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01 May 20. Rocket Lab Electron roll-out ahead of upcoming US Space Force mission. Rocket Lab has announced the successful roll-out of an Electron launch vehicle to the Launch Complex 2 pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Virginia, for the first time.
The milestone is one of the final steps ahead of Rocket Lab’s first launch from Launch Complex 2 – a dedicated mission in partnership with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division.
Rocket Lab engineers and technicians carried out a range of successful integrated systems tests to verify launch systems on Electron and on the ground systems at Launch Complex 2.
The critical checks included raising Electron vertical on the Launch Complex 2 pad for the first time, activating and tuning pad fluid systems, power and communication checkouts as well as RF testing with the range.
The test campaign concluded with a hot ignition test of the nine Rutherford engines on Electron’s first stage.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and chief executive, said the upcoming mission from Launch Complex 2 marks the beginning of rapid, responsive small satellite launch capability for US government missions from US soil.
“We’re proud to be partnering with the US Space Force for the first mission from Launch Complex 2 and we’re honoured to be working with them again following previous STP missions out of Launch Complex 1,” Beck said.
The STP-27RM mission will launch a single micro-sat from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith program, which is designed to determine the ability of small satellites to support large aperture payloads to monitor space weather.
The mission is being co-ordinated by the US Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and is scheduled to launch no earlier than the third quarter of 2020.
NASA certification for Rocket Lab’s Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS), a system that has already been successfully flown on several missions from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.
David Pierce, Wallops Flight Facility director, said, “For almost 20 years NASA and the DoD have been working to develop an AFTS system that is available for use by all Range Users within ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) that can greatly reduce the cost of access to space.”
NASA expects to complete the certification in time for the Q3 launch window. The STP-27RM mission will mark the first time an AFTS has flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and represents a valuable new capability for the spaceport.
“Through our partnership with Rocket Lab on previous Electron launches and on this historic US Air Force mission, we’re able to further our efforts to commercialise AFTS and increase launch responsiveness at US ranges,” Pierce added.
AFTS is a GPS-aided, computer-controlled system designed to terminate an off-nominal flight, replacing traditional human-in-the-loop monitoring systems.
AFTS is crucial to increasing launch frequency and providing responsive launch capability, while maintaining the highest industry safety standards.
It reduces the turnaround time between missions and provides greater schedule control by eliminating reliance on ground-assets and human flight termination operators.
“For more than two years Rocket Lab has been providing responsive, dedicated and reliable access to space for government missions, and now we’re proud to be building on that strong heritage with our first mission from the United States. Combined, our two launch sites can support more than 130 launch opportunities every year, enabling unmatched schedule control for small satellite operators to respond to unfolding opportunities in low-Earth orbit and beyond,” Beck added.
With Launch Complex 2 complete and entering an operational phase, work continues on the construction of a Rocket Lab Integration and Control Facility nearby, which will house a launch control centre, payload integration facilities, offices and a pre-launch integration area for multiple Electron vehicles.
Shaun D’Mello, Rocket Lab’s vice president of launch, said the Electron launch vehicle and ground systems at Launch Complex 2 performed seamlessly throughout the test campaign.
Future missions scheduled for lift-off from Launch Complex 2 include a pathfinding mission for NASA to the moon called CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment).
“My sincere thanks go to the crews at Rocket Lab and Virginia Space whose hard work, commitment, and attention to detail enabled a smooth test campaign to verify the new launch pad and Electron for flight,” D’Mello added.
The mission will see a NASA satellite launched to a unique near rectilinear halo orbit around the moon to determine navigational capabilities for future missions.
Data gathered by this mission will inform NASA’s plans for Gateway – a space station planned for lunar orbit that will act as an outpost for astronauts before they descend to the lunar surface. The CAPSTONE mission is currently scheduled to launch in early 2021. (Source: Space Connect)
30 Apr 20. ThinKom demonstrates interoperability of Ku3030 antenna. ThinKom Solutions has completed a series of demonstrations of the interoperability of its core antenna technology with low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations. These included the company’s Ku3030 phased-array antenna subsystem (pictured) and a Gogo radome, adaptor plate and power amplifier which comprises the 2Ku aero SATCOM terminal.
Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom, said: ‘LEO satellite networks have the potential to be transformative to the in-flight connectivity experience, but also place new stringent demands on the antenna systems used to track and connect with the rapidly moving satellites.’
Successful tests of the Ku- and Ka-band COTS phased-array aero antennas were also conducted across commercial and military frequency bands and a variety of GEO and non-geostationary satellites. (Source: Shephard)
30 Apr 20. NASA Selects Blue Origin National Team to Return Humans to the Moon. Today the Blue Origin National Team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, was selected by NASA to begin to develop the Artemis Human Landing System.
“NASA’s Artemis program will be the next major milestone in the history of human space flight, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” said Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin. “Our National Team brings unparalleled heritage, passion and innovation that will enable Americans to return to the lunar surface and inspire another generation. It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.”
Using existing and in development technologies provides the head start needed to meet NASA’s goal of landing at the South Pole of the Moon. Lockheed Martin’s Ascent Element is based on Orion; Northrop Grumman’s Transfer Element is based on Cygnus; and Blue Origin’s Descent Element is based on the Blue Moon lander and BE-7 engine, which has been in development for several years.
“Lockheed Martin is honored to be partnered with Blue Origin and this National Team as we begin a moment in history that the world will point to for generations,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space. “The Artemis astronauts will descend to the surface and ascend off the surface inside an advanced crewed ascent element. The best way to accomplish this safely and quickly is to leverage NASA’s investment in Orion, an existing human-rated deep space spaceship, which maximizes common training and operations.”
“Putting humans back on the lunar surface is an inspiring goal for our nation,” said Blake Larson, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Systems. “We are proud to support this team and NASA with our decades of experience, comprehensive capabilities, and our proven space systems, as we return to the Moon.”
“Draper’s extensive portfolio and heritage in human exploration avionics is reinforced by current work on Lockheed Martin’s Orion, NASA’s SLS, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus and Blue Origin’s engine, New Glenn and Blue Moon programs,” said Seamus Tuohy, Principal Director of Space Systems, Draper. “We are prepared for this united team to return humans to the Moon, just as Draper did with Apollo.”
Each National Team partner brings industry-leading solutions:
- Blue Origin, as prime contractor, leads program management, systems engineering, safety and mission assurance, and mission engineering and operations; and develops the Descent Element.
- Lockheed Martin develops the reusable Ascent Element vehicle and leads crewed flight operations and training.
- Northrop Grumman develops the Transfer Element vehicle that delivers the landing system into low lunar orbit for final descent.
- Draper leads descent guidance and provides flight avionics. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
30 Apr 20. US SPACECOM commander dismisses Iranian ‘webcam’ satellite. The Noor-1 satellite that Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched on 22 April is a ‘tumbling webcam’, according to General Jay Raymond, the commander of US Space Command (SPACECOM).
“SPACECOM continues to track two objects … associated with space launch from Iran, characterising Noor-1 satellite as 3U CubeSat,” he wrote in a 25 April tweet. “Iran states it has imaging capabilities – actually, it’s a tumbling webcam in space; unlikely providing intel.”
CubeSats are mini-satellites that typically use off-the-shelf components, with an industry standard unit being a 10×10×10 cm cube weighing 1.33 kg and a 3U being three units in a line.
The Iranians described the Noor-1 as their first military satellite but were vague about its capabilities.
In a television interview General Ali Jafarabadi, the commander of the IRGC’s new Space Command, described it as a reconnaissance satellite that had been put into a low orbit of 430 km and was circling the Earth 16 times a day. He said it was transmitting signals, with the next phase involving stabilising it and deploying its sensors. (Source: Jane’s)
30 Apr 20. Support Your Mission With ENVI® Image Analysis. Like many of you, the Defense and Intelligence teams within L3Harris are adapting to remote working given the realities of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have heard from many customers that they would like us to continue our GEOINT training efforts during this time. With that in mind, we have created a series of short electronic trainings (both hands-on and presentation style).
These trainings are available for anyone. You don’t have to be an ENVI user to benefit.
Each Session is:
- Approximately 1 hour (hands-on sessions may be slightly longer)
- Every other Wednesday – April 8 through June 17
- Broadcast live at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
- Recording and training materials will be available after the live session
- April 8 – Automating GEOINT Workflows with ENVI Modeler (Hands-on) Recording and training materials now available for registrants
- April 22 – ENVI as an ELT: End-to-End Analytics for your Data (Hands-on)
- May 6 – ENVI SARscape Analytics: Easily Make Sense of the Complexity of SAR Data with Analyst-friendly Workflows
- May 20 – ENVI and ArcGIS: Adding Advanced Analytics to your GIS Workflows (Hands-on)
- June 3 – IDL®-to-Python: Bring the Power of ENVI to your Python Workflows
- June 17 – Extending ENVI: Future Proof your Code with ENVI Task (Hands-on)
30 Apr 20. ViaLite Debuts New Hyper Wide Dynamic Range Link & High Sensitivity Receiver. The launch of ViaLite Communication’s newest RF over fiber products caught the attention of the SATELLITE Show’s attendees this year, with technology improvement bringing increased functionality for teleport operators.
ViaLite’s RF over fiber experts launched an L-Band HTS – Hyper Wide Dynamic Range (HWDR) Series 2 (S2) RF over fiber link; covering 400-2500 MHz and providing up to 115 dB/Hz2/3 spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR). The preceding S1 offered ground-breaking SFDR upon its launch, with that range now being greatly improved upon by the S2. The HWDR links are ideal for full satcom transponder applications and defense Signals Intelligence (SIGINT).
A High Sensitivity Receiver (HSR) was also launched, having been intricately designed for high loss environments (e.g. with many splices/interconnects or low quality fiber infrastructure). The HSR reduces the need for EDFAs.
Really bolstering the number of new product being launched and proving a real draw for show visitors, two 10 MHz RF Splitters and an L-Band 10 MHz Diplexer were also rolled out at the show.
Richard Jacklin, ViaLite Director of Sales, commented: “Although the SATELLITE Show was curtailed somewhat [due to the Coronavirus], we drew a great deal of interest with the launch of the new products. The show was very well attended by the local Mil-Aero community and the HWDR and HSR product combination, in particular, gives them greater access to better quality SIGINT and High Throughput Satellite communications.”
Richard added that the ViaLite team looks forward to showcasing the new products at CommunicAsia later in the year, where the HSR is expected to “truly come into its own” as a solution for south east Asia teleports that are facing challenges due to typically higher fiber losses and a greater number of interconnects.
29 Apr 20. These are the technologies the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency needs. Analytics and modeling, data management and software engineering are among the top tech priorities for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to a document released Wednesday.
The 2020 Technology Focus Areas publication is a guide for industry on how the agency is approaching technology broadly.
“This document is focused on our needs, rather than specific technologies,” said Mark Munsell, NGA chief technology officer. “The changes we must make cannot only occur within the confines of NGA — they require the innovative spirit of industry to find new and unique solutions to some of our most difficult challenges.”
The NGA’s five technology focus areas are:
- Advanced Analytics and Modeling
- Data Management
- Modern Software Engineering
- Artificial Intelligence
The publication is an update to one that was first released in 2019.
“We published the first NGA Technology Focus Areas as a way to share our technology needs with the larger geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) community. As our needs and expertise continue to grow and evolve, it is incumbent on us to provide an updated document reflecting these changes,” said Munsell in his introduction to the document.
The agency also plans to issue its first technology strategy in the coming weeks, which will highlight how NGA plans to change in order to address these technology challenges.
“Together, these two products illustrate the direction we are moving NGA’s technology efforts. Please read them both; they provide a roadmap to protecting and advancing our nation’s GEOINT advantage for years to come,” said Munsell. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Apr 20. Cobham EXPLORER 323 and EXPLORER 6075LX terminals receive Inmarsat type approval. New BGAN and LX terminals set to revolutionise communications in remote areas.
Cobham SATCOM and Inmarsat have today announced the type approval of two new land satellite terminals. The low-profile vehicular Cobham EXPLORER 323 BGAN terminal and the auto-point ‘fly-away’ Cobham EXPLORER 6075LX VSAT terminal are now fully operational on the Inmarsat network with commercial shipments of each beginning immediately.
The new EXPLORER 323 terminal represents the first class 12, electronically steerable terminal for use on Inmarsat’s L-band Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN). It combines the slimmest form factor of any vehicular BGAN terminal with a number of new innovative features and sets a new standard in robustness due to its lack of moving parts. In conjunction with Inmarsat’s highly reliable network, offering up to 99.9% uptime, it promises a new standard in mobile communications to organisations operating in remote locations across a wide array of industries.
The class 12 terminal features speeds of up to 384kbps, support for BGAN (data and voice) and BGAN M2M (data) operations, and an integrated antenna and receiver, meaning only a rooftop unit is needed. Additionally, the EXPLORER 323 has an integrated WiFi Hotspot for setup, management and data access. Developed to integrate seamlessly with Cobham’s PRISM PTT+ offering, the EXPLORER 323 will enable telemetry and voice communications as well as other uses in remote rail operations, utilities, mining, aid and NGO operations, agriculture, public safety and emergency response.
Inmarsat has also approved the new auto-point ‘fly-away’ 0.75m Cobham EXPLORER 6075LX VSAT terminal for its high-speed Ka-band Global Xpress service. The new terminal offers the most reliable and stable connection in its class and features a simplified design, enhanced usability, quick setup and built-in WiFi. With a dynamic auto-pointing correction the terminal maintains its connection even in windy conditions or when pushed or moved, optimising its connection constantly. The EXPLORER 6075LX also features a considerable reduction in weight versus the EXPLORER 5075GX for greater portability and will support high-bandwidth applications in broadcasting, resilience and field-office operation.
Mike Carter, President of Inmarsat Enterprise, commented: “We are proud to offer these two game-changing terminals to our partners and customers. Their launch follows an important period of industry consultation, innovation and collaboration between Cobham and Inmarsat. With the EXPLORER 323 ideal for vehicular tracking and communications and the EXPLORER 6075 optimised for high-bandwidth operations, both terminals improve upon their predecessors and are set to make ultra-reliable connectivity easier to access in the remotest areas, wherever it is needed most.”
Todd McDonell, President of Inmarsat Global Government, added: “These two new terminals from Cobham prove that there continues to be innovation occurring in both our L-band and Global Xpress networks. For government users the 6075LX (or GX6075) provides a fast to set up, easy to use, automatic acquisition broadband terminal ideal for first responders who need to access communications at a scene quickly. In addition the EXPLORER 323 provides government users a way to maintain on the move connectivity regardless of the situation. When fixed networks become disabled or degraded, due to events such as natural disasters, the EXPLORER 323 provides an ideal, low profile system for routing radio and data connectivity and can be integrated with the emergency services’ existing radio and data networks. We thank Cobham for bringing these products to market. We believe that they will help to deliver new capability for a number of government departments and agencies.”
Cobham’s Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, Land Mobile, Henrik Nørrelykke said: “Cobham SATCOM is pleased to demonstrate our continued support of both the extremely robust Inmarsat BGAN network as well as the Inmarsat Global Xpress network by launching these exciting new products. We have already received very positive feedback on the performance of both products and look forward so much to seeing them deployed in projects around the world.”
29 Apr 20. RAND report backs up Space Force’s plan for only two heavy launch providers. The Space and Missile Systems Center says a new report by the thinktank RAND supports its decision to award contracts to only two launch providers under the National Security Space Launch program.
The study, which was commissioned by the Air Force, shows that the heavy launch market is unlikely to sustain more than two domestic launch providers over the long term, a conclusion that supports the main thrust of the Defense Department’s acquisitions approach for heavy lift launch services.
“We asked RAND to independently double check the assumptions we used to build our acquisition strategy,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate. “What we found was that our acquisition strategy encompasses RAND’s recommendations as we are already making prudent preparations for a market that will only sustain two providers with our Phase 2 contract structure.”
The NSSL competition was undertaken to end U.S. reliance on the Russian propulsion systems used for the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.
“We had to take prudent steps to expeditiously end reliance on Russian propulsion systems while maintaining 100 percent mission success for critical National Security Space assets,” said Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper. “The Department’s strategy over the last five years is delivering on that mandate.”
There are four companies vying for the contracts: United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. However, SMC plans to award contracts to only two providers for 30-plus heavy lift launches from 2022 through 2025, arguing that the market will not support more than two domestic providers. Those contracts are expected to follow a 60-40 split, with the launches scheduled between 2022 and 2026.
The Rand report supports the SMC’s framing, projecting only moderate growth in the commercial heavy lift market over the next 10 years, meaning industry is unlikely to be able to support more than one U.S. launch provider. Therefore, the Space Force should prepare for a future with only two NSSL providers, one of which may receive limited support from the commercial market.
“Given the market projections highlighted in the RAND market study, supporting more than two operational National Security Space launch providers would also decrease each provider’s launch tempo which lowers overall reliability and increases satellite launch costs,” said Brig. Gen. Donna Shipton, SMC vice commander.
Noted Roper: “I think the biggest takeaway: I’m glad that they agreed with our assessment that the market can only support two providers long term. That’s what we believed based on the market research, and they upheld that. So that’s good to know.”
Still, the authors do recommend the Pentagon “continue to provide tailored support through 2023 to enable three U.S. launch service providers to continue in or enter the heavy lift launch market.” Although they also noted that support does not need to come in the form of a third NSSL contract.
“The finding that carrying a third provider in some way, in the near term would help especially in discouraging a foreign entrant to the market is one that I agree with,” Roper said. “I think, in a perfect world, we absolutely would continue with more providers just because this is an emerging market where there are a lot of areas and technologies being developed, and if money were no option, I would love to continue research and development in launch and start phase three R&D of the program earlier. It’s just merely a funding constraint for us.”
“So when we’re looking at our national security space launch portfolio, we funded what is required to get our job done,” he added. “We will be able to have two providers capable of putting up every satellite that we need to put up — Air Force, Space Force and [National Reconnaissance Office].”
The Space Force is expected to issue the contracts this summer.(Source: Defense News)
29 Apr 20. Serco secures four-year contract to support USAF Satellite Control Network in UK. Serco’s Defence business has been awarded a £25m contract by CACI to continue to provide operations and maintenance support to the US Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) at the Telemetry and Command Station (TCS) at Oakhanger, Hampshire, UK for a further four years until 2024. Serco has been providing the operations, maintenance and site services at Oakhanger since 2003 as part of the UK Skynet 5 programme, since when customer satisfaction, reliability and safety have all been significantly improved. As part of Serco’s wider Space capability, there are c.75 highly skilled Serco engineers and technicians employed on the contract to support the US Space Force.
Paul McCarter, Serco’s Managing Director, Defence, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to continue to provide these vital services for the US Space Force. This is an important contract win for Serco and strengthens our capabilities in the Space market in the UK, which we see as an area of growth. We will build on the success and experience of the past seventeen years to continue to deliver and improve the services we provide in the coming years.”
CACI is the Prime Contractor for the Consolidated Air Force Satellite Control Network Modifications, Maintenance and Operations (CAMMO) contract providing worldwide operations and maintenance for the AFSCN.
The Oakhanger site is owned by the MOD and is the busiest ground station in the AFSCN supporting over 38,000 contacts during 2019 with an operational performance of 99.99%.
The AFSCN, operated by the U.S. Space Force’s Space Operation Command, provides support for the operation, control, and maintenance of a variety of United States Department of Defense and some non-DoD satellites. This involves continual execution of Telemetry, Tracking, and Commanding operations. In addition, the AFSCN provides prelaunch checkout and simulation, launch support, and early orbit support while satellites are in initial or transfer orbits and require manoeuvring to their final orbit. The AFSCN provides tracking data to help maintain the catalogue of space objects and distributes various data such as satellite ephemeris, almanacs, and other information.
28 Apr 20. Senate committee planning Ligado hearing on GPS interference. The Senate Armed Services Committee is planning to hold a hearing where top Pentagon officials will lay out their concerns over the recent approval by the Federal Communications Commission to allow Ligado to access L-Band spectrum.
A SASC aide confirmed to C4ISRNET the committee is putting a hearing together, “likely middle of next week,” following the Senate’s return to Washington. However, the aide stressed that no date or witnesses have been locked in.
Another source said that the hearing will likely include some combination of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond, DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, and/or undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Michael Griffin.
For years, department officials have argued that allowing Ligado access to L-Band will interfere with Global Positioning System capabilities, both for military and civilian use. Despite those concerns, the FCC voted unanimously on April 17 to move forward with Ligado’s plan.
Days later, an exclusive op-ed for C4ISRNET, the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urged the FCC to reconsider, warning that the plan “could cost taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars and require the replacement of current GPS equipment just as we are trying to get our economy back on its feet quickly.”
The lawmakers added, “we expect the FCC to resolve Department of Defense concerns before moving forward, as required by law. If they do not, and unless President Trump intervenes to stop this from moving forward, it will be up to Congress to clean up this mess.”
Now, the committee appears to be making the first move in that direction. If the invitation list holds, it will provide a platform for the department leaders who have been among the most vocal critics of Ligado’s plan.
Griffin and Deasy co-authored a March 12 letter, first reported by C4ISRNET, asking the FCC not to go ahead with the move. On April 13, Deasy told reporters “we continue to believe it’s in the best interests — and I believe I can say this on behalf of all the agencies — it’s in the interest of the government not to pursue the Ligado licensing request.”
And on April 22, Goldfein said he and Raymond were in the early steps of finding ways to “mitigate” the damage that GPS would suffer from under the Ligado plan.
Whether representatives from Ligado will be invited to attend is unclear. Defenders of the company’s plan argue that L-band is necessary to grow the capabilities needed for an “internet of things” economy to bloom, while citing data that testing shows GPS should not be impacted by the use of the spectrum. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
29 Apr 20. Space Force SBIRS GEO-5 space vehicle enters critical thermal vacuum testing. The Space and Missile Systems Center’s next Space Based Infrared System satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) reached a major milestone on its road to launch when thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing began on 16 April at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Sunnyvale, California.
SBIRS GEO-5 is a high-priority US Space Force program that provides worldwide missile warning capability for the US military. SMC’s Production Corps and its industry partner Lockheed Martin Space work in close collaboration to achieve this major milestone for the program.
TVAC testing simulates the space environment by producing a near vacuum and cycling through hot and cold temperature ranges that the satellite will experience through various stages of its orbit and seasonal cycles.
This critical testing verifies that all satellite components are operating correctly and meet strict requirements and standards under all conditions.
SBIRS uses infrared surveillance to provide missile warning for national defence. The system consists of a constellation of satellites in both geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and highly elliptical orbit (HEO).
Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Laughton, SBIRS GEO-5/6 program manager, said, “TVAC testing represents the culmination of hundreds of thousands of hours of work by both the government and Lockheed Martin Space ensuring that we are giving the warfighter a national asset. I am proud of the men and women of the SBIRS program and their families for the years of sacrifice to get us to this point.”
The newest SBIRS satellites, GEO-5 and GEO-6, are based upon Lockheed Martin Space’s modernised LM 2100 spacecraft – an update that improves overall system resiliency to provide mission assurance to the warfighter.
The start of TVAC testing is a major milestone that drives the final testing and assembly of the space vehicle. Lockheed Martin Space overcame COVID-19 related challenges to maintain assembly and test operations with minimal impacts.
SBIRS GEO-5 is expected to launch in 2021.
The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the US Space Force’s Centre of Excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems.
Its portfolio includes the global positioning system, military satellite communications, defence meteorological satellites, space launch, range systems, satellite control networks, space-based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Apr 20. The NRO wants to ensure its data can be fed directly to the war fighter. The National Reconnaissance Office is writing new interface standards to ensure its data will be compatible with the Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control system.
The NRO acquires and operates the United States’ spy satellites, collecting and disseminating vast amounts of signals and geospatial intelligence. Now, as the DoD works to build a new Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system, the agency is working to ensure that it’s data will be able to flow directly from its satellites and data processors to the war fighter.
JADC2 is a new data architecture being pursued by U.S. Air Force and Space Force leaders that will connect sensors to shooters. Once in place, JADC2 will allow platforms from all services to receive, fuse and incorporate data from multiple sensors from any domain for targeting and other operations. The Air Force has been building and testing the Advanced Battle Management System for just this purpose.
In an April 24 webinar hosted by the Mitchell Institute, NRO Deputy Director Maj. Gen. Michael Guetlein said his agency was preparing its data to feed into JADC2.
“The data that we are collecting and the data that we are processing, we are distributing it more widely than we’ve ever done before, and we are partnering with the standup of JADC2 as well as a couple of other C2 systems to make sure that as those systems come online, our data can seamlessly flow into those C2 systems and be able to make it directly from the sensor to the shooter,” he explained.
“Today, we’re writing the interface standards to make sure as we build these next generation systems—both sensors and processors—that they can all interface seamlessly machine to machine,” he added.
In other words, once JADC2 is in place, platforms will be able to easily receive and utilize data from intelligence community satellites, not just the constellations owned and operated by the U.S. Space Force.
And it’s possible that the NRO’s data will be delivered to war fighters through a new space-based mesh network being developed by DoD.
The Space Development Agency has confirmed that their planned proliferated low earth orbit constellation—which will eventually be made up of hundreds of small satellites—will be the space network component of JADC2.
“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 SDA Director Derek Tournear at an April 2 industry day.
The SDA is on the verge of releasing a solicitation for the initial tranche of satellites that will create a space-based mesh network using intersatellite optical links. The agency has said that solicitation should be expected May 1. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Apr 20. Thales Alenia Space to develop in Spain the TDRS transmitter for VEGA launchers. Thales Alenia Space in Spain technologies to serve an improved approach using geostationary data relay satellites
Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced today the signature of a contract with AVIO S.p.A., industrial prime contractor of VEGA launch vehicle, in the frame of LEAP program of the European Space Agency (ESA), concerning the initial phases of design, development and qualification of a TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) transmitter, targeting an improvement of VEGA telemetry system both in terms of cost and performance.
The present telemetry system of VEGA relies on the download of the telemetry data streaming directly to the telemetry ground stations, requiring the use of costly mobile ground stations. Sometimes the ground stations are not even sufficient to cover the launch trajectory.
The new VEGA TDRS system is based on the transmission of the telemetry data streaming to TDRS geosynchronous satellites constellation, which then relay the signal to the TDRSS ground stations. This system will significantly improve the contact between the ground and the launcher by allowing continuous transmission of the telemetry data streaming all along the launcher trajectory thanks to the TDRSS coverage. The VEGA TDRS system will be compatible with the current launcher version and easily adapted to its evolutions, as the VEGA-C launcher version.
The TDRS transmitter development draws on Thales Alenia Space in Spain comprehensive expertise in the development of telemetry and command systems for all type of space missions in LEO, GEO, the Moon and Langrange L2 orbits. In particular, the company has developed TDRSS-compatible transmitters and receivers for numerous missions in low Earth orbit, including visiting spacecraft to the International Space Station such as Europe’s ATV, Japan’s HTV and USA’s Cygnus. Thales Alenia Space has also valuable experience in the launchers segment and is currently developing in its facilities in Madrid (Spain) the telemetry transmitter for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.
Eduardo Bellido, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain said “we thank AVIO and ESA for their trust in our capacities to develop the TDRS transmitter for VEGA, which is a key element for an improved approach to telemetry data transmission for European launchers, by using geostationary data relay satellites.”
Thales Alenia Space has contributed to the European launchers industry for more than 50 years. In just a few years, the company has become the key supplier of numerous electronic equipment developed in Belgium for the entire family of Ariane (Ariane 1 to Ariane 6), Vega and Soyuz launchers. Since 2017, Thales Alenia Space in Spain has also been completing the range of Thales Alenia Space-built products dedicated to the European launchers. (Source: ASD Network)
27 Apr 20. The Global Positioning System, better known as GPS, marked its 25th year of operation Apr. 27, 2020. On this date in 1995, the system reached full operational capability, meaning the system met all performance requirements. U.S. Air Force Space Command formally announced the milestone three months later.
“This is a major milestone,” Gen. Thomas S. Moorman Jr., former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, said in 1995. “GPS has become integral to our warfighters and is rapidly becoming a true utility in the civilian community.” Initially developed for the military to meet a critical need for determining precise location on the battlefield, GPS has also become an integral part of technology affecting the lives of billions of people worldwide.
“The United States Space Force’s continuing objective for the constellation is to ensure GPS remains the Gold Standard for global space-based positioning, navigation and timing,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations, and U.S. Space Command Commander. Today, the U.S. Space Force operates the GPS satellite constellation as a global utility – always available to everyone, everywhere on Earth.
“GPS is a free for use service provided by the Space Force that enhances everyday lives around the world,” said Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, USSF Director of Operations and Communications. “GPS provides the highest accuracy positioning and timing data. In addition to the essential capabilities it provides for the military, GPS underpins critical financial, transportation and agricultural infrastructure. It’s always available, whether for an ATM transaction or securing a rideshare.”
Its military capabilities first enhanced combat operations in 1990 and 1991 during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Allied troops relied heavily on the new GPS signal to navigate the featureless deserts in Kuwait and Iraq.
In the early 2000’s, during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, GPS contribution to warfighting increased significantly. For example, the GPS constellation enabled accurate munitions, allowing the delivery of GPS-aided Joint Direct Attack Munitions with pinpoint precision and minimal collateral damage.
Today, in addition to these and other GPS-enabled warfighting capabilities, Airmen conduct resupply missions with battlefield precision airdrops to combat forces with GPS-guided, parachute-delivered equipment pallets known as “Smart Pallets.”
The GPS operational constellation currently has 31 satellites, and the system is continually updated and modernized, making it a resilient system to maintain the signals required for accurate positioning, navigation and timing around the world.
The first satellite of the new GPS III version, called Vespucci, was launched into space Dec. 23, 2018. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., operates GPS. The squadron recently accepted control of the second GPS III satellite, called Magellan, on March 27.
GPS III is meeting users’ emerging needs and responding to tomorrow’s threats with improved safety, signal integrity and accuracy. GPS III satellites are more accurate, have improved anti-jamming capabilities, and have doubled the design life; when compared to previous iterations of GPS. They are also designed to incorporate new technology and changing mission needs,
“The 25th Anniversary is a huge, momentous occasion for us. We take great pride in providing this global utility to the approximately six billion users worldwide,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Toth, 2nd SOPS commander. “Celebrating this anniversary gives us a moment to recognize how far we’ve come, but also to get pumped about what lies ahead for our program and our role in executing that.”
27 Apr 20. Lockheed Martin to integrate Project Blackjack satellites. Lockheed Martin will perform the first phase of satellite integration on Project Blackjack for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the company announced April 24. With Project Blackjack, DARPA hopes to demonstrate the value of a proliferated constellation of low earth orbit satellites for the Department of Defense. And while Project Blackjack is expected to consist of just about 20 satellites, the lessons learned will feed into a constellation of hundreds.
From early on, the Space Development Agency has said that it planned to build off of the advances made with Project Blackjack for its own proliferated constellation, which will perform tasks ranging from beyond-line-of-sight targeting to tracking hypersonic weapons. The SDA’s current plan is to put 20 satellites on orbit in the summer of 2022, adding more and more in two year cycles until the agency’s constellation includes hundreds of satellites.
Under the $5.8m contract, Lockheed Martin will define and manage interfaces between the bus, payload and Pit Boss, a system that will be able to process data collected by the satellites in space and disseminate that information to users on Earth without any human input. BAE Systems, SEAKR Engineering, Inc and Scientific Systems Company Incorporated were each awarded contracts in 2019 to design Pit Boss.
Lockheed Martin will also perform testbed validation of vehicle interfaces.
“Lockheed Martin has built and integrated a variety of payload types and sizes for every type of mission and we bring all of that experience to the Blackjack program,” said Sarah Reeves, vice president of missile defense programs at Lockheed Martin. “This is an exciting new approach to plug-n-play design for LEO and we are up for the challenge.” (Source: Defense News)
28 Apr 20. Celebrating three decades of the Hubble Space Telescope. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s iconic images and scientific breakthroughs have redefined our view of the universe. This image is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the telescope has observed during its 30-year lifetime.
The portrait features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbour NGC 2020, which together form part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, approximately 163,000 light years away. The image is nicknamed the ‘Cosmic Reef’ because it resembles an undersea world.
On 24 April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on the Space Shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew. Deployed into low-Earth orbit a day later, the telescope has since opened our eyes to the cosmos and transformed our collective knowledge of the universe.
To date, the Hubble mission has yielded 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers around the world have used to write more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making it one of the most prolific space observatories in history.
Its rich data archive alone will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come.
Each year, Hubble has a small portion of its precious observing time dedicated to taking a special anniversary image, showcasing particularly beautiful and meaningful objects. These observations continue to challenge scientists with surprising new findings and to fascinate the public with ever more evocative images.
This year, Hubble is celebrating this new milestone with a portrait of two colourful nebulae that reveals how energetic, massive stars sculpt their homes of gas and dust.
Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separate in this visible-light image, they are actually part of one giant star formation complex. The star-forming regions seen here are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our sun.
These stars have short lives of only a few million years, compared with the 10-billion-year lifetime of our sun.
The sparkling centrepiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, massive stars near the centre of the image that has blown away its cocoon of hydrogen gas (coloured red) and dust in which it was born.
A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster is illuminating the landscape around it. These massive stars also unleash fierce winds that are eroding the gas cloud above and to the right of them. The gas in these areas is less dense, making it easier for the stellar winds to blast through them, creating bubble-like structures reminiscent of coral, that have earned the nebula the nickname ‘Brain Coral’.
By contrast, the blue-coloured nebula below NGC 2014 has been shaped by one mammoth star that is roughly 200,000 times more luminous than our sun.
It is an example of a rare class of stars called Wolf-Rayet stars, thought to be the descendants of the most massive stars. Wolf-Rayet stars are very luminous and have a high rate of mass loss through powerful winds.
The star in this Hubble image is 15 times more massive than our sun and is unleashing powerful winds, which have cleared out the area around it. It has ejected its outer layers of gas, sweeping them around into a cone-like shape, and exposing its searing hot core. The behemoth appears offset from the centre because the telescope is viewing the cone from a slightly tilted angle.
In a few million years, the star might become a supernova. The brilliant blue colour of the nebula comes from oxygen gas that is heated to roughly 11,000 degrees, which is much hotter than the hydrogen gas surrounding it.
Stars, both big and small, are born when clouds of dust and gas collapse because of gravity. As more material falls onto the forming star, it finally becomes hot and dense enough at its centre to trigger the nuclear fusion reactions that make stars, including our sun, shine.
Massive stars make up only a few per cent of the billions of stars in our universe. Yet they play a crucial role in shaping our universe, through stellar winds, supernova explosions, and the production of heavy elements. (Source: Space Connect)
28 Apr 20. SpaceX confirms latest successful Starlink launch. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has successfully completed the company’s latest launch for the Starlink communications satellite constellation as it steps up its efforts to deliver a global internet of things (IoT) capability.
The latest successful test took place Wednesday, 22 April from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is the seventh launch of the Starlink communications satellites.
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Crew Dragon’s first flight to the International Space Station, launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, and the fourth Starlink mission.
The Starlink satellites are designed to deploy in an elliptical orbit approximately 15 minutes after lift-off.
Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended.
Once the checkouts are complete, the satellites will then use their onboard ion thrusters to move into their intended orbits and operational altitude of 550 kilometres.
SpaceX is leveraging its experience in building rockets and spacecraft to deploy the world’s most advanced broadband internet system.
With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable.
Each Starlink satellite weighs approximately 260 kilograms and features a compact, flat-panel design that minimises volume, allowing for a dense launch stack to take full advantage of Falcon 9’s launch capabilities.
With four powerful phased array and two parabolic antennas on each satellite, an enormous amount of throughput can be placed and redirected in a short time, for an order of magnitude lower cost than traditional satellite-based internet.
Starlink satellites are on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards.
At end of their life cycle, the satellites will utilise their on-board propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months.
In the unlikely event their propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within one to five years, significantly less than the hundreds or thousands of years required at higher altitudes.
Further, Starlink components are designed for full demisability.
Starlink is the name of a satellite network that the private spaceflight company SpaceX is developing to provide low-cost internet to remote locations.
While SpaceX eventually hopes to have as many as 12,000 satellites in this so-called mega-constellation, the size and scale of the project has flustered astronomers and amateur skywatchers, who fear that the bright, orbiting objects will interfere with observations of the universe. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Apr 20. Australian collaboration to support US Space Force surveillance telescope. The Australian Department of Defence, in partnership with the US Space Force’s (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) Program, recently achieved “first light” on 5 March 2020, reaching a key milestone after it was moved from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station in WA.
The Defence Estate and Infrastructure Group (E&IG) have handed over ownership of the new Space Surveillance Telescope Building to the Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG).
The completed building and supporting facilities, located in Exmouth, Western Australia, are an important milestone in Project AIR 3029 Phase 2 – Space Surveillance Telescope. The SST will be housed in the new building and its installation is on track to meet initial operating capability in 2021.
Moving the SST to Australia satisfied a critical objective to improve the broader USSF Space Surveillance Network’s ground-based electro-optical coverage of the geosynchronous space regime. First light is a significant milestone in meeting this objective.
It means that course alignment of the telescope optics with the wide field of view camera has been completed to allow the first images of objects in orbit to be seen by the telescope.
Gordon Kordyak, SMC Special Programs Directorate Space Domain Awareness Division chief explained the importance of the partnership: “This key space domain awareness, or SDA, partnership builds on the long history of close defence space co-operation between the United States and Australia and has been a cornerstone of our continued alliance.”
Lani Smith, SMC Special Programs Directorate deputy director, added, “Whether it is space traffic management or the protection and defence of critical space-based capabilities, delivering sensors that continuously improve our ability to maintain real-time awareness of the space domain is essential to facilitate the broader needs of both the US and Australia.”
Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, said the telescope would increase the capacity to detect and track objects in space in order to manage threats, including space debris, and predict and avoid potential collisions.
“These $97.2m facilities are the first of their type built for the Australian Defence Force and represent a significant achievement by Defence and Australian industry to enable the capability to be realised. Air Force is working with Australian industry and educational institutions to build domestic space surveillance capability for Australia,” AIRMSHL Davies added.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the telescope is a game changer for Defence: “This world-leading, 360-degree telescope will enable Defence to better track and identify objects and threats in space including space debris, as well as predict and avoid potential collisions.”
The telescope was initially developed in the US for scientific research. Through a partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and the USSF, it has since been relocated to Exmouth, Western Australia.
“In an increasingly complex security environment, closer Australian-US defence co-operation will strengthen our respective capability advantages,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister for Defence Industry and local member for Durack Melissa Price said Sitzler Construction built the two-megawatt central power station for the SST with support from local and national industry suppliers.
“Constructing a purpose-built facility and all of the accompanying infrastructure for such an important capability in a remote part of Australia is an outstanding achievement,” Minister Price said.
The construction of the 270-tonne rotating dome enclosure and supporting facilities is a significant achievement for Australian industry. The design and manufacture of the track and bogie mechanisms to allow the dome to rotate was undertaken by Hofmann Engineering, a Perth-based contractor, resulting in a world-leading product. The dome allows full 360-degree viewing of the night sky.
Construction of the unique facilities by a combined team of contractors led by Aurecon as project manager/contract administrator and Sitzler Construction as prime contractor, demonstrated the capability of businesses local to the Exmouth area to deliver Defence projects.
The collaboration and installation of the SST in Australia included the successful completion of an Australian purpose-built facility with mission-enabling site infrastructure and a two-megawatt central power station for powering the telescope and the site. Moving forward, SST will undergo a comprehensive integration and testing regime before officially entering service in 2022.
“The SST program, which is a jointly operated program, represents delivery of our next iteration of sensing capability to meet this need,” Smith said.
Once operational, the SST will become part of the global Space Surveillance Network, providing SDA for the US, Australia and key allies.
The SST will now undergo extensive testing, and is expected to be operational in 2022. The RAAF will operate SST with oversight and management by the USSF 21st Space Wing once the telescope is operational. (Source: Space Connect)
24 Apr 20. Space Force surveillance telescope achieves first light in Australia. Recently relocated to Australia, the Space Surveillance Telescope has achieved first light, a significant milestone in its journey to reentering operations in 2022.
Achieving first light means that the telescope optics have been successfully aligned with the wide-field-of-view camera in order to produce images of objects on orbit. Developed in partnership with the Australian Department of Defence, the Space Surveillance Telescope will provide advanced electro-optical coverage of objects in geosynchronous orbit.
“Whether it is space traffic management or the protection and defense of critical space-based capabilities, delivering sensors that continuously improve our ability to maintain real-time awareness of the space domain is essential to facilitate the broader needs of both the U.S. and Australia,” said Lani Smith, the deputy director of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Special Programs Directorate.
“The SST program, which is a jointly operated program, represents delivery of our next iteration of sensing capability to meet this need,” Smith added.
The telescope initially achieved first light in 2011 while located at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. But in 2013, the United States and Australia agreed to relocate the telescope to the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia.
There, the sensor can provide greater electro-optical coverage of objects in geosynchronous orbit for the U.S. Space Force. The telescope was moved to Australia in 2017, and it achieved first light at its new location on March 5.
The Space Surveillance Telescope is expected to become operational in 2022, when it will begin feeding data into the Space Force’s Space Surveillance Network, which collects data from numerous sensors to provide accurate space situational awareness to the United States, Australia and other allies. The telescope will be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, with the Space Force providing oversight and management.
“This key Space Domain Awareness, or SDA, partnership builds on the long history of close defense space cooperation between the United States and Australia and has been a cornerstone of our continued alliance,” said Gordon Kordyak, SMC Special Programs Directorate Space Domain Awareness Division chief. (Source: Defense News)
24 Apr 20. USAF awards Rhea Space Activity with LUNINT contract. In April the US Air Force (USAF) awarded Washington DC-based Rhea Space Activity (RSA) a Phase 1 contract for collecting and disseminating lunaspatial intelligence (LUNINT) – meaning activity in cislunar space, as well as on the lunar surface. Sabre Astronautics is RSA’s project partner in the contract.
An RSA spokesperson told Jane’s the USD50,000 Phase 1 contract has a three-month performance period.
RSA is to develop a LUNINT dashboard, a three-dimensional situational awareness portal that will derive co-ordinates of notable objects in lunar orbits and on the lunar surface. In addition to the dashboard, RSA will suggest optimum satellite constellation architecture to monitor cislunar spacecraft in support of US space domain awareness objectives.
Saber Astronautics, operating facilities in Colorado and Australia, will be integrating RSA’s LUNINT software solution into its Space Cockpit virtual reality space operations centre. Space Cockpit is a mission control software suite that enables visualising the local space environment (in this case cislunar space), make decisions, and manage a large number of space objects.
Cameo Lance, an RSA physicist, said the development of LUNINT was inevitable as the US armed forces seek to expand capabilities beyond geosynchronous orbit. Lance said in a statement that the company has recently seen a significant uptick of spacecraft headed to cislunar space by US near peer competitors. He noted China’s Chang’e 4 mission successfully landing a probe on the far side of the Moon, and China’s use of a communication satellite placed at the Earth-Moon L2 point for relaying communications to Earth.
Shawn Usman, an astrophysicist and RSA founder, told Jane’s that LUNINT capabilities will be derived from space and ground based electro optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) based imagery as well as from SIGINT sensors. RSA and Saber Astronautics said they plan to apply for a Phase 2 contract for USAF operational LUNINT capabilities. (Source: Jane’s)
23 Apr 20. Boeing completes new microsatellite prototype for the Space Force. Millennium Space Systems has completed the design, production and integration of a new microsatellite prototype for the U.S. Space Force, the company announced April 21.
TETRA will be used for various prototype missions around geosynchronous orbit, according to a news release put out by Millennium, a Boeing subsidiary.
The satellite was the first prototype award issued under the Space Enterprise Consortium, an other transaction authority contract vehicle used by the Space and Missile Systems Center for rapid prototyping projects.
“One of our primary goals is to be more agile in the development and deployment of innovative space assets,” said Col. Tim Sejba, director of innovation and prototyping for the SMC Development Corps. “By leveraging OTA contracts with programs like TETRA-1, we are expediting the execution of new space development missions. The partnership we’ve developed with Millennium Space Systems allows us to create and field a dynamic pathfinder capability to meet the future space warfighter’s needs.”
Both Millenium and Blue Canyon Technologies were awarded contracts to develop a TETRA microsatellite. The value of the contracts was not disclosed, and Blue Canyon Technologies could not immediately provide an update on their TETRA prototype.
According to Millennium, the company was able to complete the project 60 percent faster than previous missions by leveraging the company’s in-house capabilities. TETRA-1 is based on Millennium’s ALTAIR small satellite product line, although no previous ALTAIR satellites have operated in geosynchronous orbit before. The company claims it completed integration in less than 15 months from when the contract was awarded. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
22 Apr 20. Millennium Space Systems Completes Work on U.S. Space Force’s TETRA-1 Smallsat. Less than 15 months after contract award, Millennium Space Systems has designed, manufactured, assembled and integrated the U.S. Space Force TETRA-1 satellite. The work was completed 60 percent faster than previous missions, improving the U.S. Space Force’s ability to advance the TETRA-1 technologies more quickly.
TETRA-1 is a microsatellite created for various prototype missions in and around geosynchronous earth orbit. TETRA-1 was the first prototype award under the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Enterprise Consortium Other Transaction Authority (OTA) charter.
Most of the TETRA-1 components were completed by leveraging Millennium’s in-house capabilities, demonstrating that organically developed capabilities are a key enabler for executing programs on a tight schedule. After system integration, the satellite successfully completed its environmental and full functional tests.
TETRA-1 is based on Millennium’s proven ALTAIR-class smallsat product line. It is the first of Millennium’s ALTAIR satellites to qualify for operations in the geosynchronous orbit space environment, 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) from the Earth’s surface. TETRA-1 is manifested on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket currently scheduled for launch in late 2020.
Col. Tim Sejba, Director, Innovation and Prototyping, Development Corps, Space and Missile Systems Center, Detachment 1, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, said that one of the primary goals is to be more agile in the development and deployment of innovative space assets. By leveraging OTA contracts with programs such as TETRA-1, the organization is expediting the execution of new space development missions. The partnership developed with Millennium Space Systems allows for the creation and fielding of a dynamic pathfinder capability to meet the future space warfighter’s needs.
Mark Cherry, VP and GM, Boeing Phantom Works, stated that the pace set on TETRA-1 from contract award through readiness to launch represents what Boeing does best for national security customers. The lean Millennium team was up to the task, building and delivering a fully tested and verified satellite in record time. (Source: Space Connect)
26 Apr 20. The USAF Wants You to Hack Its Satellite in Orbit. Yes, Really. When the Air Force asked hackers to break into a F-15 fighter jet at last year’s DEF CON security conference, the results were both eye-opening and eye-watering.
It was the first time hackers were allowed to work on the system to look for bugs. In just two days, a team of seven hackers found a ton of vulnerabilities, which if exploited in the real world could have crippled a critical aircraft data system, causing untold and potentially catastrophic damage. It was also proof that the Air Force desperately needed help.
“I left that event thinking there is a huge national asset in this level of cyber expertise that we are lacking in full in our Air Force,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, in a call. As the acquisitions chief, all of the satellites that the Air Force builds fall under his purview. But the Air Force historically held the security of its systems and technology in absolute secrecy, fearing espionage or sabotage by the enemy. Roper said this was like being “stuck in Cold War business practices.”
“But in today’s world that’s not the best security posture. Just because you’re not telling the world about your vulnerabilities doesn’t mean you’re secure to go to war,” he said.
Riding the waves of last year’s success, Roper planned to bring in security researchers again at this year’s DEF CON in Las Vegas — this time hack into a real orbiting satellite, hovering miles above the Earth’s surface.
Space was once only for the brave and the well-funded. For decades, only a handful of governments had the resources to blast a satellite into space. But as private businesses fire tons of their own technology into orbit, space is more crowded than ever. Now, space isn’t just a level playing field for private enterprise, it’s also a potential future battleground for adversaries.
Miles above the Earth, satellites may seem far from harm’s way, but Roper said the risks they face are real.
“I could launch a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon that will go hit a satellite and disable it,” he said. “I could use directed energy weapons to try to blind a satellite or destroy components that allow it to collect critical information from the Earth. I could jam satellite links so that you can’t communicate whatever information needs to be relayed to other important decision makers.”
And it’s not just the satellites in orbit. The ground stations and the communication links between the Earth and the skies could be as vulnerable as the satellites themselves, Roper said.
“We don’t know the ghosts that are in our systems that come from the supply chain and the companies that assemble those and the fighters and satellites don’t either, because they don’t know to ask for them,” he said. The goal isn’t to just fix the existing bugs but also to shore up its supply chain to prevent introducing new bugs.
“We absolutely need help,” said Roper.
Working with the Defense Digital Service, which its director Brett Goldstein refers to as a “SWAT team of nerds that operates in the Pentagon,” they came up with Hack-a-Sat, a space security program that invites hackers and security researchers in to find the same bugs and flaws that the enemy wants to exploit.
It’s a massive shift from building closed and locked down systems that the Air Force is accustomed to. By switching to semi-open systems, it can open up its satellite technology to the wider community, while reserving the most classified technology to its in-house highly vetted experts and engineers.
Surprisingly, Goldstein, who reports directly to the Secretary of Defense, said convincing the folks upstairs to allow a bunch of hackers to take on a working military satellite wasn’t as difficult as it might sound. “There was enormous support for doing it and enormous support to partner with the Air Force on it,” he said. Roper agreed: “Isn’t it better to know about it prior to conflict than to naively keep our head in the sand and take that vulnerability into war at the risk of the operators who will have to use it?”
Roper and Goldstein say they want the cream of the crop to take on the satellite. In order to find the best hackers, the Air Force today launched its qualification round for the next month. The Air Force will let researchers hack a “flat-sat,” essentially a test satellite kit, which will help to weed out the right technical chops and skills needed to hack the orbiting satellite at DEF CON.
Those who qualify for the next and final round get to take on the satellite as it orbits the Earth.
“Our plan was to use a satellite that had a camera and to see if the team would be able to turn the camera to face the moon,” said Roper. “It would be a literal moonshot.”
What comes out at the other end is anybody’s guess. Both Roper and Goldstein said they want to be able to reveal the hackers’ eventual findings. But given that any findings may contain real-world security bugs of a working satellite, the Air Force may need to hold onto the key details to avoid a mid-orbit catastrophe.
At the time of writing, Black Hat and DEF CON, the two largest security conferences that run back-to-back in Las Vegas every August, say it’s business as usual. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues with no end date in sight, the Air Force team is planning for a range of contingencies. Roper and Goldstein said they are determined to plow ahead, with an eye on virtualizing the event.
Whether or not the event is held on stage or remotely from people’s homes, the duo say the show will go on. The beauty of hacking is that often it can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
As much as they hope that the hackers succeed in hacking the satellite, Roper said the event was as much about finding and fixing vulnerabilities as it was about “shocking our system” so that the Air Force changes how it thinks about security.
“I suspect there will be a generation of airmen and space professionals that will think about working with the hacker community differently, so when they’re designing a satellite they’re not thinking,” said Roper. “If that generation comes to be, we will be in a much better cyber posture in the future to the better readiness of our forces.” (Source: Space Connect)
20 Apr 20. Norsat Launches New WAYFARER Terminal. Norsat has launched a new satellite antenna in the firm’s WAYFARER series of portable and easy-to-deploy commercial terminals. The new 1.2 meter, auto-pointing, fly-away antenna (“WFA120KA”) is a fast-deploying, easy-to-use, and compact SATCOM VSAT that is airline checkable and is the first Ka-band satellite terminal in the WAYFARER series, ideal for communications in remote enterprise, energy, emergency and media applications.
Key features of the WFA120KA 1.2m Ka-band Auto Fly-Away:
- Easy and intuitive LinkControl™
- Interface Rugged and lightweight pedestal design
- Lightweight and durable 8 segment carbon fiber reflector
- Fast, simple, tool-free deployment
- Automatic 3-axis acquisition
- Wide range of Norsat BUC and LNB configurations
- Set up in 5 minutes Stored in 2 ruggedized, weatherproof cases that are airline checkable (Source: Satnews)
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