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14 Jan 21. L3Harris to build prototype satellite capable of tracking hypersonic weapons. The Missile Defense Agency awarded L3Harris Technologies a $121m contract to build a prototype satellite capable of tracking hypersonic weapons, the agency announced Jan. 14.
Under the contract, L3Harris is tasked with building an on-orbit prototype demonstration for the agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, a proliferated constellation in low Earth orbit that is capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons.
The constellation is designed to fill the gap in the country’s missile defense architecture created by hypersonic weapons, which are dimmer than traditional ballistic missiles, making them harder to see with the nation’s infrared sensors based in geosynchronous orbit. In addition, they are able to maneuver around terrestrial sensors. With China and Russia developing these weapons, the Department of Defense is eager to develop a new constellation that can detect and track the threats anywhere in the world. And so is Congress — in December lawmakers set aside $130 million to fund the project.
The HBTSS design solves the hypersonic weapon problem by placing the sensor much closer to the Earth’s surface in the lower orbit, making it easier to see the threat. But because the sensors are closer to the Earth, they have a far more limited field of view than the sensors in geosynchronous orbit. In order to achieve global coverage, the Missile Defense Agency wants a proliferated constellation made up of dozens of satellites on orbit.
L3Harris was one of four companies awarded $20 million contracts in 2019 to develop a prototype payload design and risk reduction demonstration for HBTSS, along with Northrop Grumman, Leidos and Raytheon Technologies. According to the initial contract announcements, work on those designs was due Oct. 31, 2020. With this most recent award, L3Harris has won the subsequent competition between the four companies to build the actual prototype.
The company has also been selected to build satellites for the Space Development Agency that will track hypersonic threats and feed data to HBTSS.
In October, L3Harris won a $193m contract to build four of the agency’s eight wide field of view (WFOV) satellites, with SpaceX building four more.
According to Space Development Agency leaders, their satellites will work in conjunction with HBTSS satellites to track hypersonic threats. The WFOV satellites will provide initial detection and tracing of the weapons, passing custody from satellite to satellite as the threats traverse the globe. Then, the WFOV satellites will pass custody to the medium field of view HBTSS satellites, which can provide targeting solutions with their more accurate sensors.
The WFOV satellites are scheduled for launch as early as September 2022. Work on the HBTSS prototype contract will be complete in July 2023. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
14 Jan 21. Voyager Subsidiary, Altius Space Machines, Inc. Announces Successful First Orbital Launch of DogTags Aboard OneWeb’s Satellites.
Universal grapple fixtures to lower the cost of servicing and aid in satellite interfacing. Voyager Space Holdings, Inc. (Voyager), a global leader in space exploration, today announced its subsidiary, Altius Space Machines, Inc. (Altius) achieved a significant milestone: a successful first launch of the company’s DogTags™ universal grapple fixtures into space aboard OneWeb’s satellites. This is the first of many planned launches for Altius’ DogTags, as the company is slated to produce grapple fixtures for all of OneWeb’s remaining satellites in its planned constellation.
Altius’ DogTag grapple fixture is a commercially available universal grappling point for satellites. DogTags are optimized for magnetic grappling; however, they are compatible with a variety of grapple methods such as mechanical grasping, Gecko adhesion, electrostatic adhesion and harpoon grappling. DogTags help mitigate the growing space debris problem by making it easier to deorbit non-functioning satellites, and can also be used to tug functional satellites to new orbits, act as an anchor point for satellite servicing, and capturing and stowing various payloads.
“This is an incredibly proud moment for Altius. It’s always wonderful getting to see an idea your team has been working on for years take flight,” said Jonathan Goff, CEO and founder of Altius Space Machines. “Beyond this individual achievement, we’re optimistic today’s launch will be the first of many as we work to lower the cost of servicing, and enable satellite operators like OneWeb to pioneer more sustainable space operations.”
Altius’ partnership with OneWeb is part of OneWeb’s larger initiative focused on advancing Responsible Space. The satellite communications company is committed to “leaving no trace in space” and is partnering with companies like Altius as part of its advocacy efforts for space environmental stewardship to aid in orbital debris management. The satellites are manufactured by Airbus OneWeb Satellites in a state-of-the-art factory located in Merritt Island, Florida.
“It is very rewarding to see our first portfolio company reach such a major milestone as this one,” said Matthew Kuta, president and COO of Voyager. “The DogTag is just one of their many revolutionary on-orbit satellite servicing solutions that we know will be transformational for future commercial and private sector use.”
For more information on Voyager please visit: https://voyagerspaceholdings.com/
About Voyager Space Holdings, Inc.
Voyager Space Holdings, Inc. is a global leader in space exploration. Voyager’s long-term mission is to create a vertically integrated publicly traded NewSpace company capable of delivering any mission humans can conceive. By centralizing shared services functions at the parent company level, Voyager enables engineer founded and led subsidiaries to focus more on development of innovative products and services. The firm’s first in industry model is uniquely tailored to support the growth needs of commercial space companies by offering an alternative solution to traditional private capital models and replaces them with a longer-term approach as a provider of permanent capital. Voyager is led by founders and space industry veterans Dylan Taylor and Matthew Kuta, with a Board of Directors that includes National Security Expert and four-star Air Force General William Shelton, leading investor Gabe Finke, and a world leading planetary Scientist, Dr. Alan Stern. To learn more about Voyager Space Holdings, Inc., please visit: http://voyagerspaceholdings.com/ (Source: PR Newswire)
14 Jan 21. Lockheed Martin-Built Orion Spacecraft is Ready for its Moon Mission. Team Hands Over Completed Orion to NASA to Prepare for Launch.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is ready for its mission to the Moon. Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has completed assembly and testing of the Orion Artemis I spacecraft and has transferred possession to NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) team today. Assembled at Kennedy Space Center, the EGS team will then perform final preparations on the spacecraft for its mission to the Moon later this year.
Orion is NASA’s new human-rated exploration-class spaceship that will take astronauts into deep space including the Moon and Mars. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for NASA and built the crew module, crew module adaptor and launch abort system. The European Space Agency provides the European Service Module for Orion.
The Artemis I mission will be the first launch of the Orion spacecraft aboard NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Over the course of three weeks, the uncrewed Orion capsule will fly out and orbit the Moon and return to Earth. This test mission will validate the spacecraft, rocket and ground systems for future crewed missions.
“Orion is a unique and impressive spacecraft and the team did an outstanding job to get us to this day,” said Mike Hawes, Orion vice president and program manager for Lockheed Martin. “The launch and flight of Artemis I will be an impressive sight, but more importantly it will confirm Orion is ready to safely carry humans to the Moon and back home. This tremendous advancement opens the door to a new era of deep space exploration that will ultimately benefit us back here on Earth.”
Orion is being transferred from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy, where it was assembled, to multiple Kennedy facilities where EGS will load propellants and other consumables such as ammonia, helium and nitrogen, and integrate the launch abort system and protective ogive fairing. After this is completed, it will be taken to the Vertical Assembly Facility to be lifted onto the SLS rocket and prepared for roll to the launch pad.
Crewed Missions Underway
The launch later this year will be the beginning of many Artemis missions to the Moon. The next mission, Artemis II, will be the first with a crew onboard and will go out to orbit the Moon and return. That Orion crew module and service module adapter are well under assembly at Kennedy and will see its first power-on of its integrated computers this summer.
Artemis III will see the first woman and the next man to walk on the Moon. Orion will carry them out to orbit the Moon where they will ultimately land on the surface using a lunar landing system. That spacecraft is already under construction as major structural elements of the crew module pressure vessel are arriving at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.
As part of an Orion production and operations contract, NASA ordered three Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin for Artemis missions III-V with plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions VI-VIII and options for up to 12 missions.
14 Jan 21. Bezos’ Blue Origin aims to fly first space passengers by April – CNBC. Billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned space company Blue Origin aims to carry the first passengers on its New Shepard space vehicle as early as April, CNBC reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Blue Origin completed the fourteenth test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule on Thursday, marking one of the last remaining steps before the company flies its first crew to space, the report said. (cnb.cx/3sswOEc)
Responding to a Reuters request for comment on the report, a company spokesperson said “this is rumor and speculative – not confirmed.”
The CNBC report said Blue Origin aims to launch the second test flight within six weeks, or by late February, and the first crewed flight six weeks after that, or by early April. (Source: Reuters)
14 Jan 21. Partnerships Key to Space Force Delivering Warfighting Capabilities. The Space Force is responsible for delivering space capability to the joint and coalition forces, including such items as navigation, timing, electromagnetic operations, orbital warfare, GPS, missile warning, satellite communications and launch space domain awareness.
Many of those capabilities have been forward deployed to the Middle East and other areas for some time, said Space Force Gen. David D. Thompson, the vice chief of space operations, who provided virtual remarks yesterday to the Association of Old Crows, regarding space operations.
To continue to provide these and future capabilities, it is important that the Space Force has an effective and digitally fluent workforce that’s adequately trained and educated to operate systems and networks in the cyberspace domain in a cyber-secure manner, he said.
Thompson stressed the service’s reliance on partnerships.
The Space Force relies on the commercial sector for innovative ideas, prototypes and experimentation, he said. They can design, develop, build and field them rapidly.
The idea of prototyping quickly involves some risk of failure. But even failure can lead to solutions that spiral development, he added.
Partnerships with the joint force, combatant commands and Defense Department agencies is also important, he said.
“We have enduring relationships with the National Reconnaissance Office and the rest of the intelligence community,” he said. “We not only need to maintain those but deepen those as well, especially because we’re now partners with them in the need to defend and protect these capabilities from threats.”
The United States can no longer afford to go it alone when it comes to space capabilities, Thompson said.
“We see nations who want to grow and evolve their space capabilities, who want to use them for economic purposes, who want to use them for civil and public safety purposes, who also want to use them for national security purposes. We see a lot of common ground with them and a lot of common interests,” he said.
Traditional Space Force partners have been Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, he said. Over the last few years, partnerships with France, Germany, Japan and South Korea have been expanding, along with a number of NATO nations such as Norway. Partnerships with Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other nations, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region are also on the horizon. (Source: US DoD)
14 Jan 21. Skynet 6A successfully passes Preliminary Design Review. Important milestone achieved despite Covid-19. Skynet 6A moves towards detailed design phase with more than 250 working on the programme. Airbus has successfully completed the first key phase of the Skynet 6A project with the achievement of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). The project now has permission to move into the next phase leading to the Critical Design Review (CDR).
Airbus was awarded the Skynet 6A contract in July 2020 and teams across its sites in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Hawthorn have been working on the programme to achieve this key milestone. Meetings with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) were held virtually enabling the review board to take place in October and the PDR being achieved in November.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “This is excellent news and demonstrates our joint commitment to work in partnership to achieve the programme schedule. The progress we are making in building the UK MOD’s next generation military satellite and getting to this stage, despite current restrictions, really highlights the flexible and strong working relationship we have built with the Defence Digital team. Skynet 6A, to be built entirely in the UK, will significantly enhance the UK’s milsatcoms capability, building on the heritage of the four Skynet 5 satellites which were also built by Airbus, and which are all still operating perfectly in orbit.”
Teams from across the space and ground segments in Airbus worked closely with their MOD counterparts to keep the programme on track.
Skynet 6A will extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. The contract signed with the UK MOD in July 2020 involves the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, Skynet 6A, planned for launch in 2025. The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current Skynet 5 system. The value of the contract is more than £500m.
The Skynet 5 programme, provided by Airbus as a full service outsource contract, has provided the UK MOD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations since 2003. Airbus has been involved in all Skynet phases since 1974 and this phase builds on a strong UK commitment to space manufacturing in the UK. The programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012. The Skynet 5 programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satcoms and innovation to UK forces. Through the many years of delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the Airbus teams have managed to significantly extend the lifespan of the Skynet satellites many years beyond their design life, offering significant additional value for money and capability to the UK.
The Skynet 6A satellite is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It will utilise more of the radio frequency spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both more capacity and greater versatility than Skynet 5 satellites. The satellite will feature electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for sovereign UK end-to-end satellite production and support.
14 Jan 21. SatADSL bridges Brazilian connectivity market with Telespazio Brazil partnership. A new path to accessing Brazil’s connectivity market has been laid out for satellite service providers with the announcement of a partnership between SatADSL and Telespazio.
Telespazio Brazil will offer their connectivity via SatADSL’s Cloud-service Delivery Platform (C-SDP) and the Yahsat3 satellite, providing 26 Ka-band spot beams supported by ST Engineering technology. This enables SatADSL to deploy their full range of dynamic services across the country and provide Telespazio Brazil with access to additional markets in Latin America
SVP of Business Development at SatADSL Guillermo Bosch said, “This is an exciting strategic development for us. Partnership with Telespazio opens up the Brazilian market and allows us to deliver solutions to new customers – in a time when reliable connectivity is more important than ever – as well as giving our teleport partners already connected to our platform the ability to access the biggest market in the region for their own customers.”
The C-SDP facilitates customer connectivity while eliminating the high cost traditionally associated with satellite infrastructure. By virtue of this new partnership between Telespazio and SatADSL, dynamic and high-performance IP access will be made more readily available in Brazil, providing a valuable utility during the ongoing pandemic, where reliable connectivity is becoming more and more essential.
Telespazio Brasil’s CEO Marzio Laurenti said, “SatADSL have established themselves as a secure, reliable partner with an impressive platform and the ability to support and facilitate the continued success of our satellite solutions in South America.”
The new partnership represents a continuation of SatADSL’s efforts to fulfil their vision of providing “continent-to-continent connectivity” with their innovative C-SDP, breaking down the barriers traditionally associated with satellite deployments, namely cost, even in the most remote regions.
14 Jan 21. Rocket Lab prepares for first launch mission of 2021. Rocket Lab has announced its first Electron launch of the new year will be a dedicated mission for European space technology company OHB Group.
This dedicated mission, named ‘Another One Leaves the Crust’, is scheduled for lift-off during a 10-day launch window opening on 16 January NZT/UTC. Encapsulated inside Electron’s fairing will be a single communication microsatellite that will enable specific frequencies to support future services from orbit.
The launch will be Rocket Lab’s 18th Electron mission and was procured for OHB Group through OHB Cosmos International Launch Service GmbH, the launch service division of OHB Group. OHB Cosmos is responsible for launching the spacecraft built by the group’s satellite manufacturers based in Germany, Sweden and Czech Republic.
The mission will launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula to an initial elliptical orbit, then Electron’s Kick Stage will perform a series of burns with its relightable Curie engine to raise apogee and act as a space tug to deliver the OHB Cosmos’ payload to its precise orbital destination.
Following payload deployment, the Kick Stage will perform a de-orbit burn to lower its perigee where it will experience greater atmospheric drag, enabling it to re-enter and burn up faster to avoid becoming space junk. Rocket Lab will not be attempting to recover Electron’s first stage for this mission.
Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said, “We’re proud to be delivering a speedy and streamlined path to orbit for OHB Group on this mission, with launch taking place within six months of contract signing. By flying as a dedicated mission on Electron, OHB and their mission partners have control over launch timing, orbit, integration schedule, and other mission parameters.”
‘Another One Leaves the Crust’ is the first mission in a packed launch manifest for 2021, which includes multiple dedicated and rideshare small satellite missions for both government and commercial customers.
This year will also see Rocket Lab launch a Photon mission to the Moon in support of NASA’s CAPSTONE program, and also launch the first missions from Rocket Lab’s two additional launch pads – Launch Complex 2 in Wallops, Virginia, and the new Pad B at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. (Source: Space Connect)
13 Jan 21. US Space Command site to be located in Huntsville, Alabama. The U.S. Air Force is expected to announce Huntsville, Alabama, as the location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters, according to Alabama’s governor.
Gov. Kay Ivey said that Huntsville’s Redstone Region is set to house the headquarters. The governor said she was informed of the decision Wednesday morning.
The role of the Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and troop communication and providing warning of missile launches. That is different from the Space Force, which is a distinct military service like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command,” Ivey said in a statement.
“Our state has long provided exceptional support for our military and their families as well as a rich and storied history when it comes to space exploration,” Ivey said.
Six locations are still in the running to house Space Command’s new HQ.
Huntsville’s nickname, Rocket City, is thanks largely to Wernher von Braun and his team of fellow German-born rocketeers who settled there in the 1950s. The city has long been home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
“The bottom line is simple, the Redstone Region is the most natural choice to become home to such an important mission for our country,” Ivey said.
Ivey’s office said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Instillations Bob Moriarity called Ivey to inform her of Secretary Barbara Barrett’s decision over where the headquarters would be.
A number of states competed for the site.
Other finalists for the site were Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Port San Antonio in Texas and Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida.
President Donald Trump in 2019 authorized the creation of the United States Space Command to preserve American dominance on what he called “the ultimate high ground.”
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the city is honored to have been selected.
Ivey in a tweet thanked U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and local officials for advocating Alabama for the site. (Source: Defense News)
13 Jan 21. US Army issues $17m in contracts for TITAN development. US Army has issued agreements to Palantir Technologies and Raytheon Technologies in support of the design and software maturation of a new next-generation ground station.
The Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) is intended to be a key piece in the sensor-to-shooter chain, connecting sensors from all domains to war fighters and systems in the field to enable beyond-line-of-sight targeting. The system will be capable of downlinking data from multiple domains, processing it with artificial intelligence to create targeting data, and then delivering those solutions directly to the Fires networks, which can then determine the best available shooter to respond with.
Palantir and Raytheon will each receive an $8.5m other transaction authority (OTA) agreements for 12 months of work in the project’s first phase. That early stage will include a series of design reviews, software demonstrations and soldier touchpoints as the vendors mature the TITAN software and work on system-level design. The Army will eventually move to a single vendor for complete system prototyping for phase 2. The next stage will cover refinement of prototype capabilities, and the fourth and final phase will prepare a prototype that is ready to integrate future sensors and technology advancements.
The Army has been practicing with TITAN surrogates, most notably during its Project Convergence learning campaign last year. During that event, the Army was able to take overhead tactical satellite imagery and downlink it to a TITAN surrogate located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. The TITAN surrogate then used the Prometheus artificial intelligence program to create targeting solutions from that data. Next, those solutions were transported to the main demonstration area at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, where another AI program determined the best shooter to receive that targeting solution.
“We found the threat rapidly. We were able to identify it as the real threat. We were able to put hit-grade coordinates on it in very near real time and then digitally send that from the TITAN surrogate unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, down to the firing units that were located down at Yuma via tactical satellite communications. And all of that happened within seconds,” Willie Nelson, director of Army Futures Command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team, told C4ISRNET following the exercise.
Northrop Grumman has been tapped to build two TITAN prototypes. Those are expected to be delivered in 2022. (Source: Defense News)
13 Jan 21. UK Space Agency CEO to step down. Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, has announced he will leave his role in 2021. Following a 4-year term leading the Agency, which delivers the UK’s civil space programme, Graham will step down from his position this year.
Recruitment for his successor will begin soon, and an announcement will be made in due course.
Graham said, “It has been an immense privilege to serve as UK Space Agency Chief Executive during one of the most exciting and challenging periods of the UK’s short space history. I have relished the opportunity to work with some amazing people both within the Agency and across the space sector domestically and internationally. However, with the end of the term of my original appointment now in sight, it is time for me to look to new horizons and for a new Chief Executive to lead the UK through its ambitious journey into space.”
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “Graham has been instrumental in the UK’s recent successes in space. He led the UK spaceflight programme, which plans to launch the first UK satellite from the British Isles as early as 2022, and has ensured UK leadership in the decade’s most exciting global missions to the Moon and Mars. He was also a strong advocate for a coordinated government approach to space which led to the creation of the National Space Council last year, aiming to bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits to the UK.”
Nick Shave, Chair of UKspace, said, “Under Graham’s leadership, the UK Space Agency has transformed, more than trebling in size and partnering with the sector on world-class science and technology programmes. I wish him well in his next endeavours.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
11 Jan 21. ThinKom Completes Tests. ThinKom Solutions, Inc. has recently completed successful over-the-air tests of a pair of 17-inch active diametre K/Q-band phased-array antennas communicating through an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite.
The tests verified that the antenna, based on ThinKom’s patented Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub (VICTS) architecture, meets or exceeds all performance metrics for operating effectively with the frequency-hopping waveform of the AEHF protected communications satellite network.
A broad range of uplink and downlink communication plans and modes were tested on an operational K/Q-band satellite, exercising full 1 GHz and 2GHz “hopped” bandwidths. The VICTS antennas successfully acquired, tracked, logged on and joined downlink and uplink services in all cases at elevation angles from 24 to 73 degrees.
“The stabilised beam of the VICTS antenna eliminates the need for ‘de-hopping,’ requiring substantially less processing power than electronically steered antennas and given that VICTS is the only phased-array technology that can work with very widespread waveforms, it uniquely enables use on new communication waveforms such as the Protected Tactical Waveform,” said Bill Milroy, Chairman and CTO of ThinKom Solutions.
The conformal flat-panel VICTS phased-array antennas can be cavity mounted on a variety of aero, naval and land-mobile platforms, according to Milroy. The constellation of six AEHF satellites provides secure, survivable, jam-resistant and near-worldwide satellite communications for US sea, ground and air assets. (Source: ESD Spotlight)
12 Jan 21. NASA, Government of Japan Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program. NASA and the Government of Japan have finalized an agreement for the lunar Gateway, an orbiting outpost that commercial and international partners will build together. This agreement strengthens the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate the technologies needed for human missions to Mars.
Under this agreement, Japan will provide several capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab), which will provide the heart of Gateway life support capabilities and additional space where crew will live, work, and conduct research during Artemis missions. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) planned contributions include I-Hab’s environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control, and imagery components, which will be integrated into the module by the European Space Agency (ESA) prior to launch. These capabilities are critical for sustained Gateway operations during crewed and uncrewed time periods.
“We’re honored to announce this latest agreement with Japan to support long-term human exploration on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Strengthening our international partnerships and commitments to Artemis puts humanity on a solid path to achieve our common goals of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of this decade.”
Under an arrangement with Northrop Grumman, Japan also will provide batteries for the Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the initial crew cabin for astronauts visiting the Gateway. Additionally, Japan is investigating enhancements to its HTV-X cargo resupply spacecraft, which could result in its use for Gateway logistics resupply.
“Leveraging the capabilities that international partners contribute to Gateway will be key to enabling access to the lunar surface,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “We are pleased to move forward in these groundbreaking efforts with Japan and our other partners.”
The agreement also marks NASA’s intent to provide crew opportunities for Japanese astronauts to the Gateway, which will be determined following additional discussions, and documented in a future arrangement.
Approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, the Gateway will serve as a rendezvous point for astronauts traveling to lunar orbit aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket prior to transit to low-lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon. From the Gateway, NASA and its partners will use this lunar vantage point as a springboard for robotic and human expeditions to the Moon, and on to Mars.
“The capabilities provided by Japan are critical to enabling the interior environment of the Gateway allowing our crews to live and work for longer durations,” said Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “With the life support systems from Japan, longer duration missions for the Artemis crews can be accomplished with reduced demands on logistics resupply.”
NASA astronauts will board a commercially developed lander for the final leg of the journey to the lunar surface, and the agency has contracted with U.S. industry to develop the first two Gateway components, the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the HALO, as well as the logistics resupply for Gateway.
Japan joins two other international partners in committing to the Gateway with NASA. In November 2020, the United States and Canada signed an agreement to collaborate on the Gateway. CSA’s planned contributions include the outpost’s external robotics system, robotic interfaces, and end-to-end robotic operations. In October 2020, NASA and ESA signed an agreement solidifying ESA’s contributions to the Gateway, which include ESA’s provision of the I-Hab module and refueling modules, along with enhanced lunar communications.
In March 2020, NASA selected the first two scientific investigations to fly aboard the Gateway, one from NASA and the other from ESA. NASA and Gateway’s international partners will collaborate to share the scientific data that will be transmitted to Earth. Additional scientific payloads will be selected in the future to fly aboard the outpost.
In addition to supporting scientific research conducted by robotic and human lunar surface missions, the Gateway will support activities to test the technologies needed for human missions to Mars. For example, NASA will use the Gateway to demonstrate remote management and long-term reliability of autonomous spacecraft systems and other technologies.
Learn more about NASA’s Gateway program at:
Learn more about NASA’s Artemis program at: https://www.nasa.gov/artemis (Source: NASA)
12 Jan 21. Tensor Tech built the world’s tiniest satellite attitude control system using spherical motor technology. Tensor Tech developed groundbreaking spherical motor technology that will help more commercial players enter the space industry. Based in Taiwan, Tensor Tech addresses the biggest problem currently preventing many companies from exploring space – rocket launching costs and satellite building costs. Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA) has selected Tensor as one of the 100 featured Taiwanese startups showcased at CES 2021.
According to Tensor Tech Co-founder and CEO Thomas Yen, “There are two obstacles for commercial players to enter the space industry: rocket launching costs and satellite building costs. To tackle these problems, satellite miniaturization is the key. Achieving the same mission purpose but using less weight, volume, and power will not only save on launching costs but also enables more room for payloads.”
Yen explained that the attitude control system (ACS) tends to be the heaviest and largest of all the related subsystems.
“For decades, the size of the ACS could not be reduced significantly due to physical limitations. Tensor Tech has developed groundbreaking spherical motor technology that replaces three motors with just one. Our device’s weight, size, and power consumption are two-thirds that of traditional systems,” Yen said.
The Next-Gen Automobile Technology
Controlled by a patented, magnetic field design, Tensor Tech’s spherical motor is capable of spinning in X, Y, and Z axes. Moreover, bias-currents are applied to each phase of the motor, enabling the motor to combine 3-axis magnetorquers into this device as well.
One of its applications is attitude control. Every satellite in orbit requires precise orientation control along the X, Y, and Z axes. This so-called attitude control is essential for optical-sensing and broadband communication satellites. To achieve this, Tensor Tech uses a tactical-grade gyroscope and fine sun sensor as the attitude determination sub-system, while the spherical motor functions as the attitude actuator.
Yen said that Tensor Tech’s invention will enable the space industry to take on a wider range of commercial applications by allowing satellite missions to run more power-intensive operations (due to the reduced power needs of the ACS) and carry larger payloads.
“We provide our customers with a full stack service for the ACS. From the mission design phase to delivering hardware and integration support, we are not only your key subsystem supplier and consulting team, but also your best partner on this space journey,” he said.
The technology of Tensor explained.
The Satellite Attitude Determination and Control System is designed for CubeSats of 1.5U, 2U, 3U, and 6U. A full set of attitude determination/actuator hardware and firmware is embedded. This sub-system combines 6 fine sun sensors (FSS100 from Tensor Tech), 1 reaction sphere (RS100 from Tensor Tech), and a tactical grade gyroscope to provide pointing accuracy up to 0.2 deg (3-sigma) when the sun is capturable and 1 deg (3-sigma) when it is not. A GPS module can increase the attitude determination precision.
One Reaction Sphere can perform the same function as 3 traditional reaction wheels, but at nearly 1/3 of the volume, cost, weight, and power consumption. Its max. angular momentum and max. torque can be customized for CubeSats of 1.5U, 2U, 3U, and 6U. In terms of rotational dynamics, the motor functions like a Single-Gimbal Control Moment Gyro, but is actuated by a spherical motor. Moreover, this motor can act like 3 magnetorquers in X, Y, and Z axes when bias currents are applied. With this device, you can control the orientation of your CubeSat the same as 3 traditional single-axis reaction wheels and 3 magnetorquers. However, the weight, size, and power consumption are lower.
Unlike traditional, single-axis reaction wheel motors, single spherical motors are capable of providing angular momentum in 3 axes. In addition, by applying bias currents, these motors act as 3 single-axis magnetorquers as well. In terms of rotational dynamics, it is actually a control moment gyro.
The algorithms include: (1) De-tumbling, (2) Attitude Sensor Calibration, (3) Attitude Determination, and (4) 3-axis Pointing Control. These are all embedded in Tensor Tech’s controller. All that is needed is to provide attitude commands from satellite OBC via I2C or UART in a standard PC104 port. (Source: PR Newswire)
12 Jan 21. EU seeks space alliance to defend against U.S. and Chinese ambitions. The European Union will pursue a more aggressive European space strategy to prevent being muscled out by U.S. and Chinese launcher technology, setting up an European alliance with industry this year, a EU official said on Tuesday.
Over the past decades, Europe has sought to build independent access to space from U.S. and Russian pioneers to help its industry, with successes such as Ariane rockets or GPS-rival satnav Galileo.
“We must ask ourselves: will our current approach successfully get us to 2050, considering the disruptions in the sector that we all observe? I strongly doubt it, and I believe we need a more offensive and aggressive strategy,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton, whose brief include the space sector, told a conference.
“I will therefore gather in the next months all the actors to initiate a European Launcher alliance to be able to jointly define…a common roadmap for the next generation of launchers and technologies relevant to ensure an autonomous access to space,” Breton said.
Breton said the alliance would be made up of industry, EU governments, EU lawmakers and the European Space Agency, among others.
The recent emergence of U.S. competitor SpaceX and its reusable rockets as well as China’s rapid advances, including the first ever landing on the far side of the Moon, is giving new urgency to Europe’s ambitions.
After investing 12bn euros in space activities between 2014 to 2020, the bloc aims to spend almost 15bn euros for the 2021-2027 period, although the plans still need final approval by EU governments and the European Parliament. (Source: Reuters)
12 Jan 21. EROSS+: Thales Alenia Space and its Partners Will Lead an Horizon 2020 Project Dedicated to On-Orbit Servicing. After leading over the last five years several R&D activities for the Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) on Space Robotics Technologies set up by the European Union within Horizon 2020, Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %) and its Partners have been awarded by the European Commission a preparation project (phase A/B1) for in-orbit demonstration dedicated to In-Orbit Servicing space vehicles. An in-orbit demonstration is expected by 2026.
This new project, called EROSS+, for European Robotic Orbital Support Services, will be led under Thales Alenia Space’s responsibility. The consortium includes: Thales Alenia Space in France that will supervise the Overall System, contributing to the Guidance, Navigation and Control functions for this new type of mission, while Thales Alenia Space in Italy will handle the Mission design, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) the Robotics aspects, GMV (Spain) the Robotics Autonomy Systems, PIAP Space (Poland) Gripping Mechanisms and SINTEF (Norway) the Software Architecture. Similar to the first two phases of the SRC, the PERASPERA consortium of Space Agencies in Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, United Kingdom and the European Space Agency) will be contributing to the technical review of the EROSS+ project, in support to the European Commission services.
This phase is the third and last one of the SRC in the frame of H2020 projects, building on the two previous ones that have allowed to increase the Technology Readiness Level of several key building blocks. The first phase involved six projects related to the development of technologies dedicated to robotics and in-orbit operations. Thales Alenia Space was leading I3DS (Integrated 3D sensors), a sensor suite for robotic missions. The second step, currently in its final phase, was to integrate the previously developed building blocks into more specific applications, through three projects oriented towards modular and reconfigurable spacecraft (MOSAR), in-orbit assembly (PULSAR) and on-orbit servicing (EROSS), the last being led by Thales Alenia Space as well. Those projects are now resulting to ground demonstrators, a first step to demonstrate the feasibility of the targeted applications especially EROSS which will validate all the technologies needed for On-Orbit Servicing.
The third phase of the SRC is now to prepare the in-orbit demonstration of such new types of missions (up to preliminary design). EROSS+ obviously follows up on the EROSS activity and aims to develop a European solution for On-Orbit Servicing. These space vehicles will be able to carry out a wide range of operations in orbit, including controlled re-entry of space debris, robotic manipulation, the extension of a satellite’s operational life, in-orbit re-fuelling, inspection, and many more. The project will start in February and will last 24 months. The goal consists in designing a demonstrator while progressing in parallel on the maturity of the key building blocks.
The demonstration mission concept includes the complete orbital rendezvous phase of a Servicer satellite with a collaborative Client satellite prepared for On-Orbit Servicing that shall be followed by the capture and then servicing operations. The whole idea is to validate the capability of carrying out on-orbit operations of this type for future missions.
On-Orbit servicing space vehicles represent a real paradigm shift in space: upcoming systems will no longer be “abandoned to their fate” once in orbit, but can evolve over their lifetime. Thales Alenia Space is one of the leading pioneers in the trend towards On-Orbit Servicing, which signals the advent of a new approach to space access. When humanity considers the possibility of building lunar bases sometime in the future, On-Orbit Servicing technologies will underpin the solutions developed to transport and assemble the constituent elements. (Source: ASD Network)
12 Jan 21. Rolls-Royce and UK Space Agency launch first ever study into nuclear-powered space exploration. The UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce are joining forces for a unique study into how nuclear power and technologies could be used as part of space exploration This new research contract will see planetary scientists work together to explore the game-changing potential of nuclear power as a more plentiful source of energy, capable of making possible deeper space exploration in the decades to come.
Nuclear propulsion, which would involve channelling the immense energy released in splitting the atom to accelerate propellants, like hydrogen, at huge speeds, has the potential to revolutionise space travel.
By some estimates, this kind of engine could be twice as efficient as the chemical engines that power our rockets today. Spacecraft powered by this kind of engine could, conceivably, make it to Mars in just 3 to 4 months – roughly half the time of the fastest possible trip in a spacecraft using the current chemical propulsion.
Nuclear space power is anticipated to create new skilled jobs across the UK to support the burgeoning UK space economy.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “As we build back better from the pandemic, it is partnerships like this between business, industry and government that will help to create jobs and bring forward pioneering innovations that will advance UK spaceflight. Nuclear power presents transformative possibilities for space exploration and this innovative study with Rolls-Royce could help to propel our next generation of astronauts into space faster and for longer, significantly increasing our knowledge of the Universe.”
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said, “Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond. This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before.”
Dave Gordon, UK Senior Vice President, Rolls-Royce Defence said, “We are excited to be working with the UK Space Agency on this pioneering project to define future nuclear power technologies for space. We believe there is a real niche UK capability in this area and this initiative can build on the strong UK nuclear network and supply chain. We look forward to developing this and other exciting space projects in the future as we continue to develop the power to protect our planet, secure our world and explore our Universe. It would not just mean a time saving – it would also radically reduce the dose of radiation taken on by astronauts that would be making future trips to Mars or other planets. The size of the dose increases the longer you spend in deep space, away from the bubble of protection given by the Earth’s magnetosphere.”
The appeal of a small nuclear power generator for propulsion also comes from the fact that power in space becomes increasingly precious with distance from the Sun. In the outer Solar System, sunlight gets too dim for solar panels, and other technologies like fuel cells are often too patchy as a source of energy.
Nuclear propulsion is an idea that has existed since the 1950s, when the United States attempted to develop a rocket propelled by small atomic bombs tossed out the back. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
12 Jan 21. NASA, US National Science Foundation sign agreement to advance R&D. NASA and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) have signed a memorandum of understanding affirming the agencies’ intent to continue their longstanding partnership in mutually beneficial research activities advancing space, Earth, biological and physical sciences to further US national space policy and promote the progress of science.
Over the years, NASA and NSF have enjoyed a successful co-operative relationship that has supported further research and understanding related to a variety of disciplines, including research activities related to astrophysics, astrochemistry, planetary science, astrobiology, and heliophysics that aim to understand space weather, exoplanets, gravitational waves, and the origins of life.
The agreement addresses a broad range of research and activities in many areas of science, engineering, and education central to the missions of both agencies.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “When you look at the vast array of disciplines that make up NASA’s mission, there isn’t a single one that isn’t somehow informed by our partnership with NSF. We look forward to continued collaboration on areas of research here on Earth and in space – including aboard the International Space Station – as well as inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals.”
For example, NASA and NSF have collaborated on field work and research activities in Antarctica and Greenland through NSF-managed stations and facilities, including research on Antarctica’s ice sheet, investigations using high-altitude scientific balloon platforms launched from McMurdo Station, the collection and profiling of ancient meteorites that have impacted the Antarctic ice sheet, and communications infrastructure support for Antarctic research stations.
The agencies also have engaged in field campaigns to address fundamental Earth system science, as well as Earth system modelling, remote sensing, and ocean and climate monitoring activities. Collaborations also have included activities related to the National Robotics, Cyber-Physical Systems and Digital Library initiatives, as well as supporting educational engagement activities, such as the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program and the Center for Chemical Evolution.
NASA and NSF also have engaged in research aboard the International Space Station, addressing a wide variety of areas of inquiry, including biological and physical research in microgravity, plasma physics and joint solicitations in transport phenomena, tissue engineering, and mechanobiology.
A number of these investigations have been conducted through the International Space Station US National Laboratory (ISSNL), which the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space manages in co-operation with NASA.
NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan added, “Increasingly, we see that shared resources and meaningful commitments to collaboration increase the likelihood of producing breakthrough discoveries. Research in Antarctica can inform what we know about space, for example, while experiments performed in microgravity can tell us more about life on Earth.
“NASA has been a crucial partner for decades, and this interagency collaboration will ensure we can continue and expand our cooperative efforts, including building a strong and diverse scientific workforce.”
Through the agreement, NASA and NSF will continue working together to advance NASA- and NSF-sponsored science programs in astrophysics, planetary science, astrobiology, quantum technology, heliophysics, and Earth science, with special emphasis on those activities that continue to make use of NSF-managed facilities, including those in the Antarctic.
The agencies also will continue the NASA-NSF partnership for exoplanet research; coordinate efforts to enable a full integration of Earth’s ecosystem and biodiversity observations from ground-based, aerial, and space-based sensing systems; continue interagency efforts to develop a space weather research-to-operations-to-research framework to establish principles for interagency collaboration on advancing and predicting sun-Earth space weather; and continue collaboration between the NSF and the ISSNL; among other activities.
In addition, NASA and NSF are united in their efforts to broaden participation in science and engineering. Specifically, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement is collaborating with NSF’s Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) initiative to leverage talents of Minority Serving Institutions, as well as other students and researchers who are underrepresented in STEM.
Through these and other efforts, NASA and NSF will engage the general public and inspire the next generation of professionals engaged in careers related to science, technology, engineering and math, as well as STEM educators. (Source: Space Connect)
11 Jan 21. Boeing to Provide Six More Solar Arrays for International Space Station. Boeing [NYSE: BA] will support the International Space Station’s (ISS) growing research capabilities and commercial opportunities with new solar arrays to increase the orbiting laboratory’s power supply. The modification to Boeing’s ISS sustainment contract with NASA calls for Boeing to deliver six additional solar arrays to NASA for installation beginning in 2021.
The new 63-foot-by-20-foot (19-meter-by-6-meter) arrays will together produce more than 120 kilowatts of electricity from the sun’s energy, enough to power more than 40 average U.S. homes. Combined with the eight original, larger arrays, this advanced hardware will provide a 20 to 30 percent increase in power, helping to maximize the station’s capabilities for years to come. The arrays will provide ISS with electricity to sustain its systems and equipment, plus augment the electricity available to continue a wide variety of public and private experiments and research in the station’s unique microgravity environment.
“When it comes to game-changing research and technological development, the space station is currently hitting its full stride,” said John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “These arrays, along with other recent upgrades to the station’s power system and data-transfer speed, will ensure that ISS remains an incubator and business model in the commercial space ecosystem for the coming decades. Access to this unique lab will continue to pay off as researchers study the challenges of future deep-space exploration and make discoveries that improve life on Earth.”
Most of the ISS systems, including its communications systems, batteries and scientific equipment racks, have been upgraded since humans began a continuous presence on the orbiting laboratory in November 2000. Two International Docking Adapters, manufactured by Boeing, have been attached to the ISS to allow commercial spacecraft to dock autonomously to the station. Boeing is the prime contractor for ISS sustainment; the company’s studies have determined that the ISS could safely operate beyond 2030 if NASA and its international partners choose to do so.
Deployable Space Systems of Santa Barbara, California, will produce the structure of the new arrays, including the canister and frame that will unfurl to hold the solar-array blankets in place. Deployable Space Systems also built the canister, frame and solar array blanket for a prototype of the new arrays that was successfully tested aboard the ISS in June 2017.
Spectrolab, a Boeing company based in Sylmar, California, produces the arrays’ XTJ Prime solar cells, which will be some of the most powerful ever launched into space. They are the same solar cells that power Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in flight and while docked to the ISS. Spectrolab also produced the station’s original solar cells, as well as the solar cells tested on the prototype.
“The XTJ Prime space solar cells are much more efficient than any of their predecessors and are fit to support the cutting-edge research being done aboard the International Space Station,” said Tony Mueller, president of Spectrolab.
11 Jan 21. NATO to grow pooled Space Centre in 2021. NATO plans to grow its recently established Space Centre, with the alliance telling Janes that further allies and personnel will be added throughout this year. Speaking in early January, a NATO spokesperson said that the coming year will see additional members and personnel added to the Space Centre capability that was founded in October 2020. Currently, experts from Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States are assigned to the centre that is housed within Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) at Ramstein Airbase in Germany.
“Within 2021 we anticipate we will receive additional personnel from several other allies. We expect the centre to continue to grow over time, ensuring the required capacity across NATO. Requests for space support are not limited to allies with space capabilities. Rather, all nations can provide data, products, and services, which can be merged into a single NATO product. This common space domain picture can then be shared across the alliance,” the spokesperson told Janes.
In 2019 NATO declared space to be an operational domain alongside air, land, sea, and cyber. This allowed the alliance to improve efficiencies and synchronise efforts across multiple domains, as well as within the space domain. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); navigation and timing; weather; ballistic missile defence; and communication are among the core competencies of what NATO calls ‘Space Domain Awareness’. The alliance provides its commanders with Space Domain Awareness by drawing on data, products, and services made available through the co-ordination with NATO member states. “This is a tried and tested process that works,” the spokesperson told Janes. (Source: Jane’s)
11 Jan 21. Azercosmos and SatADSL Sign Partnership Agreement to Provide Internet Services Across Central Asia. Azercosmos, operator of the Azerspace-1 & Azerspace-2 satellites together with Belgian satellite service provider SatADSL, announced a new partnership agreement. Under the new agreement, SatADSL, thanks to its Cloud-based Service Delivery Platform (C-SDP), will provide accessible and reliable internet access using the Central Asian beam of the Azerspace-1 satellite. SatADSL’s ready-to-use internet packages offering will be made easily accessible to its Central Asian customers through Azerspace-1, but also to all the 14 teleports already connected to the C-SDP around the globe.
SatADSL now provides satellite connectivity across five continents, including Central & South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. SatADSL’s platform has been deployed in over 45 countries.
“Our partnership with SatADSL demonstrates the high- quality service that Azercosmos provides to its customers and partners. We are pleased to collaborate with SatADSL and believe that this will open up new opportunities and projects that will be mutually beneficial in the upcoming years.” noted Mark Guthrie, Chief Commercial Officer at Azercosmos.
Thierry Eltges, co-Founder & CEO at SatADSL said today, “This exciting new strategic alliance creates a wealth of opportunities for bringing enhanced connectivity services to East Europe & Russia. Partnering with Azercosmos will bring high-performance, reliable IP access services to parts of the continent where reliable connectivity remains a big challenge.”
Azercosmos is the premier satellite operator in the South Caucasus. Azerspace-1, the telecommunication satellite operated by Azercosmos, provides highly-reliable broadband and broadcast solutions to its customers in Europe, Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. The satellite was launched in February 2013 and is equipped with 24 C-band transponders and 12 Ku-band transponders and is located at 46° East longitude. In December 2014, Azercosmos took over the rights to operate and commercialize Azersky, a high resolution (1.5m imagery products) optical Earth observation satellite and entered into the commercial business of Earth observation services, including Geo-Information services. The strategic development plans of the company included enhancing the coverage area and spectrum of satellite services. For this purpose, in 2018, Azercosmos launched its second telecommunications satellite Azerspace-2 in a geostationary orbit 45° East longitude. For more information, visit: www.azercosmos.az
11 Jan 21. Airbus Signs Multi-satellite Contract With Intelsat for OneSat Flexible Satellites.
- Shaping the future with Intelsat: provision of next-generation Software Defined Satellites for global telecommunications services
- New success for OneSat, reinforcing its leading position in the market
Airbus has signed a contract with Intelsat to build two OneSat satellites operating in multiple frequency bands for Intelsat’s next-generation software-defined network. The contract was signed on 31 December 2020.
The satellites will be based on Airbus’ OneSat product line, the latest generation of fully flexible, in orbit reconfigurable, Software Defined Satellites (SDS). OneSat is designed to deliver the optimal balance between performance, flexibility and competitive cost per bit, while maintaining Airbus’ unrivalled product reliability.
Airbus will deliver an end-to-end fully integrated solution, including design and manufacture of the satellites. The highly capable ground segment software components, when fully integrated into Intelsat’s next-generation software defined network ecosystem and advanced digital suite will allow dynamic operation of end-to-end satellite resources. The two next generation SD satellites will be delivered in 2023.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems said, “This important contract with our long-standing and valued partner Intelsat, has a special significance for Airbus. With six satellites now in production – plus options – for three major operators, OneSat has proven that when it comes to fully reconfigurable satellites, Airbus is the winning choice. Our new industrial capabilities put in place at our sites across Europe, together with our solid experience in Eurostar geostationary satellites and mega-constellation manufacturing, will enable production of our truly disruptive OneSats at an unrivalled pace.”
The Airbus Software Defined satellites will deliver powerful performance and a ground-breaking experience for Intelsat customers across multiple geographic regions. This agreement also marks the beginning of a radical evolution of Intelsat’s network; Intelsat is pursuing an aggressive, multi-year network transformation plan with investments in new assets that are designed for extremely high speeds, enhanced capacity flexibility, redundancy and backwards compatibility.
Intelsat Chief Executive Officer Stephen Spengler said: “Intelsat’s investment in Airbus software defined satellites marks an important first step in evolving the world’s largest, most resilient, integrated space and ground network. Intelsat’s next-generation software-defined network will be the catalyst for our growth, enabling future Gogo Commercial Aviation inflight broadband services, as well as other managed services across Intelsat’s customer segments.” (Source: ASD Network)
11 Jan 21. European Gateway Module to Be Built in France As Thomas Pesquet Readies for 2nd Spaceflight. ESA signed a contract today with Thales Alenia Space to start building the European module for the lunar Gateway that will provide the new human exploration facility with communications and refuelling. The Gateway is being built by the partners of the International Space Station and will enable sustainable exploration around – and on – the Moon, while allowing for space research and demonstrating the technologies and processes necessary to conduct a future mission to Mars.
The European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications, or ESPRIT, will be a cylindrical module with space for astronauts to work in, much like an International Space Station module. It will include an observatory offering 360° views of the Moon and spacecraft as they dock with the lunar outpost.
ESPRIT will consist of two main elements: a system to provide data, voice and video communications from the Gateway to the Moon and a refueling module that will provide the Gateway with xenon and chemical propellants. The refueling element will ensure Gateway has fuel for maintaining its orbit as well as supporting future reusable lunar landers and further deep space transport.
The communications element is under fast-track development for launch in 2024 – mounted on the first US Gateway module, named HALO – while the refueling module will be ready for launch in 2026. The contract is worth 296.5m Euros and will see the module being built by Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, in a joint effort with Thales Alenia Space in Italy and the United Kingdom.
“Development of the Gateway is accelerating thanks to this new contract and European expertise,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. “In just a few years we will witness humankind – including European astronauts – working together in orbit around the Moon and supporting surface exploration. Coming on top of our existing contributions to Orion and the recent contract for the International Habitation module, I-Hab, Europe is now a core partner in Artemis, contributing to lunar transportation, infrastructure, technology and science.”
Station to Gateway
The Gateway is part of the Artemis programme to go forward to the Moon. It builds on the exemplary collaboration between space agencies over more than two decades of flying astronauts to the International Space Station. The foundations for the ESPRIT module are based on the experience of designing, building and operating existing Space Station elements flying 400 km above Earth. Now this capability will be extended one thousand times further into space.
“This contract further cements Thales Alenia Space as a leader in designing and building human spaceflight pressurised structures. Our team is already responsible for more than half the volume of the International Space Station and we will now be working on most of the Gateway modules, including ESA’s International Habitation module and providing the primary structure for NASA’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) in partnership with Northrop Grumman. The company is also involved in the Axiom commercial space station by providing the two first modules”, says Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space..
French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is returning to the International Space Station later this year to live for six months in modules that form the basis for the Gateway design. He is training extensively for his second mission, called Alpha, and is excited by the prospect of future missions to the Moon.
“I am thrilled that Europe is on a direct track for the Moon, and I am happy that France capitalises on its expertise to build critical hardware! With ESA having secured participation of European astronauts on three flights to the Gateway, I hope that in the not-too-distant future I will be one of them, working with the ESPRIT module and using its hardware to communicate with the Moon. The foundations for this are being built right now in Cannes, where I was an engineering intern at the very beginning of my career! ”
Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of France’s space agency CNES shares this sentiment. “We are pleased to see that the next generation of human exploration hardware is being built in France; the design and building of this module is an international project that will have its roots in Cannes.
“The future for human space exploration is bright and we are eagerly looking forward to the discoveries and other benefits it brings back to Earth.” (Source: ASD Network/ESA)
08 Jan 21. USSF Becomes 18th Member of Intel Community. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe today welcomed the U.S. Space Force (USSF) as the 18th member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). During an afternoon ceremony, Ratcliffe and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond announced the designation of the intelligence element of the U.S. Space Force as a member of the IC.
“This accession reaffirms our commitment to securing outer space as a safe and free domain for America’s interests,” said Ratcliffe. “American power in space is stronger and more unified than ever before. Today we welcome Space Force to the Intelligence Community and look forward to the power and ingenuity of a space security team unrivaled by any nation.”
The Space Force element is the first new organization to join the IC since 2006.
“Today, we took action to elevate space intelligence missions, tradecraft, and collaboration to ensure the success of the Space Force, the Intelligence Community, and ultimately our National Security,” said Gen. Raymond. “This is a significant milestone, a clear statement that America is committed to a secure and accessible space domain. Our partnership will ensure the Space Force and the Nation remain always above any threat.”
Ratcliffe highlighted how the addition of USSF to the IC marks a historic opportunity to further strategic change across the national security space enterprise.
“Through sharing space-related information and intelligence, the IC and DoD increase integration and coordination of our intelligence activities to achieve best effect and value in executing our missions,” said Ratcliffe. “This move not only underscores the importance of space as a priority intelligence and military operational domain for national security, but ensures interoperability, future capability development and operations, and true global awareness for strategic warning.”
“Today’s change aligns our newest service with the other members of the Defense Intelligence Enterprise and will help ensure our efforts are coordinated and synchronized across all domains of warfare,” said Ezra Cohen, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. With the USSF addition, nine DoD components are members of the Intelligence Community. (Source: US DoD)
04 Jan 21. NASA’s Landsat-9 USSF Developed ESPA EFS Passes Design Status Review 3. The combined Landsat-9 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Flight System (EFS) team recently passed a major program milestone for NASA, known as Design Status Review 3.
After a detailed assessment between NASA and the mission partners addressing safety aspects for the range and a “Do No Harm” assessment to the anchor satellite vehicle, the Landsat-9 EFS completed its third and final design review on December 15 and was deemed ready to proceed to the final stages of integration.
Landsat-9 EFS. Image is courtesy of USSF SMC MMO.
The U.S. Space Force-developed EFS will fly with NASA’s Landsat-9 Earth observation satellite and carry up to 18 critical National Security Space and Civil multi-manifest satellite vehicles that will be deployed independently of the anchor satellite; maximizing the value of the launch. The MMO originally designed the EFS to fly only mass simulators as a proof of concept, but has advanced the mission profile to reflect the demand for on-orbit capability.
The joint effort is a NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC) activity, funded and manifested by SMC’s MMO, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.
Artistic rendition of the Landsat-9 satellite, courtesy of satellite builder Northrop Grumman.
The next major milestone for the Landsat-9 EFS will be the integration and encapsulation of the Landsat-9 satellite vehicle. The NASA mission is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 401 launch vehicle in September 2021.
“The U.S. Space Force is using our Mission Manifest Office’s flexibility and efficiency to help our NASA partner make seamless manifest changes to a previously-planned mission,” said Colonel Robert Bongiovi, Director of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise. “This effort underscores MMO’s ability to understand its customer and mission partner’s programs and provide late-stage solutions for evolving capability needs.”
“Facilitating the ability to make flexible mission sets during the Landsat-9 launch campaign demonstrates one of many things the MMO excels at,” said Colonel Brad Walker, Chief of the National Security Space Launch Procurement Division at SMC. “The EFS highlights the Space Force’s commitment to innovative mission manifest solutions that deliver critical capabilities to support the warfighter and advance science and technology resources for NASA. Our partnership between NASA/GSFC and the USSF/MMO provides a unique opportunity to exercise both agencies’ strategic vision, creativity and individual skills.” (Source: Satnews)
03 Jan 21. European Space + Digital Players To Study Build Of EU’s Satellite-Based Connectivity System.
The European Commission has selected a consortium of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telco operators and launch service providers to study the design, development and launch of a European-owned, space-based, communication system.
The study will assess the feasibility of a new initiative aiming to strengthen European digital sovereignty and provide secure connectivity for citizens, commercial enterprises and public institutions as well as providing global coverage for rural and ‘not-spot’ areas. Complementing Copernicus and Galileo, this new EU flagship program, once given the green light, would fully exploit the synergies of the technological potential akin to the Digital and Space industries. The contract value of the year-long feasibility study amounts to 7.1m euros.
The European space-based connectivity system, advocated by Commissioner Breton, is set to provide secure communication services to the EU and its Member States as well as broadband connectivity for European citizens, companies and mobility sectors, strengthening EU digital sovereignty. It will build upon the European Union’s GOVSATCOM program of pooling and sharing satellite services and will ensure a high level of reliability, resilience and security not currently available in the market; it will also leverage the EuroQCI initiative that promotes innovative quantum cryptography technology.
More specifically, the study phase awarded by the European Commission will consolidate the user and mission requirements and provide a preliminary architectural design and service provision concept, as well as associated budgetary estimates. A Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme will be considered and assessed during this phase.
The study will look at how the space-based system could enhance and connect to current and future critical infrastructures, including terrestrial networks, strengthening EU capability to access the cloud and providing digital services in an independent and secure way, which is essential for building confidence in the digital economy and ensuring European strategic autonomy and resilience.
It will leverage and strengthen the role of satellites in the 5G ecosystem, assessing interoperability whilst also taking into account the evolution towards upcoming 6G technologies.
This European sovereign infrastructure is set to benefit a large range of sectors, including road and maritime transport, air traffic and control, autonomous vehicle development as well as many Internet of Things (IoT) applications. It is intended to offer enhanced security in the transmission and storage of information and data supporting the needs of various users such as governmental agencies, finance & banking companies, science networks, critical infrastructures and data centres.
The consortium members are: Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, OHB, Orange, SES, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space. (Source: Satnews)
06 Jan 21. Inmarsat Will Expand Their GX Satellite Fleet. London-based Inmarsat says it is going to dramatically expand its existing Global Xpress (GX) fleet with extra satellites. In total, Inmarsat will see seven new satellites delivered over the next three years.
Inmarsat GX network currently includes five geostationary satellites, with four built by Boeing. Its GX5 satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space, was brought into commercial service on December 10, 2020, over Europe and the Middle East.
The new scheme allows for five more satellites plus two GX payloads on two third-party satellites.
The expansion will result in delivery of two Inmarsat-6 constellation satellites, GX6A and GX6B over the next two years. The first of these Airbus Defence & Space-built satellites is due to be launched by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries later in 2021. The second is planned to be launched by SpaceX in 2022.
These will be followed in 2022 by GX payloads on two satellites operated by Space Norway Heosat. GX10A and 10B will be placed into highly elliptical orbits ensuring continuous coverage above 65° North.
These two Northrop Grumman-built payloads will expand Inmarsat’s high-speed mobile broadband into the Arctic region enhancing connectivity along the northern ocean routes being increasingly used for global trade.
Then, in 2023, Inmarsat expects to launch three more Airbus Defence & Space-built satellites – GX7, GX8 and GX9 – its first software-defined constellation for global mobile connectivity.
Inmarsat stated each satellite will deliver double the capacity of the entire current, in-service GX network (GX1-5). They will simultaneously generate thousands of independent spot beams of different sizes, bandwidths and power that can be reconfigured and repositioned across the globe.
With these satellites, Inmarsat can respond to peaks in customer demand instantaneously and with pinpoint accuracy, and provide overlapped capacity over regional hot spots.
“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,” said Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce. “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 this commitment is protected. To ensure 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. This will see not just a transformational increase in GX capacity but will also guarantee our partners and customers have access to a new generation of GX capabilities and ever-increasing broadband speeds, which will include the world’s first dedicated broadband services for the Arctic region.” (Source: Satnews)
03 Jan 21. Iodine Electric Propulsion To Become A Critical Subsystem For SAR Constellations. ThrustMe and Spacety have announced a new space launch, the 3rd in an ongoing series — this time, Spacety launched their Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite, Hisea-1, which is the world’s first, commercial, C-band, smallsat SAR with a phased array antenna.
On board is ThrustMe’s Iodine Electric Propulsion system to provide the satellite with crucial orbit maintenance, collision avoidance and de-orbiting at the end of its three years expected lifetime. The satellite was successfully launched into space on the inaugural flight of the Chinese medium-lift Long March 8 rocket, from Wenchang, China.
Hisea-1 has a mass of 180 kg, and uses a phased-array antenna. It has three imaging modes with its finest resolution at 1m x 1m.
Hisea-1 was launched to meet the needs for the monitoring of ocean and coastal areas and for ocean research. The imagery from the satellite will also be used for disaster management, agriculture, infrastructure monitoring, etc.
Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR) functions basically like a bat’s echolocation system — they are much less effected by daylight and weather conditions compared to optical sensors. Now the era of SAR satellites has come, and Spacety is planning a constellation of 56 smallsats.
Spacety and ThrustMe announced just a month ago the launch of the first iodine electric propulsion on-orbit-demonstrations missions, which has successfully completed the commissioning phase, and the longer thruster firings will take place soon. For ThrustMe, the technology demonstration phase is now transitioning into entering the commercial market where Spacety is one of their early adopter clients. Streamlined and true turnkey propulsion is more important than ever before. As Euroconsult announced recently, there will be, on average, 1,200 satellites launched per year over the next decade.
“Hisea-1 is the first launched satellite of TY-MINISAR, the first generation of light and small SAR satellites being developed by Spacety. The constellation based on TY-MINISAR benefits from low cost, fast deployment, strong coverage capability, and flexible scheduling. As a result, the constellation can produce images of high resolution with a high revisit frequency, wide-coverage, and with continuous monitoring, and providing customers with more efficient remote sensing services,” said Justin Feng, the Founder and CEO of Spacety.
“As for most miniaturized SAR satellites operating in Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO), the orbital precision will drive the quality of the data we receive. Therefore ThrustMe’s iodine electric propulsion will be a crucial sub-system to ensure our mission’s success,” noted Ren Weijia, CTO of Spacety.
“We have worked with Spacety for over one and a half years now, testing step by step our unique propulsion solutions in space, and as a result we can now deliver true turnkey and streamlined propulsion systems to Spacety in time for their SAR constellation deployment,” added time for their SAR constellation deployment,” added Ane Aanesland, the CEO of ThrustMe.
“Because of the exponential growth in the number of satellites launched into LEO and MEO orbits, every actor needs to take responsibility, and having on-board propulsion is the only way we can ensure that our satellites can perform collision avoidance if needed, and can de-orbit at the end of life,” said Jame Zheng, CEO of Spacety Luxembourg, who stressed the importance of sustainable actions before it is too late to do so. (Source: Satnews)
04 Jan 21. C-Band Spectrum Sale + OneWeb Mfg. To The UK? The FCC’s Action 107, which looks after the sale of frequencies covered by the release of the satellite sector’s C-band 3.7 GHz spectrum, continues to break all records. Two bidding rounds on December 23 took the overall amount of cash on the table to a thumping $69.83bn. The position added some $3.5bn during the two sessions to the previous $66.4bn already registered as of December 22. January 4 will see another five rounds (Rounds 46-50) taking place.
Also being reported is that OneWeb, the would-be, broadband-by-satellite constellation backed by the UK and India, is contemplating switching its current Florida satellite production line to the UK.
The Mail on Sunday reported that “executives behind OneWeb briefed civil servants” on the merits of moving satellite production from Florida to the UK. Currently, satellite production takes place under a joint-venture between OneWeb and Airbus.
In an interview carried in the same report, Richard Franklin, MD for defence and Space at the UK arm of Airbus, said his company is keen to make the switch. “There’s a real intent and desire in Airbus that manufacturing is done from the UK,” he said.
OneWeb is building its Mark 1 version satellites in Florida at a rate of two craft per day, but there is a plan to start a second-generation version which would include GPS-type functionality. However, first there are obligations to turn out the target 650 satellites needed to get a full service up and running. Airbus, while headquartered in Toulouse, France, has major British satellite production facilities in Portsmouth and Stevenage in the south of England. (Source: Satnews)
07 Jan 21. Raytheon I&S Blackjack Sensor Passes Major Milestone. Raytheon Intelligence & Space’s sensor payload for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Blackjack program passed critical design review (CDR) on schedule. Blackjack is an LEO satellite constellation program that aims to develop and demonstrate the critical elements for persistent global coverage against a range of advanced threats.
During critical design review, the team demonstrated that vital sensor components – focal plane, cryocooler, telescope and electronics – are already in fabrication, which significantly reduces schedule risk.
The team also provided updated sensor analysis, which dictates optimal performance parameters for missions, like orbit and type of mission. It showed that the Blackjack objective constellation can deliver persistent overhead access to any point in the world with a high degree of fidelity.
RI&S will continue to reduce integration timelines for rapid deployment, engaging with major subcontractors to be ready for production. RI&S is on contract to deliver two prototype sensor payloads and to support the systems integrator for integration with the Pit Boss mission management system and the space vehicle. It also includes launch campaign support and the on-orbit demonstration.
“Our Blackjack design has required little change throughout reviews,” said Dave Broadbent, VP and COO for Space & C2 Systems at RI&S. “That design stability as well as procurement and integration of parts has been key to meeting DARPA’s rapid delivery schedule.” (Source: Satnews)
07 Jan 21. ViaLite Links Used In NexGen Of Space Development. As the commercial space industry continues to develop and grow, private companies are increasingly investing in their own space development programs. Along with the large business opportunity, this brings with it many challenges and areas of difficulty.
One such challenge is developing fully reusable launch systems, this critically gives material and financial savings. Recent developments in the industry have seen an increasing number of successful trials and missions landing launch vehicles back on earth safely and accurately for re-use.
RF over fiber experts, ViaLite Communications, are now helping companies in this market through the integration of their RF over fiber solutions into different parts of the ground segment communications systems. ViaLite recently supplied its L-band links, GPS links, associated outdoor enclosures and indoor system chassis solutions to a major privately funded spaceflight services company.
ViaLite 3U Rack Chassis (can house L-Band HTS – HWDR and GPS Links) x2
The L-Band link featured the ViaLite Hyper Wide Dynamic Range (HWDR) solution that provides a spurious free dynamic range of up to 115 dB/Hz. The GPS links were supplied together with the ViaLite Multizone Lossless Splitter, for easy distribution of the GPS signals with effectively no signal loss.
ViaLite Multizone Lossless Splitter x2
The products were used to operate the spaceflight company’s L-band communications link and for GPS based network server timing and synchronization. ViaLite’s products were chosen for their “best in industry” performance and product deployment efficiencies, complimenting the spacecraft company’s advanced design and communication systems. These were vital attributes for the customer whose products are sent to both sub-orbital and orbital distances.
Craig Somach, Director of ViaLite sales in North America, said, “We are very proud to be supporting the next generation of space development. Our advanced technology provides revolutionary optical and RF performance while allowing for a very efficient physical deployment and cost effective solution to what has been typically used in the past.” (Source: Satnews)
05 Jan 21. Viasat Selected By Delta Airlines For Their IFC Solution. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT) has announced that Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) selected Viasat’s next-generation, Ka-band satellite, in-flight connectivity (IFC) solution for more than 300, mainline, narrow-body aircraft, including both new delivery and retrofits on A321ceo, 737-900ER and select 757-200 aircraft. Delta expects to bring the Viasat technology onboard these aircraft starting by the summer of 2021, with Delta having the option to add additional fleets.
Delta will be upgrading its current IFC system to Viasat’s more advanced Ka-band satellite-powered technology to provide all customers with enhanced and reliable in-flight internet capabilities—including faster, more consistent connections and an ability to stream all types of entertainment and popular over-the-top content—to any internet-ready device, gate-to-gate. The Viasat/Delta relationship will lay the groundwork toward a true full, fast and free in-flight internet experience as well as future enhancements and personalization on customer seatback screens.
Delta’s aircraft will be outfitted with Viasat’s latest Ka-band IFC system, and will be compatible with Viasat’s complete fleet of satellites, including Viasat’s first-generation spacecraft and partner satellites; its second-generation spacecraft ViaSat-2, and the forthcoming ViaSat-3 class of satellites, which are expected to offer global coverage with nearly eight times more capacity than Viasat’s current fleet—which means even more enhanced connectivity and streaming services to keep up with expected increases in demand.
“Delta is committed to optimize the customer journey, and we’re committed to helping them build a foundation toward a better in-flight internet and entertainment experience,” said Rick Baldridge, President and CEO, Viasat. “We have a proven in-flight connectivity solution that is high-quality, streaming-capable and can scale to meet Delta’s growing customer demand. We’re proud to be part of their connected ecosystem.”
“We are constantly looking for new ways to delight our customers and offer an unparalleled onboard experience,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Delta. “In working with Viasat, we gain the tools needed to deepen customer interactions and bring us closer to delivering more personalized in-flight content as well as an ability to consistently provide free, fast, streaming Wi-Fi in the future.” (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.