of aircraft and ship traffic.” (Source: Defence Connect)
13 Mar 20. Arianespace announces satellite tracking station for Alice Springs. The Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT) near Alice Springs is set to host a new satellite tracking system under an agreement with European space launch company ArianeGroup.
Ariane’s GeoTracker will consist of multiple instruments encased in a three-metre tall clamshell observatory dome.
This is the second commercial satellite ground infrastructure project CfAT has been able to secure for the Alice Springs site and will complement the existing Geoscience Australia satellite ground station at CfAT and the recently announced Real-Time Earth satellite ground station, a commercial venture between Viasat and CfAT Satellite Enterprises.
Alice Springs is am excellent location for such ventures as its clear skies facilitate the Ariane technology to automatically track satellites using an optical telescope.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the NT government was doing everything it could to create jobs for locals, even reaching for the stars.
“Attracting innovative projects to the Territory is just one way we are making sure there is more local investment and local jobs,” he said.
“Today’s announcement from CfAT and the ArianeGroup shows the Territory is open for business, with government ready to back quality projects that create jobs.
“After tough times, the Territory economy is now on the road to recovery. We know the only way to make the central Australia stronger is through jobs, not cuts. We’ll always put jobs first.”
CfAT is an Indigenous controlled organisation based five kilometres south of Alice Springs, which aims to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians through using appropriate technology to improve their access to a range services.
That includes developing technology suitable for remote areas, including power systems and housing.
Currently, 23 local jobs are supported through CfAT, with this project further supporting these and future roles. The majority of CfAT employees are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
CfAT plans to use this new project and the company will leverage this opportunity to develop local capability in technical construction and facility maintenance.
NT local Labor member Dale Wakefield said this announcement showed that Alice Springs has the capacity and capability to be one of the space and innovation hubs of the NT, supporting jobs and local business.
“Alice Springs is well known for enjoying more than 250 days per year without cloud, so this project occurring here, makes sense,” she said.
“We have a bright future in Alice Springs and this government will keep fighting hard for major projects and events that will be game changers for our town and benefit our community.” (Source: Defence Connect)
11 Mar 20. USAF’s AEHF- 6 communication satellite launch delayed. The launch of US Air Force’s (USAF) Advanced Extremely High-Frequency- 6 (AEHF-6) communication satellite has been delayed due to technical issues. United Launch Alliance (ULA) said that its Atlas V rocket was supposed to carry the satellite into space on 19 March. The mission ‘is now scheduled for no earlier than 21 March’.
According to ULA, an off-nominal valve reading was observed during launch vehicle processing. In an update, the company said: “Additional time is needed for the team to replace and retest the valve.”
The Atlas V rocket will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex-41, Florida, US.
The launch will be done on behalf of the US Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
This step will mark the launch of the final AEHF secure military communication satellite into an optimised geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The AEHF satellite system has been manufactured by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and is operated by the US Air Force (USAF).
The system comprises a series of six military communication satellites, which will replace the currently in-orbit Milstar system.
The Atlas V 551 rocket is being assembled at Cape Canaveral’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF).
The newly developed final AEHF satellite of the mission includes a 3D printed remote interface unit.
The fifth AEHF system was launched last year on 8 August from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on board ULA’s Atlas V rocket.(Source: airforce-technology.com)
11 Mar 20. DoD Drafts New Acquisition Strategy For Commercial SATCOM. Space Force will ask for 2022 money for commercial satcom, but the funds will not be for buying services as industry would like — rather for R&D.
The Space Force is drafting a new Transformative Acquisition Strategy for buying commercial satellite communications capacity, Clare Grason, the chief of the service’s Commercial Satellite Communications Office (CSCO), told a panel here today.
The new strategy is bouncing off of the new “Vision for Satellite Communications” signed Jan. 23 by Space Command head, and Space Force chief, Gen. Jay Raymond. It’s designed to enable the creation of seamless web of communications capabilities to warfighters, even during conflict.
David Myers, president of Peraton’s Communications sector, told me in an interview that CSCO will likely replace it’s current program, known as the Future Commercial SATCOM Acquisition Program, “with something unique to Space Command that better suits this mission of interoperability between between commercial and government.”
Indeed, Peraton on March 3 announced they had been granted a $218.6 million contract to provide commercial satellite communications services for Africa Command (AFRICOM). According to the company’s March 3 announcement, the “single award, blanket purchase agreement” is a first of its kind, whereby the company “will provide communications services leveraging satellites and emerging technologies from across multiple satellite fleet operators.”
At the same time, Grason told me afterwards, the office is in the process of putting together a funding request for 2022 for a newish, congressionally-mandated program of record to buy commercial satcom directly from operators — although she did not reveal the sum.
“We are POMing against the commercial satcom program of record,” she said. “We’re going through that process right now.”
Congress created the independent program element for commercial satcom within the DoD budget in the 2019, putting $49.5m into the pot. It added $5m to the program in 2020, although DoD did not ask for funding. There is no money in the 2021 budget request, Grason explained, although she is working on an unfunded requirements request that might be able to fill that gap.
The program of record, however, will not be used — at least in the near term — to provide satellite communications services to military users in a manner similar to how terrestrial telecom providers like AT&T sell you a data plan for your phone, as a number of commercial satcom operators have been advocating.
Instead, those congressionally appropriated funds would be used “for research and development purposes, to assess capabilities that are emerging,” Grason told me. Once proven, new capabilities might be fed back into the operational program. “Or we could do isolated projects in cooperation with others,” she said. “There’s a lot of flexibility and potential for the arrangement.”
CSCO is leery of crossing the working capital and congressionally appropriated funding streams, Grason explained. “It’s key when it comes down to the program of record that those activities are outside of the scope of our core … transactions,” she told me. “There are legalities there.”
Currently, the CSCO buys commercial satellite bandwidth using a DoD working capital fund — a kind of revolving fund that works a bit like a checking account. CSCO negotiates one-on-one contracts between a satcom provider and a military customer, Grayson said. At any one time, she told the Satellite 2020 audience, the office is negotiating about 30 different deals.
Under that system, DoD essentially leases commercial bandwidth for short periods of time — an acquisition model that has been widely disparaged by commercial satcom operators. Indeed, Congress in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) shifted Grason’s office from its original home within the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to Air Force Space Command. That, of course, has now been subsumed by the new Space Force.
The goal of the new acquisition strategy, Grason said, is to streamline that process via a kind of bundling of current contracts with providers.
“We do have a Transformative Acquisition Strategy under development now, that will evolve how we acquire and deliver commercial satcom on an aggregated basis through a smaller number of contracts,” she said, that will “centralize procurement with industry.” CSCO will then turn around and sign so-called ‘service letter agreements’ with military customers that, in effect, make them subscribers to commercial services.
“So in essence we’d become like a Direct TV with different cable plans,” she told me, and would managing the relationship between the user and the providers. “It’s a challenging objective, but we believe the benefit lies in the fact that we’re aggregating buying power, we won’t have duplication, we’ll have [broad] coverage, and the ability to shift resources without having to set up new contracts.”
A first draft of which is due at the end of the year, she said.
DoD currently contracts for satcom bandwidth with a number of providers, such as Peraton and Intelsat, which has been vocal in pushing the Pentagon to move to a ‘satellite-as-a-service’ model.
“We need a change in mindset,” Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president for government strategy and policy at Inmarsat Government, told the panel.
But the bulk of DoD’s satcom services and bandwidth comes via the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMMS) program, for which Iridium Communications was awarded a $738.5m, seven-year, fixed-price contract in December 2019.
The US military is heavily reliant on commercial satcom, given the fact that military comsat networks, such as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites built by Lockheed Martin and the Wideband Global SATCOM satellites built by Boeing, have limited bandwidth to go around.
In fact, Grason told me, access to milsatcom bandwidth is granted via a “prioritization scheme that customers generally speaking are highly dissatisfied with.”
That said, she admitted that military users of CSCO’s services are naturally a bit skeptical about a new approach.They want to know “how are you going to ensure that the capabilities that we’re getting today are not degraded?” she said. “The linchpin is that the customer will pay for the capability in the form of a service level agreement with us.”
Myer said one model DoD might want to think about is “buying a pool of capacity that gives them portability to move capacity around.” This would it to leverage buying power, he said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
11 Mar 20. The Space Force will need space intelligence. The military will have to beef up its space intelligence as it stands up the United States Space Force says the new service’s vice commander.
“What we really need most is elements of a war fighting domain and military service that have been lacking over the years. We need our own core intelligence capability,” said Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson.
Traditionally, both the military and intelligence community has seen space as a vantage from which to gather intelligence, but as the military switches to viewing it as a war fighting domain instead of a benign environment, the need for intelligence about space has increased. That includes knowing what objects are in space, where they are, what capabilities they have and what threat they pose to U.S. military and intelligence assets.
For Thompson, that means the nascent Space Force will need to build out its own intelligence capabilities as it grows increasingly independent of the United States Air Force.
“We need military, uniformed members of the Space Force, who understand deeply space intelligence,” said the vice commander.
Thompson also sees a need for the intelligence community to grow its own space intelligence capabilities to support the Space Force and United States Space Command. While Space Force leaders have spoken frequently about their close relationship with the intelligence agency most active in space, the National Reconnaissance Office, Thompson said the community’s current space intelligence capabilities would not meet the need.
“We probably need to grow the overall intelligence community enterprise focus on space,” said Thompson. “It has some organizations with tremendous technical and deep intelligence knowledge of space capabilities today, but it’s probably too small for the task in front of it, and it has to help us build, no kidding, uniformed intelligence officers like we have who understand land combat, who understand maritime combat, who understand air combat.”
Currently, the United States Space Command relies primarily on the National Space Defense Center and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center for space intelligence, although there have been calls for a new national space intelligence center to coordinate and develop space intelligence for the Space Force.
Maj. Gen. John E. Shaw, now commander of the Space Force’s Space Operations Command, explained the rationale for such a center at the Intelligence and National Security Summit Sept. 5.
“We are going to have to grow intelligence professionals for the space domain that support operational and foundational intelligence for a potential war that extends to space. That’s going to be a major focus for us,” he said. “In the near to mid-term a Space Force is probably going to leverage what’s at [National Air and Space Intel Center] already. It’s possible —possible — that in the future there is a separate national space intelligence center.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
11 Mar 20. The Space Force is adding another satellite to its first launch. A new space situational awareness satellite will hitch a ride into orbit alongside the United States Space Force’s latest anti-jamming communication satellite later this month when the service conducts its first launch since being established in December.
Sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory and manufactured by the Georgia Institute of Technology, TDO-2 is a multi-manifest small satellite vehicle carrying multiple government payloads that will help provide space domain awareness for the Space Force. The satellite will carry multiple government payloads and will be able to gather range data on other objects in space using lasers as well as provide optical calibration capabilities.
TDO-2 will share a ride into orbit on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the sixth and final Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. The AEHF constellation replaces the legacy Milstar constellation to provide protected satellite communications for high-priority US military assets and international partners. A single AEHF satellite provides three times the capacity of the entire Milstar constellation, while the complete AEHF constellation will provide 10 times the throughput.
AEHF-6 is the anchor satellite for the mission, with the TDO-2 payload integrated into the aft-end of the Centaur upper stage. TDO-2 will deploy first, 31 minutes after launch. This is only the second time this type of event has occurred on a National Security Space Launch mission, the first instance taking place when a hosted payload was deployed ahead of AEHF-5 last year.
TDO-2 will be used to demonstrate a swap out capability late in the integration process, allowing the Space Force to substitute a payload into a launch as late as one month before the launch date. The Space Force said in a statement this gives them increased flexibility in putting national security payloads on orbit.
The Space and Missile Systems Center delivered the fully tested and integrated TDO-2 to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station March 6 to be integrated into the AEHF-6 mission ahead of a March 19 launch date. (Source: Defense News)
11 Mar 20. Rocket Lab partners with UNSW, US National Reconnaissance Office for lift off. The launch will take place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula, with a 14-day launch window scheduled to commence from 27 March 2020. The mission will be Rocket Lab’s 12th Electron launch since the company began launches in May 2017.
The rideshare mission will launch several small satellites, including the ANDESITE (Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) satellite created by electrical and mechanical engineering students and professors at Boston University.
The satellite will launch as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and will conduct groundbreaking scientific study into Earth’s magnetic field.
Once in space, the ANDESITE satellite will initiate measurements of the magnetosphere with onboard sensors, later releasing eight pico satellites carrying small magnetometer sensors to track electric currents flowing in and out of the atmosphere, a phenomenon also known as space weather.
These variations in the electrical activity racing through space can have a big impact on our lives here on Earth, causing interruptions to things like radio communications and electrical systems.
The ANDESITE satellite follows Rocket Lab’s first ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) launch for NASA, the ELaNa-19 mission, which launched a host of educational satellites to orbit on Electron in December 2018.
Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said the mission is a great example of the kind of cutting-edge research and fast-paced innovation that small satellites are enabling.
“It’s a privilege to have NASA and the NRO launch on Electron again, and we’re excited to welcome the University of New South Wales onto our manifest for the first time, too,” Beck added.
“We created Electron to make getting to space easy for all, so it’s gratifying to be meeting the needs of national security payloads and student research projects on the same mission.”
The mission also carries three payloads designed, built and operated by the NRO. The mission was procured under the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle.
RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that provide a streamlined, commercial approach for getting small satellites into space, as well as provide those working in the small satellite community with timely and cost-effective access to space.
This mission follows Rocket Lab’s first dedicated mission for the NRO, Birds of a Feather, which was launched on 31 January 2020 from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1.
The ANDESITE and NRO payloads will be joined on the mission by the M2 Pathfinder satellite, a collaboration between UNSW Canberra Space and the Australian government.
Colonel Chad Davis, Director of NRO’s Office of Space Launch, said, “We’re excited to be partnering with Rocket Lab on another mission under our RASR contract.
“This latest mission is a great example of the collaborative nature of the space community and our goal as space partners to procure rideshare missions that not only meet our mission needs but provide opportunities for those working with smallsats to gain easy access to space.”
The M2 Pathfinder will test communications architecture and other technologies that will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia. The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an onboard software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while in orbit.
NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) ELaNa Mission lead, Scott Higginbotham, said, “Through the CSLI, NASA engages the next generation of space explorers. This initiative provides university teams like ANDESITE with real life, hands-on experience in conducting an actual space research mission in conjunction with NASA. The students grow as professionals and NASA benefits from the research. We are truly excited about this collaborative mission.”
Andrin Tomaschett, spacecraft project lead at UNSW Canberra, welcomed the milestone for UNSW Canberra, stating, “We’re very excited to be launching M2 Pathfinder with Rocket Lab who have been so very flexible in accommodating our spacecraft specific needs, let alone the ambitious nine-month project time frame.
“The success of this spacecraft will unlock so much more, for our customers and for Australia, by feeding into the complex spacecraft projects and missions our team are currently working on.”
The mission has been named ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ in recognition of Rocket Lab board member and avid Queen fan Scott Smith, who recently passed away. Rocket Lab will not be carrying out any recovery testing on the Electron launch vehicle during this mission. (Source: Space Connect)
10 Mar 20. Avtomatika develops SATCOM protection for Meridian satellite. Avtomatika Group, part of Russia’s state-owned Rostec conglomerate, has developed a software system to protect transmissions between the Meridian military communications satellite (14F112) and its ground-based control stations. The Meridian satellite was launched on 20 February by a Soyuz-2.1a medium carrier rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk region. It has been designed to carry out C4I functions between naval vessels and aircraft operating in the Northern Sea route as well as expanding satellite communications across Siberia and Russia’s far east. TASS reported on 10 March that Avtomatika is also working on the development of new pre-launch testing systems for onboard equipment. (Source: Shephard)
09 Mar 20. L3Harris Technologies Introduces New Reflector Antenna Tailored for Smallsat Missions.
- One-third smaller and 50% lighter than legacy solutions
- Leverages proven space antenna technology
- Optimized for high-production manufacturing rates
L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has introduced a new small satellite reflector antenna that will help decrease the size, weight and overall time to produce smallsats.
Lighter and more compact than legacy designs, the new Smallsat Perimeter Truss (SPT) leverages L3Harris’ advanced Perimeter Truss design, while optimizing its mass to make the unit lighter and smaller to package onto small satellites. Offered in diameters up to four meters, and specifically designed for use on smallsat platforms, the Ka-band SPT is one-third the size and 50% the weight of previous designs. When stowed, the reflector is about the size of a commercial office fire extinguisher.
“Smallsats are playing a more important role in space and industry must continue to develop ways to make every satellite component smaller and lighter to keep pace with production and mission requirements,” said Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. “We have done that with the new Smallsat Perimeter Truss – enabling L3Harris to package large high-gain antennas onto smaller satellite platforms.” (Source: ASD Network)
10 Mar 20. HySpecIQ Selects BridgeComm as Communications Partner for Satellite Hyperspectral Imaging. HySpecIQ’s new LEO constellation will rely on BridgeComm data services, terminals, and optical ground station networks for fast, secure, enterprise-grade broadband connectivity.
BridgeComm, Inc., a leader in optical wireless communications (OWC) solutions and services, today announced that it was selected as the OWC solution provider for HySpecIQ’s new low earth orbit (LEO) constellation. These advanced satellites will provide high-resolution hyperspectral imaging that—when combined with HySpecIQ’s advanced analytics platform—will serve vital needs in myriad market verticals, including environmental intelligence, national security, natural resources, agriculture, insurance, and risk management.
“This partnership is the latest example of BridgeComm’s global market leadership in providing fast, secure, enterprise-grade broadband services for high-growth applications,” said Barry Matsumori, CEO of BridgeComm. “BridgeComm’s advanced design and end-to-end service capability fulfill HySpecIQ’s needs for trusted technology and a supplier that is both innovative and reliable.”
“We’re developing a system that addresses a wide array of spectral applications with timely and accurate solutions,” said Bill Sullivan, Executive Chairman and founder of HySpecIQ. “BridgeComm’s solution will allow us to download large volumes of data from our constellation with low latency, in a reliable, secure manner which ensures data integrity. It’s these attributes, coupled with time to market and cost considerations, that clearly led us to select BridgeComm as our OWC partner.”
BridgeComm has quickly garnered attention as the first organization to commercialize OWC and begin development of a global network of optical ground stations designed to support complementary fixed and mobile terminals that provide high-bandwidth, high-security solutions for unique applications. A wireless technology offering rapid point-to-point data transmission via beams of light that connect from one telescope to another using low-power, safe, infrared lasers in the terahertz spectrum, OWC holds tremendous potential to augment RF, fiber and mmWave technologies and extend the capabilities of the terrestrial fiber grid—particularly in hard-to-access environments and in areas where cell towers do not currently exist.
HySpecIQ designs sensors and satellites that collect hyperspectral data as well as an advanced analytics platform to make sense of that data. HySpecIQ’s ethos is rooted in science and big data, satellite technology and signature libraries. We start with our users’ needs and dig deep to understand their challenges across a broad cross-section of markets, while educating them on the significant information advantage enabled by hyperspectral remote sensing and machine enhanced dynamic analytics. Learn more at our website at https://www.hyspeciq.com.
BridgeComm is a global leader in optical wireless communications solutions and services. Through a global network of ground stations designed to support complementary fixed and mobile terminals, the company provides fast, secure, enterprise-grade broadband services for a variety of markets, including space exploration, terrestrial networks for 5G connectivity and applications, and airborne lasercom for prominent applications including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, in-flight entertainment and backhaul. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
09 Mar 20. The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Force Base awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) a $240m contract to develop a prototype payload for its new Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) system.
PTS is a next-generation capability connecting warfighters with more agile and jam-resistant satellite communications (SATCOM). The complete system will deploy a constellation of dedicated geostationary satellites, commercially hosted payloads, and coalition partner satellites integrated through a ground control network to provide U.S. and coalition forces protected communications in a data hungry battlespace.
SMC’s acquisition begins with a rapid prototyping phase for a new mission payload hosting the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW). The fully-processed payloads will ensure adaptive, anti-jamming communications channels are available to allied forces in a contested environment. SMC is leveraging Other Transaction Authority (OTA) contracting mechanisms rather than a traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based acquisition for prototyping to provide agile development, “E.P.I.C. Speed,” and an avenue for non-traditional participation. E.P.I.C. Speed is SMC’s acronym for Enterprise, Partnership, Innovation, Culture and Speed.
Lockheed Martin is excited to be in a position to rapidly develop protected SATCOM payload technologies that will benefit the warfighter.
“Teaming with non-traditional hardware and software developers has enabled the Lockheed Martin team to leap frog communications payload capabilities,” said Erik Daehler, Lockheed Martin’s director of Strategic Communications Architectures. “We are able to ‘Go Fast,’ both in technology deployment and contracting structure, due to the nature of the OTA acquisition. Our partnership with the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) has made these non-traditional acquisitions possible.”
“Lockheed Martin understands how important protected communications are to our tactical warfighters deployed downrange. We also know that our SATCOM systems have to evolve to stay ahead of the threats, because a space system that can’t survive Day 1 of a conflict can’t achieve the mission,” said Mike Cacheiro, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Protected Military SATCOM. “Having delivered the nation’s essential satellite communications systems, we are uniquely positioned to partner with the U.S. Space Force to develop the next generation’s innovative, resilient and modular protected tactical SATCOM architecture.”
Lockheed Martin launched the first commercial protected communications payload on Hellas Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1 (HS-4/SGS-1) in 2019, featuring the most advanced digital signal processor and protected communications algorithms available. These technologies along with mission expertise and a partnership with the Space Force will dramatically accelerate PTS to the warfighter.
PTS continues Lockheed Martin’s legacy of developing resilient protected communications for the military that includes both the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and the MILSTAR systems. In 2015, the Air Force awarded the company a contract for Combined Orbital Operations Logistics Sustainment (COOLS), which cost-effectively consolidated the sustainment of the AEHF, MILSTAR and DSCS III constellations in one ground system. In 2019, the COOL\R contract extended that sustainment emphasizing additional resiliency, cyber and mission planning enhancements.
Lockheed Martin has developed and built more than 300 payloads for a variety of missions. The company has more than 50 years of experience as a payload integrator, developing cutting-edge technologies supporting our nation’s critical missions.
03 Mar 20. Attack On US Satellites Focus Of Next ABMS Test: Goldfein.
“The next one we’re doing is big. It’s big,” Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said. It will span bases from Eglin AFB to Nellis AFB; Yuma Proving Ground to White Sands Missile Range. All the joint chiefs plan to be there.
The next exercise of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) will focus on a first: supporting Space Command (SPACECOM) through a simulated attack on US space assets, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein says.
“We’re going to have three supported commanders, one for the very first time in history. The US Space Command Commander Gen. Raymond is going to be the supported commander for this activity,” Goldfein told me in an exclusive interview here in Orlando on Feb. 27. All the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan to attend this exercise.
US operational commands, called Combatant Commands, are broken down into two types: those covering ops in a geographic area, such as European Command, that are supported commands; and so-called functional commands that provide cross-regional capabilities, such as Cyber Command, that are supporting commands.
As Breaking D readers know, the new(ish) Space Command was deliberately organized as a geographic command — its region being 100 kilometers above the Earth and beyond — in order to allow it to be a supported command. Indeed, Gen. Jay Raymond, who is double hatted as head of both SPACECOM and the Space Force, pushed strongly for that to happen.
“We normally sort of look at him [Raymond] as the supporting commander, but, now, he will be the lead supported commander. There will be actions taken against his assets, and we will have to use all-domain command and control to generate an all-domain response to that.”
Besides SPACECOM, Goldfein said, the exercise will include Northern Command (NORTHCOM), headed by Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, and Strategic Command (STRATCOM) now led by Adm. Chas Richard.
“We’ll shift to a scenario with Gen. O’Shaughnessy as the supported commander, and he will have a combination cruise missile and bomber attack, and we will have to generate very quickly an all domain response to be able to counter that,” he explained. “And then we’ll have a scenario that supports the STRATCOM commander,” involving “attacks on his nuclear command and control (NC3)” and designed to figure out how to ensure “continuity” using JADC2 at the top of the military food chain.
The April 8 exercise is the second of the ABMS family of systems being designed to enable the multi-service Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept to link every sensor to every shooter via a military Internet of Things. It will be much larger than the first so-called “ABMS OnRamp” exercise, held Dec. 16-18 in Florida,
It will involve the Air Force, Army, Navy and Space Force, and span a large number of bases from Eglin AFB, Florida; Nellis AFB, Nevada; Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona; and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
“The next one we’re doing is big. It’s big,” Goldfein said. “I’m anticipating a 60 percent success rate, because we are going to fail fast and learn.”
Goldfein said that as these ABMS exercises continue every four months, they will make concrete what just a year ago or so was really a concept on paper — moving from “aspirational Power Point lightning bolts to real capability.” He said that because the service has been able to develop real things — including “cloudONE” and the “dataONE” data library that evolved from the Air Force’s Unified Data Library for space object data — “all the services are playing with us now.”
The four-month cycle is key to allowing the Air Force and its sister services to actually test technologies that can provide connectivity, he said, via a spiral development cycle that builds new capability with each bite the service takes of the problem.
“Some advice I got early on in this journey was: ‘Hey, don’t eat the entire elephant. It’ll crush you with its own weight. So pick an edible animal.’ So, we jokingly called it the gazelle,” he said with a laugh.
“We don’t connect everything” at once, he explained. “We take some elements of the force, the joint force, and we connect them. And we pick a problem to solve, or two or three. Then we go give it a shot.”
Goldfein said the four-month cycle of exercises also is helping to make ABMS, and in turn JADC2, more concrete in the eyes of a skeptical Congress. DoD asked for total of $302m in 2021 for ABMS, more than double the $144m Congress granted in 2020 — a figure slightly smaller than the service’s 2020 request of $186m, and one that came with a bucketload of reporting requirements.
“You’re right that we haven’t perhaps made the case, but let’s also be honest that a lot of the case we were making before was aspirational Power Point. Now I’m sitting down with Congress and showing them, look what we accomplished this last time, and we’re on the next four month demo,” he said. “Every four months we’re making it real.”
He added that all five members of the joint chiefs are fully behind JADC2, and are participating in the ABMS effort. That should be another factor in helping bring Congress around on funding. “It may be the Air Force has got the most invested at this point, but this is joint. The J matters,” he said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
09 Mar 20. Pentagon Seeks New SatCom Tech For ‘Fully Networked C3.’
“Our fully networked C3 [Command, Control, & Communications] will look completely different” from current satellites and terminals, said OSD’s Doug Schroeder. The Pentagon wants industry ideas on how to craft a “fundamentally new architecture” for command, control and communications (C3) that will allow “any user using any terminal to connect to any other user using any other terminal,” says Doug Schroeder, who oversees the effort under the Office of Research and Engineering (R&E).
This kind of omnipresent, all-service connectivity across land, sea, air, and space is essential for the Pentagon’s rapidly evolving of future war, known as Joint-All Domain Operations.
“Our Fully Networked C3 communications will look completely different. We have a new vision. We’re crafting it with the help of industry,” he said. “We’re relying on very heavily on industry, starting with this Broad Agency Announcement dated March 6,” which asks for companies to submit white papers in short order.
According to Schroeder, the Space Development Agency (SDA) will be the funding authority. Vendors whose short, 10 to 15 page white papers are chosen will be invited at the end of April to a Pitch Day. Winners then will be given three months to develop a proposal; contracts for prototypes will be granted 24 months later.
Speaking to a relatively sparse audience here at the annual commercial satellite industry conference, Satellite 2020 — which is underway despite the threat of the COVID-19 Coronavirus — Schroeder stressed: “We are going to take our new direction from you.”
The new strategy, called Fully Networked C3 (FNC3), is being spearheaded by R&E director Mike Griffin and his assistant director for FNC3, Michael Zatman. According to the BAA, the first issued under the effort, the new strategy is being designed to “enable the DoD to reliably communicate with all its tactical and strategic assets.” C3 is one of Griffin’s Top Ten areas of technology innovation for which DoD is developing an agency-wide development strategy.
Specifically, DoD now is looking for “Beyond-Line-Of-Site (BLOS) communications systems for airborne, surface, and subsurface systems that is [sic] compatible with both FNC3 enabled systems and legacy systems,” the BAA states.
The BAA calls for White Papers to be submitted by March 30 for three different types of BLOS technologies:
- Protected Radio Frequency (RF) BLOS Communications.
- Multi-User/Multi-Point High-Data-Rate Laser Communications.
- Communications with submerged assets.
R&E intends to “develop, prototype, and demonstrate each innovative communications capability with the goal of transitioning the technologies into programs of record,” the BAA said. To ensure speedy results, DoD will use Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for prototyping (found under 10 U.S. Code § 2371b.)
Much of the detail about the effort is contained in classified annexes.
What we do know: Beyond-Line-Of-Sight communications relayed through satellites generally require equipping platforms — such as aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles — with high-throughput voice and data links, capabilities all of the services have expressed interest in. In particular, after years of little progress, Griffin has reinvigorated DoD interest in optical communications via laser links, in large part due to fears about Russian and Chinese RF jamming. Commercial industry has been rushing to develop optical links to enable satellite-to-satellite data transmission, and the Space Development Agency is interested in that capability for its so-called transport layer of small satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
Radio-frequency communications with submarines when underwater are generally limited to terse text messages, transmitted at very low frequencies (three to 30 kilohertz) and extremely low frequencies (three to 300 hertz) and requiring very large antennas to receie them. Research work is ongoing at MIT on how to link traditional underwater sonar to airborne RF receivers, a methodology called Translational Acoustic-RF) communication. Research also is ongoing, including at MIT’s Lincoln Lab, on using narrow-beam lasers to allow one underwater vehicle to communicate with another.
BLOS communications can also be accomplished without using satellites. Alternative method include tropospheric scatter using microwave radiation, high frequency (HF) wireless, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) relays, and passive reflector systems. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
09 Mar 20. Space Force issues two more contracts for protected SATCOM. Lockheed Martin and Boeing will build prototype payloads for the Space Force’s Protected Tactical Satellite Communication program, the service announced March 3.
The two companies join Northrop Grumman as the prime contractors for Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) payload development. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $253.6m contract Feb. 12, while Lockheed Martin and Boeing were awarded $240m and $191m contracts respectively Feb. 28.
“We are thrilled to add Boeing and Lockheed Martin to the PTS effort,” said Col. Dennis O. Bythewood, the Space Force’s program executive officer for space development. “The technology maturation and prototyping effort conducted under SpEC 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.”
The Space Force is developing PTS as its next generation anti-jamming satellite communications system, providing tactical communications for war fighters worldwide over the Protected Tactical Waveform. The PTS family of systems will utilize dedicated geostationary satellites as well as payloads hosted on commercial satellites and those operated by international partners. PTS is a Space and Missile Systems Center pacesetter program.
The Space Force had said they would award up to four payload development contracts, but on March 3 they noted the Lockheed Martin and Boeing contracts would be the final awards. All three contracts were awarded through the Space Enterprise Consortium, an other transaction authority used for rapid prototyping that prioritizes incorporating nontraditional vendors.
“Teaming with non-traditional hardware and software developers has enabled the Lockheed Martin team to leap frog communications payload capabilities,” said Erik Daehler, Lockheed Martin’s director of strategic communications architectures in a statement. “We are able to ‘Go Fast,’ both in technology deployment and contracting structure, due to the nature of the OTA acquisition. Our partnership with the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC) has made these non-traditional acquisitions possible.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
09 Mar 20. ST Engineering iDirect, a company of ST Engineering North America, introduces its Mx-DMA MRC (multi-resolution coding) technology at SATELLITE 2020, which unites SCPC (single carrier per channel) efficiency and TDMA (time-division multiple access) scalability in an innovative way, adding ground-breaking new dimensions of adaptivity. Building on the well-established, award-winning Mx-DMA technology, Mx-DMA MRC will answer the market’s call for unprecedented service agility, extending the availability of Mx-DMA to very large networks and expanding the applicability and use of the technology to cover a full spectrum of use cases.
The introduction of Mx-DMA MRC brings forth the full scalability of TDMA return link technologies to the original Mx-DMA HRC (high resolution coding) return at the same efficiency levels. Service providers can now cover a myriad of use cases in a single return link, from cruise ships and large enterprise customers to SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and broadband access, sharing satellite capacity more efficiently over a group of satellite terminals and applications, achieving the lowest total cost of ownership.
“With the added dimensions and scalability of MRC, we are unlocking tremendous flexibility and scale so our customers can deliver a broader range of service levels at a lower cost structure without compromise,” said Thomas Van den Driessche, President of the Executive Board and Chief Commercial Officer, ST Engineering iDirect. “This will open up many doors for them, enabling them to serve a greater number of markets more efficiently and effectively. As we move towards a converged offering, it is technology like this that will be integral for the future success of our customers, and we remain dedicated to protecting their investment with us, today and tomorrow.”
Mx-DMA MRC is a return link technology that combines the benefits of MF-TDMA – ideal for bursty traffic and higher contention services with the spectrum efficiency of SCPC that is more applicable to dedicated higher data and video rate return links, into a single return technology suited to a greatly expanded set of applications. Mx-DMA scales in MHz independent of the number of terminals so customers may be served with a single return link for the majority of their use cases, minimizing operational complexity and maximizing statistic multiplexing. Mx-DMA MRC delivers these benefits by maintaining the industry-leading spectral efficiency of Mx-DMA HRC while drastically improving the agility, scalability and fill efficiency. Designing an Mx-DMA MRC link does not require precise knowledge of the traffic and terminal mix as the link self-optimizes in real-time. Moreover, the high efficiency enables bandwidth savings, higher throughput, better network availability and substantial terminal cost savings. The first release of Mx-DMA MRC will be available to early adopters of the Newtec Dialog platform from Q3 2020.
09 Mar 20. India seeks to make satellite navigation systems interoperable. The US global positioning system (GPS) was the first but others were not going to let the US dominate this very useful capability and Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s GLONASS, China’s BeiDou and India’s NAVIC all followed. All deliver comparable service and level of accuracy, around 5-10 metres. However greater accuracy is better for many applications such as aviation and more nations are rolling out enhanced capabilities – Satellite-based Augmentation Systems (SBAS).
But, especially for aviation, it would be desirable for multiple SBAS to be interoperable.
The SBAS Interoperability Working Group (SBAS IWG) is working to ensure that the future evolutions of all these systems will operate on a similar basis, with common technical requirements.
That would ease transition of international air traffic moving from one system to another, which will be especially important in regions where system coverage overlaps.
That was the subject of the 36th SBAS IWG meeting in Delhi in February, hosted by the Airport Authority of India.
Since the last IWG meeting last year, a new regional SBAS program has been born – the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SPAN) covering Australia and New Zealand, represented at the Delhi meeting by Geoscience Australia and Land Information New Zealand.
IWG has been seeking to coordinate the introduction of SBAS for 20 years.
There are different kinds of SBAS, such as the US Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), which use additional ground stations to enhance the accuracy and reliability of existing satnav services across given geographic regions.
“Satellite-based augmentation systems deliver the necessary accuracy, integrity, availability and service continuity for aircraft to be able to rely on them though all phases of flight, from cruising in the air to being guided down for landing,” said head of the European Space Agency EGNOS and SBAS division.
Attending the IWG meeting were representatives of the four SBAS currently under definition or development.
That’s China’s BeiDou SBAS (BDSBAS), represented by the China Satellite Navigation Office; South Korea’s KASS, represented by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute; the African and Indian Ocean SBAS, represented by the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar; and the Russian Federation’s System for Differential Corrections and Monitoring (SDCM), represented by Russian Space Systems.
Current systems are mostly based around the US GPS system, with the exception of SDCM for GLONASS and BDSBAS for BeiDou.
The gathering also included an exchange of information on SBAS research and development, including applying SBAS to Europe’s railways. (Source: Space Connect)
09 Mar 20. Rocket Lab to launch Capella Space SAR satellite from NZ. US launch company Rocket Lab has inked a launch contract with Capella Space to launch the first-ever synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite that delivers commercial data into a mid-inclination orbit to optimise hotspot monitoring of key regions in the world.
Launching later this year, the mission will loft the first satellite of Capella Space’s Whitney constellation on an Electron launch vehicle from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.
By positioning the satellite to a 45-degree inclination, Capella Space will maximise coverage over important areas such as the Middle East, Korea, Japan, south-east Asia, Africa and the US.
This launch paves the way for reliable and persistent imagery of anywhere on the globe, day or night, and in any weather conditions. Capella’s space-based radar can detect sub-0.5-metre changes on the surface of the Earth, providing insights and data that can be used for security, agricultural and infrastructure monitoring, as well as disaster response and recovery.
Payam Banazadeh, chief executive of Capella Space, welcomed the announcement, saying, “At Capella Space, we help our customers solve some of the world’s biggest and most complex problems – from climate change to infrastructure monitoring – using on-demand, accurate Earth observation data.”
Capella Space will be the primary payload on the Electron launch vehicle, enabling Capella to select a specific orbit and launch timeline to meet its customer needs in terms of coverage, revisit and image quality.
“Launching our first Whitney satellite on a dedicated Rocket Lab mission allows us to stay in control of our orbit and focus on our goal to deliver customer-focused solutions in a timely manner,” Banazadeh added.
Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck reinforced the statements made by Banazadeh: “Our dedicated launch solution will get Capella Space on orbit faster, enabling them to focus on their core mission – providing reliable, up to the hour imagery data to inform everyday decisions down here on Earth.
“By launching on Electron, the team at Capella are in control of their mission every step of the way. The ability to book a launch quickly, have control over launch timing and select an exact orbit puts customers like Capella in the driver’s seat as they build out their constellations how and when they want to.”
While the Capella Space mission is scheduled for mid-2020, Rocket Lab’s next Electron launch will be on the pad at Launch Complex 1 in late March. Details of the next mission and customer will be released in the coming week. (Source: Space Connect)
09 Mar 20. Mission Microwave Supports Envistacom SATCOM Terminal Upgrade Program. Envistacom and Mission Microwave team to win significant satellite terminal upgrade program, replacing TWT Amplifiers with High Performance, Lightweight, Solid State Power Amplifiers
Santa Fe Springs, CA – March 9, 2020–Mission Microwave Technologies, LLC, a manufacturer of highly efficient Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs) and Envistacom, a leading provider of communications, cyber and intelligence operations solutions to the U.S. DoD, have confirmed the initial orders of a major satellite ground terminal upgrade program for a US Government customer.
Envistacom teamed with Mission Microwave to create an opportunity for their customer to replace legacy traveling wave tube amplifiers (TWTA) based Block Up Converters (BUCs) with state-of-the-art Solid State BUCs based on Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology. The initial upgrade platforms include 200 tactical terminals in support of the U.S. Army’s Project Manager Mission Network (PM MN).
Mission Microwave is providing Envistacom with 200 Watt Ku-Band and 50 Watt Ka-band BUCS to replace legacy TWTA based Up converters. Mission Microwave’s industry leading competency in designing compact and highly efficient amplifiers has enabled Envistacom to offer their customer an upgrade path that will extend the life and utility of this Tactical SATCOM terminal fleet of over 600 terminals. If taken to completion, the upgrade program could result in orders of roughly $44m for Mission Microwave.
“The end-users of our products rely on proven SATCOM system providers like Envistacom to bring the benefits of Solid State designs to the tactical edge. We worked with Envistacom’s engineering team to navigate the complexities of the upgrade and certification process for these terminals. Envistacom’s reputation and knowledge of the tactical customers’ expectations has made it possible for Mission Microwave to bring these benefits to critical field operators. We expect the trend of replacing high power TWTA’s with SSPA’s to be a significant market for the foreseeable future. Envistacom has been a critical partner in bringing this to market.” said Steve Richeson, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Mission Microwave.
“Our tactical customers demand the reliability, performance and lower total cost of ownership associated with solid state amplifiers. Mission Microwave’s innovative application of GaN technology has enabled the use of solid state BUCs at power levels that were previously not practical. We are very excited to be able to provide an innovative roadmap for our customer using Mission’s products.” Said Russ Coolman, Product Manager, Envistacom.
03 Mar 20. Telesat to Initiate Some LEO Services Next Year. According to a new report from journalist Chris Forrester at Advanced Television, Ottawa-based Telesat stated the firm could start some services from its constellation of LEO satellites by the end of 2022.
The first craft will launch later in 2021 or early 2022 although final decisions as to the extent of the service are yet to be made. Indeed, orders for the construction of the fleet have yet to be placed and will be determined around mid-year. Telesat said the planned constellation of 300 satellites will be in orbit during 2023, and the design calls for craft which are larger and more complex than those being orbited by SpaceX’s Starlink.
Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President/CEO addressing analysts during the company’s Q4 and full year results statement, said, “In addition to achieving stable financial results relative to the prior year, we took significant steps in laying the foundations for our future growth. In particular we made meaningful progress in refining the design of our planned revolutionary Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation and, importantly, announced a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Government to leverage the constellation to bridge the Digital Divide in Canada, an arrangement we expect will generate $1.2bn in revenue over a 10 year period.”
For the year ended December 31, 2019, Telesat reported consolidated revenue of C$911m, an increase of 1 percent (C$8m) compared to the same period in 2018. When adjusted for changes in foreign exchange rates, revenue was unchanged compared to 2018. Revenue increases related to the Telstar 19 VANTAGE and Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellites, which were launched in 2018, and revenues earned from short-term services to other satellite operators.
Operating expenses were C$165m, a decrease of 11 per cent from 2018. When adjusting for the impact of foreign exchange rate changes, expenses decreased by 12 per cent (C$22m). Fleet utilization was 81 percent,and backlog was C$3.3bn. It also emerged that Canada’s government is also looking to repurpose C-band satellite capacity for 5G usage, which could lead to further compensation payments for satellite operators servicing the nation. (Source: Satnews)
03 Mar 20. New British Launch Company Launches. On the 50th Anniversary of the first successful British rocket launch, the Black Arrow name is reinvigorated as Black Arrow Space Technologies starts up in business.
Black Arrow Space Technologies is a new British company developing spaceflight technologies designed to launch satellites into orbit. Black Arrow unique offer is their seaborne launch system – commercial rockets launched from their own space ship. This will enable Britain to offer a global service unavailable elsewhere in the world, bypassing many of the issues faced by land launches.
Initially, the company aims to launch payloads of up to 500 kg. into Polar Low Earth Orbit or 300 kg. into Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). This will support a growing niche in the space market, currently under-served by the international ‘access to space’ sector. In time, the concept will be developed to enable much larger payloads to be launched to higher altitudes and more trajectories.
Black Arrow Space Technologies has negotiated an agreement with a major investor to fully fund the company development activities, up to the completion of the test launch phase of the project, which is anticipated to take between two and three years. Design and development work will take place in the Oxfordshire area, with engine test stands and the ship fleet, including the launch vessel and support ships, based in South Wales. It is anticipated that around 300 high-skilled jobs will be created by the time that commercial launches begin.
The first launches are planned to take place from the Atlantic Ocean, South West of Ireland. The initial variant of the rocket will allow Black Arrow to explore and develop specialist technologies, components and procedures for use on subsequent commercial vehicles. Black Arrow will attract innovative technologies from external sources to complement their internal composite parts and help them to deliver the service quickly. The seaborne spaceport will use existing vessels, suitably modified for specialist use, reducing costs further.
CEO Paul Williams said the company is pleased to welcome a major investor to this exciting program, helping the firm to develop products and build a world-class satellite launch service. Black Arrow will involve all regions of the country in the planned developments, encouraging new talent and initiating a new space awareness for all. By adopting the latest technologies, the firm aims to be the cleanest and most cost-effective satellite launch service, from seabed to space and will offer a highly responsive ride to orbit for deployment of Earth Observation (EO) assets as well as a flexible option for telecommunications, navigation and data resources. Black Arrow’s mobility of operation will appeal to many friendly countries around the world where such activities hold great attraction.
01 Mar 20. ABS Denounces FCC’s C-Band Spectrum Allocation Decision. In response to the FCC’s decision on reallocating C-Band spectrum, ABS Global Chairman and CEO Jim Frownfelter stated “This Order is fatally flawed by its misinterpretations of the Communications Act, and by its numerous arbitrary and capricious conclusions. The Small Satellite Operators (SSOs) are going to be harmed by the unlawful revocation of the right to use 60 percent of their licensed C-band spectrum, and we will ask the courts to overturn this Order and to instruct the FCC to start the entire process again.” ABS is a global satellite operator and offers tailored solutions including broadcasting, data and telecommunication services to broadcasters, service providers, enterprises and government organizations. ABS operates a fleet of satellites: ABS-2, ABS-2A, ABS-3A ABS-4/Mobisat-1, ABS-6, and ABS-7. The satellite fleet covers over 93 percent of the world’s population across the Americas, Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, CIS and Russia. Headquartered in Bermuda, ABS has offices in the United States, UAE, South Africa and Asia. ABS is owned by Permira, a European Private Equity firm. (Source: Satnews)
01 Mar 20. NSR Bottom Line, Lasers: Too Fast for Satellite? The last few years have seen increased optical activity as network operators look to new technologies as an emerging alternative to RF. Optical is expected to address challenges of the RF comms ecosystem, especially around data rates, link availability, reliability and security. While such technological advantages are a welcome change, other factors such as cost and market maturity will play a key role in the adoption of optical wireless communications in space. In other words, will the use of lasers in our industry keep pace with the (very) high expectations to deliver increasing volumes of data over satellite networks?
The last few years have seen increased optical activity as network operators look to new technologies as an emerging alternative to RF. Optical is expected to address challenges of the RF comms ecosystem, especially around data rates, link availability, reliability and security. While such technological advantages are a welcome change, other factors such as cost and market maturity will play a key role in the adoption of optical wireless communications in space. In other words, will the use of lasers in our industry keep pace with the (very) high expectations to deliver increasing volumes of data over satellite networks?
As of 2019, plans for more than 25,500 satellites to launch have been announced, ranging from Comms and Earth Observation to M2M/IoT and Space Situational Awareness applications. More than one such constellation has proposed the use of optical Inter-Satellite Links (ISLs), and these are expected to be the real enabler of large volume production of Laser Communication Terminals (LCTs) in the coming decade.
Then There Was Light
Despite being an unproven technology for such a use case, LCTs provide the dual benefit of circumventing regulatory constraints associated with landing rights and drastically decrease the number of ground stations required. As such, NSR expects major constellation operators to slowly ramp up on the adoption of LCTs on their satellites and develop ISL-enabled constellations in phases.
NSR’s Optical Satellite Communications, 2nd Edition report projects a $3.8bn cumulative opportunity through the coming decade for space-based laser communications. Despite recent moves across the value chain, the market remains largely a hardware play, with a majority of the revenues flowing to equipment manufacturers, growing at a CAGR 10.1 percent in the 2019-2029 period.
Last summer, BridgeSat announced its rebranding to BridgeComm, to signify its deepening involvement in markets adjacent to the space sector alone, with the aim of being a provider of optical wireless communications (OWC) at a larger scale. Alongside ongoing advances in 5G, the coupling of terrestrial and aerospace connectivity markets is more apparent in the case of laser-based communication solutions.
R&D efforts into free-space optical (FSO) comms on the ground are expected to spur advances in the satellite world, further blurring the line between space and terrestrial comms solutions. Organizations with an expertise in high-end optoelectronics and photonics have now begun to delve into the satellite world, in some cases, partnering with satcom market players to develop integrated products and services in the future. BridgeComm’s partnership with French photonics startup, Cailabs, to adopt the latter’s Multi-Plane Light Conversion technology into its OWC solutions is one such move. The Netherlands’ TNO is driving such innovation by bringing together various Dutch organizations involved in optical systems (VDL, Nedinsco etc.) and space (Airbus DS, Hyperion Technologies etc.).
But Shadows Too
However, this market is not wrought without its challenges. Over the last year alone, we have seen at least two space businesses close down due to funding issues, both systems which were expected to be built on laser-com linked satellite constellations: LeoSat and Audacy.
When LeoSat suspended operations in late 2019 due to a lack of investment, it was seen as the first casualty of the LEO HTS constellations race, wherein laser links were a core component of its proposed satellite system. Meanwhile, despite MoUs from customers and an FCC approval, Audacy faced difficulties in securing the right product-market fit as an investment opportunity.
Developments in space alone are only half the story. To really capture the space markets, the ground segment will remain a key element to be addressed in the roadmap towards an integrated optical communications infrastructure (such as that proposed by Laser Light Communications, for instance).
Ground station operators such as KSAT have actively pursued partnerships in the past year with the goal of introducing full optical communication capabilities for upcoming small satellite missions. Mynaric, meanwhile, has moved from project to product, with production of optical ground stations and lasercom terminals going side-by-side. On the other hand, owing to the inherent technological challenges of space-ground lasercom, services will be limited to a few niche applications alone in the near-term, ranging from EO data downlink services to trunking/backhaul communications. RF then, is expected to dominate the ground segment for the foreseeable future in most other applications.
As NSR noted in the past, optical today is where RF was a few decades ago. Technology exchange between terrestrial and space-based communications players is expected to drive the development of next-gen solutions, as the addressable market pie increases to include the wider communications sector.
At present, the adoption of optical is contingent on many factors, most important being that constellations are able to close business cases and attract the right funding. Ground infrastructure development remains a significant challenge from both a technology and business perspective and will need to be realized before the business of optical satcom can really see the light. (Source: Satnews)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.