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19 Mar 20. DIU Seeks Prototype Sat Terminal For Army All-Domain Ops. The mobile TITAN satellite ground station is a critical node in Army plans for all-domain operations. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) wants commercial vendors to submit prototypes for the Army’s planned mobile ground station that can fuse sensor data from multiple ISR satellites — including both national security and commercial — into a common operational picture for battlefield commanders.

While this solicitation, released late yesterday, focuses on space-based sensors, ultimately the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) is envisioned as a “unified” ground station that can take data not just from satellites, but also from high-altitude, aerial and terrestrial ISR sensors to provide targeting data directly to Army Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) networks.

The Army describes TITAN as a “scalable and expeditionary intelligence ground station.” It is envisioned as a critical enabler of Army all-domain operations command and control.

The satellite terminal is the first step in what will be a modular development of the TITAN terminal’s capabilities over time — with a goal to deploy and initial operating capability early in fiscal 2022, as Brig. Gen. Rob Collins, Army program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, explained at the giant Association of the United States Army (AUSA) show in October,

DIU’s Space Portfolio Director Steve Butow explained in an email that the prototype ground stations should be “capable of rapidly and semi-autonomously tasking, receiving, processing, exploiting, fusing, and disseminating space based sensor data to provide networked situational awareness and direct tactical support to Army commanders at echelon.”

One of the key goals is “to reduce sensor to shooter latency.” Latency is the term of art to describe the time it takes to send information from the satellite to the user on the ground.

The prototype ground stations — which as with all DIU projects are envisioned to be rapidly fielded  — must be capable of “rapid deployment to diverse operational environments via strategic lift and once deployed, be capable of rapid setup, tear down, movement, and assembly to meet operational commander’s needs.” They also must be able to function “for a reasonable period of time” through “any loss of non-local communications or networks.”

American contractors have until April 3 to put forward a proposal. Proposed prototypes “should include everything required to operate during a designated exercise(s) and demonstration(s) as well during real world operations, including the vehicle/trailers, power generation/conditioning, antennae, communications/network hardware/software (to include line of sight and beyond line of sight), processing hardware/software, and analytical hardware/software,” the solicitation states.

DIU is asking that the TITAN prototype support a number of technical capabilities:

  • automated wideband data signal processing
  • autonomous cross-cueing and tasking between satellites
  • hybrid cloud based processing and analytics
  • machine-learning and/or artificial intelligence algorithms.

The prototypes also should enable the processing/exploitation of satellite data and derived analytics from a wide array of sensors, including:

  • electro-optical data products (including motion imagery),
  • multi- and hyper-spectral data,
  • thermal and overhead persistent (OPIR) data,
  • synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data,
  • emitter location data,
  • light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data
  • mapping data, and
  • ALT NAV / Assured PNT data. (‘ALT NAV’ refers to navigation data that does not come from positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) satellites such as GPS; ‘assured PNT’ data usually means being able to tap non-GPS satellites such as the Europe’s Galileo or China’s Beidou.)

Further, prototypes should be able to store and process data from multiple commercial providers. This means that the “access node should be a modular, open systems architecture, making it easy to upgrade software/firmware, analytics/algorithms, and ingest additional data streams as commercial vendors and national data become available.” This includes being able to store and process both classified and unclassified data.

The project will run for 24 to 30 months, and will include the delivery of at least two and as many as six working prototypes. They must be ready for immediate testing and evaluation in a theater exercise.

DUI is looking at two phases. Phase 1 includes the “development, integration, testing, accreditation and delivery” of two prototypes by January 2022. Phase 2 “includes the testing, assessment, and refinement of the prototype systems based upon participation in and feedback from several exercises and evaluations,” both in the US and theaters abroad.  Phase 2 also includes the option of delivering up to four additional prototype systems.

DIU generally uses Other Transaction Authorities as a contracting vehicle, as will this program.

The solicitation notes that DoD is “also pursuing a separate parallel effort for the objective TITAN ground station design to accommodate Aerial and Terrestrial sensors as well.” Thus, the contractor(s) chosen will need to work ensure designs for the satellite terminal can be integrated with, and that all the software is transportable to, that design via agreements with the other companies involved.

The Army issued a Request for Information on Dec. 4 about technologies to enable the “objective” TITAN terminal that can integrate all types of ISR sensors. That RFI was updated on Dec. 18.

The RFI explains that TITAN eventually will replace the Army’s current Tactical-Intelligence Ground Station, Operational-Intelligence Ground Station, Advanced Miniaturized Data Acquisition System Dissemination Vehicle and Remote Ground Terminal. It also must be “to operate at Brigade, Division, Corps, and Field Army echelons, in vehicles and shelters organic to the formation,” the solicitation said.

According to a Q&A transcript of the Army’s Dec. 4 industry day on TITAN, the service currently sees potential deployment platforms: a larger version for integration with on one variant of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) with a shelter; and a smaller one to be integrated on “a four-seater tactical vehicle — either a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) or a Humvee.

What is unclear is how this DIU effort relates to the earlier sole-source award to Peraton for the Satellite Ground Terminal (SGT) Prototype, that on the face of it is being designed to do exactly the same thing. Under that Nov. 19 award, which supports the Army’s Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) program, Peraton was to develop a fully-tested prototype to the Army within 20 months. SGT is expected to transfer up to 1,000 times more satellite data to operators than currently possible, according to Peraton.

Queries to the Army, DIU and Peraton about this were not answered at press time. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)

20 Mar 20. Successful firing of first commercial liquid fuelled Australian rocket. Queensland-based Valiant Space has successfully test-fired the first commercially developed liquid-fuelled rocket engine in Australian history from a launch site north of Goondiwindi, Queensland.

On 15 March, 2020, the ‘Momentum’ engine ignited for the first time, signifying a major milestone for Valiant Space. This comes after over a year of successful system integration and inert propellant testing, and is the start of an even bigger testing campaign.

Valiant Space chief executive Andrew Uscinski, said “The test couldn’t have come at a better time. We are really excited about our next phase of development.”

The Brisbane based company is developing rocket propulsion technologies to help propel the next generation of spacecraft to and from the surface of the Moon.

Following this test, Valiant Space will be integrating the engine into an Earth-based rocket that will simulate lunar descent, landing, and traversing manoeuvres.

Valiant Space chief operating officer Bryan Greenham added, “This is a key component in our plans to deliver commercial and scientific payloads to unique locations on the moon and to bring them back.”

This live firing was performed at Beyond the Blue Aerospace’s launch and test facility, Funny Farm Space, north of Goondiwindi, Queensland.

Beyond the Blue Aerospace representative and CEO of Black Sky Aerospace, Blake Nikolic, said “The times remain challenging for farmers in remote areas and our facility is creating diversification, driving economic benefit for the region.”

Funny Farm Space has become known for advancing Australia’s space presence, just last month hosting Australia’s first private international sounding rocket campaign with the UK. The facility will also be instrumental when Valiant Space commences flight testing.

Black Sky Aerospace, known for its own rocket launch vehicles and space technology, provided logistical support, local expertise and independent evaluation to ensure the test was compliant with regulatory and safety factors.

Nikolic added, “Black Sky Aerospace is actively supporting sovereign manufactured, leapfrog research and development to strengthen Australia’s role in providing access to space.”

This hot-fire test is an important step towards Australia being able to put scientific and commercial payloads on the moon, allowing active participation in international collaborative programs such as NASA’s Moon to Mars program.

Valiant Space is currently participating in the University of Queensland’s iLab start-up accelerator program, as part of the UQ Ventures initiative.

Entrepreneur in residence Ran Heimann said, “It has been fantastic to support Valiant Space as they start their journey. They are working on very challenging problems, like all space companies, but their determination and execution has shown they have what it takes.” (Source: Space Connect)

19 Mar 20. Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle certified by NASA. NASA has certified California and New Zealand-based Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle, providing confidence for NASA’s low-cost scientific, educational and technology demonstration small satellites.

The certification milestone was achieved largely through the successful launch of the NASA ELaNa-19 mission, which saw 13 NASA CubeSats delivered to orbit by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle in December 2018.

Darren Bedell, the LSP launch services development and risk manager determined that “Rocket Lab has demonstrated their strong commitment to maintaining a quality management system. Rocket Lab’s management team are deliberate in ensuring processes are controlled, repeatable and measurable to ensure mission success”.

The mission was Rocket Lab’s fourth successful Electron launch. It marked a significant milestone for NASA’s forward-leaning Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) initiative because it was the first time NASA CubeSats received a dedicated ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle.

Following this launch, an extensive assessment of Rocket Lab’s Electron production facilities and processes was also carried out in 2019, culminating in the category one certification being awarded.

NASA is now considering Rocket Lab for category two certification, a classification that enables a launch provider to fly higher value payloads. The category two certification method offered by LSP requires a vehicle to have performed at least six consecutive successful missions of the same configuration.

“NASA certification is a significant achievement for our team and testament to our unwavering commitment to reliable and cost-effective launch for small satellites,” said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck.

As of February 2020, Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle has conducted 10 consecutive successful orbital missions, deploying payloads for commercial and government customers including DARPA, the US Air Force, and the National Reconnaissance Office.

“We have a strong partnership with NASA that was established through the ELaNa-19 launch and continues today with the upcoming CAPSTONE mission that will see our Electron launch vehicle and Photon spacecraft deliver a NASA satellite to lunar orbit next year. We’re honoured to be selected by NASA to launch these important pathfinding missions that pave the way for future exploration,” Beck added. (Source: Space Connect)

19 Mar 20. China’s Long March 7A launch vehicle fails to place satellite into orbit. China’s space programme suffered a setback with the failure of a Long March 7A (CZ-7A) launch vehicle that lifted off from the Wenchang space launch centre on the southern island of Hainan on 16 March but failed to place its satellite payload into orbit. It was the first launch of the CZ-7A. The CZ-7A is a development of the CZ-7 and differs by the addition of a third stage. The CZ-7 itself is a new medium-lift space launch vehicle that had successful missions in June 2016 and April 2017, and is likely to be primarily used in support of China’s Tiangong space station. (Source: Jane’s)

#]18 Mar 20. SpaceX puts 60 satellites into orbit despite engine failure. SpaceX launched 60 more of its internet satellites into orbit Wednesday despite an engine failure shortly after liftoff on a recycled rocket flying a record five times.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said one of the nine main engines shut down prematurely during liftoff, a rare occurrence. But the satellites still made it to the proper orbit, increasing the Starlink constellation to about 360.

The U.S. military has expressed interest in the Starlink’s capabilities.

“Shows value of having 9 engines! Thorough investigation needed before next mission,” Musk tweeted.

It’s same type of rocket — a Falcon 9 — that SpaceX will use to launch NASA astronauts as early as May. Sunday’s launch attempt for these latest Starlinks was halted at the last second because of a bad engine reading.

“Last launch aborted due to slightly high power. Possibly, but not obviously, related to today,” Musk said.

This particular first-stage booster won’t be flying again. Instead of landing upright on a floating offshore platform, the booster missed and slammed into the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX had better luck with its recycled nose cone, recovering it from the sea. This is the sixth batch of Starlinks that SpaceX has launched in under a year. Each compact, flat-panel satellite weighs 575 pounds.

Musk envisions thousands of Starlinks providing affordable, broadband internet service to virtually every corner of the globe — a concern for astronomers.

Astronomers fear the night will be ruined by constellations of these relatively low-orbiting satellites. SpaceX is experimenting with dark paint and, sometime soon, satellite sunshades, sort of like patio umbrellas.

A Starlink covered with dark paint rocketed into orbit in January. SpaceX officials said Wednesday there was a notable reduction in reflectivity.

The London-based OneWeb, meanwhile, plans to launch another batch of its own internet-service satellites from Kazakhstan on Saturday. This latest batch of 34 satellites will bring OneWeb’s higher orbiting constellation to 74. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

19 Mar 20. US Space Force unveils inaugural offensive weapons system. The US Space Force’s first offensive weapon system, the Counter Communications System Block 10.2, achieved initial operating capability on 9 March, providing quick reaction capability with direct operational support to the warfighter.

A ceremony was held between the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Special Programs directorate and the 4th Space Control Squadron on 12 March to commemorate this historic event, handing over a key to symbolise the transfer of responsibility from the space program office to the space operations unit at Peterson Air Force Base.

The Counter Communications System, first introduced in 2004, is a transportable space electronic warfare system that reversibly denies adversary satellite communications developed in partnership with L3Harris.

Colonel Stephen Purdy, SMC Special Programs director, said the benefits of CCS to deployed forces and warfighters cannot be overstated.

“CCS B10.2 represents the end of the traditional way of development,” Col Purdy said. “Future upgrades and enhancements will make use of SMC’s Agile DevSecOps (development, security and operations) approach adapting to the evolving battlefield while delivering capabilities to the warfighter faster and better than our opponents.”

Working with Total Force Airmen, the CCS team’s efforts resulted in an effective certified training program for the space control operators and satellite communications maintenance personnel.

Air National Guard units in California, Colorado and Florida, and Air Force active duty units like the 4th Space Control Squadron at Peterson AFB, use the CCS. Members of the Air National Guard, including some who are also civilian employees of L3Harris, worked alongside active duty counterparts at SMC and the 721st Operations Group to test and deliver a cutting-edge space electronic warfare system since January.

“The advantage of the National Guard’s unique relationship of citizen-Airmen working full-time in industry with mission partners like L3Harris, allows us to create a continuous feedback loop between system operators and contractors providing the best counter communications system,” said Lieutenant Colonel Warren Riner, Pentagon division chief, National Guard Bureau-space operations.

“We look forward to continued success operationally with the new weapon system, and working with SMC and industry partners to support the United States Space Force.”

Additionally, SMC went through a rigorous year-long test campaign that included both developmental and operational test events.

“Overall, the test campaign was extremely successful in demonstrating that CCS is operationally effective,” Major Seth Horner, SMC program manager, said.

“We could not have been successful if not for a highly integrated and skilled team from across the CCS enterprise.”

“IOC signifies the start of CCS personnel and equipment support to USSPACECOM warfighting requirements for worldwide operations,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Brogan, materiel leader of the SMC Special Programs directorate.

“Achieving IOC for this upgrade puts the ‘force’ in Space Force and is critical to space as a warfighting domain.” (Source: Space Connect)

16 Mar 20. Space Force May Be Too Small: RAND. “Being small could hurt the viability of the Space Force,” finds a new RAND study. The Space Force should be expanded to include most DoD space operational and acquisition organizations, including those of the Army and Navy, says a study released today by RAND’s Project Air Force. In also recommends that the Missile Defense Agency’s hands-on work operating satellites should be transferred, although the question of moving MDA activities requires more study,

The report, “A Separate Space: Creating a Military Service for Space,” also says that, as currently planned, the new service may be too small to adequately support its mission, noting that the Air Force’s start-up size was 300,000 compared to the Space Force’s planned 16,000.

“DoD is attempting to limit the additional resources needed to build the Space Force, which is understandable and even laudable, but being small could hurt the viability of the Space Force,” the study says. Its small size compared to the other services could also limit its leverage as it competes for resources both within DoD and on Capital Hill, RAND suggests.

RAND does not make a recommendation about just how big the Space Force should be, or what its budget should be. Rather, it states:

“Ultimately, the ideal size of the Space Force will likely correspond to its assigned missions and responsibilities. If its mission is similar to that of space forces within the armed forces today, it might not need much more than 16,000 people to carry that mission out. If its mission and associated responsibilities increase, however, it might need to increase its end strength commensurate with those additional missions.”

Further, it recommends that new doctrine be a priority. “Lack of a coherent doctrine of space warfighting would present a challenge to the Space Force’s effectiveness in its early years and make it more difficult for the service to build a distinctive identity,” RAND’s press release states. As Breaking Defense readers know, the Space Force already has begun doctrinal work that its commander, Gen. Jay Raymond, hopes to send to Congress in the next few months.

The research was completed before the passage of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) establishing the new service, the authors note that they believe ifs finding remain valid. RAND was asked to put the study together by the Space Force Planning Task Force, led by Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier. Therefore some of its recommendations — such as that the Space Development Agency (SDA) be folded into the Space Force — already are mandated by Congress.

“The Space Force headquarters should include key functions that are essential to the independence and identity of the service, such as operational concepts and doctrine development; requirements development and advocacy; planning, programming, budgeting, and execution; and legislative liaisons and public affairs,” the report finds. Recommendations include:

  • Define and clarify space warfighting missions
  • Make sure the Space Force has its own resources and reaches out to educate the public on the nature and severity of space threats confronting the nation
  • Find creative ways to manage career fields and develop senior leaders
  • Work closely with other services and organizations to define and manage new relationships
  • Establish a formal monitoring and evaluation process to adapt to changes in organizational priorities and external factors.

The in-depth report finds that among Air Force Headquarters functions that should transfer to the Space Force is control of the Program, Planning, Budget and Execution (PPBE) process, as well as responsibility for advocating the service budget within DoD and to Congress — which would require the set up of a separate legislative/public affairs office. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)

16 Mar 20. Kleos Space finalises Indian launch site preparations. ASX-listed Kleos Space has confirmed that the mission team will travel to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Chennai, India, to conduct final preparation steps prior to launch.

The Kleos team will start travelling to the launch site on 18 March to carry out final preparation over a period of approximately six days prior to handing Kleos’ nanosatellites over to New Space India (NSIL) for integration with the launch vehicle.

The preparation activities include carrying out spacecraft checkout, battery charging, fuelling, setting the final spacecraft flight configuration and overseeing the dispenser integration.

Kleos’ Scouting Mission satellites will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre aboard PSLV C49, a rideshare mission conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and featuring satellites from other organisations including Spire Global.

Kleos Space chief executive Andy Bowyer said, “The launch of our Scouting Mission satellites from Chennai is imminent. Our combined team is undertaking final preparations for our satellites to be integrated with the PSLV launch vehicle.”

It is envisaged that the Kleos satellites will launch into a 37-degree inclination orbit, providing unprecedented situational awareness over crucial shipping regions including the Strait of Hormuz, South China Sea, and east and west African coasts.

“Following launch, spacecraft operation engineers will guide the satellites from launch vehicle separation until they are established in their final orbit. This is an important milestone for Kleos as it will enable us to commence data delivery and revenue generation from early adopter contracts,” Bowyer explained.

The company’s Scouting Mission satellites will detect and geolocate maritime radio frequency transmissions to provide global activity-based intelligence irrespective of the presence of positioning systems, in spite of unclear imagery and if targets are out of patrol range. These initial satellites form the foundation of a larger constellation that will deliver near real-time intelligence over key regions of maritime interest.

Mr Bowyer added, “We are seeing increasing demand for our global maritime geolocation intelligence data, which will enhance the ISR capabilities of governments and commercial entities. Our independent intelligence will complement existing datasets to enable the detection of hidden maritime activity such as drug and people smuggling, piracy, pollution and illegal fishing.”

Kleos Space is a space enabled, activity-based intelligence, data-as-a-service company based in Luxembourg.

The first Kleos Space satellite system, known as Kleos Scouting Mission (KSM), will deliver commercially available data and perform as a technology demonstration. KSM will be the keystone for a later global high capacity constellation.

The Scouting Mission will deliver targeted daily services with the full constellation delivering near-real time global observation. (Source: Space Connect)

17 Mar 20. USAF leadership identify budget priorities for Space Force. US Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond have spoken to the US House Armed Services Committee about how the US Air Force, the parent organisation, is moving aggressively to build and incorporate the newly created Space Force.

At the same time, Secretary Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, and Gen Raymond acknowledged that achieving that goal within a tight budget for fiscal year 2021 demands “tough but necessary trades”.

The Air Force is making significant progress on the first, Gen Goldfein said, noting a field exercise of a capability known as the Advanced Battle Management System conducted in December that allows all platforms from all services to connect and move the joint force closer to connecting “all shooters to all sensors”.

A second test is scheduled next month.

Secretary Barrett explained, “The National Defense Strategy calls on the Department of the Air Force, as a critical component of the joint force, to deter and, if needed, defeat these threats. This fiscal year ‘21 budget request sets the course for the Department to accomplish these aims.”

Gen Goldfein reinforced the comments made by Secretary Barrett, saying that “in a flat budget environment” the Air Force must successfully connect “all platforms, sensors and weapons in a battlefield network” and “must find internal savings to pay for new capabilities”.

When fully refined and operational, this battle network will allow warfighters to collect, analyse and transmit vast amounts of data from air, land, sea, space and cyber to all services and commanders.

Fuelled by US$15.4bn ($25bn) for the Space Force that is part of the $169bn ($274.6bn) Air Force proposal, Gen Raymond said it is targeted to fund “a very strong pivot towards space superiority and the foundational space situational awareness, command and control, and training infrastructure capabilities that underpin space superiority”.

Since the newest service was created on 20 December 2019, as the sixth independent branch of the military, Gen Raymond said the focus, and many of the decisions, has been to build a “Space Force that is lean, agile and mission focused” and “unconstrained by past constructs and thinking”.

“When fully established, we may not look like the services you’ve become accustomed to, but we will be equally proficient at providing space forces ready and willing to protect US and allied interests in space while providing unequalled capability to the joint force,” he told members of the committee.

Yet only minutes earlier, the committee’s chairman, Representative Adam Smith, said he was “ambivalent” about the need to establish a Space Force.

“Space is central to everything we do. It is the centre of our command and control structure … it deserves special attention. I get that; I understand that. The concern is, is it just another bureaucracy?” Smith asked.

“General Raymond that is your challenge; to make sure it works in an efficient and effective way and it isn’t just another bureaucracy.”

Gen Raymond emphasised that the Space Force would be “lean, agile and mission focused”.

“We have an opportunity to build this service to enhance the lethality of our joint force while optimising our ability to dominate in space,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)

12 Mar 20. Aerojet Rocketdyne Installs Rocket Motor Casting Bell as Camden Large Solid Rocket Motor Development Facility Nears Completion. Aerojet Rocketdyne has installed a steel casting bell to support production of large solid rocket motors, marking an important milestone for completion of its Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) facility in Camden.

The vacuum chamber casting bell was relocated from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Sacramento, California, facility, where it was used to produce large rocket boosters for the Atlas V rocket. In Camden, it will be used to produce large solid rocket motors for programs, including hypersonics and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Camden facility will be able to produce motors up to 470 inches long and up to 100 inches in diameter.

“The installation of the casting bell is a major milestone as Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to prepare for national security programs, including the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program and the Missile Defense Agency’s Next Generation Interceptor program,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “I would especially like to thank state and local leaders from the great State of Arkansas whose efforts have been critical to our ongoing expansion here in Camden.”

The casting bell is a vacuum chamber that eliminates air bubbles that can otherwise form when propellant is poured into solid rocket motor casings. The chamber also serves as an oven that heats the propellant during the curing process, and then cools it back down to ambient temperature.

Aerojet Rocketdyne broke ground on its 17,000 square-foot EMD facility in spring 2019 as a part of an ongoing expansion of its Camden operations, where the company has had a presence since 1979. The $15.5m state-of-the-art facility is slated to open this spring.

Northrop Grumman selected Aerojet Rocketdyne in 2019 to join its industry team for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the U.S. Air Force effort to replace the nation’s current Minuteman III strategic missile fleet. Aerojet Rocketdyne would provide a large solid rocket motor system and a post-boost propulsion system for Northrop Grumman’s nationwide GBSD team.

In August 2018 Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced plans to expand the Southern Arkansas facility near Camden, where the company manufactures solid rocket motors and warheads critical to national defense.

The expansion plan included investing in new infrastructure and creating more than 140 jobs by 2021. Working in partnership with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Calhoun and Ouachita Counties, more than $50m dollars is being invested in the ongoing expansion. (Source: ASD Network)

17 Mar 20. Chinese rocket fails on maiden launch – Xinhua. A new Chinese medium-lift rocket, part of a family of launch vehicles meant to support most of China’s launch missions in future, failed on its debut flight, the official news agency Xinhua reported. The Long March 7A, a variant of the Long March 7, blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, in the southern island province of Hainan, on Monday morning. But it later suffered a malfunction, the cause of which was being investigated, Xinhua said. With its specifications and capabilities, the rocket, known as the LM-7A, is well-placed to become China’s main rocket for communication satellite missions, potentially replacing older rockets in the LM-2, LM-3 and LM-4 range.

The LM-7 family is also expected to be central to the construction of China’s space station, due for completion in 2022.

It was not clear how the timetable for near-term orbital launches would be affected by the failed LM-7A mission.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said in January that it aimed to carry out more than 40 launches in 2020, including space infrastructure missions.

President Xi Jinping has prioritised the space programme to strengthen national security and defence. The government has stressed that it is a purely peaceful initiative.

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States. (Source: Reuters)

15 Mar 20. These space surveillance satellites just got an upgrade. The 1st Space Operations Squadron recently completed a major overhaul of the ground system for the U.S. military’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, which uses satellites to collect space situational awareness data about other objects on orbit.

“There have been a series of robust security upgrades,” said Capt. Bradley Frost, 1st SOPS satellite engineer. “There have been new hardware and bug fixes that have significantly increased the reliability of the system. To sum it up, it’s better, faster and more secure than ever before.”

The squadron first began working on a software overhaul for the GSSAP ground system in 2017. A trial period was completed in December 2019, and SOPS completed operational acceptance Feb. 12.

“The more functions that reside on the ground, the more we can stay updated as technology increases and operational demands increase,” said Frost. “Surface level, it looks like a room of computers and server racks with fiber running every which way. But it is this set of hardware, and the software loaded onto it, that enables our operators to plan and execute daily tasks.

According to SOPS, this was one of the most significant upgrades to the system since it became operational in 2015. The ground system upgrade will also be important as the Space Force expands the constellation later this year, said 1st SOPS engineer Capt. Zachary Funke.

The first two satellites in the constellation launched in 2014, with two more satellites joining them on orbit in 2016. The Space Force is slated to launch the fifth and sixth GSSAP satellites in the fourth quarter of 2020 aboard an Atlas V rocket.

Operating near the geosynchronous belt, the four GSSAP satellites can provide data on other man-made objects in space without being interrupted by the weather or atmospheric conditions that impact ground-based space situational awareness systems. GSSAP satellites can also perform rendezvous and proximity operations, approaching other space vehicles to provide attribution or enhanced surveillance on objects of interest to United States Space Command. Data collected through GSSAP is fed into the Space Surveillance Network, where it helps contribute to the military’s space domain awareness. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

12 Mar 20. New Satellite Imagery Rules Hover In Interagency Limbo.

“You can’t hide very well” in space, one industry official said, “So, I think the government is going to have to get over that, and recognize space is a free place.”

Industry hopes that long-promised revisions to US licensing requirements for remote sensing satellites would finally be wrapped this month are almost certainly going to be dashed.

Insiders say that, despite almost a year of interagency wrangling, the draft rules are extremely unlikely to be announced at the upcoming March 24 meeting of the National Space Council headed by Vice President Mike Pence — with a decision perhaps kicked back to as late as early September.

“Nothing is finalized yet,” said one official involved.

US government and industry officials tell me there continue to be major disagreements between DoD, the Department of Commerce and the State Department over how far to relax current restrictions on sales of satellite-based imagery, as well as about which agency has what authorities to say yes or no.

The revision of the commercial remote sensing rules was mandated by the White House in the May 2018 Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2), as part of the Trump Administration’s wider effort to cut red tape and promote commercial space industry innovation. Commerce was put in the lead.

To that end, the original draft of the new rules — issued by Commerce on May 14, 2019 — would work with a presumption of approval, in contrast to the current process, which requires specific DoD and State Dept. approval for each license. In essence, the new rules would create a form of ‘generic’ license for most remote sensing activities, while applying a more robust process for those found to be of potential national security concern.

On the other hand, that draft would have left current rules on sharing data from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites (able to track ground targets), and cameras in space for space situational awareness (SSA) operations, more or less untouched — in large part due to DoD pressure. DoD also pushed back on the fact that the process would have changed the current system so that Commerce — not the Pentagon — had the final say on what capabilities would be licensed for commercial sale.

Specifically, the May draft would have limited resolution of SAR data collection to 0.25 meters, and banned any transmission of SAR data outside the US.

It further would have placed a 0.5 meter cap on satellite imaging of other spacecraft, and barred such imaging unless written permission is obtained from the operator of the spacecraft to be imaged. Further, sales of imagery of objects not included in the US military’s public space object catalog, via the website Space-Track.org, would continue to be outlawed.

While Commerce has been especially vocal about its intent to help indigenous industry providing SSA services capture more of the global market, companies in that field widely express deep concern about any restrictions on sales of ‘pictures’ of active satellites and (apparent) space debris.

DoD and the Intelligence Community — as well as some US allies — traditionally have been leery about allowing such imagery to be sold on the market because of a desire to conceal the activities, and characteristics, of their classified satellites. (Some of which, by the way, may mimic space debris in order to passively collect data.)

“Around the world, there are other systems out there that aren’t limited to the rules of the US,” one industry official said. “You can’t hide very well” in space, the official added. “So, I think the government is going to have to get over that and recognize space is a free place.”

Indeed, outcry from a wide swath of commercial industry pushed the draft regulations back to the drawing board early last summer. As I reported back in December, the draft rules were kicked upstairs to the level of department secretaries for resolution. My current readout from sources is that Commerce has made an attempt to assuage industry concerns. But, that apparently has contributed to the continued stalemate.

While industry officials have said they’ve been told DoD has softened on Commerce having the last word on licensing, I’m hearing from insiders that at the senior policy level DoD officials are not at all copacetic with the proposed rules. Certain factions among the “Deep DoD” — those with ties to the Intelligence Community — are already planning to slow roll the changes if they get approved by the White House.

The State Department also has been keen to ensure that its own equities in dealing with foreign policy on the issue are upheld, but by and large has been okay with easing restrictions to meet foreign capabilities in remote sensing, as well as for SSA.

Bottom line: don’t hold your breath. Any changes to the current situation are likely ‘still a ways away,’ as the old REM song goes. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)

12 Mar 20. GA-ASI To Use Radomes from SABCA for MQ-9B. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) is proud to work with Belgium-based Sociétés Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques, SABCA to supply Satellite Communications (SATCOM) radomes for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). SABCA is one of GA-ASI’s team of Belgian suppliers – known as Team SkyGuardian Belgium – that will be providing content for all MQ-9B aircraft. The Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to negotiate the acquisition of MQ-9B to meet the nation’s RPA requirements.

“We’re pleased to have SABCA as our supplier for MQ-9B SATCOM radomes,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “This is a complex, major component of the MQ-9B airframe, subject to strict manufacturing process requirements characteristic of type-certified aircraft production. I’m confident that SABCA is up to the task.”

After being qualified by GA-ASI in 2019, SABCA has been officially awarded the production of the lightning-protected SATCOM radome for the worldwide fleet of MQ-9B. The production of the first radome will start in 2020 in SABCA’s Limburg facilities in Belgium.

“We are very proud to be part of the MQ-9B project and to add GA-ASI to our customer list,” said Thibauld Jongen, CEO of the SABCA group. “This is a recognition of SABCA’s expertise in complex composite structure and a first concretization of our excellent partnership with GA-ASI.”

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring the MQ-9B as part of its Protector RG Mk1 program and is scheduled for first delivery in the early 2020s. In December, the Australian Government announced the selection of GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under Project Air 7003.

MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company funded program to deliver an RPA to meet the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO and civil aviation authorities throughout the world. The MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), and is built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system. (Source: ASD Network)

09 Mar 20. Mission Microwave’s New Ka-Band Products Debut at DC Show. Mission Microwave Technologies, LLC. introduces new Ka-band high power products at the SATELLITE 2020 industry event in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. in session now. The company is exhibiting its complete product line of high power X-, Ku- and Ka-band amplifiers and BUCs and has examples of terminal designs from key industry partners on display in the Mission Microwave booth.

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 Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) commonly used on gateway ground stations. These new products reflect information obtained from the deployment of Mission’s existing product lines in mobile Ku- and Ka-Band BUC deployments for commercial and Government SATCOM terminals.

The new Ka-band version of Mission’s SSPA/BUC platform is 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 are also on display in more than a dozen stands across the venue.

Mission Microwave’s President and CEO, Francis Auricchio, stated that customers have long been demanding high power SSPAs to replace TWT Amplifiers. The company’s 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 degrees C. The Mission Microwave 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. (Source: Satnews)

11 Mar 20. Kymeta and Kepler Communications’ MoU Announced at DC Show. Kymeta has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kepler Communications to integrate Kepler’s Global Data Service into the just-announced Kymeta™ u8 Terminal and Kymeta Connect™ offering, this occurring during the DC satellite show.

This product collaboration envisions Kymeta combining the value proposition of Kepler’s LEO satellite service with the best aspects of traditional (GEO) SATCOM and 4G/LTE communications networks. The relationship builds upon the successful integration work announced by Kepler in mid-2019, when Kepler demonstrated compatibility between its LEO satellites and the Kymeta™ u7 electronically steered antenna (ESA), becoming the first LEO operator to do so.

Kepler’s Global Data Services offers high-capacity data backhaul to areas beyond traditional satellite and communication network coverage at a more favorable rate than traditional providers globally due to the economics of Kepler’s LEO satellite network.

Kepler’s Global Data Service (GDS) covers every part of the globe, from pole to pole, and allows the movement of gigabytes of data to and from the user’s location at economic rates. Currently enabled with Kepler’s first two satellites on orbit, the capabilities of GDS will expand significantly over the course of 2020 with Kepler’s previously announced vertical integration and launch procurements.

Commercial availability of GDS within the Kymeta Connect™ offering is targeted to align with market availability of the Kymeta™ u8 Terminal (pictured above) as well as Kepler’s expanded constellation later this year, with key customer trials supporting the development effort. To express an interest in participating, connect with your Kymeta or Kepler representative.

David Harrower, SVP of Global Sales at Kymeta, said the company is excited about the collaboration with Kepler as it finally brings to market the promise of LEO capacity to deliver connectivity to the mobility markets. By adopting the latest and best technical capabilities, Kymeta delivers what the market has demanded in terms of mobile connectivity and have done so by bringing flexible and commercially viable service offerings made possible by each party’s technical advancements.

Mina Mitry, Chief Executive Officer at Kepler, remarked that by expanding the capabilities of their Kymeta Connect™ product with the firm’s high-capacity, data backhaul service, Kymeta is delivering on a question the firm often hears from users – ‘How do I access all available communications technologies to serve my requirements? Customers want solutions that are ready to go and easy to deploy. Kymeta Connect™, with the Kymeta u8 Terminal, tick both those boxes. By deploying Kepler’s Global Data Service with Kymeta Connect™, the offering becomes much more powerful and able to address the requirements of a greater range of users that traditional providers are unable to accommodate. (Source: Satnews)

09 Mar 20. L3Harris Showcases the New Smallsat Reflector Antenna at DC Show. L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has introduced a new, smallsat reflector antenna that will help decrease the size, weight and overall time to produce smallsats. L3Harris will showcase this  reflector antenna in booth 601 at the SATELLITE 2020 conference March 9-12 in Washington, D.C. 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 percent the weight of previous designs. When stowed, the reflector is about the size of a commercial office fire extinguisher. Ed Zoiss, President, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris, reported that 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. L3Harris has done that with the new Smallsat Perimeter Truss — enabling the company to package large high-gain antennas onto smaller satellite platforms.  (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.


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