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01 Oct 20. UK to launch new international space collaborations. International space projects in robotics, disaster relief and space debris could be among the new pioneering collaborations backed by £5m of new Government funding
Through the Government’s new domestic space fund, the National Space Innovation Programme, the UK Space Agency will fund innovative technologies and services to support UK trade, science, and security with major space players like Australia, France, Japan and the United States.
Funding – from £250,000 to £2.5m – will be given to the best international collaborative projects from UK industry, academia and research organisations.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
“The UK’s space sector is playing a critical role in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges – from monitoring climate change to providing vital relief for countries affected by natural disasters.
“Today’s funding will provide the UK’s leading space scientists and researchers with an international platform to continue fulfilling the incredible potential of space technology, working collaboratively with our global partners, while boosting UK space exports and creating skilled jobs.”
Potential projects cover a huge range of space activities, from tackling space debris with new monitoring technologies to using Earth Observation satellites to track issues like climate change, and space science and satellite applications to provide expert disaster relief assistance.
Alice Bunn, International Director at the UK Space Agency, said:
“This funding is an important step to growing the UK space sector’s influence on the global stage.
“There are over 100 space faring nations across the world now, many of which are looking to collaborate with the UK. This funding enables us to seize those opportunities and develop them, creating high-skilled jobs and boosting our economy.”
This funding builds on the UK Space Agency’s existing work on the world stage. In June the UK and US governments signed an agreement which paves the way for US companies to operate from UK spaceports and export space launch technology, as the UK aims for the first launches from the early 2020s.
In September 2019 the UK signed an agreement with the Australian Space Agency to lay the foundations for swift and amicable negotiations for space-related opportunities under any potential future UK-Australia trading arrangements.
The UK Space Agency also runs its successful International Partnership Programme (IPP), a £30m a year programme, which has grant-funded 43 projects in almost 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and built new partnerships between 186 mainly UK-based organisations and 183 international organisations.
The UK space sector is a huge economic success story, growing by over 60% since 2010. The industry already supports £300bn of UK economic activity through the use of satellite services, and employs more than 40,000 people. There are further opportunities, with the space sector estimating a £60bn future market in new Earth observation and communication technologies.
Stronger international relationships and the ability to fund new projects are crucial to meeting the Government’s increased ambitions for space. New funding will help boost UK space exports, which are already worth £5.5bn each year, in areas such as satellite platforms, sensing systems and advanced software. The UK also remains a leading member of the European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
01 Oct 20. Maxar Technologies Reports Significant Growth in Subscriptions to its SecureWatch Platform.
Access to online, high-resolution satellite imagery allows customers to remotely monitor assets and operations around the globe.
Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure, today announced it has surpassed 200 customers using SecureWatch, its cloud-based, geospatial subscription service. Contracted revenue for the product has roughly doubled in the past year.
SecureWatch allows end users to access and exploit a variety of data sources, including Maxar’s 110-petabyte library of high-resolution satellite imagery, daily WorldView imagery collections, low-resolution Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from RADARSAT-2. Most SecureWatch customers leverage the platform and its capabilities for monitoring and mapping applications, including high-definition mapping at scale around the world, detecting change and observing assets over time and planning humanitarian assistance and disaster responses.
Maxar’s Engineering and Product teams are constantly improving SecureWatch to better serve our customers and mission partners. Recently, Maxar added Persistent Change Monitoring (PCM), an automated, image-based change detection data layer, as a standard capability on all SecureWatch Premium accounts, allowing end users to identify areas of human activity and save time when analyzing the latest imagery collections. For full details on how PCM can enhance monitoring and mapping efforts, read our latest blog post.
Next year, with the launch of Maxar’s WorldView Legion satellites, SecureWatch subscribers will benefit from dramatically expanded sub-30 cm image collection capacity. These satellites will allow Maxar to monitor the most dynamic parts of the globe up to 15 times per day, from sun-up to sun-down.
“Maxar’s SecureWatch platform provides an intuitive way to extract Earth intelligence from massive amounts of satellite imagery to enable better decision making,” said Jeff Culwell, Maxar’s Chief Product Officer. “We’re proud to leverage commercial innovation to support hundreds of customers who have various missions and projects around the globe.”
Customers are integrating the SecureWatch platform into their decision-making workflows across a broad range of sectors, including commercial technology, international defense and intelligence, and civil government. Visit the SecureWatch product page to receive a demonstration of how the platform can provide a critical information advantage. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
01 Oct 20. KT SAT Showcases World’s First Satellite-5G Router Connectivity. KT SAT Co, the satellite-operating subsidiary of KT Corporation, South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, demonstrated the world’s first satellite-5G hybrid router transmission technology at the SatelliteAsia 2020 exposition.
The cutting-edge technology for seamless connectivity between satellite and 5G is jointly developed by the KT Institute of Convergence Technology last November. KT SAT presentations at the global expo are also highlighting the possibility of using satellites as communication backup networks and extending their use to broadcast communication.
KT SAT hopes to gain momentum in consolidating its position as a leading global satellite operator by showcasing its satellite resources and technology during the event. South Korea’s sole satellite operator aims to secure a beachhead for its global outreach and expand its communication satellite business segment.
“Our participation in the SatelliteAsia online exposition this year opens a new page in global communication in a COVID-19 world,” KT SAT CEO Song Kyung-Min said. “In the years ahead, we at KT SAT will show our satellite technology prowess and enhance our status in the global market.”
SatelliteAsia is held annually as a part of ConnecTechAsia, the largest broadcast communication exposition in the Asia-Pacific region. KT SAT has been participating in the exposition, held in Singapore, since 2014. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s global gathering of major satellite operators is held online from September 29 to October 1.
As a powerhouse of 5G and broadcast, a current key issue in the industry, KT SAT’s online booth at the expo is displaying a variety of contents on its satellite technology and services besides its technology for connecting satellite and other networks. The company also actively utilizes the SatelliteAsia conference and booth displays. Visitors may engage in a real-time Q&A session with KT SAT officials.
KT SAT officials are also participating in a forum at the online expo, which explores the next phase of satellite data market in Southeast Asia, and are engaging in panel discussions with global satellite operators.
The panels are devoted to changes and trends in the satellite data market, sustainable growth of mobile backhaul via satellite and solution development in the broadband services market. The participants share their experiences and pursue new opportunities.
KT SAT is also exhibiting its latest broadcast communication services in collaboration with KT Skylife Co., another KT subsidiary and provider of satellite broadcasting services. The exhibition emphasizes the synergy from collaboration between KT’s two major satellite units.
The exhibits focus on KT Skylife’s successful introduction of an android-based set-top box and changes in the market for Direct-to-Home (DTH) service based on High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), a video compression standard doubling the compression ratio of H.264/AVC and supporting 8K ultra-high definition. (Source: PR Newswire)
29 Sep 20. Iridium Edge® Pro Brings Programmable Intelligence to Asset Management Beyond Terrestrial Coverage. Iridium continues to introduce simplified ways for its partners to innovate, customize and launch smarter solutions. Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) today announced commercial availability of its newest standalone asset management device, Iridium Edge Pro. The latest addition to the Iridium Edge family of products, Iridium Edge Pro is the company’s first programmable solution for asset management, tracking, and recovery. The new device enables Iridium’s partners to create customizable end-to-end monitoring solutions for vessels, vehicles and remote equipment using Iridium’s best in class two-way network and truly global coverage.
With Iridium Edge Pro, create customizable end-to-end monitoring solutions for vessels, vehicles and remote equipment using Iridium’s best in class two-way network and truly global coverage.
With Iridium Edge Pro, create customizable end-to-end monitoring solutions for vessels, vehicles and remote equipment using Iridium’s best in class two-way network and truly global coverage.
Using MicroEJ® Java-based software development tools, Iridium® IoT customers can create new end-user applications quickly and test them virtually, which can reduce the time to produce a fielded solution. The built in geofencing and custom messaging tools are convenient building blocks for a wide range of IoT applications like vessel monitoring system (VMS) solutions for fisheries, cathodic protection, long-haul vehicle telematics, refrigerated container monitoring, electric generator (genset) management and more. Through powerful Java programming, the Iridium Edge Pro collects and processes data based on operational requirements, including exception-only reporting that can minimize operational costs from anywhere on the planet.
Feature rich, the device comes with built in Bluetooth/BLE, CANbus and Modbus interfaces, GPS, an accelerometer, and digital and analog input/output ports. Customers also have the flexibility to make over-the-air configuration and reporting updates to deployed devices using the Iridium network’s two-way communications, giving confidence that wherever in the world their assets are they have full control and visibility.
“With Iridium Edge Pro we now have a trio of out-of-the-box asset management products that serve a wide range of customer needs and applications,” said Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Iridium. “As a programmable device with features like BLE connectivity, Java programming and CANbus protocol integration, we have created a smarter, more innovative and developer-friendly device than anything in the market today. Add in our truly global coverage with real-time two-way communications and it’s clear a new standard has been set for the industry.”
The combination of CANbus and traditional Modbus powers newfound flexibility from a satellite IoT device. For example, in the oil and gas industry Iridium Edge Pro’s Modbus protocol interfaces with Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) like flow meters. With CANbus, the device is ideal for integration with gensets that may be deployed for oil and gas, construction, mining and other remote heavy equipment applications. In addition, users can take advantage of Iridium Edge Pro’s BLE connectivity to pair the device with Bluetooth sensors that collect vital information, and also to connect smartphones, tablets and laptops to ensure, effective onsite maintenance.
As of the second quarter of 2020, Iridium commercial IoT subscribers grew 20% from the year-ago period to 863,000 customers, further cementing the company’s place as the premier satellite IoT company. Iridium plans to begin commercial shipping of the Iridium Edge Pro in Q4 2020. Iridium collaborated with development partner MetOcean Telematics to bring the Iridium Edge Pro to market. (Source: PR Newswire)
30 Sep 20. Landmark event for the space industry lifts off. The UK Space Agency is supporting a new commercially-focused event: an exhibition and conference set to drive growth across UK space sector. Space-Comm Expo, taking place on 25 and 26 May 2021 at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, will present a showcase of technology, thought-leadership, debate and analysis, and business growth opportunities.
Hosted by Farnborough International and Hub Exhibitions, with support from the UK Space Agency, UKSpace, ADS Group, KTN and other founding partners, Space-Comm Expo is an opportunity for industry, academia and government to meet with a dedicated focus on exploring the commercial future of space for business, defence and aerospace.
Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency says:
The UK Space Agency is pleased to support the Space-Comm Expo. This platform will showcase the innovation, entrepreneurship and international collaboration that characterises the UK’s commercial space sector. It’s a fantastic opportunity to come together after what has been a very challenging 2020 for everyone, and to look ahead to the UK’s future opportunities in space.
Space-Comm Expo Overview
Five theatres situated on the exhibition floor will be the location for world-class content delivered in five very distinct formats. From C-suite keynote addresses through to a demo lab and dedicated product showcase theatre, this programme offers a comprehensive snapshot of the issues and challenges leading the space industry. There is also a focus on the design, production and manufacture of small satellites and satellite applications, and a downstream theatre with sessions exploring applications such as satellite navigation, earth observation and satellite communications.
Business growth opportunities including:
- Meet the Buyer
- A dedicated Start-up Zone for businesses under three years old.
- Private roundtables for pre-arranged meetings to find synergies and identify opportunities that boost investment returns.
Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International says:
Through Space-Comm Expo we’re creating an opportunity for the highly innovative space industry to push commercial as well as technological boundaries.
Space-Comm Expo is a new style of event for the industry reflecting its dynamic nature and ensuring maximum value for exhibitors and visitors. Shaped with input from a number of organisations including UKSA and ADS Group, this will be a targeted and strategic opportunity for different sectors of this vibrant and fast-growing industry to come together and move forward in a number of different ways, whether that’s knowledge sharing, innovation insight or business growth. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
30 Sep 20. Arianespace reaffirms its Asia-Pacific launch services leadership. Arianespace has expanded its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region at the 2020 CommunicAsia virtual event, highlighting the company’s launcher family enhancement with Ariane 6 and Vega C, as well as new rideshare opportunities for constellations and small satellites.
Asia-Pacific remains a key market for Arianespace, having launched 89 satellites to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) for 17 Asia-Pacific operators from 10 countries – representing a 50 per cent market share.
The pace has continued in 2020, with five satellites launched so far this year for customers in the region.
Missions with the heavy-lift Ariane 5 during 2020 lofted JCSAT-17 and BSAT-4b for Japan, India’s GSAT-30, and GEO-KOMPSAT-2B for South Korea; while Thailand’s NAPA-1 nanosatellite was deployed during the light-lift Vega launcher’s proof of concept flight for Arianespace’s new Small Spacecraft Mission Service.
Overall, Arianespace has performed four launches to date in 2020 from the Guiana Space Center, orbiting 60 satellites; as well as two launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, lofting 68 satellites.
In the four decades since Arianespace’s creation in 1980, the company has launched a total of 744 spacecraft, which includes more than half of all telecommunications satellites now in service worldwide.
Arianespace provides guaranteed launch solutions for all types of spacecraft, whether institutional or commercial, to all orbits.
The three launch solutions with Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega account for:
- 109 launches and 255 satellites orbited for Ariane 5;
- 23 launches from the Guiana Space Center since 2011 and 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (via Starsem) for Soyuz with 203 satellites orbited; and
- 16 launches and 82 satellites orbited for Vega.
Arianespace’s order book now includes four satellites to be launched for Asia-Pacific operators:
- One satellite to be deployed by Ariane 5 into GTO in 2021: MEASAT-3d for MEASAT; and
- Three satellites to be launched by Vega/Vega C: KOMPSAT-7 for KARI (South Korea); THEOS-2 for GISTDA (Thailand) and one undisclosed.
Arianespace’s backlog of orders now stands at 47 launches for 25 customers:
- 15 by Ariane 5/Ariane 6;
- 22 by Soyuz; and
- 10 by Vega/Vega C.
The new generation of European launch vehicles is designed to address changing trends in the evolving satellite marketplace. Ariane 6 and Vega C will enable Arianespace to cover all orbits for all sizes of satellites, including constellations and smallsats, thanks to special multiple launch systems (SSMS for Vega/Vega C, and MLS for Ariane 6).
Ariane 6 and Vega C benefit from a long heritage of reliability and enhanced competitiveness – key factors when both institutional and commercial customers make their choice of launch services.
The constellation and small satellite (0-500 kilograms.) markets remain highly active. This trend is expected to continue: according to market projections, 200-300 nanosatellites are to be launched per year during the next decade, with more than 80 per cent expected to be provided through constellation projects. Broadband constellations are a particular game-changer for launch service providers, as they guarantee significant numbers of launches and a continuous level of activity over the years.
Arianespace will be able to respond to market needs through its dual strategy of shared launches on Ariane 6 and Vega/Vega C with MLS and SSMS, and multiple launches for constellations. Its goal is to seek a full range of opportunities in launching mega-constellations.
Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services and solutions for all types of satellites (institutional and commercial) into all orbits. It has orbited more than 740 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur (central Asia). Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility in Kourou at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, DC, Tokyo and Singapore. (Source: Space Connect)
30 Sep 20. US Space Force selects SpaceX to support National Security Space Launch. The United States Space Force (USSF) has confirmed the selection of Elon Musk’s SpaceX to recover the first stage booster and, for the first time on a National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission, launch previously flown boosters on future GPS missions.
SpaceX was also recently selected by the Space Force to carry out critical National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions ordered over the next five years. SpaceX will build upon its years-long collaboration with the US Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office to utilise the operationally mature Falcon fleet, which has achieved NSSL certification and completed a combined 95 orbital missions to date for a variety of customers.
With Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is capable of performing every type of national security space mission, to every required reference orbit, with significant performance and schedule margin.
To meet or exceed the demanding and unique requirements of the NSSL program, SpaceX invested over a billion dollars of its own money into the Falcon fleet and the associated ground infrastructure, manufacturing processes, payload integration procedures, and mission assurance processes.
This private investment over multiple years reflects SpaceX’s deep commitment to reliably launching our customers’ payloads to orbit. And, as SpaceX brought competition back to NSSL, the USAF saved billions in critical taxpayer funds.
The SpaceX statement said, “SpaceX is honoured to support the United States Space Force with a solution given the highest possible rating for system capability, schedule readiness, and system risk, using a mix of new and flight-proven launch vehicles.
“We look forward to leveraging this extensive capability to continue delivering the country’s most reliable and affordable launch services for years to come.”
Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond. It is the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket.
Reusability allows SpaceX to re-fly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.
Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 tonnes, Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off, equal to approximately 18 Boeing 747 aircraft. (Source: Space Connect)
28 Sep 20. In early October the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the science inside UK defence and security, will demonstrate its satellite operation capability using its relocatable ground station to task and receive data from multiple commercial satellites. This will represent the first time in nearly 20 years that a UK Government-owned and operated ground station will communicate with a satellite.
The demonstration will occur in collaboration with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, who will provide control of two low-Earth orbit satellites to the Dstl ground station for tasking validation and verification purposes.
Lessons learnt from this demonstration will be used to enhance Dstl’s satellite operations capability as it looks to lead a growing number of space and ground demonstrator missions in the future.
Mike O’Callaghan, Dstl’s Space Programme Manager, said: “Space is increasingly recognised as a critical domain for the maintenance of UK and global security. Dstl’s growing capability will support the MOD in enabling freedom of action in future operations for the UK and its allies.”
Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth, MOD’s Director Space, said: “This capability demonstration and collaboration between Dstl and SSTL is extremely important for Defence. Dstl and the Space Directorate are working closer than ever before as we take forward an ambitious space R&D programme, and the experiences gained from initiatives such as this help enormously to underpin our space capability planning for the future.”
Phil Brownnett, Managing Director of SSTL, said “SSTL is pleased to support Dstl’s ambitions to develop new space technologies and innovations and welcome this opportunity for collaboration to progress their satellite operations capability.”
28 Sep 20. Arianespace announces resumption of OneWeb constellation deployment. Arianespace and OneWeb will resume launch operations to continue the deployment of the OneWeb constellation – with deployment scheduled for December 2020. The next Soyuz launch is planned as soon as December 2020 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Pursuant to an amended launch contract with OneWeb, the London-based communications company, Arianespace will perform 16 more Soyuz launches from three spaceports (Kourou, Baikonur and Vostochny) beginning in late 2020 and continuing through 2022.
These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites by the end of 2022.
Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, explained, “I am delighted that we are back on track to support the deployment of the OneWeb constellation and the company’s mission to bridge the digital divide at a global scale.”
The next Soyuz flight is scheduled for December 2020 from Vostochny with 36 satellites on board.
Arianespace has launched 74 OneWeb satellites to date. The initial six were successfully orbited by Soyuz Flight VS21 from French Guiana in February 2019. In February and March 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur on Soyuz Flights ST27 and ST28.
“Our teams already are working hard to ensure a smooth and quick restart of the launch campaigns by year-end 2020,” Israël added.
In addition to the satellites, OneWeb’s global network will include gateway stations located around the world, and a range of user terminals will provide connectivity services for fixed and mobile communications. These terminals will be compatible with the future needs of the internet of things (IoT) and 5G.
OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space – is the constellation’s prime contractor. The OneWeb satellites are built in OneWeb Satellites’ Florida-based series production line that is dedicated to the assembly, integration, and test of OneWeb’s satellites.
Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits.
It has orbited more than 740 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, DC, Tokyo and Singapore. (Source: Space Connect)
29 Sep 20. NASA sheds light on economic impact of space industry. NASA has released a report into the economic impact of the agency’s renewed space exploration efforts, with programs like the Artemis moon mission and planned Martian exploration stand out performers, and satellite and telescope launches equally important economic drivers.
The report shows that, through all NASA activities, the agency generated more than US$64.3bn in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generated an estimated US$7bn in federal, state, and local taxes throughout the US.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine explained, “In this new era of human spaceflight, NASA is contributing to economies locally and nationally, fueling growth in industries that will define the future, and supporting tens of thousands of new jobs in America.”
The agency commissioned an economic impact study to better understand how the US economy benefited in FY2019 from America’s lunar and Mars exploration efforts.
The study found the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach generated more than $14bn in total economic output and supported more than 69,000 jobs nationwide in fiscal year 2019.
Additional key findings of the study include:
- Every state in the country benefits economically through NASA activities. Forty-three states have an economic impact of more than $10m. Of those 43 states, eight have an economic impact of $1bn or more;
- The agency’s Moon to Mars initiative, which includes the Artemis program, supports more than 69,000 jobs, $14bn in economic output, and $1.5bn in tax revenue. The agency’s Moon to Mars programs provided about 22 per cent of NASA’s economic impact. These figures are expected to double in 2021;
- NASA has more than 700 active international agreements for various scientific research and technology development activities in FY2019. The International Space Station is a significant representative of international partnerships – representing 15 nations and five space agencies and has been operating for 20 years;
- NASA spin-off technologies provide an impact on American lives beyond dollars and jobs. The agency has recorded more than 2,000 spinoffs since 1976. For example, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed, in just 37 days, a ventilator specifically for coronavirus patients and, after securing an emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration, made the design available to select manufacturers at no cost; and
- Scientific research and development – which fuels advancements in science and technology that can help improve daily life on Earth and for humanity – enjoys the largest single-sector impact, accounting for 16 per cent of the overall economic impact of NASA’s Moon to Mars program.
“With an investment of just one-half of 1 per cent of the federal budget, NASA generates significant total economic output annually. This study confirms, and puts numbers, to what we have long understood – that taxpayer investment in America’s space program yields tremendous returns that strengthen our nation on several fronts – a stronger economy, advances in science and technology, and improvements to humanity,” Bridenstine added.
The study was conducted by the Nathalie Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. UIC has worked with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on economic impact reports conducted for the center and the Voorhees Center is widely recognised as one of the foremost organisations conducting economic impact studies for corporations, communities, and government agencies. (Source: Space Connect)
28 Sep 20. Take-off for UK-built supercomputer nanosatellites. Four government-backed nanosatellites no bigger than a microwave have launched today. Two of the satellites have onboard a supercomputer capable of making hyper-accurate predictions for shipping to support maritime trade
Four shoebox-sized and government-backed satellites, including two supercomputers, have launched this afternoon (Monday 28 September).
The ‘nanosatellites’, which are built in Glasgow and are no larger than a microwave, have joined a fleet of nearly 100 objects in low Earth orbit that monitor shipping movements, helping predict global trade and making business more cost effective and efficient.
Like mobile phones, satellites are also getting smaller and smarter and nanosatellites are roughly the size of a shoe box. Despite their size, they can do almost everything a conventional satellite does.
Two of the Spire nanosatellites have an onboard supercomputer and intelligent machine-learning algorithms that can provide hyper-accurate predictions of the locations of boats, track their whereabouts and calculate their arrival times at ports, allowing port businesses and authorities to manage busy docks safely.
Two further Spire satellites launched alongside them today, both of which will be used to forge inter-satellite links. These connections allow satellites to act as relays, sending data to one another and down to ground stations, which cuts the time between data collection and its delivery.
Made by Spire Global UK, the nanosatellites, which are some of the smartest satellites ever built in the UK, are backed by over £10m of investment from the UK Space Agency and took off on a Soyuz launcher at 12.20pm (BST).
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: ”While nanosatellites are just the size of a shoe box, they have the power and intelligence of a regular satellite and are driving a revolution in how we observe our planet.”
Backed by £10m of UK government funding, these extraordinary nanosatellites will not only help predict global trade and make businesses more cost effective, but will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of satellite development.
The market for these smaller satellites, which are designed to orbit close to Earth’s atmosphere, is growing rapidly. According to a report by the Satellite Industry Association and Bryce Space and Technology, a total of 292 of the spacecraft were launched into space in 2017, compared with 55 in 2016.
This shift is fuelled by a wave of innovation that has made satellites cheaper to produce and the emergence of new commercial launch providers, such as SpaceX, which have made space more accessible.
The Government is supporting the development of spaceports across the country and the growing launch industry, which will see satellites lifting off from UK soil for the first time in the coming years.
Nanosatellites enable, among other advances, the ability to observe Earth’s environment more completely and regularly than ever before. Recent advances in optics and communication technologies have improved the smaller spacecrafts’ capabilities for remote sensing and imaging.
UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:
Scotland’s space sector is very ambitious. I’m delighted the UK Government has invested £10m in this exciting Glasgow-based company.
These nanosatellites will join an orbital fleet of over a 100 that predict global trade movements – aiming to make trade predictions hyper-accurate.
This funding will help to bolster the UK’s role as a leader in space innovation.
Spire staff design and build all the sub-systems and integrate and test the whole spacecraft in the company’s Glasgow headquarters.
CEO of Spire Global, Peter Platzer, said: “Spire is all about helping our customers know what is next, so they can make better decisions. This month we are moving this forward by launching a true super-computer into orbit – 1-2 teraflops! – so that we can analyse data right in orbit, using smart algorithms and machine learning.”
The satellites have been developed under a European Space Agency (ESA) Pioneer programme, which is a partnership project co-funded by the UK Space Agency. The UK remains a leading member of ESA, which is independent of the EU.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, work has progressed with strong backing from the UK Space Agency which, working with ESA, has extended exceptional support to small and medium-sized enterprises working in the space industry.
Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said:
These nanosatellites are part of ESA’s Pioneer programme to support industry to deliver fast and affordable access to space in the field of telecommunications. The programme creates opportunities for both established and new players in the fast-changing and competitive satellite communications market.
ESA’s Pioneer programme is one of the partnership projects that is aimed at de-risking partners’ investments, answering market needs. It is part of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES).
The programme creates new opportunities for both established and new players in the fast-changing and competitive satellite communications market.
28 Sep 20. Microsoft Positions Itself To Win Space Data Market With Azure Orbital. Offering Ground-Stations-as-a-Service means customers are only obliged to pay for the amount of time they actually need to use on the station. Azure Orbital, the space-connections wing of Microsoft’s cloud service Azure, launched last week. By offering Ground-Stations-as-a-Service, Microsoft wants to position itself as the bridge between the Pentagon and commercial satellites.
Ground stations are vital infrastructure for satellite communication, the physical node that makes all the images and information they collect useful. With the advent of lower-cost satellites, and the expansion of small satellite constellations in low earth orbit, the space industry is moving away from a locked-in model, where specific vendors only grant access to their satellites through their ground stations.
“Space is just so critical to everything we do here on earth,” says Frank Rose, a former assistant secretary of state for arms control who is now at Brookings. “Deploying additional capabilities, especially small satellites, in low earth orbit will definitely improve the resiliency of our national security space architecture.”
Earlier this year, Microsoft Azure won the $10bn JEDI contract for Pentagon cloud services.
Offering Ground-Stations-as-a-Service means that the customers are only obliged to pay for the amount of time they actually need on the station. Cloud service providers already have a great deal of experience in flexible demand management and in processing the data received in their servers. That makes ground stations a natural outgrowth of existing cloud competences, the company argues.
In June 2020, the Space Development Agency said that rentable ground stations make it easier for the military to piggy-back on existing commercial infrastructure.
When it comes to constellations of small satellites, what companies are “trying to do is to optimize their processing architecture, trying to minimize how much compute you need to do on board because of the [Size, Weight and Power] constraints, which inevitably leads them to do more on the ground,” says Mikhail Grinberg, principal at Renaissance Strategic Advisors.
Yet that principal doesn’t apply evenly across all applications. “For some military applications, given resiliency requirements,” says Grinberg, “they’re trying to do more networking processing on board, as opposed to having an open pipe that can be tapped into.”
While Azure Orbital appears aimed at the space sector broadly, it is specifically cultivating ties to the Pentagon and the defense contracting community. Partners signed up at launch include Amergint, Kongsberg Satellite Services, Viasat, and US Electrodynamics, all of whom have long histories of working with the Pentagon.
Of particular note is Azure Orbital’s partnership with Kratos, a company already actively working to make low-earth-orbit satellite space viable for military applications.
“Right now, the current national security space architecture is very vulnerable to other countries’ Anti-Satellite capabilities, primarily China’s and Russia’s,” says Rose. “If we can proliferate this constellation of small satellites, we can improve the resiliency of America’s national security space architecture.”
The military is planning for low earth orbit satellites in the battle management layer, ones that will primarily be processing data on board, having access to commercial infrastructure through Ground-Stations-as-a-Service increases the likelihood that they can be used when needed.
“For satellites in low earth orbit it might be days, three to four days before it’s overhead again. That’s the core problem,” says Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation. “One way you can solve that is by building a lot of ground stations.”
“The more you have commercial guys doing infrastructure on the ground,” says Grinberg, “if you can partition the data right, you can provide more resiliency.”
As part of its bid to build strong ties between Azure and the Department of Defense, Microsoft has specifically hired career professionals of the military and intelligence communities. In late, Azure hired Chirag Parikh from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Parikh had previously served as the Director of Space Policy for the White House.
William Chappell, CTO of Azure Global, announced Sept. 22nd that Azure Space had hired Stephen Kitay, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space policy, to head Azure’s space industry division.
It is, actively, a project to embed Microsoft in the infrastructure of orbit. By positioning itself as an intermediary between the space sector and its end users, Microsoft can become another almost-invisible piece of that same infrastructure. Azure Orbital would also offer Microsoft a greater role in other Pentagon satellite-based projects, like cloudONE and the Advanced Battle Management System. Being able to surge connections with sensors in orbits, on demand, makes space far more flexible for human commanders.
“In the last 5 years, there’s been a push from the military to move towards more common ground systems,” says Weeden. What remains to be seen is if the military will be comfortable with commercial companies operating those common ground systems, or if security concerns will instead preclude military traffic riding commercial channels. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 Sep 20. Rocket Factory Augsburg selected the Norwegian Andøya Space for its maiden launch in 2022, the German start-up announced today.
Andøya Space is developing a new launch complex on Andøya island in Northern Norway, 35 kilometers south of their existing sub-orbital launch site. The new site will provide operators of vehicles in the 1.5t payload class with independent integration facilities and access to two launch pads with necessary support infrastructure. Andøya Space is owned by the Norwegian Government (90%) and the Norwegian aerospace company Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace.
Rocket Factory, backed by the German satellite manufacturer OHB and the Munich-based venture capital firm Apollo Capital Partners, is developing a launcher system called RFA ONE for small satellites with a payload performance of up to 1.500kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
“This partnership is pivotal, it allows RFA and Andøya to launch the first satellite into orbit from continental Europe with an European launcher” said Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, Chief Operation Officer of RFA. Jörn Spurmann, Chief Commercial Officer of RFA, said. “Andøya Space is the most advanced micro launcher spaceport project in Europe. We believe to have found the best partner to start with the delivery of our end to end launch service to our customers in 2022.” (Source: Google/https://spacewatch.global/)
20 Sep 20. Scottish Spaceports Form An Alliance + Gogo Loses Patent Claim. The five space ports under consideration in Scotland have formed an alliance to highlight their plans and eventual activity. The alliance wants to address common issues and promote the industry onto the global stage.
Three of the members (in Shetland, Sutherland and the Western Isles) are conventional vertical rocket sites, while two others (in Prestwick and Machrihanish, Argyll) are looked upon as ‘horizontal’ sites that depend on aircraft launches.
Ultimately, the goal is to assist the UK in its ambition to create awareness and demand of their orbital launch capability. The ability to launch would boost Scotland’s burgeoning small satellite industry and open up other space business areas such as low gravity manufacturing, earth observation, orbital energy harvesting, and space tourism, a statement said.
Ian Annett, Deputy Chief Executive for project delivery at the UK Space Agency, said, “The UK Space Agency and the new Spaceports Alliance are working in lockstep towards a common goal – make the UK the leading destination for space launch in Europe. We want each space port to provide a range of services that complements those available at other space port sites; meeting the myriad demands from companies for satellite launches and sub-orbital flights. The Spaceports Alliance will help us realize this ambition and build on our space sector’s proud history of collaboration.”
John Innes, of the Scottish Space Leadership Council, added, “The international race to build launch capability ahead of other global competitors is very much underway. The Spaceports Alliance will facilitate an inclusive, collaborative approach in order to navigate the sector through the challenges and opportunities posed by the prospect of UK launch in the very near future.”
The Sutherland spaceport has already won planning approval.
Also of interest is Chris’ report that In-Flight broadband specialist Gogo has lost a battle with the US Patent Office over a key patent claim.
The patent in question (9312947) is held by SmartSky Networks and the dispute saw Gogo Business Aviation challenge the validity of the SmartSky patent, which covers terrestrial-based high-speed data communications on a mesh network.
Gogo alleged that certain claimed features of the patent are present in prior art, and that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) did not consider the prior art before issuing the patent to SmartSky. Gogo challenged 20 claims of the patent, citing a variety of prior publications, including from trade body IEEE.
Gogo had asked the USPTO to review the patent. The USPTO declined the request. The Patent Office said, “Gogo has not demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of prevailing in demonstrating that at least one challenged claim of the ‘947’ patent is unpatentable over the prior art of record.”
As a result, Gogo’s claim will not now make it to a formal hearing for review. Gogo is currently in the process of selling their Commercial Aviation business to Intelsat for $400m.
“We disagree with the PTO’s decision not to review the 947 patent,” said Sergio Aguirre, President of Gogo Business Aviation. “To be clear, Gogo reiterates our strong belief that we are not infringing any valid patent held by SmartSky. Furthermore, neither the PTO’s decision nor SmartSky’s patent portfolio in any way impairs our ability to continue to successfully expand, to launch Gogo 5G or to enhance our position in the business aviation market. Today, our systems are flying on more than 5,550 business jets, including more than 1,000 AVANCE L5 systems and nearly 450 L3 systems providing connectivity to business aircraft of all types and sizes. We are committed to continuing to set the standard for inflight connectivity in business aviation as we progress toward the launch of Gogo 5G and further enhance the scale and profitability of our Business Aviation segment.”
At the outset of the claim, SmartSky, in its statement said, “SmartSky has developed, demonstrated, and is deploying a game-changing air-to-ground (ATG) network. Creating a 10x or better inflight connectivity experience required substantial innovation, as evident by SmartSky being granted, both domestically and internationally, over 150 patents along with nearly an additional 100 pending. Simply put, this IPR filing is effectively an admission by Gogo that validates SmartSky’s longstanding position that our intellectual property is absolutely critical to the essential function of a next generation ATG network. Specifically, from our deep portfolio they are challenging a single patent covering the use of software defined radios for beamforming to deliver continuous and uninterrupted high speed data communication to aircraft. We have conducted a preliminary review of the Gogo filing and are highly confident the USPTO will not reverse its prior grant of this patent that resulted from its extensive, three-year long examination process. (Source: Satnews)
24 Sep 20. Gen-3 Smallsat Platform Unveiled By BlackSky. BlackSky is engaging in the next phase of expansion of the company’s high-revisit commercial satellite constellation with the unveiling of their next generation, Gen-3, satellite architecture.
In addition, the company also announced it has conducted the preliminary design review of its Gen-3 satellite design for the U.S. Army Tactical GEOINT (TACGEO) prototype program as part of a multi-year contract with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).
The commercial constellation expansion features Gen-3 satellites capable of producing images with 50-centimeter resolution and of hosting multiple sensors including short-wave infrared (SWIR). The improved resolution and enhanced spectral diversity of the Gen-3 satellites will extend BlackSky’s ability to provide real-time insights to its customers in a broad set of conditions, including nighttime, low light, and challenging weather.
The TACGEO program is designed to support the Department of Defense’s (DoD) needs for responsive, space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for tactical applications. The TACGEO program is a science and technology program to demonstrate the tactical utility of a single satellite of Gen-3’s capabilities.
BlackSky’s Gen-3 satellites will enable rapid distribution of highly responsive insights to warfighters to support concurrent war games, exercises, and combat training center events and help measure technology readiness.
The TACGEO project leverages BlackSky’s high-revisit, low-latency constellation architecture to address a growing need for responsive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the tactical ISR missions. BlackSky accelerates the DoD’s ability to leverage low-cost, high-performance, small imaging satellites to develop Critical Concept Of Operations (CONOPS) including tactics, techniques and procedures, and to inform future operational systems.
The contract was awarded to BlackSky in January 2020 after a competitive bid process. The TACGEO satellite program is now well into the design and development phase and is on track to launch and demonstrate operational capabilities in 2022.
“BlackSky is committed to ensuring the success of our customers’ missions. Our strategy of combining rapid evolution and deployment of space-based remote sensing capabilities with an industry leading AI-driven analytics and delivery platform will ensure that our customers are always the first to know,” said Brian O’Toole, CEO of BlackSky. “We are very proud to have reached this performance milestone. It demonstrates our ability to leverage a next generation space and analytics architecture to deliver new insights at a pace and economics unprecedented in the industry.” (Source: Satnews)
23 Sep 20. NSLComm Selects York Space Systems To Produce Small, Agile Satellite Platforms. NSLComm has selected York Space Systems LLC to produce small, agile satellite platforms with high throughput communication payload for coverage in the U.S.
NSLComm, a company co-founded by CEO Raz Itzhaki and Chief Engineer Daniel Rockberger, selected York to develop full satellite systems of nano- to mid-class ESPA-size satellites with advanced communication capabilities at high frequencies to provide high throughput and IoT applications. The satellites will offer capabilities in the realm of connectivity, backhauling, IoT applications and more.
NSLComm has a history of developing patented technology that reduces the cost of communications and greatly enhances link bandwidth, enabling one gigabit per second of communications from smallsats. NSLComm’s communication solution entails key components such as an expandable antenna that is deployed in space and a flexible sub reflector that compensates for any reflector shapes.
York Space Systems has a strong track record of building and operating small satellites and is currently engaged in spacecraft assembly, integration, and servicing. It is also expanding rapidly and recently unveiled a manufacturing facility in Denver, Colorado that is three times the size of its previous plant.
NSLComm is poised to offer this unique platform to both commercial and government customers in the United States and globally. The two companies have established technical working groups to design the communication interfaces between York’s S-CLASS bus and NSLComm’s Ka band communication payload and are now approaching potential customers.
“We selected York because it can offer compact and highly capable systems that are naturally combined,” Rockberger added.
Michael Lajczok, York’s VP of Mission Solutions, stated, “Through a combination of our S-CLASS bus and NSLComm’s state of the art communications technology, we believe our satellites will fill the need for faster satellite communications around the world.” (Source: Satnews)
24 Sep 20. Exolaunch Managing The Launch Of Four Spire Lemur-Class Smallsats. Exolaunch is arranging the launch and providing technical mission management for four of Spire Global’s Lemur-class 3U cubesats aboard a Soyuz rocket mission scheduled for September 28.
Spire Global operates the world’s largest commercial constellation of smallsats making radio occultation measurements, alongside other Earth Observations (EO) that serve the maritime, weather and aviation industries.
To date, Spire has launched more than 100 satellites that operate across a broad range of orbits. Exolaunch has helped deploy approximately one-third of Spire’s satellite constellation since 2016 when the launch service partnership started between the companies. The ongoing cooperation between Exolaunch and Spire has become a cornerstone for pioneering the latest advancements in small satellite launch systems and services.
As it has done on previous rideshares, Exolaunch will arrange launch services and mission technical support for Spire using its advanced cubesat deployment system, the 12U EXOpod. It will also utilize the EXObox deployment sequencer to control the safe and precise separation of Spire’s satellites.
The Spire satellite launch is part of a September Soyuz rideshare mission that is manifested by Exolaunch to realize the launch plans of its international small satellite customers. The mission is named Wanderlust, Desire to Travel, which symbolizes both the ever-increasing importance of sustainable access to space for smallsats and longing for travel that was recently restricted.
“Our long-time partnership with Spire has been extraordinarily valuable not only in driving Exolaunch to continually refine its solutions, but also in helping to propel the smallsat and space industry to new heights,” said Jeanne Medvedeva, Exolaunch VP of Launch Services. “We look forward to supporting Spire on this latest rideshare launch and stand ready to facilitate the ongoing expansion of their satellite constellation.”
“The experience and comfort we have working with the Exolaunch team has enabled Spire to continue with this launch campaign despite the challenges of a global pandemic. The combination of Exolaunch’s trusted deployment hardware, launch expertise, and customer focus has made them one of our more trusted launch partners,” said Robert Sproles, Senior Director, Constellation Planning and Operations at Spire. “Exolaunch has been instrumental in enabling Spire to set the industry-standard in the commercial aerospace sector as we work with our customers to tackle ever more frequent and extreme weather events in this era of Climate Change.”
Exolaunch has excellent heritage flying international customers on Soyuz, having launched more than 85 smallsats on Soyuz missions to date. This mission marks Exolaunch’s 7th with Soyuz. On this mission, Exolaunch will deploy a cluster of 15 smallsats into a sun-synchronous orbit for its customers Kepler Communications, the UAE Space Agency, the Würzburg Center for Telematics, the Technische Universität Berlin and several European commercial companies. The company is set to provide its market-leading separation systems – EXOpod for cubesats and CarboNIX for microsats – as well as its EXObox sequencers, to ensure timely deployment of smallsats into their target orbit. (Source: Satnews)
21 Sep 20. Rocket Lab Will Launch Planet + Canon Electronics Smallsats In October. Rocket Lab has announced that the company’s next Electron launch will be a rideshare mission to LEO for Planet and Spaceflight Inc.’s customer, Canon Electronics.
The mission – named ‘In Focus’ in a nod to the Earth-imaging satellites onboard – will liftoff in October from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch site, Launch Complex 1, in New Zealand. The mission will deploy a total of 10 satellites to precise and individual orbits. The mission will be Rocket Lab’s 15th launch overall and fifth mission of 2020, making Electron the second most-frequently launched United States orbital rocket this year.
Earth-imaging company Planet has nine of their latest generation SuperDove satellites booked on the mission for deployment to a 500 km morning-crossing Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). Each of the nine SuperDoves will be integrated with and deployed from Rocket Lab’s Maxwell dispensers, the industry’s lightest cubesat dispenser in its class.
Planet’s Flock 4e’ of SuperDoves will join the company’s constellation of Earth Observation (EO) satellites already on-orbit providing medium-resolution global coverage and near-daily revisit.
The 10th and final payload aboard this mission, Canon Electronics Inc.’s CE-SAT-IIB, was arranged by satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight Inc. CE-SAT-IIB is a technical demonstration microsatellite developed by Canon Electronics Inc. It has a middle-size telescope equipped with an ultra-high sensitivity camera to take night images of the Earth and small size telescopes which are suitable for CubeSat use.
Rocket Lab has multiple missions scheduled for the remainder of 2020, including an upcoming launch in Q4 earmarked for the company’s first Electron first stage recovery attempt. The Electron’s first stage will be equipped with new hardware, including a reaction control system and an in-house designed parachute system, to orient the booster during its re-entry descent and slow down the first stage before a soft landing in the ocean where it will be collected by a ship.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said the mission demonstrates the industry-leading flexibility Electron provides to small satellite operators by deploying multiple spacecraft to their various target destinations even when flying as part of a rideshare. “With Electron, we designed a launch system that makes access to space easy and puts our customers in the driver’s seat of their missions, and we’re proud to be delivering on that even through times of global disruption.” (Source: Satnews)
22 Sep 20. Introducing Azure Orbital: Process Satellite Data At Cloud-Scale + SES Signs On. Data collected from space to observe Earth is instrumental in helping address global challenges such as climate change and furthering of scientific discovery and innovation. The cloud is central to both modern communications scenarios for remote operations and the gathering, processing, and distributing the tremendous amounts of data from space.
Microsoft has announced the preview of Azure Orbital. The new ground station service enables satellite operators to communicate to and control their satellites, process data, and scale operations directly with Microsoft Azure. With Azure Orbital, the ground segment, including the ground stations, network, and procedures, becomes a digital platform now integrated into Azure and complemented by many partners.
Amergint, Kratos, KSAT, Kubos, Viasat, and US Electrodynamics INC. and have joined the ecosystem of Azure Orbital partners, each of them bringing their unique value and expertise for the benefits of our customers.
Microsoft is well-positioned to support customer needs in gathering, transporting, and processing of geospatial data. With the company’s intelligent cloud and edge strategy currently extending over 60 announced cloud regions, advanced analytics, and AI capabilities coupled with one of the fastest and most resilient networks in the world—security and innovation are at the core of everything we do.
Satellite images are used in many industries. Areas such as meteorology, oceanography, agriculture, geology, and defense and intelligence most often use satellites that are in a Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO), including Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) or Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO). As the satellites are orbiting, a substantial amount of ground stations are required to establish contact within a specific time window to downlink the data to Earth.
Azure Orbital enables satellite operators to schedule contacts with their spacecrafts and directly downlink data into their virtual network (VNet) in Azure. Azure Virtual Networks are isolated, highly secure, and governed by Microsoft’s more than 90 compliance certifications covering applications and datasets.
Azure Orbital on-ramps client data directly into Azure, where it can immediately get processed with market-leading data analytics, geospatial tools, machine learning, and Azure AI services.
Contact scheduling will be available for Microsoft owned and operated ground stations in X-, S-, and UHF-band frequencies via shared high gain antennas. Microsoft is also directly interconnecting the firm’s global network with partners’ ground station networks for easy scheduling with your preferred Teleport operators while maintaining the benefits of direct integration with Azure.
Whether a user selection is to use Microsoft or partner ground stations, the digitized Radio Frequency (RF) signal from the antenna to the cloud can be transmitted using the VITA Radio Transport (VRT) format (VITA-49) and then subsequently be demodulated using custom modems or cloud modems offered by the platform.
In-flight connectivity (IFC), maritime, connected cruise, mobility, and video broadcasting are examples of communication scenarios addressed by the space industry. Leveraging Azure Orbital, satellite operators can go beyond selling network capacity with the accelerated building of managed services. Azure Orbital offers interconnection of your existing ground stations and colocation of dedicated antennas close to our network PoPs or Datacenters. Orbital enables you to take full advantage of our global network and services infrastructure to build new product offerings and service chains with the edge, 5G, SD-WAN, and AI while continuously optimizing your operations and footprint.
The ground segment is a significant part of any satellite operator’s investments. An ecosystem of partners has joined our Managed Service Providers (MSP) program to enrich the platform by selecting services and technology integrations. Cloud modems optimized for Azure, Mission Control Operations are examples of third-party cloud-native services provisioned on-demand when your business needs it.
SES has selected Microsoft Azure to collocate the ground stations (including Telemetry, Tracking, and Command Systems) of their next-generation SES O3b mPOWER communication system. SES has designed a cloud-scale operational environment and will leverage Azure Orbital as a core platform to scale and build managed services and streamline order and service delivery management processes.
The integration is part of a multi-year agreement between the two companies that accelerates and expands SES’s use of Azure to significantly advance the digital transformation of the company’s services and operations as part of its cloud-first strategy.
As pioneers in Microsoft’s new cloud ecosystem in space, the two companies will make joint investments in Azure Orbital ground stations that SES will deploy and manage for the MEO and Earth Observation segments. The first MEO and Earth Observation gateways will be located in Phoenix, Arizona, United States and Quincy, Western Australia respectively.
In anticipation of O3b mPOWER, SES’s next-generation MEO communications system, SES and Microsoft will seamlessly co-locate several telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) systems and data ground stations with Microsoft’s Azure edge sites.
The integration of both SES and Azure networks will provide O3b mPOWER customers with “one-hop” access to their Azure cloud services. The option to route over Microsoft’s global network and inject value-added, cloud-based managed services such as enhanced security, SD-WAN, and other network functions into the service chain will mean that SES customers can enjoy improved network performance, speed-to-market, flexibility and scalability they need to capitalise on new revenue opportunities.
O3b mPOWER is SES’s next-generation MEO communications system. It is currently under construction and on track for launch in 2021. The high-throughput and low-latency satellites as well as automated and intelligence-powered ground infrastructure will deliver managed services of hundreds of Mbps up to multiple Gbps per second to customers.
This agreement builds on the work started last year between the two companies, which added SES as an Azure ExpressRoute partner and SES as the first satellite operator to implement Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) using NFV technology on Azure.
“In the last 12-18 months, our focus has been to accelerate our customers’ cloud adoption plans. We are pleased to have found an ideal partner in Microsoft with its new Azure Orbital system. This agreement leverages both companies’ know-how – SES’s experience in satellite infrastructure and Microsoft’s cloud expertise – and are building blocks in developing new and innovative solutions for the future,” said JP Hemingway, CEO of SES Networks. “In addition to building and managing EOS gateways for Microsoft, we are also thrilled that we will be co-locating, deploying and operating our next-generation O3b mPOWER gateways alongside Microsoft’s data centres. This one-hop connectivity to the cloud from remote sites will enable our MEO customers to enhance their cloud application performance, optimize business operations with much flexibility and agility needed to expand new markets.”
“Our launch of Azure Orbital will enable our partners’ customers to on-ramp their data into Azure where it can immediately be processed with market-leading data analytics, geospatial tools and machine learning services, adding another layer of automation and intelligence in their networks,” said Jeff Cohen, Partner Program Manager, Azure Networking at Microsoft Corp. “In addition, SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system is proof of SES’s cloud-first strategy, focusing on industry standards and orchestration, and aligns with our connectivity vision for the future, and we are delighted to be kicking off this project.” (Source: Satnews)
21 Sep 20. Atomic Aggies From New Mexico State University Launch Two Rockets From Spaceport America. New Mexico State University’s student rocket team the “Atomic Aggies” held two successful rocket launches at Spaceport America on Saturday, September 19.
The Atomic Aggies were due to compete in the 2020 Spaceport America Cup which was canceled due to COVID-19. The team mostly comprised of mechanical and aerospace engineering students from NMSU, had started work on their rockets in August 2019, and continued through the pandemic to finish their vehicles ahead of test day.
The team’s rocket “Archangel” carried an 8.8lbs 3U cubesat chile growing chamber during the flight. The team were aiming to reach an altitude of 10,000 feet and achieved a height of 8,333 feet. The avionics and payload both generated great data and the chiles survived the launch and return to Earth.
Anita Jimenez, Atomic Aggies Student Advisor with Archangel
The other rocket named “Rocket McRocketFace” was developed by Scott Komar for his National Association of Rocketry Level 3 certification. Each year, the Atomic Aggies allow a student to build and design their own rocket in order to get the Level 3 certification which shows judges at the Spaceport America Cup that the team is experienced with the larger class motors. Komar’s objectives were to launch with a M-class motor and safely recover his vehicle in order to get his Level 3 certification, which he successfully achieved after one false start.
Scott Komar with “Rocket McRocketFace.”
There are 30 active members of the NMSU Atomic Aggies team and several team members are the first recipients of the Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship at NMSU. Additionally, the Atomic Aggies have been awarded grant funding through the Galactic Unite Community Grants program to support the design and build of their competition rocket. Four mentors from Virgin Galactic were onsite to support and cheer on the team’s hard work.
Spaceport America continues to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions and all on site wore face masks and kept social distance throughout the launch. The team were limited to 10 members on site with the launches live streamed on social media for those that could not be there in person.
Spaceport America’s interim Executive Director, Scott McLaughlin (who is a proud NMSU electrical engineer graduate), said, “It is great to see the Atomic Aggies team grow over the last few years, and very significant that they can travel just an hour to test their designs. New Mexico is now at the forefront commercial space developments and our colleges are starting to see the benefits of a nearby spaceport—both for their curriculum and for good aerospace jobs.” (Source: Satnews)
22 Sep 20. Momentus Signs Smallsat Launch Agreements With Pixxel + GP Advanced Projects. Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”) and Pixxel have executed a service agreement for delivering Pixxel’s second smallsat to SSO orbit in December 2021 onboard a SpaceX Falcon-9 launch, as well as options to fly again in 2022.
Pixxel is building a constellation of Earth imaging smallsats that can provide real-time remote sensing data across the world. The Momentus Shuttle Service will provide a rideshare for multiple Pixxel spacecraft to predefined orbits.
Founded in 2019 by Awais Ahmed and Kshitij Khandelwal, Pixxel satellites will help make the world a more sustainable place through highly accurate data-based insights in agriculture, climate change, forestry and other domains, according to the firm. Pixxel recently raised $5m in funding, which the company is using to rapidly build and launch the second satellite with Momentus’ help.
Momentus has gained significant traction since its founding in 2017, attracting dozens of customers ranging from private commercial space companies to the likes of Lockheed Martin and NASA, and penning important industry partnerships, most notably with SpaceX.
Momentus employs new and proprietary technologies, including water plasma propulsion, to enable revolutionary, low-cost, orbital Shuttle and Charter services. The Charter Service will allow dedicated capacity to be allocated to a single customer’s payload. In the Shuttle Service model, the payload will be a rideshare along with other payloads hosted or deployed from the Vigoride transfer vehicle.
Awais Ahmed, Pixxel’s CEO, said, “We are excited to partner with Momentus to get our satellites up in orbit as soon as we can and get the data in the hands of our customers. Momentus’ launch and in-space transfer services provide us with the flexibility to get to the orbit we want, even on a rideshare mission. We look forward to working with them to help make space more accessible.”
“Pixxel is doing something innovative that hasn’t been done in India or the West,” said Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus. “With a shared belief in humanity’s expansion in space via in-situ resources, we wish this mission the ultimate success.”
Additionally, Momentus and GP Advanced Projects have engaged in a launch service agreement for GP Advanced Projects FEES2 smallsat to fly on Vigoride’s second demo mission in April of 2021.
The Flexible Experimental Embedded Satellite (FEES) is a demonstrator of a low-cost, picosatellite platform for autonomous on-orbit validation and testing. A first model will fly onboard G.A.U.S.S. Unisat-7 satellite launched on a Soyuz and Momentus will fly the enhanced FEES2 variant on a Vigoride shuttle via a Falcon 9 rocket in the first half of 2021.
These two FEES satellites will pave the way for future constellations of picosatellites devoted to the retrieval of IoT data from ground, starting with a first Cluster mission in 2022 – also partnered with Momentus.
San Francisco Bay area-based, but with a strong commitment to European markets, this represents the second deal with an innovative Italian upstart, following the agreement with ARCA Dynamics and NPC Spacemind in August, for a mission on which GP Advanced Projects is also onboard with the same miniaturized electronics, providing OBC and Telecommunications.
“GP Advanced Projects is doing a tremendous effort to validate its core technology in space, after having successfully achieved on-ground qualification. The partnership with Momentus and the flexibility of the Vigoride shuttle allow us not only to increase the reliability of our platform by performing a second validation mission, but offer us also the possibility to test additional features ahead of schedule with respect to our development roadmap,” said Guido Parissenti, CEO of GP Advanced Projects.
“This deal confirms the ability of Momentus Vigoride shuttle service to offer affordable access to space for even the smallest satellite form factors. Together with the advancements in miniaturization of electronics brought forward by GP Advanced Projects, our transportation system unlocks a whole new range of constellation services to take off the ground – literally,” said Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus. (Source: Satnews)
25 Sep 20. SpaceX handed loss in challenge over Air Force contract. A federal judge plans to deny SpaceX’s challenge to U.S. Air Force contracts awarded to its rivals, writing in a Thursday court filing that the Pentagon properly assessed the development of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Starship rocket system as “too risky and expensive.”
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp in its year-long lawsuit had accused the Air Force of unfairly awarding development contracts to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and other competitors for new rocket systems in 2018.
But in a ruling that was briefly posted online by the court before being sealed, the judge found no wrongdoing by the Air Force in denying the company funds to help develop Starship, a reusable rocket system that Musk envisions will send satellites to orbit and one day ferry humans to the moon and Mars.
Judge Otis D. Wright II gave the parties a week-long window to change his mind before entering judgment.
The Air Force declined to comment. SpaceX did not return requests for comment.
The $2.3bn in awards served as seed investments in nascent rocket systems, with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, receiving the biggest chunk of $967m.
SpaceX brands Starship as a two-stage fully reusable rocket system that stands at the center of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s goal to normalize human space travel. Early prototypes of the rocket have flown in short “hop” tests at SpaceX’s south Texas test site.
According to the order, part of SpaceX’s pitch to the Air Force included a previously unreported less-reusable version of Starship whose upper stage would not return to Earth after delivering a payload into orbit – a “substantial” design change to the rocket’s fully reusable architecture that the Air Force considered too complex of a challenge.
In August, the Air Force awarded much bigger, multibillion-dollar launch contracts to SpaceX and ULA.
SpaceX received a 40% share of missions to launch Pentagon payloads using its fleet of Falcon rockets, with ULA receiving a 60% share using its upcoming Vulcan rocket.
SpaceX that month opted to continue the lawsuit against the Air Force over the Starship bid, saying “substantial harm to SpaceX remains.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.