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03 Jun 20. Astroscale leaps into the satellite servicing fray. The American unit of Astroscale Holdings is entering the satellite life-extension market with the purchase of an Israeli company that specializes in developing on-orbit servicing solutions.
Astroscale U.S. has acquired Effective Space Solutions, which develops life-extension solutions for satellites in geostationary orbit, or GEO. In addition to adding ESS’ intellectual property to its portfolio, Astroscale is hiring all of the company’s staff to form Astroscale Israel Ltd., which will remain in that country and serve as Astroscale’s research and development group for geostationary satellite life-extension services.
Astroscale, a global company based in Japan, is best known for its efforts to remove space debris from orbit. The company expects to demonstrate its end-of-life service later this year, which will see an Astroscale space vehicle capture debris and de-orbit it.
But with this purchase the company is scaling up its understanding of — and ambitions for — on-orbit servicing.
“Really, we’ve started thinking about the debris remediation part of the market as a subset of on-orbit services. It’s one thing you can do once you have a satellite up there that can rendezvous and dock with other satellites,” said Ron Lopez, president and managing director of Astroscale U.S. “We’re bringing all of those resources to bear to move into the GEO life-extension business, to complement what we’re doing in [low Earth orbit] LEO on the debris and the situational space awareness side.”
Astroscale claims that with its debris removal efforts in LEO and its new GEO life-extension effort, the company is now the only business solely dedicated to on-orbit servicing across all orbital regimes. Eventually, Astroscale could add satellite refueling, repair, upgrading, towing, salvage, situational space awareness and on-orbit manufacturing to its future portfolio for logistics services.
But for now, the company is focused on providing life-extension services — supplanting the exhausted fuel reserves of a client satellite with the propulsion provided by an attached space vehicle. ESS’ Space Drone platform will be used as the base for Astroscale’s first life-extension vehicle.
Lopez couldn’t give a timeline for when the first life-extension mission would begin, stating that the timeline would be driven by customer demand. He added that he is in talks with potential customers.
Astroscale will face some stiff competition as it enters the still nascent satellite-servicing market. SpaceLogistics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, successfully docked its own space vehicle with a commercial GEO satellite in February, marking the beginning of the first-ever commercial satellite life-extension mission.
SpaceLogistics has also made important inroads with the Department of Defense. The company is working with the DoD to study the feasibility of providing life-extension services to four military satellites. And shortly after the firm’s successful docking with a commercial satellite in February, the company announced it will partner with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to field a pair of government-built robotic arms for on-orbit repairs.
Astroscale also sees the DoD as an important customer for any GEO servicing efforts.
“U.S. strategy right now is very heavily focused on space, specifically on building resiliency and achieving greater operational flexibility, which this kind of capability will allow U.S. government customers to do,” Lopez said.
The company does not have any DoD contracts to date, but Lopez said it’s in communication with key U.S. government stakeholders and has presented its solution to DoD representatives. Lopez also sees strong commercial interest in on-orbit servicing, which underpins the company’s business plan and would allow the government to leverage commercial prices.
Ultimately, Lopez believes Astroscale is well-positioned to compete.
“Even though we’re small, we’re nimble and we have a real, meaningful global footprint,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
02 Jun 20. Spacecom, Space Force Officials Discuss Planetary Defense, Astronaut Launch. It’s possible one day an asteroid may threaten the Earth and the threat would need to be mitigated — possibly by the U.S. military. It’s a scenario considered in a paper titled “Whither Space Power?” co-authored by two Air Force officers in 2002.
“Should be found on a collision course, whose job should it be to divert the threat, and how?” wrote Air Force Maj. Gen. John Shaw — then a major — and his co-author, Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon Worden. “It is our view that an organization the people have placed their lives in the hands of for the past several centuries — the U.S. military — is best suited to provide protection from either natural or man-made threats.”
Today, Shaw is dual-hatted as commander of the Combined Force Space Component within U.S. Space Command, and also serves as commander of Space Operations Command within the newly created U.S. Space Force.
During a June 1 webinar sponsored by SpaceNews, he explained what “planetary defense” is.
“Planetary defense, as we talk about it in the space community today, refers to defense of the planet against asteroids, natural threats … that could potentially collide with the Earth with calamitous results,” Shaw said.
Shaw said today NASA has an office responsible for cataloging things within the solar system that potentially could threaten the Earth.
While he said that years ago he was on board with the idea that the Defense Department might be primarily responsible for dealing with those kinds of threats to the planet, today he has more of an open mind about how those threats might be mitigated.
“We’re happy to team with NASA in that regard,” he said. “If a small asteroid or meteorite did hit the Earth, there would be some sort of emergency management response on the part of our nation to support wherever that landed, and the Department of Defense would be happy to be a teammate in that regard.”
Shaw also discussed the May 30 launch of NASA astronauts Air Force Col. Robert L. Behnken and retired Marine Corps Col. Douglas G. Hurley into space from Kennedy Space Center in Florida as part of NASA’s Demo-2 mission.
An important part of that launch, he said, involved Defense Department personnel being ready to recover those astronauts if the mission failed and they had to return to Earth. The Defense Department has done the mission before — for the space shuttle, he noted, but it’s been a long time since recovery personnel have had to be ready to retrieve astronauts from a capsule such as the “Crew Dragon” craft that was used in the Demo-2 mission.
“We really [had] to go back to 1975 to remember when we were last supporting capsules for personal recovery operations,” he said. “And that’s a whole different profile in terms of mission planning and contingency scenarios than the shuttle.”
The space shuttle, he said, could maneuver and land at an airfield, if needed. Not so with a capsule.
“A capsule doesn’t have that maneuverability, but it has the possibility of landing just about anywhere, and it can land just about anywhere,” he said. “That means our ability to support that … has to be able to cover that total footprint, and that’s different.”
Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Thompson serves as commander of Detachment 3 of the 45th Space Wing’s 45th Operations Group. His detachment was responsible for being ready if anything went wrong with the Demo-2 mission and astronauts needed to be retrieved.
“The last two years have really been kind of the fourth quarter, getting ready for this,” he said. “We’ve been working with Boeing and SpaceX, especially SpaceX, over the last year as we finalized and put the finishing touches on the tactics, techniques and procedures for this rescue scenario.”
Thompson said his detachment is actually small — about 30 people. And for the last year that small team was preparing for the launch of the Demo-2 mission. When the launch approached, he said, “Task Force 45” stood up, and the team grew to about 150 personnel. That’s still much smaller than what was available in the 1970s for Apollo missions, he said, which included as many as 6,000 personnel, 24 aircraft and seven Navy ships.
“Today we posture, like I said, 150 members,” he said. They also have eight aircraft at their disposal, in three different locations.
“Over the last couple years, we’ve been putting those plans together,” he said. “We went through this last weekend. It went exactly as we had planned, where we were on alert … once the Merlin engines fired up. That’s really when our mission began.”
He said the team is ready for medical evacuation support three hours prior to liftoff, but it’s when the rocket fires up that they are really expected to be ready to go.
“It’s really exciting, you know, to see that the team of professionals here are some of the best,” Thompson said. “When we talk about combat search and rescue professionals worldwide, these are the men and women that we look to. The same pararescuemen that are saving lives in the combat theater in Iraq, have been in Afghanistan, doing global ops, those are the same pararescuemen that are here executing this mission.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Douglas A. Schiess, commander of 45th Space Wing, said the May 30 launch involved weather issues up until about 30 minutes prior, and that there had also been issues with the Eastern Range that supports both Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Those issues, he said, had been cleared up by range technicians in time for successful launch, however.
“Once we got about four minutes to go, I knew we were going to be good,” Schiess said. “Then my activity really was focused on Task Force 45, where the men and women of Det. 3 and airmen across the Air Force came together, and across the world.”
Det. 3, he said, had been preparing for its mission for several years.
“This team, they are a bunch of rescue experts and they do an incredible job,” he said. “I can’t just say anymore how proud I am of the men and women of the 45th Space Wing, Det. 3, and the Task Force 45 for the efforts that we did over the last couple weeks, and specifically this weekend, all the way up to docking and then watching our two astronauts, Bob and Doug, go through the hatch into the International Space Station.”
29 May 20. 2 SOPS performs first GPS III maneuver. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron performed the first station keeping maneuver on a GPS III satellite to Satellite Vehicle Number 75 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, May 14.
The maneuver set a new standard for how GPS maneuvers should be conducted for the squadron that provides precision, navigation and timing signals to billions of users around the world.
A station keeping maneuver is performed to keep vehicles in their node (or parking spots in orbit) and involves burning the satellite’s thrusters and changing the vehicles speed at a particular point in its orbit. This causes the orbit to change, in turn, keeping the vehicle in the ideal position to provide coverage.
“All operational GPS vehicles are assigned nodes, when all nodes are filled with healthy vehicles there is good global GPS coverage,” said 1st Lt. Michael Gallagher, GPS subsystems analyst. “When new vehicles are launched they typically aren’t launched directly into their final node. This means that the 2 SOPS analysis flight must perform a re-phase maneuver to put a vehicle in its node.”
The maneuver required GPS III’s signal to be turned off. Turning off the navigation signal while performing the maneuver prevents users from receiving inaccuracies generated by a change in satellite velocity.
“This was a new process that we could learn from as it was the first station keeping [maneuver] performed for the newest generation of GPS satellites,” said Senior Airman Harrison Sherwood, 2nd SOPS satellite systems operator, who sent the commands to the satellite during the maneuver. “[Since] this was the first [maneuver] of the newest generation satellites, it was a bit of a guinea pig for future maneuvers.”
However, the unit was able to complete the maneuver flawlessly. The maneuver was completed in a special mission area and there were no changes to the normal operations floor.
“This maneuver had no effect on the rest of the [GPS satellite] constellation,” Gallagher said. “SVN-45 was in the node SVN-75 was being placed into, so there was no decrease in GPS signal quality as a result of this maneuver.”
This procedure was also the first of its kind to be performed with the 2nd SOPS Architecture Evolution Plan, which all active satellites in the program are operated. Since GPS III vehicles are fully integrated into the program with this maneuver, all maintenance is conducted through AEP.
“Station keeping maneuvers are essential to satellite operations and must be done for regular maintenance,” said 2nd Lt. Tyler Gorman, 2nd SOPS navigation payload engineer. “This activity helped validate a nominal maintenance activity for a new generation of vehicles.”
The unit plans to continue to use this new method and program for future GPS satellites that are being launched and need to be re-phased into their operation slots. The next satellite that will need a station maneuver performed is SVN-76, which is scheduled to launch in the next few months.
“GPS maintenance requires a coordinated effort to ensure our worldwide service is preserved,” Gorman said. “That means careful planning and execution from our analysts in 2 SOPS, our satellite system operator and the operational support from Lockheed Martin and the Aerospace Corporation.”
29 May 20. Following pandemic delay, three US spy satellites set for New Zealand launch. The launch of three U.S. intelligence satellites from New Zealand has been rescheduled for June 11 following a months-long delay caused by COVID-19. Originally slated for March 27, the launch of the three National Reconnaissance Office payloads was postponed after the New Zealand government issued restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, requiring most businesses to close, restricting travel and keeping people to stay home. In a statement provided to C4ISRNET at the time, the NRO said it supported the company’s action.
“This decision was made with the full support of the NRO, and we continue to engage with our partners at Rocket Lab as they work with the New Zealand government and local health officials to determine when launch operations can resume,” said Laura Lundin, an NRO spokesperson. “The launch vehicle and ground systems will remain in a state of readiness for launch as the evolving situation allows.”
Those restrictions have since eased, and small launch provider Rocket Lab said the mission’s launch window will commence June 11 from it’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.
Dubbed “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the mission will include three NRO payloads launched as a rideshare on the company’s Electron rocket along with payloads from NASA and a collaboration between the University of New South Wales Canberra Space and the Australian Government. This will be the company’s 12th Electron mission.
Details about the NRO payloads are protected, the agency said.
The NRO first teamed up with Rocket Lab for the launch of NROL-151 from New Zealand in January. That launch was the first to be procured under the Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract vehicle, a mechanism adopted in 2018 to leverage the growing commercial small satellite launch market.
“Under this approach, RASR allows the NRO to have a path to greater NRO launch resiliency and responsiveness. By leveraging commercial space launch capabilities where possible, the NRO can put space capabilities on orbit in a cost-effective manner,” the agency stated on Twitter March 9. (Source: Defense News)
29 May 20. Prototype of new SpaceX rocket Starship explodes on Texas test pad. A prototype of SpaceX’s upcoming heavy-lift rocket, Starship, exploded on Friday during ground tests in south Texas as Elon Musk’s space company pursued an aggressive development schedule to fly the launch vehicle for the first time.
The testing explosion was unrelated to SpaceX’s upcoming launch of two NASA astronauts from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center using a different rocket system, the Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule fixed on top.
A prototype vanished in an explosive fireball at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test site on Friday, as seen in a livestream recorded by the website NASA Spaceflight. There was no immediate indication of injuries. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Starship, a rocket standing 394 feet tall, is designed to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo to the moon and Mars. It is the space company’s planned next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle, the center of Musk’s ambitions to make human space travel affordable.
The south Texas facility sits beside a small neighborhood that SpaceX has been trying to buy up for testing space, but some residents have pushed back on the company’s offers and have accused Musk’s attorneys of unrealistically low property appraisals.
SpaceX was among the three companies awarded a combined $1bn by NASA last month to develop rocket systems capable of ferrying cargo and humans to the moon. SpaceX proposed Starship for the award.
The FAA granted the space company a license Thursday to begin Starship’s first suborbital flight tests, though it was unclear when those tests would occur. (Source: Reuters)
29 May 20. DOD Announces Two Defense Production Act Title 3 COVID-19 Projects to Support the Space Defense Industrial Base: $12.45m Investment to Improve Domestic Semiconductor Production and $6m to Expand Domestic Production of Satellite Solar Array Panels.
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman: “As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense has signed a $12.45m contract award with 5N Plus Semiconductor to improve semiconductor production processes to support long term business viability and maintain the sole domestic source of critical semiconductor technologies for space programs.
Located in St. George, Utah, where the project will be performed over the anticipated 39 months. This agreement will support 5N Plus Semiconductors’ product and process capability integration with U.S. space satellite suppliers to complete development and qualification of next-generation semiconductor products and technologies.
The Department of Defense has also signed a $6m contract with SolAero Technologies to sustain critical domestic industrial base capability for satellite solar array panels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, SolAero Technologies will expand its domestic production capability and capacity for advanced satellite solar cells and panels.
SolAero will accomplish this by addressing critical capabilities and capacity to integrate advanced solar cells into Covered Interconnected Cells (CICs) and Photovoltaic Assemblies (PVAs). This will enable SolAero to retain critical workforce capabilities throughout the disruption caused by COVID-19 and to restore some jobs lost because of the pandemic.
Both Defense Production Act Title 3 contracts support the Space Defense Industrial Base, and use funds authorized and appropriated under the CARES Act.
The Department remains closely partnered with FEMA and HHS, providing almost $2.5bn in lifesaving supplies and equipment to service members and federal agencies in the nation’s whole-of-government approach to the coronavirus pandemic.” (Source: US DoD)
27 May 20. Raytheon Intelligence & Space Will be Able to Scan the Entire U.S. in Less Than a Minute. Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business, is conducting a design study for Real Time Imager, or RTI, a geostationary orbit environmental imager under a contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Over the next six months, the company will assess a different approach to environmental imaging based on a methodology known as step-and-stare imaging. The approach enables more efficient high-resolution data collection across wide areas of Earth.
The team will look at trade studies on two different architectures using cooled and uncooled infrared detectors. Both studies are based on mature hardware designs found in a wide-range of RI&S programs, including Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System programs.
Equipped with a day-night band, RTI will be able to observe storms across the full Earth disk at visible wavelengths at any time. The company is exploring additional bands for RTI that could improve fire detection and examine ocean colors, coastal waters and aerosols.
At the conclusion of the study contract, NOAA will use the results to support future observing system decisions.
Jeff Puschell, principal engineering fellow, Space Systems for RI&S, stated that with this method, the company can cover the entire continental U.S. in much less than a minute. Once an image is captured, all of the data to the ground will be received within seconds. This will give meteorologists and forecasters a more complete data-set faster than what they have today. (Source: Satnews)
28 May 20. Kleos Space and Global Spatial Technology Solutions’ MOU Enhances Maritime Domain Awareness. Kleos Space S.A. (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1) has partnered with GSTS to provide enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness capability to GSTS’s OCIANA product suite.
GSTS (Global Spatial Technology Solutions) is a wholly-owned Canadian company that provides innovative decision-support solutions for the maritime market through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data analytics. GSTS predictive technologies empower future-friendly decision-making to help the maritime, security, logistics and service sectors navigate tomorrow… today.
Kleos data will provide a valuable addition to GSTS services and data solutions by supporting vessel detection, classification and identification.
Kleos’ Scouting Mission satellites that are in Chennai, India, awaiting launch on Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) PSLV C49, will detect and geolocate maritime radio frequency transmissions to provide global activity-based intelligence, enhancing the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of governments and commercial entities when Automatic Identification System (AIS) is defeated, imagery unclear or targets out of patrol range.
Kleos’ satellites will be in a 37-degree inclination orbit, covering crucial shipping regions for defense and security customers including the Strait of Hormuz, South China Sea, Australian coast, Southern US coast as well as the East and West African coast.
The Memorandum of Agreement signed by Kleos and GSTS allows for investigating opportunities to collaborate and develop marketable solutions; and to implement a scenario and demonstration to validate the technical feasibility and usability of collaborative solutions with the initial data licence procured for demonstration and assessment purposes.
Andy Bowyer, the Kleos CEO, said the company’s satellites and data will enhance GSTS capabilities when fused with other data sets in their innovative OCIANA environment, assisting in the goal to provide greater insights, detecting illegal activities and threats for their customers.
Richard Kolacz, the GSTS CEO, commented that Kleos will add another powerful data set to the OCIANA product suite to further enhance their maritime situational awareness capability and improve the firm’s ability to detect and predict vessel activity to support defense, civil and commercial solutions. (Source: Satnews)
26 May 20. Thales Alenia Space to Lead PROMISE Project for the Creation of 100 Percent European-Built Satellites. Thales Alenia Space leads the consortium of a project called PROMISE (PROgrammable MIxed Signal Electronics) that will provide technological independence to Europe in future space missions and guarantee its competitiveness in the field.
PROMISE, which will debut in 2022, is an integral part of the HORIZON 2020 research and innovation program of the European Commission, which has European autonomy in space as one of its pillars. The European aerospace industry depends today on non-European countries, such as the USA, where most of the Mixed Signal ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) are produced, the electronic chips considered to be the “brains” of the satellites and one of the elements that are more costly to produce.
The PROMISE project will develop a library of blocks designed and tested to be used in these chips, allowing to cut by one third the lead time of these satellite components and to sensibly reducing its cost.
Eduardo Bellido, the CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain, said the company is proud to lead from Spain a revolutionary and pioneering initiative in the continent that will enable the development of satellites fully “Made in Europe.” PROMISE will position the European space industry at the forefront of cost-competitive solutions and enable participating companies to take a leading role in the space projects of the future.
This is a fully innovative concept of a library open to all countries in the European Union that will contain the processing units for future space missions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth Observation (EO) and exploration.
According to Ángel Álvaro, who is responsible for R&D at Thales Alenia Space, added that this system of blocks already existed in the digital arena but not in the analog arena. The company will be able to build in a single chip systems that include both parts, thereby sensibly reducing the cost and size of the circuits. From taking measurements, to controlling a camera, controlling a motor… all within a single chip. This is really an important step for the future of the European space industry.”
Moreover, a prototype chip will be produced to guarantee the proper functionality of all library contents. The project team estimates a 20 to 40% reduction in the lead time for new Mixed Signal ASIC fully based on the PROMISE library. In terms of cost, the design and production of a new Mixed Signal ASIC will be reduced by a factor of 5, meaning that the number of recurrent units needed to make a new design profitable will go from 200 (with the current technology) down to 85.
This project will enable the design of many of the chips that will be used in future satellite megaconstellations. Considering a single ASIC based on PROMISE per constellation, it means a volume close to 3,000 units over 5 years. The project follows the trends in the sector: the space market is increasingly trending toward satellite miniaturization and mass production for constellations, drastically reducing production costs and accelerating development cycles. These trends, combined with initiatives to reduce launch costs, will make space more accessible to the independent private sector, scientists, academia and the population at large.
Thales Alenia Space in Spain is leading the PROMISE consortium along with major satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space in France, plus the small businesses ISD (Greece) and MENTA (France), and the R&T institutes IMEC (Belgium), IT (Portugal) and VTT (Finland). The PROMISE project was officially kicked off in Tres Cantos (Madrid) on January 24, 2020.
Despite the current global situation caused by COVID-19, the partners have already started working on the project. The final results will be presented to end-users and the general public in a workshop scheduled for the second half of 2022. (Source: Satnews)
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