Sponsored By Viasat
16 Jul 20. Viasat UK Ltd., a subsidiary of global communications company, Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), today announced an agreement to collaborate with world-class cyber solutions provider, Cyber1st, to deliver secure voice and data capabilities globally to commercial customers, governments, and on an exclusive basis to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider defence users.
The agreement further focuses on future crypto solution collaboration to help protect integrated networks from a wide variety of threat vectors. The Viasat UK/Cyber1st relationship builds on established UK sovereign footprints and will leverage the combined team talents for wider global exports in support of the UK prosperity agenda.
“We are excited by the opportunity to deliver advanced security and information assurance solutions to UK MOD and global defence and civilian networks,” said Steve Beeching, managing director, Government Systems, Viasat UK Ltd. “Our extensive track record of innovation teamed with Cyber1st’s solutions can help advance crypto capabilities and provide the information protection needed to make voice and data services secure for our nation and customers.”
Viasat UK is advancing its secure networking capabilities in country. It is both building a sovereign Network and Cyber Security Operations Centre to provide premier cybersecurity services aimed at mitigating against advanced cyber-attacks and creating capabilities to secure mobile devices from the edge to the cloud. Additionally, Viasat UK can leverage Viasat Inc.’s position of being the only company to support Type 1 network encryption for both Layer 2 Ethernet Security Specification (ESS)/Ethernet Data Encryption-Cryptographic Interoperability Specification (EDE-CIS) and Layer 3 High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryption (HAIPETM).
Bob Edge, director of Cyber1st commented, “We are delighted to work closely with Viasat UK as this creates a sovereign, highly-synergistic relationship leveraging our combined engineering skills along with Viasat’s long-term vision with respect to Data in Transit and Data at Rest solutions. Viasat will enable Cyber1st to focus on its core High Grade Crypt-Key competences with the confidence that emerging requirements have been fully-qualified through a process of rationalised customer engagement.”
A UK privately owned Research and Development organisation which specialises in the Research, Development and Manufacture of innovative High Grade Crypt Key solutions.
Viasat UK Ltd.
Viasat UK Ltd. provides 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 information assurance, cybersecurity, SATCOM and tactical networking. Today, Viasat’s security, encryption, next-generation tactical data links and SATCOM systems are currently used across multiple UK MOD programmes, from the Royal Air Force’s new F-35 stealth fighter to Royal Navy warships.
19 Jul 20. Airbus signs contract with UK Ministry of Defence for Skynet 6A satellite. Airbus Defence and Space has signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. This will involve the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, Skynet 6A, planned for launch in 2025. The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current Skynet 5 system. The value of the contract is more than £500m.
Richard Franklin, Airbus Defence and Space UK Managing Director said: “Airbus is extremely proud to be awarded this critical UK defence contract continuing our long tradition as the UK national milsatcom end-to-end services provider. Satellite manufacturing, linked to support services, is a critical component of the Government-industry UK space strategy and this contract underpins the UK MOD’s and industry’s lead position in this sector. Building this military satellite will, like Skynet 5, lead to significant export opportunities in the years ahead, growing high value manufacturing jobs and supporting a diverse supply chain in this increasingly important sector.
“This contract for 6A demonstrates the strong working partnership we have with UK MOD, built on the success we have jointly achieved on the Skynet 5 system since 2003. Airbus is fully committed to delivering world-class military communications services to our Armed Forces across the globe, and look forward to delivering this step change in capability to the MOD,” he continued.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “A new, more advanced satellite capability will provide continued communications support to the UK deployed forces for many years. British defence must continue to innovate and transform, particularly in cyber and space. Investment in first-class equipment like this new Skynet satellite will keep us safe from the threats we face both now and in the future.”
The Skynet 5 programme, managed by Airbus, has provided the UK MOD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations since 2003. Airbus has been involved in all Skynet phases since 1974 and this phase builds on a strong UK commitment to space manufacturing in the UK. The recent programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012.
The Skynet 5 programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satcoms and innovation to UK forces. Through the many years of delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the Airbus teams have managed to significantly extend the lifespan of the Skynet satellites many years beyond their design life, offering significant additional value for money and capability to the UK.
The Skynet 6A satellite will be based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It will utilise more of the radio frequency spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both more capacity and greater versatility than Skynet 5 satellites. The satellite will feature electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for sovereign UK end-to-end satellite production and support.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Space technology plays an important role in supporting our military and keeping us safe, while also boosting the UK’s economy and enabling world-leading science and research. “With this major investment in Skynet 6A, the development of the National Satellite Test Facility and the launch of a dedicated innovation programme, we are setting a bold new ambition for the UK in space.”
The satellite is due for launch in 2025, and will have a minimum design lifetime of 15 years. Its orbital position will be announced closer to the launch date.
16 Jul 20. HawkEye 360 Completes Milestone in Preparation to Launch Second Cluster. Successful testing of new satellites paves the way for faster, more robust data collection and intelligence.
HawkEye 360 Inc., the first commercial company to use formation flying satellites to create a new class of radio frequency (RF) data and data analytics, today announced it has successfully completed environmental testing of its second cluster of three satellites. This significant milestone for HawkEye Cluster 2 clears the way to prepare for launch, which is scheduled for late 2020. HawkEye Cluster 2 will join the company’s first cluster of satellites that were launched in December 2018, doubling the size of HawkEye 360’s constellation. This is the first cluster in a series of next generation satellites that will improve revisit rates and bring increasingly robust RF data insights to US and international customers to inform their decision-making processes.
HawkEye 360 has five more clusters of satellites fully financed and under development for launch in 2021 and early 2022. This growing constellation identifies and precisely geolocates a broad set of RF signals from emitters such as VHF marine radios, UHF push-to-talk radios, maritime radar systems, AIS beacons, L-band satellite devices, emergency beacons and more. HawkEye 360 processes and analyzes this data using proprietary algorithms and machine-learning tools to deliver actionable insights to customers.
HawkEye Cluster 2 features significant advancements:
– Improved Capability: The satellites contain a new and improved software-defined radio (SDR) that can tune to a wide range of frequencies and gather higher-resolution signal data to deliver quality results to customers.
– Greater Accuracy: With powerful updated on-board computing, the satellites can process data at a faster rate, leading to increased geolocations with an even greater degree of accuracy, so customers receive the best possible RF geospatial intelligence.
– Simultaneous Collection: The satellites can simultaneously collect multiple signals over a single region for enhanced analytics that help customers make more informed decisions.
“HawkEye 360’s investment to advance the field of space-based RF geoanalytics isn’t just about defense and intelligence missions, but it’s also about protecting our global commons by identifying and tracking illicit activities such as illegal fishing, human trafficking, and animal poaching,” said HawkEye 360’s Chief Executive, Officer John Serafini. “In just 18 months, our first cluster has tracked 20 million geolocations and signals of interest to feed growing demand from civil service and defense clients around the world. The successful environmental testing of our HawkEye Cluster 2 satellites brings us one step closer to our goal of a fully operational constellation that will transform invisible signals into insights that make the world a safer place.”
HawkEye 360 built the RF payloads, which UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) integrated into the satellite bus. SFL conducted the environmental testing efforts, which included vibration, thermal vacuum, and electromagnetic interference testing. These tests simulate the environment the satellites will encounter in space. The next step is to prepare the satellites for launch integration.
“Each new cluster increases HawkEye 360’s capacity to collect more data that we can then process, analyze and deliver as relevant and robust data insights,” said HawkEye 360’s Chief Operating Officer, Rob Rainhart. “The highly advanced HawkEye Cluster 2 satellites can capture multiple signal layers at once to create a more accurate and detailed visual of activity and then bring that data down in a shorter period of time for our customers’ benefit.” (Source: PR Newswire)
16 Jul 20. 2,410 airmen selected for transfer to Space Force, more to follow. Thousands of members of Air Force space and space systems operations have been selected to begin transfer to the Space Force Sept. 1. The 2,410 airmen selected were part of a larger pool of more than 8,500 volunteers for transfer, many of whom are not in a space operations career field. Volunteers serving in career fields shared by the Air Force and Space Force will undergo their own selection process, scheduled in late July for officers and sometime in the fall for enlisted airmen.
Those selected in these boards are expected to begin transfer on Feb. 1, 2021. Career fields shared between the Space Force and Air Force include acquisitions, intelligence, engineering, targeting and cyber specialties.
“This is an exciting and historic time for these space operators, who will be some of the first members to join the Space Force,” said Lt. Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of the Space Force, in a press release.
Each operator transferred will be responsible for contributing ideas that will shape the Space Force in to a modern service, Thompson said.
Because the Air Force will cease to oversee space operations, airmen in space operations career fields who chose not to volunteer for transfer must apply for retraining in a new career field, separation or retirement, or a transition to a reserve component of the Air Force.
The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard will continue to execute space missions in support of the Space Force until a decision is made about the status of a Space Force reserve component.
Army soldiers and Navy sailors necessary to the Space Force’s mission will not begin transfer until fiscal years 2022-23. More details on interservice transfer are expected in fiscal 2021. (Source: Defense News)
16 Jul 20. Defense Innovation Unit issues contract for unmanned orbital outpost. The Defense Innovation Unit has awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation a contract to build an orbital laboratory that would serve as a kind of unmanned space station, the company announced July 14.
The unmanned orbital outpost will be placed in low Earth orbit to be used for experiments and demonstrations. The autonomous, free flying vehicle will be able to host payloads and support space assembly and manufacturing, microgravity experimentation, logistics, training, testing and evaluations.
Under the contract, Sierra Nevada Corporation will repurpose their Shooting Star transport vehicle into a scalable, autonomous space station that can be used for experiments and demonstrations. The Shooting Star vehicle is a 16-foot attachment to the company’s Dream Chaser space plane that was developed for NASA Commercial Resupply Services 2 missions. The vehicle was initially designed to provide extra payload storage and cargo disposal upon re-entry.
“We’re excited by the multi-mission nature of Shooting Star,” Fatih Ozmen, SNC’s chief executive, said in a statement. “It was originally developed for NASA resupply missions to the International Space Station, and since then we keep identifying new capabilities and solutions it offers to a wide variety of customers.”
The company’s press release notes that while the initial orbital outpost will operate in LEO, future orbits could be placed in other orbits, including cislunar.
“The current Shooting Star is already designed with significant capabilities for an orbital outpost and by adding only a few components we are able to meet Department of Defense needs.” added Steve Lindsey, senior vice president of strategy for SNC’s space systems. “We are proud to offer our transport vehicle to DoD as a free-flying destination for experimentation and testing, expanding beyond its current payload service capabilities for Dream Chaser cargo missions.”
According to the original DIU solicitation released June 2019, orbital outposts will need to be established in low Earth orbit within 24 months of the award. A DIU spokesperson told C4ISRNET at the time that the “the prototype will explore the military utility of exclusive DoD access to an unmanned orbital platform in order to perform experiments with no risk to human crew or other non-DOD payloads.” (Source: Defense News)
15 Jul 20. Airbus Targets NRO Imagery Sales With New US Corporate Entity.
“As you know, from Airbus we have a pedigree — we’re probably the leader in commercial SAR capabilities,” says Chris Emerson, CEO of the new Airbus U.S. Space & Defense.
Airbus is angling for a bigger share of the US space and intelligence market with a reorganization of its US operations and an independent board of directors — with its eye squarely on NRO’s upcoming contest for commercial remote sensing providers.
The new entity, called Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, is based near the Pentagon in Rosslyn, Va. It brings all of Airbus’s US operations under one corporate hat.
While Airbus, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, has long had a Special Security Agreement that allows it to sell products in the US, the move to appoint an independent board of US citizens to manage the business will give it increased opportunities to break into highly-classified programs, explained Chris Emerson, the newly appointed CEO, in a roll-out brief with reporters today.
“The foundation to do business with the US is hinged around what we call a Special Security Agreement, because Airbus is based in in Europe. In order for us to establish the trust and bona fides to be able to work at every security level with the US government, we needed to set up an independent board of directors,” he said.
James Darcey, an Airbus spokesperson, clarified in an email to Breaking D that while Airbus has had SSA agreements in the past, as U.S. Space & Defense is a new corporate entity, a new one was required.
“So, while Airbus U.S. Space & Defense is not the first SSA company – and we’ve been selling to the U.S. government under SSA for some time – the new company is structured under a new board of directors, and is moving in new directions than previously,” he said.
The independent board of directors is loaded with household names in the defense community: former National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Letitia Long; former Bush DoD exec Frank Miller; retired Gen. Willy Shelton, former head of Air Force Space Command; DoD Defense Innovation Board member Mark Sirangelo; and retired Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, former chief of staff to DoD Secretary Jim Mattis.
Further, the company just received a license from the Commerce Department that will allow it to sell high-resolution imagery and data analytics to the US government, as well as commercial customers, he said. (Commerce, via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, licenses all US commercial remote sensing operators.)
While Emerson said the firm’s primary focus is commercial users hungry for imagery, he said the firm also intends to respond to the NRO’s request for proposals (RFP) to expand its pool of commercial suppliers of imagery, including advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that has been traditionally supplied by the NRO’s own highly-classified satellites. As Breaking D readers know, that RFP is expected to be released by the end of the year.
It also is eyeing sales of data analyses to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA); not to mention technologies to NASA for its space exploration efforts.
“As you know, from Airbus we have a pedigree — we’re probably the leader in commercial SAR capabilities,” Emerson said.
Airbus operates three X-band radar satellites, as well as two Pleiades and two Spot electro-optical satellites that utilize bandwidth into the near-infrared spectrum. Further, the company’s UK unit won a design study contract from the British Ministry of Defense for an ultra-high resolution SAR constellation, under a program called Oberon.
Airbus also is a 50 percent partner in OneWeb Satellite, based in Florida, that has been building satellites for OneWeb’s planned mega-constellation of 650 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites for Internet connectivity. The fate of that operation has been up in the air because of OneWeb’s March bankruptcy.
But Emerson said that production for OneWeb is restarting, following the July 3 bid by the UK government, in partnership with Indian firm Bharti Global Ltd, to acquire the firm — with each partner contributing $500m in investment. Further, U.S. Airbus Space & Defense is working to bring third-party US customers for the broadband communications satellites by modifying them at the Florida plant, he said.
“That is a critical asset for us that we are only going to continue to grow in the United States. You’ll see more than just one product coming from our capabilities in the US and, we’re committed and excited about the business that we have with with OneWeb Satellites,” he added.
Under Emerson, the new company will have three sub-units: Airbus U.S. Connected Intelligence led by Didier Cormary; Airbus U.S. Space, led by Debra Facktor; and Airbus US Military Aircraft, led by Jose Antonio de la Fuente. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
15 Jul 20. The United States doesn’t go to war alone on land, on the sea, in the air, in cyberspace and most certainly in the space domain, the Space Force’s top officer said, citing the United Kingdom as a key ally in effective space defense over the last 50 years.
Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command, delivered a virtual keynote address at the London Air & Space Power Conference today.
The United States and its allies and partners rely on satellites to provide communications; precision navigation and timing; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and missile warning, the general said. Safeguarding those space systems also is important to the global economy, he noted, citing transportation and financial markets that rely on GPS and the speed of information transfer.
But space superiority and the information advantage it provides are no longer a given, Raymond said. “Strategic competitors such as China and Russia have the means to attack space operations wherever they occur, kinetically and non-kinetically,” he said, “on Earth, in orbit, in cyberspace and in the electromagnetic spectrum.”
Defending space assets in the future will depend less on individual capabilities and more on close and rapid integration with allies and partners, especially the United Kingdom, he said.
“We are stronger together, especially in the space domain,” he said. “The United States does not go to war alone. I cannot imagine a better friend and ally than the Royal Air Force. Our alliance serves as an anchor for peace and stability around the globe.”
The United Kingdom has personnel — including people in key leadership roles — at the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, where the coalition continuously coordinates, plans, integrates, synchronizes and executes space operations to support commanders around the globe, he said, and Canada and Australia also are represented there.
The Defense Department also is interested in supporting the Royal Air Force’s Team Artemis program, a transatlantic collaboration that includes the delivery of small military satellites, Raymond said. DOD also is investigating partnerships with the U.K. on projects involving satellite communications systems, he added.
Raymond praised the Royal Air Force, which he said is “the world’s oldest air force, resilient and respected since 1918.”
About 3,000 RAF pilots were engaged in the Battle of Britain 80 years ago, he noted, one of the most significant air battles in history. The RAF achieved a remarkable victory despite being outnumbered 4.5 to 1.
The United States and the United Kingdom have fought alongside each other in both world wars and subsequent wars, including today’s war on terror, Raymond added. “This unity remains so important today.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Jul 20. Minotaur product line boosts flawless record to 27 missions. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully launched its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle and placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft into orbit at 9:46 a.m. EDT on July 15. The Minotaur IV was launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Northrop Grumman successfully launched its Minotaur IV Rocket into orbit this morning, at 9:46 a.m. ET.
“This mission marks the 27th consecutive successful launch for the company’s Minotaur product line which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year,” said Kurt Eberly, director, launch vehicles, Northrop Grumman. “Minotaur’s record of success along with its ability to responsively launch from multiple spaceports continues to be a valuable asset for our customers.”
The NROL-129 launch (L-129) was the seventh Minotaur IV flight. The Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads of up to 4,000 pounds (or 1,800 kilograms) to low earth orbit. This mission’s Minotaur IV configuration included three decommissioned Peacekeeper stages and a Northrop Grumman manufactured Orion 38 solid fuel upper stage. The Minotaur rockets are manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Chandler, Arizona; Vandenberg, California; and Clearfield and Magna, Utah.
The Minotaur family of launch vehicles is based on government-furnished Peacekeeper and Minuteman rocket motors that Northrop Grumman has integrated with modern avionics and other subsystems to produce a cost-effective, responsive launcher based on flight-proven hardware. Minotaur rockets have launched from ranges in Alaska, California, Florida and Virginia.
Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur IV Rocket successfully launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility this morning.
The vehicle used to launch the L-129 mission was procured under the OSP-3 contract administered by the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Minotaur vehicles are currently available to customers under the OSP-4 contract.
15 Jul 20. Dynetics tests USASMDC’s Lonestar tactical space support payloads. Leidos subsidiary Dynetics has concluded testing the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s (USASMDC) Lonestar tactical space support payloads.
In 2018, USASMDC Technical Center programme Lonestar selected the company for the development of small satellites.
The contract awarded through the Design, Development, Demonstration and Integration (D3I), Domain 1 task order was for two years.
It also included an option year valued at $8.3m to develop, test, integrate and demonstrate two tactical space support vehicles (TSSV).
Under the contract, Dynetics is required to perform hardware-in-the-loop (HWIL) testing and simulation to optimise the performance and viability of TSSV.
The tests were conducted at the command’s Payload Development Laboratory (PDL) facility at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
Using the company’s signal processing applications for defence, intelligence and spaceflight hardware development, payload design of the vehicle was concluded in four months.
Completion, integration and verification of the payload hardware and flight software finished within 18 months.
Work under the contract was performed at Dynetics’ small satellite development labs.
Simultaneously, the Lonestar team developed software to perform tests.
Dynetics space systems department manager and Lonestar programme manager Mike Graves said: “With our strengths in critical payload technologies, space hardware and software development, secure labs and manufacturing capabilities, Dynetics is taking on the challenge to meet emerging national space defence goals.”
In May this year, Dynetics secured a contract to build and enhance the power of US Army laser capability. (Source: army-technology.com)
14 Jul 20. US Space Force squadron gets new advanced terminal for secure communications. The U.S. Space Force squadron charged with operating the military’s most secure communications satellites has received a new advanced terminal that has been in development for years.
The new Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminal (FAB-T) was installed in late June at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, where the 4th Space Operations Squadron will use it to control protected military communications satellites.
“The terminals we were using before couldn’t control some of the more advanced functions on our systems,” Staff Sgt. Edgar Diamond, an officer within the 4th SOPS, said in a press release. “Our old system was not user friendly in the least. If you clicked the wrong thing it would log you off the system. It was a pain and couldn’t be maintained by Airmen. The FAB-T is more efficient and is going to be entirely Airman maintained.”
FAB-T will be used for satellite telemetry, tracking and commanding the Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation, which replaces the MILSTAR constellation in providing protected, anti-jamming communication for high-priority military assets and missions. AEHF satellites and FAB-T terminals are designed to provide survivable, strategic nuclear and non-nuclear command and control, among other things. Just one AEHF satellite has three times the capacity of the entire MILSTAR constellation.
Built by Raytheon, the FAB-T program is significantly behind its initial schedule due in part to software deficiencies. A 2019 Government Accountability Office report warned that as “FAB-T delays mount, the first launched AEHF satellite might near the end of its projected 14-year operational lifespan by the time FAB-T is available.” The first AEHF satellite launched in 2010. The sixth and final AEHF satellite was launched in March.
Other parts of the system are still in development, such as the Forced Element Terminals that will extend these communication capabilities to the B-52 and RC-135. Raytheon was awarded a $442m contract in January to build those terminals. Work on that contract is expected to be completed in August 2023.
An Air Force report on FAB-T released earlier this year noted that U.S. Strategic Command obtained early operation use of FAB-T in June 2019, and the Air Force plans to begin installing them at operational sites in fiscal 2020.
The June installation marks the first FAB-T for the 4th SOPS and the unit plans to install more FAB-T terminals in the future. The 50th Space Wing leaders also emphasized the new system is far simpler to use and easier to maintain than its predecessor.
“To log onto a satellite with our old system was like a 20-page checklist,” said Diamond. “It took 30-45 minutes just to get online. With the FAB-T, it’s a half-page checklist and [you can be] online in maybe 10-15 minutes.
“The FAB-T is smaller, faster and easier to repair than what we were previously using,” he added. “It’ll significantly cut down on down time involved with maintenance. With the FAB-T, it takes only 30 minutes to repair, whereas our old system took all day.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
15 Jul 20. Government commits to enhancing Australia’s sovereign space capabilities. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews have announced a series of capability investments to enhance Australia’s sovereign defence and space capabilities.
The announcements are part of a key boost supporting Australia’s defence and space-based capabilities, announced off the back of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.
The first announcement will see an $87m investment towards improving facilities at the joint US-Australian Space Surveillance Telescope, Naval Communications Station Harold E. Holt in Exmouth, on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia.
During a visit to the facility in Exmouth, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the significant investment would boost the Australian space industry.
“As recently announced in the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, this government is significantly increasing investment in Defence’s space capabilities with $7bn being invested over the next decade. This world-leading, 360-degree telescope enables Defence to better track and identify objects and threats in space including space debris, as well as predict and avoid potential collisions,” Minister Reynolds said.
Minister Reynolds added, “Our national security, industry and population rely on satellite communications to connect businesses across the country, and around the world. This government recognises the importance of developing technologies locally to protect our space assets and offering opportunities to export these space capabilities to our allies and international partners.”
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews explained this investment would build on the already impressive space capability that exists in Western Australia.
“Western Australia has knowledge that is in demand right around the world, including NASA, which is interested in the automation and robotic skills that have been developed and honed in our mining industry,” Minister Andrews explained.
Minister for Defence Industry and the local federal member for Durack, Melissa Price, said Defence would provide opportunities to grow the Australian space industry through its Space Domain Awareness project.
“Defence will continue to work alongside Australian industry, including in regional Australia like right here in Exmouth, to develop world-leading technologies. Space is a truly global endeavour, and Australia is now looking to make a strong contribution to space safety and security using home-grown technologies and systems,” Minister Price said.
After capturing its first images of space in April 2020, the telescope will now undergo extensive testing, and is expected to be fully operational in 2022.
The second announcement will see Australia taking the first step towards investing in Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite communication constellation, as part of its $7bn investment in space capabilities over the next 10 years.
Minister Reynolds explained the significant investment demonstrates the Morrison government’s commitment to protecting Australia’s space assets and increasing our self reliance and resilience.
Minister Reynolds explained, “The Australian Defence Satellite Communications System project will be a critical enabler for the future operational capability of Defence, by providing real time operational and logistical information which is essential for the command and control of deployed forces.”
The new future satellite communications capability will supplement, and then replace, the existing Defence satellite communications system, with a focus on supporting operations within the Indo-Pacific region.
The sovereign controlled system will be augmented by contracted commercial satellite communications and industry partners, to assure resilient communications globally for the ADF across a range of space operations.
Minister Andrews added, “Investments like this is in our sovereign capability have a substantial flow-on effect through our supply chains – and that means jobs for Australians.
“That is what is so powerful about space. You’re creating opportunities for a broad range of industries to be involved in the projects, as well as developing technologies and capability that will support the advancement of those very same industries and beyond.”
A request for tender is set to be released in late 2020 for the sovereign controlled satellite communications capability, which aims to engage a single prime contractor to deliver, upgrade and sustain the capability over its life of type.
Potential opportunities for Australian industry involvement include software development, systems integration, facilities construction, system operators, sustainment, and participation in the supply chain through manufacture and supply of sub-systems and components. (Source: Space Connect)
14 Jul 20. Skyrora opens rocket engine test complex expected to create over 170 jobs. Skyrora has established an engine test complex in Scotland, where it already has successfully tested its 3.5kN engine and three-tonne engine for its sub-orbital and orbital rockets. Skyrora expects the newly established Engine Test Complex to help the company create over 170 new jobs in the area by 2030.
Skyrora’s engine test complex layout is fairly minimal, mainly consisting of a fuel and oxidiser loading system to put fuel into both tanks and a pressure supply system to feed the fuel to the engine in the test stand. Skyrora also built the actual test stand, the road to access the test site and the concrete slab for the test site to sit on. It took the team only a few weeks to build it, at a fraction of the estimated time and cost while making sure all measures followed health and safety guidelines.
Skyrora’s vision is to test all three engines used on its rocket suite in the one location: the seven-tonne engine for the first and second stage of the orbital Skyrora XL launch vehicle, the 3.5Kn engine for the third stage, and the three-tonne engine for the sub-orbital Skylark L launch vehicle.
The test site is estimated to help Skyrora create over 170 mainly technical jobs in manufacturing and operations ranging from mechanical engineering to electronics for avionics systems.
Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive officer of Skyrora, said: “The opening of our engine test complex represents a giant leap forward for the UK’s ambitions as a space nation and Scotland’s status as a space hub. The location and additional jobs will benefit the UK space industry and help the overall economy grow. It will also allow Skyrora’s highly skilled workforce and a young generation of engineers and technicians to be a part of this space revolution. Skyrora has developed and come so far as a team and a company, and I am really proud to see how many milestones we have achieved in a short period of time.”
In January 2020, Skyrora announced it had completed up to 25 tests on their 3.5kN upper stage orbital engine testing their Ecosene fuel, an equivalent kerosene derived from unrecyclable plastics. And right before the UK lockdown measures were implemented, the complex saw the three-tonne engine through several tests. The engine produces 30kN’s of thrust, meaning that it is one order of magnitude greater than the 3.5kN third stage.
Skyrora’s main objective of testing engines is to validate the performance of the engine. Variables such as pressure, thrust, flow of fuel and flow of oxidizer were stress-tested and assessed as part of the process.
The three-tonne engine, integrated onto Skylark-L, also underwent a successful full vertical static fire test in May 2020. The 11-metre rocket could be ready to launch from as early as spring 2021 and can reach an altitude of 100km; the test results showed it would have crossed the Karman line.
Following the 3.5kN and three-tonne engine tests, Skyrora is now looking at expanding the test site to allow the rocket company to test their seven-tonne engine, used for the first and second stage of the low Earth orbit (LEO) vehicle, the Skyrora XL.
Dr Jack-James Marlow, Engineering Manager at Skyrora, who oversaw the testing, said: “Our engine test complex is a fantastic opportunity for Skyrora and the UK Space industry. Scotland is heading towards an unprecedented growth in UK space and our complex is one step closer to achieving this. We are planning to test all our engines, which are fully 3D printed and operate on high-test peroxide (HTP, a highly concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide), at the site. Our recent successful testing of the three-tonne engine is nearly ten times greater in thrust than our last series of engine tests on our LEO engine. We pushed the engine to its limits to find its operational envelope and critical parameters. The engine performed as expected and has enabled us to begin small volume production of the engine”.
Looking to the future, both Skylark L and its 22-metre sibling Skyrora XL will utilise Ecosene – the fuel comprised of waste plastics developed by Skyrora. Technological advances mean Ecosene will be able to produce 600kg of usable kerosene from 1000kg of waste plastics in the space of 24 hours.
Using proven technology from the likes of Black Arrow, Skyrora will use hydrogen peroxide as a fuel oxidiser. This removes the need and cost for cryogenic freezing due to Scotland’s unpredictable weather, which it would prove debilitating in the event of a late cancellation.
The launch vehicle manufacturing company aims to complete the inaugural launch of Skyrora XL from a UK spaceport by 2023. (Source: News Now/http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/)
14 Jul 20. Funding for small launch providers still in question after withdrawal of $116m in contracts. The U.S. Air Force’s top acquisition official hopes money will materialize for small launch providers whose Defense Production Act contracts were withdrawn earlier this month due to a lack of funding. In mid-June, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced that it would award ride-share contracts to six firms by using funding meant to bolster companies made financially vulnerable by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the government in early July reversed course, recalling the $116m designated for small launch providers because of “additional small business needs that were generated,” such as other government loan programs, said Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“My hope is that whenever there’s new [Defense Production Act] Title 3 funding or when resource frees up due to other efforts not executing as planned, that those [contracts] are the first to go back into the hopper,” Roper told reporters Tuesday.
“If I were asked today to put in one new Title 3 initiative, it’s small launch because I think it’s going to be an amazing industry base for this country, and if properly influenced, my military mission can be highly disruptive in future war fighting, especially if satellites can be put up in a very responsive way that changes the calculus for holding space assets at risk.”
In the June announcement, SMC stated that Aevum, Astra, X-BOW, Rocket Lab USA, Space Vector and VOX Space would each receive sole-source contracts for two ride-share missions to be conducted over the next 24 months. But it may no longer be possible for the companies to get all $116m originally set aside for those contracts, Roper acknowledged.
“I don’t know if that much will free up,” he said. “We have had quite a few come in lower than initially estimated. So it’s possible that a resource will be freed, and whatever it is, we can scale some effort in small launch.”
With venture capital drying up due to worldwide economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pentagon leaders have been vocal about the impact on the emerging small launch industry, which they see as a critical capability that could allow the Space Force to launch small satellites more cheaply and rapidly.
In April, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord labeled it — along with shipbuilding and aviation — as one of the three sectors the Defense Department was most concerned could be permanently impacted.
“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,” Col. Rob Bongiovi, director of SMC Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate, told C4ISRNET in April. “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.” (Source: Defense News)
14 Jul 20. US launched four intelligence payloads July 15. The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center announced July 11 that it successfully completed its flight readiness review, putting the launch on track for its 9 a.m. ET window at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
For the National Reconnaissance Office Launch-129 (NROL-129) mission, four payloads built and designed by NRO will be placed on orbit. The agency, which is charged with acquiring and managing the nation’s intelligence satellites, typically does not release details about the payloads it places on orbit or their purpose, and NROL-129 is not an exception.
The launch contract was awarded through the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3, or OSP-3, a contract mechanism designed to take advantage of commercial small launch providers. OSP-3 expired in November 2019 and was replaced by OSP-4.
“We look forward to launching NROL-129 for our National Reconnaissance Office customer,” Brig. Gen. Jason Cothern, Space and Missile Systems Center vice commander and Air Force program executive officer for space enterprise, said in a statement. “This is a great example of using SMC’s small launch contracts to expand our capability to provide reliable assured access to space.”
The NROL-129 mission will use one of Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur IV rockets, which are capable of launching payloads up to 3,814 pounds into low Earth orbit. This is the first time an NRO mission has taken place on a Minotaur IV rocket, although the Air Force previously used them.
“We have successfully launched 26 Minotaur missions with our last Minotaur mission from Wallops in 2013,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC’s Small Launch and Targets Division. “This will be our first U.S. Space Force mission and the first dedicated NRO mission from Wallops. We look forward to continuing to launch national priority satellites for our NRO partner.”
This will be the NRO’s first mission launched from U.S. soil in 2020, since its other two launches took place from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand facility. Those two launches were acquired with the new Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket contract vehicle, a mechanism adopted by the agency in 2018 that — like OSP-3 and OSP-4 — seeks to leverage the commercial small satellite launch market for government launches. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
14 Jul 20. Gilmour Space completes latest test burn for hybrid rocket engine. Queensland-based rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has achieved one of the longest hybrid rocket engine test firings in the world: a 110-second mission duration burn of its upper stage engine.
The test is a significant milestone for Gilmour Space, which is pioneering new single-port hybrid propulsion rocket engines that will be significantly cheaper, greener and safer to operate than traditional liquid and solid propulsion rockets.
Gilmour Space CEO and co-founder Adam Gilmour explained, “We more than doubled the duration of our last 45-second test fire, and in the process proved a lot of the technologies we will need for our larger engines. What you see here is a mission duty cycle and throttle test of our smallest upper-stage engine.”
The Queensland-based company is developing a new three-stage hybrid propulsion rocket that will launch small satellites into orbit from 2022 – 110 seconds is the time period expected for the final stage to deliver customer payloads into their specific orbit.
“We also conducted a controlled throttle-down during the test to demonstrate our engine’s on-orbit manoeuvring capability to a customer,” Mr Gilmour added.
Space-based technologies, previously the domain of big governments and space agencies, already provide vital services such as broadband internet, communications and GPS, and support almost every sector of the economy, including defence.
Gilmour expanded, “With space now opening up to commercial players, we are seeing an explosion of innovation in the global space industry – constellations of smaller satellites in low-Earth orbits transmitting massive amounts of data for our mobile needs, enabling cheaper and faster internet, autonomous vehicle systems, the internet of things, and much more.
“However, launch costs and availability are still big challenges for small satellite players globally, and we remain committed to providing customers with more cost-effective and reliable access to space.”
Gilmour Space Technologies is a venture-funded Australian space technology company headquartered in Gold Coast, Queensland, that is developing and launching more affordable rockets to serve the global small satellite industry. (Source: Space Connect)
13 Jul 20. NASA’s Aussie deep space station upgrade on track. NASA’s Deep Space Station 43 located outside of Canberra, an integral part of the organisation’s Deep Space Network for communicating with distant spacecraft, has kick started a range of modernisations to ensure it is ready to support the next-generation of space exploration.
Forty-eight years old and 70 metres wide, the dish recently received a new X-band frequency cone – inside the cone is a powerful state-of-the-art transmitter system and highly sensitive receivers, which will be used to send commands to spacecraft and receive telemetry and science data back from robotic missions exploring the solar system.
A giant crane manoeuvred the three-tonne cone into the centre of the massive dish after lifting it 20 stories from the ground. In addition to the new cone, the antenna is receiving upgrades to its water coolant system and its mechanical and electrical equipment.
Some of the components being upgraded have become increasingly unreliable after being in constant use for 40 years. The antenna has been offline since early March 2020, and the upgrades are scheduled to be completed by January 2021.
One of three networks in NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program (SCaN), the Deep Space Network is spread over three locations around the world – California, Spain and Australia. This allows mission controllers to communicate with spacecraft on the moon and beyond at all times during Earth’s rotation.
However, as the sole 70-metre antenna in the southern hemisphere, only DSS-43 can send commands to Voyager 2, which is travelling in a southward direction relative to Earth’s orbital plane (other antennas at the Canberra complex can receive signals from Voyager 2, but DSS-43 is the only dish that can send commands to the spacecraft).
Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 is more than 18 billion kilometres from Earth and therefore requires a powerful radio antenna to transmit commands. Deep Space Station 43’s special S-band transmitter has this capability and operates on a frequency that can communicate with Voyager’s technology.
While the repairs will benefit Voyager 2 directly, they’ll also enhance communications with the soon-to-launch Perseverance Mars rover and future moon to Mars exploration efforts.
The network will play a critical role in ensuring communication and navigation support for both the precursor moon and Mars missions and the crewed Artemis missions.
The Deep Space Network is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for SCaN, located at NASA Headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
The Canberra station is managed on NASA’s behalf by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. (Source: Space Connect)
09 Jul 20. Ex-Im Bank to step up support for space industry challenged by Chinese competitors. The Export-Import Bank of the United States is reaching out to the space industry and offering to help exporters take on Chinese competitors, officials said July 9.
U.S. companies in the space sector face tough competition from Chinese government-backed companies and the Ex-Im Bank now has a mandate from Congress to help level the playing field, David Trulio, a bank senior vice president said at a virtual forum hosted by Ex-Im.
Trulio, a former Defense Department official, runs Ex-Im’s “Program on China and Transformational Exports.” The program was directed by Congress when it signed a seven-year re-authorization for Ex-Im on December 20, 2019.
‘It’s a crucial mandate that we’re working to operationalize,” said Trulio. The program extends loans to foreign buyers of U.S. goods and services. The law says that loan rates and terms must be competitive with those offered by the People’s Republic of China.
Congress charged Ex-Im to set aside at least 20 percent of the agency’s financing authority — $27bn out of a total of $135bn — for this program. Space is one of several industries that were identified as being challenged by Chinese competition.
Kimberly Reed, Ex-Im’s president and chairman, said the staff that works with the space industry is trying to get back on track after the bank was largely shuttered for four years due to the lack of congressional authorization from 2015 until the bill was signed in December 2019.
During those four years the bank lacked authority to make loans above $10m, which severely limited its ability to finance satellite deals.
Judith Pryor, board member of Ex-Im, said that in the decade prior to the lapse of the bank’s charter, it had provided $5bn in financing to buyers of U.S. satellite and launch services. “It would have been more had the bank not lost its authorization,” Pryor said.
In 2020, Ex-Im is finding that the commercial space landscape has dramatically changed. “We have seen an uptick in non-geostationary satellite requests,” said Pryor. There is a higher demand for financing for low Earth orbit satellites, especially for earth observation and remote sensing, as well as for in-orbit servicing and even space tourism.
Selling services, not hardware
Companies that provide earth imaging data and analytics services are increasingly facing cutthroat competition from Chinese firms, said Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet, a company that operates the world’s largest constellation of earth observation satellites.
“There is a massive market opportunity to get contracts with governments around the world,” Schingler said. “But we run into challenges with predatory pricing by Chinese backed companies.”
He said Planet would consider seeking Ex-Im’s help. “There are Chinese companies going after the same products and services we’ve been offering for the last few years,” said Schingler. He would like Ex-Im to help finance purchases of data subscriptions, a service that is provided with space technology but is not the same as selling hardware.
John Serafini, CEO of Hawkeye 360, said his company would like to see Ex-Im help ease the export licensing process.
Hawkeye 360 operates a constellation of satellites that track and analyze radio-frequency signals. The data is turned into intelligence reports.
“There has to be a level playing field,” he said. “U.S. companies can’t export certain capabilities that are available from international competitors.”
Paul Estey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Maxar, said Ex-Im should reconsider how it views “U.S. content requirements.”
Maxar, which manufactures and exports satellites, uses foreign suppliers for some components. Estey argued that even if a Maxar-made satellite has some foreign components, it should be viewed as a U.S. product.
“Maxar would like the bank to allow flexibility in U.S. content requirements,” he said. “Other export credit agencies tend to look at the net benefits to the home country rather than define a strict content limit.”
Ex-Im also should be allowed to finance foreign launches for U.S. supplied satellites, he said, “so our customers have a one-stop shop for financing.”
China Great Wall Industry Corporation has emerged as a strong competitor in the satellite marketplace, said Estey. “They offer attractive financing hat generally includes full financing of the satellite and associated ground equipment, launch and insurance,” he said. “In some deals they allow the satellite operator to repay a 10-plus year loan one or two years after the satellite is launched and starts to generate revenue.”
Stephanie Bednarek, director of commercial sales at SpaceX, said the company competes frequently with Chinese-backed launch companies.
“It’s fair to say that SpaceX may view Ex-Im as an extension of our sales force and an asset that’s really critical to help us win international business,” she said.
Bednarek said Ex-Im could also assist U.S. launch providers by helping foreign satellite operators understand how to use Ex-Im as many tend to be skeptical because they are unfamiliar with how it works. (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)
10 Jul 20. Iridium Publicly Threatens Lawsuit To Overturn FCC’s Ligado Vote. “I think there’s some very compelling petitions for reconsideration before the FCC right now, so I’m hoping that they would hit the pause button,” says Iridium’s legal rep Robert McDowell.
Iridium is considering legal action to block the FCC’s controversial approval of Ligado’s 5G mobile wireless network, which much of the federal government says will interfere with GPS.
“From our perspective, the record is clear that the Ligado order adopted this spring is detrimental to satellite communications, users, consumers. We are asking the FCC, Congress and — if needed — the courts to change the outcome, to change or modify,” Robert McDowell, former FCC commissioner under President George W. Bush and Barack Obama and a legal rep for Iridium, told a webinar yesterday sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and Aviation Week.
Iridium operates a satcom constellation in Low Earth Orbit that provides worldwide voice, data, and navigation services (including in the classified arena) to commercial as well as DoD and Intelligence Community customers. McDowell noted that the firm just last year finished launching 75 new satellites (called Iridium-Next), worth $4bn and serving 1.4 million subscribers.
The FCC’s April 20 decision will allow Ligado to use L-band radio frequency spectrum usually reserved for satellite operations to instead build a 5G terrestrial communications network. While Iridium uses L-band for its satellite broadcasts, McDowell was quick to assert that the company is not a Ligado competitor.
“So, this isn’t that we’re trying to knock out a potential competitor through counteracting their regulatory arbitrage. This is about harmful interference and legitimate concerns,” he stressed. “The L-band has always been zoned or licensed exclusively for satellite service.”
“It is vital to understand that almost all L-band licensees are private sector companies like Iridium, not government entities. That gets lost in this debate when we hear a lot about the Department of Defense and other federal agencies,” he added.
As Breaking D readers know, DoD, the Department of Commerce (DoC), the Department of Transportation (DoC) and numerous industry groups are fiercely fighting the FCC’s ruling, arguing that Ligado’s network will drown out GPS signals in receivers used by everyone from troops to airline pilots to construction workers.
DoD, DoC and DoT Press FCC
Indeed, the DoD, DoC and DoT met yet again with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and several of the FCC commissioners on June 19 and 22, both at the classified and unclassified levels, to press their case against Ligado, according to documents filed by Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on June 26.
The meetings included Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who told an FCC oversight hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee on June 25 that she would support a stay of the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to allow reconsideration, “out of respect” for the committee. They also included GOP Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who told Commerce Committee during his June 16 confirmation hearing that he was open to hearing both sides of the Ligado dispute.
During the meeting, DoT argued that “millions” of civil GPS users would be impacted, without any recourse but to pay handsomely to replace equipment — that might not even be immediately available.
“DOT serves as the Civil Lead for GPS and is concerned about the millions of receivers that will experience interference,” according to DoT’s slide presentation. “The majority of civil GPS receivers are not U.S. Government devices and will not qualify for repair or replacement paid for by Ligado. FCC should thoroughly assess and account for the economic costs and burdens that will result.”
Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees also have joined the chorus — with the SASC including anti-Ligado language in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and congressional leaders considering further legislation designed to derail the FCC decision.
House Agriculture Committee Weighs In!
In the latest outcry from Capitol Hill, the Chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson, and a bipartisan group of committee members wrote the FCC yesterday to voice their serious concerns about the potential negative affects of Ligado’s technology on the nation’s farmers. The letter was cosponsored by Republicans Glenn Thompson and James Comer.
“GPS has become the single most significant technological advancement for American farm equipment in the past two decades. According to a 2019 RTI International study, since 1998, GPS adoption in agriculture has yielded more than $5.8bn in economic benefits. The study also found that during planting season, if GPS were interrupted, the economic impact to the agriculture sector could amount to losses of $15bn due to lower crop yields,” the letter states.
“While the FCC Order acknowledges this interference will impact users in the federal government and requires Ligado to upgrade or replace these devices, the Order fails to require Ligado to accept responsibility for the millions of private devices that will be affected,” the letter adds, echoing DoT’s concerns.
Ligado stated in a May 6 letter to the SASC that, circa 2015-2016, it reached agreements with a number of GPS receiver makers that its planned 9.8 dbW broadcast power level (about 10 watts) would not cause harmful interference to their radios — including farm equipment giant John Deere.
Documents obtained by Breaking D confirm there was a Deere agreement in 2015, and it was presented to the FCC in a March 7, 2016 filing by Deere counsel Catherine Wang, of the Morgan Lewis law firm.
However, Deere now says that while it did sign such an agreement, its views have been misrepresented by the commission’s approval order — and reiterates that it has joined in the numerous petitions to stay the order for reconsideration and modification. (It’s assertions of misrepresentation echo those made by another maker of GPS receivers, Trimble.)
The company explains in a June 1 filing that it believes the FCC used the wrong technical standard to determine whether there would be interference in GPS receivers.
“Deere nonetheless advises that its position with respect to Ligado’s Amended Modification Applications must not be interpreted as acquiescence in or, in any way agreement with, Ligado’s continued efforts to depart from long-accepted practice and establish a new metric for determining potential harm to GPS and other GNSS systems.”
Iridium Raises Procedural Questions
McDowell argued that he believes there is a good legal case to be made that the FCC has failed to follow proper procedures.
“I think an appellate court is going to have big problems with how the FCC did it procedurally, and it’ll end up in a remand back to the FCC,” he said. “So, if you’re a potential investor looking to buy Ligado, well, I think this is very hairy.”
McDowell ticked off a number of problems with the FCC ruling, several of which have been brought up by other opponents. From the standpoint of Iridium, and other satcom operators, perhaps the most relevant was his allegation that the FCC failed to follow its own rules on radio frequency interference — rules, incidentally, that are set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that governs global spectrum usage.
“It violated its own rules, which require a newcomer to the satellite neighborhood, like Ligado,
to cure any harmful interference that its terrestrial operations may cause to existing licensees and operators,” he said. “Instead, the FCC asks Ligado to work in good faith to negotiate with Iridium regarding any harmful interference, but it does not require Ligado to make any changes to its planned deployments. If they refuse to work with Iridium, there is no FCC backup plan with any teeth to provide an incentive for Ligado to fix its interference. In short, the FCC puts the burden on the existing licensee Iridium, instead of the new neighbor that is making loud noise, which again, is backwards according to the FCC’s own rule.”
Joel Thayer, a telecommunications lawyer at Phillips Lytle LLP, defended the FCC’s procedure during yesterday’s webinar, arguing along the lines that Pai articulated in a May 26 letter to HASC Chair Adam Smith.
As I reported, Pai argued that the FCC’s 72-page Ligado Order does resolve the concerns of opponents — via Ligado’s latest application modification (made in 2018); the testing data provided to the FCC; and the conditions that the commission imposed on the company in the case interference is discovered, which includes paying for remediation. And in fact, the FCC’s order specifically addressed Iridium’s interference concerns, along with those of DoD and GPS users.
“The FCC is the independent agency and the expert agency, as Rob knows, that allocates spectrum,” Thayer said. “From my perspective, they followed every procedure in the book.”
McDowell also argued, as have a number of other GPS user groups, that the FCC “did not give the affected parties an opportunity to see, that is the private sector parties, let alone comment on its final proposed technical rules, which were very different from what was disclosed in years past.”
Speaking to Breaking D today by phone, Gerry Waldron, legal counsel for Ligado, strongly countered McDowell’s suggestion that the lack of an opportunity to review the draft decision was faulty procedure.
“No party has a right to see draft FCC decisions,” he stressed.
Waldron explained that the FCC order was made as an “adjudication decision” regarding a specific licensee, and that the Administrative Procedures Act does not require such a review. And while Pai has followed the tradition of allowing public comment on rulemakings — those decisions that affect many operators, such as the recent ruling on debris mitigation — even then it is not required.
That said, Waldron asserted that the FCC’s process was highly public, witnessed by the thousands of pages in the Ligado docket available on the FCC’s website. “It was as transparent and open a proceeding as any proceeding FCC does,” he said.
Finally, McDowell echoed DoD’s arguments that “the FCC did not conduct its own interference analysis and only relied heavily on a single technical study sponsored by Ligado.”
Ligado and the FCC have taken issue with this assertion as well. “I’m very confident going forward that we’ve made a decision that is based much more on sound engineering, as opposed to some of the fear mongering that we’ve heard,” Pai told the Commerce Committee oversight hearing.
Despite the threat of legal action, McDowell said that he would like to see the FCC take back its approval order of its own accord, or that Congress would force a change.
“I think there’s some very compelling petitions for reconsideration before the FCC right now, so I’m hoping that they would hit the pause button,” he said. “The FCC needs to rescind its order to propose meaningful and enforceable conditions that protect Iridium from Ligado’s harmful interference, or Congress needs to clean up this mess with legislation.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
07 Jul 20. Restructure of US Space Force Focuses on Space Warfighter Needs. The Department of the Air Force and the United States Space Force recently finalized the new service’s organizational structure for echelons below the headquarters, reflecting the newest branch of the armed forces’ guiding principles of being a lean, agile and mission-focused organization.
The USSF field organization will consist of three echelons of command, where the Air Force currently is organized into five echelons. USSF’s organizational structure will initially consolidate and align all organize, train and equip mission execution from former Air Force space-related units.
“This is the most significant restructuring of space units undertaken by the United States since the establishment of Air Force Space Command in 1982,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “Innovation and efficiency are driving our mission as we position the Space Force to respond with agility to protect our nation’s space capabilities and the American way of life.”
In order of hierarchy, the USSF field echelons are named field commands, deltas and squadrons. There will be three field commands aligned with specific mission focuses: Space Operations Command, Space Systems Command and Space Training and Readiness Command. SpOC and SSC will be led by three-star general officers and STARCOM will be led by a two-star general.
Deltas will be O-6 led and will be organized around a specific function – operations, installation support, training, etc. Within the deltas will be squadrons focused on specific tactics. When the field command structure is fully implemented, it will eliminate one general officer echelon and one O-6 echelon of command. Functions formerly performed at the eliminated echelons will be realigned where appropriate within the USSF.
“This is an historic opportunity to launch the Space Force on the right trajectory to deliver the capabilities needed to ensure freedom of movement and deter aggression in, from and to space,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, USSF chief of space operations. “How we organize the Space Force will have a lasting impact on our ability to respond with speed and agility to emerging threats in support of the National Defense Strategy and Space Strategy.”
SpOC will be the primary force provider of space forces and capabilities for combatant commanders, coalition partners, the joint force and the nation. The staff and operations elements of USSF at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, which is also the former AFSPC, will become the headquarters SpOC. There is an existing unit at Vandenberg AFB, California, named Space Operations Command, which will be renamed upon activation of the field command SpOC.
SSC will be responsible for developing, acquiring, and fielding lethal and resilient space capabilities for warfighters. Additionally, SSC will be responsible for launch, developmental testing, on-orbit checkout, and sustainment and maintenance of USSF space systems, as well as oversight of USSF science and technology activities.
Acquisition and development organizations to include the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Commercial Satellite Communications Office, and program offices of space systems transferring to USSF from other DoD organizations will form the building blocks of the new command, which will be built out in the months to come.
STARCOM will train and educate space professionals, and develop combat-ready space forces to address the challenges of the warfighting domain of space. Complete stand up of STARCOM is scheduled for 2021. In the interim, a provisional Space Training and Readiness Delta, led by an O-6, will be established in July at Peterson AFB. This unit will serve as the parent organization for a number of education, training, and operational test and evaluation units transferring to the Space Force in summer 2020.
The next activities to stand up USSF field organizations include activation of SpOC, SSC and deltas beginning later in summer. (Source: Satnews)
06 Jul 20. ESA Selects Greek Team’s Deployable Small Satellite Antenna. A Greek consortium led by Adamant Composites announces they will develop a deployable structure that can work as an antenna for small satellites after a teleconference with the European Space Agency. Deployable structures are crucial for space missions as they save tremendous amounts of volume in the launch configuration, while allowing large structures to be formed in space. This comes as good news amidst the corona virus crisis and the consequent financial uncertainty.
The DELHILA (pronounced Delilah) project (DEpLoyable HIgh gain antenna structure for smalL spAcecraft science mission) puts Greece on the global map of Deployable Structures technologies, being the second activity to arrive after LAGARD (Large stable deployable structures). They have been identified as a critical technology for Europe’s non-dependence in the Global Space Market. The project covers all the steps of development: design, breadboarding, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing to flight readiness.
Adamant Composites positive record on challenging projects, is the prime contractor of the activity that has partnered with a team of recognized Greek entities bringing long experience in space engineering studies to develop a competitive subsystem and test it up-to-flight readiness.
For the implementation of the work, Adamant Composites will work closely with NCSR-Demokritos (WiCom lab for RF design), University of Patras (Applied Mechanics Laboratory with expertise in space missions and systems), and SITAEL Hellas (Greek subsidiary of SITAEL; recognized Italian system integrator with a focus on small satellites).
The reflector will have a deployed diameter of 1.5-2.0m and shall fit in a cylinder of 0.2m diameter and 1.0m length inside a small satellite platform. The antenna to be supported will be a high gain antenna operating at X-band with a 2 GHz bandwidth. The total mass of the deployable system is expected to be below 10kg. Product specifications will be consolidated during the work and will be aligned with the needs in NewSpace and the emerging market of small satellites.
The project will run in phases; Phase 1 will cover the design and critical breadboarding until the Preliminary Design Review, while Phase 2 will cover the Detailed Design and all Manufacturing, Assembly, Integration and Testing to bring the system to TRL7.
The DELHILA project comes shortly after the bold move by the Greek Ministry of Digital Governance and the Secretariat General of Telecommunications and Post to increase the subscription to ESA for space technology developments and in anticipation of the Greek Earth Observation Micro-Satellite program.
This project is perceived by many as a “vote of confidence” to the human capital and the strong industrial capabilities established at certain Greek companies for developing and integrating subsystems for micro-satellites.
Dr. Antonios Vavouliotis, Managing Director of ADAMANT COMPOSITES comments on the kick-off of the project, “DELHILA for us is a product-oriented development activity that brings together trusted partners of the Greek Space ecosystem with long term investments in upstream space technologies. We are excited to continue the deployable structures endeavor, contributing to strengthen Greece’s presence in the Space market and attempting to capture the potential created by the end application of such complex systems; in science, telecommunications, Earth observation.”
Dr. Dimitris Vlachos, Technical Director and Project Manager of ESA-DELHILA adds, “The progress of the LAGARD project; among the largest ESA technology development project awarded to Greece until now; has confirmed that Adamant Composites is able to handle even greater challenges and deliver important results. DELHILA brings us one step closer to accomplishing the goal of introducing a Greek high technology product to the global Space market.”
Dr. Antonis Alexandridis, Head of WiCom Lab/NCSR Demokritos continues: “The ESA-DELHILA project is a great challenge for our Laboratory, as we have the chance to exploit in the field of Space Applications our infrastructure, expertise and know-how in antenna technologies. We believe that this project will be a pilot for the expansion of our research collaborations with the European Space Agency as well as with high-tech Greek companies such as Adamant Composites.”
Prof. Vassilis Kostopoulos, Director of Applied Mechanics Laboratory/University of Patras adds, “DELHILA is an exemplary cooperation between the Research community and the Space Industry for Greece, while a unique opportunity to train hands-on the next generation of Greek Space engineers. We are very happy for the kick-off of this activity where we can contribute our long experience and know-how in space missions and engineering.”
Mr. Nikolaos Bazakas, Managing Director of SITAEL Hellas comments: “In these very challenging times it is even a bigger success to start this important activity and SITAEL Hellas is proud to bring to the team the satellite system expertise in the development of such a strategic product for both Greece and Europe. In the journey to develop the Greek Space ecosystem another step was taken with today’s signature.”
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency. (Source: Satnews)
05 Jul 20. China Launches Second Shiyan-6 Satellite. China has successfully sent a satellite for space environment study and related technology experiments into the planned orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Sunday, July 5, 2020.
This satellite is the second of the Shiyan-6 series and, was launched by a Long March-2D carrier rocket at 7:44 a.m. (Beijing Time), according to the center. Sunday’s launch was the 338th by the Long March rocket series. (Source: Satnews)
05 Jul 20. Israel Launches Their Second Ofek Spy Satellite. An optoelectronic reconnaissance satellite packed with a number of advanced capabilities has been launched by Israel from the nation’s launch complex in the center of the country.
Named Ofek-16, the launch occurred at 4:00 a.m. on July 6. A Shavit launch vehicle lifted the satellite to orbit from the Palmachim airbase. This new spy satellite is the latest in the nation’s Ofek series and is a follow-up to the Ofek-11 which gained orbit in 2016.
Full operation of the satellite is expected shortly after a series of tests are completed. Once fully operational, Ofek-16 will be operated by the Israel Defense Force’s Unit 9900, a unit that handles and controls the nation’s intelligence gathering satellites.
The launch of this satellite is a “mighty achievement for the defense establishment, the defense industries in general and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in particular,” stated Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gants. The nation launched their first satellite — the Ofek 1 — in 1998. (Source: Satnews)