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19 Jun 20. UK scales back plans for £5bn rival to Galileo satellite system. Work under way to see if much cheaper navigation platform via struggling OneWeb is feasible. Ministers are set to scale back plans for a £5bn sovereign satellite navigation system — a project championed as a symbol of post-Brexit Britain — and are considering a groundbreaking alternative that would cost billions less and could draw US support. Former prime minister Theresa May announced plans for a British rival to the EU’s Galileo system in 2018 when the UK was kicked out of the satellite project after Brexit; Boris Johnson endorsed the plan last year shortly after succeeding her. Mr Johnson’s allies confirmed the government was reviewing “Theresa May’s plan”, amid warnings about its high cost, but work is under way to see if Britain could develop a much cheaper satellite navigation capacity at a fraction of the estimated £5bn price.
Officials are exploring the potential for a system that would deliver the same civil and military tracking services as Galileo and GPS of the US while operating at a lower altitude and on a different frequency. Commercial space is entering a new fast phase. I’m not sure it’s worth spending £5bn over eight years to build a ‘me too’ GPS service David Morris, parliamentary space committee One option is to use OneWeb, the UK-licensed satellite operator that collapsed in March, as the platform for the new technology. Industry estimates say it would cost roughly $1bn to develop. OneWeb, which has 74 satellites in low earth orbit and plans for several hundred more, is further ahead on regulatory approvals than rivals, say several people close to the discussions. However, any such proposal would require government support for OneWeb, which is the focus of a bidding war after entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three months ago. It would also require UK-based OneWeb to be sold to a British bidder. Late last week Boris Johnson ordered ministers to move quickly to convene a meeting of the National Space Council, which has been in limbo since its launch a year ago, to fast-track decisions on a UK navigation service, as well as a series of other space-related initiatives. People close to the situation said no firm decision on the preferred option had yet been taken by the government and it remained “finely balanced”.
But officials have consulted Airbus, the UK’s leading satellite maker, has confirmed that a low earth orbit navigation system could be developed at substantially lower cost. Moreover, the US is pushing its partner in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance to avoid replicating the GPS system, said three people with knowledge of the situation. “The Americans do not think a British Galileo would be sufficiently different to GPS,” said one. “They understand the vulnerabilities of GPS. They want something technologically different.” US officials had been drawn to the idea that key navigation technology could be “hidden in plain sight” on up to 80 of OneWeb’s planned 648 satellites, making them harder to compromise, according to two people who held discussions with both US defence officials and the UK government.
Stuart Martin, chief executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult, told the Financial Times that while it would be challenging to develop this “cutting-edge” technology on satellites at low orbit, the UK had the expertise and it would be highly exportable. “This would offer something genuinely different that enhances GPS,” he said. “It is another way to achieve a global system at lower cost and it makes more economic sense.” OneWeb, which has been locked in discussions with officials for several weeks, has pledged to move satellite production from Florida in the US to the UK if management wins government support for its bid. However, the company will also have to raise at least $1.5bn from private investors to fund the launch of the remainder of its satellites. The group was forced into bankruptcy protection after failing to secure funding from investors including its biggest backer SoftBank. David Morris, the Tory MP who chairs the parliamentary space committee, said the UK should seize the opportunity to support OneWeb. “Commercial space is entering a new fast phase. I’m not sure it’s worth spending £5bn over eight years to build a ‘me too’ GPS service. The government could put a fraction of that into the LEO OneWeb system, securing a global commercial operation for the UK.” (Source: FT.com)
19 Jun 20. Space Force invokes Defense Production Act to prop up small launch market. The Space and Missile Systems Center will award ride-share contracts to six small launch providers under the Defense Production Act, providing support to a market the Pentagon has repeatedly said is vulnerable to coronavirus-related financial restraints.
The six companies approved by the Industrial Base Council are Aevum, Astra, X-BOW, Rocket Lab USA, Space Vector and VOX Space. Each company will be awarded sole-source contracts for two ride-share missions to be conducted over the next 24 months. The value of the contracts was not included in the announcement originally posted on SAM.gov on June 16.
Funding for the 12 ride-share missions will come from the Defense Production Act Title III funding effort, which is backed by the recently passed coronavirus relief act.
The Pentagon has singled out the small launch market as being particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last few months. On April 20, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord warned that the small launch market was one of three sectors she was most worried about.
In a later statement to C4ISRNET, the Space and Missile Systems Center elaborated on her remarks.
“There is concern that the current financial and market constraints resulting from the COVID-19 have reduced funding sources necessary to continue development and operations for the nascent small launch industry,” said Col. Rob Bongiovi, director of SMC’s launch enterprise directorate. “Much of the industry have limited flight capability or are in the critical transition from development to flight and this funding restriction may prevent or delay these systems. The Space and Missile Systems Center is evaluating the impacts to the small launch industrial base to consider actions to enable a robust U.S. launch industrial base.”
In response, the Space Force Acquisition Council held an emergency meeting with representatives from the U.S. Space Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Space Development Agency and others. A survey was sent out to members of the Space Enterprise Consortium to see how the Defense Department could help.
SMC Commander Lt. Gen. John “JT” Thompson hinted earlier in the week that Defense Production Act awards would be forthcoming for the small launch market.
“In the small launch environment, Secretary Lord and [U.S. Space Force Service Acquisition Executive Will] Roper have both commented about how important small launch is to our enterprise, and I can’t give you the details right now but I would anticipate here very shortly some very critical Defense Production Act awards to our small launch providers to keep that industry going,” Thompson said. (Source: Defense News)
19 Jun 20. Saber Astronautics grant to support emerging space companies. Sydney-based Saber Astronautics has announced the launch of a new program to open source software to connect satellites to mission control centres. Called the Open Source Space Operations project, or OSSO, the aim is to make it easier for new space companies to rapidly deploy their missions.
This project received grant funding from the Australian government’s International Space Investment: Expand Capability grant opportunity. The value of the grant is $788,792.
OSSO’s objective is to solve the bespoke nature of infrastructure needed to operate a space mission. The open sourcing of Saber’s operational infrastructure and making components available for free via the OSSO platform will allow any new space team to collaborate in a way which avoids competitive angst, builds on lessons learned, and allows for iterative improvement.
New missions will quickly close the loop between spacecraft prototype and live flights.
A number of Saber’s technologies forming the OSSO project will be introduced in stages, including ways to connect Mission Control Centres, satellite dishes and commonly used satellite standards.
“OSSO will further lower the barriers to space for organisations, for example, smallsat operators and university programs. It will give people access to a full ground station system with space heritage that can be used by anyone, anywhere without vendor lock-in,” said Aidan O’Brien, Saber’s head of infrastructure and analytics.
This project supports the mission operation for the Breakthrough Initiatives’ TOLIMAN spacecraft. TOLIMAN’s main payload is a 10cm class space telescope to prospect for Earth-like planets around our nearest neighbour star system, Alpha Centauri.
When it flies, TOLIMAN will be the largest privately-funded astronomical space telescope to have been launched. Its audacious blue-sky science ambition will deliver an immediate and high profile Australian-led space asset supporting world-class research.
Saber’s CEO, Dr Jason Held, explained the importance of this mission, saying, “Billion-dollar space telescopes such as Hubble and James Webb are workhorses for astronomy but huge cost and weight make them difficult to access. There is a whole universe to explore, so a targeted mission like TOLIMAN is actually quite refreshing.”
Smaller spacecraft are orders of magnitude cheaper, creating new opportunities. For Australians, the trend has resulted in a virtual boom economy as the space sector sets to triple over the next 10 years.
For example, there are nearly 600 new satellites commissioned for manufacture by Australia alone — nearly half of the number operational satellites in orbit worldwide.
The OSSO Project is led by Saber Astronautics, and is supported by a strong collective of Australian and international organisations who will be the first stakeholders. A community hub will be released so members of the public can interact with the space community and collaborate with Australia. (Source: Space Connect)
19 Jun 20. Australian space industry to benefit from $11m in grants. Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews has announced $11m worth of grants to support the growth of Australia’s space sector and create local jobs, including improving GPS technology and the design of innovative spacesuits that will make spacewalking easier.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister, Karen Andrews said the 10 projects sharing in $11m would boost jobs and skills in the space sector, and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The space industry is a key growth sector that will form an important part of our economic recovery and help us emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever,” Minister Andrews said.
“Investment in the space sector not only supports the creation of high tech jobs here in Australia, but also develops technologies that can support other areas of competitive advantage for our nation including agriculture and mining.
“This support will strengthen Australian business and university connections with international industry and space agencies, helping our businesses to prove themselves on the global stage and potentially secure more work in the future,” Minister Andrews explained.
Dr Megan Clark AC, head of the Australian Space Agency, said the projects showed Australia’s ability to develop highly advanced technology, diversify our economy and build workforce skills to participate internationally.
The 10 projects include:
- Melbourne University ($3,955,223) for its SpIRIT (Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal) CubeSat mission, which involves the development of an innovative nano-satellite. SpIRIT will be the first Australian-made spacecraft to host a foreign space agency payload;
- Akin ($1,531,200) to develop an artificial intelligence space crew with personas working together to help astronauts with complex system tests;
- Silentium Defence Trading ($1,460,541) for its South Australian Multi-Sensor Space Observatory for space situational awareness and space traffic management;
- Human Aerospace ($844,236) to create a spacesuit that eases bone loss and other unhealthy side effects of microgravity during prolonged space missions.
- Skykraft ($878,193) for its design and qualification of micro-satellite constellation launch systems;
- Saber Astronautics Australia ($788,792) for OSSO: The Open Source Space Operations infrastructure;
- University of New South Wales ($691,500) for its Advanced Global Navigation Satellite System Receiver for CubeSats, rockets and remote sensing;
- University of Canberra ($432,494) for its VertiSense-Mitigation of Sensorimotor Effects of Simulated Weightlessness, a project to counter sensorimotor disturbances experienced by astronauts after spaceflight;
- Stamen Engineering ($217,821) for its Decision Support System for Collision Avoidance of Space Objects; and
- Raytracer ($200,000) for its Underwater Virtual Reality Training Simulations for Astronauts.
“These outstanding projects demonstrate the breadth and quality that our small and medium sized companies and researchers have to offer, from space suits to advanced chip manufacturing,” Dr Clark said. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Jun 20. Defense Space Strategy Addresses Militarization, Competition. The Defense Department’s newly released Defense Space Strategy addresses new realities in space: great power competition and militarization of the domain, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy said.
“The Defense Space Strategy provides strategic direction for departmentwide changes to policies, doctrine, capabilities, operations and partnerships, to ensure U.S. space superiority, to secure our nation’s vital interests in space,” Stephen L. Kitay told reporters during a news conference yesterday at the Pentagon. “Our desired conditions are a secure, stable and accessible space domain.”
The new strategy, he said, involves maintaining space superiority; providing space support to the national, joint and combined operations; and ensuring space stability. The department will achieve these conditions with four lines of effort:
- Building a comprehensive military advantage in space;
- Integrating military space power into national, joint and combined operations;
- Shaping the strategic environment; and
- Cooperating with allies, partners, industry and other U.S. government departments and agencies.
“The Defense Space Strategy lays out a path that embraces space as a unique domain of national military power, and together with other domains, underpins joint and combined operations to advance national security,” Kitay said.
The new strategy comes as the intelligence community has begun to understand that competitors are now moving aggressively into the space domain and have made efforts to weaponize it, Kitay told reporters.
“China and Russia have weaponized space and turned it into a warfighting domain,” he said. “Their actions pose the greatest strategic threat with the ongoing development, testing and deployment of counterspace systems and the associated military doctrine designed to hold the allied and U.S. space systems at risk.”
As examples, Kitay said China and Russia are now developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities and ground based anti-satellite missiles to achieve their own goals in space.
He cited two reports — “Challenges to Security in Space” by the Defense Intelligence Agency and “Competing in Space” by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center — in providing examples of both Russian and Chinese militarization of space.
“These documents will tell you that China and Russia are developing and planning to use capabilities that threaten our space systems and those of our allies,” he said. “Since last year, when those [reports were released], China and Russia have been conducting highly sophisticated on-orbit activities, which pose unprecedented new dangers to U.S. and allied space systems.”
Kitay said he believes the United States is still ahead of Russia and China in space, but that the lead is diminishing rapidly and the U.S. is “absolutely at risk” with the pace at which they are developing capability.
“The Defense Space Strategy lays out a path that embraces space as a unique domain of national military power, and together with other domains, underpins joint and combined operations to advance national security,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
19 Jun 20. Honeywell Launches World’s Smallest Satellite Communications Technology for UAVs. Honeywell has launched its smallest, lightest satellite communications system yet, specifically designed for unmanned aerial vehicles. Weighing in at only one kilogram (2.2 pounds), the new system is 90% lighter than Honeywell’s smallest connectivity system and will bring some of the same connectivity capabilities enjoyed by larger aircraft to smaller unmanned vehicles in the air or on land.
Satellite communications, or SATCOM, is a broad category of critical technologies that helps connect aircraft to each other and to operators or air traffic control on the ground. Also within this category are technologies that make in-flight Wi-Fi or fleet tracking possible.
“Transportation as we know it is changing rapidly, and the need for connectivity is only becoming more important. As platforms evolve and new vehicles start operating both on land and in the air, it’s critical that satellite communications technology evolves alongside them,” said Amanda King, vice president and general manager, Aerospace Connected Secure Solutions, Honeywell Connected Enterprise. “Honeywell’s small UAV SATCOM system is a game-changer for these smaller unmanned aircraft that previously couldn’t be equipped with satellite communications. Now, they’ve got access to everything we’ve come to expect from the large-aircraft experience — just in a smaller package.”
The Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system, powered by Inmarsat’s global satellite communications network, provides unmanned aerial vehicles with global connectivity and real-time video streaming. Seamless connectivity, delivered through Inmarsat’s comprehensive satellite network, is essential for safe and efficient air traffic management that enables beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) capabilities. BVLOS allows unmanned aircraft to be operated remotely at scale, beyond the pilot’s field of view. This technology can be used for a variety of applications, including unmanned aerial vehicle inspections, where it is estimated to double or triple daily inspection capacity. The combination of the Honeywell Small UAV SATCOM system and Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity can keep vehicles connected even in remote areas or over water where other ground-based communications systems, such as 4G, are not available.
Traditionally, satellite communications systems have been available only for larger aircraft due to the large size, weight and power requirements. Now, with a new customizable design that’s 30% lighter than competing systems, Honeywell’s Small UAV SATCOM system can be installed in different locations on the vehicle to accommodate a wider range of platforms while ensuring safety of flight and avoiding unnecessary bulk.
Honeywell’s satellite communications systems provide operators, passengers and crew with reliable, consistent connectivity throughout the world. They serve a range of needs, including in-flight connectivity for voice and data-streaming in the cockpit and the cabin, as well as fleet tracking and aircraft management. (Source: UAS VISION)
17 Jun 20. Department of Defense Releases Defense Space Strategy. Today the Secretary for Defense released the Defense Space Strategy, which identifies how Department of Defense will advance spacepower to be able to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.
“The Defense Space Strategy is the next step to ensure space superiority and to secure the Nation’s vital interests in space now and in the future,” said Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper. “We desire a secure, stable, and accessible space domain that underpins our Nation’s security, prosperity, and scientific achievement. However, our adversaries have made space a warfighting domain and we have to implement enterprise-wide changes to policies, strategies, operations, investments, capabilities, and expertise for this new strategic environment. This strategy identifies a phased approach on how we are going to achieve the desired conditions in space over the next 10 years.”
Through the strategy, DOD will advance spacepower through the pursuit of three objectives: Maintain Space Superiority; Provide Space Support to National, Joint, and Combined Operations; and Ensure Space Stability.
Additionally, the Department will pursue four priority lines of effort to achieve the desired conditions while addressing identified threats, opportunities, and challenges:
- Build a comprehensive military advantage in space.
- Integrate military spacepower into national, joint, and combined operations.
- Shape the strategic environment.
- Cooperate with allies, partners, industry, and other U.S. Government departments and agencies.
The unclassified summary of the Defense Space Strategy is available here https://media.defense.gov/2020/Jun/17/2002317391/-1/-1/1/2020_DEFENSE_SPACE_STRATEGY_SUMMARY.PDF
A Defense Space Strategy Fact Sheet is also available here https://media.defense.gov/2020/Jun/17/2002317392/-1/-1/1/2020_DEFENSE_SPACE_STRATEGY_FACTSHEET.PDF (Source: US DoD)
17 Jun 20. Industry-leading global communications companies, BT plc (BT), NSSLGlobal Ltd and Viasat UK Ltd., a subsidiary of Viasat, Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), today announced an alliance to deliver critical defence satellite communications (SATCOM) services, and support modernisation of the UK’s defence and space sectors. The Alliance has come together to respond to major UK MOD programmes, including bidding for the ‘Service Delivery Wrap’ (SDW) component of Skynet 6, a MOD SATCOM programme that is expected to be awarded in 2022. The Alliance will provide fully managed best-in-class SATCOM solutions.
In addition to supporting current MOD programmes, the Alliance is strongly positioned to contribute to the developing UK agenda around defence and space technologies. The Alliance provides leadership in SATCOM, cybersecurity, service delivery, tactical networking, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.
All three companies bring exceptionally strong track records in working with the MOD and other defence and government organisations around the world.
- BT plc: Under the MOD’s Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service (DFTS) contract, BT has more than 20 years of experience in providing highly-secure, resilient connectivity and voice, data and video conferencing services to 2,000 MOD sites in the UK and overseas. As part of the MOD’s Integrated User Services (IUS) contract, BT provides fixed and mobile voice services to hundreds of thousands of military personnel in the UK and globally.
- NSSLGlobal: The UK company, NSSLGlobal, is an established provider in the existing Skynet 5 UK MOD contract eco-system. Since 1982, NSSLGlobal has been providing communications technology for the Royal Navy delivering custom SATCOM and engineering solutions for all Royal Navy platforms. In addition, NSSLGlobal supports Royal Air Force platforms and Army users with lightweight, rapidly deployable commercial SATCOM capabilities. NSSLGlobal works closely in partnership with the UK MOD on projects needing engineering innovation, bringing maximum performance and value for money for secure operational traffic and welfare connectivity services.
- Viasat UK Ltd: Viasat UK Ltd. provides deep security and communications expertise to rapidly deliver new sovereign technologies to the UK defence and civilian markets. Specific to the UK defence market, Viasat UK Ltd., works closely with Viasat Inc., which has been recognised for developing an expansive portfolio of capabilities across SATCOM, tactical networking, information assurance and cybersecurity. Today, Viasat Inc. has more capacity on orbit than any other private sector SATCOM provider in the world, and with its future ViaSat-3 constellation, the Company expects to have more geostationary earth orbit (GEO) satellite capacity on orbit than every private sector GEO SATCOM provider combined. Viasat Inc.’s security, encryption, next-generation tactical data links and SATCOM systems are also currently used across multiple UK MOD programmes, from the Royal Air Force’s new F-35 stealth fighter to Royal Navy warships.
The alliance has come together to respond to major UK MOD programmes. In particular it aims to deliver the ‘Service Delivery Wrap’ (SDW) component of the MoD’s Skynet 6 satellite communications programme. Replacing the current Skynet 5 system, Skynet 6 is expected to be awarded in 2022 and provide next-generation, mission-critical communications and data capabilities to the MoD and other Government departments in theatres worldwide.Longer term, the alliance is also aimed at helping modernise the UK’s defence and space sectors, through its established expertise in technologies such as satellite communications, cybersecurity, tactical networking, AI and emerging technologies.
The SDW contract itself will cover operation of the UK’s constellation of satellites and ground systems, as well as delivery and management of the associated ground terminal infrastructure.
Ed Stainton, director of Major Government, BT, said, “The combined strengths of this new alliance will bring leading edge technical expertise to the MOD across maritime, air, land, space and cyber environments. We will build on a strong innovation culture, and access to best-of-breed technologies to work collaboratively with our alliance partners, to deliver military-grade, mission-critical communications services to the MOD and other government departments. For BT, this is an example of how we are striving to do the best for our customers and for our country.”
Neil Fraser, director – Defence and Space Programmes, NSSLGlobal, said, “As a British company, we have a strong 40-year ‘tried and tested’ heritage of working in partnership with the UK Armed Forces. The expertise of our dedicated staff and engineers is one of our key assets, providing innovative communications across sea, land and air. The strength of this alliance is embedded in our shared values of providing excellent service and our complementary skills and expertise.”
Steve Beeching, managing director, Government Systems, Viasat UK Ltd., added, “We bring deep expertise in working with the MOD and an extensive track record of innovative credentials to this team. In collaborating with BT and NSSLGlobal, we will be able to provide crucial advancements from the defence and commercial sectors to quickly modernise the UK’s Armed Forces capabilities and make the battlespace network of the future a reality for our service men and women. Together, this alliance is poised to become a national asset to the MOD for current and future communications and space programmes as it has the ability to enhance information advantage by utilising some of the world’s leading SATCOM, tactical networking, cyber and emerging defence technologies.”
The UK MOD launched the SDW competition on 5 November 2019 in support of the Skynet 6 programme. The SDW programme will comprise a five-year service management effort in support of Skynet 6 and replace the current Skynet 5 contract scheduled to deliver SATCOM services to the UK MOD until August 2022.
BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and Openreach.
For the year ended 31 March 2020, BT Group’s reported revenue was £22,905m with reported profit before taxation of £2,353m. British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London stock exchange. For more information, visit www.btplc.com
NSSLGIobaI is a leading independent provider of satellite communications and IT management solutions with innovation and customer service at the core of its DNA. With over 50 years of experience in the government and maritime mobility markets, NSSLGlobal provides best-in-class satellite and engineering solutions providing a bearer agnostic baseband solution utilising a variety of IP bearers including C-, Ka-, Ku-, L-Band and 3G or any other IP platform, providing connectivity into Restricted and Secret MoD/Govt systems via our MOD approved Gateways. It partners with some of the largest MSS and VSAT satellite operators including Inmarsat, Iridium and Thuraya, Telesat, Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES and JCSAT. With over forty percent of its company consisting of highly specialised engineers, many of who are ex-armed forces, NSSLGlobal understands the needs of its government customers and develops bespoke solutions to very specific requirements. From the systems development activities in UK to its R&D arm in Norway the company owns the SatLink hub and modem technology ensuring a secure end-to-end service. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, it has offices worldwide.
About Viasat, Inc.
Viasat is a global communications company that believes everyone and everything in the world can be connected. For more than 30 years, Viasat has helped shape how consumers, businesses, governments and militaries around the world communicate. Today, the Company is developing the ultimate global communications network to power high-quality, secure, affordable, fast connections to impact people’s lives anywhere they are—on the ground, in the air or at sea. To learn more about Viasat, visit: www.viasat.com, go to Viasat’s Corporate Blog, or follow the Company on social media at: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This is certainly a strong team and brings together capabilities with the strength and breadth of technology suited to win the Skynet SDW requirement. The inclusion of Viasat gives this team the strength and agility to work between defence and civil satcom operations, using the Viasat constellations and advanced civil technology already deployed for a number of global airlines. These can be integrated into military operations seamlessly across the globe when required to give increased coverage anywhere in the world where a new conflict occurs. In addition, the multiband technology in the team allows ‘bandwidth hopping’ to be undertaken seamlessly to combat any cyber intrusions attempting to shut off satcoms on the battlefield and to hinder logistic supply chains.
15 Jun 20. China Reports Progress in Ultra-Secure Satellite Transmission. Researchers enlisted quantum physics to send a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between two stations 700 miles apart.
The world of artificial satellites, silent in the void of space, might seem pacific. In fact it’s a high-flying battlefield rife with jamming, snooping, blinding, spoofing, hacking and hostility among the planet’s growing array of spacecraft and space powers. Now, Chinese scientists report new progress in building what appears to be the first unbreakable information link between an orbiting craft and its terrestrial controllers, raising the odds that Beijing may one day possess a super-secure global communications network.
In the journal Nature on Monday, the team of 24 scientists describe successfully testing the transmission of a “secret key” for encrypting and decrypting messages between a satellite and two ground stations located roughly 700 miles apart.
The method enlists quantum entanglement, an idea of modern physics that seems ridiculously at odds with common sense. It posits that a pair of widely separated subatomic particles can still seem instantaneously linked: Measuring a property of one will simultaneously affect the measured results on its companion, even if the two are millions of light-years apart. Albert Einstein called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”
The Chinese authors, who in 2017 first reported on entanglement success in a satellite transmission, now show that they have increased its efficiency and reduced error rates enough to use quantum entanglement for the relay of cryptographic keys. In a research summary, Nature said the team had demonstrated that the system “produces a secure channel that is resistant to attacks.”
Duncan Earl, a former scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and president and chief technology officer of Qubitekk, a company in Vista, Calif., that is exploring quantum encryption, said that the Chinese advance appeared to be significant.
“It’s an important milestone,” Dr. Earl said in an interview. “It’s the scaling of the technology that makes this so important. They’re an incredible group.”
Traditional communications satellites used radio waves to send signals. In contrast, the quantum communication satellite uses pairs of entangled photons, or light particles, whose properties remain entwined even as one photon is transmitted over a long distance. Messages are sent by manipulating the properties.
The scientist in charge of China’s quantum satellite effort is Jian-Wei Pan, who is the senior author on the Nature paper. He is a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province in east-central China.
A 2012 profile of Dr. Pan in Nature reported that he was in his early 30s when, in 2001, he set up China’s first laboratory for manipulating the quantum properties of photons. “The lucky thing was that, in 2000, the economy of China started to grow, so the timing was suddenly right to do good science,” Dr. Pan said.
In August 2016, from the Gobi Desert, China launched the world’s first satellite for testing the transmission of quantum information on light particles. The satellite was nicknamed Micius after a Chinese philosopher of the fifth century B.C. It fired concentrated beams of laser light to relay the quantum signals between two telescopes built at ground stations in Delingha and Nanshan, in China, 700 miles apart.
Then, in June 2017, Dr. Pan and 33 of his Chinese colleagues reported transmission success in the journal Science. The signal’s efficiency, they said, was “orders of magnitude higher than that of the bidirectional transmission of the two photons through telecommunications fibers,” the standard approach.
In the new paper, Dr. Pan’s team reported that it had increased the efficiency of the communications link by upgrading the telescopes and optics as well as the fine tracking of targets among the system’s far-flung parts.
The experimental results showed a rise in the practical security of secret-key transmission “to an unprecedented level,” the authors wrote.
Dr. Earl of Qubitekk said that the Chinese transmissions between Earth and space had previously shown much weakening from such environmental factors as clouds and rain. “This is progress and a significant step forward,” he said of the newly disclosed research.
NASA has drawn up plans to rival the Chinese advance. Known as the National Space Quantum Laboratory program, it intends to use a laser system on the International Space Station to relay quantum information between two ground stations. The program was initiated in 2018.
Generally, Dr. Earl said, Beijing seems far ahead of Washington in the race to master the quantum riddles and their practical applications in space. He noted that he has no access to classified information and thus cannot evaluate the nation’s possible secret progress. (Source: glstrade.com/New York Times.com)
17 Jun 20. Calian SED Launches Decimator D4 Spectrum Analyzer Product. Calian SED, Calian Group Ltd.’s (TSX.CGY) global supplier of communication systems solutions and products, has launched commercial availability of Decimator D4, the fourth-generation of the spectrum analyzer product line designed to monitor radio frequency (RF) communications and detect signal issues. Decimator D4 is a new hardware platform that includes all of the features of the previous generation, Decimator D3, as well as numerous new capabilities.
The most significant new feature of the Decimator D4 is signal analysis, complementing the spectrum analyzer capabilities. Powered by a new signal processing engine, the D4 demodulates and decodes standard satellite DVB-S/S2/S2X signals. The resulting constellation display and signal characteristics allow a deeper inspection and analysis of the signals than a traditional spectrum display. This new feature is particularly helpful to proactively identify issues in the network before they manifest as a failure.
A new web user interface allows the Decimator D4 to be operated from all web browsers on all devices and platforms. The HTML5 application is compliant with the latest web standards and provides secure user access to the D4. The addition of HTTPS support adds an extra layer of encryption and security between the user and Decimator for security sensitive installations. A secure interface with encryption and authentication is also available through the application programming interface (API) used to integrate the Decimator within a network management system.
The powerful and intuitive browser-based D4 graphical user interface provides the features found in a high-end spectrum analyzer plus others that would not be expected at the Decimator’s price point. The user interface includes sophisticated functions, such as built-in carrier monitoring with email alarm alerts and SNMP notifications, as well as a cross-pol isolation testing function ideal for VSAT terminal commissioning. The features are available using any web browser, with no need for additional software to be installed on the user’s computer. Since Decimator D4 is a networked device, the unit can be operated at any network-connected location – either locally or remotely around the world.
Other evolutionary features include an increased operating frequency range and higher instantaneous bandwidth. The D4 increased frequency range is from 5 MHz to 6.5 GHz, which more than doubles the frequency range of D3. The upper frequency limit allows D4 to directly monitor C-band transmit and receive signals without the use of frequency converters. The increased operating range is also useful for emerging Q/V-band applications that utilize large amounts of bandwidth and need a wider intermediate frequency operating range that extends past 3 GHz. In addition, the instantaneous bandwidth has been increased to 260 MHz, which is useful for next-generation signals with larger channel bandwidths.
The Decimator D4 is available in three form factors: the multiport chassis, a PCIe card, or a portable unit. The multiport unit is the most popular form factor and comes in a 1U rack-mount chassis with an integrated RF switch – both 8-port and 4-port units are available. Multiple ports allow a single Decimator to monitor several signal feeds from a compact chassis unit installed in a standard equipment rack. The PCIe card can be installed into any half-length, full-height PCIe slot in a computer and can also be integrated into OEM solutions. The portable D4 is a small enclosure for field technicians that require an easily transportable unit that can be used in conjunction with a laptop.
The Decimator is ideally suited for satellite, wired and terrestrial wireless networks. The Decimator is most widely used in satellite operations to monitor uplink and downlink carriers for the L, C, X, Ku, Ka and Q/V-band satellite signals found in broadcast facilities, uplink stations, teleports and TT&C stations. Within these
satellite networks, the D4 is ideal for automated and manual carrier monitoring and can be integrated into satcom terminals to provide monitoring for mission-critical deployments. In wired networks, Decimator is used to monitor upstream and downstream carriers within head-ends, hubs and elsewhere in the facilities. For terrestrial wireless networks, D4 can be used to monitor forward and return paths and is ideal for remote RF monitoring at cell towers or DAS installations to prevent costly truck rolls for maintenance.
The previous generations of the Decimator have been extremely popular and have shipped to over 70 countries during the last 15 years. “We are very excited to announce our fourth generation Decimator analyzer, D4, as the newest addition to our product line. The D4 has so many new capabilities like signal analysis, a modern and secure web GUI and an increased frequency range. All these new features are included in the standard product and provide even more value for our customers at the Decimator’s competitive price point. Stay tuned for further announcements of innovative new capabilities harnessing the power of the D4 platform”, said Peter Waskowic, Director, Satcom Products, Calian SED.
“Our Decimator product line has been a mainstay of communications monitoring for over a decade. The Decimator D4 with its new software-defined capabilities provides a whole new set of measurements at the low price point that our customers expect. For customers looking to integrate the Decimator into their equipment and systems, we have custom-designed versions available supporting private labeling, custom waveforms and other frequency bands or form factors,” said Patrick Thera, President, Advanced Technologies. “In the coming months we will announce further innovative capabilities that harness the power of the D4 platform.”
Decimator D4 is commercially available now. Custom designed versions of the Decimator that support private labeling, custom waveforms, and other frequency bands or form factors, are available should customers wish to integrate the Decimator into their equipment and systems.
Learn more about Decimator D4 at https://decimatord4.com/.
16 Jun 20. China delays launch to complete GPS-like Beidou network. Citing technical reasons, China has delayed the launch of the final satellite to complete its Beidou Navigation Satellite System constellation that emulates the U.S. Global Positioning System.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday’s mission aboard a Long March-3 rocket from the southwestern satellite launch base of Xicheng was scrubbed after pre-launch checks discovered “product technical problems.”
No details or a new launch date were immediately announced. China’s space program has developed rapidly over the past two decades as the government devotes major resources toward developing independent high-tech capabilities — and even dominating in fields such as 5G data processing.
When completed, this third iteration of the Beidou system will provide global coverage for timing and navigation, offering an alternative to Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo systems, as well as America’s GPS.
The first version of Beidou, meaning “Big Dipper,” was decommissioned in 2012. Future plans call for a smarter, more accessible and more integrated system with Beidou at its core, to come online by 2035.
In 2003, China became the third country to independently launch a manned space mission and has since constructed an experimental space station and sent a pair of rovers to the surface of the moon. Future plans call for a fully functioning, permanent space station and a possible crewed flight to the moon, with its first attempt to send an orbiter and rover to Mars possibly coming as early as next month. If successful, it would be the only other country besides the U.S. to land on Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.
The program has suffered some setbacks, including launch failures, and has had limited cooperation with other countries’ space efforts, in part because of U.S. objections to its close connections to the Chinese military. (Source: Defense News)
16 Jun 20. Defense News reported yesterday that four international consortia have been shortlisted by the UK MoD to enter the final stage of bidding to operate ground control facilities for its Skynet satellite communications network.
Teams led by Airbus Defence & Space, Babcock Integrated Technology, BT and Serco, have been down-selected for the Skynet 6 Service Delivery Wrap program following the MoD’s Defence Digital organization release of an invitation to tender document to the remaining contenders June 12.
The make-up of one of the teams vying for the ground station operations contract is already known, while others have yet to announce who their partners are.
Serco has declared its team will involve satellite operator Inmarsat, IT specialist CGI UK and the U.K. arm of defense giant Lockheed Martin.
British communications company BT, Babcock and Airbus are all keeping their teaming arrangements under wraps for the time being.
Airbus, Britain’s biggest satellite builder, did though coincide the MoD Skynet 6 down-select with a separate space partnering announcement of its own.
The company said June 16 it had teamed with KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ to launch a new space initiative known as Open Innovation-Space aimed at increasing British involvement in future satellite communications efforts.
The ground station program is the second part of the MoD’s wider Skynet 6 project to equip the military and government with a new generation of beyond-line-of-sight communications capabilities starting around 2028.
The Skynet 6 program has already seen Airbus start work on a new satellite, called Skynet 6A, to act as a capability gap filler between 2025 and the introduction of the follow-on, new-generation capacity.
A deal for preliminary design work and long-lead time manufacture was signed by Airbus and the MoD in March and the contract to build the Skynet 6A spacecraft is in the final stages of government approval and expected to be announced within weeks.
The other two key parts of a program presently expected to cost in total around £6bn ($7.6bn) are the Enduring Capability project, to provide next generation communications capabilities, and the Secure Telemetry, Tracking and Command (STTC) project for providing assured sovereign control and management of satellites.
The MoD has settled its STTC requirements for SkyNet 6A but its options for the longer term remain open.
Work on defining what the Enduring Capability requirement might look like has been underway for a while and industry executives here expect the effort to be ramped up in the coming months with the first tranche of recommendations due to be presented to the MoD early next year, said people with knowledge of the program.
Companies gear up for next phase in Britain’s Skynet 6 program
The British government has ruled that all bidders, except one, must remain unnamed.
The next-generation communications requirement is planned to get underway next year with the release by MoD of a pre-qualification questionnaire.
One industry executive, who asked not to be named, said securing the Service Delivery Wrap deal was an important stepping stone towards satellite builders securing the big prize – the Enduring Capability requirement.
“It will help the winning consortium secure local skills in the sector, help in understanding the customers communications requirements and assist in filling in the revenue gaps between what is often sporadic investment in satellites and payloads,” the executive said.
Space is an industrial and military priority for the British, and while it remains unclear how the worsening economic picture here might impact defense spending it is hoped the sector, and programs like SkyNet 6 and the Galileo global navigation satellite system replacement project, might escape the worst of the expected cuts.
One cost cutting option the British are reckoned to have been looking at is to use future SkyNet 6 spacecraft to double up its use by carrying a GNSS capability as well.
Skynet ground facilities are currently operated by Airbus as part of a wider private finance initiative (PFI) deal signed in 2003 to build, own and operate a constellation of communication satellites and associated capabilities on behalf of the British military.
That deal expires Aug 2022. The winning Service Delivery Wrap contender is slated to take over ground operations from that point after a transition phase.
In a contract note issued June 16 the MoD said the return date of the invitation to tender is set for June next year.
The Service Delivery Wrap arrangement runs for five years, not including any transition phase, with two single-year extension options also expected to be included in the deal.
The terms of the existing PFI arrangement entail the MoD paying a nominal fee of a Pound in exchange for which it will take ownership of hundreds of millions of Pounds worth of assets in the shape of ground infrastructure and the Skynet 4 and 5 satellite fleets currently operated by Airbus.
This time around the MoD wants to retain overall ownership of the capability in order to help grow its space skills and management experience by way of owning the ground station assets with the winning consortium working under a straightforward service provision deal.
BATTLESPACE Comment: Specialist sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the MoD is looking for a wider mix of comms capabilities for the BVLOS requirement which includes Skynet 6. The MoD is believed to be looking at industry to provide a greater part of the satcoms requirement through leasing capabilities from existing constellations provided by such companies as Viasat and Inmarsat. This will give the MoD greater flexibility to provide coverage during overseas expeditionary deployments and larger coverage of the operations area. There will also be a larger mix of comms solutions from VHF and HF radios thru Link 16 and satcom.
For the satellites themselves, the MoD has recognised that it made a mistake in the Skynet 5 project with freezing the satellite design at the start of the program, thus freezing new technology inserts. This time the MoD has contracted Airbus for one bird Skynet 6a. The next birds will be bought incrementally with technology inserts along the way.
17 Jun 20. Rocket Lab demonstrates fastest launch turnaround to date. After a successful launch that included a research CubeSat for the Royal Australian Air Force and UNSW Canberra, Rocket Lab has confirmed its next Electron mission is scheduled to launch just three weeks after its most recent mission.
The mission, ‘Pics Or It Didn’t Happen’, is scheduled to launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 Pad A on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula no earlier than 3 July 2020 UTC — just days after the successful launch of Rocket Lab’s most recent mission, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, on 13 June 2020 UTC.
The back-to-back missions will represent Rocket Lab’s fastest turnaround between missions to date. ‘Pics Or It Didn’t Happen’ will deploy seven small satellites to a 500 kilometre circular low-Earth orbit for a range of customers, including Spaceflight’s customer Canon Electronics, as well as Planet and In-Space Missions.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said launching missions just days apart demonstrates Rocket Lab’s unique capability to provide dedicated and responsive space access to small satellite customers.
The primary payload aboard this mission, Canon Electronics’ CE-SAT-IB, was procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight.
The mission objective for the CE-SAT-IB satellite is to demonstrate Canon Electronics’ Earth-imaging technology with high-resolution and wide-angle cameras, as well as test the microsatellite for mass production.
The next five spacecrafts manifested for this mission are the latest generation of SuperDove satellites manufactured by Planet, operator of the world’s largest constellation of Earth-observation satellites.
“Rocket Lab has eliminated the small sat waiting room for orbit. We’ve focused heavily on shoring up our rapid launch capability in recent years and we’re proud to be putting that into practice for the small sat community with launches just days apart,” Beck explained.
Planet’s satellites are capable of imaging the Earth’s entire landmass on a near-daily basis. This unprecedented dataset helps researchers, students, businesses and governments discover patterns, detect early signals of change, and make timely, informed decisions.
These five SuperDoves, Flock 4v, are equipped with new sensors to enable higher image quality with sharper, more vibrant colors and accurate surface reflectance values for advanced algorithms and time-series analysis.
Beck added, “We’re excited to continue expanding our responsive space capability with our third launch pad coming online before the end of the year, as well as the continued growth of our Photon satellite program that enables our small sat operators to do more, spend less, and get to orbit faster.”
The final spacecraft aboard Electron for this mission has been supplied by British small mission prime, In-Space Missions. The Faraday-1 6U CubeSat is a hosted payload mission providing a low-cost route to orbit for start-ups, institutions and large corporate R&D groups.
In addition, it provides a first flight demonstration of In-Space’s own software-defined payload that will enable uploadable payload capabilities on future missions. Faraday-1 is the first flight of the Faraday service with four future satellites already under contract.
With a new Electron launch vehicle built every 18 days, Rocket Lab remains on target to deliver monthly launches for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, including the company’s first launch from Launch Complex 2 for the US Space Force in Q3 and a mission to the moon for NASA aboard Electron and Rocket Lab’s spacecraft bus platform Photon in 2021. (Source: Space Connect)
16 Jun 20. Leading UK space industry consortium calls for greater SME engagement for future satcom services.
- Airbus, KBR, Leidos, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ invite for SMEs to join its ‘Open Innovation – Space’ initiative
- Building on existing successful partnerships with UK Government to deliver future space solutions for UK including the Skynet Service Delivery Wrap
- Committed to diversifying and growing the UK’s space industrial footprint
The UK’s space industry leader Airbus, has teamed with KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ to bring new thinking to future space solutions and to launch the Open Innovation – Space initiative. The aim of Open Innovation – Space is to further increase SME involvement in UK future satellite communications services and space activities creating high value jobs and growth across the UK.
The consortium, comprising the UK leader in space and sovereign military satellite communication services, and leading defence companies in their fields, have extensive experience in mission critical communication services and associated space, ground and management segments. With proven track records of modernising defence services, the consortium partners already engage with many SMEs to serve government and commercial customers. Open Innovation – Space will look to significantly raise this SME engagement to accelerate regional recovery by broadening potential investment in novel solutions and ideas. Companies from across the UK are being encouraged to participate with a dedicated portal at www.openinnovationspace.uk to engage with the team.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director, Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “The space industry will play an increasingly important and visible role in the economic recovery of Britain, underpinning not only critical national infrastructure but also day to day services such as weather forecasting and satellite navigation. As space services and applications continue to expand and touch everyone’s lives even more, we are calling on SMEs to engage with us further to see how we can bring greater innovation and new ways of thinking in future satcom services to grow the UK’s space capability and industrial expertise.”
The consortium partners have been at the heart of the UK’s defence and space sector for more than 50 years having developed leading edge design, manufacturing, systems and service capabilities across the entire space domain.
Airbus in the UK is recognised as a global leader in the design and manufacture of advanced telecommunications satellites and is a trusted prime contractor for some of the most complex space science and exploration missions in the world. Airbus provides a range of space-based services to customers worldwide including the support of the UK Armed Forces, and its NATO Allies, by delivering and operating the Skynet military communications system, providing 24/7 services across the world for more than 15 years.
The consortium partners include leaders in modernising defence information technology systems as well as trusted providers of research, technology advice, products and mission rehearsal services. With proven capabilities to enable interoperability with allies, including the US, NATO, Five Eyes etc, the consortium share a vision of the future and a commitment to grow the UK’s industrial footprint through SME engagement.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This is a positive announcement to bring more SME’s into space and would appear that Airbus is positioning itself to use more SMEs in its Skynet 6 bids whereas previously it had preferred to take the work in house at the expense of SMEs. The sheer size of Airbus and its bidding and accounting structures has meant that where a nimble approach to providing satcom services for urgent operations overseas, Airbus is believed to have been found wanting in the speed it is quoting for these urgent ops plus the price quoted against smaller specialist satcom SMEs.
10 Jun 20. Ariane Spaceflight Inc. Acquisition Finalized. Rideshare launch provider becomes the cornerstone of Mitsui & Co.’s space strategy, continuing to operate as a private, independent U.S.-based company.
Today satellite rideshare launch provider Spaceflight Inc. announced its acquisition by Mitsui & Co., Ltd., in partnership with Yamasa Co., Ltd., is now complete with the final review of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
In February 2020, Spaceflight’s parent company, Spaceflight Industries, announced it had signed an agreement with the Japanese companies for the sale of the launch service provider, pending the CFIUS review. The review was complete in April and the acquisition finalized today, June 12, 2020. Mitsui & Co. and Yamasa will have 50/50 joint venture ownership in Spaceflight, but the launch service provider will continue to operate as a privately held, independent U.S.-based company.
“The completion of this deal is an exciting step for Spaceflight,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Joining the high-growth Mitsui & Co. portfolio positions Spaceflight to deliver and expand on the comprehensive launch services we offer. We’re exploring the development of new standardized deployment systems, new digital initiatives, and other programs that further help our customers reliably and affordably access space, in the most flexible way possible. Our biggest priority, as always, is ensuring all our customers are fully supported through this transition and we’re taking the necessary steps to establish infrastructure to meet their needs.”
The acquisition is a unique opportunity for Spaceflight to further invest and expand its commercial and government rideshare launch services while Mitsui & Co. expands its portfolio to offer space services.
Since its founding in 2013, Spaceflight has launched a record-setting 271 satellites via 29 rocket launches, establishing itself as the leading rideshare service provider. The company offers comprehensive launch and integration services across a global portfolio of vehicles, including Falcon 9, PSLV, SSLV, Electron, Antares, and Vega. Spaceflight successfully executed nine missions in 2019, the most rideshare launches the company has performed in one year, with four launches spanning 16 days across three continents. In 2018, Spaceflight executed its historic dedicated rideshare mission, SSO-A, which deployed 64 satellites from 17 different countries from a Falcon 9. The company also completed the first-ever rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) in 2019, launching the first privately funded lunar lander.
“Spaceflight has contributed significantly to the space industry, pushing boundaries and achieving great success making rideshare a credible and reliable option for smallsat launches,” said Tomohiro Musha, general manager of Transportation & Machinery Business Div. IV in Mitsui & Co. “The acquisition of this industry leader will allow us to expand our business in exciting new ways.”
Spaceflight headquarters will remain in Seattle with Blake continuing to serve as the CEO and president, reporting to a newly formed board of directors established with a majority of U.S.-based persons.
About Spaceflight Inc.
Spaceflight Inc. is revolutionizing the business of spaceflight by delivering a new model for accessing space. A comprehensive launch services and mission management provider, the company provides a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services, including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure and rideshare launch offerings that enable commercial and government entities to achieve their mission goals on time and on budget. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight provides its services through a global network of partners and launch vehicle providers. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
10 Jun 20. Ariane 6 Launch Delayed Again / Nilesat Revs Down / Intelsat Complains About ITSO. In spite of being up against fierce competition from the likes of SpaceX, which is launching rockets with relentless frequency, Arianespace has again slipped the launch readiness date for their new Ariane 6 rocket, according to journalist Chris Forrester in a posting at the Advanced Television infosite.
Originally promised for a mid-2020 debut test flight, that date has reportedly slipped to late next year.
Ariane 6 is a much-needed replacement for today’s Ariane 5 vehicles. According to Space Intel Report, there are just nine Ariane 5’s left in the manifest and some of these are pre-booked for launching between July and the end of 2022 and handling scientific missions as well as commercial cargoes.
Ariane 6 is designed to be used in a number of variants, not the least of which is the Ariane-64 vehicle that is designed to handle two, fairly heavy, commercial satellites into geostationary orbit on the same rocket.
Part of the problem is clearly attributable to the coronavirus, which closed factories or severely limited production workflows. Space Intel Report says that the impact of Covid-19 will be around 6 months — that means that there would be a follow-on delay after the first flight of another 6 months which would put the second flight into 2022, also suggesting that Flight 3 would follow after another 3 months; however, the all-important A-64 variant would be Flight 4 of the new schedule, and currently that’s well down the line.
Arianespace does have some spare capacity by using a “Europeanized” version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket, which is fine for some tasks. But, as well as SpaceX, there is also fresh competition coming from lower-cost reusable rockets from Jeff Bezos and his suite of Blue Origin rockets that are likely to be tested in 2021.
India, Japan, China and Russia are also busy building suitable rockets to rival Ariane.
Chris is also reporting that Cairo-based satellite operator Nilesat suffered further falls in profit for the firm’s first-quarter trading.
Net profits were down by 5 percent at $10.8m ($11.38m a year ago).Nilesat’s revenues declined to $32.36m in the January-March period, compared to $32.86m in the same period in 2019, according to a stock market disclosure on June 8th.
During the full 2019 year Nilesat’s net profit was $42.53m (down from $53.46m in 2018).
Also at the Advanced Television infosite is information that, last month, it was reported how the organization that supervises Intelsat’s public service obligations, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (ITSO), had complained to Intelsat’s bankruptcy court that Intelsat had not been paying its dues to ITSO.
ITSU had asked the court to authorize a special payment to fund its costs and services.
Intelsat responded ahead of the June 9th court hearing on the matter and firmly rejects the ITSO claim saying that ITSO’s budget has been padded with unnecessary costs and questionable expenses.
In a 56-page filing to the court, Intelsat stated, “Respectfully, ITSO’s demand do not make sense” [and] “the claim is without merit and should be denied.”
Intelsat admits that ITSO exists to perform certain narrowly prescribed supervisory functions. The two elements had previously agreed funding levels from 2001 and by the end of 2019 ITSO had accumulated more than $800,000 in reserves out of a $1.8m annual funding cap. ITSO had also during this period sponsored educational forums, attending the World Economic Forum and provided online courses to ITSO staff. These were unrelated to its core obligation.
“Remarkably,” said Intelsat, ITSO’s proposed budget nevertheless includes items such as:
- — $1,000,000 in salaries and benefits for unnecessary staff, including an in-house legal advisor and technical director
- — $200,000 for additional outside consultants, including duplicative legal and technical advisors
- — $24,720 for “automobile”
- — $36,000 for “legal services”
- — $10,000 for “studies”
- — $56,000 for “specialist advice and consultancy services in relation to financials and policies”
- — $100,000 for bonuses
- — $500 for “charitable contributions”
- — $144,000 for “airfare”
09 Jun 20. Partnership Between Lockheed Martin and TAQNIA for New Ground System. Lockheed Martin has been selected to develop a new ground system to control, manage and operate Saudi Arabia’s commercial communications satellite, SaudiGeoSat-1 (SGS-1).
Lockheed Martin will work with Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA) to develop and deploy the new ground segment for secure commercial operations of SGS-1.
The ground system will support advanced Ka-band spot beam communications services, commercial off-the-shelf-based broadband services as well as Saudi-specific secure communication services. It will be deployed in two phases, with the initial commercial system going online in late 2020 and the Lockheed Martin-engineered secure communications system following.
SaudiGeoSat-1 is one of two payloads aboard the first modernized LM 2100 satellite bus designed and built by Lockheed Martin. The Hellas Sat-4 / SaudiGeoSat-1 satellite launched aboard an Ariane V rocket from French Guiana on February 5, 2019. SaudiGeoSat-1 will enable future control and interoperability of all the Kingdom’s commercial and military platforms.
The SaudiGeoSat-1 communications payload provides advanced Ka-band steerable spot beam communications services for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, including secure communications for the Gulf Cooperation Council region.
Hellas Sat4/SaudiGeoSat-1 is the first of two LM 2100 satellites in the Arabsat-6G program. The second is Arabsat-6A. The satellite features a reprogrammable on-orbit mission processor that lets operators change the configuration as their business needs change.
Joseph Rank, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Saudi Arabia said, this modern satellite ground system will help the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia take full advantage of the advanced capabilities of SaudiGeoSat-1 and nurture Saudi’s growing native engineering talent. This system will also allow the integration of current and future Air and Missile Defense Systems, adding enhanced security and resiliency further protecting the citizens of Saudi Arabia.
Abdulrahman Alkhathlan, CEO of TAQNIA Holdings, added that Saudi engineers trained and worked side-by-side with Lockheed Martin’s world-class satellite manufacturing experts. This practical learning experience is helping build qualified Saudi talent to support future satellite and ground component production in the Kingdom. (Source: Satnews)
11 Jun 20. Planet Boosts Imagery Capabilities To 12 Shots A Day.
“It seems that, within the US government and elsewhere, there are agencies that want to have more and more access more times a day over the areas that they care about,” Jim Thomason, VP of Imagery Product at Planet told me in an interview this week.
Remote sensing startup Planet has just reconfigured its constellation to keep up with with increasing demand — including from US government agencies — for more rapid satellite revisit rates over ground targets and improved spatial resolution, according to company officials.
“We see the demand, certainly within some of our government customers,” Jim Thomason, VP of Imagery Product at Planet told me in an interview this week. “It seems that, within the US government and elsewhere, there are agencies that want to have more and more access more times a day over the areas that they care about.”
Being able to see multiple images of a target within a short period of time allows customers to ascertain patterns of activity at the target site, he explained. This capability to figure out what is happening over time on the ground is often referred to by the Intelligence Community (IC) as assessing a “pattern of life” and remains something of a holy grail for national security analysts. (Change detection is a related term of art.)
Planet is planning to launch six more of their high-resolution SkySat satellites — originally purchased from Terra Bella in 2017 (which also triggered investment by data giant Google) — bringing the fleet to 21. This, Thomason said, will allow the constellation to take up to 12 images of the same ground target in one day; vice an earlier temporal resolution of twice a day. By comparison, many US spy satellites only have a twice-a-day revisit rate.
UPDATE BEGINS. Indeed, SpaceX just announced that it is planning to launch a Falcon 9 on June 13 carrying three of the Plant SkySats, as well as 58 more Starlink satellites for its expanding broadband constellation. This will be the first launch in SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, SpaceX noted. UPDATE ENDS.
“Temporal resolution is really the advantage, in that there’s so much more insight and value to be derived from this more rapid revisit capability,” he explained.
As Breaking D readers know, Planet is one of two (along with BlackSky) up-start remote sensing companies to break into the Intelligence Community market and break up the long-standing monopoly held by Digital Globe, now Maxar Technologies. The company in May 2019 signed a study contract with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and is now in the running for a year-end award for NRO’s planned successor to its current EnhancedView program, contracted to Maxar. (It previously had a study-contract relationship with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency prior to its transfer of authority for acquisition of commercial remote sensing to the NRO in 2017.)
“Planet offers global near-daily imagery that is entirely unclassified and our contract with the NRO allows the U.S government to procure satellite imagery for all departments of government,” according to a company statement. “For the past 5 years, we’ve partnered closely with the US government as they’ve leaned into the future vision for augmenting government systems with the cutting-edge earth observation capabilities built by industry.”
The Skysats originally had a spatial resolution of 72 centimeters, vice the medium spatial resolution of Planet’s self-developed Dove satellites, which have a resolution of 3.7 meters. Planet developed the tiny Doves to allow low-cost access to satellite imagery, unconventionally aimed at customers without deep-pockets such as environmental groups and other non-profits. There are currently 130 Doves on-orbit and Planet plans to launch another 26, a spokesperson told me today.
But Thomason explained that Planet’s changes have been driven by a huge increase in demand for higher-resolution pictures — including, somewhat surprisingly, from commercial sectors such as agriculture. Between 2017 and 2018, demand for Planet’s high-resolution imagery jumped a whopping 163 percent, he said.
It is for this reason that the company decided to maneuver the SkySat constellations to lower the orbits of the satellites from their about 500 kilometers above the Earth (in Low Earth Orbit or LEO) to about 450 kilometers, Mike Safyan, VP of Launch, told me.
The move allows the satellites to now provide 50cm imagery — which, although it doesn’t sound like a huge jump, is significant in the remote sensing world.
“This 50 centimeter threshold becomes a real differentiator. It’s a well understood benchmark in the industry,” Thomason said.
Safyan explained that while it isn’t that common for an operator to move an entire fleet of satellites to change their performance, instead of just replace them with new satellites in a different configuration, Planet crunched the numbers and found it made more sense.
“In general, we try to ask ourselves questions based on first principles, rather than just blindly following the aerospace textbook,” Safyan said. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
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