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31 Jul 20. Taking on SpaceX, Amazon to invest $10bn in satellite broadband plan. Amazon.com Inc said on Thursday it will invest more than $10bn (7.61bn pounds) to build a network of 3,236 satellites that will provide high-speed broadband internet services to people around the world who lack such access. The announcement follows the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of the plan, called “Project Kuiper”, for the constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will compete with the Starlink network being built out by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It also comes on the heels of Amazon posting its biggest profit in its 26-year history.
“A project of this scale requires significant effort and resources, and, due to the nature of LEO constellations, it is not the kind of initiative that can start small. You have to commit,” the company said in a blog post.
The project will also benefit wireless carriers deploying 5G and other wireless service to new regions, Amazon said.
By comparison, SpaceX has launched over 500 satellites of the roughly 12,000 expected for its Starlink constellation in low Earth orbit and plans to offer broadband service in the United States and Canada by the year’s end. The FCC approved SpaceX’s request in 2018.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, who in February floated the idea of spinning Starlink off for an IPO in the coming years, has said the Starlink constellation will cost the company roughly $10bn.
While extremely costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide high-speed internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. The technology could also be a critical backstop when hurricanes or other natural disasters disrupts communication. The FCC authorization, adopted with a 5-0 vote, requires Amazon to launch half of its satellites no later than mid-2026 and build out the rest of the constellation by mid-2029.
Amazon said it would begin to offer broadband service once 578 satellites are launched. It had 110 open positions for its “Project Kuiper” posted on its website Thursday. The satellites will be designed and tested at a new research and development facility opening in Redmond, Washington.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This announcement will cause some nerves to jangle in No 10! Just when Dominic Cummings recommended to Boris Johnson, overruling the advice of civil servants, to make a huge £500m bet on the bankrupt OneWeb, Amazon piles in another $10bn! There will be some wry grins from Sir Humphrey today! Could OneWeb be the beginning of the end for Dominic Cummings regime? Is he the right man to examine defence technology and take big bets there? A mistake would affect national sovereignty, security and lives.
31 Jul 20. Russia satellite weapon test reignites space arms race fears. World powers developing new generation of ‘Star Wars’ military assets, experts say. On July 15, some 615km above the earth, a Russian satellite named Cosmos 2543 activated its special — and hitherto secret — function by firing a projectile out across the atmosphere. US officials, concerned about its purpose, had been tracking Cosmos 2543 for months after it raised alarm by moving close to a US spy satellite. When Cosmos 2543 fired its unknown payload, it confirmed American suspicions. This was no ordinary satellite. Russian has denied this was a test of new military technology but the incident has reignited international concerns that space is becoming the new battleground for strategic global supremacy — harking back to the late US president Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” plans for space-based military assets. It also underlines the emerging threats to critical satellite infrastructure that provides everything from GPS technology to the ability to launch nuclear weapons. Russia and China have “already turned space into a warfighting domain”, Christopher Ford, lead state department official on arms control, told reporters recently. Moscow was “the most prominent space mischief-maker” and had twice tested projectile-firing satellite weapons, he added.
Days after Moscow denied a US accusation of a military test, officials from both countries gathered in Vienna for their first space security talks since the end of the cold war. One American familiar with the discussions described them as “long, interesting and productive” but any deal similar to those that regulate terrestrial weapons will take time — if it is even possible. Russia has unsuccessfully pushed for a treaty to regulate weapons in space for more than a decade while the US is pursuing similar discussions with China. The challenge for diplomats is to agree on what constitutes a space weapon. The Trump administration wants to dodge defining weapons and instead agree and apply rules of armed conflict to outer space and establish a crisis communications channel akin to the cold war nuclear “hotline” with Russia to deal with potential conflict in space. American officials have framed their interest as securing “unfettered access” to space, on which the US relies for military, communications and commercial applications far more than any other country. Moscow and Beijing have separately proposed limits on ground-based weapons that could pose a risk to satellites, but US experts counter the pair has already developed these. “Once they’ve . . . put the gun to our head, now they’re ready to sit down and talk,” said Todd Harrison, space security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, adding the difficulty with such negotiations was that “every country involved will try to come up with a self-serving definition”.
The idea of prohibiting weapons in space is misleading. What we’re looking for is rules of the road . . . how we’re going to treat and manage systems in space Senior US official Significant differences remain. “Russia and the US do not speak the same language when it comes to what is considered a ‘peaceful action’ in outer space. That creates a big challenge,” said Beyza Unal, senior research fellow at the Chatham House think-tank. Global powers have long eyed space as a potential battleground. Reagan’s plans outlined in 1983 — dubbed Star Wars after the popular films released around that time — proposed a new push into space-based weapons to counter the threat from the Soviet Union, which duly warned that such systems would make nuclear war inevitable. Today the US treats space as a theatre of war, and portrays battles extending into space in simulations of future large-scale conflicts. Russia also has a defence command structure to oversee the earth’s atmosphere and beyond. Yet sophisticated weapons are not required to disable or destroy satellites. Given that they are extremely delicate and travelling at thousands of miles an hour, a mere collision will suffice. “We have all this talk of lasers and ‘Star Wars’, but really the capability to destroy another country’s satellite is not that advanced,” said a senior US official briefed on the Vienna talks. “It only takes an impact — a fender bender in space.” The official continued: “The idea of prohibiting weapons in space is misleading. What we’re looking for is rules of the road . . . how we’re going to treat and manage systems in space.” Moscow has said the Cosmos 2543 projectile was the test of an “inspector” designed to determine details of Russia’s own satellites. The Kremlin said it was “committed to the task of complete demilitarisation” of space.
And while US officials characterise Russia’s space-based weapons tests as “provocative, dangerous and ill-advised”, experts say the US has established space weapons capabilities of its own but was not pursuing “kinetic” options. In 2008 the US shot down one of its satellites in what some interpreted as a show of force a year after China did something similar. Recommended AnalysisThe Big Read Vulnerable satellites: the emerging arms race in space The US defence department warned in a report this week that it faced being outclassed in space and forced to “resign itself to second-class status”. It cited US Space Command’s conclusion last year that Washington must “commit to having a military force structure that can defend this international space order and defend US space interests”. Joe Mozer, chief scientist at the US Space Force recently established by President Donald Trump, said this week: “We must overmatch our strategic competitors.” Yet America’s vaulting ambitions for space — ranging from a return to the Moon in 2024 to Tesla founder Elon Musk’s hopes to colonise Mars and make humanity a multi-planetary species — risk snagging over the security of space and the danger that such missions could be threatened militarily. Without a global pact to oversee extraterrestrial weapon deployments, Ms Unal warned, nations competing to protect their space assets could push each other to develop evermore powerful capabilities, escalating fears of full-blown conflict in the cosmos. “Geopolitical powers are already showing their ambition in procuring outer space weapons technology,” she said. “But . . . there will be always a new technology that will thrive and offset previous capabilities.” (Source: FT.com)
28 Jul 20. Nominee to lead Space Command voices support for declassifying space. The nominee to lead the nearly year-old U.S. Space Command voiced support for addressing the problem of over-classification in space, during a July 28 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, currently serving as deputy commander of SPACECOM, told senators that in his experience, declassification has helped the war fighter on the ground.
“In my previous job as commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, I saw firsthand how that over-classification, if you will, was actually making it more difficult for us to provide support to the war fighter,” Dickinson said. “We’ve already seen in the U.S. Army how that declassification, if you will, of some of the assets that we have has added to not only more soldiers being able to be trained and qualified on that capability, but providing that capability to the war fighter on the ground.”
Dickinson further stated that SPACECOM should routinely review classification in regard to space. In answers he submitted to the committee before the hearing, Dickinson also acknowledged the need for a review of how data collected from space is classified.
“We do need a comprehensive review of classification for collection data to ensure widest dissemination possible to the war fighter in a timely fashion,” he noted.
Dickinson is not the first official in the Department of Defense to call for the increased declassification of space programs. In December 2019, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said her office would focus on addressing over-classification within America’s space portfolio.
“Declassifying some of what is currently held in secure vaults would be a good idea,” she said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “You would have to be careful about what we declassify, but there is much more classified than what needs to be.”
And in a recent Defense News op-ed, which was referenced by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., during his questioning of Dickinson, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work called for the establishment of a high-level commission of former officers and officials to address over-classification in space programs and intelligence.
Dickinson said he had read that op-ed, adding that he believes progress is being made.
“I would tell you that we have come a long ways in a short period of time in terms of that particular effort. We have looked at that in DoD in my last job very extensively,” he said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Dickinson would replace Gen. John “Jay” Raymond as head of SPACECOM. Raymond has concurrently served as chief of space operations of the Space Force since that service was established in December. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
29 Jul 20. Raytheon to design weather satellite prototype for US Space Force. The U.S. Space Force has selected Raytheon Intelligence & Space to build an advanced weather satellite prototype that can provide the military with theater weather imaging and cloud characterization, the company announced July 22.
The Next Generation Electro-Optical Infrared Weather Satellite is intended to replace the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, or DMSP, a series of satellites that have provided weather data for military operations since the 1960s.
In 2015, Congress directed the Air Force to replace DMSP with a new weather system. As of last year, the satellites in the DMSP constellation were reaching the end of their service life, and the Pentagon expressed concerns that they may not last until a new satellite is launched in 2024.
ORS-8, a planned replacement slated to launch in 2020 in partnership with NASA, was canceled by the space agency following protests. A free-flying spacecraft that could help provide weather data in the interim was scrapped by the Pentagon last year in favor of a distributed low-Earth orbit architecture.
Raytheon says it can design the new satellite in eight months by leveraging weather system technology used on the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Raytheon did not disclose the prototype contract value.
“Our system will gather all the info needed to not only build an accurate weather forecast, but to really understand what’s going on in the atmosphere — both of which are essential to planning and executing a mission,” said Wallis Laughrey, vice president of space and command-and-control systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “Understanding clouds and cloud movement could be used for things as simple as route planning for air-to-air refueling or to know where clouds might be covering an area of interest.” (Source: Defense News)
30 Jul 20. Southern Launch partners with T-Minus Engineering for DART rocket. Southern Launch has selected the T-Minus Engineering DART rocket to launch DEWC’s prototype payload on a parabolic trajectory into space at the Koonibba Rocket Test Range later this year.
Southern Launch selected the DART rocket based on DEWC Systems’ requirements, developed mathematical flight performance models of the DART, optimised the rocket flight trajectories to meet the DEWC Systems’ payload requirements, and developed the range safety exclusion areas in consultation with the traditional owners across the Koonibba Test Range.
Southern Launch also developed all documentation and sourced all regulatory approvals from all Australian state and federal regulatory bodies to import, store and operate the rockets.
DEWC Systems chief executive Ian Spencer said, “This exciting launch was triggered by a simple chat in early 2019 about the possibility of working on a project that will bring together South Australian companies to demonstrate our collective capabilities.”
The DART rocket will carry DEWC’s payload, the DEWC-SP1, into space before being released from the launch container and descending to Earth. The DEWC-SP1 itself is less than 27 centimetres long, three centimetres in diameter and weighs less than 500 grams.
This tiny payload will conduct an important sensing mission as it descends to Earth, paving the way for future planned developments by DEWC Systems. This miniaturised suite of antennas, sensors and communication links will endure up to 50 times its own weight due to the g-forces at launch, freezing temperatures in space and extreme heat as it reaches up to five times the speed of sound as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The mission will provide much-needed performance data and demonstrate the functionality of these types of systems for a variety of applications.
“Very soon this rocket, unlike any rocket ever launched in Australia will carry DEWC Systems’ prototype electronic sensor payload that will enable us to detect and identify specific radar signals. Using the DART gives us easy and cost-effective access to space and has helped us to hone our skills in electronics optimisation and miniaturisation,” Spencer explained.
Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said, “The T-Minus Engineering DART rocket is based on a tried and tested design and is the perfect candidate rocket to use when demonstrating an incremental space launch capability. With safety to people and the environment as our key priority, the DART rocket allows us to first launch the rocket to 85 kilometres, and then, with only changing the angle at which we launch the rocket, fly above 100 kilometres.”
The DART rocket weighs only 34 kilograms and is 3.4 metres long, has one rocket engine, is spin stabilised and unguided. The rocket has a solid-fuelled first stage booster and an inert second stage dart that will contain the DEWC Systems payload.
Founded in the Netherlands in 2011, T-Minus Engineering has extensive experience and skills in the design and operation of rocket systems and have successfully built and launched several high-quality rocket products.
Roel Eerkens, co-founder of T-Minus Engineering, said, “The DART rocket is a very efficient way of reaching space altitudes. Designed with the miniaturisation of payloads in mind, the DART vehicle fits perfectly with well-engineered compact payloads like the one from DEWC Systems.
“For us, as a rocket-building company, launching the more interesting payloads also requires the most thought. The payload by DEWC Systems is unique in its own right and challenges us in different ways. Deployment is one of the elements that was key to the project and different compared to other missions.”
Eerkens added, “Australia has a great heritage with launching rockets from Woomera. By joining DEWC Systems and Southern Launch we hope to catch the wave of commercialisation of space and increased defence, commercial and STEM interest in the latest frontier.” (Source: Space Connect)
28 Jul 20. U.S. Space Effort’s Future Hinges on Private Industry. When the United States sent men to the moon in the 1960s, the effort was largely driven by the government. But the future of the U.S. space effort will be agile innovators in the private sector who partner with the government, the Space Force’s chief scientist said.
“We’re very much at a precipice where private investment in space is driving the technology, not necessarily government investment as it has been in the past,” Dr. Joel B. Mozer said today during a virtual panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The U.S. government, in its pursuit of advancements and participation in the space domain, can contribute through investments in science, technology, infrastructure and science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education, Mozer said, as well as through development of policies and regulations that strengthen space efforts.
Defense Department officials must have a unique perspective on space, how it can be used, and what must be done to achieve national security objectives, Mozer said.
“Firstly, it’s going to shape the environment that we operate in and will evolve our mission to protect U.S. interests both here on Earth and beyond in the future,” he explained. “Second, many of the technological innovations that are now coming and will continue to come from entrepreneurs and industrialists in the space business are from those entrepreneurs. We must harness those innovations for our mission to support the joint fight when we’re called upon to do so.”
Finally, Mozer said, those involved in the military’s pursuit of space must overmatch America’s strategic competitors.
“Space is now a warfighting domain,” he said. “We must work with industry, as well as our allies, to protect our ability to operate in that domain and to defend our capabilities and ensure that they’re there when needed as well as to ensure that the technological advantage in space goes to freedom-loving states who desire to keep space lines of commerce open for all.”
In May, NewSpace New Mexico sponsored a four-day conference to discuss civil, commercial and national security space strategy. That conference produced the nearly 90-page report “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020.”
Mozer, one of the report’s authors, said 10 recommendations regarding the future of space — six for the U.S government and four for industry — were the key takeaways.
The No. 1 recommendation, Mozer said, is that the U.S. government develop and endorse a whole-of-government “North Star” vision and strategy for the industrial development of space and that a presidential task force be established to execute that strategy.
“This recommendation is particularly important, and I believe that we’re getting there,” Mozer said. “In recent years and months, we’ve seen a lot of action and direction in this direction.”
As examples of progress, he cited NASA’s Artemis mission, which plans to put the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024. The establishment of the Space Force is also an example of progress.
“There’s a lot of thought being put into this ‘North Star’ vision, and we’re laying some groundwork for it,” he said. “However, it is still significant that this recommendation came out on top from the workshop. It tells me that we still have some work to do to describe this future vision, a vision that the nation could get behind and adopt.”
The “North Star” vision must be specific about what the United States wants its future in space to look like, and U.S. officials must make sure the decisions they make now move the nation toward a future in space that Americans can aspire to and be proud of, Mozer said.
Other nations, specifically China, already have a long-term vision of the future of space and are making investments toward their own visions, he noted.
“The importance of such a vision is that it has the potential to derive national pride and to instill a culture of progress, and it highlights the value of STEM education for aspiring youth,” he said. “There’s lots of benefits of such a vision. The value is immense of a ‘North Star’ vision, and the consequences of a lack of such visual are potentially disastrous.” (Source: US DoD)
28 Jul 20. South Korea to have solid-fuel rockets in major deal with US. South Korea said Tuesday it has won U.S. consent to use solid fuel for space launch vehicles, a move that is expected to enable Seoul to launch its first surveillance satellites and acquire technology to build more powerful missiles.
Solid fuel offers greater mobility for missiles and rockets, and reduces launch preparation time. But Washington had imposed strict restrictions on Seoul’s use of solid propellant for space launch rockets out of concern that it could be used to produce bigger missiles and cause a regional arms race.
On Tuesday, the South Korean government said that Seoul and Washington have agreed to revise related bilateral missile guidelines to lift such restrictions.
Kim Hyun-chong, deputy presidential national security adviser, told reporters that all South Korean research institutes, companies and individuals are now free to develop, produce and possess space launch rockets using solid fuel.
Kim said the revised agreement still bars South Korea from having a missile with a range of more than 800 kilometers (500 miles). But he said Seoul can discuss altering that restriction with Washington if it’s needed for South Korean national security. A missile fired from South Korea with a maximum range of 800 kilometers is still enough to strike all of North Korea.
Kim said that South Korea’s intelligence and reconnaissance capability would be significantly improved when it produces and launches solid-fuel rockets to put low-earth orbit spy satellites into space. He said it makes more sense to use solid-fuel rockets for such satellite launches because the price of solid propellant is only about one-tenth of the price of liquid propellant.
“Theoretically, we can launch a low-earth orbit satellite via liquid-fuel rockets, but it’s like delivering a dish of ‘jjajangmyeon’ by a 10-ton truck,” he said, referring to a popular delivery food in South Korea.
Kim said South Korea has no military spy satellites, while regional powers have dozens of them. He said the use of solid-fuel rockets would help South Korea get an “unblinking eye” that monitors the Korean Peninsula around the clock.
Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, said South Korea could operate two or three low-earth orbit surveillance satellites to better monitor North Korea. He said solid propellants are easier to handle and require much less rocket launch times, though they have weaker thrust forces than high-quality liquid propellants.
Lee said the latest deals with the U.S. would also allow South Korea to expand its space development infrastructure and accumulate know-how to manufacture missiles that can fly longer with bigger warheads. Experts say ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology.
Jung Changwook, head of the private Korea Defense Study Forum, agreed that technology to produce solid-fuel rockets can also be used to build longer-range missiles. He said the United States likely agreed on the deals’ revision to strengthen its alliance with South Korea to better cope with China.
South Korea’s missile capability is inferior to that of rival North Korea. In 2017, North Korea carried out three intercontinental ballistic missile tests as part of its efforts to build a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. In 2013, South Korea succeeded in thrusting an observational satellite into orbit aboard a rocket blasted from its soil for the first time, but parts of that rocket were built with Russian help. (Source: Defense News)
29 Jul 20. Australian Defence Minister releases statement outlining plans for defence in space. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has issued a ministerial statement highlighting the growing importance of space to Australia’s economic and broader national security and outlining the government’s plans for growing the nation’s sovereign space capabilities.
Sovereign space capabilities have emerged as one of the key priorities as identified by the government as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the support 2020 Force Structure Plan.
Supporting this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined $7bn to develop space capabilities to include: “Investment of around $7bn in space capabilities over the next decade, which includes investment in sovereign-controlled satellites, will provide assured access to these services when needed.”
This capability will support “satellite communications and position, navigation and timing data are essential for the command and control of deployed forces”.
“These systems enable the sharing of real-time operational and logistical information and or the placement, navigation and synchronisation of Defence assets,” the government said.
Additionally, Australia will expand its support of space situational awareness capabilities with the US to maximise the integration and capabilities of existing and planned space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications capabilities in the increasingly contested space domain.
Supporting this growing push to develop sovereign space capabilities, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has expanded on the Prime Minister’s statements, to not only explain the importance of space capabilities, but identifying the government’s plans moving forward.
“As Defence Minister, I have seen first-hand how space technology has saved lives. During the bushfires and COVID-19 we have used vital, space-enabled technology, including global positioning systems, satellite communications and imagery, to help us efficiently deliver emergency responses to Australian communities,” Minister Reynolds explained.
“And in conflict, Defence uses space technology to communicate with deployed forces, giving them real-time information to help them protect Australian interests. Put simply, space technology is life-changing and life-saving. So it is vital that Australia retains a technological edge so we can protect our national interests and our freedom to access space.
“But space is becoming more congested and contested. With more than 2,600 satellites orbiting the Earth, and more being launched every year, the co-ordination of safe access to space is complex. We must maintain access to protect of billions of dollars’ worth of military and commercial assets against space debris, collisions and malign acts.
“This is why the Prime Minister and I have announced the investment of $7bn over the next decade in space capabilities as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.”
Expanding on these key points, Minister Reynolds stressed the continued importance of investing in sovereign space capabilities, clearly articulating the government plan for 2035.
“The Morrison government is taking the first step towards introducing Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite-communications constellation,” she said.
“In addition, we will strengthen our sovereign capability by building upon existing plans to develop overhead imagery capability by 2035. This will provide a greater understanding of the Indo‑Pacific.
“Our plans also include enhancing Australian Defence Force space control capabilities to counter emerging space threats to Australia’s free use of the space domain. This will assure our continued access to space-based communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”
As with other areas of defence co-operation, Australia’s development of sovereign space capabilities will focus on developing collaborative research and development relationships with key allies, including the US, UK and other nations.
“To ensure a co-ordinated and targeted approach to capability and policy decisions, the ADF space domain will sit within the Royal Australian Air Force, led by the Chief of Air Force,” Minister Reynolds explained.
“Secondly, Australia is deepening co-operative relationships with key international partners and allies. While our sovereign capabilities are growing, we achieve far more when we work in collaboration with close partners.
“This is demonstrated through Operation DYURRA – a dedicated ADF space operation that will integrate space capabilities, services and effects into wider ADF operations. DYURRA is the word for ‘stars’ in the Ngunnawal language.
“Operation DYURRA also includes integration of ADF space operations with our partners through the US-led Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER. This operation enhances allied cooperation to strengthen deterrence against hostile actors, improve their interoperability, and reduce the spread of debris.
“Defence is also working with the US, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, France and Germany through the Combined Space Operations Initiative to strengthen norms and standards of behaviour and to leverage our combined capabilities.”
Finally, Minister Reynolds expanded on the existing investments initiated by the government in key tactical and strategic force-multiplying space capabilities, saying, “I was proud to commit $87m to boost our vital Defence facilities in Exmouth this week, when I visited two facilities which house critical space technology. The C-Band Radar and the Space Surveillance Telescope in Exmouth are central to our space domain awareness efforts with the United States.
“This impressive technology is just part of a burgeoning space enterprise in our State. In the Murchison, the Square Kilometre Array, which is co-hosted by WA and South Africa is already unlocking secrets of the universe. Curtin and UWA have formed the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, while the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Bentley gives us homegrown, big data capability.
“Add the Murchison Widefield Array, the Desert Fireball Network, the European Space Agency’s deep space antenna in New Norcia, the Perth International Telecommunications Centre, the Western Australian Space Centre and the Learmonth Solar Observatory, and it is clear WA plays a vital role in the national space industry and international co-operation.
“With the perfect combination of low population density, minimal electromagnetic interference and good air quality, WA is ideal for radio antenna, telescopes and other sensitive electronic measuring devices needed for both civilian and defence space projects.
“Space is truly the new frontier of both global competition and cooperation.” (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Jul 20. Hypergiant is building a reprogrammable satellite constellation with the USAF. Hypergiant Industries is working on building a new 36 satellite constellation with the U.S. Air Force —an upgrade-able system that the company hopes will be used as a low Earth orbit test range.
The company first pitched the concept of a constellation of satellites that could update “functionality and mission profiles on the fly based on real-time emergent scenarios and information” in January. Since then, Hypergiant has received funding for their Chameleon Constellation in the form of Air Force Small Business Innovation Research grants, the company told C4ISRNET, and in late June they announced the debut of the first prototype node in their system. The company is moving to get their satellites on orbit fast — the first launch is slated for early 2021.
The Department of Defense’s interest in reprogrammable satellites has grown in recent years as the military works to respond to evolving threats. The military’s traditional approach of building small constellations of large, exquisite, expensive satellites that take years to develop and are meant to last more than a decade on orbit is simply not responsive enough for some threats.
One solution with increasing buy-in from the Pentagon is the proliferated constellations operating in low Earth orbit (LEO) made up of dozens – or even hundreds – of small, relatively cheap satellites that are replaced every few years. Since those satellites are constantly being replaced by newer versions, DoD officials can be assured that the hardware and software on orbit is up to date. The Space Development Agency has been leading the department’s efforts to build its own proliferated LEO constellation.
A second and complementary approach is to build satellites that can be reprogrammed on orbit, like what Hypergiant is doing with their Chameleon Constellation. While the hardware can’t be replaced once the satellite is on orbit, the upgrade-able software gives users more flexibility in adapting the technology to the present need.
In order to build this reprogrammable constellation, Hypergiant is teaming with the Air Force to use their Platform One system as the base of the constellation’s architecture.
“Platform One provides DevSecOps/Software Services with baked-in security to DoD Programs. The Chameleon Constellation will utilize the United States’ Air Force’s secure, hardened, and accredited Platform One system as the foundational layer for the constellation’s architecture,” Ben Lamm, the company’s chief executive, told C4ISRNET. “The partnership will ensure that the Air Force has superior technical advantages in space with the ability to update satellites’ functionality and mission profiles on the fly based on real-time emergent scenarios and information.”
“We need to be able to put assets in space as quickly as possible and then continuously improve them to maintain superiority,” said USAF Maj. Rob Slaughter, director of the Department of Defense’s Platform One, in a statement. “In order for the U.S. to remain competitive and protect the systems that run the lives of everyday Americans, we created a solution that allows for maximum situation control in space.”
While the company did not share the total value of the Small Business Innovation Research grants it had received for the Chameleon Constellation, Lamm told C4ISRNET that they are working toward a phase 3 contract in excess of $10m that would provide direct Air Force and Space Force weapon system support.
Lamm added that he was hopeful that Hypergiant’s satellites could be developed into a Space Force platform, possibly to be used as a LEO test range.
“The full expression of this relationship could absolutely become part of the Space Force platform, and we are keeping that in mind as we architect the constellation with support from the USAF and [Space Force],” he said. “As far as what’s next, we are currently discussing a Low Earth Orbit Test Range as one of the initial applications of the Chameleon Constellation.
“Our adversaries are developing ways to disrupt, deny, degrade, and destroy on-orbit assets. The LEO Test Range will be used to train operators to create strategies to protect against kinetic kill vehicle capabilities, electronic warfare, ground and/or spacecraft computer intrusions, and lasers/optical attacks,” he. said.
Lamm also further teased experimental imaging capabilities.
“We’re also currently working on an experimental imaging technology that could revolutionize and augment our existing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” he said. “We are still in the early experimentation phases and do not market the capability until we know it works 100% but it is something we have been devoting substantial resources towards. As this technology matures we plan on putting up a constellation as quickly as possible.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
27 Jul 20. Veteran astronaut and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Rex Walheim is leaving NASA on July 27 after almost 36 years of government service, 36 days in space and 36 hours walking in space. Since 2017, he has been deputy director of NASA Johnson Space Center’s Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate.
“Rex has been a great leader both as an astronaut and as a leader in Johnson Space Center’s flight operations and safety organizations,” Johnson Space Center Direct Mark Geyer said. “Rex is the kind of person that has great technical background but also shows that he cares about the workforce. This made Rex particularly effective in jobs that he held at Johnson. We wish him all the best.” As an Air Force officer, Walheim arrived at Johnson Space Center in 1986 to be a mechanical systems flight controller and lead operations engineer for the space shuttle landing gear, brakes, and emergency runway barrier. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1984, he was transferred and attended then taught at the Air Force Test Pilot School in 1989. He then commanded the F-16 avionics and armament flight before being selected as an astronaut in 1996, and returning to Johnson. Walheim’s first spaceflight came in 2002 on space shuttle Atlantis as part of STS-110. He took part in two of the mission’s four spacewalks to install the International Space Station’s S0 (central) truss and became the first astronaut to use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. He returned to the space station in 2008, again onboard Atlantis, as lead spacewalker for the STS-122 mission. He participated in all three of the flight’s spacewalks to install the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory and prepare it for use.
Walheim’s final flight, STS-135, also was the final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. The 2011 mission aboard Atlantis delivered the last shuttle shipment of supplies, spare parts, and logistics to the space station. Over the course of his three spaceflights, Walheim traveled more than 15 million miles. Following STS-135, Walheim was chief of the astronaut office’s exploration branch. He served as the Orion Program’s astronaut representative as the new spacecraft was developed ahead of its first uncrewed flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1, in 2014. Walheim went on to become assistant director for operations in the Flight Operations Directorate. Born in Redwood City, California, Walheim considers San Carlos, California, to be his hometown. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston. (Source: PR Newswire)
28 Jul 20. Australian, NT governments partner to boost Top End space sector. The Australian and Northern Territory governments are teaming up to expand the Top End’s space sector, with a new agreement to maximise the Territory’s natural advantages to create jobs and grow the economy.
The Northern Territory government and Australian government have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that focuses on creating high-tech local jobs and new technologies.
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the signing of an MOU between the Northern Territory government and the Australian Space Agency came at an opportune time.
The MOU also highlights the opportunities to engage with international regions to strengthen partnerships and explore further space capabilities – this includes the US, France, Japan and Indo-Pacific region.
“This MOU will drive the creation of high-tech jobs in the Northern Territory, but will also see the Top End contributing to the economic growth of the whole nation. Space is not only a growing sector of its own, but it develops technologies and know-how that can be applied across a range of industries to help Australia emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever,” Minister Andrews explained.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Dr Megan Clark, AC, said the Territory’s wide open spaces provide significant competitive advantages for space related activities.
“Growing the Northern Territory’s space sector improves other parts of the local economy through the application of space technologies to areas like bushfire tracking, emergency management, and agriculture,” Dr Clarke added.
“Existing infrastructure from ground stations such as the Indigenous, owned and operated, Centre for Appropriate Technology, and the Alice Springs Balloon Launching Facility show the capability that exists within the Northern Territory.”
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the Northern Territory is a step closer to being a key player in the trillion-dollar international space industry with the signing of the MOU, which builds on the Territory government’s Territory Space Industry 2020 Plan.
“We are perfectly positioned to benefit from the space economy and the jobs it will bring. We are close to the equator, we aren’t prone to earthquakes, we’re close to the sea and sparsely populated areas, and we have great weather,” he said.
“With technology shifts driving growth in the commercial space industry, Australia has the potential to capture a greater share of this global industry and we want the Northern Territory to be at the front of the pack.
“The space industry is real in the Territory with NASA and Equatorial Launch Australia ready to launch their sounding rocket program from the Arnhem Space Centre.”
The Commonwealth government is investing close to $700m into the space sector as part of its goal to triple its size to $12bn and add up to 20,000 additional jobs by 2030. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Jul 20. U.S. Space Force and U.K. Ministry of Defense to hold International Space Pitch Day. U.S. and U.K. defense agencies plan to award $1m to startups at the first International Space Pitch Day in November during the Defence Space Conference in London.
The event, backed by the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Royal Air Force, U.S. Space Force and NATO, is designed to identify commercial technology with military space applications.
“This is all about fast-tracking innovation and cutting-edge technology to the front line quicker than ever before, and fresh ways of working with industry to make sure we stay ahead of our shared adversaries and the threats they pose,” Director Space Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth said in a statement.
The rapid pace of space technology development around the world is prompting military organizations to look beyond national borders to find promising technology. The Techstars Allied Space Accelerator established in 2019, for example, received funding from the U.S. Air Force, Netherlands Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Ministry of Defence and Norwegian Space Agency support.
“For more than two years, we have broken down barriers for innovative companies with great ideas to work with the government,” Will Roper, Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a statement. “Now, with International Space Pitch Day, we are once again expanding our opportunities for partnership with international companies bringing pioneering capabilities to our Space Force professionals.”
International Space Pitch Day will be the culminating event for a new Allied Defence Accelerator. Unlike accelerators focused on fine-tuning business models or preparing products for sale, the Allied Defence Accelerator focuses on international readiness.
“We’re lowering the barriers for startups to do business with the Ministry of Defence and Department of Defense,” Van Espahbodi, Starburst Aerospace co-founder and managing partner, told SpaceNews.
Starburst Aerospace will work with the U.K. Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to provide training and mentoring for startups admitted to the Allied Defence Accelerator.
Companies interested in participating in the Allied Defence Accelerator must complete a DASA registration questionnaire by Aug. 19. Proposals are due Sept. 2. On Oct. 15, the Allied Defence Accelerator will announce companies selected to take part in a five-week mentoring and training program.
To be admitted to the Allied Defence Accelerator, startups must offer technology to address challenges like visualizing on-orbit conjunctions, understanding space weather’s impact on various systems and merging space domain data sources.
“Through this pitch-day event, we will tap into the genius of the commercial space industry, who will provide new technologies and services for the U.S. and our allies,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center commander, said in a statement. “Creating new economic opportunities with our industry partners, ensures a robust space economy, which is vital to retaining our advantage in this important warfighting domain.”
During International Space Pitch Day, a panel of U.K. and U.S. military leaders plans to award contracts worth $66,000 or less for as many as 15 projects proposed. Each project must be completed in three months of less.
“Contracts awarded as a result of this competition will fall under an extant memorandum of understanding between the U.K. Ministry of Defence and U.S. Department of Defense,” according to the International Space Pitch Day Competition rules. “This will facilitate the unimpeded exchange of proposals, prototypes and associated information between the U.K. and U.S. governments. However, this effective exemption from export controls only applies to the U.K. and U.S., not to third countries, and all bidders must therefore abide by the export control requirements of their originator country.” (Source: Google/Space News)
24 Jul 20. NGC Provides Navigation System for NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Mission. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) will once again be the provider of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to support an expedition to Mars when NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Perseverance Mars Rover launches between July 30 and August 15. It will land at Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The mission’s four major scientific objectives include studying the planet’s habitability, seeking biosignatures of past life, collecting core samples of the surface, and testing oxygen production in the planet’s atmosphere.
Northrop Grumman’s LN-200S IMU will be mounted deep inside the Rover, providing data during the ground mission. The LN-200S is a reliable, low cost, lightweight IMU featuring three fiber optic gyroscopes and three silicon Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometers.
“The success of this incredible mission of scientific exploration is directly linked to the proven reliability of Northrop Grumman’s inertial navigation solutions,” said Brandon White, vice president, navigation and positioning systems, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems sector. “NASA/JPL came to us for its historic Mars missions because of the extended performance capabilities of our LN-200S. We will be anxiously awaiting to see what the Perseverance discovers, as will the rest of the world.”
As the Perseverance Mars Rover traverses the surface of Mars, the LN-200S will provide the attitude and acceleration information used by the Rover’s computer for guidance. The LN-200S has been used on all previous Mars Rover missions including 2003’s Spirit and Opportunity, and 2012’s Curiosity, which is still operating almost eight years beyond its initial two-year mission.
The LN-200S underwent vigorous testing to validate its extended life capability for the Perseverance Mars Rover mission, which is expected to last 1.5 Mars years, or about 1,071 Earth days. Previous NASA/JPL Mars missions lasted far beyond their initial design requirements, and the LN-200S had to prove its reliability to make it on board. The Opportunity, for example, operated for almost 15 Earth years (8 Mars years) – far beyond its scheduled 90-day mission – and the LN-200S continuously operated throughout the full span of that Rover’s journey.
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.
24 Jul 20. British government finalizing launch regulations. The British government expects to soon release a comprehensive set of regulations that will enable companies to perform commercial launches from spaceports in the country.
During a July 22 webinar by the U.K. Space Agency, part of series of virtual events held in place of the Farnborough International Airshow, government officials said they were finalizing an estimated 900 pages of regulations that will cover licensing and oversight of launch vehicles and launch sites.
The regulations build upon the Space Industry Act of 2018, which established the legal framework for commercial launch activity in the country. “It is now the prime piece of legislation needed to launch anything from the U.K.,” Paul Cremin, commercial spaceflight and regulation policy lead at the Department for Transport, said at the event.
The regulations, he said, will cover “everything that prospective spaceport operators and launch operators will require” to carry out commercial launch activities in the U.K. They include licensing requirements, environmental consideration, liability and insurance requirements, security, and the accident investigation process.
“This is a wealth of material that has taken a good two years to pull together,” he said. “It amounts to something like a mammoth 900 pages of material that we’ll be unleashing on you very soon.”
Cremin said the British government has worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, which has decades of experience in commercial launch regulations. That cooperation, he said, will reduce the regulatory burden for any U.S. vehicles that seek to launch from the U.K., although those launches will still need an FAA launch license in addition to any U.K. government license.
The FAA, in the meantime, has been working to streamline its own launch licensing regulations, a process expected to be completed in September. Cremin said the British government has been following that process, but doesn’t expect any changes will complicate U.K. regulations.
“The regulations that we’ve been drafting have been drafted with completely commercial outcomes and a commercial market from the outset,” he said. “I would say that the development of the FAA regulations brings them closer to us than the other way around.”
There are differences between the U.S. and U.K. regulations, such as risk: U.S. regulations set a specific upper level for risk of casualties to the uninvolved public, while the U.K. regulations instead require companies to demonstrate they have reduced risks to a level “as low as reasonably practical.” Despite the differences, Cremin said he was in early discussions with the FAA on establishing a “mutual recognition” system for each other’s licenses, but said that is “a longer term ambition.”
The American and British governments recently overcame another obstacle to launches of American vehicles from British spaceports through the signing June 16 of a technology safeguards agreement. That agreement covers procedures to ensure that export-controlled technologies on American vehicles are adequately protected when flown from British spaceports.
“That’s a huge step forward for the U.K.,” said Andrew Kuh, head of international spaceflight policy at the U.K. Space Agency, during the same webinar. The agreement still requires approval by the U.K. Parliament, which he said should come after the release of the spaceflight regulations.
Kuh acknowledged that the agreement will impose some “operational overhead” on spaceport operators, such as establishing segregated areas for American vehicles with access control. U.S. companies will also still need to obtain export licenses to operate their vehicles from the U.K.
The first company likely to make use of that agreement, and perhaps the broader British launch regulations, is Virgin Orbit. That company has plans to operate from Cornwall Airport Newquay, also known as Spaceport Cornwall. Miles Carden, director of Spaceport Cornwall, said during the webinar that the company is proceeding with the selection of a supplier for ground equipment needed to support launch operations there.
The webinar took place almost exactly two years after the British government announced an initiative to support development of a spaceport for vertical launches in northern Scotland, as well as funding to two prospective users of that site, Lockheed Martin and Orbex.
That launch site, near the community of Sutherland, remains the planning stages. Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a Scottish economic development agency, announced June 26 that a local government committee had approved plans for the site, although final approvals by the Scottish government are still pending.
The spaceport has faced objections because of environmental concerns. Backers of the spaceport argue that the launch facilities will take up just 10 acres of a 740-acre parcel set aside for the spaceport, with no more than 12 launches a year.
“Part of our ambition is to create the world’s most low-carbon space center, and the conditions applied to the planning approval will help us make that a reality,” David Oxley, director of business growth for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said in a statement about approval of the spaceport plans. (Source: Space News)
27 Jul 20. Space entrepreneur Charlie Ergen invests in UK government-backed OneWeb. Billionaire businessman to invest $50m in failed satellite broadband company Mr Ergen’s investment creates a possibility for a link between Hughes Network Systems geo-satellites and OneWeb’s low orbit constellation. Billionaire space entrepreneur Charlie Ergen is to invest $50m in OneWeb, backing the UK’s government’s $500m bet on the failed satellite broadband company bought out of bankruptcy earlier this month. The investment is being made by Hughes Network Systems, an original investor in OneWeb and a subsidiary of EchoStar, the US satellite operator controlled by Mr Ergen. Hughes claims to be North America’s biggest satellite internet service, with more than 1.3m subscribers. The deal will dilute the UK government’s 45 per cent stake in OneWeb, as well as that of Bharti Global, which was also set at 45 per cent. The consortium acquired the group earlier this month in a bidding process after OneWeb collapsed in March due to lack of funds. However, the UK will still retain a golden share that allows it to control who has access to OneWeb’s network and to veto key decisions.
The investment was small but “significant”, said one person close to the transaction. It would bring into the consortium a global leader in ground stations and consumer boxes, and could at a later stage open the possibility to create a link between Hughes’ geo-satellites and OneWeb’s low earth orbit constellation. “We are pleased to be part of this winning team, along with the British government and Bharti,” said Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes. Mr Ergen, a champion poker player, has a long record in the satellite industry. He has attempted to crack the UK satellite market before when his EchoStar group launched a £3.2bn bid for Inmarsat in 2018, a takeover that was later aborted. Mr Ergen split EchoStar from Dish, the consumer satellite broadband and pay-TV business, in 2008 but he kept control of both companies. He has been under pressure to justify his acquisition strategy — which has included unsuccessful tilts at mobile phone networks such as Sprint and a takeover of video rental chain Blockbuster — which he has likened to an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld in that it will all come together in the end. Hughes is also well known to both the UK government and Bharti. Through its Hughes Europe division, headquartered outside of London, and sister company EchoStar Mobile Limited, Hughes has worked closely with the UK government, it said. It is also in the middle of merging its satellite broadband operations in India with those of Bharti Airtel, the Indian telecom provider affiliated with Bharti. The merger, which was announced in 2019, is pending regulatory approvals.
Meanwhile, the bid by the UK government-led consortium is facing a challenge from unsecured creditors in the US, who have argued that they should have a share in the rescued company. SoftBank and other secured creditors will hold a roughly 10 per cent stake in OneWeb when the deal goes through. This is expected in the autumn after US regulators examine the offer. It also emerged last week that Downing Street had pushed ahead with the investment despite a top civil servant warning the “unusual” deal could see taxpayers losing the entire $500m with “no wider benefits accrued”. Ministers pursued the deal despite Sam Beckett, the then acting permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, querying the investment in a letter sent on June 26 and made public on Wednesday. Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “I am pleased that Hughes will be joining the consortium, bringing additional expertise. “Our acquisition of OneWeb underlines the scale of the UK’s ambitions on the global stage, and we look forward to working with Hughes in this venture.” (Source: FT.com)
25 Jul 20. Where do Space Force and Space Command fit into the Pentagon’s cyber plans? Space Force is looking to transition Air Force cyber operators to its ranks within the next year, however, those forces will not be part of the joint U.S. Cyber Command cyber mission force quite yet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)
The Pentagon is trying to determine how its two newest space entities – Space Command and Space Force – will fit into the Department of Defense’s cyber architecture.
There are no plans – or subsequent authorities – for Space Force to provide personnel to the cyber mission force, which feeds up to U.S. Cyber Command, a Space Force spokesperson told C4ISRNET. The way the cyber force is staffed within the Defense Department is that each of the services are responsible for providing a set number of teams – offensive, defensive and intelligence/support teams – to the joint cyber mission force.
In turn, these teams are led by a Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber, which are headed by each of the service cyber component commanders, who then plan, synchronize and conduct operations for the combatant commands they’re assigned to.
But Space Force will not be totally without cyber forces. As Air Force Magazine previously reported Space Force is considering transitioning about 130 cyber officers and around 1,000 enlisted personnel for cyber. A Space Force spokesperson told C4ISRNET these staffers will be Air Force cyber personnel transitioning in fiscal year 2021.
This staff will be organic to Space Force and focused on defensive operations for space and space systems, separate from the joint cyber mission force.
The services can call on some organic defensive cyber teams and capabilities aimed at defending specific assets. For example, the Air Force’s mission defense teams are specialized cyber teams that protect critical Air Force missions and installations. The services also retain a small number of defensive cyber protection teams, which are part of the joint cyber mission force, to be used for service specific defensive cyber missions.
A Space Command spokesperson added that the possibility exists for future consideration of the service providing cyber mission force personnel as the service solidifies its organizational structure.
When it comes to Space Command, Joint Force Headquarter-Cyber Air Force will be responsible for supporting cyber operations. This will be in addition to already supporting European Command, Transportation Command and Strategic Command.
A Cyber Command spokesperson said the organization is working with Space Command, the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense on future alignment of cyber mission force personnel to support the addition of Space Command.
A spokesperson from 16th Air Force/Air Force’s Cyber said it is unknown if this support will come in the form of teams focused on offense, defense or both. The spokesperson added that Defense Department leadership is reviewing resourcing options for the additional support requirements for Space Command.
It is unclear if the addition of supporting Space Command to the other three combatant commands will strain current resources, but the spokesperson said AFCYBER sent an estimate in response to a Cyber Command planning order.(Source: Fifth Domain)
21 Jul 20. SOTM Connectivity Provisioning To Be Delivered Via A Tetrad Of SATCOM Pros. Airbus Defence and Space, GRC Ltd., Avanti Communications Group plc and Get SAT Ltd. have signed a significant contract to deliver high-speed, secure SATCOM-On-The-Move (SOTM) connectivity to a UK customer.
GRC have partnered with Airbus to deliver hardware, training and support for GetSat Microsat terminals on Avanti airtime, allowing users to access high-speed voice and data in some of the most challenging environments on the planet.
The solution was selected following extensive trials by Airbus and GRC together with the customer, ensuring terminals were robust enough and able to provide the required Committed Information Rate (CIR) to the user, on a high-throughput service using Ka-band satellite capability.
Incorporating GRC’s mag-mount system, the Microsat can be securely mounted as a walk-on-fit, without permanent vehicle modifications, allowing users to be connected within minutes and be moved between vehicles as required.
Airbus and GRC will also deliver a full training package to users in addition to ongoing 24/7 support offered through its experienced and trusted engineering teams.
Richard Budd, Head of the UK & US Secure Communications business at Airbus said: “Providing this high-throughput SATCOM-On-The-Move capability is an exciting and innovative development. This capability will ensure that users can enjoy hi-speed data rates while on the move. Our experts work together with the end-users to ensure requirements are fully met reinforcing our long running services partnerships.”
Steve Slater, Managing Director at GRC, said, “This contract means a lot to GRC and its staff who as an SME are delighted to be delivering a significant and much needed capability. The terminals being delivered are also suitable for maritime use and therefore are able to fit wider needs.”
Donald Walker, Director of Government Sales at Avanti, added, “We’ve worked hard with GRC, Airbus and Get SAT to prove that Avanti’s high throughput Ka-band satellites and these very small terminals can deliver genuine capability enhancements to critical end user groups. We’re delighted to add this Land and Maritime “Satellite on The Move” capability into our portfolio.”
Sharon Shlomo, Get SAT VP of sales, noted, “The collaboration with GRC and Avanti is very important to Get SAT and brings to the end users, not only the terminals but a turn key solution for SATCOM wherever and whenever they need bandwidth over Ka-band.” (Source: Satnews)
22 Jul 20. Morgan Stanley Analysis. LEO Satellites: Possibilities And Obstacles. Morgan Stanley believes two to three LEO constellations could be fully operational within the next five years; however, funding and technology remain strong impediments.
LEO operators could drive gross global satellite capacity up by 20x in the coming years: Current global high-throughput satellite (HTS) capacity is sits at less than 3 Tbps with LEO operators looking to launch close to 200 Tbps more over the next five years.
SpaceX’s Starlink is the largest contributor by far, but we are also focused on efforts from OneWeb, Telesat, Kepler and Kuiper (Amazon). In order to provide continuous coverage at low elevations, each of these companies plans to launch hundreds or thousands of satellites to service customers globally.
Significant obstacles remain: While the current LEO race was borne out of a desire to connect the ~4 billion people globally currently without internet access, the economic viability of these constellations is still a key debate. By their design, LEO systems distribute capacity evenly across the Earth’s surface, but populations are unevenly distributed as ~70% of the Earth is covered by water with people largely concentrated in just 10% of the remaining area.
Other key concerns include ground network technology, user terminal costs, high ongoing capex needs and regulatory hurdles (including orbital debris). Total build costs for the proposed LEO constellations are still unknown and vary widely given the scope of each project. In our separate SpaceX note, we estimate the full Starlink constellation could ultimately cost ~$40bn to build with an additional ~$130bn for user terminals (see Space: The Wide Range of Outcomes for SpaceX).
LEOs are likely to struggle against VHTS GEO but could impair older GEO satellites: The company performed an analysis comparing LEO constellation capacity costs against various types of GEO satellites and found that next-generation VHTS Ka-band GEO satellites are ~5x more efficient. However, they could outperform legacy HTS Ku-band satellites, which could impair those legacy assets and exert further pricing pressure in the industry.
Significant addressable markets, but economics remain a major factor: As noted above, the largest addressable market is providing internet to the billions of unserved and underserved people globally. However, satellite broadband has struggled to grow beyond 2% market share in the US and 1% globally due to its high relative cost and capacity limitations, while LEO constellations will also have to address user terminals that cost three times as much as GEO terminals.
More attractive markets that lack terrestrial alternatives and face fewer economic barriers include aeronautical, maritime, enterprise, wireless backhaul, IoT and government with each offering the potential for billions in annual revenue. (Source: Satnews)
20 Jul 20. Questioning The UK Plan For OneWeb. OneWeb, now in the process of being acquired by the British government and Indian telco giant Bharti Global, is going ahead with building satellites ahead of any decision to incorporate the UK’s plans for a rival global positioning system to rival Europe’s Galileo.
OneWeb’s bankruptcy court permitted the British and Indian joint-venture, (called ‘BidCo 100’) to pay $50.7m into OneWeb in order to start re-building its initial constellation of some 648 satellites. OneWeb is authorized by the FCC to launch 720 craft out of a potential 1,980 mega-constellation. OneWeb also has an application with the FCC to dramatically expand the number of satellites up to 48,000.
OneWeb is under an ITU timetable to get its satellites into orbit, not the least of which is because the ITU requires a large proportion of the fleet to be in orbit. OneWeb told the FCC that it would be providing service to Alaska by 2019 and rapidly rolling out its service to the rest of the US.
OneWeb is obliged by the ITU to launch 360 satellites by June 2023 and 720 by June 2026. Failure to keep to this timetable will risk the core OneWeb spectrum licenses. The FCC has endorsed this timetable.
Currently, OneWeb has just 74 satellites on-orbit and the agreement with the incoming new owners UK/Bharti will honor most of the existing supply and launch contracts. Arianespace, for example, was under contract to launch 21 of its Soyuz rockets plus 3 launches of the new Ariane-6 rocket (itself delayed until later in 2021). Each Soyuz would carry 34 satellites.
However, Arianespace also wants more cash. The old contract called for a total of $273.8m for the launches. Arianespace now says that the original sum, of course, does not include interest owed on the old contract and is now seeking $286m.
Add to these complications the inevitable bankruptcy process and it is highly unlikely that the current fleet of satellites under production will be further delayed in order for global positioning modifications to take place.
Prior to the bankruptcy, OneWeb was producing satellites at around two per day. At 34 satellites per launch – and an obliged 300 craft still to be launched to meet the ITU rules – ten launches will see the task completed; however, the demands are considerable. Waiting for the bankruptcy to be fully concluded, and making positioning modifications, makes this timetable much tighter.
Last week, Airbus confirmed that it was committed to its joint-venture with OneWeb in Florida and would continue operating the joint venture’s Florida factory to turn out OneWeb’s satellites. The joint venture would also continue to seek other – non-OneWeb – satellite orders.
There are also reports that the UK is not insisting on early adoption of its satellite positioning plans. The UK’s science, research and innovation minister Amanda Solloway said that she believes ‘new’ OneWeb would be profitable. “This investment is likely to make an economic return, with due diligence showing a strong commercial basis for investment. The deal contributes to the government’s plan to join the first rank of space nations, and signals the government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies enabling enhanced broadband through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth Orbit satellites.” (Source: Satnews)
27 Jul 20. Airbus SpaceDataHighway completes commissioning tests. The EDRS-C satellite, the second node of Airbus’ SpaceDataHighway constellation, successfully completed its commissioning tests on 15 July 2020 and is now ready to start operational services.
Following its successful launch in August 2019 and manoeuvring to its geostationary orbital slot at 31 degrees east, in-orbit testing has been executed and laser communication links have been established to the Copernicus program’s Sentinel Earth observation satellites.
EDRS-C doubles transmission capacity and the constellation is now able to relay the data from two observation satellites simultaneously. It further strengthens Airbus’ commitment to serve the existing Copernicus program as well as future Sentinel missions.
The additional capacity will also enable Airbus to accommodate further customer needs. By 2030, about 15 satellites should use the very high bandwidth data connectivity of the SpaceDataHighway.
From 2021 onwards, Pléiades Neo – Airbus’ most advanced optical Earth observation constellation with four identical, 30-centimetre resolution satellites – will be the next satellites to benefit from the SpaceDataHighway’s infrastructure.
As an integral part of Pleiades Neo’s full end to end service, SpaceDataHighway will further optimise mission reactivity providing for real time tasking and very high throughput data offload.
EDRS-C has joined the EDRS-A satellite, which daily transmits images of Earth acquired by the Copernicus program’s four Sentinel observation satellites. Since 2017, EDRS-A has achieved more than 35,000 laser connections. These successful connections have downloaded nearly two petabytes of data with an availability of 99.5 per cent.
The SpaceDataHighway is the world’s first laser communication geostationary constellation. It represents a game changer in the speed of space communications, using cutting-edge laser technology to deliver secure data transfer services at a rate of 1.8 Gbit/s in near real-time.
From its position in geostationary orbit, the SpaceDataHighway system relays the collected data in near real-time to Earth, a process that would normally take several hours.
The SpaceDataHighway therefore enables the quantity of image and video data transmitted by observation satellites to be greatly increased and their mission plan can be re-programmed at any time and in just a few minutes.
This readiness to start service is a new milestone in the roadmap of Airbus’ overall strategy to drive laser communications forward and invest in the next generation of infrastructure, which will be able to bring the benefits to airborne, ground and maritime connectivity. As such, it will be a key component of the Airbus Network for the Sky (NFTS) program.
The European Data Relay System (EDRS) at the base of the SpaceDataHighway is a public–private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, with the laser terminals developed by Tesat-Spacecom and the German Space Administration. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Jul 20. DARPA’s development of in-space mechanic closer to reality. DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program is one step closer to a planned launch in 2023, with the remainder of the focus for 2020 on completing the elements of the robotic payload.
The objective of RSGS is to create an operational dexterous robotic capability to repair satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), extending satellite life spans, enhancing resilience, and improving reliability for the current US space infrastructure.
Earlier this year, DARPA partnered with Space Logistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, to provide the spacecraft bus, launch, and operations of the integrated spacecraft.
DARPA will provide the payload that flies on the bus, including the robotic arms, through an agreement with the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).
Joseph Parrish, program manager for RSGS in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, explained, “First, the RSGS spacecraft will fly around the client spacecraft to observe from a distance. Then, the RSGS spacecraft will grapple the client spacecraft to examine it at a centimetre scale.
“We may need to free a stuck solar array to allow a spacecraft to reach its full potential. Or we could add new sensor payloads, such as a space weather detector.”
In 2021, NRL will integrate the robotic arms onto the payload structure, and then is expected to begin environmental tests by the end of same year. After launch in 2023, it will take approximately nine months to reach GEO, and the program anticipates servicing satellites in mid-2024.
Parrish expanded, “The addition of a ‘jet pack’ propulsion capability could essentially extend the spacecraft mission without the complicated operation of transferring propellant to unprepared spacecraft that were launched more than a decade ago. With persistent robotic servicing now becoming available, future spacecraft will be prepared for refuelling and eliminate the need for the jet pack.”
With in-space robotic servicing, a variety of repairs or adjustments become possible, from “rescuing” a new spacecraft to adding sensors to upgrade an ageing, but still operational satellite. The first step is to examine the spacecraft up close.
The robotic servicer is designed to execute a series of scripted operations with humans in the loop throughout the process. The grappling sequence is fully autonomous because it moves too quickly for a human to control given the space-to-ground communications delay.
DARPA’s primary objective is establishing an on-orbit servicing industry that benefits both government and commercial clients. DARPA’s agreement with Space Logistics aims to transition the dexterous robotic capability from DARPA to industry, and includes servicing government satellites for a set price.
Parrish notes that about a quarter of the satellite assets in GEO are government-owned. The remainder are commercial satellites that could become a base for commercial in-space robotic servicing business.
“The premise of RSGS is that DARPA will help propel the technology from demonstration to operational capability. Over the past 25 years, the in-space robotics community has largely retired the technology risk. Some previous demonstrations brought along clients for mock in-space operations. RSGS is different because the intention is to remain in orbit over the long term and solve real problems on existing spacecraft,” Parrish added. (Source: Space Connect)
24 Jul 20. Space War: US To Meet With Russia; Rolls Out Warfighting Doctrine. For the first time in seven years, the US and Russia will formally meet to discuss norms of behavior in space — even as both nations build capability for war in the heavens. A US delegation, including DoD officials, on July 27 in Vienna, Austria will hold a first Space Security Exchange (SSE) with Russia. It’s the first formal bilateral meeting on space security since 2013, says Chris Ford, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation.
The purpose is to “help advance the cause of setting responsible norms of behavior in that vital domain,” Ford told reporters in a phone briefing today. In addition, he said, the US hopes to open a regular bilateral communications channel in order to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations about on-orbit activities.
Yet at the same time, the US military has just finalized a new warfighting doctrine defining how it will fight in space, said Gen. Jay Raymond, who currently heads both the Space Force and Space Command.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is that we’ve drafted our first-ever ‘Capstone Warfighting Doctrine’ for space; it’s at the printers,” he told the Center for A New American Security today. “We’re expecting that to get delivered here in the next couple of days, and we’re going to roll that out either next week if it comes in on time, or the week after, but it’s imminent.”
The document, Raymond explained, will “define military space power as a distinct form of military power, which will be a first, and it’s a foundational document that will inform the ethos and values of this new Space Force.”
The Russian SSE meeting is modeled on three similar bilaterals between the US and China held so far, with the last meeting with Beijing held in the summer of 2019, Ford said.
“The space domain is being furiously weaponized by Moscow and Beijing,” he added.
Ford said that Russia has “fired a projectile” from a satellite not once, but twice — labeling Russia the “most prominent mischief maker in space right now.”
Raymond also noted the July 15 Russian satellite test that the US says was clearly a test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. “You may have read that we responded to a Russian on-orbit activity that had characteristics of a weapon,” he said, noting that the US military is also working with allies on the issue.
Moscow has been doing many “strange and disturbing things” on orbit, Ford said, in order to signal to the US and the world that it has the capability to use satellites to destroy others on orbit. And that, he stressed, “is a very disturbing, provocative, dangerous and ill-advised thing for them to be doing.”
Ford, however, was dismissive of seeking a legally-binding agreement to bar ASAT tests or space weapons in general — raising the familiar US refrain that it is impossible to define the bounds of any technology-based prohibition. “That is a great way to spin wheels,” he said. Instead, the US wants to establish voluntary norms of behavior for military space activities, first with Russia and China and then at a global level.
How the US military itself intends to respond to future aggressive action, and any use of weapons against US space assets, will be the subject of the new doctrinal document — including what offensive actions against adversary satellites the US might be willing to take during a conflict.
As Breaking D readers know, Raymond actually started thinking about new doctrine almost as soon as Space Command was created. Since then, the Air Force has been holding senior level meetings on doctrinal development, and as Maj. Gen. John Shaw, head of Space Force Operations Command, said earlier this year, they included Navy and Army representatives to consider what lessons might be learned from them.
Doctrine matters because it guides military forces on how to carry out policy and strategy decisions. The armed services each boast their own doctrine, and the Joint Staff put together joint doctrine that guides how the services work together and attempts to standardize terminology.
The central doctrinal document today for space is Joint Doctrine 3-14, Space Operations, last updated in 2018. It needs changes to characterize space as a warfighting domain and reflect new chains of command established within the Space Force’s new organizational structure, which was cemented in a ceremony today at
The Space Force announced on June 30 that its new organization “will consist of three echelons of command, where the Air Force currently is organized into five echelons.” These hierarchical levels are “field commands, deltas and squadrons.”
The field commands are Space Operations Command (SpOC), Space Systems Command (SSC), and Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM). “SpOC and SSC will be led by three-star general officers, and STARCOM will be led by a two-star general,” the announcement explained. Deltas will be O-6 led; and within them will be squadrons focused on specific tactics.
Space Force “Deltas” combine two different levels of organization under the old Air Force construct, wings and groups. “We’ve stood down all of our space wings — the 21st Space Wing, the 50th Space Wing and the 460th Space Wing — and the groups, and we collapsed them into what we’re calling deltas,” Raymond said. “They’re mission-focused deltas — so space domain awareness delta, a space electronic warfare delta. We’ve collapsed two layers of command, again getting after a lean, agile structure that can that can go fast and enable accountability and agility.”
Raymond’s time wearing both the Space Force and SPACECOM hats is about to end. The Senate Armed Services Committee on July 28 will hold a confirmation hearing for his replacement at SPACECOM, Army Lt. Gen. James Dickinson. Dickinson, who is currently serving as SPACECOM deputy, was widely favored for the position — in large part to foot-stop the fact that SPACECOM is a joint Combatant Command, and not a fiefdom of the Air Force. Thus, there is little reason to expect that he will not be confirmed. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
24 Jul 20. Space Force Rockets Toward Milestones. Although the Space Force, the military’s newest service, is just seven months old, it has sprinted toward its goal of preserving dominance in the space domain, its leader said.
Gen. John W. Raymond, chief of space operations of the Space Force and commander of U.S. Space Command, held a video briefing today at the Pentagon, hosted by the Center for a New American Security.
Although U.S. Space Command was stood up on Aug. 29 and the Space Force stood up Dec. 20, significant advances have already been made, he said.
The Space Force was involved in launching the X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite, GPS satellites, and other launches out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, he said. The newest service also supports the first human space flight since the end of the space shuttle era.
Also in the works is a draft of the first ever capstone warfighting doctrine for space, which will be rolled out in a week or two. He said it’s a foundational document that will inform Americans and allies about the value of the Space Force in protecting national security.
Just last week, the Space Force graduated its first classes in space electronic warfare, orbital warfare and space battle management, he noted.
Raymond said his organization will integrate closely with all of the combatant commands to ensure they have the support they need in the space domain. To do that, teams are being formed that will be a part of that integration effort.
One of the notable values the Space Force will bring to the American people is unity of effort and cost savings, he said, noting that there are many organizations, allies and partners doing work involved in the space domain.
The Space Force is looking to avoid duplication of effort. As an example, the Defense Department needed to have two satellites in polar orbit. Raymond said his organization found that Norway was already involved in doing just that, so the U.S. partnered with its NATO ally to put payloads on their rockets.
Raymond emphasized that he wants to ensure that the Space Force stays lean and agile, and he said the organization will be flattened, thus avoiding layers of bureaucracy.
The requirements, acquisition and personnel processes will likewise be streamlined and efficient, he added.
That small force will also be digitally savvy, he said, noting that only the best and brightest will be accepted.
Raymond said he wants the new workforce to be up to date, both technically and proficiently. In an effort to do that, he said he expects Space Force personnel will be allowed to work for certain periods of time within agencies like NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office as well as industry.
Like other organizations, the Space Force has been impacted by COVID-19, he said. As a result, the Space Force has embraced virtual events, such as hosting a combined space operations principles meeting with close partners in space: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
Finally, Raymond noted that an airman in Germany sent him a note recently suggesting a new Space Force motto, Semper Supra, which is Latin for “Always Above.” Raymond said he approved it. (Source: US DoD)
23 Jul 20. Project Blackjack: DARPA’s LEO satellites take off. Darpa is working with Lockheed Martin on the first stage of satellite integration for project blackjack, a military low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. Harry Lye finds out more from the programme leaders.
In April 2020, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $5.8m contract for the first phase of satellite integration on DARPA’s Blackjack programme. Lockheed Martin will manage interfacing between Blackjack’s bus, payload and Pit Boss in the run-up to the launch of a demonstration constellation in 2021-22.
As traditional military satellites are expensive to replace, DARPA is betting on low earth orbit constellations as a means to get military hardware into orbit at a lower cost with the Blackjack programme. Such a system would remove single points of failure both in space and on the ground. It would also mean a shift towards on-orbit processing, where the Blackjack constellation can shoulder the processing burden of ground-based systems.
“The advantage of on-orbit processing is that it brings resilience in a proliferated LEO constellation, DARPA Blackjack programme manager Paul “Rusty” Thomas told us. “Putting distributed processing in space eliminates a single point of failure in space or on the ground.”
LEO vs GEO satellites
The US is looking to achieve a number of goals with a military low earth orbit constellation, ranging from cost to latency, says Lockheed Martin programme director for advanced missile defence Julie Pecson.
“There are advantages and disadvantages of all orbital regimes,” she tells us. “For LEO constellations, data latency is reduced because the satellites are closer to the earth compared to geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) where traditional military satellites fly. Also, LEO satellites are generally smaller in size because they require less propulsion and less power.”
However, due to operating at a higher altitude, one GEO satellite can cover the same area as several LEO satellites. This means that more LEO satellites are needed to provide the same level of service to the military. This disadvantage can be somewhat an advantage in itself, though.
“Due to their proximity to earth, more LEO satellites are required to perform similar GEO missions,” Pecson explains. “However, the numerous spacecraft required in LEO provide an inherent constellation-level resiliency advantage over traditional military constellations relying on a small number of spacecraft. Lockheed Martin Space performs mission analysis to determine the best orbit and constellation architecture to support the mission.”
Commenting on the need for more LEO satellites to do the job of one GEO satellite, Blackjack lead Paul Thomas said: “The trade-off is that you need more satellites in LEO for regional or global coverage, but the same rocket can put two to three times as much mass into LEO as it can into GEO, and the LEO satellites are ten to 25 times lower in mass. That means you have proliferated constellations in LEO that can either do similar missions as in GEO, or augment GEO missions.”
Thomas explains that LEO constellations offer a number of advantages over traditional GEO satellites. The components of a LEO system, such as sensors, communications and ISR equipment, are smaller and lighter – as are the power systems and bus components needed to run a LEO satellite. This means several LEO satellites can be put into space in one single launch.
“The lower unit size and mass also enables faster design and deployment cycles because the design/build complexity of a 200kg LEO satellite is so much lower than a GEO satellite that weighs in at two metric tons,” Thomas adds.
Learning from the commercial sector
Project Blackjack was partly inspired by the proliferation of LEO constellations and the development of the technology in the commercial space. Plans for Blackjack were originally built around the concept of leveraging commercial developments, such as those recently highlighted by the Starlink constellation.
“Blackjack was founded on the concept of leveraging the commercial communications mega-constellations’ global datalink and the capability of their commoditised production line buses to produce a satellite a day, which would enable LEO constellations where you have these smaller satellites,” Thomas explains. “Mega-constellations are in the early phases of showing these lower cost, and individual satellites can add up to highly capable global broadband networks.
Even with the success of Starlink getting to 420 satellites to orbit we recognise that complete reliance on any commercial system for DoD/IC use is not ideal and the Blackjack demo will be built with appropriate communication subsystems to ensure military utility with or without operational commercial constellations.”
Commercial LEO constellations have shown that LEO satellites can be developed and manufactured on a large scale, and have proven to excel in tasks such as providing broadband access over a large area. Blackjack is building on this by bringing the capabilities to military use, allowing for low-cost upgrades and a faster design cycle than those offered by existing satellite options.
The timeline for Blackjack
DARPA is currently working with the US Space Force and US Space Development Agency to demonstrate ‘small-risk’ satellites that will take flight towards the end of this year and later in 2021.
“The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips to LEO,” Thomas says of the planned timeline. “Mandrake 2, with SDA, is a pair of small satellites that will carry optical inter-satellite links for broadband data on laser links and could form the basis of future optical mesh networks in LEO. We’re also targeting a risk reduction payload called Wildcard, a software-defined radio that will experiment with links from LEO to tactical radios.
“A data fusion experiment with ability to host massless payloads – that is, advanced 3rd party algorithms – for on-orbit target data fusion will go on a Loft Orbital mission. All of these risk reduction satellites will be launched on rideshares starting this summer and progressing through next spring and summer.”
DARPA is working to ensure the design is mature enough as it moves forward on the various aspects of the LEO constellation. As Thomas explains, the current focus is on the buses used by the satellite, before moving onto the Pit Boss autonomous mission management system.
“We anticipate we’ll begin integrating the first two payloads next summer with launch via rideshare in late 2021, followed by the remainder of the Blackjack demonstration sub-constellation in 2022,” he adds.
For DARPA’s partner Lockheed Martin, one challenge to overcome for Blackjack is the complexity of integration. “Lockheed Martin Space constantly looks for innovative ways to assure delivery of mission capabilities to our partners,” Pecson explains. “Integrating different bus types from multiple performers adds a level of complexity to the Blackjack program.
“However, we are working with our associate contractors to maximise the use of existing, proven and open interface standards to achieve the greatest amount of synergy. Lockheed Martin’s performance on Blackjack will further demonstrate our commitment and expertise as a proven integrator for rapid mission schedules.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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