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08 Oct 20. Space Development Agency wants someone to launch its first 28 satellites. Now that the Space Development Agency has selected four contractors to build its first 28 satellites, the organization is looking for a launch provider to ferry them into orbit.
According to a solicitation posted Oct. 6, the agency plans to select one company to provide launch services for all 28 satellites, with the first launch taking place in September 2022.
Those 28 satellites will comprise tranche 0 of SDA’s National Defense Space Architecture, a new proliferated constellation providing a whole host of services primarily from low Earth orbit. Among other things, the NDSA is anticipated to provide beyond-line-of-site targeting, hypersonic missile warning and tracking, and a space-based mesh network that will connect all of the services as part of the Pentagon’s new Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) approach.
The constellation will ultimately include hundreds of satellites, but SDA isn’t putting them all up at once. Rather, the agency has adopted a spiral development approach, where the most mature and ready technology is added to the constellation in two year tranches.
This launch solicitation covers the first tranche, otherwise known as tranche 0. Slated to go into orbit in fall 2022, tranche 0 is what SDA calls its “war fighter immersion tranche.”
“Its goal is to provide the data in a format that the war fighters are used to seeing on tactical timelines that they can be expected to see once we actually become operational,” SDA Director Derek Tournear told C4ISRNET. “The whole purpose of tranche 0 is to allow the war fighters to start to train and develop tactics, techniques and procedures so that they can create operational plans for a battle where they would actually incorporate these data.”
With just 28 satellites, tranche 0 will not provide global, persistent coverage. Instead, it will provide periodic, regional capabilities. Tranche 0 will feature the inaugural satellites in the transport and tracking layers. The 20 transport layer satellites will form the base of a space-based mesh network, passing data from satellites to weapon systems along a high-speed, on-orbit corridor. Tournear has previously stated that the transport layer will serve as the space component of CJADC2, the Pentagon’s effort to connect sensors to shooters across domains and services.
The inaugural tracking layer will be made up of eight satellites. The tracking layer will be used to detect and track hypersonic threats, working with the transport layer to pass tracking data and custody from satellite to satellite—collaborating to keep an eye on globe-traversing missiles that can evade current missile warning capabilities.
SDA has selected Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems to each build 10 of the transport layer satellites, while SpaceX and L3 Harris will split the eight tracking layer satellites.
Because the SDA has given vendors flexibility in the designs of their satellites, there is some variety to the weight of the space vehicles being launched into orbit. While all 20 transport layer satellites will weigh approximately 200 kilograms, give or take 20 kilograms, there is a significant difference in the size of the eight tracking layer satellites. One vendor—either SpaceX or L3 Harris—will be contributing four tracking layer space vehicles weighing approximately 1,068 kg each. The other vendor’s space vehicles will be significantly lighter at just 249 kg.
In total, SDA is looking to put as much as 10,164 kg of hardware into orbit. The agency wants all 28 satellites delivered to two circular, 950 km near-polar orbits, with the tranche divided evenly into two planes of 14 satellites. The launch provider has until March 31, 2023, to put all payloads on orbit and has discretion as to how many launches it will use to do that. The goal is to have as many satellites up as close to September 2022 as possible. Proposals are due by Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. EST. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 Oct 20. German industry pushes for space launch site in the North Sea. Germany should jump-start its space technology sector by building a mobile micro-launch platform in the North Sea that could send national security payloads into orbit, according to a proposal by the Federation of German Industries.
The idea picked up steam during late summer, as the trade association published its ideas in a report and initiated talks with government agencies, including the ministries for economic affairs and defense.
The initiative, one of several micro-launch sites planned or under development throughout Europe, is primarily the product of commercial considerations. Having access to a space port on short notice that is primed for small payloads and low-cost operations is a must-have to incentivize companies to stay in the country, as the United States and others seek to lure German space talent abroad, proponents say.
But there is also a political dimension. NATO, which last year declared space as an operational domain, wants to expand its earthly footprint on the subject, weighing proposals from France and Germany to base an alliance-sponsored center of excellence there.
“If the government were to get behind this, it would increase the chances for Germany to host the center,” Matthias Wachter, who leads the German industry lobbying group’s defense and space practice, told Defense News.
In addition, he argued, Berlin would be able to offer micro-launch capabilities to NATO and the European Union, thus contributing to the kind of high-tech defense ecosystem that Europeans so desperately seek.
The promising micro-launch companies here are HyImpulse Technologies, based in a small town between Frankfurt and Stuttgart; Isar Aerospace Technologies, located south of Munich; and Rocket Factory, of Augsburg, Bavaria.
The three firms are in the running for a €25m (US$29m) competition by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Officials here are looking to the American model of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, hoping to make space-launch services a commercial affair that the government can purchase as needed.
“We are entering uncharted territory with this competition,” Thomas Jarzombek, who spearheads the aerospace startup portfolio at the economic affairs ministry, said in July. “We are banking on competition, private financing and private risk. The government should no longer develop everything on its own, but increasingly buy services from startups.”
The German industry association hopes civilian adoption of the micro-launch concept — for everything from communications to environmental monitoring from space — will open the door to defense applications.
“It’s a great and exciting market,” Wachter said, adding that the biggest beneficiary would be the German military.
A public debate about Germany using space platforms for national security objectives has yet to take place. And if another high-tech defense topic is any guide — the use of drones and artificial intelligence in war — the proposal of militarizing space is fraught with negative connotations that could take years to work through.
The Defence Ministry, meanwhile, is on the fence.
“The department is familiar with the BDI proposal,” a spokesman told Defense News, using the German acronym for the industry group. “It is being evaluated by the economic affairs ministry as the lead agency, in coordination with other departments. The analysis has not yet yielded any results.”
“From the Defence Ministry’s point of view, micro-launchers are suitable for carrying small payloads on orbit,” the spokesman added. “At the same time, it is to be acknowledged that there is currently no military requirement for a space port.”
That attitude would leave France — Germany’s favorite political partner and industrial rival — as the main actor for accessing space within continental Europe. France has a well-established space infrastructure. But with a launch site in its overseas territory of French Guiana in South America, the setup is geared toward the type of heavy-lift, big-effort operations antithetical to the promise of micro-launching.
The German industry group’s space port proposal envisions a launch pad towed by boats out into the farthest tip of Germany’s exclusive economic zone. There, beyond the Doggerbank sandbank, a particularly shallow part of the North Sea, is where industry analysts believe lies the perfect spot to shoot rockets into space, squeezing the spacecraft past Norway’s coastline toward polar or sun-synchronous orbits.
The industry group admitted “a launch platform in Germany is not a technical but rather a political question,” but said “the decision in favor of a German launch pad would represent a strategic investment in line with the country’s aspirations to be a high-tech, progressive industrialized nation.” (Source: Defense News)
07 Oct 20. New strategic sites monitoring solution developed by Airbus and Earthcube. Airbus has joined forces with Earthcube, a French company specialising in the analysis of geospatial data using Artificial Intelligence (AI), to develop and market “Defence Site Monitoring”, an online solution for strategic site monitoring dedicated to defence actors, combining advanced satellite imagery and AI.
The new “Defence Site Monitoring” solution combines Earthcube’s expertise in the automatic identification of objects with high-resolution images from Airbus‘ 50cm Pléiades satellites and from 2021, using even higher-resolution 30cm imagery from its Pleiades Neo constellation. The algorithms used are already capable of automatically detecting, identifying and classifying aircraft and ships, both civil and military.
“Airbus is a strategic partner for French and European Armed Forces, serving national sovereignty and providing reliable and secure intelligence solutions. With ‘Defence Site Monitoring”, hundreds of sites of interest will be monitored and analysed daily, thanks to the reactivity and agility of our satellites and Earthcube’s AI algorithms, capable of processing gigabytes of data.” said François Lombard, Director of Intelligence business at Airbus Defence and Space.
“As the European leader in AI data processing, Earthcube’s mission is to work closely with major industrial players who are able to combine their expertise with the excellence of our technology in a logic of ever-increasing added value. We are very proud of “Defence Site Monitoring” and of this partnership with Airbus, which perfectly illustrates this shared ambition,” said Arnaud Guérin, President and co-founder of Earthcube.
Image Analysts can access Defence Site Monitoring via a fully secure area on the Airbus OneAtlas digital platform. They can monitor their areas of interest and receive automated alerts and trend analysis reports.
Through this collaboration, Airbus and Earthcube are demonstrating true European know-how and a capacity to meet the most demanding needs of the intelligence services and our troops engaged in the various theatres of operation.
07 Oct 20. Spaceflight Inc. Signs Multi-Launch Agreement with HawkEye 360. New multi-year MLSA provides launch capacity for nine microsats, end-to-end mission management services, and schedule reliability for fast-growing radio signal mapping constellation.
Spaceflight Inc., the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it signed a Multiple Launch Services Agreement (MLSA) with HawkEye 360. Under the agreement, Spaceflight will provide capacity, engineering, and mission management services to launch HawkEye 360’s Cluster 4, 5, and 6 of its radio frequency mapping satellites. Each cluster in the constellation consists of three approximately 30 kg microsats which fly in a unique formation to gather a wide variety of geolocation data.
HawkEye 360 first worked with Spaceflight in 2018, successfully launching its first cluster of spacecraft aboard Spaceflight’s record-breaking SSO-A mission, the first fully dedicated rideshare mission with 64 smallsats aboard a Falcon 9. HawkEye Cluster 2, which features even more powerful satellites that can geolocate multiple signals simultaneously, is scheduled to launch with Spaceflight on its SpaceX Rideshare-3 (SXRS-3) mission via the Sherpa-FX orbital transfer vehicle on a Falcon 9, no earlier than December 2020.
“When you’re developing a next-gen constellation like HawkEye 360, it’s critical to have a variety of launch options at your fingertips,” said Grant Bonin, senior vice president of business development at Spaceflight. “Spaceflight partners with nearly every vehicle in the world, so we offer unmatched launch flexibility — meaning HawkEye 360 can get their spacecraft exactly where they need to be, exactly when they need to be there. It’s been a true pleasure to play a role in HawkEye 360’s growth over the past years, and we’re pleased to support the relationship and their ongoing launch needs.”
“Since launch is challenging, we looked for a partner that could offer a variety of launch options and flexible arrangements to satisfy our mission needs,” said Rob Rainhart, chief operating officer at HawkEye 360. “Spaceflight’s experience in mission management and launch services has allowed us to focus on building our spacecraft while they handle the logistics of getting our satellites safely on orbit. They have been supportive from the early days of HawkEye 360 and we look forward to continuing the relationship as we rapidly expand our constellation.”
Spaceflight works with a large portfolio of launch vehicles, including Falcon 9, Antares, Electron, Vega, and PSLV, to provide a variety of launch options to its customers. The company has launched more than 300 satellites across 32 rideshare missions. In 2019, the company successfully executed nine missions, the most it’s ever launched in one year, sending more than 50 payloads to space. Earlier this year, Spaceflight announced a multi-launch agreement with SpaceX, which secured strategic capacity enabling flexible launch options for its customers and included the upcoming SXRS-3 mission for HawkEye 360.
About Spaceflight Inc.
Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of space transportation through its comprehensive and innovative suite of rideshare launch and mission management services. The company offers state-of-the-art satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and mission expertise to support each customer’s specific mission needs. Spaceflight’s diverse portfolio of launch partners across the globe enables the company to offer routine launch options and unprecedented launch flexibility. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
07 Oct 20. US Must Weigh ‘Strategic Impacts’ Of Arming The Heavens: Aerospace.
“I think probably the biggest single thing that I know Gen. Raymond is working on … is really fleshing out that long-term vision for the Space Force,” Justin Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary for space policy says.
A new study by the Aerospace Corporation calls for a public, in-depth and government-wide debate about America’s use of space weapons.
“[T]he United States has not had a robust public debate about the advantages and disadvantages of weaponizing space in almost 20 years. U.S. restraint carried the day then, but the threats and the strategic environment have changed a great deal since that era, leading to the need for a fresh examination,” the paper, A Roadmap for Assessing Space Weapons, states.
“U.S. decisionmakers should carefully examine this most fundamental and critical of all space security issues to assess how deployment of weapons in space by any country, including the United States, will affect U.S. strategic interests,” the study, released yesterday, adds.
The Space Force’s leadership is trying to hammer out just what America’s military presence and operations in space will look like.
“I think probably the biggest single thing that I know Gen. Raymond is working on — and, you know, more follow on this — is really fleshing out that long-term vision for the Space Force. What is the force design — the force development elements — of the Space Force? What does that future vision in 10, 20, 30 years need to look like?” Justin Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary for DoD space policy told the Heritage Foundation today. “And then, we in the rest of the Department, need to figure out how does that fit in with our overall strategy.”
Johnson did not provide any details about when a new force posture document might be in hand; nor did he take audience questions during the Heritage event.
As tensions rise, ISR demand will increase exponentially as will the need for kinetic response to threats.
The study, authored by retired Lt. Col. Peter Hays, and former space analyst at DoD’s Office of Net Assessment, Michael Gleason, cautions against deploying weapons in space simply as a reaction to the increased threat.
“[R]ather than basing a U.S. decision primarily as a reaction to China’s and Russia’s provocations, the United States should carefully consider the viability and effectiveness of space weapons for itself, bearing in mind the advantages and disadvantages outlined above and in light of the changes in the strategic environment identified below. Only then should the United States consider the best strategy and best mix of capabilities needed to respond to China’s and Russia’s space weapons,” it says.
However, DoD has already determined that a top priority for Space Force is projecting power “in, from and to space,” as the Aerospace Corp. paper notes. As Breaking D readers know, providing “Combat Power Projection” is one of the five “core competencies” for the Space Force listed in the “Spacepower” Capstone Doctrine released on Aug. 10.
“This includes applying lethal force in, from, and to space,” the Aerospace paper adds. “That new organizational imperative, traditional military preferences for offensive doctrines, and advances in competitor capabilities all raise the question of whether the United States will decide to field weapons in space.”
The paper shies away from directly advocating that the US should deploy an arsenal of space-related weapons, including offensive weapons to target adversary space capabilities.
“The first paragraph points out that official publications imply the U.S. is thinking about deploying space weapons. The paper does not argue that such a decision, however, is a foregone conclusion,” Gleason told Breaking D in an email today. “The paper also suggests that before a decision to deploy space weapons is made, the risks and merits of ground-based space weapons should be given equal consideration with space-based weapons.” The goal, he said, is to spur public debate.
At the same time, the paper makes it pretty clear that the time for traditional US restraint regarding space weapons is probably past, given Chinese and Russian technology developments. Further, the paper points out that there isn’t a real option for the US to “leap ahead” either for the same reasons.
Hays and Gleason argue that the US government must thoroughly consider both the advantages and disadvantages for military operations of specific types of weapons — i.e. Earth-to-space, space-to-Earth, and space-to-space.
“The United States already has a large and varied arsenal of weapons that can attack different parts of adversary ground-based and space-based networks, helping to deter aggression or win a fight in space if deterrence fails. But if the United States decides deployment of space weapons is required, policymakers will need to decide the best mix of space weapons needed and decide which types of weapons should be prioritized in development and deployment,” the study says.
In the military realm, a key concern should be whether or not any particular type of space weapon — whether Earth-to-space, space-to-Earth or space-to-space — is survivable and can be built for a reasonable price.
For example, the DoD “will need to make significant investments to protect and defend U.S. space-based weapons” against the space-to-space attack capabilities that China and Russia might deploy. “In comparison, U.S. Earth-to-space weapons would not be directly threatened by these Chinese or Russian capabilities but, instead, would be able to threaten Chinese and Russian space-based weapons and other space-based capabilities,” the study explains.
The effect that space weapons of any kind might have on nuclear deterrence and strategic stability must also be considered, the authors say. For many years, one of the drivers of US restraint regarding space weapons has been fear that a space arms race would undercut nuclear first-strike capabilities, especially deployments of weapons based in space.
“Even if space weapons do not fatally undermine nuclear deterrence, they still offer another path to rapid nuclear escalation,” the paper stresses. “Those traditional concerns still exist and should be debated anew.”
There also is a possibility that “deploying any type of space-based weapon could weaken the right of overflight for other military satellites” under the foundational 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), the paper warns. While the OST currently provides for the “peaceful uses” of military satellites — which includes spying over another country’s territory — and prohibits interference, it is legally unclear whether weapon systems based in space would carry the same protections.
“Just deploying space-based weapons may mark all military satellites as targets, even in peacetime, since there is no guarantee that space-based weapons could be confidently distinguished from other military satellites,” the paper cautions. “Today’s debate should examine the indirect risks the deployment of space-based weapons might create for military and intelligence community intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), communication, and other satellites.”
(The same could be said for commercial satellites, although the paper doesn’t mention that.)
Finally, the paper stresses that the affects of how a space weapons arsenal is put together will affect the ability of the United States to wield diplomatic and economic soft power and should not be overlooked. It is important, the paper stresses, to consider whether some constraints on negative actions by adversaries could be created via diplomacy.
“While current political tensions may make it unlikely in the near term, it is possible the United States,
China, Russia, and other countries could find it in their mutual interest to agree to formally proscribe weapons that create space debris. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols regulate armed conflict and seek to limit its effects, providing an example of a framework for limiting conflict that extends into space,” the paper notes.
“Mutual restraint in deployment and/or employment of debris-creating space weapons would reduce the indirect risk of indiscriminate, disproportionate harm to civilians or non-combatants, help preserve the sustainability of space environment, and temper decisionmakers’ dilemmas. The community should continue to investigate ways to develop diplomatic instruments that would reduce the indiscriminate risks of debris-producing space weapons,” the paper recommends. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
07 Oct 20. DOD Official Outlines Space Strategy. In June, the Defense Department released its Space Strategy document. That document lays out the department’s four-pillar strategy for work that needs to be done in space within the next decade and beyond.
Justin T. Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, discussed that strategy at a virtual Heritage Foundation event today.
The first line of effort, he said, is for the U.S. Space Force to build a comprehensive military advantage in space.
The second effort is to integrate space in the joint force and with allies and partners. That mission is primarily the responsibility of U.S. Space Command, which organizes exercises and prepares for the fight in space, should that become necessary, he said.
The third effort, he said, is to shape the strategic environment. That includes such things as educating the public about threats, promoting responsible activities in space and putting adversaries on notice that harmful meddling will be met with a deliberate response from the department at the time and means of its choosing.
The fourth effort, he said, is to work with allies, partners, industry and other U.S. agencies. For example, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Commerce Department are working to help streamline regulations for industry. In turn, the DOD is relying on help from industry.
Overall, the Space Development Agency is the key strategist.
Allies and partners are excited to work with the U.S., he added, and already, 20 nations and 100 academic and industry partners are collaborating with the department.
Johnson pointed out why the Defense Space Strategy is so important. “China and Russia are aggressively developing counter-space capabilities specifically designed to hold U.S. and allied space capabilities at risk. China and Russia have made space a warfighting domain.”
He mentioned numerous examples of Russia and China deploying systems that could potentially knock out U.S. satellites, which are vital to such things as missile warning; precision, navigation and timing; and weather forecasting.
Besides the military aspect, Johnson mentioned that space is vital to U.S. and global commerce. “Our $20trn U.S. economy runs on space.” (Source: US DoD)
07 Oct 20. Collins Aerospace to build GPS-jamming solution for the Army. The Army has awarded Collins Aerospace to build its Mounted Assured Position Navigation and Timing System (MAPS), a program that ensures soldiers know where they are and where they’re going even if the enemy is jamming GPS
“This is a big win for the Army and proof that [Army Futures Command]’s mission to accelerate the development and fielding of modernized Soldier capabilities is working,” said Willie Nelson, director of the Assured Positing, Navigation and Timing (APNT) Cross-Functional Team (CFT). “Less than a year after we equipped the first generation of MAPS in Europe we’re already pushing forward with the development of GEN II. This award comes less than a month after our Mounted APNT requirement was approved. The timing could not be better.”
The Phase III Other Transaction Authority contract covers product maturation and begins combat platform integration, clearing the path to low rate initial production.
MAPS is an Army technology designed to be installed on vehicles, providing soldiers with accurate position, navigation and timing data even when the GPS signal is denied, degraded or spoofed. MAPS will be able to fuse PNT data from multiple sources, including timing sensors, barometer measurements and inertial navigation units, creating an alternative that can validate, or even replace, GPS data.
Prior to this announcement, two vendors were working on MAPS Gen II. Now, Collins Aerospace will move forward with the program of record.
“Sensor fusion also lays the foundation to operate without GPS or without (radio frequency), because if you can take in velocity or barometer or an (inertial navigation unit), those are not jammable or spoofable. You can know where you’re at and still report where you’re at,” Lt. Col. Alexander Rasmussen, product manager for Mounted Positioning Navigation and Timing, told reporters on a September media call.
MAPS Gen I units have been deployed to soldiers in Europe. In 2019, the Army outfitted Stryker vehicles belonging to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany with MAPS Gen 1. The Army plans to outfit even more of that regiments vehicles with Gen I units while Gen II is in development. It also plans to install GEN 1 units on Bradley Fighting Vehicles and tanks used by the 1st Infantry Division with the 1st Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas.
“Soldier Touch Points from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and 3rd Cavalry Regiment have been a critical component of the MAPS program delivering what Soldiers need,” Rasumussen said in a statement.
While MAPS Gen I represents an initial “Fight Tonight” capability, Gen II will have more advanced features, such as the ability to receive M-Code—a more accurate, jam-resistant GPS code built for military use. It will also feature alternate navigation, anti-jam antenna, sensor fusion, inertial measurement unit, and PNT threat line of bearing.
Following Gen II, MAPS will be incorporated into the C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards, or CMOSS. CMOSS is a common chassis the Army is building as part of their new plug-and-play approach to capabilities. Instead of having to install MAPS onto vehicles with each upgrade, CMOSS will allow MAPS to be installed by simply plugging a chip into the chassis. That capability was recently tested out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Army did not release the value of the Collins Aerospace contract. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 Oct 20. Boeing-built Space Force Satellite Passes Design Review. WGS-11+ to deliver twice the capability of its predecessors. Boeing [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Space Force successfully completed the first major engineering design review for the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS)-11+ communications satellite. This successful review demonstrates that Boeing is ready to proceed to the final system design phase. Production will begin next year at Boeing’s El Segundo factory, with delivery scheduled for 2024.
WGS-11+ features a modern digital payload that performs at twice the operational capability of its predecessors, increasing the availability of military-grade communications. Leveraging advances in Boeing commercial technologies, it will provide secure communications to connect U.S. and allied forces globally.
The current WGS constellation, consisting of 10 satellites, is the backbone of the U.S. military’s global communications system, providing flexible, high data-rate connectivity. Users include all U.S. military services, the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. State Department and international partners.
“Completing this engineering design review is a key milestone and brings us one step closer to delivering this groundbreaking satellite to the warfighter in record time, significantly improving capacity and coverage to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and allies,” said Col. John Dukes, chief of the Geosynchronous/Polar Division at Space and Missile Systems Center Production Corps.
“WGS-11+ uses narrower spot beams to deliver a stronger, more reliable connection exactly where it’s needed, which means better performance and greater flexibility than ever before,” said Troy Dawson, vice president of Boeing Government Satellite Systems.
In addition to U.S. military forces, the WGS constellation provides service to international partners including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Norway.
07 Oct 20. SPRINT funding to support Iota Technology’s development of novel geomagnetic monitoring satellite. Collaboration with University of Southampton will develop payload technology to monitor Earth’s geomagnetic field. Iota Technology has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme to collaborate with the University of Southampton on a major nanosatellite design project. The SPRINT funding will support Iota Technology’s SIGMA product, the first-ever nanosatellite capable of providing geomagnetic data for the World Magnetic Model, used in all modern navigation systems including smartphones.
The SPRINT project will provide funded access to geomagnetometry expertise from the University of Southampton. This will support Iota Technology’s aim of launching a technology demonstrator in 2022 and service mission in 2024, prior to the decommissioning of the existing geomagnetic monitoring satellites (European Space Agency’s SWARM constellation).
The miniaturised boom-deployed magnetometer will allow nanosatellites to gather high-quality geomagnetic data that, until now, has only been possible with much larger spacecraft. This vital dataset is an essential part of all modern navigation systems, providing accurate heading data to smartphones, cars, ships, aircraft and small satellites.
The University of Southampton will provide skills and expertise in magnetic field sensing and testing, as well as the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) rapid prototyping facility operated by expert electronics engineers, where the PCB board for the SIGMA magnetometer will be designed, built and tested.
The project will be funded by a grant from the £4.8m SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.
Hugo Shelley, Director of Iota Technology said: “One of the main challenges in developing the next generation of geomagnetic monitoring satellites is miniaturisation. The magnetometry expertise at the University of Southampton will play a vital part in allowing us to make our technology smaller, without sacrificing the quality of the data that we can capture.
“With the European Space Agency SWARM satellites due to be decommissioned, we only have a short window of time to develop a sustainable service mission capable of recovering this key data. The SPRINT project will accelerate the development of our technology and enable us to build a demonstration model for launch in 2022.”
Hendrik Ulbricht, Deputy Head and Director of Research at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton added: “We’re helping Iota Technology to build the components for a prototype nanosatellite that can measure the Earth’s magnetic field, replacing technology that will be retired in five years.
“Our research group is experienced in working with magnetic sensors and this is a great opportunity to work in the space development environment with a real end goal.”
06 Oct 20. First space census launches today. First UK space census is launched, surveying the diversity of the UK space sector and collecting insights to inform future space policy.
- UK space sector aims to create 30,000 new jobs in next decade and is reliant on a diverse workforce
- The census launch comes during UN-backed World Space Week (WSW) 2020, which celebrates the contribution made by satellites to everyday lives
The first ever UK Space Census launches today (7 October 2020) to survey the diversity of the UK space sector and help inform future space policy.
Coming during World Space Week, the 2020 Space Census will collect for the first time anonymous information from space sector professionals to build a comprehensive picture of the UK space job market; covering demographic characteristics from age and gender to race and sexuality.
Once complete, the Space Growth Partnership – a network of government, industry and academia that informs national space policy and sector strategy – will use this intelligence to develop actions to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the UK space sector.
The UK space sector is aiming to create 30,000 new jobs in the coming decade and this ambition relies on it having a highly-skilled and diverse workforce, with jobs from satellite builders and rocket scientists to accountants and business development managers.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
I am delighted to mark the launch of the UK Space Census, the first detailed study into the make-up of our brilliant space industry.
This new census will be critical in driving forward diversity right across the sector, bringing new ideas to help tackle some our greatest challenges that will cement the UK as a space superpower for decades to come.
Diversity in businesses is a proven driver of economic growth, and research shows that more diverse and inclusive workplaces are more productive and more likely to achieve longer-term growth.
Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, added:
The UK has bold ambitions in space, but in order to grow our sector further we need to properly champion diversity, equality of opportunity and make sure our space businesses truly reflect our society as a whole.
We need to drive change for the future of our sector in a way that is not just us ticking a box and this census will play a vital role in helping us understand the demographics of space in the UK and, most importantly, what the challenges are.
Earlier this year, the Government committed almost £3m and a package of business support to help turn inspiring ideas into thriving businesses, backing new inventions by women and young people like clean energy solutions and healthcare services.
Of the Government’s funding commitment, £2.2m will go to the Young Innovators’ Awards. In partnership with The Prince’s Trust, the Government-backed award will support young people with creative and ground-breaking business ideas to turn these into reality.
Nick Shave, Chair of UKspace, said:
Understanding the make-up of our space sector is critical to us collectively developing a clear and transparent approach about how best to support those individuals and groups throughout their careers. We already recognise that the BAME community is underrepresented in the sector, but we are determined to address this, working in partnership with other key industry stakeholders.
This census will provide us with a vital benchmark of our sector, giving us the impetus to ensure there are equal opportunities for everyone and measure the success of our efforts to improve diversity over the next few years.
The 2020 Space Census is carried out by the Space Skills Alliance and sponsored by the University of Leicester, and will run until the end of the year. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
06 Oct 20. SpaceX, L3 to provide hypersonic tracking satellites for Space Development Agency. SpaceX and L3 Harris will contribute satellites to track hypersonic weapons to the Space Development Agency’s planned mega-constellation, with the nascent agency announcing Oct. 5 it has selected the two companies to build its first wide field of view satellites.
Under the contracts, each company will design and develop four satellites equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Operating in low Earth orbit, the sensors will make up the inaugural tranche of the SDA’s tracking layer — the Pentagon’s new effort to track hypersonic weapons from space.
“This SDA tracking layer is going to consist of a proliferated, heterogeneous constellation of WFOV space vehicles that provide persistent global coverage and custody capability. That’s going to combine with activities in the Missile Defense Agency as they build toward their Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) medium field of view (MFOV) space vehicles,” Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mark Lewis told C4ISRNET. SpaceX will receive $149m, while L3 Harris will receive $193m. According to SDA Director Derek Tournear, the awards were the result of a full and open competition, with the selection based purely on technical merit.
SpaceX has made waves with its Starlink constellation — a series of satellites built to provide commercial broadband from low Earth orbit — and the Department of Defense has tested using Starlink to connect various weapon systems. However, the company does not have a history building OPIR sensors.
According to Tournear, the company will work with partners to develop the sensor, which it will then place on a bus it is providing. SpaceX already has a production line in place to build a bus based on its Starlink technologies, added Tournear.
“SpaceX had a very credible story along that line — a very compelling proposal. It was outstanding,” he said. “They are one of the ones that have been at the forefront of this commercialization and commodification route.”
L3 Harris will develop an OPIR solution based on decades of experience with small satellites, small telescopes and OPIR technologies.
“They had an extremely capable solution. They have a lot of experience flying affordable, rapid, small satellite buses for the department,” noted Tournear. “They had the plant and the line in place in order to produce these to hit our schedule.”
Tracking hypersonic weapons
The contracts are the latest development as the SDA fleshes out its National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), a new constellation to be comprised of hundreds of satellites primarily operating in low Earth orbit. These satellites are expected to make up tranche 0 of the SDA’s tracking layer, which will provide global coverage for tracking hypersonic threats.
The glue that holds the NDSA together will be the transport layer, a space-based mesh network made up of satellites connected by optical intersatellite links. Like most planned SDA satellites, WFOV satellites will plug directly into that network.
“The idea is it connects to the National Defense Space Architecture — the NDSA transport layer — via optical intersatellite links,” said Lewis. “And that will enable low latency dissemination for missile warning indications. It will provide track directly to the joint war fighters.”
SDA issued two contracts in August for its first 20 transport layer satellites. York Space Systems was awarded $94m to build its 10 satellites, while Lockheed Martin was awarded $188m for its 10 systems.
That transport layer capability is essential to the tracking layer’s mission.
Because they are so much closer to the Earth’s surface than the U.S. Space Force’s missile tracking satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the WFOV sensors will naturally have a much more limited field of vision. In order to track globe traversing hypersonic missiles, the WFOV satellites will have to work together.
Once the first satellite picks up a threat, it will begin tracking it until it disappears over the horizon. During that time, it is expected to transmit its tracking data to other WFOV satellites over the transport layer. So as the first satellite loses sight of the threat over the horizon, the next WFOV is ready to pick it up, and so on and so forth.
From there, the WFOV satellites will pass the tracking data — either directly or via the transport layer — on to the medium field of view satellites being developed by the Missile Defense Agency as their HBTSS.
“SDA is developing the low cost proliferated WFOV space vehicles that provide the missile warning and the tracking information for national defense authorities, as well as tracking and cueing data for missile defense elements,” explained Lewis. “Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency is developing the high resolution HBTSS MFOV space vehicles — those can receive cues from other sources including the WFOV system — and they’ll provide low latency fire control quality tracking data.”
“The MFOV HBTSS satellites will then be able to hone in and actually be able to calculate the fire control solution for that missile, send those data to the transport satellites with a laser [communication] system … and then the transport system will disseminate that to the weapons platform as well as back to” the continental United States, where MDA can broadcast that information, added Tournear.
MDA issued $20m contracts to Northrop Grumman, Leidos, Harris Corporation and Raytheon to develop HBTSS prototypes in Oct. 2019. Tournear noted that proposals for HBTSS “are being written as we speak.”
Together, HBTSS and the SDA’s tracking layer are meant to provide the data needed to take out hypersonic threats — which Congress is increasingly concerned by.
“It’s part of an integrated DoD OPIR strategy. So the wide field of view sensors and the medium field of view sensors are really integral to this whole NDSA system and legacy strategic missile warning capability,” said Lewis, praising MDA and SDA for working together to build a heterogeneous solution.
Of course, this initial tranche won’t provide global coverage up front. As part of its spiral development approach, SDA plans to continuously add satellites to its mega-constellation in two-year tranches, with each tranche including more advanced technology. The tracking layer is not expected to reach global coverage until 2026, said Tournear.
But as the constellation is built out, the more limited initial capabilities will be used to help integrate the space-based assets with war fighters.
“We call tranche 0 our war fighter immersion tranche,” said Tournear. “What that means is, its goal is to provide the data in a format that the war fighters are used to seeing on tactical timelines that they can be expected to see once we actually become operational. The whole purpose of tranche 0 is to allow the war fighters to start to train and develop tactics, techniques and procedures so that they can create operational plans for a battle where they would actually incorporate these data.”
With tranche 1 in 2024, the tracking and transport layers will essentially reach initial operating capability, said Tournear. That will include persistent regional coverage.
According to Tournear, the tranche 0 satellites are set to launch in September 2022.
Tournear told C4ISRNET his agency is planning to issue a separate solicitation for launch services later this week. That solicitation will cover all of the tranche 0 satellites, including the 20 transport layer satellites the agency ordered in August, the eight WFOV satellites and the HBTSS satellites. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
05 Oct 20. itomic to Deliver Samples under Lockheed Martin & RMIT Research Program.
- Titomic to additively manufacture high-performance metals satellite structures using TKF
- Lockheed Martin to validate RMIT & Titomic’s TKF Satellite Parts
- TKF’s significant build rates of high-performance metals will reduce lead-times from months to hours
- Global ‘small satellite’ market expected to reach USD $18.3B by 2026, at CAGR of 20.28%1
Melbourne-based industrial additive manufacturing company, Titomic Limited, has entered into a commercial research and development agreement with RMIT University (“RMIT”) to be conducted on behalf of Lockheed Martin – a major aerospace and defence company. The study will assess the capabilities of Titomic Kinetic Fusion® (TKF) to create structural satellite parts made from a high-performance metal. Titomic’s participation in this joint research project will analyse the various capabilities of both traditional and additive manufacturing methods relative to radiation shielding within satellites.
Under this research agreement, Titomic will manufacture high-performance, metal demonstration samples for satellite parts using its industrial-scale additive manufacturing process, Titomic Kinetic Fusion®. This research project may also lead to commercial opportunities for Titomic within the space and defence sectors following the successful validation of the additively manufactured demonstration satellite parts. The small satellite components (cubes) market for commercial and government applications in the main areas of telecommunications, broadcasting, and data communications, with the market size anticipated to grow from USD $4.18B in 2018 to USD $18.30B by 2026, at a CAGR of 20.28%1.
Titomic’s Managing Director Jeff Lang stated:
“Titomic is excited to be involved in this RMIT joint research initiative alongside the global defence and aerospace prime, Lockheed Martin, to provide significant benefit for all involved. As we demonstrate the unique capabilities of Titomic Kinetic Fusion® for the additive manufacture of satellite structures using high-performance metals and super alloys, we are also enabling exponentially faster production to reduce lead-times for the space industry, from months to hours, compared to traditional processes.”
RMIT University’s Professor Milan Brandt stated: “RMIT Centre for Additive Manufacturing is excited to be working with long term partner Lockheed Martin and Titomic to advance the state of the art in advanced manufacturing methods for protection of satellites from space radiation. The combination of additive manufacturing and highly-dense materials for this application offers new opportunities for not only increased radiation resistance but significantly reduced lead times for manufacture of new satellites.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
05 Oct 20. Musk’s SpaceX wins Pentagon award for missile tracking satellites. Elon Musk’s SpaceX won a $149m contract to build missile-tracking satellites for the Pentagon, the U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) said on Monday, in the company’s first government contract to build satellites.
SpaceX, known for its reusable rockets and astronaut capsules, is ramping up satellite production for Starlink, a growing constellation of hundreds of internet-beaming satellites that chief executive Elon Musk hopes will generate enough revenue to help fund SpaceX’s interplanetary goals.
Under the SDA contract, SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington, to build four satellites fitted with a wide-angle infrared missile-tracking sensor supplied by a subcontractor, an SDA official said.
Technology company L3 Harris Technologies Inc., formerly Harris Corporation, received $193m to build another four satellites. Both companies are expected to deliver the satellites for launch by fall 2022.
The awards are part of the SDA’s first phase to procure satellites to detect and track missiles like intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which can travel long distances and are challenging to track and intercept.
SpaceX in 2019 received $28m from the Air Force to use the fledgling Starlink satellite network to test encrypted internet services with a number of military planes, though the Air Force has not ordered any Starlink satellites of its own. (Source: Reuters)
05 Oct 20. DARPA’s PALS program enters second phase of testing. Teams of DARPA researchers are leveraging biomimicry and marine organisms to establish persistent monitoring and detection of underwater vehicles to help US and allied warfighters protect shores and harbours.
Because marine organisms observe changes in their environment using a combination of senses, they offer unique insights into the underwater world that are difficult to replicate using traditional engineering techniques. DARPA’s Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program aims to leverage this phenomenon to augment the Department of Defense’s existing, hardware-based maritime monitoring capabilities.
The program, which was launched in November 2018, is now entering its second phase.
In the first phase, teams demonstrated that marine organisms could sense the presence of an underwater vehicle (or confounder) in their environment and respond with an output signal or other observable behaviour. This required performers to not only identify organisms with an appropriate, unique, and measurable signal, but they also needed to distinguish this target signal of interest from background noise.
In the second phase, teams will develop man-made detector systems to observe, record, and interpret the organisms’ responses, and transmit analysed results to remote end users as distilled alerts. Complete PALS systems will discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives. By teaming marine organisms with distributed detection systems, PALS aims to greatly extend the lifetime and range of undersea surveillance capabilities.
Dr Lori Adornato, PALS program manager, said, “Because marine organisms are ubiquitous in their environments, self-replicating, and largely self-sustaining, sensing systems that use marine organisms as their foundation would be discreet, cost-effective, and provide persistent undersea surveillance with a minimal logistical footprint.”
In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded Phase 2 contracts to four separate organisations in order to advance the PALS concept:
Raytheon BBN is working with snapping shrimp for use in a passive bi-static sonar system; Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation is also working with snapping shrimp, using the snap as the input pulse for a 3D acoustic imaging system; and a third team from Florida Atlantic University uses Goliath Grouper as their biological sensor.
Naval Undersea Warfare Centre – Newport Division is a government partner on the program, using an ecosystem approach to determine if an unmanned underwater vehicle has passed by a reef.
“The performer teams met the Phase 1 metrics and showed that there was a path towards meeting the more challenging Phase 2 and 3 metrics. We are excited to continue working with these talented, creative, and scientifically rigorous teams to meet the challenges outlined for the PALS program. Phase 2 of the PALS program is expected to run until November 2021,” Dr Adornato explained.
The PALS program aims to leverage biology to augment the Department of Defense’s existing, hardware-based maritime monitoring capabilities.
The program will tap into marine organisms’ innate abilities to sense and respond to perturbations in their environments and apply those abilities to the detection, characterisation, and reporting of manned or unmanned underwater vehicles ranging from small autonomous vessels to large nuclear submarines.
Because marine organisms are ubiquitous in their environments, self-replicating, and largely self-sustaining, sensing systems that use marine organisms as their foundation would be discreet, cost-effective, and provide persistent undersea surveillance with a minimal logistical footprint.
The envisioned PALS system would work in two stages:
- In the first stage, marine organisms would sense the presence of an underwater vehicle (or confounder) in their environment and respond with an output signal or other observable behaviour; and
- In the second stage, a man-made detector system would observe, record, and interpret the organisms’ response, and transmit analysed results to remote end users as distilled alerts.
The complete PALS system would also discriminate between target vehicles and other sources of stimuli, such as debris and other marine organisms, to limit the number of false positives. By teaming marine organisms with distributed detection systems, PALS aims to greatly extend the lifetime and range of undersea surveillance capabilities. (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Oct 20. US Space Force to establish new acquisitions command in 2021. The U.S Space Force plans to stand up a new command to oversee all of the service’s acquisitions in 2021, although that timeline is dependent on identifying the space-related parts of the other military branches that will be transferred into the nation’s newest service.
The Space Force announced in June that it will be made up of three field commands — Space Operations Command; Space Training and Readiness Command; and Space Systems Command — with the latter charged with developing, acquiring and sustaining systems for the Space Force. Space Systems Command will oversee both the Space and Missile Systems Center, which currently procures most of the service’s space-related platforms, and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office.
“We anticipate standing that up in 2021, probably sooner rather than later. We’re working on those final details,” Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David Thompson said during a Defense One event Oct. 1.
Notably, Space Systems Command is set to become the new home of the Space Development Agency in October 2022, bringing the ambitious organization under the Space Force’s purview. The agency was launched in 2019 and has quickly moved forward with plans to establish a mega-constellation of satellites operating in low Earth orbit. The agency’s planned transport layer — a space-based mesh network comprised of satellites connected by optical intersatellite crosslinks — is set to play a major part in the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept.
The new command will act as a unifying force, said Thompson, removing unnecessary duplication between organizations while encouraging healthy competition in some areas.
“We’re not going to duplicate, but we’re certainly interested in the energy that comes from competing ideas and competing designs and competing approaches to a problem,” he explained.
Unifying space acquisitions and activities under a single service was a major justification for the establishment of the Space Force. However, details on which organizations, functions and platforms will be absorbed has been scant, as talks continue between the services and Department of Defense leadership.
“The absolute final decision hasn’t been made,” Thompson said. “We have been engaged in this process for several months now. We’re getting close to the decisions that need to be made in terms of transfer of some of those functions and capabilities.”
“There is a tremendous amount that the Space Force and the Air Force and the Army and the Navy working together with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] have already agreed on,” Thompson added. “One is the capabilities and forces that will stay in place where they are to continue to do the activities that are space-related, the set of activities that are prepared to move over; and then there’s a couple, there’s a few, units and functions left that we haven’t reached full agreement on, and we’re in the process of finalizing the data and the information that will allow the decision-makers to decide the final disposition — whether they’ll stay or whether they’ll move to the Space Force.”
The Space Force largely completed this process with the Air Force in the spring, said Thompson, with 23 units or functions selected for transition into the new service. Much of the planning and execution of that transfer has already been completed, and the Space Force has gone on to identify other organizations and capabilities that should be brought into their fold, including two Air Force units and two more from the intelligence community.
Plans are expected to be finalized for the other services in the near future, with Thompson teasing that an announcement was likely before the end of the year.
“The target that the leadership in the DoD has given us is we want to be able to make decisions so that we can execute planning in FY2021 and begin facilitating moves in 2022,” he explained. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
29 Sep 20. Fourth GPS III Satellite Vertically Oriented For September 30th Launch. The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III SV04 is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket – the third National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission on a Falcon 9 rocket, the second U.S. Space Force (USSF) first-stage booster recovery, and the sixth USSF launch on September 30. The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:51 p.m. EDT. A live feed will start 20 minutes before the launch and conclude approximately 45 minutes afterward. A simulcast of the broadcast can be viewed at www.spacex.com.
GPS III SV04 will be launched to augment the current GPS constellation comprised of 31 operational spacecraft. GPS satellites operate in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km (12,550 miles) in six orbital planes.
Lockheed Martin’s fourth GPS III satellite, GPS III SV04, (pictured here) is a fully integrated space vehicle and now in environmental testing. Harris is providing the navigation technology that sends the signals from GPS III SV1-10. Photo is courtesy of Lockheed Martin and HarrisL3.
Each satellite circles the earth twice per day. GPS is the premier space-based provider of positioning, navigation, and timing services for more than four billion users worldwide. This latest generation of GPS satellite boasts a 15-year design life — 25 percent longer than the previous generation of GPS satellites on orbit.
GPS III brings new capabilities to users such as the new L1C civilian signal, which opens the window for future interoperability with international satellite navigation systems.
“The GPS III program office in partnership with our contract teammates continue to push the envelope on the capabilities they deliver to users, both civil and military around the globe. Our latest GPS III satellites’ nearly 70 percent digital payload provides the U. S. Space Force with greater operational flexibility and cutting edge capabilities while continuing to support legacy users,” said Cordell DeLaPena, Air Force program executive officer for SMC’s Space Production Corps.
“Our GPS III team is excited to be here once again. Less than 3 months ago, we successfully launched GPS III SV03. Since then, the team has successfully delivered the satellite to its final orbit, performed on-orbit testing and delivered the satellite to operations, while executing a mature satellite production line. I can’t be more proud of everyone involved in this mission,” said Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief. “The launch of GPS III SV04 will continue to modernize our GPS constellation by increasing our capabilities with advanced features for both our civil and military users across the world.” (Source: Satnews)
28 Sep 20. Exolaunch’s Successful Soyuz Small Satellite Launch. Exolaunch had a successful launch of 15 commercial, governmental and scientific satellites for its customers that ranged from locations in Europe, Canada, the UAE and the U.S. The Mission dubbed “Wanderlust,” Desire to Travel, lifted off on September 28 at 11:20 UTC on a Soyuz-2 rocket, marking over 100 satellites deployed by the company.
On this mission, Exolaunch provided comprehensive launch, deployment, mission management and integration services to Kepler Communications, Spire Global, the UAE Space Agency, Technische Universität Berlin, Würzburg Center for Telematics and two unnamed commercial customers.
The company confirmed successful separation of three microsatellites weighing within 100 kg and 12 nanosatellites into a sun-synchronous orbit of 575 km. These smallsats have various missions, including IoT, Earth observation, airplane and ship tracking, radio occultation measurements, greenhouse gas monitoring, scientific experiments and new technology demonstration.
Wanderlust is Exolaunch’s eleventh rideshare mission in total and seventh mission with Soyuz. Exolaunch successfully utilized its proprietary flight-proven separation systems – CarboNIX the next generation shock-free separation system for microsatellites, upgraded modifications of EXOpod cubesat deployers, as well as its EXObox sequencers to flawlessly deploy its customers’ satellites into the target orbit. With this launch, Exolaunch has flown 110 smallsats on multiple launch vehicles.
“This was an ambitious mission and it has been a privilege launching satellites for so many talented teams. With this launch, we have deployed over 100 satellites into orbit, hitting a major milestone in the launch industry,” says Exolaunch’s VP of Launch Services, Jeanne Medvedeva. “As a self-funded and profitable New Space company – still quite an anomaly for this industry – Exolaunch is proud to be playing a key role in advancing Germany’s position in the New Space field and providing end-to-end launch and deployment solutions for the industry’s leaders.”
Exolaunch continues to make space more accessible through regular and cost-efficient rideshare missions for small satellites. Its flight heritage includes successful satellite deployments from SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Arianespace’s Soyuz-ST, RocketLab’s Electron, Roscosmos’ Soyuz-2 and a scheduled mission with ISRO’s PSLV next year.
The next major milestone for the company will be a launch campaign for 30 small satellites on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the first smallsat dedicated rideshare mission of SpaceX targeted for launch as soon as December 2020.
Exolaunch’s manifest on the Wanderlust mission includes the following satellites:
2 x 6U XL next generation nanosatellites from Kepler Communications: Kepler, a developer of next-generation satellite communications technologies. These satellites, both of which carry a high-capacity Ku-band communications system and a prototype IoT payload, are important instalments of Kepler’s development and demonstration platforms. The satellites will deliver additional capacity for Kepler’s Global Data Service and also be a technology demonstration platform for Kepler’s narrowband connectivity solution for IoT devices.
4 x Lemur-class 3U nanosatellites from Spire Global: Spire Global runs the world’s largest private constellation of nanosatellites making radio occultation measurements, alongside other whole-earth observations 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, which now also includes four of its Lemur-class 3U satellites on today’s mission.
MeznSat 3U nanosatellite from the UAE Space Agency: The UAE Space Agency is pushing technological developments in the local New Space industry through MeznSat. The purpose of the satellite is to study and monitor greenhouse gases, specifically CO2 and Methane, over the UAE. MeznSat is a nanosatellite for climate observation, manufactured by Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUST) in partnership with the American University of Ras Al-Khaimah (AURAK) and funded by the UAE Space Agency. The satellite’s primary payload will be a shortwave infrared (SWIR) spectrometer that makes observations in the 1000-1650 nm wavelength range to derive atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This is a prominent project for the UAE Space Agency, launching immediately after its recent HOPE mission to Mars.
SALSAT microsatellite from the Technische Universität Berlin: With SALSAT, the Technische Universität Berlin aims to analyze the global spectrum use of S-band and VHF, UHF amateur radio bands. This analysis is required due to the increasing number of users and the intensification of radio communication, which is leading to an escalating probability of interference between radio signals. It will analyze the global spectrum usage with SALSA, a spectrum analyzer payload based on a Software Defined Radio and also features a variety of unique secondary payloads.
4 x 3U NetSat nanosatellites from the Würzburg Center for Telematics: NetSat is composed of four 3U satellites that will pioneer research in formation control. It is set to demonstrate the self-organization of several satellites in three-dimensional space to jointly optimize the configuration for given tasks. This will then open innovative perspectives for future sensor networks in space, including systems for three-dimensional imaging of the Earth’s surface and computer tomography methods for looking inside clouds.
2 microsatellites within 100 kg for Earth Observation and one 3U nanosatellite for IoT applications for Exolaunch’s unnamed European-based commercial customers. (Source: Satnews)
30 Sep 20. SES Networks Expected To Show Growth + SpaceX Starlink Service Prospects. SES will report its Q3 revenues on November 5th and Investment bank Exane/BNPP expects overall revenues to fall, but they also add that the satellite operator’s fast-growing Networks division will show further growth.
The bank says it expects overall revenues at SES to fall back 3.1 percent to about 454m euros for the quarter and suggests that the decline in SES Video revenues will again fall, expecting an 8 percent decline in the division’s organic revenues.
“We continue to expect Government and Fixed Data to accelerate their rate of growth in Q3 2020 but Mobility to suffer a slow down due to the Covid 19 impact on the aeronautical industry,” said the bank’s note to clients.
However, the bank highlights the likely growth in SES Network’s division and expects the rise in revenue to be a little slower than the 6.5 percent enjoyed in Q2, and stated it expects Q3 revenues to rise by 5 percent.
“We expect this reporting to mark the 11th consecutive quarter of revenue growth at SES Networks to underpin our positive view on the stock,” Exane/BNPP stated.
Financial analysts from consultancy firm Cowan have looked at the prospects for Elon Musk’s Starlink mega constellation and the claims that Starlink could serve 485,000 users simultaneously with 100 Mb/s broadband service.
It also emerged in a Tweet from Musk that an IPO for the Starlink project is under consideration “but several years in the future.”
Musk said, “Public market does not like erratic cash flow — haha. I’m a huge fan of small retail investors. Will make sure they get top priority. You can hold me to it.”
SpaceX cancelled its planned 13th flight of Starlink satellites on September 28th because of bad weather. It will likely take place in a few days and add another 60 satellites taking the total to more than 770 craft.
SpaceX is already beta-testing its system among ‘friends and family’ users but will reportedly open up the beta trial to a wider universe in November, to be followed by an initial commercial service this coming winter. Beta testers are enjoying claimed download speeds of “greater than 100 Mb/s” and latency of an impressive 18-19 milliseconds, although admitting that a round trip for a message is closer to 40-50 milliseconds.
But Cowan’s analysis admits that “each satellite in the SpaceX system provides aggregate downlink capacity to users ranging from 17 to 23 Gbit/s” (1Gbps = 1000Mb/s+).” The analysts suggest that each of the Starlink satellites could manage 200 simultaneous users at 100 Mbit/s.
Cowan explains itself, saying, “Thus, assuming 100 percent efficiency (not realistic, but we are simply providing context as a high book-end), and assuming 20Gbit/s per satellite implies that each satellite can handle 200 simultaneous streams at 100 Mbit/s.”
Of course, not every user will be online at the same time, nor will they all demand 100 MB/s of throughput. This allows ‘oversubscription’, with a three-times oversubscribed number of users equaling around 1.5 million addressable users.
Cowan makes its key point in saying that even the Starlink system will have obvious limitations. Starlink itself will have to balance access to their orbiting network, perhaps by pricing or data limits. It is also worth remembering that even Musk has admitted that Starlink has its technology – and perhaps administrative – limits.
“Starlink is not some huge threat to telcos. I want to be super clear: it is not,” Musk said earlier this year. “5G is great for high density situations, but it’s actually not great for the countryside, you know, for rural areas. It’s not great; you need range. And so in any kind of sparse environment 5G is really not well suited.” (Source: Satnews)
30 Sep 20. Telesat LEO Connectivity For India with Nelco Agreement. Nelco has entered into a cooperation agreement with Telesat — the firms will collaborate on terrestrial facilities, commercial distribution and regulatory frameworks to offer Telesat LEO satellite connectivity in India.
Telesat LEO is a next generation satellite constellation that leverages Telesat’s global, priority Ka-band spectrum rights and patent-pending architecture to fundamentally transform global communications. Telesat LEO will help close the digital divide in remote and challenging locations, accelerate 5G expansion, and set new levels of performance for enterprise, telecom, mobility and government broadband connectivity on land, air and sea. The Telesat LEO constellation will provide complete coverage of India and superior enterprise connectivity in the country, subject to the necessary regulatory clearances.
The availability of the Telesat LEO Network in India has the potential to provide significant benefits in areas like 4G/5G backhaul, mobile hotspots, distance education, telemedicine, village connectivity, as well as maritime and inflight connectivity.
The open architecture, compliant with the Metro Ethernet Forum standard, will simplify the integration of Telesat LEO services with enterprise networks, including Nelco infrastructure and service offerings. Acting as a virtual fibre network, Telesat LEO Layer 2 transport service can deliver hundreds of Mbps to a terminal.
The Telesat LEO satellites incorporate next-generation technologies, including:
- Data Processing in Space: Full digital modulation, demodulation, and data routing occurs in space, resulting in higher capacity and flexibility
- Phased Array Antennas: Sophisticated antennas on each satellite with hopping and reconfigurable beams scan the earth to provide full coverage and can dynamically focus capacity precisely where required
- Optical Inter-satellite Links: Data can travel at the speed of light from one satellite to another, resulting in a fully interconnected global mesh network in space.
Globally, the satellite communications industry has been growing at a rapid pace owing to advancements in technology, light touch regulations and an increase in Internet traffic demands. LEO satellites are poised to revolutionise the industry, and with the prospective opening of the space sector in India, Nelco, through its strategic relationship with Telesat, plans to serve new market segments and requirements for high-bandwidth, low latency applications with Telesat LEO connectivity.
Speaking on this new development, Mr. P J Nath, MD and CEO of NELCO, said, “Considering the huge potential for Satcom services growth in the country in the coming years, we are continuously exploring the latest satellite technologies to bring better value to our customers and expand the market. We believe that our partnership with Telesat will help in bringing LEO satellites into the country, which has the potential to revolutionize connectivity in the future”.
“We are honored to collaborate with Nelco, a highly innovative and respected enterprise connectivity leader in India,” said Michael Schwartz, Telesat’s SVP, Corporate and Business Development. “Telesat LEO’s secure, high throughput, low-latency network will bring unsurpassed performance and flexibility for enterprise applications and extend the reach of terrestrial networks throughout India.” (Source: Satnews)
29 Sep 20. Paradigm’s SWARMGX VSAT Now Operates On The Inmarsat GX Network in Japan. Paradigm, together with JSAT MOBILE and Inmarsat, announces that the ultra-portable and compact SWARMGX VSAT is now available in Japan through JSAT MOBILE on the Inmarsat Global Xpress satellite network. Inmarsat provides fast and cost effective high throughput data services for GX Land based services, such as G2X Land. JSAT MOBILE has a number of customer engagements and events scheduled already for the SWARM and is excited about the opportunities the low SWaP terminal will create for their customers, particularly in the media and government sectors.
The lightweight yet rugged SWARM supports the need for rapid transport and setup. It is IATA compliant and can be easily transported in a hand carry case or backpack. Powered by the PIM®, pointing is quick and simple and terminal performance is optimised; it can be setup in under 90 secs and operational in 240 secs.
The SWARM already has an impressive track record on Global Xpress.
The United Nations and other NGOs use it to provide vital communications channels to aid agencies following natural disasters
The US government executive communication teams use it for its portability and high bandwidth
Other SWARM users include the Canadian Military and the RAF in the UK
The terminal’s PIM controller provides a simple to use interface for the integrated modem, baseband switching, assisted pointing and setup functions of the SWARM and comes with a built-in visual crosshair and audio pointing device.
The PIM can support Power over Ethernet devices and provides a multitude of services to the end user – from VLAN setup and management to smart auto-selecting of AC and DC power interfaces. Paradigm’s PIM is at the heart of modern satellite terminal operation, designed to simplify operation, reduce operating costs and provide a central unit for the integration and operation of satellite terminal hardware. It is the reason Paradigm terminals are ideally suited for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network.
As well as making pointing simple for any user, PIM-based terminals all have excellent SWaP characteristics and operational agility providing key connectivity for edge devices.
Ulf Sandberg, Managing Director at Paradigm, said, “The SWARM is a world-leading rugged, carry-on terminal and it’s fantastic that it will now be bringing high speed communications to users in Japan. We acknowledge JSAT’s time and commitment in making this happen.”
Mr. Katsuaki Koike, CEO of JSAT MOBILE, added, “We are delighted to work with our partners Paradigm and Inmarsat to launch the new SWARM GX terminal in Japan. We are confident that this product will meet the needs of our customers that require a portable, high speed terminal, especially in the Japanese Government sector.”
Justin Hobbs, VP Sales, Inmarsat Global Government, noted, “Communications certainty has never been more important for customers who rely on global, seamless coverage and ease of use as delivered by Global Xpress. The availability of the SWARM terminal through JSAT Mobile Communications for use on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network is an exciting step forward in terminal SWaP and ease of set-up, providing a great experience for users with the most demanding Comms-On-The-Pause requirements.” (Source: Satnews)
27 Sep 20. Northrop Grumman Increases Their Collaboration with SMC. Northrop Grumman’s Enhanced Polar System – Recapitalization (EPS-R) Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) program is essential to provide continuous coverage for secure, jam-resistant, strategic and tactical communications in the Earth’s North Polar Region.
As the company works on the program that facilitates military satellite communications, the team is implementing Agile methodologies to better enable increased customer collaboration, rapid adjustment to changing mission requirements and quality-enhanced efficiency. The program is working to move quickly and efficiently in bringing capabilities when and where the U.S. Space Force needs them most.
Most recently, the legacy EPS CAPS program was called upon by the U.S. Navy to assist in exercises taking place in the Barents Sea with vessels returning to the area for the first time since the mid-1980s. EPS CAPS helped reinforce the foundation of Arctic readiness and assisted in building trust across the region.
As the follow-on EPS-R CAPS program moves forward with an Agile framework and DevSecOps development principles, assisting in similar future missions will come with reduced time and labor, expenditures of software development and fully automated creation of the software build.
In 2019, EPS-R CAPS customer leadership under the direction of Major Craig Zinck, EPS-R Ground program manager, U.S. Space Force, asked the program to provide an Agile Transformation Plan and path forward. Transitioning to an Agile framework with DevSecOps development would provide greater transparency and lead to increased cost savings.
Agile and DevSecOps are complimentary approaches that promote a cohesive collaboration between development, security and operations working towards continuous and rapid integration and delivery. This is achieved through intimate and transparent collaboration across program teams and disciplines.
To begin the transition process, a certified agile coach conducted agile 101 training for Northrop Grumman program personnel and the U.S. Space Force’s EPS-R CAPS program office. The team instituted agile scrum events, including sprint planning, sprint execution and reviews/retrospectives that are key elements in building an agile framework. A continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline was created and as a first step in this process. The software build creation is now 100 percent automated, reducing build time from 2-4 days to a couple hours.
In addition, increased transparency has been realized as part of the agile sprint-planning, reviews and retrospectives. Even as employees have had to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been able to hold virtual sprint reviews that demonstrates the progress being made at the speed of need.
The agile methodology has reduced costs and provided increased efficiency on the EPS-R CAPS program. The long-term plan for the program is to keep improving and evolving processes leading to updated, high-quality deployments to operations at a higher frequency. To execute this vision, the program will continue to incorporate a collaborative, cross-functional, cross-segment approach incorporating customer and end-user feedback.
“Understanding the speed at which space operates in today’s contested environment, we can’t afford to continue developing space capability at the tempo of the past,” said 1st Lt. Brandon Lopez, EPS-R CAPS lead, Space Production Corps, Space and Missile Systems Center. “Our move to an Agile framework with DevSecOps, an approach that creates a cohesive collaboration between development, security and operations working towards continuous and rapid integration and delivery, demonstrates our commitment to accelerate war-fighting capability delivery and to the future of space systems development.”
“The transition to Agile and DevSecOps practices is a perfect example of our team’s flexibility and Northrop Grumman’s commitment to helping our customers,” said Rob Fleming, VP, Strategic Force Programs, Northrop Grumman. “By transitioning to Agile we are able to work more collaboratively with our Space Force customer and quickly adapt to changing mission requirements, as we work to consistently and rapidly deliver important capabilities.” (Source: Satnews)
28 Sep 20. Vegetation Management System From AiDash + UP42 EO Platform. AiDash has launched a predictive vegetation management product for utilities that leverages the UP42 Earth Observation (EO) marketplace. AiDash’s satellite-powered Intelligent Vegetation Management System (IVMS) has already reduced outages and slashed vegetation management costs for a Fortune 500 electric utility.
Keeping vegetation trimmed near power distribution lines is an expensive and time-consuming – yet critical – task for electric utilities. Encroachment by bushes and trees can cause wide-spread outages and spark devastating wildfires. Energy utilities worldwide spend billions of dollars each year to continuously monitor vegetation in their powerline corridors from the ground and the sky, often using manned and unmanned aircraft.
The AiDash IVMS solution enables utilities to identify risks and plan vegetation management activities years in advance. AiDash has developed AI algorithms that analyze archived and current optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images captured by satellites to predict vegetation growth rates. This analysis, delivered via a web dashboard and mobile app, allows the utility to focus its trimming operations in high-risk areas.
The AiDash solution relies on the UP42 EO marketplace to provide high-resolution optical satellite imagery from the Airbus Pléiades satellites. AiDash searches and orders archived satellite data and enters tasking orders for new acquisition via the UP42 API-based platform. Requested data sets are streamed directly into the AiDash processing workflow.
While AiDash strictly leverages the EO data on the platform, UP42 makes available all the tools needed to develop geospatial workflows, applications and even commercial products. In addition to satellite, aerial, weather, and AIS maritime data, UP42 gives users direct access to more than 50 advanced geospatial processing algorithms and cloud computing power to create their own geospatial solutions easily and inexpensively.
“Easy access to satellite data using UP42 formed the backbone of our IVMS solution,” said AiDash CEO Abhishek Vinod Singh. “The archive of historical high-resolution satellite imagery, which is hard to find elsewhere, is readily available from UP42. Tasking new image collections is a simple, straight-forward process, and images are delivered very quickly. UP42’s customer support is there to help in every step along the way.”
“AiDash predicts when and where dangerous vegetation encroachment will occur so the problem can be addressed before an outage or wildfire takes place,” said UP42 CEO Sean Wiid. “IVMS is now being used to safely and cost-effectively monitor over 50,000 miles of distribution lines spanning multiple states for a U.S. utility. We created UP42 to democratize access to Earth Observation data so anyone can extract valuable insights to solve global or local challenges.“ (Source: Satnews)
27 Sep 20. KONGSBERG Signal Processing Equipment To Be Integrated Into the Airbus-Built Thuraya 4-NGS Satellite.
KONGSBERG has developed world-class signal processing equipment that provides improved mobile coverage in areas with insufficient ground networks.
The equipment is to be integrated in Airbus Defence and Space’s new mobile communication satellite, Thuraya 4-NGS. The agreement includes manufacturing and test of electronics from Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Space & Surveillance division in Horten, Norway.
The satellite will deliver higher capabilities and flexibility while increasing capacity and coverage across Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. The new generation of modular digital processors from Airbus Defence and Space offers full flexibility for more than 3200 channels and dynamic allocation over a large number of spot beams.
KONGSBERG will deliver integrated L-band pre- and post-processors. These enable the satellites to meet the communication needs at all times, both when new requirements appear and/or when the local capacity is too poor. The L-band processors are SAW-based (Surface Acoustic Wave filters) and the development is supported by European Space Agency and the Norwegian Space Agency.
KONGSBERG has a strong design and manufacturing capability for satellite onboard electronics, per date with hardware on more than 200 satellites. The company has a global footprint with all major primes.
“We are proud to be a trusted partner to Airbus Defence and Space. They have been an important customer for many years, and this contract secures our leading position within the mobile GEO-satellite market. It gives us a solid foundation for further growth and development,” said Director of Marketing in Space and Surveillance at Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, Ellen Dahler Tuset. (Source: Satnews)
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.