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09 Apr 20. Commercial Satellite Boom Poses NatSec Risks: IDA. “Given China’s willingness to allow for commercial dealings with countries hostile to the United States, these systems could pose a significant threat to U.S. interests,” the IDA authors say.
The rapid proliferation of commercial satellites for communications and imagery pose a number of risks to US national security — along with the benefits of providing low-cost alternatives to expensive DoD birds, says a new study published today in National Defense University’s Joint Forces Quarterly.
These commercial market trends will “create new challenges as adversaries ranging from Great Power competitors to hostile nonstate actors gain cheap access to space capabilities and the emergence of space-based Internet reshapes the cyber battlespace,” the article states.
And while much of the commercial industry build-up is in the United States, the article warns that both Russia and China also have commercial efforts that could post threats. “The development of foreign proliferated constellations will allow not only their owners to access these capabilities, but potentially access also to a wider range of actors.”
The increase in the availability of satellite imagery and communications bandwidth will bring benefits to US forces operating across the ground, maritime, and air domains, according to the article, authored by two researchers from the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA). Commercial firms now can offer “new capabilities that can address hard problems facing the U.S. military, such as tracking mobile targets, operating in the Arctic, or providing resilient space support in the face of growing counterspace threats,” it says.
The article, “Proliferated Commercial Satellite Constellations: Implications for National Security,” was penned by Matthew Hallex, an IDA research staffer, and Travis Cottom, an IDA associate researcher. IDA is a non-profit corporation that administers three federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs): the Systems and Analyses Center (SAC), the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), and the Center for Communications and Computing (C&C).
The authors note that, as Breaking D readers know, some industry experts are convinced the boom is really a bubble similar to earlier satellite market bubbles that eventually burst — suggesting that both long-term fears and the current DoD exuberance about potential benefits may be overblown.
Drones An “Immediate Threat” – DoD Plans Rapid Acquisition of Counter-UAS Systems
“In addition to potential limits on demand, some industry experts have raised concerns about shortages in investment capital necessary to complete various competing efforts, and other critics have compared the current era to the failures of the large, disaggregated Teledesic constellation and the struggles of Iridium in the 1990s,” the JFQ article states.
On the other hand, Hallex and Cottom point out: “Even if only a handful of proliferated constellation efforts succeed, it will produce both a paradigm shift in how space services are provided and a substantial growth in the number of satellites on orbit.”
According to the study, communications mega-constellations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) “aim to provide high bandwidth, low latency communications competitive with terrestrial broadband communications.” This, the authors assert, “will not only allow satellite communications to compete for long-distance backhaul and mobile users but also address underserved populations.”
Indeed, many LEO communications providers — particularly those seeking to provide Internet services, such as SpaceX with its massive Starlink constellation — have stated in their business plans the goal of bridging the digital divide.
Mega-constellations could allow developing countries to avoid laying expensive, and sometimes difficult to install, fiber-optic cable, the article says, “in the same way the proliferation of cellular phone technology provided communications without the need to build phone lines in the developing world.” The authors further note that populations in high-latitude areas, such as Alaska, northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia, could also benefit because they are outside the coverage ares of typical communications satellites in the higher Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO, some 36,000 kilometers in altitude.)
As for commercial Earth imaging ventures, the study notes that in the United States the market for imagery and services remains small, and is dominated by clients such as the military, the Intelligence Community and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“The U.S. Government has been the largest and most stable customer for commercial satellite imagery, including resources from new imagery proliferated constellations. For instance, a significant share of Planet’s growth has been through multiple contracts with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,” the report finds.
At the same time, Hallex and Cottom say, operators have been aggressively seeking to broaden the customer base to nontraditional arenas such as “industrial monitoring, agriculture, utilities, marine transportation analytics, insurance, resource management, business intelligence, and other data-driven, decision-making practices.”
Finally, the study notes that the upward trend in commercial satellite capabilities is not limited to the US. In particular, the authors detail efforts by Chinese firms — which are nominally private but are controlled by the government — to sell communications and Earth observation services in Africa, Latin America and Central Asia.
“Given China’s willingness to allow for commercial dealings with countries hostile to the United States, these systems could pose a significant threat to U.S. interests,” the article says.
While Russia too is looking to move into the proliferated LEO constellation market via its national space agency, Roskosmos, Hallex and Cottom say that Moscow presents less of a concern due to the shaky state of its civil and commercial space sector. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
07 Apr 20. New DoD Policy To Ease Space Secrecy Near: Raymond. Raymond said that by next year “there will be a separate officer that would command US Space Command; I would be focused as the CSO for the Space Force.”
A new DoD policy to ease the high levels of classification surrounding all things space — from threat analyses to US capabilities to budgets — is nearing completion, says Gen. Jay Raymond.
“We are overly classified,” Raymond, who currently is double-hatted as head of both the Space Force and Space Command, told reporters this afternoon during a Mitchell Institute video conference.
He explained that too much secrecy is an obstacle to both deterring adversaries and working with allies. “To do that deterrence, you have to change the calculus of your opponent. And to do that, you have to be able to talk and you have to be able to message.”
Raymond’s words echo those emanating from a number of senior military space officers over the past several years. The push for declassification, insiders say, has been controversial within DoD — with pushback coming from those (primarily civilian) officials with backgrounds in “black space” for the Intelligence Community.
Raymond said that work is ongoing on a strategy to fix the classification problem, an effort that has included discussions with officials within DoD who set classification rules.
“In fact, we’re having a tabletop exercise to help inform that strategy this coming week,” he added.
Drones An “Immediate Threat” – DoD Plans Rapid Acquisition of Counter-UAS Systems
While Raymond wouldn’t provide an exact date for the strategy’s release, he did say that changes were coming and the report is “getting very close.”
In a wide-ranging discussion, led by the Mitchell Institute’s David Deptula and followed by media questions, Raymond touched on issues from the affect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Space Force operations to his own future.
For example, Raymond said Space Force has “scrubbed” every planned launch on DoD’s manifest to calculate the risks to crews and contractors compared to the national security needs behind the launch. Due to that review, DoD has postponed the launch of the third GPS III satellite, dubbed Columbus, scheduled for April 29 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the end of June.
Lockheed Martin is currently on contract to build 32 of the new configuration of the Global Positioning System satellites, which are being designed as more jam resistant than the current operational GPS satellites.
Raymond said his jobs as head of Space Command and the Space Force’s Chief of Space Operations will be split by the end of the year. Someone else will be nominated for the four-star Space Command spot — while he remains at the helm of Space Force.
“My expectation is that we will split those [two] hats sometime between now and the end of the year. There will be a separate officer that would command US Space Command; I would be focused as the CSO for the Space Force,” Raymond said.
“Just like any other Joint Command, all services would be able to nominate officers to command [Space Command]…It would be open to all services to be able to compete for that position,” he said.
Raymond’s remarks confirmed the widely-held expectation among insiders that he would opt to stay as Space Force chief for the traditional four-year term. So let the betting begin not only about who, but also from what service, will come the next head of Space Command! (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
09 Apr 20. Is your GPS equipment vulnerable to spoofing? The government wants to test it. This summer, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate is hosting an event where owners and operators of critical infrastructure, manufacturers of commercial GPS receivers, and civil industry stakeholders can see how their equipment holds up under a spoofing attack.
“Accurate and precise position, navigation, and timing (PNT) information is vital to the nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Bill Bryan, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for science and technology. “[The Science and Technology Directorate] established this program to assess GPS vulnerabilities, advance research and development, and to enhance outreach and engagement with industry. The objective is to improve the security and resiliency of critical infrastructure.”
Slated for this summer, the 2020 GPS Equipment Testing for Critical Infrastructure event will be the third of its type hosted by DHS that allows parties to test their equipment against GPS spoofing in unique live-sky environments. This event will focus mainly on fixed infrastructure applications, though there will be some support for testing ground-based mobile applications.
There are no registration fees for participants, and interested parties have until April 24 to sign up.
Though originally developed as a military tool, GPS technology has become a constant presence in civilian life over the decades, enabling agriculture, telecommunications, financial services, weather forecasting, the electrical grid and more. An RTI International report released last year estimated that a 30-day GPS outage could result in economic losses to the tune of $35-45bn. U.S. adversaries are well aware of the country’s reliance on GPS, both in the civilian world and by the military, and they have developed tools to degrade, deny or spoof that signal.
In recent months, the U.S. government has raised concerns that relying solely on GPS for PNT data leaves the nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerable to attack. To help address this, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Feb. 12 calling for the U.S. to develop alternative sources of PNT data that can supplement or replace the GPS signal, should it become unreliable. Under that executive order, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy will be developing PNT services independent of GPS and other global navigation satellite systems, while at the same time working to increase the resiliency of critical infrastructure by having them incorporate multiple PNT sources. (Source: Defense News)
08 Apr 20. This is what the Space Force will use to jam enemy satellites. Shrouded in secrecy, the Counter Communications System is the tool the U.S. Space Force will use to jam adversaries’ communications in a conflict.
“It’s a deployable system basically for counter communications. Think of it as a platform that various custom missions run on,” said Praveen Kurian, general manager of L3Harris’ space control division. “It doesn’t permanently damage [targets], right? You’re talking about reversibly denying communications, and then when you shut down your system, you’re back to being able to operate.”
America’s newest armed service got an updated version of the system — Block 10.2 — in March, but a leaner, more capable generation is already in the works.
When CCS Block 10.2 achieved initial operating capability March 9, the Space Force hailed the system as its first offensive weapon system; the first generation of the system was delivered to the military in 2004. The former Harris Corporation was a contributor to that system, said Kurian, and now L3Harris has been the primary contractor to the two major upgrades to the system since then — first, Block 10.1 and now Block 10.2.
Due to the secretive nature of CCS, it’s difficult to sort out the full extent and limitations of the technology. What is known is that CCS is a transportable electronic warfare system that can reversibly deny adversaries’ satellite communications. Space Force budget documents provide additional insight, noting “CCS provides expeditionary, deployable, reversible offensive space control (OCS) effects applicable across the full spectrum of conflict.”
But as noted in the Secure World Foundation’s 2020 “Global Counterspace Capabilities” report: “There is no public information on any technical characteristic of the CCS, such as frequency ranges, power levels and waveforms.”
The authors of that report concluded that the system is likely able to jam C-,Ku- and X-band frequencies, and that it primarily targets communications satellites operating in geostationary orbit.
With limited information on how CCS does what it does, it’s difficult to explain how 10.2 improves on its predecessors.
“The 10.2 system gives significantly expanded capability in terms of what it can run, what kind of missions it can run,” said Kurian, who added that both the 10.1 and 10.2 upgrades provided more transportability than the first-generation system, allowing them to be deployed where needed.
And L3Harris is already working on the next generation of the system, dubbed Meadowlands. On Jan. 24, the Air Force awarded the company $72m to sustain the Space and Missile Systems Center’s ground-based electronic warfare systems portfolio and develop Meadowlands.
While there was no effort to physically shrink the system from 10.1 to 10.2, Meadowlands will significantly reduce the size and form factor of the system, said Kurian, though he couldn’t share details.
“(Meadowlands) will provide even more capability than the 10.2 system provides today,” he said.
However, Meadowlands is not meant to replace the 10.2 system. “Meadowlands is intended to deploy really alongside [10.2] just to provide even more additional capability,” Kurian said. “It will do what the 10.2 system does, plus more.”
Meadowlands is currently in development, with production expected to begin in fiscal 2021, said Kurian. According to the contract announcement, work is expected to be completed by Feb. 29, 2024. (Source: Defense News)
07 Apr 20. SDA seeks new intel fusion software for small-satellite networks. The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) is soliciting industry proposals for advanced multi-intelligence (multi-int) fusion software capable of being integrated into and operating on miniaturised satellite systems (Smallsat) within the next three to four years.
The SDA is specifically seeking intel fusion technology to collect and synthesise data from disparate information streams “that will be utilized to obtain targeting solutions of time sensitive surface mobile missile launchers in support of targeting by US advanced weapons systems”, the 24 March request for information (RFI) stated.
The fusion algorithms proposed by industry for the RFI should focus on creating actionable intelligence products “that could be used to prosecute both ground and maritime mobile launchers ‘left of launch’”, SDA officials said. (Source: Jane’s)
07 Apr 20. The launch of three US spy satellites is delayed due to COVID-19. The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the globe has delayed the launch of three US intelligence payloads from New Zealand until at least April 23, launch provider Rocket Lab confirmed April 6.
Rocket Lab announced that they were pausing the scheduled March 30 launch of three National Reconnaissance Office payloads following the New Zealand government’s March 23 announcement that the country would enter Alert Level 4. This forced most businesses to close and the government ordered people to stay at home.
“This decision was made with the full support of the NRO, and we continue to engage with our partners at Rocket Lab as they work with the New Zealand government and local health officials to determine when launch operations can resume,” said NRO spokesperson Laura Lundin. “The launch vehicle and ground systems will remain in a state of readiness for launch as the evolving situation allows.”
Dubbed “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the March 30 launch would have been the second NRO mission launch from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand facility under the agency’s new Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract vehicle. Adopted in 2018, the acquisition method is meant to leverage the growing commercial small satellite launch market and was first used to procure a Jan. 31 launch from Rocket Lab.
During the Don’t Stop Me Now mission, the three NRO payloads would share a ride to space with payloads from NASA and the University of New South Wales, Canberra Space, aboard an Electron rocket. Details about the NRO payloads are protected, the agency said.
With New Zealand expected to remain at Alert Level 4 until April 23, Rocket Lab spokesperson Morgan Bailey confirmed that the launch would not take place before that date.
“We are working closely with our mission partners and the New Zealand government to determine when launch operations can safely resume. The launch vehicle, payloads, and ground systems remain in a state of readiness for launch,” said Bailey in a statement. “Rocket Lab is grateful for the ongoing collaboration and support of our mission partners, including the NRO, through these unprecedented times.”
The NRO said they were working to mitigate any potential impacts of COVID-19 on future launches.
“The NRO is actively working with its partners across government and industry to identify and mitigate any potential impacts on its future launch schedule as a result of COVID-19,” said Lundlin. “The NRO continues to monitor the ever-changing landscape and develop guidance to stay in front of the emerging issues related to COVID-19 in order to maintain the welfare of our workforce and assure continuation of the NRO’s mission.”
Meanwhile, the Space Force was able to complete its first launch March 26 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. While reducing the number of personnel on the base and practicing social distancing, the newly established sixth branch of the military was able to successfully launch the sixth and final Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Unrelated to that launch, ULA announced April 6 that an employee at one of their facilities in Denver, Colorado, had tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, the company noted it was taking precautions, although it would have no impact on future launches.
“Our early and aggressive COVID mitigations have limited the number of personnel exposed. We are executing our prepared and rehearsed response plan and anticipate no impacts to our manifest. ULA continues to proactively take steps to protect our people, slow the spread of the virus, and maintain national security,” said ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno in a statement.
ULA is currently slated to launch the secretive X-37B space plane aboard an Atlas V rocket May 20.
The Space Force’s next scheduled launch is April 29, when it plans to put a GPS III satellite into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Florida. SpaceX did not immediately respond as to whether the COVID-19 situation would delay that launch.
UPDATE: The Space and Missile Systems Center announced after publication April 7 that the GPS III launch would be delayed to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 Apr 20. Agency develops software to estimate areas of degraded GNSS service. Experts at the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) agency have developed a software-based tool that can estimate the area where an interfering signal would degrade or deny Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSSs). GNSSs, such as the US’s Global Positioning System (GPS) or the European Galileo, provide positioning and timing services.
These are vital for NATO operations.
“NATO’s adversaries have the ability to degrade or deny GPS-enabled capabilities, said Jean-Philippe Saulay, a NATO Navigation and Identification Officer.
“NATO must take appropriate measures to ensure Allied forces can operate in a degraded or denied environment,” he added.
With this tool, NATO can assess the scale of an interfering signal and its potential impact on operations.
“NATO must maintain superiority in the electromagnetic environment, including but not limited to, positioning, navigation and timing services,” said Dr Enrico Casini, Communications and Navigation Engineer at the NCI Agency.
He added, “Situational awareness of navigation systems in a contested electromagnetic environment contributes to that superiority.”
The Radar Electromagnetic and Communication Coverage Tool (REACT), was sponsored by the NATO Navigation and Identification Programme of Work.
It serves as a proof-of-concept of how analytical tools could support the execution of operations.
The tool is also available to NATO Nations free of charge.
For now, the software is only used for trial and experimentation.
The software and its estimations have been shown to operators during exercise Trident Jupiter 2019 part 1 to collet their feedback on it.
To use the software, operators input information on the particular jammers – their locations and technical characteristics – and the software produces a map of the area where the interfering signals would degrade of deny GNSS receivers.
This can be displayed on the NATO Core Geographical Information System (GIS) map.
The next phase of the project is focused on ensuring the software can work on NATO classified networks.
This would make it more available to operational commands to test and ensure such support measures are properly integrated into NATO operations.
“NATO is enhancing its knowledge of electronic warfare technology, DR Casini said.
“The electromagnetic environment has become even more contested in recent years.”
“One aspect of that is interference with GNSS systems.” (Source: ESD Spotlight)
07 Apr 20. Serco secures space surveillance contract from US Space Force. IT service management company Serco has secured a $57m contract from the US Space Force to support deep space surveillance. Under the contract, Serco will operate and maintain the Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) system, which detects and reports deep-space satellites in the Earth’s orbit.
The system utilises powerful telescopes, equipped with highly sensitive digital camera technology, for space satellite surveillance and support the US Strategic Command and allied forces requirements.
Serco noted that its operators will carry out space observation, apart from maintenance and support, and will be reporting the findings in support of the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC), the National Space Defense Center (NSDC) and the 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS).
Additionally, they will also provide Space Object Identification tasks in support of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).
Serco chairman and CEO Dave Dacquino said: “This is an exciting new win for Serco in supporting the US Space Force and their GEODSS systems as it goes through upgrades and expansions.
“This win builds on Serco’s presence in the space domain, in particular our UK and Europe division with its contracts in earth observation support services and spacecraft and satellite management.”
Overall, the contract carries an eight-month base period with six one-year options.
Works will be carried out at three GEODSS locations- Socorro in New Mexico, Diego Garcia in British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and Maui in Hawaii.
It can be noted that recently the US Department of the Air Force agreed to transfer space-related missions from 23 organisations to the US Space Force.
The move was part of the plan to improve the capabilities of US Space Force and support its development. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
06 Apr 20. The Pentagon will solicit its first mesh network in space May 1. The Space Development Agency plans to award contracts for a mesh network in space this August, with the expectation that an initial batch of 20 satellites will be placed on orbit during summer 2022. The agency expects to release a request for proposals for the contracts May 1.
The announcement came during an industry day the agency hosted over the phone April 2. The industry day was originally slated to take place during the 36th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs April 2, however, after that event was cancelled due to the circumstances with COVID-19 the agency opted to hold a virtual industry day instead. According to SDA Director Derek Tournear, 580 people called in for the event.
That first batch will include 20 satellites and will comprise what Pentagon leaders are calling Tranche 0 of the SDA’s Transport Layer, a mesh network of satellites operating primarily in low earth orbit and will be able to connect space-based sensors to the war fighter.
According to Tournear, the agency has six goals for its Trache 0 Transport Layer:
- Demonstrate low latency data transport to the war fighter over the optical crosslink mesh network.
- Demonstrate the ability to deliver data from a space sensor to the war fighter via the Transport Layer.
- Demonstrate a limited battle management C2 functionality.
- Transfer Integrated Broadcast System data across the mesh network to the war fighter
- Store, relay and transmit Link-16 data over the network in near real time.
- Operate a timing signature independent of GPS references to the US Naval Observatory.
Following Tranche 0, the SDA plans to continuously upgrade and add to its on orbit constellation in two year cycles, with Tranche 1 coming online in FY2024, Tranche 2 supplementing the system in FY2026. The SDA will procure two types of satellites for Tranche 0, with one main difference being that one set of satellites will have enough optical intersatellite links to communicate with other satellites operating in LEO and satellites in medium earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit, while the other will only have enough to communicate with other satellites in LEO.
The agency is tasked with building the National Defense Space Architecture, which will be made up of hundreds of satellites operating in low earth orbit providing a multitude of missions, from tracking hypersonic weapons to providing alternative position, navigation and timing data.
The Transport Layer will serve as the backbone of the NDSA, connecting the various satellites to each other and to the war fighter. And according to Tournear, the Transport Layer will provide the key space network component to the Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
“The transport layer, which is what the draft RFP and the industry day was talking about today, is going to be the unifying effort across the department. That is going to be what we use for low latency (communications) to be able to pull these networks together, and that, in essence, is going to be the main unifying truss for the JADC2 and that effort moving forward. That is going to be the space network that is utilized for that,” explained Tournear.
The agency released the draft RFP March 26. The SDA is soliciting feedback on the draft RFP for Tranche 0 through April 17 and plans to release the full RFP May 1. Contracts will be awarded in August, Tournear said, though the agency wants to see the proposals before deciding how many companies it will award contracts to. (Source: Defense News)
02 Apr 20. COVID-19: How Can Satellites Help? The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has virtually paralysed daily life as we know it. Even when the spread of this highly infectious disease has been stemmed, the world will face huge challenges getting back to normal. To help support experts working in Europe’s research centres and technical organisations during these unprecedented times, ESA has issued two new initiatives related to understanding the effects that COVID-19 is imposing on society, the economy and the environment.
As road traffic in cities around the world comes to a near standstill, Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite mission is providing key information about changes in concentrations of atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. However, there remains huge potential to use Earth observation data to shed new light on other societal and economic changes currently taking place.
To see how Earth-observing missions could be further used to explore the effects of COVID-19, ESA has issued a new call for proposals. The aim is to see how satellite data can be used, for example, to map changes around transport networks, commercial ports and heavy industry such as oil refineries.
ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “COVID-19 is putting society under huge strain. While ESA isn’t really placed to help forecast the progression of the virus, we certainly continue to have a wealth of data streaming back to us from some of the most sophisticated satellites ever built as well as new artificial intelligence technologies that can be used to understand and monitor some of the societal shifts.
“Innovation is key to using satellite data to help serve society during these challenging times and we trust that our new call will return some valuable proposals.”
This new call has been added to the Permanently Open Call, which is part of ESA’s Earth Observation Science for Society programme.
In addition to the new call, on 6 April ESA in coordination with the European Commission is launching a special edition of the Custom Script Contest. The contest calls for remote sensing experts, machine learning scientists as well as the interested public to submit ideas on how satellite data could help mitigate the situation for economic sectors such as industry, commerce, transport and agriculture, but is also open to other ideas. Anyone can contribute an idea.
The best contributions will be rewarded with cash prizes on a weekly basis. Also, every month there will be a prize for the best idea in each category and a final prize for the best overall contribution.
Grega Milcinski, from Sinergise said, “Participants should simply compose a set of slides presenting their ideas using the Earth observation data, tools and machine learning technologies made easily available for all skill levels. These will be evaluated on a weekly basis in order to make use of them as soon as possible – the COVID-19 situation needs it!”
About the Copernicus Sentinels
The Copernicus Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Union’s Copernicus environmental programme. The European Commission leads and coordinates this programme, to improve the management of the environment, safeguarding lives every day. ESA is in charge of the space component, responsible for developing the family of Copernicus Sentinel satellites on behalf of the European Union and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Copernicus Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT. (Source: ASD Network/European Space Agency (ESA))
05 Apr 20. Orbital Micro Systems Selects AAC Clyde Space for New Smallsat Addition for their GEMS Constellation. Orbital Micro Systems (OMS) has selected Glasgow-based AAC Clyde Space to provide a 6U smallsat bus for the UK Space Launch Program (UK-SLP).
The mission is planned for 2021, which will be the first launch from UK soil through the UK-SLP project that is managed by Lockheed Martin.
Under the terms of the contract, OMS and AAC Clyde Space will collaborate to integrate the instrumentation and bus for launch. The companies previously collaborated on the IOD-1 GEMS mission, which successfully deployed the first commercial microwave radiometer in space.
The new 6U smallsat will carry OMS’s next generation, miniaturized, microwave radiometer as a part of the company’s Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) constellation of satellites. The radiometer will monitor 118GHz and 183GHz frequency bands to gather temperature and humidity measurements at multiple altitudes as it orbits the earth.
According to the firm, GEMS is a groundbreaking Earth Observation (EO) solution which uses passive microwave soundings to record temperature and humidity at multiple altitudes regardless of cloud cover. The measurements can provide identification of precipitation type and density at altitude as well. The data collected by GEMS satellites magnifies the volume of microwave soundings available from government satellites and improves the precision and clarity of weather forecasts across the globe.
Access to the unique GEMS data is available through OMS’ International Center for Earth Data (ICED) located in Edinburgh, Scotland. Data from the IOD-1 GEMS satellite is currently provided to government and commercial entities, including the aviation and maritime sectors, as well as insurance and government organizations. When it achieves full deployment with some 50 satellites, the GEMS constellation will deliver near real-time data for any point on earth at approximately 15-minute intervals.
William Hosack, CEO for OMS, said the company is delighted to, once again, work with Clyde Space, and leverage their expertise and commitment to engineering outstanding bus products. Clyde Space shares in OMS’s vision in leveraging space technology for improving weather observation capabilities on Earth. The firm looks forward to working even closer with Clyde Space to deliver essential weather data to commercial and government organizations worldwide. (Source: Satnews)
02 Apr 20. Argentine Navy Uses Globalsat, Iridium Certus™ and Thales Tech and Wins the XXIV Oceanic Regatta. Iridium Communications Inc. has revealed that their partner company, Globalsat, has carried out the first Iridium Certus® installation for the Argentine Navy, in support of their entrance into the XXIV Oceanic Regatta Buenos Aires – Rio de Janeiro.
Equipped with a Thales VesseLINK™ terminal featuring the Iridium Certus 700 service, Argentine Navy regatta yacht Fortuna III finished in first place in its category.
Globalsat Argentina provided the necessary assistance to the Fortuna III crew members, enabling them to take full advantage of the Iridium Certus service’s capabilities.
Using the fastest L-band speeds in the industry, the crew of the Fortuna III accessed data connections up to 704 kbps in support of meteorological applications, nautical chart updates, sharing pictures and video, and maintained permanent communication for mission success and safety.
The Argentine Navy’s Luis Sgrilletti, Captain and Commander of Fortuna III, was particularly impressed by the “surprising speed” at which the team was able to access the information. He said that being able to visualize, in the context of a competition, constant and real-time updates of meteorological information, nautical charts and positions of the other competitors, was decisive for the achievement of the results obtained.
Iridium EVP of Sales and Marketing, Bryan Hartin, added that with the newly upgraded Iridium Certus 700 service, the crew of the Fortuna III had access to the fastest weather resilient L-band connectivity the maritime industry has ever known. Iridium is proud of partner Globalsat for supporting the Argentine Navy, ensuring the Fortuna III crew’s safety and helping them achieve victory. (Source: Satnews)
29 Mar 20. NSR’s The Bottom Line: Virtualizing the Satellite Ground Segment. While generally not driving as much hype as other technology trends in the satellite ecosystem, Ground Segment virtualization is arguably one of the most critical transformations the industry will experience in the coming years, as noted in NSR’s Commercial Satellite Ground Segment, 4th Edition report.
Key to enabling scalability and flexibility of the networks, infrastructure vendors, integrators and operators are racing to adopt a new virtual framework. What are the key aspects of this transition?
A Technology Leap
From the smallsat revolution to EO constellations, VHTS satellites, Software Defined Satellites or NGSO constellations, the pace of satellite industry innovation has accelerated to unprecedented levels. NSR believes Ground Segment innovation is a critical element of this innovation cycle, as only through advances on the ground can the industry adapt and support new demands across the new, virtual satellite ecosystem.
Scalability (multiplying number of beams and satellites, skyrocketing throughput, increased number of terminals) and flexibility (software defined payloads, network resource orchestration, network entry point diversity) in their wider sense are some of the biggest challenges ground segment developers need to respond to. While there has been tremendous progress in ground segment technologies in elements like throughput, efficiency and traffic optimization, there needs to be a leap change in the cost per Mbps of networking elements to maintain investments in the ground segment relative to the total system cost at assumable levels. The industry, therefore, needs to embrace virtualization to reduce the unit costs of ground equipment while meeting the new requirements imposed by smallsats, constellations and VHTS.
Solutions for the New Ecosystem
Various stages of the ground segment are already being virtualized to leverage economies and scale of generic computing capabilities and offer new capabilities. For example, in the TT&C space, actors like Kratos and Amergint are leading the transition with virtualized ecosystems (modems, FEP, flexible mesh capabilities, WAN optimization tools, data processing) due to the great benefits these offer to their customers. Similarly, in the VSAT space, elements such as the NMS are rapidly moving to the cloud given new networking requirements (mobility, beam shaping).
However, one must bear in mind that generic equipment might still be unable to meet the performance requirements for some of the networking functions. RF electronics is still hard to emulate on generic equipment, and baseband units will likely continue to rely on specialized hardware for the foreseeable future, except for specific use cases.
Implementation and Business Models
What does this all mean? Satellite should avoid the mistake of having to reinvent the wheel in this transition by adopting best practices from terrestrial. In fact, the transition to the cloud is a great opportunity to make satellite seamlessly integrable with the general telecom industry. SES adoption of ONAP standards for network automation and service orchestration is a great example of this.
Similarly, many of the new concepts like flexible resource allocation, SDN and NFV are being standardized under the 3GPP/5G umbrella. Traditionally, satellite has operated with proprietary technologies and siloed Operational Support Systems, where service configuration was custom-made. 5G will remove these silos to standardize service orchestration, giving operators and service providers the flexibility to tailor their network services.
Adoption of 5G standards will have multiple implications. From a market point of view, satellite will be much easier to implement for general telco users, kick starting a number of new use cases. From an operations point of view, virtualization and 5G will trigger a re-evaluation on how infrastructure and network capabilities are procured, prompting new business models such as “Infrastructure-as-a-Service”.
The satellite industry is in the midst of a period of accelerated innovation with smallsats, constellations and VHTS. However, there is a real and large risk that the ground segment may become a bottleneck in all these innovative developments rather than the key enabler that leads to closing the business case for next-generation programs.
Embracing virtualization is critical to respond to new scale and flexibility requirements. Moreover, virtualization opens a window of opportunity for satellite to become seamlessly integral with terrestrial solutions, thus unlocking new use cases. One must not underestimate the depth of transformation triggered by virtualization as business models around procurement of infrastructure and network capabilities will lead to new opportunities, revenue streams and emerging value propositions.
The pace of innovation in space and on the ground have to be linked. More importantly, the offerings envisioned for satellite 3.0 also have to be on the same page. Developments and offerings on the road ahead have to coincide not only with the needs of the satellite industry, but more so with the needs of terrestrial service providers if satellite is to gain larger share of the telecom/telco pie. (Article authored by Lluc Palerm-Serra, Senior Analyst, NSR) (Source: Satnews)
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