Sponsored By Viasat
14 May 20. Viasat Responds to UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee Inquiry on UK Defence Industrial Policy: Procurement and Prosperity.
Viasat’s Written Evidence Shows an Approach that Could Save the UK Ministry of Defence Billions of Pounds, while Vastly Increasing the Country’s Defence Mission Capabilities.
Viasat Inc. (Nasdaq: VSAT), a global communications company, submitted a written response (“evidence”) to the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee’s inquiry on UK Defence Industrial Policy: Procurement and Prosperity. The Committee’s inquiry takes a look at the tension between competition and strategic choice, in an effort to help decide whether a new defence procurement strategy is needed as part of a wider integrated review.
Viasat’s evidence was published by the Committee this week, (https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/2048/default/)and calls for a modernized procurement and delivery framework to match the defence and security needs of the UK Government. In its submission, Viasat asks the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Government to create an agile, hybrid approach to acquire defence-based systems and services to meet technology acceleration and rapidly changing adversarial threats.
The Viasat approach recommends:
- Building trusted partnerships between MoD, Government and the private sector to drive information advantage;
- Requiring defence procurement procedures to meet stringent competition rules;
- Executing an outcomes-based assessment programme;
- Investing in progressive technology to meet current and future front-line mission requirements;
- Moving integration ownership to industry consortia;
- Sharing risk and design obligations—thereby alleviating the burden on existing programme processes which are not shaped to continuously evolve;
- Allowing industry to provide ‘test before you buy’ solutions to reduce MoD costs and risk; and
- Driving incremental innovation at speeds that align with needed capabilities.
Steve Beeching, managing director, Viasat UK, said, “The UK Defence Industrial Policy: Procurement and Prosperity inquiry will shine a bright light on the current procurement procedures that have yielded programme delays, overspending and higher risks to the MoD. We feel very strongly that a more agile, hybrid approach is needed to procure the appropriate systems and services required to keep pace with technology advancement. By modernizing the procurement process, MoD can work toward better processes to keep the nation safer, its citizens protected and its service men and woman empowered on the frontline of battle.”
14 May 20. X-37B Spacecraft’s Microwave Power Beam Experiment Could Power UAVs. The shadowy X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable spacecraft, is set to launch for its sixth flight on May 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. While most of the payloads set for the flight are standard fare for space experiments, at least the ones that are disclosed, one of them has immense potential implications for the future of remote power generation and especially long-endurance unmanned aircraft propulsion.
The X-37B’s upcoming mission is known as both Orbital Test Vehicle-6 (OTV-6) and U.S. Space Force-7 (USSF-7). According to a Space Force press release, which went out on May 6, one payload aboard the X-37B will be an experimental system designed by the Naval Research Laboratory that is capable of capturing solar power and beaming that energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves.
While the press releases of the Department of Defense and the Space Force are scant on details, the Naval Research Laboratory’s head of beamed power has explicitly stated in the past that this system has enormous implications when it comes to long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Beamed Power Aircraft
Using lasers to beam power to small UAVs has been a subject of research for some time. The U.S. Air Force began testing lasers as a source of propulsion for small “lightcraft” as early as the 1980s and managed to get small cone-shaped craft to fly hundreds of feet in the air propelled only by laser beams. This new concept is different, though, in that the beamed power UAVs the Navy envisions will feature traditional propulsion systems (such as rotors or propellers) and instead have rectennas that capture the energy from directed energy beams to constantly replenish their electrical power reserves.
In 2018, DARPA demonstrated its latest laser-powered aircraft, the Silent Falcon, which the project lead Joseph A. Abate says was meant to “demonstrate that remote electric refuelling of DoD systems via high energy laser power beaming to extend mission operation time in contested and remote environments.”
While lasers have been examined for their use in beaming power to UAVs, these have typically involved ground-based or possibly airborne lasers to beam power. Placing the source of power generation and transmission in space is a new take on this concept, offering superior lines of sight and a continuous, renewable source of energy via the sun.
Still, low earth orbit satellites circle the planet at incredibly high speeds and their maneuverability is limited, so there will be limitations to the Navy’s latest beamed power system, but as a proof of concept, it is essential. A constellation of satellites would likely be necessary to have a truly 24/7 supply of power, enabling UAVs to be ‘passed’ from satellite to satellite for continuous or tightly scheduled recharging. The same can be said for any receiver applications on the planet’s surface.
This technology has massive implications not only for the future of UAVs, but for all of mankind. Such a system could be used to keep UAVs in the air for very long periods of time to replace cell towers or communications satellites in the event of a crisis in a region or even for normal operations of increasingly complex communications networks. Unlike a tethered aerostat, these UAVs would require far less infrastructure, could be moved around at will for optimum coverage, and could land quickly for servicing. They could even deploy dozens of miles, or even further, away from their base stations. With a space-based power source, they could fly anywhere on earth.
So, while the X-37B’s latest mission details seem neat on a scientific level, the reality is the microwave system it is testing could change the game for many military-related applications and could actually open the door for near-continuous unmanned flight throughout the atmosphere. (Source: UAS VISION)
14 May 20. Australian Defence partners with Gilmour for space technology. The Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology has signed a strategic agreement with Gold Coast company Gilmour Space Technologies to work on space technologies.
Under the partnership, Defence Science and Technology and Gilmour Space will research propulsion, materials and avionics technologies among other defence-related technologies to aid in the development of the three-stage hybrid rocket.
The rocket will launch small payloads and satellites.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “Technology advances have allowed rocket systems and launch service providers to offer access to space at a greatly reduced cost and infrastructure footprint.”
Reynolds further added that the collaboration demonstrates the government’s commitment to supporting the Australian defence industry.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price added that this will open opportunities for Australian companies to offer space capabilities to defence force of the country and commercial customers.
Price said: “Recent advancements in the capabilities of micro and nano-satellites, small satellite constellations and additive manufacturing present a unique opportunity for Defence and Australian industry.”
Member for Fadden Stuart Robert said: “Gilmour Space Technologies hopes to leverage their work with Defence to undertake more onshore manufacturing of rocket systems and components which, with further investment, could create up to 50 additional jobs by the end of the year.”
Gilmour Space is currently developing lower-cost rockets that will be used to launch small satellites into low earth orbits.
In December last year, Australian Department of Defence awarded A$170m ($116.08m) contract to Boeing Defence Australia for air battlespace management capability system. It also awarded a contract to Inovor Technologies to provide a satellite bus for the Buccaneer space research programme. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
14 May 20. Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully tests advanced large solid rocket motor. Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed a successful static-fire test of an advanced large solid rocket motor, called the Missile Components Advanced Technologies Demonstration Motor (MCAT Demo), under contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s MCAT Demo large solid rocket motor design incorporates numerous advanced technologies and materials. The program’s primary goal is to develop technologies to increase propulsion performance and lower manufacturing and operational costs for future applications.
In order to meet the goals, the MCAT Demo design consists of a state-of-the-art graphite composite case, an affordable advanced nozzle and high-energy, long-life solid propellant.
Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president, said, “Aerojet Rocketdyne has produced large solid rocket motors for critical defence programs for more than 60 years, to include powering every US Air Force ICBM ever fielded.
“Today we are building a family of modern large solid rocket motors with improved performance at lower costs; the research and development efforts for the Missile Components Advanced Technologies program are crucial to our nation’s strategic strike capability.”
During the static firing, the 52-inch diameter MCAT Demo motor fired successfully. Initial post-test inspection indicates that all components functioned as designed. AFRL provided technical and managerial oversight of the MCAT contract.
“The successful MCAT Demo enables future Air Force ICBMs to deliver higher performance while reducing cost. We are committed to providing world-class technology for Air Force Nuclear Deterrence Operations, and we are very pleased with the outcome of the MCAT Demo,” explained Jason Mossman, chief of the motors branch at AFRL, Edwards Air Force Base.
AFRL facilitated the testing at the Utah Test and Training Range to demonstrate the performance of the Aerojet Rocketdyne MCAT rocket motor.
The MCAT Demo motor firing is the first test in a series of strategic-sized motor demonstrations planned in the near future. (Source: Space Connect)
13 May 20. US Navy inks deal for synthetic aperture radar imagery. Capella Space announced May 13 that it signed a deal to provide synthetic aperture radar to the U.S. Navy, even though the company has yet to put a satellite on orbit.
Unlike traditional electro-optical satellite imagery, which can be degraded or denied by adverse lighting conditions or weather, SAR creates images with radar, meaning it can produce images regardless of the weather or lighting conditions. Additionally, SAR sensors can provide data on material properties, moisture content, precise movements, and elevation, meaning that SAR can be used to build 3D recreations of a given geographical area. Capella says its planned SAR satellite constellation will be able to collect sub-0.5 meter imagery, capable of identifying various types of aircraft or vehicles at ground level.
Still, the company has yet to put a single payload of their planned 36 satellite constellation on orbit.
Although Capella executive hoped to have satellites launched by the end of 2019, it noted in January that the first satellite wouldn’t launch until March, with six more to follow by the end of the year. With this latest announcement, the company simply stated the first launch would take place later this year. Until then it will collect imagery by flying its synthetic radar on a specially outfitted airplane.
The Navy signed a contract with the company through the Defense Innovation Unit’s Commercial Solutions Opening. Under the new contract, Capella will provide imagery as well as in-house analytics for interpreting that data.
The Navy deal is just the latest military and intelligence contract for the company.
“Defense & intelligence agencies utilize Capella’s SAR data for a variety of purposes, including disaster recovery, infrastructure monitoring and indications and warnings of potential threats,” said Capella CEO and Founder Payam Banazadeh. “The continuous work we receive from these agencies is a testament to the future they see where Capella services play an important role in our national security.”
The Air Force awarded the company a contract in November to use its SAR for virtual reality software, missile defense and developing predictive intelligence to foresee foreign threats. On the intelligence side, the National Reconnaissance Office issued a commercial study contract to the company in December as part of its efforts to diversify what types of imagery the agency purchases from commercial companies. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
12 May 20. SpaceX could fill the US military’s Arctic communications gap by the end of this year. The U.S. Defense Department relies on a mixture of military and commercial satellites to connect its war fighters all over the world. And while users can complain that terminals are too bulky or that they should have the roaming capability exhibited in commercial cellphone technology, the system largely works. But that’s not the case in the Arctic.
“Very simple things become hard when you’re in the Arctic, not the least of which is communication. When you are above about 65 degrees north, satellite communication starts to diminish, and above about 70 degrees north it becomes extremely limited except for some of our more exquisite capability — submarines, for example,” said U.S. Northern Command spokesman Maj. Mark Lazane.
The U.S. Space Force’s primary communications satellite system, Wideband Global SATCOM, is designed to provide connectivity between 70 degrees north and 65 degrees south — basically to the edge of the polar region.
The Space Force also operates two Enhanced Polar System satellites — the Arctic complement to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation. EPS satellites provide highly secure, anti-jamming signals, and like its counterpart, EPS is built for high-priority military communications, like that used with submarines.
And while elsewhere in the world the military supplements its purpose-built systems with commercial communications satellites, that option is limited in the Arctic. After all, commercial satellites providing coverage of other areas aren’t solely serving the military, and the services rely on commercial consumers to offset the costs of designing, building, launching and maintaining a satellite. But there’s far less commercial demand for satellite communications in the Arctic than in more populated areas, and commercial satellite coverage reflects that.
That leaves U.S. Northern Command with a significant gap in the connections available to its war fighters and platforms.
“Connection capabilities [in the Arctic] are limited and lack resiliency. We’re challenged in areas from basic point-to-point connections to communication with our distributed sensors,” Lazane said. “Having a reliable broadband communications capability for Arctic operations is the top unfunded priority of USNORTHCOM. With the increase of great power competition in the Arctic, there is a need for additional communications capability and capacity.”
But the command thinks it’s found a solution in the form of new, proliferated commercial constellations. Private companies OneWeb and SpaceX have launched hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit in an effort to provide competitive broadband to users all around the world.
USNORTHCOM is asking Congress for $130m to explore OneWeb’s and SpaceX’s capabilities in order to provide reliable and potentially cost-effective connectivity to Arctic platforms, installations and war fighters.
“Leveraging emerging proliferated low-Earth orbit commercial SATCOM providers in the Arctic enables the United States (and our allies) the opportunity to scale communications capability and capacity quickly in a cost-effective manner,” Lazane said. “The unique capabilities provided by PLEO [proliferated low-Earth orbit] commercial SATCOM providers in the Arctic enables access to high-bandwidth, low-latency communications capability and capacity.”
In a Feb.11 letter to Congress, USNORTHCOM Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said that funding for this effort was his No. 1 unfunded priority. If approved, the $130m in funding will be used for polar communications experiments as well as the fielding of prototype terminals that can connect to commercial PLEO constellations. If those experiments prove successful, USNORTHCOM would need another $110m in fiscal 2022 for full coverage. SpaceX has stated that its Starlink constellation will begin offering broadband services this year, and USNORTHCOM is hopeful that could enable early Arctic capability by the end of the year. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
12 May 20. Balboa Geolocation to Commercialize Innovative Technology for First Responders and Military on Land and Underwater to Provide Highly Accurate, Real-Time Positioning Data.
Montauk Technologies Launches Balboa Geolocation, Inc – ‘Blue is the New Green’ – as Latest La Kretz Blue Economy Incubator Company at AltaSea with First-in-Class Geolocation Technology.
Montauk Technologies, LLC has announced the formation of and its investment in Balboa Geolocation, Inc, a Caltech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) spinout company that can locate objects in environments such as the depths of the ocean where satellite-based GPS and all other geolocation technologies fail. Montauk is the anchor tenant of the La Kretz Blue Economy Incubator at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, located at Berth 58 on the AltaSea campus in San Pedro.
Balboa Geolocation’s technology enables centimeter to meter scale 3D geolocation and orientation in previously hard-to-reach places, including underground, underwater and indoor locations. The technology is small, easily deployed and can integrate with other positioning, orientation, visualization, and communications technologies. It is currently in field testing for the first responder market with a product known as “POINTER” developed at JPL and funded primarily through grants from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Other governmental agencies, including Department of Defense (DOD) and corporate sponsors have funded expansion of this technology for use in multiple settings. The technology is expected to be ready for commercial launch by this time next year.
The announcement of this first-in-class technology that can help map the depths of the ocean, provide sub-surface location and tracking of high value assets, structures and individuals and guide underwater exploration with high accuracy comes two months after the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and AltaSea issued an in-depth report on the ocean economy (another name for the blue economy) that is anticipated to produce more than 126,000 jobs paying a combined $37.7bn in wages by 2023. Additionally, the LAEDC has named the ocean economy the first new jobs category in Los Angeles in more than a decade.
The La Kretz Blue Economy Incubator at AltaSea was established in December 2017 with a generous grant from developer and philanthropist Morton La Kretz. The incubator as envisioned “will work to support the development of aquaculture, undersea mapping and other businesses related to the ocean,” said La Kretz.
As the anchor tenant of the La Kretz Blue Economy Incubator, Montauk Technologies is launching a business accelerator “Montauk Alpha,” supported by an entrepreneurial ecosystem consisting of researchers, corporate partners, environmental groups, foundations, and impact investors focused on disruptive technologies and new business formation.
“Montauk Alpha” is one of our primary vehicles for launching and supporting investment in new companies like Balboa Geolocation, which will help drive innovative, next generation technology and intellectual property that is at the forefront of the ocean economy,” said Joe Boystak, Chairman of Montauk Technologies, LLC. “We will pursue solutions for large scale problems impacting the ocean, environmental sustainability, and quality of life. These new businesses will utilize technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous systems, geolocation, data and predictive analytics, clean power, novel sensors, quantum technologies, among others.”
Even conservative estimates indicate that the value of the blue economy will double over the next decade, with a projected global value of $3trn by 2030. And across the world, municipal and national entities are investing in the sustainable development of their own blue economies and reaping significant economic and ecological rewards.
“AltaSea is pleased to have collaborated with Montauk since the dedication of the La Kretz incubator,” said Tim McOsker, CEO of AltaSea. “We are excited to further deepen our relationship as we incubate and accelerate sustainable technologies, businesses, and jobs in the ocean economy.”
The addition of the ocean economy as a new jobs category by the LAEDC will enable it to be formally monitored, benchmarked, and tracked going forward. Businesses like Balboa Geolocation will be an important part of not just that sector, but overall economic growth in Southern California.
“Montauk is poised to immediately catalyze investment in the growing ocean economy,” said Dean Wiberg, CEO of Montauk Technologies, LLC. “We intend to bring new technologies and synergistic partners into the AltaSea ecosystem. Additionally, we expect the new business formation arising from the Le Kretz Blue Economy Incubator will have a profound impact on the regional economy.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
12 May 20. DARPA set to launch first Blackjack satellite later this year. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will launch its first Blackjack satellite into orbit later this year, with more to follow in 2021. With Blackjack, DARPA seeks to demonstrate the value of low earth orbit satellites for the Department of Defense. The small satellites will carry advanced technologies that will demonstrate space-based mesh networks and constellation autonomy.
“Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage,” the agency said in a May 11 statement.
With the transport layer, 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 first experimental satellite will be Mandrake 1, a cubesat hosting supercomputer processing chips. Mandrake 2 will use two cubesats to demonstrate the possibility of a space-based mesh network by sharing data over optical intersatellite links. Wildcard, another payload, will experiment with links to tactical radios from orbit over a software-defined radio. A fourth unnamed experiment will host a number of advanced thirty party algorithms to test out on orbit.
“It’s important that we get the design right,” said Blackjack Program Manager Paul “Rusty” Thomas. “We focused first on buses and payloads, then the autonomous mission management system, which we call Pit Boss. We anticipate we’ll begin integrating the first two military payloads next summer with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022.”
The agency says it is evaluating buses from Airbus, Blue Canyon Technologies and Telesat, all of which have progressed through preliminary design review. A final bus selection will be made in 2020.
SEAKR recently announced that it had been selected as the primary contractor for Pit Boss, the autonomous system behind Blackjack. Lockheed Martin will integrate the satellites.
DARPA is also looking at various payloads to be incorporated into the Blackjack constellation. Contenders include an overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensor from Collins Aerospace and Raytheon, radio frequency systems from Northrop Grumman, Trident and Systems and Technology Research, a position, navigation, and timing payload from Northrop Grumman, optical inter-satellite links from SA Photonics, and an electro-optical/infrared sensor from L3Harris.
Over the next few months the agency will begin running simulations with the various payloads.
“We need to show the constellations can move the right amount of data and support the data fusion and command and control we want from Pit Boss,” Thomas said. “From there, we will start building the actual hardware. By late next spring, we will have hardware and then spend next summer focused on satellite-level qualification for launch readiness in late 2021.”
The demonstration flights will be conducted in partnership with the U.S. Space Force and the Space Development Agency, an organization stood up in March 2019 to develop a new national security space architecture composed of hundreds of satellites in low earth orbit. SDA leadership has stated previously that it will build off the lessons learned from Blackjack. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
13 May 20. Sentinal 6A satellite undergoes acoustic sound testing. Earth observation satellite Sentinel-6A is currently getting an earful. European space engineers are ‘bombarding’ the latest satellite for the European environment and security program ‘Copernicus’ with sound in a dedicated chamber at the Space Test Centre of 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 square metres 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 per cent 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 Program 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 co-operation 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: Space Connect)
12 May 20. A bankrupt OneWeb and other troubled space startups could get some help from the Defense Department. As the U.S. Space Force looks to expand the military’s communications capabilities in the far north, it is facing a problem. The global pandemic has hit space startups exponentially hard, and OneWeb, one of the companies aiming to provide internet to Arctic locations, filed for bankruptcy in March.
The Defense Department is considering taking action to help fortify OneWeb and other vulnerable space startups, said Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Headquarters Space Force.
“I will say with respect to OneWeb specifically and others, we continue to work,” he said during a May 12 event held by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “We work with the White House and we’ll be working with Congress, not just focused on OneWeb but all of the commercial space companies that face bankruptcy and face those concerns.”
Thompson did not lay out options under consideration by the Pentagon to aid OneWeb, but he did say the department’s Space Acquisition Council devised a list of proposed investments for space companies that need rapid, aggressive action. That capital is needed to ensure emerging space technologies remain available to the U.S. military but also so “that potential adversaries don’t have the opportunity to acquire those capabilities,” he said.
OneWeb is pursuing a sale of the business as part of bankruptcy proceedings, saying that “while the company was close to obtaining financing” through its own negotiations with investors, “the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19.”
So far, the company has launched 74 satellites, secured global spectrum and has half of its 44 ground terminals in development or complete — making it attractive to potential bidders such as Amazon or European satellite company Eutelsat.
However, two unnamed Chinese firms have also submitted proposals, according to The Telegraph. That could raise major concerns among Defense Department officials, who have warned that adversary nations — particularly China — could use the financial instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to increase investments in technology companies with national security applications.
“The [defense-industrial base] is vulnerable to adversarial capital, so we need to ensure that companies can stay in business without losing their technology,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, said in March.
If OneWeb is sold to a Chinese owner, the Defense Department could lose access to one of the few suppliers of commercial broadband internet servicing the Arctic.
While the Space Force operates two Enhanced Polar System satellites to provide secure, jam-resistant military communications, few commercial satellite providers extend their coverage to the far north. As a result, troops have limited communication options in the Arctic, and the Pentagon has long been concerned about a lack of resiliency.
Companies like OneWeb and SpaceX, which intend to create a network of hundreds of small satellites in low-Earth orbit, could change that paradigm by providing low-cost commercial internet services that span the globe.
In September, OneWeb announced it would begin to provide low-latency broadband service to the Arctic by the end of 2020, with full, 24-hour coverage expected in 2021. For its part, SpaceX stated that its Starlink constellation would begin providing broadband service this year. The military has expressed interest in working with both companies.
U.S. Northern Command sought $130m to explore OneWeb’s and SpaceX’s capabilities in order to provide reliable and potentially cost-effective internet in the Arctic, listing the effort on top of the unfunded priority list sent to Congress this spring. (Source: Defense News)
12 May 20. NASA builds investments to support US small businesses’ beneficial technologies. NASA has selected 139 proposals for follow-on funding though the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The Phase II awards will provide approximately US$104m ($159.5m) to 124 small businesses located across 31 states.
NASA annually invests in US small businesses with promising new technologies – companies developing better batteries, virtual assistants, lightweight materials and more. These technologies can benefit space missions, as well as improve life on Earth.
The Phase II awards will help advance NASA priorities, including the Artemis program, as well as other initiatives in aeronautics, human exploration and operations, science, and space technology.
Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, explained, “Small businesses offer innovative solutions that benefit every area of NASA and often find applications outside of the agency. This announcement is another step forward in NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach. The agency continues to invest in and support small businesses, as they continue to mature important technologies for future missions that can also benefit us on Earth.”
The selected companies are previous NASA SBIR Phase I award recipients who successfully have established the feasibility of their proposed technologies.
As Phase II awardees, the companies will develop, demonstrate and deliver their technologies to NASA. Among the Phase II selections are:
- A woman-owned small business in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that will develop a more reliable and highly efficient energy storage system. NASA could use the technology for electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems in airplanes. The technology could also be used in renewable energy systems, such as solar, wind, and hybrid-electric vehicles.
- A small business in Knoxville, Tennessee, that will advance a lighter-weight shield material for fission power systems – a technology that could help power sustainable operations on the moon. The material could find other industrial applications on Earth.
- A small business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that will mature technology that could provide astronauts with a virtual assistant aboard spacecraft. The system would be able to interact with the crew and other spacecraft systems to perform tasks, diagnose problems and brainstorm solutions without help from ground teams. The technology could be adapted for use on Earth, including by the medical industry to support patient diagnosis and treatment.
“We are encouraged by the ingenuity and creativity we’ve seen from these companies in their Phase I work. We have also worked hard to reduce the time selected companies wait for their first Phase II payment, knowing how critical access to capital is for our aerospace research and development firms right now. The applications of their technologies, both inside and outside of NASA, are promising, and we look forward to seeing what this next round of accelerated seed funding will do,” explained Jenn Gustetic, the NASA SBIR program executive.
The Phase II proposals were chosen according to their technical merit and feasibility, Phase I results, as well as the experience, qualifications and facilities of the submitting organisation. Additional criteria included effectiveness of the proposed work plan and commercial potential.
NASA’s SBIR program encourages small businesses to develop innovative ideas that meet the specific research and development needs of the federal government.
The program is conducted in three phases:
- Phase I is the opportunity to establish the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of the proposed innovation. SBIR Phase I contracts last for six months with a maximum funding of $125,000.
- Phase II is focused on the development, demonstration and delivery of the innovation. Phase II contracts last for 24 months with a maximum funding of $750,000. Only small businesses awarded a Phase I contract are eligible to submit a proposal for a Phase II funding agreement.
- Phase III is the commercialisation of innovative technologies, products and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the NASA SBIR program.
The program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California’s Silicon Valley. (Source: Space Connect)
12 May 20. Airbus supplies EU with satellite communications. Airbus has won the new satellite communications framework contract for military and civil missions of the European Union and its member states. This four-year framework contract was awarded by the European Defence Agency (EDA) and is estimated to be worth tens of millions of euros.
“With this satellite communications programme, Airbus contributes to the construction of joint capabilities for European defence and to its missions to preserve civil and military peacekeeping”, said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space.
The contract named ‘EU SatCom Market’ will allow EU member states to centralise their satellite communications requirements and obtain coordinated, more economical and effective access to these services. Some 32 contributing members, including 20 European defence ministries, can now swiftly and efficiently get access to satellite solutions and services through EDA, which has been supplying the members of the ‘EU SatCom Market’ project with satellite communications capabilities since 2012.
These satellite communications solutions can be deployed worldwide. They play an essential role in European civil and military peacekeeping and security missions, as well as in technical and economic development and cooperation missions. This is already the case in several EU civilian and military missions and operations where EU SatCom Market services have been successfully implemented for several years. The armed forces of EU member states also use these solutions.
The ‘EU SatCom Market’ contract covers the provision of satellite communications (in C, Ku, Ka and L frequency bands), the sale and rental of terminals, as well as the provision of ‘turnkey solutions’, particularly in theatres of operations outside the EU. For this contract, Airbus has teamed up with Marlink, which will supply some of these terminals and specific L- and Ku-band services.
A forerunner in telecommunications solutions for military and governmental users, Airbus has unique experience in supplying satellite communications on a global scale and in all commercial and military frequency bands (L, C, Ku, Ka, X and UHF). These services can also benefit European operators of essential services.
11 May 20. Space Conference Develops Solutions to Expand U.S. Leadership in Space. In a first-of-a-kind, collaborative, virtual solutions workshop, NewSpace New Mexico hosted the State of the Space Industrial Base 2020 from May 4-7, as a follow-up to the 2019 in-person meeting. The virtual workshop brought together over 150 industry stakeholders to identify actions necessary to develop and sustain the United States’ economic and military leadership in space.
Industry leaders, representatives from the Executive Office of the President, Department of Defense (DoD), NASA, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, and academia virtually gathered to develop recommendations.
“In a difficult time when our nation is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, this virtual workshop attracted participants from across all areas of space to develop recommendations critical to the nation’s security,” said Casey DeRaad, CEO of NewSpace New Mexico. “I am proud of the NewSpace New Mexico team for organizing such a productive and nationally important engagement.”
NewSpace New Mexico partnered with the U.S. Space Force, Defense Innovation Unit, and the Air Force Research Laboratory, to develop strategies to strengthen the space innovation base. Workshop teams focused on the areas of information services, transportation, logistics, space power, human presence, space manufacturing, resource extraction, policy and finance.
Key recommendations workshop included:
1) the U.S. should promulgate a “north-star” top-level vision and strategy for space industrial development and establish a Presidential Task force to execute it
2) the DoD should develop plans to protect and support commerce in space
3) the U.S. government should work to economically stimulate the industry, including space bonds and a Space Commodities Exchange and by executing $1B of existing DoD and NASA funding through the Exchange
4) develop a framework for creating wealth and security with allies and partners that share our common norms and values
5) supply the workforce necessary to fill 10,000+ STEM jobs; and
6) the U.S. Space Force should work closely with space industry entrepreneurs to develop government-commercial technology partnerships that support U.S. commerce and national security in space
More information can be found at: https://newspacenm.org/state-of-space-agenda. A full report will be available in four weeks.
NewSpace New Mexico is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity established to support and grow the nations’ space innovation base and to educate leaders and develop strategies to leverage the government’s substantial intellectual & infrastructure investments. (Source: PR Newswire)
12 May 20. DST launches SATCOM research collaboration. Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) has launched a collaborative research program with colleagues from industry and academia on a high-risk, high-payoff satellite communications (SATCOM) research venture that has the potential to significantly enhance military capability.
Known as Project CHORUS, which stands for Compact Hybrid Optical-RF User Segment, this is Defence’s first collaborative project to be launched through the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
The project will see a cross-sector team exploring ways of integrating both laser-based optical and radio frequency (RF) communications technologies in a single SATCOM user terminal.
Professor Andy Koronios, chief executive and managing director of the SmartSat CRC, said, “The SmartSat CRC, in partnership with Defence, has established this project in order to develop world-leading Australian technologies that will improve the resilience of military satellite communications, and potentially provide leapfrog technology for commercial markets.”
During the first phase of the research, the team will assess the viability of different design options and create a virtual representation, or ‘digital twin’, of the CHORUS concept to support the development of a demonstration terminal later in the project.
Funding for Phase 1 represents an investment by the SmartSat CRC and project participants of about $1m over 12 months.
“By combining optical and RF communications, satellite operators will have more options to provide high-availability, high-capacity and high-resilience satellite communications services without requiring additional access to scarce and expensive radio spectrum,” Professor Koronios said.
With total funding worth $245m and involving more than 100 companies, start-ups and research organisations, the SmartSat CRC is the biggest space industry research and development collaboration in Australia’s history. The research consortium formally opened for business in February.
The research effort brings together experts from DST, industry partners EOS Space Systems and EM Solutions, Lyrebird Antenna Research and Shoal Group, and academic partners the Australian National University and the University of South Australia.
Dr Gerald Bolding, senior research scientist – protected satellite communications within DST’s Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division, added, “We are seeking to provide satellite operators with the best of both worlds, combining the high data transfer rates and enhanced security promised by optical communications with the reliability of traditional RF communications.
“The end result will be the development of innovative technology options for integrating hybrid optical-RF SATCOM terminals into military aircraft, land vehicles and ships.”
Defence will contribute $12m in funding to the SmartSat CRC over seven years. As a core participant in the consortium, DST will support research projects that address Australia’s need for sovereign space capabilities or explore disruptive approaches to delivering space-enabled services for the Australian Defence Force.
Andrew Seedhouse, chief of DST’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Space Division, added, “Defence is constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate with the brightest minds within Australian companies and universities to achieve even better capability outcomes for the nation, and our involvement in the SmartSat CRC is a great example of this approach.”
This national R&D endeavour is anticipated to drive the development of advanced technologies in the fields of communications and connectivity, intelligent space systems and Earth observation. (Source: Defence Connect)
11 May 20. Blackjack Focuses on Risk Reduction Flights and Simulations to Prepare for Full Demonstration. With Defense Dept. space partners, Blackjack Program targets first risk reduction flights later this year and 2021.
In partnership with the U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency, DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to low-Earth orbit (LEO) later this year and 2021. Using a series of small risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage.
The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandrake 2 is a pair of small satellites that will carry optical inter-satellite links for broadband data. These could form the basis of future optically meshed computer networks in LEO.
The program also is targeting a risk reduction payload called Wildcard, a software-defined radio that will experiment with links from LEO to tactical radios. A data fusion experiment with the ability to host advanced third party algorithms, known as massless payloads, is intended for an upcoming Loft Orbital mission.
“It’s important that we get the design right,” says Paul “Rusty” Thomas, the program manager for Blackjack. “We focused first on buses and payloads, then the autonomous mission management system, which we call Pit Boss. We anticipate we’ll begin integrating the first two military payloads next summer with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022.”
Blackjack aims to demonstrate sensors that are low in size, weight, and power, and that can be mass produced to fit on many different buses from many different providers, for less than $2 million per payload.
The agency is evaluating buses from Airbus, Blue Canyon Technologies, and Telesat, all of which have progressed through preliminary design review. The final selection of buses will happen in 2020. The program recently completed preliminary design review for Pit Boss, selecting SEAKR as the primary performer for the on-orbit autonomy system. The agency also awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin as the satellite integrator.
Several sensor payloads are under consideration for the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation, including overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) from Collins Aerospace and Raytheon; radio frequency systems from Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, Trident, and Systems & Technology Research; position, navigation, and timing from Northrop Grumman; optical inter-satellite links from SA Photonics; and electro-optical/infrared from L3Harris. The program also recently completed a Small Business Innovation Research contract with Augustus Aerospace to work on an Army Space and Missile Defense Command-related payload.
Over the next few months, the program will run simulations to test payloads in virtual constellations of all types of missions. The goal is to show interoperability between the commoditized buses and the various payloads being considered.
“We need to show the constellations can move the right amount of data and support the data fusion and command and control we want from Pit Boss,” Thomas said. “From there, we will start building the actual hardware. By late next spring, we will have hardware and then spend next summer focused on satellite-level qualification for launch readiness in late 2021.” (Source: DARPA/ASD Network)
11 May 20. UK urged to scrap ‘unaffordable’ Galileo replacement. The United Kingdom government is being urged to scrap plans to develop a national replacement for the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Galileo global positioning system (GPS).
Having launched the ambitious GBP5bn (USD6.2bn) project in 2018, after having effectively been frozen out of Galileo following its decision in 2016 to leave the European Union (EU), the UK government is now being pressed by civil servants to abandon its efforts on cost grounds.
As reported by The Telegraph on 8 May, the plan for the UK to field its own bespoke replacement for Galileo, which would also serve as a national alternative to the US GPS, is said by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, to be unaffordable and should be wound-down.
Developed by the EU, the ESA, and private companies, Galileo is a largely civilian satellite navigation system but will be open to use by Europe’s armed forces. The key to Galileo from a European perspective is that it will provide a guaranteed and undeniable signal, while still being interoperable with GPS and Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).
By the time that it was frozen out of competing for contracts for the next stage of development and made a third party to the programme with no scope for continued industrial participation in June 2018, the UK had already invested GBP1.2bn into the Galileo project and provided ground infrastructure in the Falkland and Ascension islands.
While the decision to regard the UK as a third country did not formally exclude it from Galileo (Norway and Switzerland both enjoy third-party access), it did mean that many of the country’s key demands for its involvement could be met. (Source: Jane’s)
09 May 20. Virgin Orbit gets thumbs-up for Space Force launches from Guam. VOX Space has received approval to launch payloads into orbit from Guam, the company announced May 7, and its first launch there will place experimental cubesats on orbit for various government agencies.
The Virgin Orbit subsidiary said it signed an agreement with the Department of the Air Force that will allow it to conduct launch missions with its LauncherOne system from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Unlike traditional launch operations where the rockets start from a vertical position on a pad, the LauncherOne rockets are launched in midair from a Boeing 747 aircraft.
“Lt. Gen. John Thompson and his team at the Space and Missile Systems Center have also provided visionary leadership throughout this process,” VOX Space President Mandy Vaughn said in a statement. “We’re very excited to demonstrate the flexibility and mobility that only LauncherOne can offer.”
The company believes Guam is an ideal base for its launch operations due to the island’s low latitude and clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, enabling the LauncherOne system to deliver payloads to effectively all orbital inclinations.
“Launching from Guam gives us easy access to every orbital inclination our customers need. With our air-launched system, we will fly out as any other airplane, move out to sea and release our rocket. Our minimal footprint coupled with Guam’s natural launch location results in a great match,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in April as the company worked to win approval for its Guam-based launch plans.
VOX Space’s first launch from Guam will be Space Test Program-27VP, a U.S. Space Force mission that will place several experimental and technology demonstrator cubesats from a number of government agencies on orbit. The STP-27VP launch was secured via the Defense Innovation Unit under the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative.
In April, VOX Space was awarded a $35m tax order to launch 44 technology demonstrator satellites into orbit. That effort will include three LauncherOne vehicles, with the first launch tentatively slated for October 2021. (Source: C4ISR & Networks.
08 May 20. Echostar, Hughes And Intelsat Support FCC’s Draft Regulatory Fee Order. EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS) and its Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) business segment join with Intelsat (NYSE: I) today in support of the draft Regulatory Fee Order under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission for its May 13, 2020, Open Meeting.
Jennifer A. Manner, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, EchoStar/Hughes stated: “The draft Order is extremely important to U.S. satellite operators, including EchoStar/Hughes as well Intelsat, as it rebalances the regulatory fee structure to ensure that foreign satellite operators providing U.S. service, like domestic operators, pay regulatory fees for the work from which they benefit. This cost allocation will have several benefits, including removing an incentive for U.S. operators to move off-shore.”
Susan Crandall, Associate General Counsel, Intelsat US LLC, stated: “The draft Order’s conclusion to require foreign-licensed satellite operators to pay regulatory fees is a fair result that treats all satellite operators providing service to the U.S. equally.”
Together, EchoStar/Hughes and Intelsat support the draft Order and, upon adoption at the upcoming Open Meeting, anticipate a fair outcome that will advance U.S. leadership in space innovation. (Source: PR Newswire)
07 May 20. Raytheon Technologies Now Involved in Radio Frequency Mixed-Mode Circuit Designs for DARPA. Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX) is researching advanced radio frequency mixed-mode circuit designs, under DARPA’s Technologies for Mixed-mode Ultra Scaled Integrated Circuits, or T-MUSIC, program.
These systems operate much the same way humans do. The front end of the system is like eyes and ears, and the back end is like the brain. The brain processes what the eyes see and ears hear. And, in order for the back end to provide actionable information, the front end must be able to discriminate between the noise and the signals of interest.
This is driving the need for multi-function systems with mixed-mode electronics at the front-end of the system, which convert the RF signal into bits. Those bits are vital pieces of data that the back-end processes, improving the ability to distinguish between the noise, interference and signals of interest across a broad range of frequencies.
The overall benefit is not just small size, weight and power – it’s the performance. The technology would be able to detect the faintest of signals among a broad range of frequencies and noise, processing it with precision and speed. It could identify the object emitting the signal, even if it’s slow-moving or very small.
The designs are being collectively researched by Raytheon, commercial, aerospace and defense companies and universities. The designs could form the foundation out of future Department of Defense-relevant capabilities, including communication links, multi-function RF systems and next-generation electronic warfare and radars.
Art Morrish, VP of Advanced Concepts and Technologies at Raytheon Intelligence and Space, a Raytheon Technologies company, noted that radio frequency bands are increasingly cluttered — we need to be able to ‘hear’ through all of the noise. If someone is yelling at you, it’s easy to miss what someone else is whispering. However, imagine if you had a way to hear both at the same time. That’s what the company’s multi-function system with mixed-mode electronics seeks to achieve. What’s different here is all of this could happen on a single chip — nobody has done this type of mixed composition before. (Source: Satnews)
08 May 20. Iran has Put its First Military Satellite into Orbit. Why now? Last month, on the 41st anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit.
The homegrown satellite, dubbed Noor, was launched from the country’s central desert region. IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami called the launch a “strategic achievement”, while Tasnim News Agency described it as a “milestone” in the nation’s space industry.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly condemned the launch, arguing that Iran’s space programme was “neither peaceful nor entirely civilian”.
The rhetoric by both sides raises important questions. What is the military significance of Tehran’s space programme? Why has the IRGC decided to launch a military satellite now? And how should the United States respond?
In terms of the military significance, the Islamic Republic is one of a handful of nations with indigenous space-launching capabilities. In February 2009, Tehran successfully sent the Omid satellite into space.
In February 2015, it placed another satellite, Fajr, into low-earth orbit. And in July 2017, Iran launched into space its satellite-carrying rocket, Simorgh, capable of reaching a higher altitude and carrying a heavier load than earlier models.
This means that Iranian military leaders believe there is value in investing their limited financial resources in the country’s space programme. Yet, in recent years, the programme has suffered significant setbacks, including failures to put satellites into orbit, (Payam and Doosti in 2019 and Zafar-1 this year), a launchpad explosion, and a separate fire at Imam Khomeini Space Center last year.
In February 2019, media reports suggested that the US had an active programme to sabotage Iran’s space capabilities. According to these reports, this explained the astonishingly high rate (67 percent) of orbital launch failures in Iran, compared with a five percent rate worldwide. The US government never confirmed the allegations.
US military and political officials have claimed that Iran would use the experience it gained in launching satellites to develop ballistic missiles. Intercontinental ballistic missile technology has been developed since the Second World War, and there have been several examples of states converting these missiles into satellite launch vehicles, but never vice versa.
Still, it is certain that the recent successful launch has added value to Iran’s missile and military capabilities.
So why now? 2020 will go down as one of the worst years in the short history of the Islamic Republic. The year started with the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, followed by the tragic downing of a Ukrainian airplane, for which the IRGC took responsibility.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices. All these crises have had a significant impact on Iran, which recently requested a $5bn emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to fight Covid-19. Several European countries and former US officials backed Iran’s request, but the Trump administration rejected it, doubling down on its “maximum pressure” strategy.
Smelling victory, senior officials seem to believe that the Islamic Republic’s days are numbered. Against this backdrop, the satellite launch makes sense. Tehran wants to send a clear message that despite recent setbacks, the regime is strong and making progress in its quest for military power and advanced technology.
Furthermore, the IRGC, which has taken the lead in fighting Covid-19, is claiming credit for the nation’s successful launch of its first military satellite. This means that the hardliners within Iran’s military and political establishment are consolidating their power.
How should the US respond? Despite severe economic sanctions and expensive arms deals with US regional allies, the regime in Tehran is not about to collapse. Rather, it seems in control and getting stronger.
Furthermore, there is no credible replacement. Iran’s legitimate security concerns, along with those of other regional powers, need to be recognised. Iran will keep building its military capabilities as long as its leaders perceive their country as being threatened by the US and its regional allies.
Instead of engaging in an expensive and destabilising arms race, the US and regional powers – supported by Europe, Russia and China – should negotiate a new security architecture under which all states would promote economic and political cooperation.
The coronavirus pandemic serves as a reminder that regional cooperation is essential to overcome natural and manmade disasters. (Source: Satnews)
05 May 20. Isotropic’s New Emergency Communications Panel Features Kymeta’s Flat Panel Antenna. Isotropic has now made available their new, Emergency Communications Platform (ECP) that is easily integrated into emergency vehicles to provide an instant means of communication, no matter where it is needed, allowing emergency managers to effectively coordinate a response using voice, data, and video services as well as manage available bandwidth.
With its compact design and just-add-power portability, the ECP can be installed on any vehicle in a fraction of the time of traditional solutions, without the need for large clusters of rooftop equipment that introduce more opportunities for technical difficulties. The ECP is built on a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) connection that automatically shifts between VSAT and LTE networks in microseconds.
The technology behind the ECP features the Kymeta™ GEO flat panel antenna with an integrated iQ 200 modem board from ST Engineering iDirect at its core, promising unfailing, always-on connectivity. This is coupled with the Isotropic Datadragon™ bandwidth management platform that puts the power to monitor, control, and optimize data usage in the hands of relief teams. The platform is supported by Isotropic’s customizable flat-rate flexible service plans designed to scale and work not only with the ECP, but also with pre-existing technology configurations.
Ryan Zbierski, Director, Mission Assurance, Isotropic, indicated that it is said that the first five minutes of an incident dictate the next five hours of its operations. It is essential that connectivity is made instantly available, wherever it’s needed. Isotropic’s software-defined solution enables first responders to share information from the outset and the worry is taken out of the communications so they can focus on the job at hand.
David Harrower, SVP of Global Sales, Kymeta, added that the company is proud to play a part in this innovative solution for emergency services. To see the Kymeta antenna playing such a key role in the ECP and enabling mobility of communications to the heart of where people need help means a great deal to the company. (Source: Satnews)
04 May 20. Cytta Corp. Sells Tech to their Primary VAR to Enhance Mission-Critical Comms. Cytta Corp. (OTCPINK: CYCA) has sold their SUPR Stream 2.0 Compression systems pursuant to the firm’s strategic partnership with a worldwide primary Value Added Reseller.
This VAR is a leading provider of classified government satellite services and has now successfully marketed the SUPR Stream 2.0 to their classified clients to enhance the capabilities of mission-critical communications.
The purchase order formally integrates Cytta’s proprietary low-bandwidth video compression product(s) with the VAR’s extensive remote communications systems integration offerings. The SUPR Stream technology enabled the VAR to create and market a proprietary solution for its military clients. By integrating and deploying the SUPR Stream compression product, the VAR is now providing their customers a new and advanced video delivery strategy.
This Agreement serves as a catalyst for Cytta to drive growth and market penetration into the nearly $5bn market for government and military satellite communications technologies. The SUPR Stream and IGAN products accelerate the provision of proprietary communication solutions and professional services to existing and new Government and IGO customers.
Video and audio streaming are one of the most important communication tools available to the military and first responders. SUPR Compression technology is currently utilized by the military to stream high-resolution video from anywhere on earth, with a low bandwidth connection. It provides the ability to deliver high-definition video in operationally constrained environments. Adding the IGAN Matrix to the system is vital to connecting remote personnel with those on the front lines allowing complete situational awareness through a real time Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop.
Gary Campbell, CEO of Cytta Corp., stated that this VAR is one of the largest remote communication service providers in the world and brings a wealth of experience, and strategic thinking that complements the company’s technology and products. This is a powerful opportunity for Cytta to significantly speed integration of our SUPR compression products to multiple clients across many industries. The VAR’s scale and global network focuses on providing communication solutions to existing and new government, IGO and NGO customers. Their reach combined with Cytta’s SUPR compression and IGAN communication products will allow the company to immediately serve a broader range of customers. (Source: Satnews)
08 May 20. GPS Fight Erupts As Trimble Accuses Ligado Of ‘Inaccurate’ Claims In FCC Ruling.
“Trimble does not have, and never had, a ‘coexistence agreement’ with Ligado,” a company spokesperson says.
Trimble, one of the the GPS manufacturers caught up in DoD’s battle to block the FCC’s approval of Ligado’s planned 5G mobile communications network, is accusing Ligado of misrepresentation.
“Ligado has made inaccurate statements about Trimble’s agreement with Ligado, and these inaccurate statements are reflected in the FCC’s decision,” a spokesperson told Breaking D in an email today.
Ligado has swung back, arguing that Trimble has simply changed its mind in the wake of objections by some of its major customers — which not surprisingly include DoD and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Trimble’s recent press statement obviously indicates they are simply heeding the call from a very large customer and, in the process, contradicting their own statements on the record that Trimble supports Ligado’s application,” Ligado said in a statement provided to Breaking D,
Breaking D reached out to Trimble, and a number of other firms Ligado says it has reached agreements with about its plans, asking for their positions on whether or not Ligado’s plans would impact their products. Ligado wants to convert L-band spectrum granted to them for satellite use to a terrestrially based 5G mobile communications network.
As Breaking D readers know, one of the key issues in the Ligado dispute between DoD and the Federal Communications Commission is whether the power level of the L-band signals Ligado plans to use in its cell towers will jam GPS satellite receivers, including many used by US military forces and made by companies like Trimble.
DoD head of Research and Engineering Mike Griffin made the argument forcefully in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 6, that Ligado’s 9.8 dbW broadcast power — an energy level equivalent to that emitted by a 10 watt lightbulb — will cause problems even for some jam-resistant receivers.
Drones An “Immediate Threat” – DoD Plans Rapid Acquisition of Counter-UAS Systems
Ligado, however, says there will be little or no negative interference. It also has told the FCC it has reached what it calls “co-existence agreements” with major receiver manufacturers like Trimble as an attestation to that fact.
In a May 6 letter to the SASC, obtained by Breaking D, Ligado said “the power level the GPS companies agreed to was 1600 Watts; the FCC approved 10 Watts.”
Ligado also notes in its letter to SASC that “these concessions, and the involvement of the GPS industry in developing them, were critical to the FCC’s decision to approve Ligado’s application.” (In addition, the company expressed concern that it was not invited to testify at the SASC hearing.)
Griffin, however, during his SASC testimony suggested that Ligado was playing fast and loose with the facts about its assertions that major GPS receiver vendors had signed off on its plans and supported the FCC’s April 22 decision to approve them.
“Ligado says that they got that sign off. But … those companies are on the list of those that [DoD CIO] Dana Deasy was just providing that have objected to to this order. So none of us, of course, have been in the deliberations between these various companies and Ligado, but I think it says something when they have, together and separately, objected to this decision.”
Ligado mentioned Trimble as one of the receiver firms with whom it reached an agreement in an April 12 letter to the FCC from the company’s legal counsel. But Trimble — one of the firms signing the objection letter mentioned by Griffin and Deasy — says that it has not made such an agreement.
“Trimble does not have, and never had, a ‘coexistence agreement’ with Ligado,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson elaborated:
“In 2016, Trimble entered into a limited settlement agreement with Ligado to resolve a lawsuit brought against Trimble by Ligado’s predecessor, LightSquared. As part of the settlement agreement, Trimble and Ligado agreed to support a specific package of proposals to the FCC for a period of two years. However, even under that settlement agreement, Trimble had the right to oppose Ligado’s proposed base station operations in spectrum adjacent to GPS, and Ligado’s proposed alternatives to the 1dB standard for determining harmful interference GPS.
That was Trimble’s position then and it remains Trimble’s position today. In any case, the relevant provisions of the agreement have expired, and Trimble supports efforts to overturn the FCC decision. A broad range of industries from airlines and agriculture to defense are calling for the FCC to rescind its decision. This is in addition to the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation and seven other key Federal agencies that have stated the decision puts their missions in jeopardy.”
Trimble was one of 71 private sector companies and associations objecting to the FCC approval of Ligado’s plan in a letter sent to the SASC on May 6. Companies signing the letter, provided to reporters by SASC Chairman James Inhofe’s office, ranged from key DoD providers of satellite services L3Harris and Iridium, to airline companies Delta and Southwest, to major shipping firms FedEx and UPS.
Ligado countered that: “As the documents in the public record show and consistent with the terms of a ‘Co-operation Agreement’ between Trimble and Ligado, a senior Trimble executive and lawyer participated with Ligado in meetings with government officials at the FCC and the DOT during which Trimble indicated that it ‘supports grant of the Applications.’ So, while ‘relevant provisions’ of our Agreement may have expired, Trimble’s obligation not to mislead federal agencies still stands.”
And in a May 20, 2016 letter to the FCC, obtained by Breaking D, Trimble legal counsel Russell Fox, from the law firm Minz Levin, stated that Trimble VP James Kirkland had expressed support for Ligado’s application.
In its May 6 letter, Ligado mentioned it also has agreements with Deere, Garmin, NovAtel and TopCon. None of those companies signed the May 6 objection letter to the SASC.
In an email today to Breaking D from Neil Gerein, director of marketing for the Autonomy & Positioning division of Hexagon, NovAtel’s Swedish parent firm, avoided directly addressing the Ligado case.
He simply pointed out that, in light of expected spectrum allocation changes, the firm “has been working to make our receivers more resilient.”
However, he added that “the coming spectrum change may significantly affect more than a half million units of older generation NovAtel receivers that were not designed to handle this new spectrum challenge.”
A 2018 letter to the FCC by Hexagon President for Positioning Intelligence Michael Ritter says that the firm decided to improve the resiliency of NovAtel’s receivers were, in part, as the result of an agreement reached with Ligado reached in 2016. The letter, obtained by Breaking D, further noted that Hexagon’s own analysis had determined that increased jam resistance would be required in future anyway, regardless of Ligado’s plans. Deere, Garmin and TopCon did not reply to our emails seeking comment. (Source: Defense News)
06 May 20. Firefly Aerospace Moves from the Development to the Production Phase with AS9100 Certification. Firefly Aerospace, Inc. has secured AS9100 quality certification as the firm advances from developmental to production phase ahead of the inaugural flight of their 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.
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 smallsat market by combining the highest payload performance, 1 metric ton to LEO and 630 kilograms to 500 kilometers 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.
Dr. Tom Markusic, Firefly CEO, said the company’s AS9100 certification marks a key milestone in the maturation of Firefly as the firm moves from development into the production phase of the Alpha launch vehicle. Firefly is well positioned to take on new contracts and development opportunities — Firefly blends heritage-space principles used to achieve high reliability with New Space nimbleness and flexibility, allowing us to rapidly develop economical and high-quality products.
Paul Garland, Firefly’s Director of Quality Assurance, who has nearly 35 years of experience driving quality operations for leading aerospace companies, noted that this important AS9100 certification formalizes the strict focus on quality that Firefly has always demanded of itself and its suppliers and partners. Firefly’s certified quality processes provide further assurance to commercial and government customers that the firm will successfully execute all critical space missions. (Source: Satnews)
04 May 20. ThinKom Goes Thin and Low Proving Antenna Interoperability on Ku-Band LEO Satellite Constellation. A series of interoperability tests were conducted that brought out very positive aspects for ThinKom Solutions, Inc., demonstrating m 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 50 ms.
Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom Solutions said that 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. 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: Satnews)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.