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SATELLITE SYSTEMS, SATCOM AND SPACE SYSTEMS UPDATE

Sponsored By Viasat

www.viasat.com/gov-uk

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03 Dec 20. Viasat’s Small Tactical Terminal Achieves National Security Agency Link 16 Crypto Modernization Certification Ahead of U.S. Government Mandate. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today it has successfully integrated Link 16 Cryptographic Modernization (Crypto Mod) capability into its KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminal (STT), ahead of the U.S. Government mandate, to help ensure warfighters have assured access to mission-critical information when using Link 16 communications—regardless of location (air, land or sea) or platform (aircraft, ground vehicle, ship or dismounted warfighter).

The KOR-24A STT is the world’s only multi-channel radio capable of performing Link 16 communications in a small form factor, and includes interoperable functionality to improve communications between U.S. and international coalition partners’ military agencies requiring critical information from multiple networks.

“By taking a proactive approach, Viasat’s KOR-24A STT successfully achieved Link 16 Crypto Mod requirements ahead of the U.S. government mandate,” said Andy Kessler, vice president and business area director, Next Generation Tactical Data Links business, Viasat. “As the reach, resiliency and relevancy of Link 16 grows, it will be important to expand these capabilities to help U.S. and coalition forces adjust to new mission needs.”

Viasat’s KOR-24A STT is a software-defined radio, which allows advancements like Crypto Mod to be accomplished via a software update without the need to take platforms out of service. The Company currently has over 1,800 STT units in service on a wide variety of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft as well as ground vehicles, expeditionary gateways and maritime vessels across all U.S. military services, special operations forces and five international partners to date.

Introducing: Viasat’s Trade-in/Trade-up Program

To ensure Link 16 users can easily migrate to a crypto modern solution, Viasat is offering a Trade-in/Trade-up program. Through January 1, 2022, military agencies can trade in any manufacturer’s non-crypto modernized Link 16 terminal and receive a discount for the purchase of Viasat’s Crypto Mod-enabled KOR-24A STT. The Trade-in/Trade-up program will help ensure warfighters have assured, uninterrupted access to mission-critical information when using Link 16 communications during any critical mission.

03 Dec 20. This company wants to launch satellites into space via drone.

Could drones hold the answer to putting satellites on orbit faster?

Space logistics company Aevum is betting on it with its new Ravn X drone, which it built in the hopes of launching rockets into orbit every three hours.

“Aevum is completely reimagining access to space,” said Jay Skylus, Aevum’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement unveiling the new launch solution Dec. 3. “U.S. leadership has identified the critical need for extremely fast access to low Earth orbit. We’re faster than anybody.

“Through our autonomous technologies, Aevum will shorten the lead time of launches from years to months, and when our customers demand it, minutes,” he added.

Founded in 2016, the company has been developing its product in stealth mode for years. On Dec. 3, they officially unveiled the new Ravn X autonomous launch solution ? an 80-foot long drone designed to launch small payloads into low Earth orbit.

The company has yet to conduct its first test flight but is working toward airworthiness certification. Leaders hope to launch a payload for the military before the end of 2021.

“We have a small launch vehicle that’s more or less designed from scratch to be reusable and for responsive space access,” Skylus told C4ISRNET in an interview. “We do this by operating this sort of three stage launch vehicle stack. The first stage is an unmanned aircraft that is completely autonomous. The second and third stages are rocket systems.”

Following take off, the drone rises to between 30,000 and 60,000 feet, where the rocket separates and ignites, launching the payload into orbit. Ravn X can take off and land horizontally on any airstrip at least one mile long.

“The entire system is designed for a turnaround time and response time of about 180 minutes,” Skylus explained.

The idea of launching satellites into space from the air isn’t a new concept. For example, Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus rocket ? designed to be launched into orbit from a carrier aircraft ? has been used for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Air Force and NASA missions since the 1990s, with the most recent mission taking place in October 2019. A more recent entrant into the air-launch-to-orbit arena is Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. The company’s first test flight, which failed to reach orbit, was conducted in May 2020.

Aevum thinks of itself as taking the concept one step further by adding autonomy to the launch process.

“This entire process is more or less fully autonomous, and this allows us to basically reduce the cost of labor that’s required by about 90 percent,” said Skylus.

Aevum’s approach also gets at one of the most frustrating issues with launch: weather.

In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the DARPA Launch Challenge, where small launch companies were asked to show that they could put a payload into space within just 30 days. While about 50 companies applied, by 2019 their were only three companies remaining in the competition. By 2020, there was just one: Astra Space. The company came close to achieving its goal, ultimately failing after inclement weather forced them to scrub multiple launch attempts.

Ravn X is largely impervious to those issues.

“Because of the architecture, we’re really not dependent on weather and those types of things. We expect to be available more than 96 percent of the year,” said Skylus.

The company is already drawing attention from the Department of Defense. Ravn X’s first mission will be the ASLON-45 mission for the U.S. Space Force, a $5m contract. With that mission, the focus is on showing how the company can get a payload into orbit in 24 hours or less, said Skylus. That launch is expected to be complete before the end of 2021.

In addition, the company has received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award, a classified contract, and is one of eight company’s to receive a $986m indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for Orbital Services Program-4.

“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging war fighter needs” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, Chief of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division, in a statement coordinated with Aevum’s announcement. “The U.S. Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support U.S. space superiority objectives. Having a robust U.S. industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the U.S. Space Force can respond to future threats.”

The Pentagon has been pushing industry for responsive launch solutions, ensuring that they can place payloads into orbit with little notice. Aevum’s focus on software and automation gives them an edge in meeting those elusive responsive launch requirements, Skylus said.

“The responsive space launch type of problem has been a problem for several decades now, and the government has been seeking a solution to this. While others, our peers, are trying to tackle this from a technology/engineering perspective, Aevum is really tackling the problem from a system level perspective,” said Skylus.

That’s meant taking proven hardware solutions and applying autonomous software solutions to the ground processes and mission assurance elements.

“If you look at our financials and things like that, we really do look more like a software company as opposed to a launch company,” said Skylus. “Which is great, because that means we’re profitable right out of the gate.”

For Aevum, the focus is on being that dependable, responsive launch service, and that may come at a premium for prospective customers, including the Pentagon.

“We’re not looking to be the lowest cost provider. That was never something that we claimed to be,” said Skylus. “Our focus has been: How do we make sure that we can go when our customers need to go?

“Our niche market is going to be composed of customers like the Department of Defense who can’t afford to wait a week to gather intel … Or a customer like a commercial constellation customer who if they’re down for over a week, they’re going to lose more in revenue than they would be willing to pay for a launch,” he continued. “Those are the customers that we’re really targeting.” (Source: Defense News)

02 Dec 20. Gilmour Space announces launch partnership with Momentus. Queensland-based hybrid rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has confirmed a new agreement to provide launch and orbital transport services with US-based Momentus, a commercial space company offering in-space infrastructure services.

Under the agreement, Momentus will gain access to low inclination and equatorial orbits using Gilmour Space’s Eris launch services. With Momentus’ Vigoride transportation service, Gilmour Space will have the capability to expand the flight domain of the Eris rockets (the company has several larger models coming to market beginning in 2023) and enable constellation deployments and missions beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Gilmour Space has the option to book up to three Vigoride charter missions for orbital transfer services from Momentus over the 2023-25 period, while Momentus will purchase one dedicated Eris launch service from an Australian launch site.

“Momentus is proud to announce another partnership with the Australian space industry, shortly after sealing an agreement to launch Skykraft’s satellite in 2021. We are looking forward to supporting ambitious projects in partnership with Gilmour Space, such as flagship missions with the Australian Space Agency and development of sovereign space capabilities with the local industry,” said Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus.

Gilmour Space is a venture-backed rocket company in Queensland that is developing new launch vehicles powered by lower-cost hybrid propulsion technologies. The Eris launch vehicle will debut its services in 2022 and offer lift-off capability to LEO in the 300-kilogram class.

A more capable variant, Eris Heavy, is intended to be commercially available in 2025 with a lift off capacity up to two tons. The Eris family of launch vehicles will launch from Australian and international launch sites, offering access to low inclination as well as Sun-synchronous orbits.

Gilmour Space CEO Adam Gilmour, who is looking to raise a next round of venture capital funding early next year, added, “This is the first international contract we’ve announced this year, and a great example of how innovative companies are coming together to accelerate development and provide new access to space.”

Indeed, the news comes at a time of growing support from the federal government to develop Australia’s sovereign space industry capability in defence and manufacturing.

“With two rockets sold and a number of launches being negotiated now with other customers, I see this as further evidence that we can have a commercial space launch business in Australia,” Gilmour added.

As a first mover in building in-space infrastructure services, Momentus is at the forefront of the commercialisation of space. With an experienced team of aerospace, propulsion, and robotics engineers, Momentus has developed a cost-effective and energy efficient in-space transport system based on water plasma propulsion technology.

Momentus has in-place service agreements with private satellite companies, government agencies, and research organizations, and its first Vigoride transport and service vehicle launch is scheduled for early 2021.

Gilmour Space Technologies is a leading hybrid rocket company that is developing a new breed of lower-cost, reliable and dedicated rockets that will launch small satellites into low earth orbits from 2022. (Source: Defence Connect)

03 Dec 20. Airbus to deliver radar instrument for new Copernicus ROSE-L mission. Airbus has been selected by Thales Alenia Space to build the advanced radar instrument for the ‘Radar Observatory System for Europe in L-band’ (ROSE-L) mission. Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen (Germany) will head an industrial consortium for the radar instrument involving companies from nine countries to deliver the project. The contract, awarded to Airbus by the mission’s Prime contractor Thales Alenia Space, is worth about € 190m.

With launch planned in July 2027, the Copernicus ROSE-L mission will carry an active phased array synthetic aperture radar instrument. From its 690 km polar orbit ROSE-L will provide day-and-night monitoring of land, oceans and ice offering more frequent imaging at high spatial resolution and sensitivity. It will use advanced radar techniques including polarimetry and interferometry to create its data products. The radar antenna will be the largest planar antenna ever built measuring an impressive 11 metres by 3.6 metres; this is roughly the size of 10 ping-pong tables.

During its 7.5 year lifetime, the ROSE-L mission will serve the needs of many users including the European Union’s Copernicus Land Monitoring and Emergency Management services. It will provide important data on soil moisture, precision farming, food security, forest biomass and changes to land use. In addition, the mission will monitor polar ice sheets and ice caps, sea ice extent, and snow cover.

“The selection of Airbus to design this complex radar payload is a tribute to Airbus’ world leadership in space radar technology,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, head of Space Systems at Airbus. “Earth is surely the best and probably the only viable option for mankind. So we need to take good care of it. Our radar will enable the ROSE-L mission to do just that, helping to understand climate change and support sustainable ecological transition. This Copernicus new generation satellite is an enabler for the European Green Deal and Airbus is proud to be playing its part.”

Overall, Airbus is responsible for the spacecraft or payload on 3 of the 6 new generation Copernicus Environment and Earth observation missions: LSTM, CRISTAL and ROSE-L, and is providing critical equipment to all six.

About Copernicus

The Copernicus Sentinels are a fleet of dedicated EU-owned satellites, designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Union’s Copernicus environmental programme. The European Commission leads and coordinates this programme, to improve the management of the environment, safeguarding lives every day. The European Space Agency (ESA) is in charge of the space component, responsible for developing the family of Copernicus Sentinel satellites on behalf of the European Union and ensuring the flow of data for the Copernicus services, while the operations of the Copernicus Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. Airbus is a key industrial contributor on board all Copernicus missions – past and present – developing and manufacturing satellites, instruments and components as well as providing related services.

03 Dec 20. Space debris: tackling threats to navigation in low Earth orbit. The risk of space debris colliding with a spacecraft increases with every artefact launched into low Earth orbit. Berenice Healey finds out how the UK Space Agency and Ministry of Defence are collaborating with industry on monitoring hazards in space.

In September, the International Space Station (ISS) fired 75 thrusters at great fuel expense to avoid a piece of space debris, the 26th time it had to do so in its 20-year habitable history. And in October, two large pieces of debris travelling at a relative speed of 14.66km/s (32,800mph) narrowly avoided each other – a collision would have resulted in a catastrophic shower of debris.

The low earth orbit (LEO) in which the ISS and most military and civilian satellites reside is becoming increasingly crowded, and megaconstellation projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink are adding tens of thousands more new items every year. These join the 160 million objects already in orbit, most of which are debris, each increasing the risk of collision and loss of an essential service.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced an agreement on 16 September to collaborate on monitoring threats and hazards in space, and an award of £7m to UK companies working on projects to monitor space objects. This move recognises the fact that military and civilian interests are best served by both parties contributing to the detection and classification of space debris.

“Space is an increasingly important domain and it is vital that we collaborate with the UK Space Agency to safeguard our national security and prosperity,” an MOD spokesperson explains.“This partnership agreement will enhance space situational awareness, threat evaluations, regulation and licensing while protecting the safety and security of civil, military and commercial spacecraft.”

UKSA keeps an eye on space

UKSA head of space surveillance and tracking Jake Geer says that while space junk has been a growing problem for years, increasing reliance on satellites and the data they transmit is why people are now waking up to the hazards space debris causes.

“If you think about using a map app on your phone, or making an international phone call, or even stuff like using a cash point, all of that requires satellite data,” Geer says. “If a satellite gets hit in space by another satellite, you’re going to risk losing that data, and that can really affect how we live our everyday life.”

The project focuses on ground and space-based sensors that can examine low earth orbit, which UKSA defines as between 400km and 1,000km above the Earth.

“We’re looking at new sensors to monitor that particular environment because it’s where the UK has a lot of our investments and interests and because there are now new ways come to the market of using sensors. So typically, [using] telescopes or radars or even lasers to discover how far something is from the Earth,” says Geer.

“There are new developments in those fields, which enable new low-cost sensors to come forward. Rather than building a billion-pound radar somewhere in the Pacific, like the US military has done, there’s a lot cheaper way of doing just the space debris tracking job that we can use to support UK industry.

“It’s also a way of making sure that we have more accurate and timely data. The key thing to avoiding a collision is knowing about it ahead of time and having enough confidence in the accuracy of your data to say if I move a few hundred metres, that’s all I need to do. Because every time you do a manoeuvre in space, you waste very precious fuel, and it costs a lot of money to put a satellite up in space.”

Projects led by Lumi Space, Deimos, Lift Me Off, D-Orbit, Fujitsu, Northern Space and Security and Andor have all won funding for their space monitoring projects. Applying artificial intelligence (AI) to monitoring data is a thread running through many of them.

“Space is a data-rich environment,” Geer explains. “There are lots of different people looking at space in a variety of different ways and there are a lot of ways you can find out where space debris is and where it’s going. Trying to pull out all the information from that data and sorting the signal from the noise is very challenging sometimes, so you project AI and machine learning to help improve how we process the current data we’ve got.”

NORSS: a global, low-cost approach

Northern Space and Security is applying industrial research to rapidly design and deploy an extremely low-cost ground-based system using a commercially proven off-the-shelf camera system combined with a back-end processor running bespoke software.

Executive director Ralph “Dinz” Dinsley says: “At specific times of the night – usually twilight’s the best time – the camera will take pictures of the night sky and from those, we will be able to develop a light-curve frame to monitor the movement of satellites as they go through the field of view of the camera.”

The tracker information develops that into what is known as an initial orbital determination to predict the next time it will come through the field of view. That information is added to the current database of objects in space.

“It uses optical technology, rather than the more traditional radarspecifically focused at low Earth orbit. Most optical systems are focused on higher orbit–MEO [medium Earth orbit] and GEO [geostationary orbit]– because that’s what they’re better suited for,” says Dinsley.

While optical technology is cost effective, it depends on clear skies at the right time of day. Dinsley explains: “The idea is to prove the capability then deploy the system globally, and that way rather than just waiting for twilight conditions to take pictures, you’re able to catch twilight around the world and build up a more comprehensive pattern of these objects in low earth orbit.”

Lift Me Off: observation over probability

While most of the projects in this venture capture data from ground observation, Lift Me Off will develop algorithms for in-orbit detection and classification of satellites and space debris.

CEO Michel Poucet says: “Currently, monitoring of assets in space is done from the ground. We identify roughly where the objects are in orbit and then use probabilistic models used to say there’s a one out of 1,000 chance that these satellites will collide this moment, let us do a collision-avoidance movement.

“The way we’re looking into this is integrating sensors in space onboard a spacecraft with our algorithm so that when you’re looking around you can see an object at a distance of 50km. You can understand if that object should be there, based on the orbital position of satellites, and if it’s behaving as it should be.”

If the software flags that a satellite is not in the right position, not behaving as it should be, or looks wrong – broken or missing a solar panel, for example – the operators can flag it and trigger evasion manoeuvres if necessary.

“It makes detection more accurate because it’s not a probability; we see where it is and we know we have to get out of way,” says Poucet.

D-Orbit: tracking debris from orbit

Lift Me Off is partnering with D-Orbit, which is using its funding to develop a capability to carry out routine, targeted space-based LEO space surveillance and tracking (SST) using its recently launched In Orbit Now (ION) satellite carrier vessel.

D-Orbit chief operating officer Simon Reid says that while space object tracking is normally done from the ground, atmospheric effects and distance limit the precision and accuracy of the readings.

“Until now, spacecraft missions to track debris on orbit have not been considered cost effective, something that may change with our proposal to extend the scope of existing ION Satellite Carrier missions in this direction,” he says. “Measurements from space can add significant value by spotting smaller objects, capturing larger objects from different angles, and helping to characterise the objects that present the most direct threat to another live spacecraft.”

ION uses a proprietary multi-purpose sensor called D-Sense which contains a camera. Eight of these are strategically placed on the spacecraft body to enable scanning of the surrounding environment. Unlike traditional star trackers, which are self-contained black box type units, D-Orbit plans to modify the software to process the images on board and capture pictures of nearby space objects.

Reid adds that, to date, most space domain awareness data for low Earth orbit has been collected by the military as a by-product of missile detection, but it is now essential to collect more and better data as the orbital environment becomes more polluted with debris.

“One curious phenomenon of debris tracking, compared to other military activities, is its transparency,” he says. “The US, the most active actor in space debris tracking, regularly notifies both allies and adversary countries about conjunctions because the effect of a collision, even one that destroys an enemy spacecraft, is global and can ultimately affect the activities of domestic satellites.

“For this reason, we believe that the more information is collected and shared in a civil context, the safer space will become for everyone. As an innovative New Space [a term for the commercialised space sector] organisation, we at D-Orbit are able to make in-orbit SST data collection very cost effective for the first time.”

Deimos: scanning the sky from the UK

Deimos’s project focuses on the design, prototyping and demonstration of a low-cost LEO optical surveillance sensorthat can effectively image the entire sky from the UK. This requires a wide field of view but must be accurate enough and have sufficient resolution to see things in low Earth orbit.

“Things move really fast in low earth orbit; they’re going seven kilometres per second,” says Deimos head of space safety Emma Kerr. “To get a picture of an object in the first place, you have to have a very short exposure time. In order to do that, we’ve come up with this concept of instead of having one telescope that tries to image the entire sky, let’s have an array of telescopes that have overlapping fields of view. That we can essentially stitch together all of the images in order to image the whole sky. And so we’re looking at anywhere between five and 40 telescopes, depending on the performance that we get.”

The team will combine a charged couple device camera and a lens into a telescope. Through experimentation, they will weigh up balancing a tight field of view with a strong lens, which requires more telescopes in total and drives the cost up, with a lower-cost wider field of view with a weaker lens. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

03 Dec 20. GPS III SV04 Receives Operational Acceptance . Global Positioning System III Space Vehicle (SV) 04 received United States Space Force’s Operational Acceptance approval on Dec. 1- marking yet another significant milestone for the GPS III program, Space and Missile Systems Center and USSF. It is the fourth GPS III satellite delivered into the operational constellation in the past 12 months and the second in the past three months. Additionally, this is the first GPS III vehicle delivered to the warfighter through an expedited satellite control authority transfer process, which cuts ten days off the previous operational acceptance timeline.

“With the onset of SV04, the GPS constellation continues moving forward in next generation modernization. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron is one step closer to providing Military Code (M-Code) capability for the entire 24 satellite baseline. The highly encrypted M-Code to protect GPS signals from jamming and spoofing is currently enabled on 22 GPS satellites of various generations; 24 are needed to bring the M-Code to the next level of operational capability,” said Capt. Collin Dart, the 2 SOPS DOA Flight commander. “SV04 brings the constellation to 23 M-Code capable vehicles. SV05 will launch no earlier than July 2021. This will add the 24th M-Code capable vehicle. SV04 also sets a new standard for handover from the contractor launch team to operational acceptance, setting the satellite healthy to the global user community approximately 30 days post launch. Moving forward with future GPS III launches, the timeline between launch and the satellite being set healthy will be at a minimum.”

SV04 was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicle on Nov. 5. The Air Force has been flying 31 operational satellites for years in order to ensure the United States’ commitment to have 24 operational GPS satellites available 95% of the time. GPS III SV04 joins this operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites orbiting in medium-Earth orbit. This system delivers improved accuracy, advanced anti-jam capabilities and increased resiliency for the GPS III constellation.

“The operational acceptance of GPS III SV04 is another significant milestone for GPS Modernization, delivering critical new capabilities to our Military and Civil Users. We now have a total of 23 M-Code spacecraft for our Warfighters. For our billions of civil users, it brings the count up to 23 L2C spacecraft and 16 L5 spacecraft,” said Col. Ryan Colburn, director of the SMC Portfolio Architect Office’s Spectrum Warfare Division. “For professional users with existing dual-frequency operations, L2C enables faster signal acquisition, enhanced reliability, and greater operating range. L5 is broadcast in a radio band reserved exclusively for aviation safety services. It features higher power, greater bandwidth, and an advanced signal design. Future aircraft will use L5 in combination with L1 C/A to improve accuracy (via ionospheric correction) and robustness (via signal redundancy). The operational acceptance of this spacecraft is another display of the fantastic teamwork across SMC’s Corps, Space Delta 8, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, our industry partners and many others who work together to make these missions possible.”

GPS satellites provide position, navigation, and timing to more than four billion military and civilian users worldwide. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

03 Dec 20. Bezos’ Blue Origin taps former Pentagon, NASA officials for new advisory board. Blue Origin said on Tuesday it formed a new advisory board of former Pentagon and NASA officials, as billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space company vies for lucrative government contracts and readies its first orbital rocket for debut next year.

The seven-person board will “provide strategic counsel on the company’s mission to radically reduce the cost of access to space and the utilization of in-space resources,” the Kent, Washington-based company said in a press release.

Members include former Air Force secretary Heather Wilson, former Air Force chief scientist Dan Hastings, and former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Kari Bingen, who held the second-highest ranking civilian intelligence job at the Pentagon beginning in 2017.

Blue Origin, founded in 2000 by Bezos, Amazon.com Inc’s chief executive, has launched and landed its suborbital rocket New Shepard more than a dozen times, and aims to complete development of its much bigger workhorse orbital rocket, New Glenn, by next year.

Bezos aims to provide government and private customers low-cost access to space, though he trails rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Blue has vied for lucrative government contracts in recent years and is competing with SpaceX and Leidos-owned Dynetics to win a contract to build NASA’s next human lunar landing system to ferry humans to the moon in the next decade.

The board also includes former directors of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, the management center for NASA’s crewed lunar lander program.

Blue Origin has received $220m of a $500m development award from the Air Force in 2018 to help mature New Glenn for military launches, but later lost to SpaceX and Boeing-Lockheed venture United Launch Alliance for a subsequent multi-billion dollar Air Force contract to launch military payloads to space for the next five years. (Source: Reuters)

02 Dec 20. Kleos has entered into a collaboration agreement with the Fuerza Aérea de Chile (Chilean Air Force) on the analysis of geospatial information data from the Company.

The Chilean Air Force will test and evaluate the Kleos geospatial RF data collected by Kleos’ first cluster of satellites (KSM1) for a 3-month period, after which continuation will be subject to normal licencing costs.

The evaluation period will facilitate research on Kleos radio frequency spatial geolocation data and methods of collaboration to develop an added value proposition for current and future opportunities.

The data will be delivered by Kleos to the Space Operations Group of the Chilean Air Force (GOE), which will be in charge of processing the information gathered in order that the data is applied to decision-making in different geospatial areas.

Pierre Duquesne, Kleos Business Development Manager for South, Central and Latin America said, “We are honoured to be working with the Chilean Air Force to assist in the fight against unlawful maritime activity such as smuggling and illegal fishing in Chilean waters with Kleos data.”

The orbits of Kleos’ first two clusters will provide strategic coverage of the whole region over and around Chile, as part of their global coverage.

Kleos’ satellites will detect and geolocate maritime radio frequency transmissions to provide global activity-based intelligence, enhancing the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of governments and commercial entities when Automatic Identification System (AIS) is defeated, imagery unclear or targets out of patrol range.

02 Dec 20. Parliament launches inquiry into space industry development.

A House of Representatives standing committee has commenced an inquiry into the development of Australia’s space industry.

The House standing committee on industry, innovation, science and resources has announced the launch of an inquiry into developing Australia’s space industry, chaired by former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

Joyce said the committee would draw from industry feedback to explore ways in which policy could facilitate the growth of the sector.

“The Australian Space Agency has a goal to triple the size of the sector to $12bn and create an additional 20,000 jobs over the next decade,” he noted.

“This inquiry will examine ways to achieve this.”

Specifically, the inquiry aims to identify solutions required to strengthen support of domestic and international space related activities, which include:

* Development of space satellites, technology and equipment;

* International collaboration, engagement and missions;

* Commercialisation of research and development, including flow on benefits to other industry sectors;

* Future research capacity, workforce development and creation; and

* Other related matters.

Joyce stressed that the activities of the space industry extend beyond “rockets and astronauts”, pointing to its broader contribution to the development of technology and equipment used in everyday life.

“There are enormous opportunities for individuals, organisations and communities to take advantage of this growing sector, particularly in rural and regional areas,” Joyce said.

The committee has invited stakeholders to participate, with submissions open until Friday, 29 January 2021. (Source: Space Connect)

02 Dec 20. Gilmour Space announces launch partnership with Momentus. Queensland-based hybrid rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has confirmed a new agreement to provide launch and orbital transport services with US-based Momentus, a commercial space company offering in-space infrastructure services.

Under the agreement, Momentus will gain access to low inclination and equatorial orbits using Gilmour Space’s Eris launch services. With Momentus’ Vigoride transportation service, Gilmour Space will have the capability to expand the flight domain of the Eris rockets (the company has several larger models coming to market beginning in 2023) and enable constellation deployments and missions beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Gilmour Space has the option to book up to three Vigoride charter missions for orbital transfer services from Momentus over the 2023-25 period, while Momentus will purchase one dedicated Eris launch service from an Australian launch site.

“Momentus is proud to announce another partnership with the Australian space industry, shortly after sealing an agreement to launch Skykraft’s satellite in 2021. We are looking forward to supporting ambitious projects in partnership with Gilmour Space, such as flagship missions with the Australian Space Agency and development of sovereign space capabilities with the local industry,” said Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus.

Gilmour Space is a venture-backed rocket company in Queensland that is developing new launch vehicles powered by lower-cost hybrid propulsion technologies. The Eris launch vehicle will debut its services in 2022 and offer lift-off capability to LEO in the 300-kilogram class.

A more capable variant, Eris Heavy, is intended to be commercially available in 2025 with a lift off capacity up to two tons. The Eris family of launch vehicles will launch from Australian and international launch sites, offering access to low inclination as well as Sun-synchronous orbits.

Gilmour Space CEO Adam Gilmour, who is looking to raise a next round of venture capital funding early next year, added, “This is the first international contract we’ve announced this year, and a great example of how innovative companies are coming together to accelerate development and provide new access to space.”

Indeed, the news comes at a time of growing support from the federal government to develop Australia’s sovereign space industry capability in defence and manufacturing.

“With two rockets sold and a number of launches being negotiated now with other customers, I see this as further evidence that we can have a commercial space launch business in Australia,” Gilmour added.

As a first mover in building in-space infrastructure services, Momentus is at the forefront of the commercialisation of space. With an experienced team of aerospace, propulsion, and robotics engineers, Momentus has developed a cost-effective and energy efficient in-space transport system based on water plasma propulsion technology.

Momentus has in-place service agreements with private satellite companies, government agencies, and research organizations, and its first Vigoride transport and service vehicle launch is scheduled for early 2021. Gilmour Space Technologies is a leading hybrid rocket company that is developing a new breed of lower-cost, reliable and dedicated rockets that will launch small satellites into low earth orbits from 2022. (Source: Space Connect)

02 Dec 20. Launch success for UAE’s FalconEye satellite. FalconEye will offer unprecedented Earth observation capability to UAE Government and economy. The Earth observation satellite FalconEye was successfully launched last night from the European Spaceport (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana by an Arianespace Soyuz rocket.

Owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates, FalconEye was developed by Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space as co-prime contractors.

The FalconEye system will support the needs of the UAE’s Armed Forces. The satellite weighed 1190 kg at launch and will be raised to a helio-synchronous orbit of 611 km. Airbus Defence and Space was in charge of the satellite design, integration and test, and supplied the platform. Thales Alenia Space designed and supplied the optical instrument and the image processing chain.

“FalconEye will offer top quality Earth observation, providing our customer with the best of what space imagery can offer. The high-performance optical satellite system represents an important step in the cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and France,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. “Thanks to the trust of our Emirati customer and the support of the French government, we have been able to deliver a great team effort between Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.”

Most Advanced SBIRS Missile Warning Satellite Ready For 2021 Launch

SBIRS GEO-5 is First Military Satellite Using New LM 2100 Bus to Drive Resiliency, Efficiency and Record Production Speed

02 Dec 20. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) today announced the U.S. Space Force has determined the fifth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO-5) is complete and ready for launch in 2021. Built in a record time and at no additional cost to the government for the upgrade, SBIRS GEO-5 is the first military space satellite built on the company’s modernized, modular LM 2100™ combat bus. SBIRS GEO-6, launching in 2022, is also being built on the new bus designed for speed and resilience.

“SBIRS’ role as an ever-present, on-orbit guardian against global ballistic missile threats has never been more critical,” said Tom McCormick, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Systems. “In 2019 alone, SBIRS detected nearly one thousand missile launches, which is about a two-fold increase in two years.”

“Completing the production of a complex missile-warning satellite during the challenging COVID environment is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to Lockheed Martin’s professionalism and dedication to the security of our Nation,” said Capt. Alec Cook, Space and Missile Systems Center’s SBIRS GEO-5/6 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations lead.

Both SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 are slated to join the U.S. Space Force’s constellation of missile warning satellites, equipped with powerful scanning and staring infrared surveillance sensors, which protect our nation 24-7. These sensors collect data that allow the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering and bolster situational awareness on the battlefield.

SBIRS GEO-5 was officially completed on Oct. 29, 2020.

LM 2100 Bus: Focuses on Speed and Resiliency

The LM 2100 bus is the result of a Lockheed Martin internally-funded, multi-year modernization initiative. It is designed to provide greater resiliency and cyber-hardening; enhanced spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics; common components and procedures to streamline manufacturing; and a flexible design that reduces the cost to incorporate future, modernized sensor suites.

“We added even further enhanced resiliency features to the LM 2100 to create an initial ‘combat bus’ for the Space Force. SBIRS GEO-5 has proven itself a valuable incremental step towards achieving the resilient missile warning that will be provided by the Next Gen OPIR Block 0 System, the follow-on to SBIRS,” added McCormick.

In June 2015, the Air Force agreed to rebaseline SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6 to upgrade both satellites to Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM 2100 bus at no additional cost. From that point, SBIRS GEO-5 was completed in approximately five years, in line with the government’s need to increase production speed and address emerging threats, and still supporting the government’s original 2021 launch date.

Besides SBIRS GEO-5 and GEO-6, the LM 2100 space vehicle is the baseline for three Next Gen OPIR Block 0 GEO satellites expecting to launch starting in 2025; and the future GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites, which are expected to launch starting in 2026.

Lockheed Martin is proud to be part of the SBIRS team led by the Production Corps, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Azusa, California, as the payload integrator.

01 Dec 20. Virgin Galactic reschedules test flight window to start December 11. Space tourism company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said on Tuesday it had set a new test-flight window opening on Dec. 11, after pausing preparations last month due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by New Mexico.

The Richard Branson-founded company said the rocket-powered test flight would also carry payloads for NASA as part of a contract announced on Monday.

The flight will test elements of the spacecraft’s customer cabin, stabilizers and flight controls during boost.

Virgin Galactic is aiming to obtain a commercial operating license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration after conducting a certain number of test flights.

The test flight, initially planned from its New Mexico spaceport between Nov. 19-23, was put on hold after the state enacted a stay-at-home order through Nov. 30 amid surging coronavirus cases.

The December flight, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness, will be conducted by essential personnel only, with no guests or media onsite, Virgin Galactic said. (Source: Reuters)

30 Nov 20. Cross-agency plans for space cybersecurity will strengthen the US in all domains. In early September, the White House issued a memo outlining the critical need to address the cybersecurity of U.S. space assets, a move aimed at safeguarding the systems that facilitate essential global communications and operations. Since then, agencies across the federal government have launched their own efforts to align with the White House strategy and integrate space cybersecurity into existing and emerging frameworks and systems.

The push for cybersecurity in space coincides with the one-year anniversary of U.S. Space Command’s resurrection — and illustrates how the term “space race” is taking on new magnitude. It’s evident in the establishment of U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces; in the buildout of U.S. space leadership, capabilities and functional structure; and in the partnership between government and industry that is accelerating the development and deployment of space capabilities.

Nonetheless, as the United States — including our military, civilian agencies and commercial industry — expands its presence and operations in space, it’s crucial that all stakeholders work collaboratively to assure cybersecurity in this rapid evolution. Just as cybersecurity has become an integrated element of terrestrial goods and services, the same level of resiliency and safeguards must apply in space. This is perhaps especially true for the systems enabling satellite communications.

“Space is becoming congested and contested, and that contested aspect means that we’ve got to focus on cybersecurity in the same way that the banking industry and cyber commerce focus on cybersecurity day in and day out,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said in October at the California Polytechnic State University’s Space and Cybersecurity Symposium. “It’s a journey, not a destination: That’s cybersecurity. And it’s a constant battle rhythm throughout a weapons system’s life cycle, not just a single event.”

While integrating cybersecurity into space-based systems — from those already in operation to those yet to be built — will be an ongoing exercise, the White House memo outlines key principles to guide the process. For example, the memo recommends that space systems operators should develop or integrate capabilities to protect against unauthorized access; reduce vulnerabilities of command, control and telemetry systems; protect against communications jamming and spoofing; protect ground systems from cyberthreats; promote adoption of appropriate cybersecurity hygiene practices; and manage supply chain risks.

Many of those capabilities will rely on access to fortified, low-latency, high-bandwidth satellite communications. The ability to rapidly disseminate secure data is a boon for SATCOM-based situational awareness and operational precision — and will only become more so amid growing competition. The emerging, next-generation SATCOM technologies of today and tomorrow will catalyze fast-paced interoperability, fortified resilience and seamless connectivity as traditional infrastructures and barriers become obsolete.

At the Department of Defense, early steps toward implementation are underway. Top officials are looking to established strategies to help inform and fast-track their approaches, such as the evolving National Cyber Strategy and the recently finalized zero-trust framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

For the Space Force, its cybersecurity doctrine will likely be underpinned by the formalized Enterprise SATCOM Vision released in February, which emphasizes adaptable, interoperable SATCOM.

“Despite the global, instantaneous reach of our satellite communications systems, which includes both military and commercial capabilities, the current loose federation of SATCOM systems needs to improve in resiliency, robustness, flexibility and manageability,” Maj. Gen. Bill Liquori, now Space Force deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements and analysis, said in a statement in February.

As DoD leaders plan the tactical deployment of military cybersecurity in space, most are focusing on Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or CJADC2. The concept links operations across the war-fighting domains — and will rely heavily on resilient, next-gen SATCOM to meet the high expectations around CJADC2?s adoption and execution.

Those expectations perhaps reflect a broader, growing recognition of the criticality of cybersecurity in space, as evidenced by a flurry of discussion and policymaking at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA and other agencies. At the DoD, it’s a well-known fact, as it is in the industry supporting the evolution of SATCOM and space-based cybersecurity.

With space being the newest war-fighting domain, there remain many unknowns. Because of that and a host of other reasons, it’s arguably more challenging to implement cybersecurity in space than in other well-established domains. Delivering on the promise of CJADC2 will require a paradigm shift that harnesses information sharing in space to advance integrated operations, mission assurance and precise decision-making.

Much of that shift hinges on resilient networks and infrastructure that are as interoperable as they are flexible and secure. Space engagements today and in the future must be underpinned by high-powered computing and communications capabilities that serve as force multipliers. By providing space operators with cutting-edge technologies incubated in an ecosystem of innovation, industry can help the U.S. extend its competitive advantage well into the sixth domain — including by helping to ensure its cybersecurity.

Pete Dowdy is the chief information security officer at Envistacom, where he oversees information security as well as compliance and risk management related to IT and cybersecurity. He retired from the U.S. Navy as a chief warrant officer.  (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

30 Nov 20. Could an on-orbit gas station extend the lives of military satellites? An on-orbit gas station could be the latest addition to the growing portfolio of satellite life-extension services, with the first so-called gas station in space anticipated to be launched by Orbit Fab in June 2021.

“In-orbit servicing companies are rapidly proliferating with a five-fold increase since we founded Orbit Fab in 2018,” CEO Daniel Faber said in a statement. “Our gas stations in space are an essential resource to fuel this industry and support the infrastructure in space that enables projected commerce, exploration and national security.”

Launched in 2018, the San Francisco, California-based Orbit Fab announced Nov. 18 it signed a deal with Spaceflight Inc. to launch its first operational fuel depot into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9. Once on orbit, Tanker 001 Tenzing will be a potential source of fuel for compatible space vehicles with depleted fuel stores.

Space vehicles can connect with the fuel depot through the Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, a technology for transferring liquids that has been adopted by a number of companies. Orbit Fab first tested its RAFTI on orbit in a private water transfer to the International Space Station.

The space-based fuel depot has already drawn interest from the U.S. military, which is interested in finding new ways to extend its satellites’ lives with supplemental fuel. Earlier this year the company was awarded a $3m contract by the U.S. Air Force to fully flight-qualify the RAFTI valve.

If successful, the fuel depot will add to the growing portfolio of satellite life-extension services offered to the government by industry.

Most notably, SpaceLogistics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, is working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build a mission-extension vehicle with a robotic arm that can service on-orbit satellites. The company is already using its first mission extension vehicle to extend the life of a commercial communications satellite, supplementing the customer satellite’s depleted fuel reserves with its own. Astroscale — known primarily as an orbital debris removal company — is developing a similar life-extension service.

In the future, Orbit Fab sees its fuel depot working as a refueling station for similar mission-extension vehicles.

“Orbit Fab’s RAFTI supports the Air Force and Space Force need for space combat logistics capabilities (On-Orbit Servicing), which enables space domain awareness,” said Orbit Fab’s chief development officer, Jeremy Schiel. “Refueling is a requirement in the emerging Space Force architecture and for good reason. You don’t want to run out of fuel in the middle of a confrontation.” (Source: Defense News)

30 Nov 20. Japan launches first optical data-relay satellite. Japan has launched an H-2A (also spelled H-IIA) rocket carrying its first optical data-relay satellite designed to transmit data collected by reconnaissance satellites already in orbit. The rocket, which was made by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, lifted off into space on 29 November from JAXA’s launch site at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Japanese government is expected to use this satellite, which carries an optical communication payload, to transmit to Earth high-speed data and images, as well as other data – including on disaster-hit areas and developments at North Korean missile launch facilities – for use by Japan’s Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshinobu Suga said on 29 November that his government plans to make maximum use of the satellites, including the recently launched one, to take all possible measures to enhance the country’s security and crisis management.

The satellite, which will be in geostationary orbit about 36,000 km above the equator, can transmit data for nine hours per day on average, or nine times more than the previous model, according to a report by Japanese broadcaster NHK. The move marked the 37th consecutive successful launch of the H-2A rocket since February 2005. (Source: Jane’s)

30 Nov 20. CGI develops 5G Hub for European Space Agency. CGI (NYSE: GIB) (TSX: GIB.A) has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop an innovative 5G facility at the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.

This 5G Hub will enable the development and acceleration of potential use cases and demonstrate the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks.  CGI will develop initial demonstrations to showcase the potential of 5G in enabling smart cities, the Internet of Things, and augmented reality. The 5G Hub will provide an engineering facility for researchers and companies to experiment with hybrid satellite/terrestrial capability using a 5G radio network backhauled to ESA’s 5G core over European geostationary satellites. CGI will develop management and orchestration software to enable satellite networks, including Low Earth Orbit networks, to be seamlessly integrated into terrestrial public and private communications networks, creating new business opportunities for application developers, network operators, and equipment providers.

The ECSAT 5G Hub builds on CGI’s own 5G Accelerator Lab which is used to explore and demonstrate the advantages of integrated satellite and terrestrial systems using over-the-air tests.  In developing its own facility, CGI has built a unique vendor-agnostic approach which will enable CGI to integrate hybrid satellite and 5G communications into its capabilities as a global systems integrator.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “This year staying connected has taken on a new profound importance – from keeping in touch with loved ones and competing in Zoom quizzes to helping us tackle COVID-19.  This new state-of-the-art facility backed by government funding will enable our brightest researchers and engineers to better understand how 5G can help connect us all, creating new business opportunities, while delivering green efficiencies across the UK.”

Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at ESA, said: “ESA’s novel 5G Hub will showcase how space technology enables connectivity, partnering with industry to foster innovation in the realms of autonomous vehicles and smart cities, and to enable machines to exchange information with one another via the internet of things. Adding satellites to existing terrestrial 5G infrastructure is essential to ensure a reliable and safe telecommunications network that supports such connectivity, which in turn promotes a seamless and more environmentally friendly experience. Investing in space improves life on Earth.”

Shaun Stretton, Senior Vice President for UK & Australia Space Control and Information Solutions at CGI, said: “This exciting facility will bring closer the potential benefits of satellite integration into 5G networks.  Through our work with the European Space Agency and industry partners, including the development of our Carnot-Sat hybrid network planning tool, it became apparent that the ability to demonstrate the benefits of integrated 5G and satellite communications networks would help to accelerate the delivery of 5G in the UK and across Europe. CGI invested in our own innovative 5G Accelerator lab which is being used as a model for the 5G Hub at ECSAT.”

As part of the development CGI is also working with BT, Avanti Communications and the University of Surrey to explore the requirements and set-up of an optimised Mobile Network Operator-focused value chain for 5G and satcoms capability.  The project will explore ways that the satellite value chain can be better optimised for MNOs so that benefits, such as deep rural connectivity, can be delivered to the end-users in an affordable way.

CGI has been delivering complex, mission-critical space software systems for clients across Europe, Asia and North America supporting satellite navigation, communications and operations, to space enabled applications for over 40 years.

22 Nov 20. Sentinel-6 Soars Spacewards Via SpaceX Send-Off. At 18:17 (09:17 US Pacific time) on November 21, 2020, the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-monitoring satellite was successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

The mission will continue the unbroken, almost three-decades-long, high-precision measurements of Earth’s oceans from space which provide crucial information about sea level rise and are critical inputs for weather forecasting.

The satellite is named after the late Dr. Michael Freilich, who was Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division and a champion of science and international cooperation.

EUMETSAT will take over operations of the spacecraft in three days’ time and will be responsible for routine operations and processing and disseminating its altimetry data.

EUMETSAT operates the geostationary satellites Meteosat -9, -10 and -11 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-8 over the Indian Ocean.

EUMETSAT operates three Metop polar-orbiting satellites as part of the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS) shared with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The organization is also a partner in the cooperative, sea level monitoring Jason missions (Jason-3 and Jason-CS/Sentinel-6) involving Europe and the United States.

The data and products from EUMETSAT’s satellites are vital to weather forecasting and make a significant contribution to the monitoring of environment and climate change.

The European Commission’s Director-General for Defence Industry and Space, Mr. Timo Pesonen, said, “We are very pleased to welcome this newcomer to the EU’s fleet of Copernicus Sentinel satellites. Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will enable delivery of enhanced products and information concerning the oceans and the atmosphere to improve the daily lives of our citizens. The arrival of this satellite is another success for Copernicus, for Europe, for all mission partners and worldwide.”

Alain Ratier

EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier said, “With this launch, EUMETSAT will continue its contribution to high-precision ocean altimetry missions, which started with Jason-2. Our responsibility has increased with the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission, as we developed the ground segment and will perform flight operations. The EUMETSAT teams are ready to take over control of the spacecraft from ESA, three days after launch, and to start processing the first data. Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich data will expand the unique record of mean sea level, whilst improving it and providing measurements closer to the coastline and of unprecedented accuracy. . The data will improve forecasts of high-impact weather and climate features that are strongly influenced by the ocean, like heat waves, tropical cyclones and unusually warm or cold summers and winters.” Ratier added that the mission continues the exemplary cooperation between the US and Europe that began with the launch of TOPEX-Poseidon in 1992.

Dr. Steve Volz

Dr. Steve Volz, Assistant Administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Satellite and Information Service, added, “NOAA will use Sentinel-6 data in many ways, including using sea levels to estimate the heat stored in the upper layer of the ocean, which will help improve hurricane intensity forecasts.“

Thomas Zurbuchen

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, said Dr ,Freilich helped ensure NASA was a steadfast partner with scientists and space agencies worldwide. “His love of oceanography and Earth science helped us improve the understanding of our beautiful planet. This satellite, so graciously named for him by our European partners, will carry out the critical work Mike so believed in – adding to a legacy of crucial data about our oceans and paying it forward for the benefit of future generations.”

Josef Aschbacher

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, noted, “I’m extremely proud to have seen Copernicus Sentinel-6 lift off this evening and know that it’s well on its way to starting its mission of continuing the measurements of sea-level that are so needed to understand and monitor the worrying trend of rising seas. I would not only like to thank the ESA teams that have worked so hard to get to this point, but also the European Commission, EUMETSAT, NASA, NOAA and CNES, and, of course, we very much look forward to further fruitful cooperation between our respective organizations.”

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation based in Darmstadt, Germany, currently with 30 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

The European Union has entrusted EUMETSAT with exploiting the four Sentinel missions of the Copernicus space component dedicated to the monitoring of atmosphere, ocean and climate on its behalf. EUMETSAT carries out these tasks in cooperation with ESA and already exploits the Sentinel-3 marine mission.

EUMETSAT has established cooperation with operators of Earth Observation satellites from Europe and China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. (Source: Satnews)

24 Nov 20. Rocket Lab To Shoot Synspective’s StriX-a Smallsat To Orbit. Rocket Lab has announced Japanese Earth-imaging company Synspective as the customer for Rocket Lab’s 17th Electron launch and the company’s seventh mission of the year.

The Rocket Lab Electron rocket liftoff with their most recent mission, “Return to Sender.”

The dedicated mission for Synspective is scheduled for lift-off during a 14-day launch window opening on December 12 UTC and will launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s M?hia Peninsula to a targeted 500 km circular LEO.

The mission is named ‘The Owl’s Night Begins’ in a nod to Synspective’s StriX family of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft developed to be able to image millimeter-level changes to the Earth’s surface from space, independent of weather conditions on Earth and at any time of the day or night. Strix is also the genus of owls.

The StriX satellite onboard this mission will be the first of a series of spacecraft deployments for Synspective’s planned constellation of more than 30 SAR smallsats to collate data of metropolitan centers across Asia on a daily basis that can be used for urban development planning, construction and infrastructure monitoring, and disaster response.

For this mission, Rocket Lab will use a custom, expanded fairing to encompass Synspective’s wide-body satellite C, the first use of the expanded fairing options that Rocket Lab recently introduced alongside a suite of vehicle performance improvements, including advances in battery technology which enable an improved payload lift capacity up to 300 kg (660 lbs). Rocket Lab will also perform an advanced mid-mission maneuver with its Kick Stage space tug that will shield the StriX-? satellite from the sun to reduce radiation exposure ahead of payload deployment.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said, “We’re honored to be providing the ride to orbit for Synspective and playing a pivotal role in deploying the first satellite of their constellation. By flying as a dedicated mission on Electron, the Synspective team have complete control over their orbit and launch schedule, giving them a degree of certainty over a crucial time in their business development.”

Synspective Founder and CEO, Dr. Motoyuki Arai, added, “We are so happy to share this launch of our first satellite, the StriX-?, together with Rocket Lab. This is just the start of a 30 SAR satellites constellation. We are very excited to begin the scaling of our business, which includes both SAR satellites and downstream solutions.” (Source: Satnews)

23 Nov 20. Inter-Satellite, Real-Time Data Relay System Debuts from Inmarsat + AddValue. The world’s first, publicly-available, real-time link between satellites in high and low earth orbits is now available — after a five-year collaboration, Inmarsat and Addvalue Innovation have announced the Commercial Service Introduction (CSI) of their Inter-satellite Data Relay System (IDRS) service, following the successful demonstration of the first live data connectivity between customer Capella Space’s Control Center and its recently launched Sequoia satellite at LEO.

This success paves the way for satellites in LEO to continuously maintain communications with the ground, receiving and transmitting data on demand and in real-time. Satellites in lower orbits typically include those used for climate observations and disaster relief efforts, as well as a host of other applications. Traditionally, these satellites have had to wait until they came back into range of a ground station before being able to receive tasking information and transmit telemetry and valuable collected data. The new data link should reduce waiting times for such data transfers from several hours to a handful of minutes. This can enhance life-saving efforts in a natural disaster or enable observers to spot issues and direct resources to tackle them before they develop or get out of hand.

The new on-demand IDRS service was successfully commissioned on Capella Space’s Sequoia satellite at 10:14am PST on November 12, 2020. The Capella satellite, situated in LEO, communicated with Inmarsat’s I-4 satellite network, which operates at the L-band spectrum and sits in a high Earth, geostationary orbit. Capella Space is a market leader by being the first LEO satellite operator to leverage this enhanced functionality to offer an unprecedented level of responsiveness to its customers.

While instantaneous connectivity on the ground is commonplace, LEO satellite operators have traditionally suffered from high latency in making contact with their satellites, due to geographic sparsity of the required ground stations. This new system, consisting of the Addvalue on-board terminal and the Inmarsat data relay service, achieves a world first by allowing persistent, on-demand transfer of data, creating a new paradigm for smallsat LEO operations.

The benefits of Addvalue and Inmarsat’s solution go beyond the speed at which subscribers receive their data and images. Satellite operators also gain significant operational efficiencies by being able to stay in constant contact and control of their constellation. This is especially pertinent in the fast growing new space industry of large satellite constellations when real time control and coordination of multiple satellites can effortlessly and simultaneously be accomplished through the use of IDRS. This stands in contrast to current practice with its demanding need to coordinate and precisely time communications with multiple ground station operators.

“We’re proud to team-up with Inmarsat and Addvalue to deliver an entirely new level of efficiency and functionality to our customers,” said Christian Lenz, Vice President of Engineering at Capella Space. “This real-time connectivity will allow us to significantly reduce the time between customer tasking requests and when we collect the data on-orbit.”

Todd McDonell, President, Inmarsat Global Government, commented, “In-orbit connectivity represents an exciting new growth market for both Inmarsat and Addvalue. This LEO smallsat market is growing at an exponential rate. What is critical to LEO operators such as Capella Space is the ability to offer timely services their customers now expect in a connected world. Inmarsat’s L-band satellite network is uniquely placed to facilitate seamless real-time communications that are designed for mobility and can be administered globally. We are delighted Capella Space has achieved the distinction of being the first LEO operator to offer this service to their customers.”

“We could not be more excited to watch Capella realize all of the operational efficiencies and flexibility that the IDRS solution provides a LEO satellite operator,” said Khai Pang Tan, CTO of Addvalue. “From operational service introduction of the Sequoia satellite to the compounding efficiencies that are expected with the addition of each satellite added to the Capella constellation, we are confident that the possibility of “always-on”, on-demand, 24/7 communication capability will create a new standard for LEO satellite operations.” (Source: Satnews)

22 Nov 20. UK Space Center of Excellence In Scotland Receives Financial Commitment Of Millions Of Pounds. A commitment to invest over £80m in a UK Space Centre of Excellence in Ayrshire, Scotland, was made by both the UK and Scottish Governments, in partnership with South Ayrshire Council, as part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal signing on November 21, 2020. The funding package will develop and support a wide range of new, cutting-edge aerospace and space activities around Glasgow Prestwick Airport (pictured below), including a satellite launch site and a range of other advanced technology initiatives beyond space launch.

This significant investment forms part of an even larger £250m package that was announced via the Ayrshire Growth Deal Head of Terms agreement 18 months ago. This saw the Scotland Office pledge to invest £103m in the region over the next 15 years, alongside £103m from the Scottish Government over 10 years, augmented with further investment from the three local authority areas of East, North and South Ayrshire. This will help drive economic development across the region, create new employment opportunities and encourage further inward investment.

The innovative space activity, enabled by the ambitious Aerospace and Space Program element of the Ayrshire Growth Deal, is expected to provide a host of opportunities beyond launch, too. The additional interconnected projects which are being planned include a technical innovation centre to support UK business and academia, a national flight test center with training facilities for skills development, and an educational outreach and visitor centre. The deal also provides for various commercial building developments and improvements to the region’s transport infrastructure — improving quality of life for local residents and providing an opportunity for Ayrshire to profit from the rapid growth of the space sector.

The signing of a deal of this size reinforces Ayrshire’s position as a leading UK aerospace hub. The region already employs over 3,500 people in global companies such as Spirit AeroSystems; BAE Systems; GE Aviation; Collins Aerospace; Woodward and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), accounting for more than half of the aerospace industry’s workforce in Scotland. The financial boost aims to add another 4,000 jobs by 2035, helping Ayrshire capitalize on the exciting opportunities offered by the fast-growing commercial space sector.

Some £80m of the Growth Deal investment will be used specifically to help realize Ayrshire’s vision of creating a leading cluster, for both space, and wider aerospace supply chain activity. Detailed plans are already in place for a spaceport development that would provide the capability to launch smallsats from within Europe for the first time, using modified aircraft that would begin their journeys from Glasgow Prestwick Airport. These aircraft will carry out rocket launches at high altitude and provide access to the orbits required to observe Earth’s changing climate from above. The technique, known as ‘horizontal’ or ‘air’ launch, would make use of the existing infrastructure and coastal location at Prestwick, and the capability to launch satellites could make the UK a ‘one stop shop’ for commercial space companies.

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency, said, “The deal will deliver another boost to the UK’s growing space sector by funding a range of new, cutting-edge aerospace activities around Glasgow Prestwick Airport, including development of the spaceport site. This will not only create highly-skilled jobs across the region, but also further the UK’s reputation as Europe’s leading new space destination and bring us one step closer to small satellite launches taking place in the UK.”

Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee said, “The signing of the Ayrshire Growth Deal marks another major milestone in our journey toward the delivery of a world-leading commercial space sector. This is an exciting time for the emerging space sector globally, and Scotland is at the very forefront of it. In particular, the sector will play a critical role in the global fight against climate change with satellites used to measure essential climate variables. In Scotland, we already produce more small satellites anywhere outside of California and the provision of horizontal launch capability at Prestwick will further complement the launch offering across the country. This deal represents a major opportunity to inspire the next generation of space scientists and engineers as well as to deliver a major economic boost for Ayrshire.” (Source: Satnews)

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At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield.  As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea.  Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight.  We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible.  And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.

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