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08 Jan 21. SATCOM Integrated Bayraktar TB2S Performs First Flight. Baykar Defense announced that the Bayraktar TB2S, developed on the Bayraktar TB2 platform, has performed its first flight.

Baykar Defense made the Twitter post about the Bayraktar TB2S system with two visuals to celebrate Azerbaijan’s victory. A TB2 SİHA with a design change in the visuals caught the eye.

The TB2S has a change in design with a structure very similar to the layout of the SATCOM antenna used for satellite connection in UAVs.

Bayraktar TB2S armament

The SATCOM antenna integration was made to Bayraktar TB2S SİHA. Thanks to the connection made via SATCOM, S / UAVs can overcome the range restriction imposed by the line of sight (LOS) connection, and can communicate with the ground control station in a wide area that is as large as the coverage area of ​​the connected satellite and can operate in a wider area and at a higher range.

Recently, embargoes on electro-optic cameras using SİHAs came to the agenda, and the systems integrated by ASELSAN CATS were tested in a short time.

Since TB2S SİHA has not been officially launched yet, it is unknown which SATCOM was used. However, there is a SATCOM system produced by CTech. Therefore, it can be evaluated that there is no embargo danger.  (Source: UAS VISION/Railly News)

07 Jan 21. Space Development Agency confirms SpaceX, L3Harris awards following protest. Following a protest by Raytheon Technologies, the Space Development Agency has reevaluated awards it made for eight satellites capable of tracking hypersonic weapons, opting to stick with its original vendors: SpaceX and L3Harris.

“The reevaluation confirmed the original selection decision announced in October and concluded that [SpaceX] and L3Harris Technologies’ proposals offered the best value to the government,” said SDA spokesperson Jennifer Elzea in a Jan. 7 statement.

The agency initially announced contracts Oct. 5 for the eight satellites. L3Harris and SpaceX were awarded $193m and $149m respectively to each design and develop four satellites equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Those satellites would make up the agency’s inaugural tracking layer, a low Earth orbit constellation capable of detecting and tracking ballistic and hypersonic weapons.

Shortly thereafter, competitors Raytheon Technologies and Airbus U.S. Space and Defense individually filed protests against the award with the Government Accountability Office. A stop work order was put in place, preventing L3Harris and SpaceX from moving forward with the contracts.

In response to the protests, SDA elected to reevaluate proposals. Raytheon filed another protest Dec. 17 claiming the agency’s corrective was inadequate, but the GAO dismissed that action as premature. SDA completed its reevaluation in late December, confirming its original awards, and on Dec. 28 the stop work order was lifted.

“SDA is confident that reevaluation resulted in a fair outcome for all involved parties,” said Elzea. “The agency continues to make all efforts to keep the tracking layer of the National Defense Space Architecture on schedule.”

In dismissing Raytheon’s protest as being premature, GAO did note that the company could still protest the agency’s actions following the corrective action. Neither Raytheon nor Airbus immediately responded to inquiries as to whether they would file more protests.

Back in October, SDA Director Derek Tournear told C4ISRNET the contracts were the result of a full and open competition based purely on technical merit.

“SpaceX had a very credible story along that line — a very compelling proposal. It was outstanding,” he said. “They are one of the ones that have been at the forefront of this commercialization and commodification route.”

In addition, “L3Harris had an extremely capable solution. They have a lot of experience flying affordable, rapid, small satellite buses for the department,” he said. “They had the plant and the line in place in order to produce these to hit our schedule.”

The tracking layer is just one facet of the agency’s National Defense Space Architecture, a planned mega-constellation that will eventually be made up of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit. SDA is using a spiral development approach to build out that constellation, by adding more satellites every two years. These eight satellites in question will be part of the first tranche, which is set to launch starting in 2022. More tracking layer satellites will be launched in later tranches. Tournear has previously stated that one of the agency’s priorities is avoiding vendor lock, hosting an open competition for tracking layer satellites for future tranches. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

07 Jan 21. Exclusive: How the Space Force foiled an Iranian missile attack with a critical early warning. One year ago on the night of Jan. 7, 2020, Americans were shocked to learn that Iran had launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

Iran called it “fierce revenge” for the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. As reports of the attack inundated the airwaves, viewers were left wondering what had happened — and perhaps most importantly — were there casualties?

The barrage damaged runways, tents, equipment and a helicopter, and the Pentagon acknowledged that 110 people needed to be treated later for traumatic brain injuries. No one was killed.

The remaining U.S. and coalition forces that had not been evacuated were able to take cover in bunkers, thanks to what President Donald Trump referred to at the time as an “early warning system.”

The public now knows what many in the national security community suspected: That early warning system was the Space Based Infrared System, a constellation of satellites that surveils Earth’s surface 24/7 to detect missiles. Rarely has the Defense Department offered such a high profile example of the system’s capabilities and its direct impact on the American war fighter.

This is the story of the people — the men and women of the Space Force’s 2nd Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado — who operated SBIRS that night and provided that critical early warning to seek cover. In an exclusive interview, they brought C4ISRNET behind the scenes of one of the most high profile missile attacks on American forces in recent history. In many ways, it was a night like any other, with the squadron reading the data generated by the satellites and reporting it out. But with the lives of their fellow service members on the line, the stakes had rarely felt higher.

“This is what they’re trained to do day in and day out,” said Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Brandon Davenport. “That part felt very normal. That’s why it felt surreal, because it felt like any other day other than the fact that we all knew there were Americans and allies on the other end of that missile.”

The role for 2nd SWS began in October, when the squadron took over operations of the nation’s premier missile warning satellites.

“That’s when we actually switched over command and control between the 11th Space Warning Squadron and the 2nd Space Warning Squadron. At the time, we had a construct where each squadron would operate the system for about four months and then swap. And as 2nd SWS took the chair, I remember giving a brief … And I’ll tell you right out of the gate, our focus was Iran as No. 1,” Davenport said.

Recent escalations between the U.S. and Iranian-backed forces in the region “warranted extra supervision from our crews at Buckley,” he said.

Tensions rose further after the U.S. assassinated Soleimani in a Jan. 3 drone strike.

The name was familiar to Davenport, who had spent a year overseas as a space cell chief starting in 2012. He knew the action would elicit a response from Iran, even if it wasn’t apparent how that response would manifest.

“The second that he was killed, within that frame of time that he was killed, we were talking through, you know, what could be the responses that Iran would take. I think in a way, our mind was on this threat from the get-go,” said Davenport.

“I happened to actually be on when Soleimani was killed,” said Space Operations Center Commander Capt. Tasia Reed, a mission management operator with 2nd SWS at the time.

It was a slow night, she recalled. That is, until it flashed across a news screen that Soleimani had been killed.

“Col. Davenport comes on to the floor and he kind of talks us through, you know, ‘Oh, well, we just killed one of their generals, the No. 2 guy in the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].’ And I said, ‘Oh, well, all right, cool.’ My Spidey-senses kind of went off and I was like, ‘All right, well, looks like we’re going to have to start doing some planning.’”

Coordinating with the intelligence community and colleagues within the Department of Defense, Reed and the other mission management operators put together a collection strategy for SBIRS, ensuring that the satellites’ sensors were best positioned for optimal coverage of the region.

“We have an ability to sort of tailor how we collect things, and I just remember going through that mission planning and trying to come up with that collection strategy,” said 1st Lt. Christianna Castaneda, a fellow mission management operator. “In discussions with other agencies and our intelligence analysts, we were able to come up with a strategy to collect on whatever the potential retaliation could have been.”

Built by Lockheed Martin with infrared sensors from Northrop Grumman, the SBIRS constellation is made up of six satellites: four geosynchronous (GEO) satellites and two hosted payloads hitching rides in highly elliptical orbits (HEO) to provide polar coverage. By detecting infrared light created during the launch of ballistic missiles, the sensors allow the operators to see every missile launch taking place around the world. The Government Accountability Office said in 2019 the system cost roughly $20bn.

“This system is a passive collector,” Davenport said. “All it really does is collect IR photons. That’s what it was built to do. … Then our mission team interprets those IR collects.”

Specifically, the GEO satellites include two sensors: a scanner and a starer. The scanning sensor continuously monitors the Earth, while the more accurate starer can provide advanced coverage for theater missions. Each HEO payload includes a scanning sensor. Without actually moving the satellites, Casteneda, Reed and other mission management operators arrange the starer payloads to provide optimal coverage of the region.

With the collection strategy in place, all the 2nd SWS team could do was watch and wait.

How Jan. 7 played out

There was no flashing red light or siren that went off in Colorado when the attack began, just days after Soleimani’s death. If anything, the detection of the threat was fairly mundane. The SBIRS sensors picked up the infrared flare of the Iranian missiles just like they would for a space launch, but they’re sensitive enough that operators can see what threat class of missile they’re dealing with and where it’s heading.

“With the indications that we received, we knew immediately that this was the threat that we were potentially waiting for,” said Mission Commander 1st Lt. Mariano Long.

“That night it came out of nowhere. It was a lot of missiles quick, and we could see where they were trying to impact,” said Long. “We knew, literally, people that were serving alongside us were being targeted.”

As with any threat, the team balanced the need for a swift warning with getting the most accurate data out.

“Our goal is always to try to be as correct as possible — like we always do — but most importantly getting that message out fast,” said Long. “When we see multiples … we definitely have heightened alertness.”

The Space Force declined to reveal exactly how long it took from detection to getting the warning out, citing the sensitive nature of the capabilities involved.

“I think you can understand … the sensitivity that if I were to give you exact timelines, or talk about limitations, or those facts, that goes to the enemy’s advantage,” Maj. Gen. Deanna Burt, commander of the Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC), told C4ISRNET in an interview. “The enemy knows we depend on space, and so they’re looking for ways to take it from us.”

For some perspective, Vice Chief of Space Operations David Thompson has publicly claimed the missiles were only in the air for six minutes. That’s all the time the 2nd SWS had to warn fellow service members of the imminent attack.

“That evening, we just prioritized — essentially I remember vividly — our timing, of trying to get things out as fast as possible,” said Long.

There are rules governing how quickly the team needs to get the warning out, and Davenport noted that the response was “within half of the required time.”

“Our time was pretty quick,” Long acknowledge. “And this allowed for users downrange to kind of take cover and get in the bunks and potentially saved lives.”

Not another day at the office

One point the 2nd SWS operators hammered home is the surreal nature of the Jan. 7 attack. The squadron picks up hundreds of missiles per year, and very often there are human lives at stake at their destination. With combatants using missiles in conflicts in Armenia, Yemen and Syria, to name a few, detecting missile launches is part of the cell’s daily life.

“For context, I think we’re up to 1,000 missiles this year in 2020,” said Davenport. “On one hand, it is a very common thing that we do, this reporting.”

Rarely, however, are the lives at stake American.

“You can imagine with the conflicts in the world, it is something that does happen — unfortunately — fairly regularly,” said Davenport. “But against Americans … this is the only one I recall in the past couple of years, through I think 2003.”

“Even just sitting here talking about it gets me fired up,” interjects Long. “We did it day in and day out, all day all night, but that night we knew it was different. And we train all the time. We run scenarios. We do playback. We do training scenarios. But, like, this night we knew, like, our brothers and sisters on the other side of the pond are, like, getting targeted.”

“I remember sitting there with the other guys in the mission cell — and the gals — and being pretty pissed off,” said Long. “We knew that there was intent behind these missiles.”

Operators recall going into the building like they would for any regular shift, but as the attack unfolded, it felt different.

“There’s something to be said about knowing this is not a drill … real people are in harm’s way,” said Reed.

Making the call

Once the 2nd SWS had the data it needed, the warning call went out to two locations: the Joint Space Operations Center and the Missile Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

The ensuing communications are fairly automated, based on nearly 30 years of experience. The satellite missile-warning architecture dates back to the Gulf War, said Davenport, when the Defense Support Program satellites were used to detect missiles. At that time, communications between the Colorado team and folks in the field was partially made up on the fly, he added.

“After the Gulf War, they recognized how valuable of a capability this was, and so they built out a series of architectures that’s culminated in our Theater Events System, our TES architecture,” said Davenport.

Iranian missiles hit bases, US targets in Iraq | Newsbreak

The Pentagon says at least more than a dozen Iranian rockets were fired at two targets in Iraq Tuesday that house U.S. troops. Damage assessments are still ongoing.

“We then have continued ever since that time to improve our tactics and techniques, to refine our capabilities and software in places where we can continually work on processes and capabilities, educating the theater, and the theater figuring out — in this case Central Command — how to distribute that information to their bases in order for the folks to get the most duck and cover time when those missiles are inbound,” said Burt.

So when Long put in the call, the verbiage was fairly set.

“It’s just a simple phone call. There’s a human on the other line,” he explained.

“That night it just seemed like we were on the phone pretty much the whole night with them, and we had that open dialogue,” said Long. “And it actually got to the point where we weren’t even saying every single thing that we typically do, just because of the influx of things that we had, and we were just passing the most strategic and important information.”

Pins and needles

But after the call, the 2nd SWS was in the same place as everyone else, waiting to hear if the team’s warning was successful and — nerve-wrackingly — whether anyone had died.

“There’s that running joke, that all first reports are wrong. So in a way, we didn’t want to get involved, we didn’t want to stress out command downrange,” said Davenport. “We received the assessment the same time as everybody else did.”

Meanwhile, the team watched news reports about what was happening overseas.

“Typically, when we have launches, you’re not seeing on the news within minutes, like, [for] what event we just worked. And that night, the events were taking place and major news stations were broadcasting the things that were happening and photos and Twitter feeds and a lot of open source things that we were seeing on our big screen as we were doing it. It was kind of surreal,” said Long.

“There was some time in between, and we were like, ‘OK, are we done? Is this the end?” said Reed. “We were all still pretty much on pins and needles.”

“I remember leaving that night without any real answer as to what the actual effects were,” said Reed. “It was not immediate.”

The aftermath

In the days that followed, the 2nd SWS would learn that its warning had indeed been successful.

The bases had been partially evacuated earlier in the day following an intelligence report predicting an attack during a three-hour window that night, but many war fighters stayed behind to operate and secure the airfields. For those that remained, the 2nd SWS warning was critical. One recollection from an official Air Force report on the attack highlights the importance of that early warning.

“Throughout the night, we drove around in our military all-terrain vehicle (MATV) and visited all the posts and patrols, checking on the teams’ welfare and readiness — watching and waiting for something to happen,” reads the report from security forces at Al Assad Air Base in Iraq. “Around 1 a.m. we … heard the first announcement of ‘INCOMING — INCOMING — INCOMING’ over the radio and quickly ran back to our MATV for protection. As we closed the door, there was a large explosion and the first impact of a missile struck only 100 meters away from our position. We could feel the blast and continue to hear missiles hitting other locations on base as they lit up the night sky with every impact.”

Others recall diving into bunkers as the base was alerted and the warning rang out across the base. The missiles damaged equipment and infrastructure. The people treated for traumatic brain injuries numbered 110. But no lives were lost.

The involvement of SBIRS and the 2nd SWS was confirmed last September, when Space Force Chief of Space Operations General John “Jay” Raymond credited Reed and Castaneda by name for saving American lives.

“They operated the world’s best missile warning capabilities and they did outstanding work, and I’m very, very proud of them,” he said at the virtual Air Force Association 2020: Air, Space and Cyberspace Conference.

True guardians

Ultimately, the officers who spoke to C4ISRNET about their experience credited the enlisted guardians for the success of the 2nd SWS. There are about 25 guardians working on the floor, the vast majority of whom are enlisted.

“It’s the young guardians who are doing the work,” said Davenport

“I don’t think most people understand, the crux of this mission is done by the airman, by the enlisted,” added Long. “I really want to attribute all the success we had that night to our airman that … do essentially the nitty gritty of the job. If it wasn’t for them that night … we would not have had the success that we did.”

While the Jan. 7 situation was unique in its profile and consequences, Burt emphasized that it represents just a snapshot of the work the 2nd SWS does every day.

“We haven’t had a conflict recently where we’ve had inbound missiles of this type, that we’ve had this great of an intel and an opportunity to report on,” said Burt. “I would challenge you that we do that every day and we attack every launch like there are folks at risk, working our processes and continuing to improve them all the time.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

06 Jan 21. Autonomous In-Space Assembly and Manufacturing Moves Closer to Reality. The seemingly science fiction image of robots autonomously manufacturing components outside of a spacecraft is becoming more realistic with the advancement of this new technology. COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems today announced that it will begin working on final development and build of electron beam 3D metal printing systems for a variety of future in-space, lunar, and Martian applications. The work is funded by a SBIR contract from NASA to support the Artemis program’s return to the Moon.

The technology advanced by COSM uses an electron beam to deposit metal from a spool of wire into a large complex part. Capitalizing on decades of experience using charged particle beams systems for imaging and metrology in the semiconductor industry, the new system will automatically monitor and adjust the 3D print process as it occurs.

“Producing large metal parts autonomously to verifiable specifications and quality in-space will be an enabling part of man’s permanent presence on the Moon and further missions to Mars,” said Richard Comunale, company founder and CEO. “This complex task is made possible by fundamental technology developed by COSM with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center. This next step in the technology development will result in the core system components validated for launch and operation in transit, on the Moon and Mars. This is an incredible opportunity and an honor for our team to play a role in NASA’s Artemis program.”

This effort is a follow-on to work COSM completed with NASA Langley on their Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication (EBF3) program, which uses focused electron beams to perform additive manufacturing (3D printing) of metal. Under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), COSM was previously part of a team of companies in a public-private partnership to establish a Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly and Services (CIRAS) in space. The CIRAS program advanced key technologies that are the basis for this next step for in-orbit manufacturing and assembly of large space structures that will help the agency meet its goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system.

“We are excited by the prospect of adding COSM’s high precision electron beam capabilities into the EBF3 process to enhance in-space welding and additive manufacturing for future exploration missions.  COSM’s experience enables integrated visualization and sensing in real time to control and inspect work being performed in remote areas,” added Karen Taminger, senior materials research engineer and technical lead for metal additive manufacturing research at NASA Langley.

COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems (cosmtd.com) is a privately held engineering, design and manufacturing firm, based in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Founded in 2011, the company has extensive technology development experience across multiple disciplines and industries, with concentration in charged beam particle systems for semiconductor, flat panel and LED manufacturing systems, as well as 3D metal additive manufacturing. (Source: PR Newswire)

07 Jan 21. Airbus led consortium grows its SME engagement.

  • December event saw more than 100 SMEs participate from across the UK
  • Call for SMEs still open via ‘Open Innovation- Space’ achieves significant results in first 6 months
  • More than 100 SMEs apply to scheme committed to diversifying and growing the UK’s space industrial footprint
  • Airbus led consortium unites £5.8bn spend in UK

The Airbus led space industry consortium for future UK military satellite communications, had more than 100 SMEs take part in its recent online event. The consortium is focusing on the UK’s prosperity agenda with a commitment to grow the UK SME eco-system within the UK space industry. The consortium, comprising KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ spends more than £5.8bn annually in the UK supply chain.

During the online event held at the beginning of December, Airbus and its partners hosted speakers from the consortium, the MOD and existing SMEs in the supply chain.  Topics included an SME viewpoint of the sector, supply chain requirements and how a small, innovative business can prepare itself better. The event also covered collaboration with SMEs from a UK government perspective and why an innovative supply chain is important to Airbus and its partners.

Richard Franklin, Managing Director, Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “Our vision for future milsatcoms for the UK is aligned to government policy in making a major contribution to the UK’s prosperity agenda, building up space capability and engagement across the SME community. Through our consortium we already count more than 2,350 SMEs among our supply chain and we are looking to bring more on board, bringing both innovative products and solutions but more importantly new ways of thinking.  This will not only benefit the services the consortium can deliver but also expand the number of companies across the UK involved in the space economy and further strengthen sovereignty and value for money.”

In June the consortium launched its call “Open Innovation – Space” to encourage SMEs to see how they could contribute.  In its first six months more than 100 companies were in touch, to offer ideas on how they could bring their expertise to improve mission critical communication services and associated space, ground and management segments.

Richard Franklin continued: “The Open Innovation – Space initiative is still open and I am looking forward to even more companies signing up to see how they can contribute to the future of secure communications for the UK’s armed forces. We encourage those interested to visit www.openinnovationspace.uk.”

Nick Caleb from QinetiQ said: “The consortium partners have been at the heart of the UK’s defence and space sector for more than 50 years and SMEs from across the UK have been a vital part of this heritage. Our consortium will ensure that SME engagement is at the centre of our solution to drive innovation, enable successful delivery and simplify collaboration for the continued sovereignty of UK space and supporting future UK prosperity.”

Airbus in the UK is recognised as a global leader in the design and manufacture of advanced telecommunications satellites and is a trusted prime contractor for some of the most complex space science and exploration missions in the world. Airbus provides a range of space-based services to customers worldwide including the support of the UK Armed Forces, and its NATO Allies, by delivering and operating the Skynet military communications system, providing 24/7 services across the world for more than 15 years.

07 Jan 21. Inmarsat celebrates 5 years, confirms plans for Global Xpress network extension. Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, has marked the fifth anniversary of its Global Xpress (GX) network entering service worldwide. GX is, and remains, the world’s first and only globally available high-speed broadband network, owned and managed by a single operator.

It is already driving the digital transformation of major industries across the world, enhancing fundamentally the way maritime, aviation, government and humanitarian users, among others, work.

Delivered through a geostationary satellite constellation, with each satellite offering coverage of one third of the planet, Inmarsat announced that the GX network had achieved global coverage on 4 January 2016.

Over the ensuing five years, redundancy and additional capacity to support high-demand growth regions have been added in the form of GX4 and GX5. The latter of which began commercial service on 10 December 2020 over Europe and the Middle East.

Rupert Pearce, chief executive officer, at Inmarsat said, “Global Xpress has had a major impact across multiple industries over the past five years but the service has only just started to demonstrate its capabilities. When our global network of partners and customers adopt GX, they are doing so as a long-term investment and we believe it is our responsibility to ensure that this commitment is protected.”

“For this reason, and to ensure that we deliver additional capacity ahead of the demand curve, we are in the process of delivering against the most ambitious technology roadmap, the largest, fully-funded investment strategy in our history,” Pearce explained.

GX serves organisations and governments around the world and today it is regarded as the gold standard for global, mobile broadband connectivity. Operating in the Ka-band, Global Xpress also integrates seamlessly with Inmarsat’s L-band network to deliver powerful and exceptionally reliable connectivity anytime, anywhere.

Further advanced Ka-band payloads (GX6A & 6B) will also be hosted on the next generation Inmarsat-6 (I-6) L-band satellites, scheduled for launch in 2021 and 2022.

The most powerful and flexible mobile communication satellites ever developed by Inmarsat, the I-6 fleet, together with advanced ground infrastructure technology, will support enhanced user devices and services.

The Global Xpress network will also be enhanced with new Arctic capabilities. In a partnership with Space Norway and its subsidiary Space Norway HEOSAT, two satellite payloads – GX10A & 10B – will be placed into Highly Elliptical Orbits (HEO), ensuring continuous coverage above 65° North.

The world’s first and only high-speed mobile broadband payloads dedicated to the Arctic region, they will have the ability to direct multi-beam, high-throughput capacity in real-time to the areas of highest demand, and will integrate seamlessly into the existing and planned GX network.

Following on from these developments a new generation of Global Xpress satellites, GX7, 8 and 9, will then mark a step change in the combined capabilities and capacity of the GX fleet. The first software-defined constellation for global mobile connectivity, each satellite in the GX7, 8 and 9 series will deliver twice the total capacity of the entire current, in-service GX network (GX1-5).

Their ability to simultaneously generate thousands of independent spot beams of different size, bandwidth and power that can be reconfigured and repositioned across the globe means Inmarsat will be able to respond to peaks in customer demand instantaneously and with pinpoint accuracy, and stack up overlapped capacity over regional hot spots.

As well as these major developments in space, the transformation program also includes major enhancements to the GX ground network, which will deliver full integration of each generation of GX satellites to form a highly-secure, inter-operable, ultra-high performance network.

Future GX satellites offering new capabilities can easily be added to this dynamic framework as market demand grows and technology innovation opens up additional opportunities.

The new GX technology will be backwards compatible with existing terminals, meaning current customers will benefit automatically from future service enhancements.

Through regular upgrades to GX network capabilities and features, they will always be able to take advantage of future technology innovation and disruption.

Pearce added, “Inmarsat is a pioneering, technology-driven company and our high performing, innovative, and highly skilled people take pride in helping communities, companies and countries to build a better future through the connectivity that we provide.

“As a strong, agile and diversified company with a fully-funded future technology roadmap, Inmarsat delivers global, highly differentiated platforms on which partners and customers can securely invest and innovate for growth. Together, with a world-leading community of technology, manufacturing and channel partners, Inmarsat offers multiple networks and an agnostic approach to technology to meet the world’s connectivity demands, both now and for the future,” Pearce said.

Inmarsat is the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications. It owns and operates the world’s most diverse global portfolio of mobile telecommunications satellite networks, and holds a multi-layered, global spectrum portfolio, covering L-band, Ka-band and S-band, enabling unparalleled breadth and diversity in the solutions it provides.

Inmarsat’s long-established global distribution network includes not only the world’s leading channel partners but also its own strong direct retail capabilities, enabling end to end customer service assurance. (Source: Space Connect)

05 Jan 21. Space Force awards Lockheed Martin $4.9bn for missile warning satellites. Lockheed Martin secured $4.9bn to build three missile warning satellites for the U.S. Space Force, according to a Jan. 4 announcement.

The company already received $2.9bn in 2018 to begin work on the satellites, which will be part of the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) system. That contract covered development through critical design review, completed in October 2020. With that step finished, the program was ready to move forward with manufacturing the satellites.

Next Gen OPIR is being built to replace the Space-Based Infrared System, the nation’s premier missile warning constellation. The new constellation will be made up of five satellites: three in geosynchronous orbit and two covering the polar regions. The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has selected Lockheed Martin to contribute the former, while Northrop Grumman will provide the latter.

The Space Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $2.4bn contract modification in May for phase one design and development, procurement of critical flight hardware and risk-reduction efforts leading to critical design review.

The two infrared sensors under development for Next Gen OPIR passed their preliminary design review in May. Those sensors are being developed by Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems working with Ball Aerospace.

The U.S. Air Force has worked to shift more money to the Next Gen OPIR program in recent years in an effort to ensure the first satellite is delivered in 2025. That’s required more money up front, which the Air Force has shifted to the program through a number of reprogramming requests, a source of division between competing versions of the annual defense budgets in the House and Senate. But SMC credited that reprogramming with keeping Next Gen OPIR on track.

“While the program acceleration to meet this threat head on created a near-term funding shortfall, Congress’ support of the DoD’s $161m reprogramming request has kept the program on track, and I am confident we will close the remaining shortfall in FY20 to enable delivery of our first satellite in 2025,” Col. Dennis Bythewood, SMC’s program executive officer for space development, said in October. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

06 Jan 21. New funding for innovative space tech to help solve problems on Earth. Space tech to make buildings more efficient, reduce ship carbon emissions and help preserve historical sites are among new projects receiving government funding.

Through the UK Space Agency, the government is giving a cash injection to 5 projects specifically designed to bring together UK business expertise with universities to help build space solutions to global problems, on UK soil.

One of the projects, involving the University of Southampton, will use artificial intelligence to automatically detect buried archaeological remains on satellite imagery, providing construction companies with higher accuracy at an earlier stage. This will save them time and money during the planning permission process and help them to reduce their carbon footprint.

Meanwhile the University of Leicester will use satellite analytics to track the greenhouse gas and pollution emissions of shipping fleets, ushering in a new approach that could help shipping companies to face down climate change.

Another, run by the University of Edinburgh, will support Malawian farmers by developing land-classification maps of high potential agricultural sites, providing a vital tool that can enable effective planning of large-scale agriculture in the region.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “The UK’s space sector is flourishing and it is vital we give our most innovative space businesses and universities the right support to collaborate, share best practice and drive forward new ideas that could help enrich all our lives. Today’s funding will provide lift off to some of the country’s most ambitious space collaborations, accelerating potentially game-changing technologies that will help the UK respond to global challenges such as cutting carbon emissions.”

The UK Space Agency funding will see the national Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) support the new space projects, with industry working alongside scientists from the University of Southampton, University of Edinburgh and University of Leicester.

SPRINT provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities to help businesses develop new commercial products.

The scheme has previously supported 87 collaborative projects with 70 companies, developing space hardware or using space-enabled data and transferring space know-how and expertise to develop products destined for non-space use.

Professor Martin Barstow, Leader of the SPRINT project and Director of Strategic Partnerships for Space Park Leicester, said, “We appreciate the vote of confidence for SPRINT that the UK Space Agency has given in making this funding award. We are very grateful to the Agency for providing this new support for SPRINT, which allows us to support more companies in their development journey.”

Ross Burgon, Head of the national SPRINT programme, said, “SPRINT has developed a novel approach to knowledge exchange and industry/university collaboration for the space sector. We’ve spent the last two years building and demonstrating the efficacy of our approach and this new partnership with the UK Space Agency is a great milestone for us to further our mission to support business growth through university collaboration.”

The SPRINT approach makes it much easier for both companies and academics to build successful, productive and collaborative partnerships that are focused on growing the space sector and that also demonstrate the increasing benefits of space sector knowledge in addressing challenges across many other sectors.

What is space archaeology?

It is archaeology using satellites or high-flying aircraft to take pictures remotely of the Earth’s surface to find hints of ancient features buried under the ground. Things may show up visually or near infrared may show small differences in vegetation, with growth on top of buried stone likely to be less healthy.

Dr Fraser Sturt, a professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, said:

Aerial photography transformed archaeology in the early 20th century, revealing sites in a way that few people could have conceived of in the past. Advances in Earth Observation and Machine learning offer another leap forward, helping us to identify and monitor sites across of space and time.

This information is critical not only for our understanding of the past, but how we manage the built environment and its development in the future.

In December 2020, the government redefined treasure to increase protection for archaeological finds to ensure more significant artefacts are saved for the public. For the first time, the official treasure definition will not be based solely on the material qualities of an artefact. The changes will make the treasure process more transparent and efficient for museums and the public.

The five new SPRINT project collaborations, supported by the UK Space Agency funding, are:

ArchAI Ltd – University of Southampton

This project will use AI to automatically detect archaeology on Earth observation data. Knowing where archaeology is located at the earliest planning stages will allow accurate estimates of time and cost involved with acquiring planning permission and significantly reduce the risk of discovering unexpected archaeology during construction. This means that ArchAI will lower the cost of construction and ensure that vital historical sites are preserved.

Absolar Solutions Ltd – University of Southampton

The collaboration will develop Absolar’s Carbon Action Planning Tool that integrates satellite images, solar radiation and LiDAR with other data sources to provide organisations with a clear view of a building’s current energy performance, develop plans for achieving Net-Zero carbon emissions and reduce their energy costs while tracking and reporting on their progress.

XCAM – University of Leicester

Critical equipment for use in the space industry is often built in clean rooms to make sure it is not contaminated with small particles. Cleanliness is vital because if equipment is contaminated it might fail completely or not operate as it was designed to do.

This project uses a novel machine learning solution to improve the accuracy of clean room monitoring, and to efficiently report problems in real time. In addition, this solution will be used to monitor potential contamination of sensitive equipment during the launch of spacecraft, which is something that has never been done before.

Redshift Associates Ltd – University of Leicester

This collaboration will develop analytics to track the carbon and pollution emissions of ships, with a new approach to establish emission audits of shipping fleets and their individual vessels. The project builds upon previous work developing analytics solutions for ports and harbours, extending this to coastal and international waters.

Trade in Space – University of Edinburgh

Trade in Space and Geospace Agricultural are collaborating with the University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences to support the generation of a land use classification map of key agricultural production regions of Malawi.

This will be a vital tool that can enable effective planning of large-scale agriculture in the region, following the model set by the ‘Jacoma Estates’ mega-farm in the area, which has already provided productivity improving micro-financing, and a route to market for over 5,000 Malawian smallholder farmers. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)

05 Jan 21. Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor Talks Future of Enlisted Force. The development of the culture of the Space Force, the training Space Force personnel (now called guardians) will receive, the balance between enlisted and officer ranks in the new service, and how the force will be constituted were among the issues that Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the new service’s first senior enlisted advisor, discussed in a recent interview.

The U.S. Space Force celebrated its first anniversary on Dec. 20. There are now roughly 2,300 uniformed members of the new force and it is projected to grow to around 6,500. Currently, there are about 100 new accessions in the service, and the remainder of the military members transferred from the Air Force. This year, the service will transfer about 3,500 more members from the Air Force and begin merging personnel from the other services into their units. There are currently 16,000 military and civilians assigned to the Space Force, and that number is expected to grow to about 20,000 in the next couple of years.

A third of the assigned force today is enlisted personnel, and typically the non-commissioned officers are the custodians of a service’s traditions and culture.

This is rocket science, and the Space Force requires personnel with technical expertise right off the bat, Towberman said.

“I heard [SpaceX chief] Elon Musk talk recently and he said one of his secrets was a maniacal sense of urgency,” Towberman said.

The Space Force needs to mirror this. “I think there’s an excitement right now that a smallish group of people can wrap themselves around and really ensconce themselves in this excitement and this energy,” he said.

By its nature, the Air Force is a very specialized technical service. When established in 1947, it was the epitome of high-tech service and that only increased as the service moved into advanced aircraft and avionics and into the world of missiles and space.

Different aircraft require different maintainers. Different systems require different technicians. That kind of specialization doesn’t lend itself to overarching enculturation. It is not like the Army or Marine Corps where every soldier or Marine is a rifleman. A challenge the Air Force has had is to develop this larger more inclusive culture, Towberman said.

The Space Force faces the same challenges, but Towberman believes leaders can use the missions to bind personnel together. “I think, maybe, we can have the best of both worlds,” he said. “Maybe we can all get very excited about a very specific and special role that we have to play, and have this culture bind us around space and space operations. It is a great warfighting niche.”

So, the mission and the environment can bind together the service, building a unique culture for the 20,000 guardians.

The entire Space Force will be about the same size as a Marine Corps division. The Space Force wants to be small to be agile and flexible. Towberman sees small teams being the core of the service’s future. Space Force aims to eliminate layers of command where possible, and emphasize being agile and quick, the chief said.

Space Force is a separate service under the Department of the Air Force and — like the Marine Corps to the Navy — will look to the Air Force for support. Medical, personnel, security and administration — and more — will all come from the Air Force.

The Space Force will also examine the missions to see what jobs can be done by DOD civilians. “The uniformed force will be very precisely focused on operations, intelligence and cyber,” Towberman said. “So, literally everything else has to be done either by Department of the Air Force civilians that are assigned to the Space Force, or airmen.”

Enlisted personnel in some Air Force specialty codes in operations, intelligence and cyber are being transferred to the new service. Training for personnel in these specialty codes is typically done in what the Air Force calls technical schools. For the time being, Space Force personnel will continue to train alongside their Air Force compatriots.

Towberman and his boss, Space Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, visited San Antonio to meet the first Space Force basic training graduates in mid-December. There were seven and they were interspersed in a Basic Training Flight at Lackland Air Force Base. The chief said that through the rest of the winter that six or seven Space Force personnel will be in training flights. “In the summer, we will have larger classes and we anticipate having full Space Force flights,” he said

The Space Force has changed about nine hours of instruction in basic training for Space Force personnel. He said the service will make incremental changes as needed, moving forward. He does not anticipate the Space Force getting its own dedicated basic training program.

Most of the Space Force will be based in the United States, but small guardian teams will deploy to overseas hotspots, as needed, he said.

The Air Force has no warrant officers — a decision made when the service was formed. The Space Force will study the warrant officer program to see if it is something they want to adopt and adapt to their circumstances, the chief said.

Other personnel aspects include possibly giving former enlisted personnel a higher officer rank once they finish officer training. “If I take a senior NCO with 15 years of experience and he/she goes to OTS, am I really going to make that person, with that experience, be a second lieutenant,” Towberman asked. “Maybe there can be a sliding scale for personnel like that.”

The Space Force will probably walk away from Air Force enlisted professional military education. Space Force has “inherited” the NCO Academy at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. That will become the Space Force Leadership School to start, and Towberman anticipates a Space Force senior NCO Academy growing out of this in the years to come.

Right now, the Space Force is made up solely of active duty personnel. “The reality is that we need the [National] Guard and [Air Force] Reserve today,” he said. “We can’t get our mission done without them.” Space Force leaders are looking for ways to incorporate these important assets into the force, he said.

Another aspect the leadership would like to address is the fact that it has been 20 years since there’s been a targeted pay raise. This means “while the talent and the abilities of our enlisted force has grown year by year-by-year, the difference in pay between E-5 and O-5 has also grown,” Towberman said. “That needs to be addressed.”

Space requires highly educated guardians. The force must be willing to pay for that expertise. Towberman said the service will look at special incentives and skill-based pays.

“I believe a lot in the concept that if you take care of people well enough so that they can leave, many of them will decide that they don’t want to,” the chief said. “That’s going to be our focus. Our focus is going to be on culture, our focus is going to be on giving them the kind of autonomy, the kind of training and development they need.”

The Space Force could give its guardians “an opportunity to change the world,” the senior enlisted advisor said. “That’s an important mission, and we should all be proud to have this opportunity.” (Source: US DoD)

04 Jan 21. SpaceX wins $150m launch contract. The Space Development Agency selected SpaceX as the launch provider for its first 28 satellites, awarding the company a $150m contract for two launches.

SpaceX is expected to conduct the first launch in September 2022, according to the Dec. 31 contract announcement. All satellites need to be on orbit by March 31, 2023.

The satellites will form the inaugural layers of the SDA’s National Defense Space Architecture, a proliferated constellation in low Earth orbit that will be able to push targeting data to war fighters, track hypersonic weapons connect sensors and shooters over an on orbit mesh network. While the NDSA will eventually include hundreds of satellites, the agency isn’t putting them all up at once. Instead, it’s using a spiral development approach. After the two SpaceX launches for the first tranche of satellites, the agency plans to add a growing number of satellites every two years.

Those first 28 satellites — 20 data transport satellites and eight missile-tracking satellites — will form the “war-fighter immersion tranche.”

“Its goal is to provide the data in a format that the war fighters are used to seeing on tactical timelines that they can be expected to see once we actually become operational,” SDA Director Derek Tournear told C4ISRNET previously. “The whole purpose of tranche 0 is to allow the war fighters to start to train and develop tactics, techniques and procedures so that they can create operational plans for a battle where they would actually incorporate these data.”

The launch contract closes up a busy year for the agency, when it awarded contracts to four satellite manufacturers for its initial constellation. Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems won contracts to build 10 transport layer satellites each, while the agency chose SpaceX and L3Harris to build four tracking layer satellites each. Raytheon protested the latter two contracts, and SDA says it is reevaluating proposals.

Each of the 20 transport layer satellites will weigh about 200 kilograms (440 pounds), according to the solicitation posted in October. The tracking layer contracts are under protest, but the satellite designs submitted by SpaceX and L3Harris had vastly different weights. One vendor’s satellites came in at approximately 1,068 kilograms (2,350 pounds) each, while the other vendor’s space vehicles will be just 249 kilograms (550 pounds). (Source: Defense News)

05 Jan 21. TISICS signs up for two SPRINT projects to optimise testing and manufacture of metal composites for spacecraft structures. TISICS will collaborate with University of Surrey and The Open University with funding from national business support programme.

TISICS, a world-leading supplier of lightweight Metal Matrix Composites (MMCs) for high performance industries, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme. SPRINT will provide funding for two projects, in collaboration with the University of Surrey and The Open University, to develop technologies that will enable advanced lightweight tanks for demisable spacecraft and the critical tanks needed for lightweight storage of hydrogen to meet net-zero transport ambitions.

The first project will develop standardised fracture mechanics testing methods and the second, digitising a key process to reduce both cost and manufacturing energy consumption.

TISICS is the only integrated ceramic fibre and metal composite manufacturer worldwide, with a vision to develop world-leading industrial supply of high-performance pressure vessels and 40 per cent lighter components for space, aviation and low-energy transport sectors.

The projects will be funded by a grant from the £5m SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

The SPRINT project with The Open University will exploit the expertise of the University’s Space Instrument Development (SID) group and its experience in mass spectrometry, vacuum physics, gas processing and system control, enabling TISICS to develop a system that can allow in-cycle control of an out-gassing process, reducing costs and manufacturing energy consumption.

The SPRINT project with the University of Surrey focuses on fracture testing of MMCs to enable qualification for use in satellite pressure vessels. The University of Surrey has expertise in testing materials as well as state-of-the-art testing equipment at its Mechanical Testing Facility and Microstructural Studies Unit. This will allow TISICS to develop a test method applicable to MMCs and generate data to demonstrate the safe use of fibre reinforced metal composites in spacecraft.

Stephen Kyle-Henney, Managing Director at TISICS said: “This is an amazing opportunity to utilise the expertise of two of the leading UK space universities to help us achieve our vision of becoming the first global company to exploit MMC technology in this innovative way. SPRINT is ideal for providing us with assets for technical knowledge and facilities, as well as the knowledge that the data is captured and analysed by a respected organisation.

“The team at the OU are passionate about technology and their support may also help us to move on to other technology developments. The interactions with their academics are fantastic and SPRINT offers a good mechanism to commercialise their research.

“Surrey has a phenomenal capability of materials and fundamental research expertise. By helping us to reach an international standard for testing of our materials, we are resolving a critical issue for manufacturers in the space industry.

Andrew Morse, Project Officer (Mass Spectrometry) at The Open University commented: “The challenge with this particular project is centred around the role that smaller, lighter mass spectrometers can play in helping TISICS to optimise and streamline the process control of its MMC production. The application of our expertise in this area has been demonstrated in both terrestrial and space environments so we have the credentials, knowledge and facilities to support TISICS’ long-term goals.”

Dr Andrew Viquerat, Senior Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering Sciences at the University of Surrey added: “The University of Surrey has collaborated with TISICS for many years, and we are pleased to be able to use our expertise and facilities to help in the development of a standard for qualifying a new class of materials for use in space. We very much welcome the opportunity to advance the characterisation of metal-matrix composites which could make spacecraft lighter, safer and more sustainable in future.”

28 Dec 20. Viasat asks FCC to perform environmental review of Starlink. Viasat has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to perform an environmental review of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation, arguing that the satellite system poses environmental hazards in space and on Earth.

In a Dec. 22 filing, Viasat formally requested that the FCC conduct either an environmental assessment or more rigorous environmental impact statement of Starlink before approving a SpaceX request to modify its existing license for the system so that it can operate nearly 3,000 more satellites in lower orbits.

Satellite systems have long had what’s known as a categorical exemption from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies like the FCC to assess the environmental impacts of their actions. That exemption, implemented in the mid-1980s by the FCC, was based on analysis at the time that launches of individual satellites would not have measurable effects on the environment.

The size of SpaceX’s Starlink system, currently authorized for approximately 12,000 satellites, changes that calculus, Viasat argued in its petition. “But given the sheer quantity of satellites at issue here, as well as the unprecedented nature of SpaceX’s treatment of them as effectively expendable, the potential environmental harms associated with SpaceX’s proposed modification are significant,” the company stated.

“Relying on the Commission’s decades-old categorical exemption to avoid even inquiring into the environmental consequences of SpaceX’s modification proposal would not only violate NEPA, but also would needlessly jeopardize the environmental, aesthetic, health, safety, and economic interests that it seeks to protect, and harm the public interest,” Viasat continued (emphasis in original.)

Part of the petition addresses orbital debris. Viasat has been a strident critic in FCC filings in recent months about the reliability of Starlink satellites and concerns that satellites that fail in orbit could add to the growing debris population in LEO. The company has cited statistics that claimed a failure rate as high as 7%, although that included many of the original “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in May 2019 that SpaceX has been deliberately deorbiting over the last several months.

SpaceX has countered that its on-orbit failure rate is far lower, but Viasat argued that the FCC should assess the overall risk of increased collisions as part of an environmental review. “The Commission cannot take SpaceX’s word for it that the thousands of satellites it is seeking to pack into a lower orbit will not materially increase the risks of collisions and produce excessive space debris — especially because SpaceX knows that when its satellites do collide with other space objects and fragment or fail, it can always launch more,” it stated.

Viasat’s argument for an environmental review goes beyond orbital debris. It claims that both the launch and reentry of Starlink satellites poses environmental hazards, from the production of ozone-destroying chemicals by launch vehicles to chemicals released in the atmosphere when satellites burn up on reentry and debris that reaches the ground.

The petition cites research by The Aerospace Corporation on atmospheric impacts of launches and reentries. At the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month, the organization presented research that concluded that the rise of satellite megaconstellations could increase the mass of satellites reentering the atmosphere from about 100 metric tons a year to as much as 3,200 metric tons.

The Aerospace study, though, only found a potential for environmental impacts caused by an increasing number of reentering satellites, and said that further study on what those impacts could be is needed. “Our preliminary work simply suggests that given the present and anticipated increase in large constellations, there is potential for environmental impact, and further study is therefore recommended,” William Ailor, technical fellow with the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, told SpaceNews.

A third line of argument for an environmental review is the effect Starlink will have on the night sky. The petition noted concerns astronomers have voiced since the first cluster of Starlink satellites launched in 2019 that the constellation could interfere with astronomical observations, and could also have cultural impacts.

Satellites in lower orbits, Viasat added, would be brighter. “The Commission’s decision thus will directly affect the amount of light pollution in the environment, placing NEPA responsibilities squarely on the Commission’s shoulders,” the company stated.

Viasat’s petition is the not the first attempt to request an environmental review of Starlink. In April, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the FCC’s categorical exemption for satellite systems. It cited in particular light pollution concerns from an unnamed satellite constellation with a description similar to Starlink. A paper published in a law review journal in January also proposed invoking NEPA regarding the impacts of Starlink on astronomy.

The GAO hasn’t publicly responded to the senators’ request. However, astronomers have since reported they’re pleased with the level of cooperation with SpaceX to mitigate the impacts of the Starlink constellation on their observations. That has included the incorporation of visors on Starlink satellites to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the satellites and thus reducing their brightness.

“SpaceX is leading the charge in terms of trying to understand these issues and designing mitigations on their satellites,” Tony Tyson, chief scientist of the Vera Rubin Observatory, said at an August briefing about a workshop held earlier this summer on the topic.

SpaceX hasn’t formally commented on the Viasat FCC filing. The company has held a series of ex parte meetings with FCC staff this month on its proposed modification of its Starlink license, according to filings with the commission, including a request to launch a set of Starlink satellites into a sun-synchronous orbital plane to take advantage of an unspecified “upcoming polar launch availability.”

However, Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, questioned Viasat’s motives for the petition. “Starlink ‘poses a hazard’ to Viasat’s profits, more like it. Stop the sneaky moves, Charlie Ergen!” he tweeted early Dec. 29 in response to this article. Ergen is co-founder and chairman of the board of Dish Network, not Viasat. (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)

04 Jan 21. PPM Systems has expanded its range of channel simulators to include the IZT C5040 for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellations, as well as the C7000 RF Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) Emulator for Mobile ad-hoc networks (MANET) and 5G testing.

The IZT C5040 is ideal for simulation of LEO/MEO satellite constellations involving complex handovers with variable path lengths and losses to the ground stations. The system has been designed to be to be driven using real constellation data or an external orbit simulator.

The IZT C7000 is a high-performance simulator system for testing 5G and MIMO radio system solutions in the frequency range of 30 MHz to 6 GHz, with 80 MHz instantaneous bandwidth.

Paul Cotterill, Business Development Manager, said: “These new products from IZT focus on emerging markets and address the requirements for hardware testing in a controlled environment by simulating new complex RF environments.”

These  RF solutions for LEO/MEO satellite constellations and MANET radio links will become increasingly important in the next few years. The emerging constellations will expand markets for small satellites and global internet service providers. The MANET radio links will be used by army and law enforcement units transitioning to more agile digital mesh radio networks, for enhanced mission data support.

To find out more about the products, please visit www.ppmsystems.com.

04 Jan 21. Aerojet Rocketdyne powers ULA NRO payload. Aerojet Rocketdyne powered the recent successful launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket yesterday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket launched a classified national security payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Aerojet Rocketdyne supplies the boost engines, upper-stage engines and the composite overwrapped pressure vessels for the Delta IV Heavy rocket. This is the 12th Delta IV Heavy rocket launch and the eighth for the NRO.

“For nearly two decades, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s reliable, flight-proven propulsion systems have powered the Delta IV Heavy rocket to launch the NRO’s most important missions,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen P. Drake. “Aerojet Rocketdyne consistently supports our nation’s most critical national security requirements in the domains of space and defence.”

The Delta IV Heavy first stage features three common booster cores, each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A rocket engine. The RS-68A is the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled engine generating 702,000 pounds of thrust at sea level.

The three-engine first stage provided more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust at sea level to launch the NRO payload.

The rocket’s Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) is powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2 engine that generates 24,750 pounds of thrust at altitude. The flight-proven RL10 family of liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-fueled rocket engines has been in operation for more than five decades, with over 500 RL10 engines used to power launch vehicle upper stages.

Aerojet Rocketdyne also supplied the 12 MR-106 reaction control thrusters that provide roll, pitch and yaw control for the DCSS.

ARDÉ, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne, provided the composite overwrapped pressure vessels on the first and second stages of the launch vehicle.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc, is a world-recognised aerospace and defence leader that provides propulsion systems and energetics to the space, missile defence and strategic systems, and tactical systems areas, in support of domestic and international customers.  (Source: Space Connect)

31 Dec 20. Virgin Galactic spaceplane flight test abandoned after rocket motor failure. Virgin Galactic has been forced to cut short a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo spaceplane following an incident where the rocket motor’s ignition sequence failed to complete.

Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism company was conducting the third crewed test of its VSS Unity spaceplane into suborbital space on Saturday when the test was abandoned part way through.

The suborbital spaceplane was carried to an altitude of roughly 44,000 feet by its twin-fuselage mothership, dubbed White Knight 2.

It then detached from the carrier plane around 9:15am local time, but a live video stream appeared to show the engines firing only for a brief moment.

“The ignition sequence for the rocket motor did not complete,” Virgin Galactic said on Twitter.

“Vehicle and crew are in great shape. We have several motors ready at Spaceport America. We will check the vehicle and be back to flight soon.”

The pilots and engineers on board the plane all returned safely to New Mexico’s Spaceport following the incident. (Source: Space Connect)

23 Dec 20. SPACEBEL Software To Be Incorporated Into The New Altius Satellite. The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) company, Spacebel, with a new contract to supply the payload data ground segment for the upcoming Altius stratosphere observation mission. This operational ground infrastructure will be located in Redu and Uccle and will process the data produced by the satellite’s on-board instruments before their transmission to the various users.

As part of the European “Earth Watch” program, with Belgium as the main contributor accounting for 94% of the budget, Altius is a smallsat dedicated to the operational monitoring of stratospheric ozone profiles. This new ESA mission, initiated by the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (IASB), will detect the composition of the atmosphere and changes in the stratospheric ozone layer. In addition to greenhouse gases, the satellite will measure other traces of atmospheric gases such as aerosols that are damaging the quality of air on Earth.

In view of the current environmental challenges, Altius will also provide a response, for a minimum period of 3 years, to the imminent shortage of satellites capable of monitoring the presence of the atmosphere components.

From a technological point of view, Altius is characterized by a sightline on the horizon that should establish ozone profiles with the required resolution. In keeping with the Proba family, the development and operation of the future Belgian satellite will go along with cost optimization. Its launch is scheduled for the end of 2023 from Kourou.

Thierry du Pré-Werson, Managing Director of SPACEBEL, said, “SPACEBEL is already in charge of the development of Altius’ on-board software. Today, ESA has appointed SPACEBEL as prime contractor for the definition, system architecture and integration of the payload data management ground segment. We are carrying out this industrial prime contractor role with the scientific partners of the IASB (Brussels) and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. The B.USOC centre and Space Applications Systems NV are also part of the consortium and contribute to the mission planning and operations preparation. This new project represents a significant workload for our teams. It is a great recognition of SPACEBEL’s know-how as a leader in the European Space sector. I would like to thank BELSPO (Belgian Federal Science Policy) and ESA for their confidence. We know what is at stake, it is time to work together and ensure the success of this project.”

Jean-Christophe Schyns, in charge of the mission follow-up at BELSPO, pointed out, “This project, initiated by the IASB and supported by BELSPO, has its Space segment developed by the Belgian QinetiQ Space, while the Belgian OIP is in charge of the design and development of the instrument. Both companies rely upon several subcontractors from our country, but also from Canada, Romania and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, i.e. the 3 other mission contributing countries. The fact that SPACEBEL has now been appointed by ESA as industrial prime contractor for the Altius ground segment clearly confirms the involvement desired by our country in this mission which is and will be – from the emergence of the project in an IASB laboratory to the data processing on the Uccle plateau when the satellite will be in orbit – a success of which Belgium can be proud.” (Source: Satnews)

23 Dec 20. AsiaSat Expands Media Solutions With HERMES Live Partnership. Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat), Asia’s premier satellite solutions provider announced further expansion of its media solution offerings by partnering with HERMES Live to provide broadcast-grade live streaming service to its global customers.

This streaming service will enable AsiaSat to provide complete solution that addresses customers’ increasing need for distributing content flexibly, cost effectively and for maximum reach as digital transformation has reshaped the way audiences consume content.

HERMES Live is a live streaming platform based on patented video technologies, for broadcasters, media companies, event organisers, corporates and enterprises to deliver live streaming content such as live sports, concerts, conferences, performances and education to audiences with proven broadcast quality, high availability and security.

AsiaSat’s end-to-end media and broadcast solutions include transponder capacity from some of Asia’s hotbird satellites, signal uplink, turnaround and downlink, MCPC distribution platforms, fibre connectivity, playout and broadcast facilities, equipment hosting, ground equipment such as bandpass filters, in addition to this new streaming service, available for full time and occasional use.

HERMES Live facilitates digital transformation of business and commerce through a one-stop live video streaming solution and live event services, seamlessly broadcasts to a global audience across all devices and simulcasts to multiple social media. Events delivered on HERMES Live platform have included some of the region’s most anticipated concerts, such as Eason Chan Charity Concert; AGM events for listed companies, with Tricor offering Hong Kong’s first and only full-function platform that enables electronic general meetings with live streaming; virtual conferences, interviews and commercial events such as Hong Kong FinTech Week 2020, Entrepreneur Day 2020 and Sotheby’s Hong Kong Sales Live Auction.

“It is important for us to keep pace with digital transformation by growing our services into new areas that complement our core competencies in providing the best-in-class satellite capacity and transmission solutions. We are delighted to have HERMES Live as our technology partner to offer streaming service as part of our end-to-end media solutions,” said Ina Lui, Senior Vice President, Commercial, Business Development and Strategy of AsiaSat.

“We’re excited that AsiaSat has selected HERMES Live as its technology partner to complement AsiaSat’s media solution portfolio with this innovative and technology proven platform to deliver streaming service based on customers’ specific requirements,” said Wilson Yuen, Chief Executive Officer of HERMES Live Technology Limited. (Source: Satnews)

28 Dec 20. Kymeta Recapitalizes + Fundraises $85m + u8 Terminal Enters Beta Trial Program. Kymeta Corporation has announced the recapitalization of the company along with the successful funding raise of approximately $85m, led by Bill Gates with members of the leadership team personally investing approximately $1m led by Executive Chairman, Doug Hutcheson.

Kymeta™ continues to strengthen and accelerate new product development and commercialization for satellite and cellular communications globally. Meeting the needs of current and future customers drives new product innovation and market development and are key areas of focus for Kymeta.

The financing builds on an extraordinary 18 month period for Kymeta, which saw a rapidly growing influx of new customers, the appointment of key executives, new product releases and market momentum in the areas of defense, public safety and land mobility. Kymeta’s channel network grew to include over one hundred reseller partners and several defense and commercial customers around the globe.

The new u8 terminal paired with Kymeta’s hybrid satellite-cellular connectivity services, Kymeta Connect™, transforms the purchase and consumption of mobile data with an all-inclusive hardware, connectivity and services monthly subscription. The Kymeta™ u8 is the world’s only commercially available flat panel electronically steered antenna built specifically for mobility and designed for the needs of military, first responders and commercial customers.

Key features and benefits of the Kymeta u8 terminal and Kymeta Connect platform also include 2 GHz support across the full Ku-Band, improved performance and efficiency which translates into lower total cost of ownership, integrated hybrid satellite-cellular hardware for always-on connectivity and turnkey Kymeta Connect options that include hardware, connectivity and service with affordable purchasing options.

“As a company, we’re just scratching the surface of how powerful hybrid satellite-cellular communications can be when combined with an affordable electronically steered flat panel antenna offered to the global land mobility ecosystem,” said Doug Hutcheson, Executive Chairman, Kymeta. “Having the continued support of Bill Gates will help us execute our vision even more rapidly and broadly – and with the benefit of experience, perspective and relationships of a leading and highly successful technology backer.”

Additionally, the company announced the Kymeta™ u8 terminal beta trial program with select partners and customers globally, such as DoD/MoD contractors and end-users, satellite service providers, and commercial resellers, bringing Kymeta one step closer to the market launch of the Kymeta u8, planned for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The Kymeta u8 electronically steered terminal has been redesigned for ease of use and improved performance over previous versions of Kymeta’s signature flat-panel antenna. The advanced u8 antenna supports global land mobility, covering the full Ku-band with improved efficiency. The Kymeta u8 terminal offers a low-profile form factor with native DC power input for easy integration into mobile platforms.

What makes the u8 unique in the market is the integrated satellite and cellular modems for a multi-WAN configuration offering seamless hybrid satellite/cellular connectivity. Along with the new terminal, Kymeta is also beta trialing its new Kymeta Connect™ suite of services offerings, making connectivity as easy as buying a wireless plan.

Together, the two create a complete turnkey solution for public safety, DoD/MoD, enterprise, and other markets requiring always-on on-the-go communications. In addition to the plug-and-play u8 terminal, the u8 antenna is designed for integrators to create customized mobile satellite terminals with flexible integration to meet a variety of use cases.

Prior to the beta trials with customers and partners, Kymeta conducted its own u8 terminal prototype trials with test drives from Washington DC to Redmond, WA. During the trials, the Kymeta u8 terminal achieved 100% connectivity on the move with line of sight, meaning the vehicle maintained 100% internet connectivity, with either satellite or cellular connection, validating the hybrid solution for continuous and seamless connectivity. The remarkable results of the prototype trials are available for download from the Kymeta website.

“We are excited to bring our customers the new u8 terminal, paired with Kymeta Connect services and support, for a fully managed, optimized, and easy to use blended service,” said David Harrower, Sr. Vice President of Global Sales, Kymeta. “It is a complete solution that will be very attractive to companies who need predictable OPEX pricing for their regional mobile connectivity services. We believe this is an industry game changer that will provide mobile connectivity in all parts of the world.” (Source: Satnews)

29 Dec 20. mu Space @ The First Thai Spaceship Factory Opening. 2020 was the time when the space scene was lively again, with the Thai government pushing for space-activity-related legislation and creating mechanisms to promote and support both the government and the private sector to develop the space industry together. This is one of the target industries in the new S-curve that will increase Thailand’s investment capacity and its role in developing the space industry and ultimately add value to the Thai economy.

The private sector also plays an important role in developing the economy and stimulating investment in the space industry. This year, mu Space and Advanced Technology Public Company Limited (mu Space Corp.) attracted investors from several industries and businesses to invest in the space industry, such as TOT Public Company Limited, executives from Dow Chemical Group, SCG, as well as the current investors, including Nice Apparel Group, B.Grimm Group, Majuven Fund, a private business group as well as a group of other minor investors, i.e., executives from the UCLA Foundation. The value of ‘mu Space’ has increased to more than $100m through a Series B fundraising.

‘mu Space’ CEO, Varayuth Yenbamroong, on December 25th, 2020, stated during a soft opening event of the first spaceship factory in Thailand that “the fund recently raised will be used on quickly build a large-scale factory to produce and assemble the first spaceship of Thailand, along with satellite parts and commercial spaceships for domestic affairs, communications, national security such as creating a locally made GPS (Global Positioning System), robotic testing, autonomous system testing for unmanned vehicles to be used on the Moon mission. The factory will be equipped with the 5G communication system. It will also serve as a platform to develop “Space IDC” technologies, with a plan to test the “Space IDC”(Space Internet Data Center) simulation in the first quarter of 2021.”

“Space IDC,” or Space Internet Data Center services, is a project jointly created by ‘mu Space’ Corp. and TOT Public Company Limited that aims to provide a data center service with a server, both located in space.

“mu Space’ is planning to build 11 gateway stations initially in Bangkok to operate the upcoming LEO satellite while preparing to propose as many as 8 projects from US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the start of 2021. ‘mu Space’ has gains a lot of experience and has grown significantly from submitting 7 space technology development projects, with its Tipping Point Solicitation Project passing the first hearing. “There is a good chance that ‘mu Space’ will be awarded with the project contract,” said Varayuth.

Despite the presence of COVID-19 pandemic, ‘mu Space’ is planning to hire about 100 positions, starting with the first 50 positions in Q1 2021 to create skilled laborers, in line with the national space technology and industry development plan. (Source: Satnews)

28 Dec 20. Coolisys Technologies’ Power Switcher To Empower Azimuth Satellite-Controlled Systems for TacOps. DPW Holdings, Inc. (NYSE American: DPW) has announced that the company’s power electronics business, Coolisys Technologies Corp.® (“Coolisys®”), has been awarded a $1.1m contract to manufacture and supply a rugged fully customized DC to DC multiple output power switching solution for tactical military use.

Coolisys’ subsidiary, Digital Power Corporation, will provide the customized power switcher to power azimuth satellite-controlled systems in conjunction with tactical precision weaponry and warfare. Designed to operate in GPS-disturbed or jammed battlefield scenarios, the Coolisys customized power switcher features a persistent capability that will provide azimuth satellite-controlled systems with continuous and stable power through multiple power sources in harsh operating conditions.

Coolisys Technologies believes the contract was awarded to the firm due to its 15 year proven track record and reputation of providing high-quality and reliable complex power solutions deployed in Modular Azimuth Position Systems (MAPS) for tactical warfare. Coolisys’ defense contracted partner provides defensive and offensive weapons for air, land, sea and space, and command/control systems.

Amos Kohn, President and CEO of Coolisys, said, “We are proud to be awarded this contract for our customized power switcher from a leading global aerospace and defense customer. The Azimuth Satellite-Controlled Systems project represents one of the most significant self-contained hybrid land navigation systems designed to provide autonomous position initialization and moving base alignment for land and amphibious vehicles in the battlefield. The compact and cost-effective design of this customized rugged power product is suitable for installation on a wide range of platforms and designed for use in varied combat situations.” (Source: Satnews)


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


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