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03 Nov 20. Viasat Wins UK Ministry of Defence Contract to Supply Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications Equipment on the Royal Navy Type 31 Frigate. Viasat’s Technology will Deliver the Essential Backbone for Secure Voice and Data Communications at Sea.
Viasat UK Ltd., a subsidiary of global communications company, Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), announced today it was awarded a contract to provide Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications (SATCOM) for the new Type 31 frigates, being delivered by Babcock Team 31, for the Royal Navy.
UHF SATCOM is a mission-critical capability that will provide the Type 31 frigates with secure integrated voice and data services for communications between the operation’s headquarters and the maritime vessels when deployed. It allows commanders to remain informed and aware of the fleet disposition. It is also a vital component to enable maritime task group operations, extensively providing secure beyond line of sight (BLOS) communications between ships and mobile units such as sea boats, boarding teams and helicopters, which are all key elements of tactical combat and constabulary maritime operations.
“This UHF SATCOM capability will ensure the Royal Navy Type 31 frigates will have the robust, secure, world-wide voice and data services it needs for modern warfare operations in the current information advantage environment,” said Steve Beeching, managing director, Government Systems, Viasat UK. “We are very proud to be able to supply our world-class technology to the UK Ministry of Defence. The importance of the UHF SATCOM capability in enabling defence to co-ordinate limited assets, at its disposal, while effectively supporting Allies globally cannot be understated.”
The Type 31 frigate programme is designed to deliver to the Royal Navy five flexible and affordable frigates that, alongside the BAE Systems-built Type 26 frigate, will replace the UK’s current Type 23 frigates. The Viasat UHF SATCOM solution will provide reliable, dependable BLOS communications for all of the Royal Navy’s Type 31 vessels, when introduced into service.
04 Nov 20. USAF opens new space lab. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has opened a lab focused on developing materials for new deployable space structures.
Construction on the Deployable Structures Laboratory, or DeSel, began in December 2019 and opened Oct. 29, 2020. Scientists and engineers moving into the $4 million lab at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, will continue the work of the Spacecraft Component Technology Center of Excellence, which has a history of developing spacecraft structure materials.
DeSel contains specialized equipment and a climate-controlled, vibration-isolated laboratory capable of testing spacecraft structures up to 20-by-15 meters, allowing AFRL to further research and develop high-strain composite materials.
“I’m excited to have a facility that was specifically built for testing novel deployable space structures,” Benjamin Urioste, research engineer and lead for the Integrated Structural Systems team, said in a statement. “With the push toward hybrid architecture and smaller satellites, high packing efficiency structures and the ability to bring large satellite capability to small satellites is more important than ever.”
“This new class of high strain composite enabled structures requires new ground test facilities,” he added. “Satellite deployments are nerve-wracking, one-shot endeavors and the high-fidelity ground testing that will take place in the DeSel is critical to ensuring on-orbit success.”
Spacecraft Technologies Division chief Mark Roverse said the structures, made possible by high strain composites, “will enable new mission paradigms for the U.S. Space Force.”
“AFRL has led development of high strain composites for deployed spacecraft structures, and we are excited to see the new mission capabilities that are being enabled,” Roverse added.
Bottom of Form
One spacecraft in development that will benefit from these new structures is AFRL’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research project. With the SSPIDR project, the lab wants to build a spacecraft capable of collecting solar energy on orbit and then transmitting that energy to forward-operating bases via radio frequency.
Northrop Grumman was awarded a $100 million contract to support space-based experiments informing SSPIDR’s development.
The Space Force is testing that technology on the X-37B, the service’s secretive spacecraft, but DeSel’s work will provide the materials needed to build the SSPIDR craft.
“This innovative research will help us to deliver the essential energy our warfighters need at the right place at the right time,” explained Col. Eric Felt, director of the AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “Some of the first structures that we look forward to testing in this new lab are those required for our Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research (SSPIDR) project, one of our top priority programs.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 Nov 20. Rocket Lab to launch Unseenlabs next-gen nano-satellites. French-based Unseenlabs has partnered with Rocket Lab to launch the company’s next-generation nano-satellites, BRO-2 and BRO-3, from Rocket Lab’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
After being the first French new space start-up to successfully launch its first satellite, BRO-1 in August 2019, which has been technically and commercially operational since then, the launch of BRO-2 and BRO-3 marks the beginning of the deployment of the Unseenlabs constellation, which will comprise between 20 and 25 nano-satellites by 2025.
Created in 2015 by brothers Clement and Jonathan Galic, both aerospace engineers (Airbus Space Division, Atos), Unseenlabs has become in five years the European leader in the geolocation of ships (cargo, tanker, container carrier, commercial ships, fishing boats) at sea.
Given the increase in commercial traffic, the stakes involved in protecting the oceans, or the fight against illegal fishing, knowing precisely and in real time the activities at sea is becoming more and more necessary. Thanks to its proprietary on-board technology based on the identification of electromagnetic waves emitted by ships, Unseenlabs is able to geolocate from space, any ship at sea, in near-real time, to the nearest kilometre.
Jonathan Galic, co-founder and chief technology officer of Unseenlabs, explained, “We are the only company to have developed a system that works with a single satellite, for an unequalled level of geolocation accuracy.”
Unseenlabs’ technology is the only one today that allows to geolocate a ship so precisely and quickly from a single nano-satellite. With the launch of BRO-2 and BRO-3, the Unseenlabs constellation will now include three satellites. Each one will be a different measurement point, allowing to monitor three different areas of interest simultaneously. The objective over the next five years is to create a constellation of 20 to 25 nanosatellites, which will make it possible to increase the system’s responsiveness and the speed at which ships can be tracked.
“In concrete terms, this means that our constellation’s performance is multiplied with each new launch: with two additional nanosatellites in orbit, we will have the best revisit time available on the market for radio frequency detection from space,” Galic added.
Clément Galic, co-founder and CEO of Unseenlab, expanded on these comments, adding, “The launch of the BRO-1 mission in August 2019 was a success both technologically and commercially, putting Unseenlabs on the growth trajectory we had anticipated. Today, we are ahead of our 2021 commercial pipeline.”
Marketed since January 2020, the Unseenlabs service is gaining in identification accuracy with each satellite launch.
“The deployment of these two new satellites is the second step in the creation of our constellation, which will have between 20 and 25 nanosatellites in 2025, with a 20 times higher turnover objective,” Clément said. (Source: Space Connect)
05 Nov 20. Fourth Lockheed Martin-Built GPS III Satellite’s On Board Engine Now Propelling It To Orbit.
GPS III SV04 will be the 23rd M-Code enabled satellite in the GPS Constellation.
The fourth Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT)-built Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion. Following a successful launch earlier this evening, GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) separated from its rocket and is now using onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.
About 89 minutes after a 6:24 p.m. EST liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company’s Denver Launch & Checkout Operations Center declared GPS III SV04 “separated” from its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and “flying” under their control.
In the coming days, GPS III SV04’s onboard liquid apogee engine will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit. Once it arrives, the engineers will send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare GPS III SV04 for handover to Space Operations Command.
GPS III SV04 is the latest next-generation GPS III satellite Lockheed Martin designed and built to help the U.S. Space Force modernize today’s GPS satellite constellation with new technology and capabilities. GPS III satellites will provide significant capability improvements over previous GPS satellites, including:
- Three times better accuracy;
- Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities; and
- A new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.
GPS III SV04 will also be the 23rd Military Code (M-Code) signal-enabled GPS space vehicle on orbit, continuing the Space Force’s plan to fully field the more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal for military forces.
“With GPS III we are focused on rapidly fielding the best capabilities to the Space Force’s Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Mission,” said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s Acting Vice President for Navigation Systems. “We are proud of our industry-government team on the launch of GPS III SV04. GPS III SV05 is already ‘available for launch’ and just waiting to be called up.”
In early July, the Space Force also declared that the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program had fulfilled Milestone C, allowing the program to enter its production phase. GPS IIIF satellites will add even more capabilities, including:
- A Regional Military Protection Capability, which will increase anti-jam support in theater to ensure U.S. and allied forces cannot be denied access to GPS in hostile environments;
- an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array;
- A fully digital navigation payload; and
- A new search and rescue payload.
“So many people rely on GPS every day. Continuing to invest in GPS by adding new capabilities like those coming with GPS III/IIIF will ensure GPS remains the world’s ‘gold standard’ for PNT and just makes sense,” Ladwig added.
GPS is part of the U.S.’s critical national infrastructure, driving an estimated $300bn in annual economic benefits and responsible for $1.4trn since its inception. Globally, more than four billion military, civil and commercial users depend on GPS’ positioning, navigation and timing signals.
Lockheed Martin is proud to be a part of the GPS III team led by the Space Production Corps Medium Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base. The GPS Operational Control Segment sustainment is managed by the Enterprise Corps, GPS Sustainment Division at Peterson Air Force Base. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron, at Schriever Air Force Base, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.
03 Nov 20. New initiative to promote satellite servicing and in-space assembly technologies. A new “national initiative” wants to promote the development of satellite servicing and in-space assembly technologies among U.S. government agencies that have differing views on the value of such capabilities.
The On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) National Initiative is intended to exchange information and establish partnerships among government agencies, and with industry and academia, on the use of such technologies to repair existing satellites and create new capabilities in space.
“It’s going to be really important to work together collaboratively, because we want to move forward with these OSAM technologies and advance them collectively as a suite of capabilities,” said Deborah Tomek, NASA senior advisor for OSAM and one of the leads of the new initiative, said during an Oct. 29 presentation at the Global Satellite Servicing Forum, a conference organized by the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS).
The OSAM National Initiative has several priorities, she said. That includes facilitating relationships among the various organizations involved in the field, as well as determining where government agencies should fund OSAM technologies versus areas where companies are making their own investments. Other priories include identifying new applications of the technologies and serving as a “knowledge center” to share information.
A near-term effort is a series of capability assessments that will help identify any gaps in technology developments. “Once we understand and have a broader picture of that, then we can look at how best to influence and fund those investments,” she said.
Tomek said the initiative started as a grassroots effort and became more formal a couple months ago. “We’re trying to incrementally drive these partnerships,” she said.
NASA has been perhaps the biggest advocate for OSAM technologies among U.S. government agencies. In addition to a series of robotic refueling experiments on the International Space Station, it is funding a robotic satellite servicing mission called OSAM-1 and previously known as Restore-L. Scheduled for launch in 2024 and using a commercial satellite bus provided by Maxar, OSAM-1 will rendezvous with the Landsat 7 spacecraft and refuel it, and then conduct a series of demonstrations of in-space robotic assembly of an antenna and a boom. OSAM-2, formerly known as Archinaut 1, is a spacecraft under development by Made In Space to build and deploy a solar array in space.
Tomek said NASA sees both near-term and long-term applications for OSAM capabilities. They range from in-space assembly of large space telescopes to supporting lunar exploration. NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, she noted, was interested in OSAM technologies for Artemis and wants “to leverage a lot of the work that’s already ongoing.”
DARPA is also supporting OSAM technology development with its Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. Like OSAM-1, it will demonstrate satellite servicing using a government-developed servicing payload installed on a commercial satellite bus, in this case one provided by Northrop Grumman.
“They look very similar, but they couldn’t be more different in terms of their orbits, their approach to servicing operations they’re doing, and also their approach to execution of the program,” said Joe Parrish, manager of RSGS at DARPA, comparing his program with OSAM-1 during another conference session. Besides different technologies, RSGS is being done as a public-private partnership with the intent of having Northrop’s satellite servicing subsidiary, SpaceLogistics, operate the spacecraft “for fun and profit” by servicing 20 to 30 satellites over a lifetime of 8 to 10 years.
Other government agencies are taking a wait-and-see approach. “NASA has decided that OSAM is a thing, it is a priority,” said Byron Knight, chief scientist at the NRO, at the conference. “We’re not sure that there’s a pony in here somewhere for us.”
NRO is interested in potential capabilities, he said, which is why he’s working with Tomek on the OSAM National Initiative. That could include servicing satellites or assembling large apertures for future NRO reconnaissance satellites.
But, he noted, the NRO is less likely to experiment with OSAM technologies, relying instead on agencies like NASA to demonstrate the technology. “We like having a partner that is courageous enough to try that,” he said. “We’re not that courageous. We like stuff we can grab on to and hold on to.” (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)
05 Nov 20. Gilmour Space partners with Griffith University for LEO satellite development. Griffith University has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gold Coast company Gilmour Space Technologies that will see low-Earth orbit (LEO) prototype satellites developed locally and deployed for launch in 2023.
The five-year agreement will include a range of projects aimed at increasing Australia’s LEO satellite capability by undertaking research and development for aerospace applications towards the development of small satellite prototypes.
Vice-chancellor and president Professor Carolyn Evans said the partnership would offer significant benefits: “By entering into this MOU with Gilmour Space, we will be helping to create the jobs of the future by delivering world class capability hand-in-hand with industry, in this exciting and growing market.
“One of the most exciting elements of this partnership will be the development of a prototype 100 kilograms satellite for improved Earth observation by, for instance, utilising LEO satellites in disaster management applications, mining operations, thermal mapping of fires, reef and flood monitoring, land use and urban planning.”
Deputy vice-chancellor research Professor Mario Pinto said there would be a range of cutting-edge research and development opportunities as a result of the partnership.
“We envisage undertaking R&D on materials, advanced manufacturing methods, components, sensors and IT systems for aerospace applications, including light-weight alloys, incorporated in on-board satellite IT systems for telecommunications, data processing and analysis, and spacecraft data and metadata management,” Professor Pinto explained.
Griffith will also join forces with Gilmour Space on a Collaborative Research Centre project (CRC-P) to develop composite rocket fuel tanks for low-cost space transport. As the research partner in the CRC-P, the university will assist Gilmour Space to complete its previously announced project to manufacture lightweight rocket fuel tanks.
Gilmour Space CEO Adam Gilmour said the company was excited to partner with the university on these opportunities: “This project is about demonstrating to Australia that we can build and launch a significant-sized satellite with significant capability. It’s also about working with local partners like Griffith to educate the next generation of space engineers who take us to orbit.”
The consortium, which includes Etamax Engineering and Northrop Grumman, will manufacture composite tanks up to two metres in diameter and trial them in rocket flights, in a bid to reduce weight, increase reliability and achieve cost savings.
“Queensland has a lot of talent in this space. Griffith is pleased to be able to assist Gilmour Space in bringing this project to fruition and making it a reality. Now is the time to create the future,” pro-vice-chancellor sciences Professor Andrew Smith added.
Chris Deeble, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Australia, added, “Northrop Grumman is proud to support collaboration with academic institutions like Griffith University and innovative Australian companies like Gilmour Space in building sovereign space capabilities in Australia.”
Professor Paulo de Souza, head of school, School of Information and Communication Technology, who has worked with NASA on the Mars rover projects, said a Space Tech Lab is currently being built at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, offering dedicated facilities for researchers and Gilmour staff to work collaboratively.
“Aerospace capability is in deep need right here in Australia, for defence, disaster management and environmental observations. We are relying too much on a few companies and legacy systems for critical capability to keep Australia safe,” Professor de Souza said.
Professor de Souza joined Griffith in late 2019, having previously been the CSIRO’s chief research scientist. While completing his PhD, Professor de Souza contributed to the design, production, deployment and operation of sensors that was used by NASA aboard two of its Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. (Source: Space Connect)
05 Nov 20. International demand surging for Viasat’s Small Tactical Terminals. Viasat’s multi-channel Link 16 radio connects helicopters, ground vehicles, small boats, and other “Size, Weight, and Power” (SWaP) constrained platforms.
Want a sign that international demand is surging for Viasat’s KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminals (STT)?
Ask the U.S. Navy.
The Navy recently raised the ceiling of its Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with Viasat for the KOR-24A, to a maximum order value of $17.8m. An IDIQ is basically a general ordering agreement that allows the government to quickly rder new items and services as needed, without having to go through a cumbersome acquisition process. Raising the contract ceiling to $17.8m indicates the Navy is anticipating an order of up to 100 radios.
The KOR-24A STT is the world’s only small form factor, multi-channel Link 16 radio. More than 1,800 KOR-24As are used by the U.S. military, as well as international partners, to connect helicopters, ground vehicles, small boats, and other “Size, Weight, and Power” (SWaP) constrained platforms.
Andy Kessler, vice president and business area director for Viasat’s Next Generation Tactical Data Links business, predicted last year that international sales of the KOR-24A would spike. So far, his prediction appears to be on track. At least 12 nations use the STT, and that number is expected to grow.
A successful strategy
Kessler sees the surge in international sales as vindicating Viasat’s development strategy for the KOR-24A. Viasat didn’t design the device in response to a government request: it was a company-funded internal research project built in anticipation of future demand for small tactical datalink terminals.
“Our business model is to design products that meet emerging requirements before the requirements are even officially levied,” Kessler says. “So the customer can just buy it from us directly rather than having to work with other companies to build a product that meets those mandated specifications, at greater expense and a longer schedule.”
Viasat’s approach paid off with the KOR-24A, and not just for the U.S. military. The KOR-24A was built to meet the needs of foreign customers who wanted a Link 16 tactical radio that was both small and would enable foreign militaries to operate alongside U.S. forces.
“We design our products from day one so that they will be releasable internationally,” Kessler says. “So that they will not be stuck with some limitation that prevents them from being sold internationally. That means international customers don’t have to join with the U.S. in some non-recurring development effort that’s going to cost a lot of money and time. They can just buy this off-the-shelf product.”
The new radios are intended for the U.S. Government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, under which the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command is charged with overseeing acquisitions for Link 16 equipment. Foreign governments typically can’t buy such sensitive equipment directly from U.S. manufacturers, but must go through the FMS program.
“This contract vehicle is set up so that the Navy can buy assets from us in order to satisfy their FMS agreements with international customers,” Kessler says. “So, the foreign customer says they want to buy STTs, and the U.S. government and the foreign country enter into an FMS agreement that says the U.S. will provide them with terminals for this amount of money. And then the Navy buys the terminals from us.” (Source: Armada)
03 Nov 20. Rockets from Koonibba. DART Rocket Launch (Australian DOD) – A DART rocket carrying an RF sensing payload zooms skywards from the Koonibba rocket range during a test on 19th September. Avantgarde EW approaches are being propelled by the revival of great power competition between the US-led Western alliance and so-called ‘near-peer’ adversaries like the People’s Republic of China and Russia.
Australia’s launch of a T-Minus Engineering DART rocket carrying a Radio Frequency (RF) sensing payload realised by DEWC is a good illustration of this trend. On 19th September, a test flight of the ensemble was made from South Australia’s Koonibba Rocket Range. T-Minus Engineering’s official literature states that the DART can reach altitudes of up to 65 nautical miles (120 kilometres). Such altitudes have inufficient air density for balloons or aerostats to loiter but too high a density for satellites to orbit.
An Australian Department of Defence (DOD) spokesperson told Armada that the RF sensing payload used during the test could find transmissions on a frequency of 5.625 gigahertz. This was designed to detect weather radars used by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. A rudimentary machine-learning algorithm was included in the sensor to assist the sensor’s detection of these radars.
The altitudes which the DART rocket can reach would afford an RF sensing payload an impressive field-of-view. As a ballpark figure, the payload could detect emitters across a 6.3 million square kilometre area (2.4 million square mile) area. In theory, the rocket could be launched to its maximum altitude. The RF sensor could take several ‘snapshots’ of the emitters in its field-of-view. Emitters of interest could then be investigated further by airborne, sea-based or land-based signals intelligence systems. The DART rocket/RF sensor combination could be used as a strategic/operational level signals intelligence gathering.
The spokesperson continued that the DART rocket forms part of the DOD’s High Altitude Programme. This is “exploring the delivery and employment of capabilities in the upper atmosphere using sub-orbital rockets and high-altitude balloons” to enhance situational awareness. The recent launch “was to assess the design requirements of low cost, expendable sensors that can survive and operate effectively in harsh temperatures, gravity and vibration environments.”
The DOD sees the DART rocket as a stepping-stone for the department “to explore how advanced rapidly-deployable networked sensors can be employed to provide information across (DOD communications networks).” The initiative will also help the DOD to deepen its understanding of how high-altitude environments affect sensor performance.
Any future capability developed from these efforts could feed into the DOD’s Plan Jericho. According to the Royal Australian Air Force, Plan Jericho will see the fusion of advanced sensors, machine learning and cloud computing to improve how the RAAF collects and shares intelligence: “Multiple data sources provided by massed advanced sensors” are integral to Plan Jericho.
Whether the DART rocket will metamorphosise into a programme of record is uncertain: “There is currently insufficient data available to enter a programme of record.” However, the data gathered during the experiment could help “inform decisions in programmes of record in the air and space domains, such as integrated air and missile defence and space domain awareness.” (Source: Armada)
03 Nov 20. AFRL’s Newest Lab Aims At Building Things In Space. One of the first projects the new DeSel lab will work on is testing structures for a futuristic capability that could be enabled by on-orbit assembly and manufacturing: space-based solar power. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) today opened the doors on its new lab for testing innovative materials and designs for spacecraft — technologies to underpin assembly and manufacture of satellites and subsystems on-orbit.
Currently, the new Deployable Structures Laboratory (DeSel) at Kirtland AFB is focused on nearer-term high-strength materials and satellites structures that can expand the types of missions that small satellites can perform. But those same technologies are being eyed by the Air Force to eventually expand operations to the Moon and beyond.
““With the push toward hybrid architecture and smaller satellites, high packing efficiency structures and the ability to bring large satellite capability to small satellites,” Benjamin Urioste, AFRL’s lead for the Integrated Structural Systems team that will be performing the research, said in AFRL’s press release today.
“High packing efficiency refers to structures that can be folded or otherwise compressed in size for launch, then deployed to full size once on orbit. They are super-efficient in their utilization of size/weight at launch to achieve a specified level of on-orbit performance,” Col. Eric Felt, head of ARFL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, explained in an email today.
These materials can be used to build components such as antennas for communications or solar power arrays that unfurl once a satellite is on orbit, meaning that they can be carried by smaller satellites, he explained. “Examples of key enabling technologies include significant processing/computer power advancements (Moore’s Law), increases in solar cell efficiency, Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA), and mesh antennas of extremely low launch size and weight that unfurl into 1-5 meter parabolic dishes on orbit.”
Indeed, one of the first projects the new DeSel lab will work on is testing spacecraft structures for another futuristic capability that could be enabled by on-orbit assembly and manufacturing — space-based solar power under AFRL’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research (SSPIDR) project. SSPIDR will collect solar energy in space, convert it to radio frequency, and beam it to forward operating bases. But for that to work, large solar arrays are required that will have to be assembled on orbit.
“We see advances in both the viability/cost of performing on-orbit manufacturing and servicing and the mission utility/need for these capabilities. For example, 3-D printing and robotic advances make it now quite technically feasible to assemble a large structure on orbit, and emerging missions such as power beaming (SSPIDR) make some large structures very useful,” Felt told me. “Logistics is important in every operating domain, including space. Ubiquitous launch logistics is enabling the Proliferated Low Earth Orbit (PLEO) constellations and advances in on-orbit logistics will similarly unleash new missions in all orbits, including MEO, GEO, and cislunar.”
The SSPIDR project is “closing out a $25m contract with Northrop Grumman Space Systems (Gilbert, AZ) due to the delivery of the Helios bus later this month. This is an exciting milestone for us, as the Helios bus is the vehicle that will carry the first experiment of the SSPIDR program,” SSPIDR Chief Engineer Rachel Delaney told me in an email this afternoon.
Equipping smallsats to do a big sat’s job also means being able to miniaturize satellite components, explained Pete Cannito, CEO of Redwire, who is involved with some of AFRL’s efforts to push into on-orbit assembly and manufacture. “By miniaturizing some of those components — cameras, navigation components, things like that — we’ll be able to do more with smaller [satellites],” he said.
Redwire is a new(ish) company created in June, when private-equity firm AE Industrial Partner bought and merged two small space companies — Deep Space Systems and Adcole Space — and then acquired Made In Space, which specializes in 3D printing on orbit. Just last Friday, Redwire bought smallsat component maker Roccor.
The fragile coalition that forms the Israeli cabinet is delaying the decisions on huge arms deals with American companies, mainly Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “The chaos in the cabinet has put the urgent need for some critical defense platforms on ice. This is something that should not happen in a country like Israel that…
Roccor is providing a deployable broad-band antenna array to Viasat for AFRL’s XVI project to test out putting a Link 16 tactical data link on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to expand connectivity across domains. AFRL awarded Viasat a $10 million contract to put a Link 16 transponder on one of its small satellites in May 2019 as a pilot; in August 2019 Viasat tapped startup Blue Canyon Technologies to build the tiny cubesat and Roccor to build the antenna array. A prototype of the satellite is expected in March 2021.
Cannito told me in an interview today that Redwire is positioning itself as a unique firm in the current ‘new space’ market — a mid-tier provider of innovative space infrastructure capabilities from small satellites capable of on-orbit manufacturing to innovative, high-tech subsystems.
“As we started looking at the landscape, what we discovered was that their space market was shaped like a barbell,” Cannito said. “You had the really large aerospace primes on one side. And then you had either niche or very small companies on the other side, or venture-backed, emerging disruptors but also, you know, in both cases, much smaller players. But you didn’t have a lot in between, So we decided that there was an opportunity in that middle market for a consolidator to come in.”
“We see ourselves as what SpaceX has done for launch, we’re going to do for space infrastructure,” he added — that is, change the market so that in-space architecture — from satellites doing traditional missions to the on-orbit factories of the future — becomes more economical and efficient.
“In-space manufacturing and assembly … is one of one of the game changers that we think will absolutely change and transform the way that we do business operations, and really, truly build this next generation of space infrastructure,” Redwire COO Andrew Rush chimed in.
As Breaking D readers know, the Air Force also is eyeing 3D printing in space as one step on the way to possible future military operations in cislunar space as DoD keeps a wary eye on Chinese activities around the Moon. Further, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) last July asked industry for options to build an on-orbit logistics hub that could manufacture parts, assemble other spacecraft or re-fuel satellites.
DARPA in 2018 granted a $1.5m contract to Made In Space for development of the “External Augmentation of Generic Launch Elements (EAGLE) System, an innovative capability that that will rapidly deconstruct used launch hardware that normally would be scrapped, and reassemble the components into a phased array antenna. Under the award, the company is to complete critical design review (CDR) for the system in February, according to a DARPA fact sheet provided to Breaking D.
Made In Space also is building a refrigerator-sized satellite that will assemble and deploy two large solar-power arrays for NASA’s On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing-2 (OSAM-2, formerly known as Archinaut) demonstration designed to enable exploration of the Moon and Mars — technology that Cannito says also has interest from the national security community. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
03 Nov 20. Rocket Lab demonstrates flexible in-space transportation with new Kick Stage maneuver. Rocket Lab’s Kick Stage successfully completed plane change in orbit for the first time, further demonstrating the Kick Stage’s ability to enable custom orbits for smallsats.
Rocket Lab demonstrated an advanced capability of its Kick Stage acting as a space tug during the company’s 15th launch, the ‘In Focus’ mission that launched satellites for Planet and Canon on 28 October UTC.
Shortly after deploying 10 customer satellites to orbit, the Kick Stage’s Curie engine reignited to manoeuvre the stage to a new inclination.
While Rocket Lab has previously demonstrated orbit-raising manoeuvres, this mission was the first time Kick Stage performed an inclination change, a capability increasingly sought by small satellites that require custom and unique orbits even when flying as part of a rideshare.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck said, “Small satellites have long needed a way to bridge the gap between being dropped off in space by the launch vehicle and that last home stretch to reach the target orbit.”
The now flight-proven capability enables more flexibility for small satellite operators and opens up a wider range of inclinations achievable from Rocket Lab’s two launch sites, Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and Launch Complex 2 in Virginia.
The mission was the latest demonstration of the Kick Stage’s in-space transportation capabilities, which span deploying satellites to precise orbits as well as orbit raising or lowering, inclination changes, and de-orbit capability. Each of these capabilities have now been demonstrated in-flight across 15 Electron missions.
“The Kick Stage delivers that flexibility, providing in-space transportation to get satellites exactly where they need to go, every time, whether flying on Electron or another vehicle,” Beck added.
The Kick Stage can also fly on other launch vehicles to deliver standalone in-space transportation as a tug. (Source: Space Connect)
03 Nov 20. Europe’s Arianespace struggles for relevance in SpaceX era. Delay to Ariane 6 rocket adds to satellite launcher’s challenges in an upended market. For decades the Ariane rocket has been a symbol of European technological prowess — proof that the EU plays a vital role in the space race even if it may lack the glamour of the US and Russia’s manned missions. Arianespace, jointly owned by Airbus and Safran, was the world’s first commercial launch company and until recently dominated the business of sending big communications satellites into geostationary orbit, 35,000km above the earth. But the latest delay to its €4bn next-generation Ariane 6, announced last week, has underlined the group’s vulnerability as it struggles to keep pace with disruptive forces unleashed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a drastically changed market. Jan Wörner, director-general of the European Space Agency, is now hoping EU member states will stump up another €230m to put Ariane 6 on the launch pad by spring 2022, almost two years later than planned.
The rocket, along with the smaller Vega-C version, is Europe’s answer to Mr Musk’s pioneering, reusable Falcon 9, which has sent prices plunging in the $5bn-a-year satellite launch market. Although single-use, it will be more than 40 per cent cheaper than its predecessor the Ariane 5, which has been one of the world’s most reliable rockets. According to Arianespace chief executive Stéphane Israël, it will be able to carry up to 70 small 150kg satellites, and serve not just government customers but the booming private market for “mega-constellations” delivering internet access from low-earth orbit. The problem is, it will still be substantially more costly than the Falcon models. And the longer the delay, the wider the price gap is likely to be. A longer wait will also make it harder for Arianespace to hold its own in a market changing at great speed. Bank of America estimates that the global space industry will grow from roughly $400bn in 2019 to $1.4tn by 2030.
This is prompting new private sector rivals to emerge, including Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket company. Meanwhile, old adversaries such as United Launch Alliance — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing — are expanding beyond traditional government services to the commercial market. “When Arianespace, ESA and the national space agencies set out to develop Ariane 6 [in 2014] they underestimated how competitive the commercial space launch market would be by 2020,” said Caleb Henry, analyst at Quilty Analytics, a space industry research group.
Ever since SpaceX’s Falcon 9 took off a decade ago, life has been getting tougher for Arianespace. According to a report for Nasa in 2018, the average launch cost of $18,500 per kg between 1970 and 2000 was cut by a factor of seven with the Falcon 9. Arianespace lost its crown as the world’s leading commercial launch provider to SpaceX’s lower-priced launches in 2017, when the US company sent more commercial satellites into orbit, according to France’s national auditor, the Cour des Comptes. This year, SpaceX is also expected to beat Arianespace in terms of the value of contracts won for future launches. At the same time, the commercial market in which it has operated for 40 years, and where it generates two-thirds of its €1bn annual income, has shifted. For more than a decade, Ariane was responsible for launching the majority of the 20 to 30 annual launches of big communications satellites into geostationary orbit.
But demand tumbled to fewer than 10 in 2018 and industry experts expect that a brief resurgence this year, the result of a one-off auction of broadcast spectrum, will fade fairly quickly. “We are seeing fewer broadcast satellites being launched. If you watch Netflix you are no longer a customer of a broadcast provider. You are the customer of someone who gives you internet services and there are bold ambitions to have some of this internet in the sky done at low earth orbit,” said Rainer Horn, managing partner of SpaceTec Partners, which has advised the European Commission on space policy. “What was a strength in previous decades has become less easy to manage,” said Pacôme Revillon, chief executive of Euroconsult, a space industry consultancy. Instead, the focus is shifting to smaller satellites, which cost far less to launch. Euroconsult estimates that an average of 990 satellites of all sizes will be launched every year for the next decade, more than four times the volume of the previous one. Most will be small satellites of less than 500kg. Arianespace was unable to exploit that market fully until September when it carried out its first “ride-sharing ” launch with a Vega rocket.
But costs are still higher than SpaceX, which can offer customers frequent low-priced space on rockets already being deployed for Mr Musk’s own mega-constellation, Starlink. If Europe wants to maintain independent access to space it will have to stoke government and institutional demand, according to Mr Israël. That is how SpaceX has succeeded, he argues, with its government contracts priced almost twice as high as those in the commercial market. “We are now facing a launcher which is highly supported by institutional demand, which allows [it] to come to market at cut prices,” Mr Israël said. “The question is, how will Europe organise itself?” Europe’s space industry is pushing for Brussels to launch its own mega-constellation to provide what could be crucial internet services to industry. The UK government is already following the mega-constellation route in a bid to boost its space industry.
This month it will become the biggest shareholder in OneWeb, the original mega-constellation rescued from bankruptcy in a deal with India’s Bharti Global telecoms group. OneWeb is Arianespace’s biggest customer, with a contract worth more than $1bn to put 650 of its first-generation satellites into orbit by the end of 2023. But it might not be able to rely on winning the contract for the second generation if its launch costs remain high. “It could be a Japanese company next launching 300 sats for OneWeb,” said Mr Henry. So the pressure is on for new European projects that will help to enhance the commercial offer. European governments and institutions, unlike those in the US, do not generate enough volume to keep the bloc’s rocket production competitive with the new entrants, according to Mr Israël. “To develop non-institutional business, it is mandatory to rely on a?.?.?.?strong institutional business: this is the condition for a level playing field on the commercial market,” he said. The relatively limited number of European launches is also why Europe did not opt for a reusable rocket in 2014, according to Mr Wörner. If there were, for example 10 launches a year, he said, the industrial system might only need to produce one launcher a year for European needs. That would render the production business unviable, he said. “The industrial situation may have to be reorganised and that could take years,” says Mr Wörner. “In 2014, the decision was to go fast as possible.” That doesn’t mean reorganisation is impossible.
ESA and the industrial partners behind Arianespace are already looking to the next generation, and reusable rockets are on the cards. But it will mean Europe’s system of allocating production work according to member states’ financial contributions will have to be re-examined, according to several industry executives. Ariane rockets involve an industrial network of more than 600 companies in 13 countries “These are complexities that Mr Musk doesn’t have as a vertically integrated player,” said Mr Horn. “He is selling the rockets, renting the spaceport, and producing most parts himself. He organises the logistics. There is less workshare and less dependency.” ESA and Europe’s space industry have begun discussions on how work could be reorganised to eliminate some of the complexities, according to several people with knowledge of the subject. “We need to create the same conditions to propose competitive prices,” said one. For now, however, the focus is the new rocket. “The priority is to make Ariane 6 a success,” said Mr Israël. “It is to make Ariane 6 fly.” (Source: FT.com)
03 Nov 20. Viasat to supply Britain’s future frigate with satellite communications tech. Progress toward boosting the British Royal Navy’s frigate numbers with a new class of ship continues to advance, with the Babcock International-led consortium contracted to build the warships adding on satellite communication supplier Viasat to its list of subcontractors.
A deal to supply ultrahigh-frequency satellite communications for five general-purpose frigates being built for the Royal Navy has gone to Viasat UK, the company announced Nov 3. Viasat is based in the U.S. and was ranked No. 69 on Defense News’ latest list of the top 100 defense companies around the world.
Ultrahigh-frequency SATCOM is a mission-critical capability that will provide the Type 31 with beyond-line-of-sight, secure, integrated voice and data services.
The deal is the latest in a sequence of contract awards by Babcock over the last few months. This time last year, the Ministry of Defence hired the firm to design and build a British version of the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class warship.
About 75 percent of the Type 31 subcontracts have now been awarded, and Babcock remains confident the program is on schedule despite problems presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Viasat deal follows a recent announcement from BAE Systems that it had come to an agreement with Babcock to deliver two Bofors 40 Mk4 and one Bofors 57 Mk3 multipurpose gun systems per ship. BAE said its Karlskoga facility in Sweden will deliver the weapons in 2023 and 2024.
All of the major supply chain contracts on Type 31 have been decided, including the Thales Tacticos-based combat management system; MTU main engines and diesel generators; Renk main reduction gearboxes; MAN Energy Solutions propellers and propeller shaft lines; and Raytheon Anschutz’s warship-integrated navigation and bridge system.
Babcock and its partners BMT, Fraser Nash, OMT and Thales — collectively known as Babcock Team 31 — are to start construction of the first 6,000-ton warship next year, with 2027 set as the year it’s to enter service.
A covered construction hall capable of holding two Type 31s is progressing at Babcock’s Rosyth shipyard in Scotland, where the Royal Navy’s two 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers were recently completed.
All five of the new frigates are due to have been completed — at an average cost of £250m (U.S. $324m) per ship — by 2028 to replace aging Type 23 frigates.
Babcock announced in August that it had weeks earlier successfully completed the preliminary design review of the entire ship.
BAE is also building Britain’s Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigate. The company has a contract for the first three warships, with the Royal Navy having an eventual requirement for eight vessels.
As for Viasat UK, the SATCOM contract is the second defense deal it has secured in the last few days. Last week the company announced that, along with CDW UK, it had been awarded a two-year technical innovation contract for command, control and communication support for a program known as Lelantos. The agile experimentation initiative is to empower the headquarters of NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Gloucester, England, with superior decision-making, cross-domain integration and fast maneuver in a conflict. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
03 Nov 20. Virgin Galactic Flight Test Program Update: Spaceflight from New Mexico Progress. It’s a hive of activity here at Spaceport America as preparations to deliver Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight from New Mexico later this Fall continue to progress well.
This beautiful corner of southern New Mexico will be the beating heart of our spaceflight operations and the launchpad where we will help open commercial human spaceflight to the world. There is rich spaceflight history here in New Mexico, including the first photo of earth from space, taken by a rocket in 1946. Our next spaceflight is set to deliver that first taste of human spaceflight for the state and, having completed two spaceflights, we as a team know how special these historic moments can be.
If all goes to plan, not only will this flight be the first human spaceflight to depart from New Mexico, it will also mark Virgin Galactic Pilot CJ Sturckow’s sixth time in space, and will see him become the first person to have flown to space from three different U.S. States, an extraordinary professional achievement. I too have had a long relationship with space. At NASA I worked numerous Space Shuttle missions and oversaw the launch of 12 flights, and I have managed another two during my time at Virgin Galactic. This mission will mark number 15! One thing is for certain, the feeling you get from witnessing your team run a safe and successful mission, followed by greeting the astronauts on their return to earth, never ceases to thrill me.
CJ, like the rest of the team, is focused on completing a safe flight that meets all test objectives and moves us another step closer to welcoming our Future Astronauts on board. CJ will be alongside our Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, in the cockpit, as we verify a number of key points to take us to the next stage of our flight test program. While we are planning for CJ and Dave to reach space, if test conditions on the day suggest a shorter burn, that’s fine and we’ll return to fly again soon. The spaceflight system is designed for rapid commercial turnaround, so it is much better to stay on the side of caution and return to base to understand the data and prepare for another test flight.
One thing to note about this flight is that once we are in space, we will be flying slightly differently than how we plan to fly with our Future Astronauts. This is because we’ll have three NASA payloads in the cabin, flown through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. Unlike our Future Astronauts, these payloads aren’t on board for the view, so instead of stopping the vehicle pitch in the inverted position for the best views of Earth, we’ll pitch the vehicle 270 degrees following boost to get to the entry attitude as soon as possible. This maneuver will maximize time for the payloads to remain in data-collection mode. Carrying these payloads not only makes this test flight a revenue-generating one, but also demonstrates our commitment to facilitating regular, accessible space-based scientific research.
The payloads will be placed in the spaceship cabin, where we have other test objectives planned. While we have flown passenger seats on previous flights, this will be the first time in flight where we actively recline the seats once in space, which will create extra room when Future Astronauts are floating in zero gravity. For this first test of the seat recline in a space environment, we will have instrumented test mannequins strapped in.
While on the subject of customer experience, it’s also worth noting that we’ll be testing the full suite of internal cabin cameras and our future capability to stream live footage from the spaceship down to the ground.
Since our last flight to space, we’ve refined and upgraded a few other elements on the spaceship. We’ve extensively tested these changes on the ground and in our previous two flights from Spaceport America, and we are now ready to test them on a rocket-powered flight. We’ve made upgrades to the horizontal stabilizers (known as H-Stabs), which are the flight control surfaces on the outboard of the feather booms. We’ve also made improvements to the flight control system that commands these Hstabs to move in response to pilot inputs. We’ve already flown these improvements on our last two glide flights, and they performed well. Together these mods will enhance the performance of the spaceship and support long-term commercial service.
We anticipate that this upcoming flight will provide some of the data for us to close out our final two verification reports required by the FAA to remove the remaining proviso in our current commercial spaceflight license.
Upon successful completion of this flight, and data review, we will proceed to the next phase of testing, where we will fly four mission specialists in the cabin to test and refine the equipment, procedures, training and overall experience.
It’s a great time to be part of Virgin Galactic, as we work together to bring the wonder of human spaceflight to the state of New Mexico for the first time this Fall – and, even more exciting – many more times in the years ahead.
02 Nov 20. Securing the final frontier: Digital twins, satellites and cybersecurity. The United States and our allies are increasingly dependent on unfettered access to space. However, it has become abundantly clear that our space systems have significant cybersecurity vulnerabilities that our adversaries are eager to exploit.
Earlier this year, William Akoto wrote about the growing constellations of satellites operated by private industry, led by SpaceX, Blue Origin and others: “If hackers were to take control of these satellites, the consequences could be dire. On the mundane end of scale, hackers could simply shut satellites down, denying access to their services. Hackers could also jam or spoof the signals from satellites, creating havoc for critical infrastructure. This includes electric grids, water networks and transportation systems.”
Space Policy Directive 5, recently issued by the White House, notes that “cybersecurity principles and practices that apply to terrestrial systems also apply to space systems” and that we must integrate these principles and practices into every phase of the space system life cycle.
SPD-5 is charting the right course toward assuring our cybersecurity in the space domain. This article highlights the unique vulnerabilities of space systems and how innovative solutions like “digital twins” can help us protect systems in orbit today and design more secure ones for the future.
Cyberattacks on space systems — comprised of satellites, ground control stations, and user terminals (e.g., GPS receivers) — are appealing to nation-states, criminal groups, hackers and other bad actors. It’s a tremendous opportunity to breach data and disrupt operations in a low-risk way with a low cost of execution. The different components that make up space systems each come with their own set of cyber vulnerabilities, the ground segment in particular.
Some space systems were built with speed to market rather than cybersecurity in mind. In contrast, for traditional defense-focused space systems, a slower design and development process has introduced vulnerabilities as well. Space systems operating today may have taken a full 20 years to go from paper to launch and lack the capabilities to recognize or respond to today’s cyberthreats. Space systems are increasingly interconnected — a malicious attack can easily spread from a single point of vulnerability in a ground station to the satellites.
Cybersecurity in space systems has struggled to keep pace with the rapid evolution of threat actors and exploits. Given these challenges, how can organizations with space systems stay ahead of cyberthreats and protect their missions and users?
The older approach of paper-based assessments has significant limitations, like the inability to duplicate reactions to all possible scenarios. At the other end of the spectrum, full-scale replicas are expensive and time-consuming to build.
In the middle is the “digital twin” concept — a virtual mirror model that synchronizes a physical object with a cyber representation. With this approach, organizations can test a satellite in different scenarios to identify vulnerabilities and develop protection strategies, even before the satellite is built.
One specific project that demonstrated digital twins’ strengths and capabilities: testing Air Force GPS space systems for vulnerabilities after the passage of Section 1647 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
Starting with a model-based system engineering review of thousands of pages of design documents, we built a digital replica of critical GPS Block IIR satellite components launched between 1987 and 2004 that ran on a single laptop with lightweight applications.
Our digital twin created the foundation for a flexible cyber test bed — a suite of scalable software applications to demonstrate and validate cyber vulnerabilities and protection strategies as the system is designed or modified. The test bed can connect with assets beyond the network to generate data, provide war-gaming support and explore attack scenarios.
We need this flexibility and functionality for future space system protection. The next generation of satellites will encounter more extreme service conditions and increased, simultaneous cyberattack vectors over longer periods of time. To respond to these challenges, these space systems will need increasingly complex designs, and with such complexity comes potentially greater vulnerability to cyberattacks and threats.
Digital twins and model-based system engineering approaches can strengthen security throughout the acquisition and sustainment phases. Use them to:
- Develop system requirements and analyze design trades.
- Create test scenarios for requirements clarification and reference systems.
- Simulate threats, anomalies and impacts without risk to critical infrastructure.
- Assess the impact of new threats or operational scenarios on an on-orbit system design.
What can space system acquisition professionals, developers and operators learn here? Digital twins offer an innovative approach that can streamline and strengthen the testing and design process of our space assets. They can also provide insights on as-built systems and enable the buydown of risks across the space system life cycle, enabling affordability across the entire system life cycle. Now is the time to leverage their capabilities, to ensure that the space infrastructure so vital to our security and American way of life has the protection it requires. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
02 Nov 20. iDirect Government (iDirectGov), a leading provider of satellite communications to the military and government, today announced that the Evolution® platform has been enhanced with information assurance (IA) and cybersecurity as a part of a multi-layered approach to security. Two main technology advancements in Evolution 220.127.116.11 include SHIELD, a security service for remotes, and Communication Signal Interference Removal (CSIR™), a real-time streaming technology to mitigate interference. These enhancements are fully integrated across iDirectGov’s 9-Series satellite modems.
To address vulnerabilities in satellite modems, SHIELD provides periodic IA security updates for the 9-Series modems. These remote-side packages are created using the same capability that the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA’s) Assured Compliance Assessment Solution (ACAS) recognizes. When installed, SHIELD addresses vulnerabilities based on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) and Nessus ID database on the satellite modem and delivers IA posture across the SATCOM network.
“Our customers are becoming more proactive and are seeking ways to reinforce defenses before problems occur, and we are moving forward with our customers to secure our solutions with our specialized product enhancements,” said John Ratigan, President of iDirectGov.
CSIR excision technology effectively mitigates a wide range of interferers, from carrier waves to multiple strong interferers, without requiring any prior information on them. CSIR can locate fast-moving and intermittent interference and restore the quality of the original signal, without requiring additional hardware. This helps to combat adversaries who are increasing their implementation of signal intelligence (SIGNET) to attack military and government spectrum use by jamming transmissions intended for radio communications, radar and various operations.
“Safeguarding critical communications signals is important, and any satellite modem attempting to operate in a congested environment, especially where adversaries may be intentionally jamming signals, can benefit from CSIR,” said Ratigan. “Whether attacks are intentional or unintentional, the CSIR interference mitigation is a core feature of the Evolution system to ensure holistic communication integrity and availability.”
SHIELD and CSIR add to the Evolution platform’s award-winning, high standard of transmission security (TRANSEC) to create a multi-layered highly secure solution. Other enhancements as part of this approach include dual-mode and beam choice features to mitigate threats to a SATCOM network. Dual-mode enables the 9-Series modems to operate on both government-owned and commercial networks, giving the user both flexibility and ubiquitous coverage. Beam choice allows operators to manually select the ideal beam for their missions rather than using the automated process.
“Implementing a Defense-in-Depth approach allows defense, homeland security, first responders and other government users to have reliable and secure communications to support their critical missions. iDirectGov’s approach to SATCOM cybersecurity provides the means to plan, detect, locate, remove, report and deploy mitigation to signal interference,” Ratigan added.
02 Nov 20. ULA to Launch NROL-101 Mission in Support of National Security. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch is on track for Nov. 3 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is planned for 5:58 p.m. EST. The live launch broadcast begins at 5:38 p.m. EST on Nov. 3 at www.ulalaunch.com.
“ULA is proud to play a pivotal role in support of our mission partners and national security by keeping our country safe one launch at a time,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We thank our mission partners for their continued trust and teamwork. The NROL-101 mission will be ULA’s 29th mission launched for the National Reconnaissance Office and the 17th NRO mission launched on an Atlas V.”
The mission will launch on an Atlas V 531, a rocket that delivers unique capacity and the performance required for a range of mission types. The 531 configuration launched the first three Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites for the United States Space Force and will loft a pair of C-band satellites for SES in 2022.
The NROL-101 mission will be the first ULA launch flying the new Northrop Grumman Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM) 63 solid rocket boosters that burn solid propellant and augment the lifting capacity of rocket’s first stage. The GEM 63s measure 63 in. (1.6 meters) in diameter and 66 ft. (20.11 meters) in length. They will be ignited at the launch pad and burn for 94 seconds, each consuming 97,500 pounds (44,225.2 kg) of propellant to produce 371,550 pounds (1.6 mega-Newtons) of max thrust to augment the 860,200 pounds (3.83 mega-Newtons) of thrust produced by the RD-180 main engine to power the Atlas V rocket skyward. At liftoff, the combined thrust will be nearly 1.8 million pounds or 8 million mega-Newtons.
The Atlas V 531 configuration includes a 17 ft. (5 meter) payload fairing and stands 206 ft. (63 meters) tall. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage.
This will be the 86th launch of the Atlas V rocket and the 71st Atlas V to launch from Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida. To date ULA has launched 140 times with 100 percent mission success.
With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation. (Source: ASD Network)
02 Nov 20. Lift-off for new generation of space scientists. England’s first Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship will be available to students from January 2021.
- New apprenticeship opportunity is designed to help students get a job that’s out of this world, with training including spacecraft manufacturing and satellite integration
- Growing space sector to aims create 30,000 new jobs in the industry over the next decade
Apprentices in England will soon be able to boldly study what no students have studied before in the UK, thanks to a new Government-backed space engineering apprenticeship, the Science Minister announced today (Monday 2 November).
Launching in January 2021, the Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship will help young people gain the technical skills needed for a career in space and follows a successful collaboration between the UK Space Agency, Airbus and the University of Leicester.
The UK space sector is hungry for engineers and technologists who understand the demands that come with working in space, and over the next decade the sector aims to create 30,000 jobs. This new opportunity will offer students, for the first time, the chance to focus on topics like spacecraft manufacturing; building skills in design, problem solving and testing.
Currently, apprentices training in space roles gain qualifications as general apprentices and craft apprentices. The Science Minister recently visited Airbus in Stevenage where she met apprentices working on satellite panel manufacturing, as well as those developing techniques to be used by the Rosalind Franklin the Mars sample fetch rover.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “This new qualification is an incredible opportunity for young people which will equip them with the vital skills they need to help unlock the secrets of our solar system. The UK’s space industry is booming, and these new apprentices will become the next generation of engineers that will help us achieve our country’s space ambitions.”
The Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship is the first to be recognised by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and approved by The Department of Education. The first cohort of students is expected to start their training from January 2021.
The success of establishing this level 4 apprenticeship has paved the way for the development of a degree equivalent (level 6) space engineering diploma which is expected to be available to students from next September.
The University of Leicester has played an integral role in designing the new apprenticeship, utilising expertise in space teaching and research, which spans over 60 years.
Dr Nigel Bannister, Associate Professor in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said, “From large multinationals to small enterprises, companies in the UK are at the forefront of the commercial space revolution – it is therefore essential that the right training is offered for future recruits into the industry.”
The international space sector is undergoing a major transformation as space becomes more accessible, and this new standard enables employers to recruit people with the skills needed to grow their business and ensure their workforce is trained in the latest technologies and techniques.
For apprentices, it represents a new route into a fantastically exciting sector – one which we are becoming ever more reliant upon in our daily lives. I hope it will also Airbus, which has been employing apprentices in space manufacturing for more than 30 years and has trained more than 120 apprentices over the last nine years using the general standards, can now use the more focused standard to ensure they are training more rigorously for their future workforce.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space in the UK said, “Four years ago, we looked at how we could design and develop a space technician qualification that would enable students to gain specific engineering skills in space manufacturing. Working in partnership with the UK Space Agency and the University of Leicester we have created the Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship. This is an exciting new route into space and helps the Government achieve its ambitions – whether that’s the next mission to Mars or helping to build Earth observation satellites to monitor climate change.”
Kathie Bowden, lead for Skills and Careers at the UK Space Agency, said, “The space employer Trailblazer group have worked together to set standards for the sector which will help build the workforce for this growing sector. These standards will help more companies take advantage of the enthusiasm and energy that so many young people have to pursue a rewarding career in the sector.”
BAE Systems PLC, Thales Alenia Space UK, Nammo Westcott Ltd, Reaction Engines Ltd, STFC RAL Space, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and Oxford Space Systems have supported the process to allow over 900 space sector companies access to the qualification.
Jennifer Coupland, chief executive at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education said, “We’re delighted to achieve lift-off with this new apprenticeship. It’s incredibly exciting to think apprentices will be given opportunities to develop and manufacture equipment for the space industry. They could one day work on anything from satellites monitoring climate change to spacecraft sent on missions to distant planets.”
Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan said, “It’s fantastic to see the UK Space Agency, Airbus and the University of Leicester have joined forces to offer the first Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are a great way to learn the skills needed to start a career in a huge range of exciting sectors. This exciting new opportunity will play a key role in helping the UK to become a world leader in the space industry.”
The UK space sector is thriving, generating an income of £14.8bn, employing 42,000 people and supporting a further £300bn of economic activity through the use of satellite services.
The space engineering apprenticeship will ensure we have the talent needed for the UK space industry’s continuing growth.
Apprenticeships will play a vital role helping to provide the skills businesses and our economy need to recover and grow after coronavirus. To support more people to take up a high quality apprenticeship so they can secure a great career, the Government is offering all employers £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and £1,500 for each newly recruited apprentice aged 25 and over. This includes taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
28 Oct 20. The First Ethereum Network-Blockchain Satellite From Villanova University Set For Orbit. Villanova University College of Engineering is collaborating with Teachers in Space, Inc., a non-profit organization that developed the “Serenity” educational cubesat satellite, to launch the first, private, blockchain satellite to validate the technology for inter-satellite transactions. A flight has also been secured on Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha launch vehicle, which will lift off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This project is led by Hasshi Sudler, an adjunct professor Villanova’s College of Engineering and CEO of the Internet Think Tank, and he also ran the school’s hackathon to address poverty through blockchain technology last year.
This experiment will prove that blockchain can allow two satellites to reliably complete data transactions without communicating with a ground station to supervise these inter-satellite exchanges. The satellite will remain in LEO for approximately 30 days and controlled blockchain experiments will take place during the first 15 days the satellite is on-orbit.
Professor Sudler noted that the blockchain provides a trusted and immutable means of tracking these exchanges between satellites that may belong to different companies or even different countries.
Villanova researchers will grant 10 non-researchers with experience using blockchains with access to the onboard blockchain for the remainder of the flight for measuring transaction performance under heavier traffic loads. While the satellite is on-orbit, the latter half of the test period will be dedicated to open access from Villanova to perform test transactions between the ground station and the satellite.
The transaction data will be test files (text and images of various file sizes) that will create various loads on the blockchain. These transactions will also be allowed to interact with Ethereum smart contracts (programs that can automatically trigger a new transaction when a specific condition is met). All transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain ledger.
The satellite will remain in low Earth orbit for approximately 30 days, and controlled blockchain experiments will take place for the first 15 days.
Villanova researchers will grant select non-researchers access to the onboard blockchain for the remainder of the flight for measuring transaction performance under heavier traffic loads. These individuals will be limiting a group of up to 10 individuals who have experience using blockchains.
While the satellite is in orbit, the latter half of the test period will be dedicated to open access from Villanova to perform test transactions between the ground station and the satellite. The transaction data will be test files (text and images of various file sizes) that will create various loads on the blockchain. These transactions will also be allowed to interact with Ethereum smart contracts (programs that can automatically trigger a new transaction when a specific condition is met). All transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain ledger.
Sudler and Gomez will measure the impact of high traffic on the blockchain network as well as any impacts on the transactions themselves as the satellite enters and leaves the Earth’s horizon to the ground station. “When we consider a full constellation of blockchain satellites transacting with one another and with a ground station, we need to monitor any performance impact on the blockchain as the satellites are traveling rapidly in different orbits. The momentary visibility between satellites as well as with a ground station may introduce challenges to fully synchronize and secure new transactions on the blockchain in a timely manner.”
Sudler notes that the blockchain provides a trusted and immutable means of tracking these exchanges between satellites that may belong to different companies or even different countries. “Benefits of inter-satellite transactions include lowering the need for numerous ground stations to maintain constant communication with orbiting satellites. It also allows one satellite to leverage unique data held by other satellites to complete its mission. And by leveraging data from satellites already in orbit, society can minimize excessive satellite deployments and reduce space debris, one of the highest risks to existing satellites,” says Sudler.
The experiment leverages an Ethereum Private Network using Proof of Authority as its consensus protocol. Proof of Authority is considered more robust than other consensus protocols because it uses a validator’s identity rather than assets held to ensure validators are working in the best interest of securing the blockchain. It also avoids using large amounts of energy associated with traditional blockchains.
The Ethereum Private blockchain is hosted on a Raspberry Pi (single board computer) and mounted in the ‘Serenity’ satellite, a 3U CubeSat weighing 2.6 kilograms.
The November 20 launch will be the first of several planned space flights in which future academic experiments aim to test several cubesats in LEO transacting on a private blockchain.
To launch the blockchain into space, Villanova University is collaborating with Teachers in Space, Inc., a non-profit organization that developed the “Serenity” educational CubeSat satellite and secured a flight on Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha launch vehicle. The two-stage rocket is tentatively scheduled to lift off from the Vandenberg AFB in California in November.
Teachers in Space, headed by Elizabeth Kennick, President, has previously guided academic institutions in developing and flying experiments suborbitally and at the International Space Station. This will be the first independent orbital satellite mission for Teachers in Space and a unique opportunity for Villanova University to conduct pioneering blockchain experiments on a satellite. Serenity will also carry a suite of data collection sensors, and will provide its data in response to requests by amateur radio operators.
Satellite transactions over the blockchain will be a way to securely request, transfer and pay for data between satellites. “Similar to a postal delivery, the receiver signs for the package to confirm receipt. Blockchain transactions do the same but with the added security of making sure many people witness the fact that you signed for a package, received it, and paid for it. Because the group forms a consensus around this exchange, there is no need for a single trusted third party (TTP) to oversee the validity of the exchanges. The blockchain allows two satellites to reliably complete data transactions without communicating with a ground station to supervise these inter-satellite exchanges,” explained Sudler. “Recent growth and interest in satellite deployments have raised the need to limit excessive deployments by leveraging existing satellites in space, and one means of accomplishing this is with inter-satellite transactions. The challenge of transacting between satellites securely, however, centers around the constant motion of satellites themselves, where brief network connections between satellites can prevent replicating data across the blockchain and, thus, potentially delay timely verification of transactions.” (Source: Satnews)
26 Oct 20. Two RFIs From The Space Development Agency For Launch Services + Satellites. Space Development Agency (SDA) has posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for launch services to deliver its Transport and Tracking Tranche 0 capabilities to orbit earlier this month. The scope of the RFP includes delivery of up to 28 spacecraft — SDA’s initial Transport and Tracking satellites.
The launch requires delivery of two, circular, 950 km, near-polar orbits, with the first launch expected to occur in September of 2022.
Upon award, the launch services contractor will work with SDA satellite providers on payload integration with the launch vehicle(s) and will lead the mission integration activities.
Full RFI details at this direct link…https://beta.sam.gov/opp/95a8c11c0a9440e2a1ac8d7e3a9317c5/view
The response due date is November 5, 2020.
The SDA has also released a Request for Information (RFI) for Tranche 1 of the National Defense Space Architecture, scheduled to launch in late FY2024.
Tranche 1 is largely a proliferation of the capabilities demonstrated in Tranche 0; however, SDA is working with the warfighter community through its Warfighter Council and conducting market research to inform its final minimum viable product for Tranche 1 capabilities.
Tranche 1 is anticipated to include 100 to 150 transport satellites and should include technical and manufacturing readiness level 6 solutions to ensure viable warfighting capabilities once deployed.
SDA is interested in hardware, software, firmware, process, procedure and technique solution that will enable beyond line of sight targeting and advanced missile tracking.
Full RFI details at this direct link… the response due date is November 13, 2020.
27 Oct 20. A First Using Artificial Intelligence in PhiSat-1. An employee at Tyvak International in Turin, Italy, inspects the computing and camera assembly of the FSSCat/Phi-sat-1 satellite. Intel’s Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit brings onboard artificial intelligence to the system built by Ubotica Technologies and paired with a hyperspectral-thermal camera from cosine measurement systems. (Credit: Tim Herman/Intel Corporation)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is certainly the ‘flavor of the month’ and has become a part of our daily lives. However, there is one area that, until now, hasn’t been involved in AI…
As ubiquitous as artificial intelligence has become in modern life — from boosting the understanding of the cosmos to surfacing entertaining videos on a phone — AI hasn’t yet found its way into orbit.
That is until September 2, when an experimental satellite about the size of a cereal box was ejected from a rocket’s dispenser along with 45 other similarly small satellites. The satellite, named PhiSat-1, is now soaring at over 17,000mph (27,500kmh) in sun-synchronous orbit about 329 miles (530km) overhead.
PhiSat-1 contains a new hyperspectral-thermal camera and onboard AI processing from an Intel® Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 Vision Processing Unit (VPU) — the same chip inside many smart cameras and even a $99 selfie taken by a drone on Earth. PhiSat-1 is one of a pair of satellites on a mission to monitor polar ice and soil moisture, while also testing intersatellite communication systems in order to create a future network of federated satellites.
The first challenge that the Myriad 2 is helping to solve is, how to handle the large amount of data generated by high-fidelity cameras like, similar to the one on PhiSat-1. “The capability that sensors have to produce data increases by a factor of 100 every generation, while our capabilities to download data are increasing, but only by a factor of three, four, five per generation,” says Gianluca Furano, data systems and onboard computing lead at the European Space Agency, which led the collaborative effort behind PhiSat-1.
At the same time, about two-thirds of the planet’s surface is covered in clouds at any given time. That means a whole lot of useless images of clouds are typically captured, saved, sent over precious down-link bandwidth to Earth, saved again, reviewed by a scientist (or an algorithm) on a computer hours or days later — only to be deleted.
“And artificial intelligence at the edge came to rescue us, the cavalry in the Western movie,” says Furano. The idea the team rallied around was to use onboard processing to identify and discard cloudy images — thus saving about 30 percent of bandwidth.
“Space is the ultimate edge,” says Aubrey Dunne, chief technology officer of Ubotica. The Irish startup built and tested PhiSat-1’s AI technology, working in close partnership with cosine, maker of the camera, in addition to the University of Pisa and Sinergise to develop the complete solution. “The Myriad was absolutely designed from the ground up to have an impressive compute capability but in a very low power envelope, and that really suits space applications.”
The Myriad 2, however, was not intended for orbit. Spacecraft computers typically use very specialized “radiation-hardened” chips that can be “up to two decades behind state-of-the-art commercial technology,” explains Dunne. And AI has not been on the menu.
Dunne and the Ubotica team performed “radiation characterization,” putting the Myriad chip through a series of tests to determine how to handle any resulting errors or wear-and-tear.
Recreation of the two CubeSats, named ³Cat-5/A and ³Cat-5/B, orbiting the Earth to carry out the FSSCat mission.
ESA “had never tested a chip of this complexity for radiation,” says Furano. “We were doubtful we could test it properly … we had to write the handbook on how to perform a comprehensive test and characterization for this chip from scratch.”
The first test, 36 straight hours of radiation-beam blasting at CERN in late 2018, “was a very high pressure situation,” Dunne says. But that test and two follow-ups “luckily turned out well for us.” The Myriad 2 passed in off-the-shelf form, no modifications needed.
This low-power, high-performance computer vision chip was ready to venture beyond Earth’s atmosphere, however, then there was another challenge.
Typically, AI algorithms are built, or “trained,” using large quantities of data to “learn” — in this case, what’s a cloud and not a cloud. But given the camera was so new, “we didn’t have any data,” says Furano. “We had to train our application on synthetic data extracted from existing missions.”
All this system and software integration and testing, with involvement of a half-dozen different organizations across Europe, took four months to complete. “We were very proud to be able to be so quick and so efficiently flexible, to put everything on board in such a short time,” says Max Pastena, PhiSat officer at ESA. As far as spacecraft development goes, the timeline “is a miracle,” adds Furano.
“Intel has given us background support on the Myriad device when we’ve needed it, to enable PhiSat-1’s AI using our CVAI Technology,” says Dunne. “That’s very much appreciated.”
Unfortunately, a series of unrelated events — delays with the rocket, the coronavirus pandemic and unfriendly summer winds — meant the teams had to wait more than a year to find out if PhiSat-1 would function in orbit as planned.
The September 2 launch from French Guiana — a first-of-its-kind satellite ride-share run by Arianespace — went fast and flawlessly. For the initial verification, the satellite saved all images and recorded its AI cloud detection decision for each, so the team on the ground could verify that its implanted brain was behaving as expected.
After a three-week deep breath, Pastena was able to proclaim,“We have just entered the history of space.”
ESA announced the joint team was “happy to reveal the first-ever hardware-accelerated AI inference of Earth observation images on an in-orbit satellite.”
By only sending useful pixels, the satellite will now “improve bandwidth utilization and significantly reduce aggregated downlink costs” — not to mention saving scientists’ time on the ground.
Looking forward, the usages for low-cost, AI-enhanced very small satellites are innumerable — particularly when you add the ability to run multiple applications.
“Rather than having dedicated hardware in a satellite that does one thing, it’s possible to switch networks in and out,” says Jonathan Byrne, head of the Intel Movidius technology office. Dunne calls this “satellite-as-a-service.”
Consider, that when flying over areas prone to wildfire, a satellite can spot fires and notify local responders in minutes rather than hours. Over oceans, which are typically ignored, a satellite can spot rogue ships or environmental accidents. Over forests and farms, a satellite can track soil moisture and the growth of crops. Over ice, it can track thickness and melting ponds to help monitor climate change.
Many of these possibilities will soon be tested. ESA and Ubotica are working together on PhiSat-2, which will carry another Myriad 2 into orbit. PhiSat-2 will be “capable of running AI apps that can be developed, easily installed, validated and operated on the spacecraft during their flight using a simple user interface.”
For Intel, the potential impact is unquestionable. As Pastena puts it, we can eventually understand “the pulse of our planet.” (Source: Satnews)
28 Oct 20. Starlink Pricing Strategy Announced. Elon Musk’s Starlink service will cost US rural subscribers $99 (84 euros) a month — the beta-test users will also have to pay $499 for the phased-array ground terminal, a tripod stand for the antenna as well as a WiFi router.
This price seems high, but for rural and frequently isolated potential users, it could prove invaluable.
The pricing strategy came in an email from Starlink to potential users that was leaked to business news channel CNBC. Users were warned that there could be brief periods of “no service at all” but generally they’d obtain speeds of between 50 Mb/s-150 Mb/s with latency of 20-40ms.
The email said that service and speed would improve over the next few months as the Starlink fleet expanded. The company stated that by next summer its typical latency would be in the 16-19ms range.
Potential users in Washington state, Wisconsin and Idaho seem to be the focus of the invitation.
While $99 per month might seem expensive when compared with bandwidth from cable and other ISPs in the US, if a client doesn’t have one of those suppliers then the service might be a lifesaver and, to quote SpaceX, “is better than nothing.”
The nearest direct comparison comes from California-based Viasat which offers rural users speeds of up to 50 Mb/s for about $170/month. (Source: Satnews)
27 Oct 20. Thales Alenia Space, LeoStella and NorthStar Earth and Space Join Forces to Monitor and Track Space Debris. Thales Alenia Space signed the first phase of a contract with NorthStar Earth and Space Inc., the Canadian space-based information services company, to start the development and production of the first three smallsat satellites that are part of the world’s first and most advanced commercial space-based environmental and near-space monitoring system.
In November 2018, the Space Alliance, formed by Telespazio the joint venture between Thales (67 percent) and Leonardo (33 percent), and Thales Alenia Space announced to have taken a stake in NorthStar Earth and Space. Today, the industrial journey begins for the Skylark constellation, with Thales Alenia Space being responsible for the space system activities by providing the payloads alongside with LeoStella (a joint venture between BlackSky and Thales Alenia Space) providing the satellite platform and the assembly, integration and test facilities based in Tukwila for final assembly and delivery.
“Through the Space Alliance, Thales Alenia Space is proud to play a key role in the NorthStar’s success. NorthStar’s Skylark space-based system will generate unique and outstanding data to build value added services for Space Situational Awareness. Skylark signifies a first step in providing much needed timely and precise information to the satellite operators”, declared Herve Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space.
The ability to view, understand and map the physical location of natural and man-made objects in orbit around the Earth (currently there are more than 600 thousand objects in low Earth orbit with billions of dollars of space assets at risk from collisions) is now becoming a real concern for all private or governmental satellite owners and operators. Tracking resident space objects from space with optical sensors will enhance and complement existing systems. By observing from multiple perspectives in space, Skylark satellites will significantly improve tracking of objects, the number of detected debris and the ability to predict potential collisions.
“NorthStar welcomes the world class expertise of Thales Alenia Space and LeoStella to our mission of delivering safe spaceflight operations in the New Space Economy. Together we look forward to achieving a future of peaceful and sustainable space for all”, added – Stewart Bain, CEO and co-founder, NorthStar Earth & Space.
The Skylark smallsats will be based on LeoStella’s LEO-100 Multi-Mission Bus and a compact optical instrument.
“The NorthStar space situational awareness constellation brings unique capabilities of free-flying Non-Earth Imaging satellites to the commercial sector. LeoStella is proud to be part of the team and to bring our multi- mission satellite platforms to support this important mission.” concluded Mike Hettich CEO of LeoStella. (Source: Satnews)
28 Oct 20. Second Emirati Satellite Project Initiated. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has announced a new satellite project called the MBZ-SAT, which will become the second Emirati satellite to be fully developed and built by a team of Emirati engineers following the KhalifaSat.
To be developed at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, MBRSC, in Dubai, the MBZ-SAT is expected to be launched in 2023, making it the most advanced commercial satellite in the region in the field of high-resolution satellite imagery.
MBZ-SAT will be equipped with an automated system for arranging images round-the-clock, ensuring that it provides the highest quality standards of satellite images intended for commercial use globally. This project will strengthen the UAE’s partnerships in the space industry between the public and private sectors.
As the fourth Earth Observation (EO) satellite to be developed and launched by MBRSC, the project will strengthen the Center’s efforts to expand its portfolio of imaging technologies and products for government agencies and commercial entities worldwide. MBZ-SAT will contribute to meeting the growing commercial demand for high-resolution satellite images that will show details within an area of less than one square meter, which will be one of the most advanced features ever.
Due to the strategic plan of MBRSC and the approach it has taken over the years to qualify and train Emirati engineers, experts and technicians, a 100 percent Emirati team will work on developing the new satellite at the Center’s laboratories. The Centre will also collaborate with local companies within the space sector, to manufacture and supply the components necessary for the development of MBZ-SAT.
This strategic cooperation will enhance the sustainability of the national space sector in the UAE. After launching the satellite into low earth orbit, the ground station team at MBRSC, will analyze the data received from it, provide recommendations, high-resolution data and images to local and international entities.
The Centre will offer rapid turnaround of captured data, sharing it to users through an advanced system. This imagery solution can support a wide variety of uses within mapping and analysis, environmental monitoring, navigation, infrastructure management and disaster relief efforts, to name a few. The utility of satellite imagery in aiding and tackling natural disasters is in particular very important as they can help gauge the severity of the calamity, help plan relief efforts and aid in rebuilding efforts.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed said, “The space sector is a key strategic sector that we strongly support, due to its role in improving the quality of life for people and providing humanity with innovative solutions for a better future. With the help of our national talent, we can raise the level of our ambitions and continue to support international efforts in the field of space science to serve the interests of both the region and the world. We have selected the name MBZ-SAT for the new satellite, which will be designed and developed by Emirati competencies and bear the initials of my brother Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The name was chosen in honor of the achievements he has contributed to, of which we are proud of among nations. Our goal is to fully benefit from space science and find new opportunities to support the development of our country and the region, and also help societies overcome environmental and developmental challenges so they can prosper and progress.” (Source: Satnews)
29 Oct 20. Gilat Successfully Demos 5G Traffic Over Thaicom’s IPSTAR Satellite. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT) has successfully demonstrated carrying 5G traffic with outstanding performance over Thaicom’s GEO HTS satellite — with this successful demonstration, Gilat’s cellular backhaul solution is declared operational and ready for implementation in the 5G architecture.
Superior user experience was recorded using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS VSAT in the live demonstrations last month with two MNOs over Thaicom’s IPSTAR GEO satellite.
The tests were done with a number of 5G architecture options, including Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA), using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS with adaptation of its patented GTP acceleration, reaching speeds of 400 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload and at times showing results better than the terrestrial connection.
“We are excited with the results of the close work with our partners in demonstrating the extraordinary capabilities of our flagship VSAT, Capricorn PLUS. We believe that these recorded results of 400/100 Mbps to/from the 5G handset are unique in the industry,” said Alik Shimelmits, Chief Technology and Product Officer at Gilat. “This was successfully demonstrated using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS over Thaicom’s GEO satellite and MNOs are invited to go ahead and deploy Gilat’s solution for their 5G services.”
“I am very pleased that Thaicom and Gilat have jointly achieved such a significant milestone, further proving the strategic long-term relationship between the companies,” said Abhay Kumar, Regional Vice President Asia Pacific and Japan for Gilat. “This strong partnership went a long way in allowing us to demonstrate these remarkable 5G capabilities and positions us well to deliver value to MNOs as they embark on their journey to deliver differentiated 5G services to the people around the world.”
“Thaicom has deployed Gilat’s multi-service platform across many MNOs over the years. Gilat has been a very strong partner for Thaicom and we highly value this relationship,” said Nile Suwansiri, CCO Thaicom. “This demonstration of 5G capabilities in Thailand will enable us to deliver very strong services with our HTS IPSTAR satellite to address the MNOs satellite-based 5G requirements.” (Source: Satnews)
26 Oct 20. Single Chip For Satellite Motor Control + Positioning Released By Microchip. The need to reduce size, weight and power (SWaP) on satellites and other space systems continues to challenge the aerospace market. Combining more than 20 commonly used functions into a single chip, Microchip Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: MCHP) has just announced the LX7720 radiation-hardened mixed signal motor controller, the latest addition to its Space System Manager (SSM) product family.
As the industry’s first highly integrated radiation-hardened by design (RHBD) motor control integrated circuit (IC), the LX7720 significantly reduces weight and board space relative to conventional discrete motor control circuits. By reducing the number of components on a system, developers can inspect and test fewer parts, while also minimizing the physical points of potential failure due to a smaller number of connections and solder joints.
The LX7720 controller offers a unique solution for satellite manufacturers sensitive to board area and weight reduction by consolidating essential functions for the motor control and position sensing circuitry required for robotics, multi-axis pointing mechanisms and precise motion control of optical elements. Microchip’s controller combines four half-bridge N-channel Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor (MOSFET) drivers, four floating differential current sensors, a pulse modulated resolver transformer driver, three differential resolver sense inputs, six bi-level logic inputs, power drivers via external Field Effect Transistors (FETs), loop control electronics for voltage or current control, position read-back (resolver, potentiometer, limit switches, etc.), fault detection and more into a single device.
The LX7720 serves as a mixed signal companion IC to the selected digital IC used in the application. Microchip’s Radiation Tolerant (RT) PolarFire® and RTG4™ Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) products and recently announced SAMRH71 radiation hardened microcontroller (MCU) are ideal companion chips, from a single supplier. The LX7720 is MIL-PRF-38535 Class V and Class Q qualified and has already been adopted by customers to enable various motor control applications in space robotics and human-rated space programs. It is the ideal solution for spacecraft applications involving motor driver servo control, linear actuator servo control and for driving stepper, brushless direct current (BLDC) and permanent-magnet synchronous (PMSM) motors.
The LX7720 offers radiation tolerance to 100 krad Total Ionization Dose (TID), 50 krad to Enhanced-Low-Dose-Rate-Sensitivity (ELDRS) exposure and is single event immune.
Microchip offers both hardware and software support. Hardware includes the LX7720 Daughter Board (DB) that interfaces with Microchip’s SAMRH71F20-EK Evaluation Kit. The DB can also connect to Microchip’s RTG4 FPGA Development Kit. These development platforms offer motor control software to allow application specific evaluation with the LX7720-DB.
“As the reduction of weight and board space on satellites continues to challenge the aerospace market, we are pleased to reinforce our commitment to developing innovative solutions with this highly reliable and highly integrated radiation-hardened motor controller,” said Bryan J. Liddiard, VP of Microchip’s mixed signal linear business unit. “The LX7720 enhances our ever-growing space product portfolio as we continue to expand a total system solution for our customers building these sophisticated satellites.” (Source: Satnews)
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