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07 May 20. How low-Earth orbit satellites will enable connectivity across all domains of warfare. The Space Development Agency will provide the unifying element in the Defense Department’s future Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, pulling together tactical networks developed by the services with a constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites.
With the JADC2 concept, the department envisions an overarching network capable of connecting sensors to shooters regardless of where they are located. That means U.S. Air Force sensors could feed data to U.S. Army shooters, or even National Reconnaissance Office sensors could send information to U.S. Air Force shooters.
“Each of the services have their own way to incorporate [tactical networks], and JADC2 is just a way to make sure they all have the same networking infrastructure to talk to one another, essentially,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said at the C4ISRNET Conference on May 6. “We plug directly into [JADC2] as the space layer to pull all of that communication together.”
Service efforts include programs like the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System and the Army’s TITAN ground system. What the Defense Department wants to ensure is that programs like these have a way to share data across the armed services.
“All of those are reliant on a way to be able to have a back end to go in space to be able to communicate across one another and across back to [the continental United States], etc. That’s where the Space Development Agency’s transport layer comes in,” Tournear said. “In fact, in the defense planning guidance, Secretary Esper put out the edict that basically said the transport layer will be the integrating aspect of JADC2 to be able to pull all of this tactical communication together in space.”
On May 1, the SDA released its solicitation for the first 10 satellites that will make up its transport layer — a space-based mesh network in low-Earth orbit. When fully developed, that transport layer will provide a global network that various sensors, shooters and tactical networks will be able to plug into for tactical communications.
A key part of that effort involves ensuring space-based sensors can feed into the services’ battlefield networks in near-real time.
Once that transport layer is placed on orbit in 2022, the SDA wants to demonstrate space-based sensor data being downlinked to a ground station, then uplinked to the transport layer for dissemination to the tactical edge via TITAN and Link 16 tactical network. But ultimately, the SDA wants to cut out the ground station and move the data directly from the space-based sensor to the transport layer via optical cross links.
That’s a stretch goal for those first 10 satellites, and the minimal viable product when the second tranche of 150 satellites is added in 2024, said Tournear.
Tournear declined to identify the SDA’s mission partners on development of space-based sensors, which will need to use optical inter-satellite cross links to plug into the transport layer. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
07 May 20. Here are a few of the experiments hitching a ride on the USAF’s secret space plane. When the secretive X-37B space plane returns to orbit on May 16, it will be carrying more experiments than it has on any previous mission, including one that will transmit solar energy from space to the ground via microwave energy.
“The X-37B team continues to exemplify the kind of lean, agile and forward-leaning technology development we need as a nation in the space domain,” said U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. “Each launch represents a significant milestone and advancement in terms of how we build, test, and deploy space capabilities in a rapid and responsive manner.”
The unmanned X-37B, which returned from its last and longest flight in October, is scheduled to launch May 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. While an earlier Space Force launch of a GPS III satellite was delayed due to the COVID-19 situation, the X-37B launch has remained on track. Despite being launched by the Space Force, the X-37B remains an Air Force platform.
The military has been elusive about what the Boeing-built space plane has been doing on its various missions, beyond noting that it has been used for a number of on orbit experiments. The vehicle has spent a cumulative 2,865 days on orbit, with its last flight being the longest at a record breaking 780 days.
In a May 6 press release, the Space Force opened up about some of the experiments that would hitch a ride into orbit aboard the X-37B, most notably one that will deliver solar power to the ground from space via radio frequency microwave energy.
That experiment is likely related to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR), an effort to collect solar energy with high-efficiency solar cells, convert it to radio frequency, and then beam it to earth. That technology could provide an uninterrupted energy source to expeditionary forces at forward operating bases that have limited access to traditional power sources.
“The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project is a very interesting concept that will enable us to capture solar energy in space and precisely beam it to where it is needed,” Col. Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said in an October statement on the effort. “SSPIDR is part of AFRL’s ‘big idea pipeline’ to ensure we continue to develop game-changing technologies for our Air Force, DoD, nation, and world.”
AFRL has awarded Northrop Grumman a $100m contract to support space-based experiments supporting SSPIDR.
The X-37B will also deploy the FalconSat-8, an educational small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy that will carry five experimental payloads. Also on board will be two National Aeronautics and Space Administration experiments that will study the effects of radiation and the space environment on seeds used for food products.
One reason the vehicle will carry more experiments than prior mission is the attachment of a new service module to the aft of the spacecraft, which will host multiple experiments.
“This launch is a prime example of integrated operations between the Air Force, Space Force, and government-industry partnerships,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “The X-37B continues to break barriers in advancing reusable space vehicle technologies and is a significant investment in advancing future space capabilities.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 May 20. Forging a Strong Satellite-Ground Connection: AMERGINT Technology Holdings Acquires Tethers Unlimited, Inc.. AMERGINT Technology Holdings (AMERGINT) today announced it has acquired Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI), a leader in new space solutions for the small satellite market. The transaction will bring together AMERGINT Technologies, Inc. and TUI to provide integrated end-to-end solutions for satellite communications and in-space services to the space market. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“Joining forces with AMERGINT makes tremendous sense for Tethers Unlimited,” said Dr. Rob Hoyt, TUI’s CEO. “Combining AMERGINT’s ground-based processors and modems with TUI’s software-defined satellite radios and mesh network solution enables us to provide flexible, affordable, secure and resilient end-to-end communications services that scale to meet the needs of the hybrid space architectures under development by the Space Force, the Space Development Agency, DARPA, USAF and the Intelligence Community.”
Founded in 1994 by technologist Dr. Hoyt and the renowned science fiction author Dr. Robert L. Forward, for more than 25 years TUI has pioneered an array of innovative space technologies, including software defined radios for satellite communications and mesh networks, robotic systems for in-space servicing and manufacturing and assembly, and advanced propulsion solutions for orbital maneuvering and orbital debris mitigation. TUI supplies the space industry with high-performance satellite components including the SWIFT® software defined radio, the Terminator Tape™ Deorbit Module, the HYDROS™ water-electrolysis thruster and the COBRA™ gimbal as well as research and development into robotics and in-space manufacturing systems.
“AMERGINT is thrilled to welcome Rob and the team at TUI into our family, and to bring together two engineering-driven, technology organizations that are focused on solving our customers’ toughest challenges across the space ecosystem,” said Larry Hill, CEO of AMERGINT Technology Holdings. “At a time when our customers are increasingly focused on integrated communications and data networks, we are excited to close the link between software-defined solutions from the ground architecture to the spacecraft.”
Rob Andzik, president of AMERGINT noted, “Bringing the expertise of TUI and AMERGINT together enables us to provide the space and defense sectors with the next generation of solutions to manage the capture, processing, transport, and exploitation of vital mission data for communication and data links.”
Moving forward, AMERGINT and TUI will increasingly offer integrated satellite communications offerings combining software-defined satellite radios with software-defined ground stations. The two companies will also build upon the full suite of technologies and products at both companies around space servicing and test systems to offer a wide range of solutions for government and commercial customers.
About AMERGINT Technologies Inc.
AMERGINT Technologies is an essential and trusted partner in the evolution of the Space and Defense Industries by focusing on mission-critical communication and data paths through the capture, processing, transport and exploitation of vital mission data. Visit: www.amergint.com.
About Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
Tethers Unlimited, Inc. develops transformative technologies for Space and Defense missions. Its technology portfolio includes programmable radios for small satellites, advanced space propulsion modules, and systems for in-space manufacturing of spacecraft components. To learn more about TUI and its products, please visit www.tethers.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
06 May 20. Firefly Aerospace Achieves AS9100 Quality Certification. Important quality milestone reached as Firefly transitions from developmental phase to first launch of the Firefly Alpha rocket
Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, today announced it has secured AS9100 quality certification as it advances from developmental to production phase ahead of the inaugural flight of its Alpha launch vehicle later this year.
Firefly has passed all quality audit requirements and received its AS9100 certification, the widely adopted and standardized benchmark designed to ensure quality management practices across the aerospace industry. Additionally, Firefly requires all suppliers to be AS9100 certified, which has bolstered its quality assurance program as qualification tests this spring lead to full production capabilities.
“Our AS9100 certification marks a key milestone in the maturation of Firefly as we move from development into the production phase of the Alpha launch vehicle. We are well positioned to take on new contracts and development opportunities,” said Dr. Tom Markusic, Firefly CEO. “At Firefly, we blend heritage-space principles used to achieve high reliability with NewSpace nimbleness and flexibility, allowing us to rapidly develop economical and high-quality products.”
Firefly will leverage its AS9100-certified quality assurance program in support of a broad range of spacecraft, including its Alpha launch vehicle, Beta launch vehicle, Genesis lunar lander, and Orbital Transfer Vehicle.
The Alpha launch vehicle will meet the demands of the burgeoning small-satellite market by combining the highest payload performance, 1 metric ton to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 630 kilograms to 500 kilometers Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), with the lowest cost per kilogram to orbit in its vehicle class. Alpha will provide launch options for both full vehicle and rideshare missions.
“This important AS9100 certification formalizes the strict focus on quality that Firefly has always demanded of itself and its suppliers and partners,” noted Paul Garland, Firefly’s Director of Quality Assurance, who has nearly 35 years of experience driving quality operations for leading aerospace companies. “Firefly’s certified quality processes provide further assurance to our commercial and government customers that we will successfully execute their critical space missions.” (Source: ASD Network)
06 May 20. Sentinel-6A gets an earful. Acoustic noise test simulates sound impact during rocket launch. Earth observation satellite Sentinel-6A is currently getting an earful. Airbus space engineers are ‘bombarding’ the latest satellite for the European environment and security programme ‘Copernicus’ with sound in a dedicated chamber at the Space Test Centre of Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (IABG) in Ottobrunn, near Munich. The acoustic noise test simulates the sound impact to which the satellite will be exposed during rocket launch.
The chamber, which covers an area of some 100 m² and is fitted with huge loudspeakers, is hermetically sealed during tests. These tests consist of four 60-second blasts of sound that are fired at the satellite with increasing intensity. At its peak, Sentinel-6A will be hit by 140 decibels (dB). By comparison, noise levels at around 50 dB are pleasant for us to hear, at some 100 dB they start to become uncomfortable, while around 120 dB is where they become painful. Pneumatic drills or chainsaws produce around 110 dB. An increase of 10 dB represents a doubling of perceived loudness.
‘Copernicus Sentinel-6’ is an ocean altimetry mission to provide ocean topography measurements over the next decade. Sentinel-6 carries a radar altimeter to provide high precision and timely observations of sea surface height on a global scale. This information is essential for the continued monitoring of changes in sea levels, a key indicator of climate change. It is also essential for oceanography. Mapping up to 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days, Sentinel-6 offers vital information on ocean currents, wind speed and wave height for maritime safety.
The two Sentinel-6 satellites for the European Copernicus Programme for environment and security have been developed under Airbus’ industrial leadership. While it is one of the European Union’s family of Copernicus satellite missions, Sentinel-6 is also being brought about thanks to international cooperation between ESA, NASA, NOAA and EUMETSAT.
From November 2020, Sentinel-6A will be the first of two Sentinel-6 satellites to continue collecting satellite-based measurements of the oceans’ surfaces, a task that began in 1992. Sentinel-6B is then expected to follow in 2025. Sentinel-6 builds on heritage from the Jason series of ocean topography satellites and from ESA’s missions CryoSat-2 and Sentinel-2, as well as GRACE, which were manufactured under the industrial leadership of Airbus. (Source: ASD Network)
05 May 20. Office of National Intelligence seeks ‘smart’ satellites. The Office of National Intelligence (ONI) has put out a request for tender (RFT) seeking a provider of research and engineering services for the development, test, launch and operation of a prototype smart satellite.
According to the tender document published in the Australian government’s contracting platform, proposals are sought to “demonstrate the application of miniaturised satellite systems with on-board machine learning applications”.
“The service provider shall perform all activities necessary to manage, design, develop, construct, integrate, test, launch, commission and support the ‘smart’ satellite solution,” the RFT said.
“The service provider shall analyse the requirements… and work collaboratively with ONI and the NIC to develop and validate a design for the NICSAT Mission System and the requirements for the support, operating model and demonstration aspects.”
The scope of works performed under this contract also aims to “combine a systematic approach to research and development with commercial off-the-shelf solutions”. ONI estimates the value of the contract at between $4m and $5m.
ONI’s Innovation, Science & Research (ISR) branch is the contracting activity. ISR branch provides structured approaches to technological research and change not just within ONI, but also in support of the wider National Intelligence Community (NIC), which encompasses the 10 separate Australian security and intelligence agencies. A virtual industry briefing is scheduled for 14 May 2020. (Source: Space Connect)
05 May 20. China launches spacecraft via largest carrier rocket: CCTV. China on Tuesday successfully launched its largest carrier rocket, which was carrying a new-generation spacecraft, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 1800 local time (1000 GMT) at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. It was the first mission carried out by the Long March-5B, CCTV reported, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
The Long March-5B – with a length of about 53.7 meters and takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes – was also carrying an inflatable cargo return module.
China said in March it was aiming to launch an experimental spacecraft without a crew as part of a broader spaceflight programme to shuttle astronauts to its future space station and for future manned space exploration. The launch was earlier scheduled for mid- to late April.
China aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022. It became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
China has since been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. (Source: Reuters)
05 May 20. Virgin Galactic Enters Space Act Agreement with NASA to Advance High Mach Technologies. Virgin Galactic Announces Partnership to Enable the Development of High Speed Point-to-Point Technologies. Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”) and its wholly owned subsidiary, The Spaceship Company (“TSC”), announced today the signing of a Space Act Agreement with NASA to facilitate the development of high speed technologies.
The Space Act Agreement (“SAA”), is set to enable and foster collaboration between NASA, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company in order to advance the United States’ efforts to produce technically feasible, high Mach vehicles for potential civil applications.
Virgin Galactic believes that it is able to leverage its robust platform of advanced technologies, significant vertically integrated design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities, and thousands of hours of flight testing to develop additional aerospace applications. Together with its industry partners, Virgin Galactic is seeking to develop a vehicle for the next-generation of safe and efficient high speed air travel, with a focus on customer experience and environmental responsibility.
In partnership with NASA, Virgin Galactic believes there are significant opportunities to apply higher speeds to drive technological development to allow industries to adapt to the changing economic and ecological environment. The collaboration will aim to inform the development of national strategies using economic and technical foundations with a focus on sustainability.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic Holdings said: “This is the beginning of an important partnership for Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company that will support the future development of aviation technology. Virgin Galactic’s unique experience and innovative technology platform will, in partnership with the historic capabilities of NASA and other government agencies, enable the progression of new technical steps that will improve US competitiveness. We see this as an area with tremendous growth potential that we will continue to invest in, alongside our commercial spaceflight operations.”
Dr. James Kenyon, Director of the NASA Aeronautics Advanced Air Vehicles Program said: “This Space Act Agreement will enable NASA to collaborate with Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company to allow our organizations to take advantage of new tools, techniques, and technologies developed over the last 50 years and to explore potential new solutions for the commercial aviation industry.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
05 May 20. Here’s what the Space Development Agency wants from its first 10 satellites. With its first 10 satellites, the Space Development Agency wants to build a space-based mesh network that will ultimately enable on-orbit sensors to pass data to shooters in near-real time. The Space Development Agency is seeking proposals for its first batch of satellites, which will make up its initial transport layer — an on-orbit mesh network that will connect space-based sensors with terrestrial shooters.
According to the May 1 solicitation, SDA is looking to award two contracts to build a total of 20 small satellites, which will comprise Tranche 0 of the National Security Space Architecture, a proliferated, low-Earth orbit constellation that will fulfill a multitude of military needs, including tracking hypersonic weapons; providing alternative position, navigation and timing data; delivering beyond-line-of-sight targeting; and more. Ultimately, the agency envisions a constellation made up of hundreds of interconnected satellites.
Ten of those Tranche 0 satellites will form the agency’s initial transport layer.
The spiral development approach
The agency is taking a spiral development approach to its National Security Space Architecture. Tranche 0 will be a testing and training segment that will demonstrate the integration of the architecture with other war-fighting efforts and inform future SDA developments.
Tranche 0 is anticipated to be on orbit in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, with the SDA adding new tranches of satellites every two years, increasing the constellation’s size and capabilities.
Launch services will be acquired through the Orbital Services Program 4 contract or follow-on contracts.
The philosophy behind the spiral approach is that the two-year cycles allow the agency to rapidly put new capabilities on orbit in response to evolving threats. Instead of waiting years for the perfect satellite system, the agency wants to push technologies that are currently ready into orbit as soon as possible, giving war fighters increased capabilities in the near term.
With Tranche 0, the SDA wants to achieve periodic, regional, low-latency data connectivity. With Tranche 1, which will add 150 satellites to the constellation, the agency plans to provide persistent regional connectivity.
Building a mesh network
The National Security Space Architecture will be made up of several layers serving different functions. Tranche 0 will establish the transport layer, a space-based mesh network that will be able to pass data from one satellite to the next. The mesh network will operate as part of the Integrated Broadcast System, the Defense Department’s standard network for transmitting tactical and strategic intelligence and targeting data.
The key technology that will enable the transport layer are optical inter-satellite cross links, providing approximately 1 Gbps connections between the satellites. Each Transport Layer satellite will have four such cross links — forward, behind, right and left — which will allow them to pass data on to the nearest or next-nearest transport layer satellite operating in the same orbital plane.
The satellites will also be capable of cross-plane cross links, meaning they will be able to connect to non-transport layer satellites operating above or below them. Assuming that they also have optical inter-satellite cross links, these non-transport layer satellites would then be able to pass data through the transport layer’s mesh network to another satellite or even to a terrestrial shooter.
For example, it could work like this: A space-based sensor collects imagery that it wants to pass to a ground-based system, but it is not within range of any ground station. No problem. The sensor would pass on that imagery to a transport layer satellite via an cross-plane optical cross link. The data would then bounce from transport layer satellite to transport layer satellite until it arrives above its destination, where it would then be downlinked to an optical ground terminal or distributed to the appropriate weapons system via the Link 16 tactical data network.
In theory, this would allow shooters to receive space-based sensor data in near-real time.
The Space Development Agency is working with the Army to develop the ability to track time-sensitive ground threats from space and provide real-time information to war fighters.
Since the SDA plans to continue building on the transport layer in subsequent tranches across multiple vendors, the optical inter-satellite cross links will need to be designed with interoperability in mind. The SDA also wants radio frequency cross links as a backup to the optical cross links.
Tranche 0 will include 10 transport layer satellites — three of which will include Link 16 payloads.
The Space Development Agency’s understanding of how the transport layer will operate in Tranche 0. (Space Development Agency)
During an April industry day, SDA Director Derek Tournear said this initial, space-based mesh network will form the space network component to the Defense Department’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control enterprise, or JADC2.
“The transport layer, which is what the draft [request for proposals] 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,” Tournear explained.
The agency has six goals for its Tranche 0 transport layer:
- Demonstrate low-latency data transport to the war fighter over the optical cross link mesh network.
- Demonstrate the ability to deliver data from an external, space-based sensor to the war fighter via the transport layer.
- Demonstrate a limited battle management C3 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 common timing reference independent of GPS.
According to the request for proposals, the SDA plans to award a contract Aug 10, with delivery expected by July 31, 2022. Responses to the solicitation are due June 1.
05 May 20. Inmarsat and Cobham launch new solution connecting remote workers, enhancing mission critical operations. Solution combines BGAN and PRISM PTT+ to keep operations efficient and safe in remote regions.
Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, and Cobham SATCOM, has launched a comprehensive new Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) push-to-talk (PTT) solution to connect remote workers using vehicles across the globe. The solution provides real-time data transfer and PTT communications to enable remote utilities, mining, aid and NGO, agricultural work and more, as well as for use in public safety and emergency response.
Remote workers from a variety of industries brave hostile environments to deliver critical operations. For engineers performing well-head maintenance, mining exploration teams on the hunt for new mineral deposits and aid and NGO organisations responding to humanitarian events, it is vital that all parties can see the position of their assets, share data and communicate in real-time. However, the very nature of the remote regions means that operations often occur where there is a lack of reliable cellular communications connectivity. This means communications are not possible, leading to operational and safety challenges.
Inmarsat’s and Cobham’s new solution responds to these challenges by utilising its BGAN solution, which offers industry-leading reliability of more than 99% uptime. Low form factor satellite terminals, such as the new Cobham EXPLORER 323, are mounted on vehicles providing real-time GPS, telemetry and PTT capabilities, through the EXPLORER Mobile Gateway anywhere in the world. This means control centres can efficiently and safely monitor the movement and performance of their vehicles, while enabling communications with crew wherever they are located.
An important feature of the solution is the integration with existing equipment on board. The Cobham EXPLORER Mobile Gateway integrates easily into any existing radio equipment, allowing the organisation to keep and use their existing trusted equipment. PRISM PTT+, a service powered by Cobham SATCOM’s innovative PRISM (Private Routing & Intelligent System Management) technology enables the BGAN PTT Solution to switch between connectivity types such as UHF or VHF, 3G/4G and satellite making the solution cost-effective and easy to use. The switching process is unique in the market because it is completely seamless and offers an economical approach to voice communications.
Tara Maclachlan, Vice President of IoT, Enterprise at Inmarsat, commented: “Inmarsat’s BGAN push-to-talk solution is set to offer a new level of resilient communications for organisations working in remote regions. It provides visibility of the movements and performance of remote assets along with real-time communications ensuring organisations benefit from enhanced efficiencies and safety levels.”
Todd McDonell, President of Inmarsat Global Government said: “First responders and public safety teams need communications certainty, especially in operating conditions where fixed networks become disabled or degraded due to emergency events. The Broadband Global Area Network push to talk solution provides government users with a way to maintain ‘comms-on-the-move’ connectivity regardless of the situation on the ground. Providing voice, data and streaming services that can be easily integrated with the existing radio and data networks, the Broadband Global Area Network push to talk service provides extended coverage for traditional communications links.”
Henrik Nørrelykke, Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, Cobham, said “Cobham SATCOM is excited to work with Inmarsat to launch the new BGAN PTT Solution. Utilising the Cobham EXPLORER Mobile Gateway, the PRISM PTT+ solution enables easy integration into any existing radio equipment, making it simple for organisations across a range of industries to upgrade their trusted 2-way radio capabilities.”
04 May 20. Lockheed Martin joins the GPS Innovation Alliance. Lockheed Martin has joined the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA), which recognises the importance of GPS to the global economy and is committed to creativity and entrepreneurship in this field.
The company joins 15 other companies and national organisations in the alliance including Collins Aerospace, John Deere and Garmin.
J David Grossman, executive director of GPSIA, said: ‘With a deep and rich history of championing GPS technology and as the leading contractor in developing the next-generation GPS III satellites, Lockheed Martin brings a wealth of experience to help the industry move boldly into the future.’
Lockheed Martin designed and manufactured the existing GPS constellation using its GPS IIR and IIR-M satellites which have continued to function beyond their design life cycle. In January and April 2020, Lockheed launched its latest GPS III satellites into operational orbit. (Source: Shephard)
29 Apr 20. Anokiwave and Ball Aerospace Plan for Flat-Panel Phased Arrays for Air, Land, and Sea Applications. Working together Anokiwave integrated circuits (ICs) and Ball Aerospace will strive to deliver affordable flat panel phased array antennas that meet regulatory requirements, function over full scan volume, and are thermally operational even in hot environments.
As part of this collaboration Anokiwave’s advanced, low-cost silicon second generation SATCOM K-/Ka-band ICs will power the Ball Aerospace fully electronically steerable K-/Ka-band antennas that feature no moving parts, providing long-term reliability with low-cost manufacturing.
Ball Aerospace brings an innovative approach to flat panel electronically steered antennas with flexible, cost efficient subarrays that can be tiled together to form an antenna that is customized to meet the end-user’s needs. This approach allows the flexibility to optimize a terminal to the mission needs of the customer without the cost of antenna re-design. Anokiwave provides Silicon SATCOM beamforming ICs that improve performance, reduce cost, simplify thermal management, and provide a host of unique digital functionality to simplify overall system design. Keeping ahead of the competition, Anokiwave ICs are fully released and are shipping in volume. Abhishek Kapoor, Anokiwave vice president of Sales commented that with their latest generation of SATCOM ICs, Anokiwave has improved the performance and reduced the cost to a point where Ball Aerospace can now deliver flat panel electronically steered antennas that meet cost and performance targets. This is a unique first in the industry as many companies have been working on solutions with promises made and broken, expectations set and not fulfilled. In the past, managing the delicate balance of cost and performance of the ICs has been a key challenge to the mass adoption of active antennas for satellite communications.
Jake Sauer, vice president and general manager, Tactical Solutions, Ball Aerospace added that Ball Aerospace has a long history of lowering the cost of phased array systems, and the new Anokiwave IC’s allow us to further reduce costs while maintaining our desired system performance. Ball has integrated the Anokiwave IC’s into their new subarray architecture, a building block approach specifically designed to support both commercial and military end-users. This enables manufacturing economies of scale and promotes design reuse for multiple SATCOM applications – a first for the industry.
Ball Aerospace has completed over-the-air testing of its Anokiwave IC enabled subarrays and has measured results showing transmit and receive performance over scan, switchable polarization and tapering. These test results matched, and in most cases beat, modeled estimates. (Source: Satnews)
02 May 20. Russia’s satellite-killing capabilities make headway. Gen John Raymond, head of US Space Command (USSPACECOM), declared on 15 April that Russia has conducted another direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile test, although official US sources did not give specific information on whether the tests were successful or whether any targets were hit.
According to a USPACECOM statement, the Russian system is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit, and the latest tests may be related to movements of Cosmos 2542 and Cosmos 2543 satellites in February, when they carried out manoeuvres near a US government satellite.
Information and hints about putative Russian anti-satellite and anti-missile weapons mainly come from Western sources who are concerned about the risks posed to their space assets. The topic is seldom mentioned by Russian officials.
In this case, based on analysis of all available information, it is possible to conclude that Russia was testing a mobile component (14TS033) of its upgraded Moscow A-235 missile defence system (pictured), which is being developed by Almaz-Antey within the framework of the Nudol R&D project (known as PL-19 in the West). The A-235 has undergone a series of tests, beginning in August 2014 and continuing at least until mid-2019.
The 14TS033 system, judging by details found in various annual reports from Russian enterprises, comprises: a 14P222 launcher on a chassis manufactured by MZKT; a 14P078 unit for C2; and a 14TS031 static radar station. It is possible that there is also a mobile radar targeting station. The system also includes the 14A042 interceptor missile, which is being developed by the Novator Design Bureau in Yekaterinburg.
The characteristics of the new missile are unknown, but it can be assumed that they are not inferior to the decommissioned 51T6 long-range missiles used with the Moscow A-135 system. Bearing this in mind, the Nudol should be able to hit targets at altitudes up to 500km, which is consistent with the tasks of intercepting warheads of ICBMs and destroying low-orbit satellites.
The A-135 employed missiles with nuclear warheads to engage targets, but it is known that new short-range PRS-1M (53T6M) silo-based missiles and 14A042 missiles no longer use high-altitude nuclear explosions to intercept targets.
However, in the case of Nudol, it is not yet possible to talk about a specific type of warhead. It is more likely that a kinetic intercept method would be used, similar to the US GMD and THAAD systems. The rejection of the nuclear intercept has been driven by new computing capabilities and an elemental base that provides much greater missile guidance accuracy.
It seems that the new Moscow A-235 system includes a combination of the PRS-1M (53T6M) and Nudol missiles, together with the new 14TS031 radar (which includes a digital adaptive phased-array antenna) and the new 14P078 command computing system. Such a system will have to cope with an attempt to deliver a limited nuclear strike against Moscow (such as in a hypothetical conflict with a novice nuclear state like North Korea). (Source: Shephard)
04 May 20. NRO, SPACECOM Craft CONOPS For War In Space. For the first time, Space Command is working with the operator and builder of America’s spy satellites, the NRO, to develop a shared “playbook” of pre-agreed actions to defend military and spy satellites during a conflict, SPACECOM and NRO officials say. The ‘playbook’ is a central part of a new joint concept of operations (CONOP) being hammered out by the two sides.
While the ‘playbook’ forms a baseline for planning, specific operations naturally would be dependent on the scenario unfolding in a battle — and the details of course are classified.
“The operational portion of the Concept of Operations, or CONOPS, is a joint effort between the NRO and U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) to strengthen and synchronize our defensive operations,” Maj. Gen. Michael Guetlein, the National Reconnaissance Office’s deputy director, told Breaking Defense in an email.
Further, he added, “specific actions may come from any domain.”
“The CONOPS will enable a synchronized approach to defensive space operations that will strengthen U.S. freedom of action in space. Specific actions may come from any domain and will be based upon a jointly-developed ‘playbook’ and informed by wargames and exercises,” a SPACECOM spokeperson elaborated in an email response.
The bottom line issue for the new joint operational concept, as Guetlein told the Mitchell Institute on April 24, is figuring out “who has the responsibility for defending which elements of the space enterprise and how?”
Once codified, the joint CONOP also will guide future Intelligence Community and Space Force acquisition, explained Guetlein in his email.
“The analysis is a partnership between the NRO, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the U.S. Space Force in order to define the ‘protect and defend’ architecture, establish responsibilities, and inform future investment priorities,” Guetlein said.
Drones An “Immediate Threat” – DoD Plans Rapid Acquisition of Counter-UAS Systems
As Breaking D readers know, one of the critical acquisition issues is how to ensure assets designed, built, and operated by the NRO — which must meet both IC and DoD requirements sets that sometimes are very different — are linked into the military’s developing Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system.
That acquisition debate has rekindled the long-simmering issue of NRO’s independence, especially in light of the standup of both the Space Force which will organize, train and equip space operators) and SPACECOM (the operational combatant command.) Indeed, Air Force leaders are still sorting through how to organize space acquisition authority given the fact that the Space Force is a co-equal service within the Department of the Air Force.
As a move toward better aligning requirements, NRO and the Space Force are jointly developing SILENT BARKER, a classified situational awareness satellite system, slated for launch in 2022. (The launch vehicle for the system was awarded to United Launch Alliance in February 2019.)
“SILENT BARKER is a space-based space situational awareness system that is a major component of an integrated Space Domain Awareness architecture working in concert with the U.S. Space Force’s ground-based assets. Working together, our two organizations are building a capability that meets both of our Indications and Warning needs without duplicating effort, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for this system,” Guetlein said.
NRO and SPACECOM also already work together operationally at the new-ish Joint Task Force-Space Defense, that was stood up as part of the National Space Defense Center last August by SPACECOM head Gen. Jay Raymond. As a first step in a new operational concept, the two sides at the time reached an agreement that would see SPACECOM take command of defending NRO’s satellites if they came under attack.
“While we’re codifying the relationship in the CONOPS, the USSPACECOM and the NRO are already executing this relationship at the jointly-established and USSPACECOM led (through the Joint Task Force-Space Defense or JTF-SD) National Space Defense Center (NSDC) where our teams, along with representatives from across the Intelligence Community share information, plan together, train together, exercise together, and are in lockstep in being prepared to protect and defense U.S. space assets,” the SPACECOM spokesperson said.
The NSDC was created in 2017 by Strategic Command (STRACOM), which at the time was responsible for space operations, as beefed-up follow-on to the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC) in order to further tighten the relationship between “black” and “white” space. The highly classified JICSpOC, located at Schriever AFB in Colorado, was created in 2015 to help ensure integration and alignment of NRO, STRATCOM, and then-Air Force Space Command to clarify roles in space battle management.
The two sides further partner in wargames, which will serve as feedback mechanisms for the new CONOP.
“We, alongside our partner at USSPACECOM, are leveraging exercises like the Schriever Wargames, the recent Globally Integrated Exercise, and other exercises to validate and improve our planning process and shared defensive action ‘playbook’ to preserve our assured access to space,” Guetlein said.
As Breaking D readers know, the Globally Integrated Exercise concept is the brain child of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, and has been taken up in earnest by current Chairman Gen. Mark Milley as part of an overarching rethink of the combatant command structure for future all-domain operations.
“We constantly leverage exercises like Global Lightning and Global Thunder and wargames, like the Schriever Wargame to synchronize and improve planning process and executing the space mission. Additionally, Thor’s Hammer, an NRO wargame that our JTF-SD participates in, is more of a strategic level wargame designed to foster the interaction between NRO, the Command and the warfighter,” the SPACECOM spokesperson added. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
05 May 20. NASA expands commitment to Artemis mission with additional SLS rocket engine buy. NASA has awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, to manufacture 18 additional Space Launch System (SLS) RS-25 rocket engines to support Artemis missions to the moon.
The follow-on contract to produce 18 engines is valued at US$1.79bn ($2.8bn). This includes labor to build and test the engines, produce tooling and support SLS flights powered by the engines.
Additionally, this modifies the initial contract awarded in November 2015 to recertify and produce six new RS-25 engines and brings the total contract value to almost US$3.5bn ($5.48bn) with a period of performance through 30 September 2029, and a total of 24 engines to support as many as six additional SLS flights.
John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, said, “This contract allows NASA to work with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build the rocket engines needed for future missions.
“The same reliable engines that launched more than 100 space shuttle missions have been modified to be even more powerful to launch the next astronauts who will set foot on the lunar surface during the Artemis missions.”
Each SLS rocket uses four RS-25 engines, providing a total of 2 million pounds of thrust to send SLS to space. The SLS rocket leverages the assets, capabilities and experience of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, using 16 existing RS-25 shuttle engines for the first four SLS missions.
These engines were updated with new controllers – the brains that control the engine – and upgraded and tested to fly at the higher performance level necessary to launch the SLS, which is much larger and more powerful than the shuttle.
The rocket engines are mounted at the base of the 65-metre-tall core stage, which holds more than 2.65 million litres of propellant and provides the flight computers that control the rocket’s flight.
The engines for the Artemis I mission to the moon have already been assembled as part of the core stage, which is undergoing Green Run testing.
Johnny Heflin, the SLS engines manager, said, “Aerojet Rocketdyne has restarted the production lines, established a supplier base and is building engines using advanced techniques that reduce both the cost and time for manufacturing each engine.”
The engines are built at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s factory in Canoga Park, California.
Working with NASA, Aerojet has implemented a plan to reduce the cost of the engines by as much as 30 per cent by using more advanced manufacturing techniques to modify some of the rocket components.
Some of these modified components have already been tested during engine tests that replicate the conditions of flight. The new digital controllers are built by Honeywell Aerospace in Clearwater, Florida, a major subcontractor to Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II rockets.
The Artemis I core stage and its RS-25 engines are in the B-2 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Here, the stage is undergoing Green Run testing, an integrated test of the entire new stage that culminates with the firing of all four RS-25 engines.
Upon completion of the test, NASA’s Pegasus barge will take the core stage to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket and Orion for Artemis I.(Source: Space Connect)
04 May 20. New Satellite Link Products Introduced by TS2 Space. TS2 SPACE company is introducing new satellite link products to the international markets. These types of telecommunication products are mainly used by the companies that execute contracts in the Near East and Asia, as well as by the soldiers that are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Purchased bands give the company unlimited possibilities of configuration and setting any telecommunication connections from the Near East region and South-Western Asia. TS2 SPACE offers satellite broadband internet access and corporate networks support. The operator’s broadband services enable bidirectional data transfer within the network and simultaneous internet access. The company provides all dedicated VSAT services for customers.
TS2 SPACE is mainly investing in the new technology of ST Engineering iDirect — Evolution X3 is the next-generation satellite systems featuring iDirect’s highly efficient implementation of the DVB-S2 standard. The Evolution X3 Satellite Router is ideally suited for broadband requirements such as Internet and VPN access to enterprise networks, as well as real-time VoIP and video conferencing. The TS2 staff is monitoring the performance of satellite network 24 hours a day, in order to enable the immediate help in case of breakdown or receipt of alert. Due to technical conditions and favorable weather, the Teleport is located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Therefore the signal from the headend aerial is not disturbed by the weather conditions and all connection users of TS2 receive services of the highest availability. The Teleport configuration is fully redundant and the services are also available on the national market.TS2 satellite services are used by: U.S. Department of State, United States Marine Corps (USMC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Australian Defence Force (ADF), Command of Polish Navy, Air Force Institute of Technology, Lockheed Martin Information Technology, Halliburton Energy Services, KBR, General Dynamics Information Technology, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace and US Naval Research Laboratory, among others. (Source: Satnews)
30 Apr 20. ThinKom Completes Successful Antenna Interoperability Demos on Ku-Band LEO Satellite Constellation. ThinKom Solutions, Inc., recently completed a series of interoperability tests that demonstrated the compatibility of its core antenna technology with a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network.
The tests took place during the first quarter of 2020, using commercially available airborne-certified hardware, including a ThinKom Ku3030 phased-array antenna subsystem and a Gogo radome, adaptor plate and power amplifier that together comprise the “2Ku” aero satcom terminal.
The 2Ku terminal demonstrated rapid acquisition and tracking of LEO satellites and provided continuous connectivity over all operationally relevant elevation angles. The switch time between individual satellite beams was less than 100 milliseconds (ms), and handoffs between satellites were completed in less than one second. Switches between LEO and geostationary (GEO) satellites were also achieved with similar results.
The measured terminal performance demonstrated the potential that the combination of ThinKom antennas and LEO solutions will provide, with throughput rates in excess of 350 Mbps on the downlink and 125 Mbps on the uplink, at latencies of less than 50ms.
“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,” said Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom Solutions. “This important demonstration is another milestone verifying that our antenna technology operates effectively in the LEO environment, which is a key requirement for airlines in terms of enhanced network resiliency and flexibility.”
ThinKom has successfully tested its Ku- and Ka-band COTS phased-array aero antennas across commercial and military frequency bands and a wide range of GEO and non-geostationary (NGSO) satellites over the past 12 months. In all cases, the phased-array antennas have consistently demonstrated high throughput operation and rapid reliable handoffs, including both intra- and inter-satellite switching. (Source: ASD Network)
01 May 20. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Completes First Flight From Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or “the Company”) and The Spaceship Company (“TSC”) today announced the successful completion of its first SpaceShipTwo test flight from Spaceport America. This glide flight marks the inaugural solo flight of VSS Unity in New Mexico and as such is an important flight test milestone in preparation for commercial service.
On SpaceShipTwo’s flight deck were Dave Mackay and CJ Sturckow who, together with the team in Mission Control, executed some of the key elements of a spaceflight profile. These included take-off and landing along with high-altitude release from the mothership, VMS Eve, which was piloted by Michael Masucci and Kelly Latimer.
The flight took off from the Spaceport America runway, with VSS Unity attached to the carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. The vehicles climbed to an altitude of 50,000ft before Unity was released, at which point VSS Unity flew freely for the first time in New Mexico airspace. The spaceship achieved a glide speed of Mach 0.70 and completed multiple test-points, before touching back down smoothly for a runway landing at Spaceport America.
This test flight was conducted under a set of stringent operational protocols to ensure safety against COVID-19. Its successful execution was made possible by a concerted effort to redesign all the operational elements required for safe flight test while meeting new health and wellness protocols. These protocols include changes to the work areas and procedures to enforce social distancing as advised by state guidelines as well as universal mask usage.
This flight milestone represents a major achievement which has been in the planning since SpaceShipTwo relocated to Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico commercial headquarters in February. Virgin Galactic also fully concluded the relocation of its spaceline operations team and their families to New Mexico.
This glide flight provided the first opportunity to test all the components required to fly the carrier aircraft and spaceship in glide configuration, from a new home base and in new airspace. Dave and CJ performed a series of maneuvers with VSS Unity designed to gather data about performance and handling qualities in order to enhance our aerodynamic modeling and verify against similar maneuvers that were performed earlier in Unity’s test flight program. The flight test also provided an opportunity for the pilots and spaceflight operations team to continue familiarisation with the new airspace around the Gateway to Space and a chance to capture valuable in-flight data and conduct further pilot training.
Friday’s flight successfully completed all test objectives. Virgin Galactic would like to express its thanks to New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA), the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Albuquerque Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), and the FAA Air Traffic Control Center in Albuquerque for smooth coordination and efficient integration.
Preparation for the next flight will now begin, starting with an in-depth analysis of today’s flight data.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company said, “I’d like to congratulate our team for reaching this flight milestone, especially during these challenging times. I am grateful for the commitment displayed by everyone involved, not only in helping to support relief efforts in both New Mexico and California, but also for the dedication and creativity which will allow us to continue safely towards our goal of commercial launch.”
“Today’s VSS Unity flight is another exciting milestone for Virgin Galactic’s progress in New Mexico. We are extremely happy and proud of Virgin Galactic, not only for today’s success but also for the exceptional way they have integrated into NM and supported the region and State during this stressful time dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic have adhered to new guidelines set by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to include social distancing and wearing masks. A big thank you to our foundational partner at Spaceport America!” said Dan Hicks, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
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