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28 Jan 21. SPACECOM’s New Vision Targets ‘Space Superiority.’
“We must have fully integrated offensive and defensive operations across all of our services, as well as our partners,” says Army Gen. James Dickinson, SPACECOM commander.
In his new Commander’s Vision, the head of Space Command says leading the fight to prevent adversaries from disabling or destroying US space assets is his new focus.
“The intended audience is both internal and external,” Army Gen. James Dickinson told me in an interview yesterday. “Internally, the objective is to set the stage for SPACECOM personnel to develop and sustain a warfighting mindset necessary for our mission challenges in this new warfighting domain.”
Key to the vision is achieving “space superiority” — a loaded term to the public and US allies, but in military parlance ‘superiority’ simply means being able to use the domain and keep the enemy from doing the same. “We must have fully integrated offensive and defensive operations across all of our services, as well as our partners,” he told me. “And I think it’s the combined work and expertise with truly enables us to project that combat power needed to deter and defeat if necessary our adversaries.”
“I will tell you, externally, the objective is to foster, really, a DoD- wide understanding of the difference between the mission requirements and objectives of the new US Space Command, compared to that of our former predecessor — that command back in 1985 to 2002,” he said. That difference is that in its new incarnation, SPACECOM isn’t just providing space capabilities to others, it also has the reins in conducting combat operations to defense US space assets.
Dickinson stressed that it is “critical, quite frankly, as the newest combatant command, to ensure our mission imperatives are, in my words, crystal clear to our Space Command warriors, to our partners and allies, the American people and to our adversaries and competitors.
“I think the document is valuable to the general public as well, primarily in order to engender the realization that space is central to our way of life. Given the threats we face in this domain, it is worthy of our focused efforts to protect and defend it,” he added.
In a clear signal to the Biden White House, Dickinson told me he hopes this year will include “continued advocacy and support of the national-level leadership in the space enterprise.”
Space Superiority and Warfighting
Dickinson’s eight-page manifesto, “Never A Day Without Space: Commander’s Vision” — provided to Breaking D — was briefed to SPACECOM today. It will be the “baseline” for future development of subordinate SPACECOM planning guidance, campaign plans, operational plans and other organizational documents required to running the 18-month-old Combatant Command, Dickinson explained.
The general’s stress on the need for both ‘offensive and defensive’ operations to achieve space superiority is not new, even if it makes some US security experts — including some Democrats in Congress — a bit queasy. It is one of the first things his predecessor, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond who now heads the Space Force, made clear when SPACECOM was stood up in August 2019.
Indeed, despite the recent hyped-up rhetoric about space newly being a ‘warfighting domain’ due to the development of satellite-killing weapons by China and Russia, the US officially deemed space a potential battlefield way back in 1976 under Ford administration, Brian Weeden, Secure World Foundation’s head of program planning and a former Air Force officer, said in an email. Brent Scowcroft, who was then national security advisor to President Ford, on July 7 issued a presidential decision directive (PDD) (now partially declassified) “on the need to improve resilience/defensive measures against hostile threats,” Weedon explained, namely Soviet anti-satellite developments.
“The problem is, we never really got around to doing that and these policy decisions were all classified or hidden from the public for political reasons,” Weeden said. “The big change the Trump Admin made was to publicly declare space a warfighting domain, which allowed a lot more agencies to take steps in that direction.”
Speaking to the Mitchell Institute on Tuesday, Dickinson himself noted that space has been part of military operations since the dawn of the space age. However, he said, “The question now is how we will integrate the traditional military capabilities of other domains into space warfighting operations. That will be the true test of how we will, collectively the US Armed Forces, execute the directives outlined in the Unified Command Plan to protect and defend us and allied interests in space.”
Unified Command Plan and Missions
As Breaking D readers were first to learn, the revised UCP sent by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to President Trump included a number of changes designed to delineate the role of SPACECOM — designated as a new geographic command with an area of responsibility (AOR) from 100 kilometers above the Earth to, well, infinity and beyond in theory — vice the 10 other Combatant Commands. These include giving SPACECOM the lead in deciding who gets priority use of communications satellites during combat, and what targets missile warning and space surveillance sensors are tasked to monitor. Trump signed the revised 2020 UCP Jan. 13, a spokesperson for the Joint Staff confirmed.
The UCP (while no longer classified, is labeled For Official Use Only and is not publicly available) also includes new SPACECOM responsibilities for global responsibilities, such as “global sensor manager” and “global satcom bandwidth manager.” Global sensor management refers to matching the capabilities of the myriad sensors that contribute to space domain awareness and missile warning to specific missions. Likewise, the global SATCOM bandwidth management job requires SPACECOM to provide services to commanders and troops on the field, but also to protect and defend satcom capabilities.
Dickison elaborated during his conversation with Mitchell Institute Dean Dave Deptula that SPACECOM now has three primary missions: “One, our enduring, no-fail mission to enable warfighting operations in other domains. Two, our future mission as global SATCOM manager and global sensor manager. And three, our current new mission set compelling us to fight and win in the space domain in order to protect and defend our interests there.
“Additionally, this warfighting domain is growing, and this AOR is by far the biggest and is getting bigger, each day,” he added.
Supported vs Supporting Command
It’s incredibly important, Dickinson told me, that civilians and other services within the Pentagon — as well as Congress — understand that “what’s new is not only do we have that enduring responsibility to provide support to the warfighters on the ground — as I said from the ultimate high ground to the last tactical mile — but also that we are now a ‘supported’ command in some of the ‘protect and defend’ missions that we’re doing in the on orbit.”
He told the Mitchell Institute that being a supporting command to the other CoComs means “that we provide the space mission areas or services that we have for years and years — satellite communications and GPS, for example. We continue to do that.” That responsibility lies primarily within the purview of Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, who has been named commander of SPACECOM’s Combined Force Space Component Command at Vandenberg AFB in California. That command provides day-to-day support for global operations.
The ‘protect and defend’ mission, which would include any offensive action in a conflict, is carried out by the Joint Task Force Space Defense, commanded by Brig. Gen. Tom James. “In that particular mission area, as you can imagine, there’ll be opportunities or there’ll be circumstances where we’ll rely on other Combatant Commands that have capabilities or assets within their area of operation that we will need in order, or depend upon in order, to do our mission on orbit,” Dickinson told Mitchell.
Despite the new UCP, however, Dickinson was coy with me about how exactly the decisions about who supports whom when are actually made, and at what level of the US military hierarchy. “Command decisions reside with the Combatant Commander,” he said, although “many of those decisions may be made well above us depending on the situation.”
Some of this, he said, is because such details remain classified. However, a number of sources intimately familiar with these issues tell me that a big problem is that there simply hasn’t yet been any agreements codified on how those decisions will be made. The hope is that the impending Joint Warfighting Concept, in which space plays a central role, will go some ways toward clarifying those questions.
In reality, the process for determining which Combatant Command gets priority access to space assets isn’t a new issue — those were questions Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had to answer when it was responsible for space operations before to the latest SPACECOM was created. Indeed, that issue of priority, in this case for which targets US spy satellites fix on when, has been a perennial bone of contention between military commanders and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Sorting that out is one of the jobs of the National Space Defense Center, which falls under James’ Joint Task Force Space Defense.
As for when Dickinson gets to call in, for example, a strike on enemy jammers blocking military communications satellites, he said only that there is plenty of precedent to follow as SPACECOM matures from how the other Combatant Commands have made those decisions. Further, he said, exercises to work out those decisions are already being embedded in the Globally Integrated Exercises launched by Milley’s predecessor Gen. Joe Dunford in 2018 to improve cross-domain and cross-AOR integration in future globalized, all-domain conflict.
Organization and Tasks
Dickinson told me that in order to ensure that space capabilities are fully integrated into US military operations, SPACECOM is putting “integrated planning elements” led by an O6 (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps Colonel, or a Navy Captain) into each of the other Combatant Commands. Those leaders won’t have command decision authorities, rather facilitate the use of space assets and “provide a two-way information flow” between SPACECOM and the other commands. About seven of those are already in place, he said.
The Commander’s Vision documents lays out what Dickinson sees as the five key tasks for his forces in enabling SPACECOM to flourish as part of the joint force:
- Understanding our competition. Dickinson told Mitchell: “We have to train those warfighters to outmaneuver our enemies, and we have to innovate, using bold approaches like disruptive thinking.”
- Building the command to compete and win. Dickinson told me that two of the five key tasks “intentionally mention the space warfighters that we need to have to win the space domain.” The subcomponents to this task listed in the vision document are:
- Achieving full operational capability (asked about timing during the Mitchell Institute conversation, Dickinson demurred giving an answer about when that would be, saying it would depend on a number of “conditions.”)
- Sustaining a warfighting culture
- Adapting to a dynamic & changing strategic environment.
- Maintaining key relationships. This include, crucially, allies Dickinson says. He told Mitchell: “We must unite around a compelling narrative focused predominantly on the concept that we work actively to retain and strengthen our space superiority. That narrative must also promote responsible behavior, responsible behaviors in space over long periods of time so gradually they become international norms.”
- Maintaining digital superiority. Dickinson told Mitchell: “We must evolve cyber operations in order to maintain an agile and resilient posture, and we must invest in game changing technologies to include artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
- Integrating commercial and interagency organizations. Fostering better use of commercial capabilities has been a Holy Grail for US national security space leaders, across DoD, at the Air Force, at the Space Force and within the Intelligence Community. In particular, it is the hallmark of the Space Force Enterprise SATCOM Vision signed in last February. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 Jan 21. Kleos Space Q4 2020 Activities Update and Outlook. Successful Scouting Mission launch; satellite commissioning progressing; new business structure to drive revenue growth; Customer pipeline grows to over 160.
- Successful Scouting Mission (KSM1) launch
- In-orbit commissioning of all four Scouting Mission satellites nearing completion
- Secured A$19 million to progress development and launch of next clusters of satellites – Polar Vigilance Mission (KSF1) and Polar Patrol Mission (KSF2)
- Polar Vigilance Mission, at key technical milestone ahead of mid-2021 launch
- New corporate structure with key executive appointments to drive revenues
- New US engineering office in Denver, Colorado
- Potential customer pipeline grows to over 160 with continued demand for Kleos’ radio frequency geolocation data
- Multiple South and Latin American agreements signed
Kleos Space (ASX: KSS, Frankfurt: KS1), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, provides the following update for the quarter ending 31 December 2020.
Commenting on the company’s progress over Q4 2020, Kleos Space CEO Andy Bowyer said, “The last quarter has been transformational for the business, with Kleos making significant technical and commercial progress in the execution of its business plan, including the successful launch of our initial Scouting Mission satellites. With the successful commissioning of the initial satellites soon to be completed, the business will transition from its R&D engineering origins into a sales-focused company delivering an essential data product that addresses real-world maritime challenges, including piracy, drug and people smuggling and illegal fishing.
“As we prepare for data collection from our Scouting Mission satellites, we continue to progress the technical development and design of the second and third satellite clusters in the constellation. These satellites will complement the coverage of our Scouting Mission satellites, additional revisit rates over crucial maritime areas, enhancing our data offering and providing new higher-value, income-generating licensing options for our customers.
“To service our growing commercial pipeline, we have implemented a new corporate structure with key global executives appointed to ensure we have the processes, procedures and people in place to meet the opportunity”
Successful Scouting Mission (KSM1) launch
In November 2020, Kleos’ initial Scouting Mission satellites (KSM1) were successfully launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Chennai, India, aboard PSLV C49. The four satellites are in a healthy condition, all communicating with the ground stations and successfully completing many elements of commissioning. Once on-orbit commissioning of the satellites is complete, operational control will be transferred to Missions Operations, and implementation of the software and algorithms on the ground to process and supply data to customers will begin.
Second satellite cluster (KSF1) at key milestone, on track for launch in mid-2021
Post quarter, Kleos’ Polar Vigilance Mission (KSF1) satellites are at a key development milestone; Critical Design Review (CDR). The CDR ensures the satellites be assembled, validated and tested and confirms they meet designed performance, cost, schedule, and risk requirements.
The KSF1 Polar Vigilance Mission satellites are scheduled for a mid-2021 launch on board a SpaceX Falcon 9, under a rideshare contract with Spaceflight Inc approximately seven months since the launch of the Scouting Mission. The satellites will launch into a 500km Sun Synchronous Orbit, complementing Kleos’ Scouting Mission satellites.
Third satellite cluster (KSF2) development in progress
In parallel, Kleos is progressing the concept of its third satellite cluster for the Polar Patrol Mission. The satellites are targeted to have enhanced capability, enabling further data sets to be collected increasing the number of data products that can be sold.
Chilean Air Force – Kleos entered into a three-month collaboration agreement with Fuerza Aérea de Chile (Chilean Air Force) to test and analyse radio frequency geospatial data from Kleos’ Scouting Mission satellites.
Procalculo Prosis – Exclusive Territory Agent for Colombia and Panama Government users. Under the initial two-year agreement, Procalculo Prosis will exclusively promote and sell Kleos’ data products to government customers in Colombia and Panama and non-exclusively to other users in the region.
Geomática Soluciones S.A.C. – Agreement allows Geomática to leverage the radio-frequency reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) captured by Kleos to provide its end customers with additional insights for their intelligence requirements in the maritime security domain.
Ecuador Atlantis SIM – Exclusive Territory Agent for Ecuador. Kleos is poised to provide further international RF reconnaissance with the engagement of Atlantis SIM to enhance support to Ecuador Defence and Border Services.
Kleos has a strong customer pipeline of more than 160 government and commercial entities across the USA, UK, EU, Latin and South America, Middle East, South Pacific and Australia. Around 25 percent of these entities are resellers / channel partners, providing Kleos with cost-effective access to an even greater range of markets and customers.
Kleos’ radio frequency maritime intelligence data is sold under a DaaS business model with customers able to purchase single user, team or enterprise data licenses. In many ways similar to Software as a Service (SaaS) business models, Kleos will be able to scale to service a large customer base without requiring a significant increase in base opex costs.
Kleos is also implementing a more frictionless ordering and data provision service in a highly secure environment. The service will meet the compliance needs of its customers as well as allow customers to access their data needs in an efficient and secure way that aligns more with SaaS provision than traditional satellite industry standards.
As Kleos builds its constellation of satellite clusters, customers will be able to opt for a data subscription licence that meets their needs. Early adopter customers may opt to only access data from the first satellites, while providers of essential services to government departments that require near real-time intelligence will need to purchase data from multiple clusters.
New senior executive appointments, US engineering office
Kleos has strengthened its senior executive team to drive growth, appointing Heribert Krämer as Chief Operating Officer and Eric von Eckartsberg as Chief Revenue Officer.
Heribert Krämer is a highly qualified and multi-lingual COO with extensive experience in operations management, change management and business transformation. Previous senior leadership roles across Luxembourg, Switzerland and Canada include APUS Solutions Sarl, RBC Investor & Treasury Services S.A, ABN AMRO Asset Management NV and Otimo Business Solutions Sarl.
Eric von Eckartsberg will be responsible for Kleos’ global sales, the business development and sales teams as well as strategic customer partnerships. He brings an extensive background leading rapid growth in international sales and business development teams within the defence and intelligence sectors. Eric’s extensive industry expertise includes senior leadership roles at satellite imagery and geospatial services providers Maxar Corporation and Vricon Inc, network security analytics platform RedSeal Networks, and advanced AI and text analytics software company Basis Technology Corp.
The company has also expanded its sales team with the appointment of Product Manager Guillermo Gutierrez and Sales Executive Alex Johnson, both based in the US.
Commenting on his recent appointment, Eric von Eckartsberg said: “It’s a very exciting time to be joining Kleos, and it is clear from our current engagement with the market that there is strong interest in our RF reconnaissance data from a wide variety of potential customers. As the company prepares to commence delivery of our Scouting Mission data, we are working with interested parties to sign initial licensing agreements to enable data access as soon as it is available via the Kleos API. This initial list of key customers includes important government agencies in the US, Europe, and Asia as well as a number of prominent integrators and leading analytic platform developers.
“Integrators and systems vendors will use Kleos’ data to enhance their own product offerings to end-user agencies and companies. These first integrations will then expose Kleos’ data to end-users in multiple markets for testing and evaluation in operational environments. Our initial deployments with integrators and systems vendors will provide Kleos with deeper insight into customer analytic environments and operational requirements, which will in turn inform future product and collection development for upcoming Kleos missions. We are also adding resellers in key markets where Kleos can leverage local know how and customer access to generate new customer sales.
“Our go-to-market strategy will continue to focus on enabling advanced analytic systems, tipping and queuing, and other ISR platforms to leverage our RF geolocation data to provide customers with insight into marine and other activity that remains out of reach for conventional ISR systems. We will also work directly with key customers in government agencies around the world, who are looking to integrate RF geolocation data into existing and future ISR platforms to support a wide variety of civilian and military use cases.
“We are encouraged not only by the strong showing of interest from the market, but also with the engagement of integration and analytic platform partners, which we believe will help demonstrate the value of RF geolocation data in solving end-user challenges,
Shareholder update from Chair Peter Round
Commenting on Kleos’ operational progress over the quarter, Chairman Air Commodore Peter Round explained the position of the company at a pivotal point in its development.
“It’s been a productive quarter for Kleos – one where we overcame all the challenges and launched our first satellites into space. There is nothing more exciting than watching a launch when your own satellites are on board and I hope that every one of our shareholders had the opportunity to see it for themselves.
“We now have created a global sales force with presence in USA, Latin America, UK, and Luxembourg and we have a strategic partnership in Australia. It is this wide coverage and the opportunity to take advantage of a reliable and trusted product that makes Kleos so special.
“I’d like to thank all of Kleos’ employees for their immense contribution and our wonderful shareholders for continuing with us on this exciting journey. The entry into space was just a beginning and there is so much more to come.”
27 Jan 21. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 deploys record number of satellites. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has successfully completed Transporter-1, the company’s first SmallSat Rideshare Program mission.
After launching from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Sunday (24 January), the Falcon 9 flew along the east coast of Florida to deploy the Starlink satellites in a polar orbit, with the satellites passing above the north and south poles.
Falcon 9’s first stage then landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket carried a record 133 commercial and government spacecraft (including CubeSats, microsats, and orbital transfer vehicles) and 10 Starlink satellites — the most spacecraft deployed on a single mission.
This surpasses the record held by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which carried 104 satellites on its PSLV-C37 mission in February 2017.
The Starlink satellites aboard this mission were also the first in the constellation to deploy to a polar orbit. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Jan 21. Semtech and Swarm Deliver Satellite Communications With LoRa®.
Collaboration integrates LoRa® devices with Swarm’s satellite communications network.
Semtech Corporation (Nasdaq: SMTC), a leading supplier of high performance analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms, announced that Swarm Technologies, a global satellite communications network developer, has integrated Semtech’s LoRa® devices into its connectivity solution that enables two-way communications to and from its satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
“Because Semtech’s LoRa technology is well suited for long distance, low power and wide area coverage applications, it has opened up new Internet of Things (IoT) use cases for Swarm in areas such as logistics, agriculture, connected cars, and energy,” said Ben Longmier, CTO and co-founder of Swarm. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Semtech by utilizing LoRa to help us provide affordable global connectivity for IoT devices at an unprecedented scale.”
Swarm incorporates LoRa on Very High Frequency (VHF) frequencies for uplink and downlink to its satellites from the ground. The network is commercially live, with 72 commercial satellites providing 100 percent global coverage. Swarm plans to deploy a total of 150 commercial satellites by the end of 2021, which are expected to bring latency times down to less than one minute. The user modems, which are integrated into IoT devices, communicate with the satellites, enabling reliable data transfer anywhere on Earth, at all times.
“Semtech and Swarm are working jointly to pursue commercial IoT applications that require less data-intensive communications and fill in the gaps of the existing satellite market,” said Marc Pegulu, Vice President of IoT Product Marketing for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group. “The combination of our technologies helps provide reliable and affordable connectivity that keep sensors, equipment and assets connected across land and sea.”
To learn more about Semtech’s IoT solutions, visit the website.
About Semtech’s LoRa® Platform
Semtech’s LoRa device-to-Cloud platform is a globally adopted long range, low power solution for IoT applications, enabling the rapid development and deployment of ultra-low power, cost efficient and long range IoT networks, gateways, sensors, module products, and IoT services worldwide. Semtech’s LoRa devices provide the communication layer for the LoRaWAN® protocol, which is maintained by the LoRa Alliance®, an open IoT alliance for Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) applications that has been used to deploy IoT networks in over 100 countries. Semtech is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance. To learn more about how LoRa enables IoT, visit Semtech’s LoRa site.
Swarm provides the world’s lowest-cost two-way satellite communications network. Founded in 2016, Swarm is committed to making data and communications accessible to everyone, everywhere on Earth. Swarm’s uniquely small satellites enable the company to provide network services and user hardware at the industry’s lowest cost and deliver maximum value to customers across a range of industries including maritime shipping, agriculture, energy, and ground transportation. Swarm received commercial approval from the FCC to launch and operate its Low Earth Orbit satellite constellation in late 2019 and launched its first commercial satellites in September 2020. To connect with Swarm and the world, visit www.swarm.space.
Semtech Corporation is a leading supplier of high performance analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms for infrastructure, high-end consumer and industrial equipment. Products are designed to benefit the engineering community as well as the global community. The Company is dedicated to reducing the impact it, and its products, have on the environment. Internal green programs seek to reduce waste through material and manufacturing control, use of green technology and designing for resource reduction. Publicly traded since 1967, Semtech is listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol SMTC. For more information, visit www.semtech.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
27 Jan 21. Blue Canyon Technologies Provides Microsats for NASA Pioneers Missions. The Aspera and Pandora Missions were recently selected by NASA for further concept development. Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies, LLC. (“BCT” or “Blue Canyon”) today announced it is providing the microsatellites for NASA’s Pioneers Aspera and Pandora missions – small-scale astrophysics missions.
“We are providing high-performance microsats capable of supporting astrophysics missions at a price point never before possible,” said George Stafford, CEO of Blue Canyon. “The missions will demonstrate our ability to be a mission-enabler in the areas of exoplanet characterization and the intergalactic medium.”
BCT will build a Mercury-class microsat to support the Aspera mission from the University of Arizona, which will examine hot gas in the space between galaxies, otherwise known as the intergalactic medium. While the intergalactic medium is a major component of the universe, it remains poorly measured, which Aspera aims to address.
BCT also provided a Venus-class Microsat – part of the X-SAT product line to support Pandora, a mission from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center. This small satellite will study 20 stars and their 39 exoplanets in visible and infrared light, with the mission to disentangle the signals from stars and planetary atmospheres. Understanding how starlight changes can affect measurements of exoplanets is an outstanding problem in the search for habitable planets beyond the solar system. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
27 Jan 21. Virgin Orbit to Launch 1st Satellite for Dutch MoD. RNLAF Mission to Explore Advantages of Responsive Launch in Deploying First Small Satellite on LauncherOne.
Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, announced today that it has been selected by the Dutch space engineering company Innovative Solutions in Space (ISIS) to launch the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s (RNLAF) first ever satellite, a 6U CubeSat called BRIK-II. Designed and integrated by ISIS, BRIK-II will serve as a testbed for various communications experiments and demonstrate how nanosatellites can provide a meaningful contribution to military operations. The mission represents a significant step forward for the Dutch Ministry of Defense’s efforts to develop their first space capabilities, with a particular emphasis on responsive launch.
Currently scheduled to launch in 2021, BRIK-II will fly as a rideshare payload on an upcoming LauncherOne mission. Virgin Orbit is also working via their subsidiary, VOX Space, to add payloads to this mission from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program. With the U.S. government as a co-passenger, the mission represents an exciting opportunity for the Netherlands and the U.S. to jointly explore, develop and benefit from the next generation of space capabilities.
As part of the Netherlands’ broader plan to pursue a responsive space capability, RNLAF, Virgin Orbit and ISIS will pursue a demonstration of “late-load” integration, mating the payload to the rocket shortly prior to launch. This exercise will prove critical in pioneering the payload processing capabilities required to execute responsive launch. Following this exercise, Virgin Orbit and RNLAF will analyze the results and document them in a future whitepaper to be shared with other allied partners.
Virgin Orbit will conduct this mission from Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
“Being able to launch our very first satellite is a major milestone for the RNLAF and the Dutch joint force as a whole. We are on a pathway to developing space capabilities as part of a yet to be released MoD Space Strategy. As set out in our latest Defense White Paper, we would like to develop our Joint ISR capabilities in space alongside our allies and partners,” said RNLAF commander Lt. Gen Dennis Luyt. “Being able to share this major milestone with Virgin Orbit’s development of responsive launch capability is second to none. We feel privileged to take this step and look forward to what the future has to offer.”
“We’re so honored to be supporting the RNLAF by providing this first launch, and we’re looking forward to seeing the Netherlands and the U.S. find mutual benefit from leveraging our uniquely flexible and mobile launch system. I can already foresee the day when we will take off from a runway on Dutch soil and deliver RNLAF satellites to space directly. LauncherOne’s unique air launch capability is filling a gap for government space missions — mobility and responsiveness are sorely needed to disincentivize aggression in space at a time when we rely more and more on a threatened space infrastructure,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. (Source: ASD Network)
27 Jan 21. Spacewalk to fit ground-breaking British kit to International Space Station. Scientists in UK and Europe will benefit from faster transmissions of key data from space. Two astronauts will today undertake a spacewalk to install a revolutionary piece of government-funded technology on the International Space Station (ISS), marking the UK’s first major industrial contribution to the spacecraft.
Called ColKa for ‘Columbus Ka-band Terminal’, the UK Space Agency-funded system will revolutionise scientists’ ability in the UK and Europe to access the results of their space-based experiments, from investigations into the effects of radiation on seeds to biomining research. The results will help unlock benefits for all of us, from understanding how our bodies and muscles age to furthering our understanding of illnesses like cancer and Parkinson’s Disease.
This giant leap forward for research carried out in the Columbus module will allow astronauts and researchers to benefit from a dedicated link back to Earth at home broadband speeds. Currently, results are returned to Earth on a hard drive, which could take months to receive, with data sometimes being lost in transit. The new terminal will enable results to be delivered to scientists just a day or two after the data is recorded – allowing scientists to process information much more quickly and adjust experiments if they see any problems with the data, such as an unclear image.
NASA’s Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will venture outside the space station for 6 hours to mount the UK-built large suitcase-sized device to the European Space Agency’s Columbus module on the ISS.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “This mission to install pioneering UK-built technology in space exemplifies how government backing is helping our most innovative companies push the boundaries of what we can achieve in space as well as back home on Earth. Strengthening the speed at which data can be transmitted from space will bring enormous benefits to scientists and researchers across Europe, helping them progress vital research faster, while opening up numerous commercial opportunities for UK firms as we build back better.”
Tethered to the ISS by a retractable steel cable, the astronauts face challenging conditions as they work to install the terminal, orbiting Earth at an altitude of 250 miles.
The astronauts will go without food for hours as they work in the harsh thermal vacuum of space, where the temperature can be as hot as 120 degrees Celsius in the sunlight, down to minus 160C when the Sun is out of sight.
The data will be transmitted to a ground station at Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire, near ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, and from there it will be transferred to the Columbus Control Centre and user centres across Europe.
Columbus was conceived and designed over 20 years ago, when the internet was in its infancy. The laboratory was launched to the Station in 2008 and uses the Station’s network and NASA’s infrastructure for communications with the Columbus Control Centre.
David Kenyon, Managing Director at MDA UK based in Harwell, which designed and built ColKa using the RAL Space clean rooms on the Harwell Campus, said, “We are extremely excited that ColKa is being brought into service. This system is our first flight system developed through MDA UK, and we now have equipment for another seven flight missions, including four lunar systems, under development in Harwell. ColKa will bring tremendous benefit to all our ESA astronauts, scientists and projects.”
The contract was awarded to MDA UK following the UK Space Agency’s investment of £40m in ESA’s space exploration programme in 2012. In November 2019 the UK committed £180m to the European Space Agency’s global exploration programme, which, along with the lunar gateway and lunar communications, will include bringing back the first samples from Mars and support the US ambition to have a sustainable presence on the Moon.
To date, UK scientists have been involved in 17 cutting-edge experiments that have taken place on the ISS and 33 others that are currently being developed and readied for future flight. In total, more than 2,700 investigations from researchers in 108 countries have been accomplished aboard the orbiting facility.
The UK’s space sector is going from strength to strength, employing around 42,000 people and carrying out world-class science while growing the economy. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
26 Jan 21. Commander Lists 5 Tasks to Ensuring Continued Space Superiority. Of the 11 Defense Department combatant commands, the U.S. Space Command has the largest area of responsibility — starting at 100 kilometers above the earth and expanding into infinity, said its commander.
Army Gen. James H. Dickinson said each of the other combatant commands — as well as the commercial sector, allies and partners — rely on the space-based assets and capabilities that Spacecom defends.
Space-based interests are under significant threat by adversaries determined to negate the advantage space brings to the United States, Dickinson said today at a live, virtual Aerospace Nation event hosted by The Mitchell Institute.
“The space domain is competitive, congested and contested. Our competitors, most notably China and Russia, have militarized this domain and that requires us to proactively engage to protect and defend our interests there. That proactive engagement must be on our terms, so that we can operate fully and freely in the domain when, where and how we need to,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson provided a preview of five tasks he called the “commander’s strategic narrative,” which will be published later this week. The list outlines key concepts for how to ensure U.S. space superiority.
- The first is to understand the competition, he said. Within that task is educating joint warfighters on adversary threats to space capabilities. “We have to train those warfighters to outmaneuver our enemies, and we have to innovate using bold approaches like disruptive thinking.”
- The second key task requires building the command to compete and win and get to full operational capability. Sustaining a warfighting culture and adapting to a dynamic and changing strategic environment is part of this, he mentioned.
- The third task is maintaining key relationships. “The complexity of operations in the largest and most challenging warfighting environment requires us to strengthen our alliances and attract new partners,” he said. “We must enhance interoperability through a joint combined and a partner approach to space warfighting operations. And we must unite around a compelling narrative focused predominantly on the concept that we work actively to retain and strengthen our space superiority. That narrative must also promote responsible behavior, responsible behaviors in space, over long periods of time, so they gradually become international norms.”
- The fourth task is to maintain digital superiority, he said. “We must innovate to achieve and maintain our competitive advantage. We must evolve cyber operations in order to maintain an agile and resilient posture. And we must invest in game-changing technologies to include artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
- The final task is integrating commercial and interagency organizations, such as what has been done at the National Space Defense Center, which is part of Joint Task Force-Space Defense, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. “This integration will help us promote responsible behaviors in space, advocate for greater space capabilities, and collaborate to solve mutual challenges with all elements of national power.”
On a different topic, Dickinson said the secretary of the Air Force made the decision to locate Spacecom’s headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. (Source: US DoD)
25 Jan 21. SpaceX Transporter-1 Carries Two Phase Four-Powered Small Satellites to Low Earth Orbit in New ‘ROI in Space’ Era.
– Small satellite propulsion systems like Phase Four’s Maxwell translate to ROI for satellite operators
– With the Maxwell engine, small satellites achieve and maintain optimal orbits to deliver high quality data and earth imagery for longer duration missions
– Phase Four is nearing maximum production capacity for 2021 deliveries
Phase Four, the creator of the radio-frequency thruster (RFT) for satellite propulsion, announced today that two small satellites powered by its flagship Maxwell plasma propulsion engine launched into space Sunday aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-1 rideshare. The launch, which includes multiple commercial customers, also marks the first in a series of 2021 deployments of Phase Four’s high-performance, low-cost Maxwell propulsion systems for satellite constellations that are supporting a rapid expansion of in-space mobility.
Phase Four’s Maxwell plasma propulsion engines (like the one pictured here) will power two small satellites placed in low Earth orbit from the SpaceX Transporter-1 rideshare launch.
Maxwell plasma propulsion engines will power two smallsats that will execute Earth observation missions in low Earth orbit (LEO) over several years. The RFT-powered Maxwell propulsion system maneuvers satellites to optimal orbit and maintains their positions to acquire and measure precise Earth imagery data. Propulsion for small satellites in LEO makes them far more agile to minimize collisions and extends mission lifetime by multiple years, which is critical for commercial spacecraft missions.
The Maxwell engines are designed to allow in-space mobility over several years, significantly extending the life of LEO satellites in order to maximize ROI on each satellite in a constellation. Depending on orbit altitude and mass, Maxwell enables small satellites to remain in their optimal orbits for 3-5 years, far longer than without propulsion or with legacy propulsion options. Maxwell, at 19 centimeters x 13.5 cm x 19 cm (7.5 inches x 5 in. x 7.5 in.) and under 6 kilograms (13 pounds), is the lightest, most compact all-in-one mid-range power plasma propulsion system commercially available on the market.
“We developed the Maxwell plasma propulsion engine to provide small satellites with an optimal level of thrust and efficiency in a lightweight, space-saving design that hasn’t existed before,” said Beau Jarvis, Phase Four CEO. “As a result, we’re seeing pent up demand for compact, high-performing satellite propulsion systems that have put us on track to deliver several Maxwell units to customers launching satellites in each quarter of 2021 and into 2022.”
About Phase Four
Phase Four is a disruptive provider of simple electric propulsion (EP) solutions for small satellites. The company was founded in 2015 to address the demands of next-generation satellite constellations and to accelerate the advancement of its radio-frequency thruster (RFT). The Phase Four RFT represents a revolutionary new architecture that realizes lower cost, mass-manufacturability, miniaturized power electronics, and propellant agnosticism over incumbent technologies, without compromising performance. Learn more at www.phasefour.io. (Source: PR Newswire)
25 Jan 21. Babcock-led Team Aurora is putting collaboration, continuity and responsiveness at the heart of its solution to support the UK’s the defence satellite communications system. The SKYNET 6 Service Delivery Wrap contract will include the provision of satellite operations management and through-life support for the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
Down-selected last year, Team Aurora – led by Babcock and including GovSat, Intelsat and SES – has gone forward to the next stage of the competition with its plans progressing at pace.
Together the team brings a wealth of both international public and commercial expertise to support the delivery of the contract, and will put partnership with the Ministry of Defence at the centre of its delivery approach.
Backed by its unique, collective experience across defence and satcom operations, Team Aurora will maximise the use of existing infrastructure to bring efficiencies, leverage its extensive experience as a UK service delivery and support provider, and provide value for money by bringing technological innovation from the outset of contract.
Skynet 6 SDW will provide services necessary to support the current Skynet 5 infrastructure, and the successful transition and continuous delivery of service for future Skynet operations.
Matthew Parnell, Babcock’s Defence Systems Technology Director, on behalf of Team Aurora, said, “Bringing insight and engagement from day one, Team Aurora is focussed on providing an uninterrupted, highly available service that is responsive and brings an assured end to end approach for the Ministry of Defence. We will put people at the centre of the service. Developing a culture of collaboration, Team Aurora will invest time to deliver value back through knowledge transfer and will grow a one-team ethos with our customer and the supply chain.”
19 Jan 21. Iridium, Lockheed Martin Join Group Calling for FCC to Stay Ligado Order. On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the FCC denied a request to stay the Ligado decision. “[The] order imposed stringent conditions in order to protect incumbent users, including GPS services and Pentagon operations that operate outside this band, and the technical evidence in our record continues to demonstrate that the FCC made the correct decision,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai commented on the decision.
A group of 75 companies and organizations, including Iridium and Lockheed Martin submitted a letter to the FCC on Tuesday asking for a stay on the commission’s order granting Ligado approval to deploy a nationwide L-band network.
The letter addresses a previous request for a stay from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) and provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), which require an independent technical review of the Ligado order because Ligado’s proposed network could jeopardize GPS, impacting the military and commercial aviation.
The group specifically asks for a stay because, “Ligado could move forward with deployments, potentially mooting the Congressional requirement of an independent technical evaluation of Ligado’s proposed network and complicating further remedial efforts.”
“A broad cross- section of commercial and federal users across industries and professions rely on L-band satellite services, which are fundamental to our economy, national security, and safety,” the letter reads.
Aerospace and satellite companies including: Iridium, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, Aerospace Industries Association, Collins Aerospace (a division of Raytheon Technologies), Skytrac, and Spire Global, signed the letter.
Other companies and industry groups including American Meteorological Society, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Defense Industrial Association, American Sportfishing Association signed as well.
Ligado’s plan to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-band to support 5G and Internet of Things services (IoT), has been opposed by a wide range of stakeholders including the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA), and the Keep GPS Working Alliance. (Source: glstrade.com/https://www.satellitetoday.com/)
25 Jan 21. Missile Defense Agency picks 2 vendors for hypersonic weapon tracking sensor prototypes. The Missile Defense Agency selected two companies to build prototype sensors capable of tracking hypersonic weapons from space.
L3Harris and Northrop Grumman will create the prototypes for the agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor. L3Harris won a $122m award Jan. 14, while Northrop Grumman received a $155m award Jan. 22.
In tandem with the Space Development Agency’s tracking layer, the HBTSS constellation is the Pentagon’s answer to hypersonic weapons, which are too dim to effectively track with current sensors in geostationary orbit and can potentially avoid terrestrial sensors. The constellation will be closer to the planet’s surface in low Earth orbit, allowing sensors to more easily see the dimmer threat.
However, being closer to the Earth’s surface results in a far narrower field of view for each satellite. In order to get worldwide coverage, the Pentagon is pursuing a proliferated constellation made up of dozens of satellites. SDA’s tracking layer satellites will initially pick up a threat, with each satellite tracking the weapon and then passing off custody to the next satellite as the weapon leaves its field of view. Ultimately, the threat will be passed on to the more sensitive HBTSS, which can provide targeting data.
“The combination of high speed, maneuverability and relatively low altitude of some of the emerging advanced missile threats makes them challenging targets for our current missile defense systems,” the agency said in a statement. “HBTSS is needed, since we cannot populate the Earth and the oceans with terrestrial radars to meet this need. The ‘birth-to-death’ tracking that HBTSS can provide when integrated with terrestrial sensors will make it possible to maintain custody of missile threats from launch through intercept regardless of location.”
Four companies were in the running to build the new HBTSS prototypes, but MDA stated on Jan. 22 that L3Harris and Northrop Grumman will be the two moving forward into the on-orbit prototype demonstration.
The other transaction authority contracts covers the prototypes through launch and early on-orbit testing. According to MDA, the prototypes should “demonstrate the sensitivity and fire-control quality of service necessary to support both the emerging hypersonic threat kill chain and dim upper-stage ballistic missiles.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
25 Jan 21. US Air Force Pays $787m to End Launch Services Agreements with Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin. On Dec. 31, the U.S. Air Force ended its Launch Services Agreements (LSAs) with Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin and paid out $787.2m to the companies – $531.7m to Northrop Grumman and $255.5m to Blue Origin, the Air Force said on Jan. 22.
The service said that the termination letters to the companies “are not releasable.”
Under the Phase 1 LSA awards in October 2018 to Northrop Grumman, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) – Northrop Grumman was eligible for up to $792m in LSA Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) funding through 2024; Blue Origin $500m; and ULA $967m. Under the Phase 1 LSA awards, Northrop Grumman, Blue Origin and ULA received up-front contracts of $109m.
Both Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin lost out in the Phase 2 launch service procurement (LSP) National Security Space Launch (NSSL) awards last Aug. 7 when the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), awarded ULA $337m for two classified mission launches and SpaceX a $316m contract for one classified mission launch.
The Air Force said in December that it sent letters to Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin in October that notified them of the Air Force’s intent to end the LSA Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) by the end of 2020. Former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper had said that the Air Force did not want to “carry” the companies “indefinitely” under the LSAs and that the LSA goal “was to create a more competitive environment leading into Phase 2.”
Part of the delay in ending the LSAs with Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin has apparently been the work Air Force acquisition officials have wanted to perform in documenting vendors’ activities, determining what data is government proprietary and retaining rights to that data, and engaging with Congress on a possible acceleration of Phase 3, which, like Phase 2, is to be an open competition.
The Air Force had said that it would not pay termination fees for ending the LSAs and was negotiating with the companies for the final milestones and payments to receive data deliveries for work in progress.
Despite its loss, Blue Origin retains a stake in Phase 2, as Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine will power ULA’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.
The first three Phase 2 missions are to launch between Fiscal Year ’22 and FY ’24, and SMC is to order launch services annually from ULA and SpaceX for up to 34 launches over five years. ULA is to receive 60% of the launch orders, and SpaceX will receive the remaining 40%.
The NSSL effort is to allow the Air Force to end reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engine by leveraging U.S. commercial launch capabilities. The service has 12 RD-180 engines it can use, if a catastrophic failure arises in the NSSL program, but the service is prohibited by law from buying new RD-180s after 2022. (Source: News Now/https://www.satellitetoday.com/)
20 Jan 21. White House, DoT Promote More Dough For GPS Alternatives. No currently available commercial alternative can provide a stand-alone backup to GPS, concludes a long-awaited study led by the Transportation Department. While some systems can stand in for GPS’s timing function, none provide robust enough positioning and navigation capabilities, the study concludes.
The study, Complementary PNT and GPS Backup Technologies Demonstration Report, was released Friday — the same day the White House issued a new policy to improve GPS as well as kick-starting investment in alternative PNT systems. Space Policy Directive 7 (SPD-7) replaces the 2004 PNT policy issued by the George W. Bush administration. In particular, the directive focuses on the need for increased Pentagon focus on making GPS signals more jam resistant, as well as improving cybersecurity — such as the roll out of Lockheed Martin’s next-generation GPS III satellites and full implementation of the long-delayed M-Code encrypted signal.
SPD-7 also contains new language urging US government agencies to “Invest in domestic capabilities and support international activities to detect, mitigate, and increase resilience to harmful disruption or manipulation of GPS, and identify and implement, as appropriate, alternative sources of PNT for critical infrastructure, key resources, and mission-essential functions.”
“In my opinion, the focus on augmentation and non-space PNT alternatives is significant, as I think it symbolizes a shift away from the previous ‘gold standard’ approach of getting everyone to use and rely on GPS,” Brian Weeden, head of program planning for the Secure World Foundation said in an email yesterday.
“The original goal of that gold standard approach was to undermine any foreign GNSS competitor, which didn’t work, and also conflicted with the DOD’s requirement to be able to deny GPS to adversaries,” he explained. “I think the latter is why we haven’t seen more effort put towards shoring up civil GPS signals against jamming and spoofing, and instead you see a policy shift to encourage alternative sources of PNT.”
DoT reviewed 11 commercial available PNT systems, based on a variety of technologies, finding that “there are suitable, mature and commercially available technologies to backup or complement the timing services provided by GPS.” However, the study also found that “none of the systems can universally backup the positioning and navigations capabilities provided by GPS and its augmentations. The critical infrastructure positioning and navigation requirements are so varied that function, application, and end-user specific positioning and navigation solutions are needed. This necessitates a diverse universe of positioning and navigation technologies.”
Nonetheless, the study says the US government should promote use of currently available tech and investment in emerging capabilities “that show strong performance, operational diversity, operational readiness, and cost-effectiveness is worthwhile. Based on this demonstration, those technologies are LF [low frequency, with a range of 30–300 kHz] and UHF [ultra-high frequency, with a range of 300–3,000 MHz] terrestrial and L-band [1-2 GHz, and used by GPS] satellite broadcasts for PNT functions with supporting fiber optic time services to transmitters/control segments,” it finds.
The DoT study was mandated by Congress in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. That bill also ordered DoT, DoD and the Department of Homeland Security to jointly develop a plan for ensuring that back-up GPS capabilities are widely available in case GPS signals are degraded or lost for any reason. Outages can be caused by anything from inability of signals to reach receivers in dense urban environments or remote locations, signal interference from wireless broadcasts (hence, DoD fears about the controversial 5G wireless network being developed by Ligado) or deliberate jamming.
However, that effort “remains a work in progress,” one US government official involved said yesterday. The National Security Council is leading a broad interagency effort to figure out how to tackle what is a Herculean task, the official explained. “The challenge is there just is no one size fits all [solution.] So, each agency has to really figure out for themselves and their users what they would recommend,” the official said.
DoT’s four key findings made the lack of a comprehensive GPS alternative clear:
- All the vendors “demonstrated some PNT performance of value, but only one vendor, NextNav, demonstrated in all applicable use case scenarios.” (Although even that system was not deemed a “universal’ solution.)
- Neither of the eLORAN solutions tested were able to produce accurate timing signals when receivers were located underground in what the study called a “Static Basement Test.” Systems using eLORAN (for enhanced Long Range Navigation) rely on radio towers to transmit signals, and are being used by some US allies such as South Korea.
- One technology, so-called R-Mode in the medium frequency (MF) band, with a range of 300 kilohertz (kHz) to 3 megahertz (MHz)], “did not meet the minimum technology readiness level (TRL) of six.”
- “Deployment effort and coverage (infrastructure per unit area) are both significant cost factors.” The study did not go into enough depth to project costs for any one system, but stressed that “cost is a central consideration in any PNT investment decision.”
Weeden concurred that costs will be an issue for widespread use of alternatives to GPS — which is provided for free by DoD (although of course receivers made by commercial firms are not.) “I think one major thing to point out is that using many (all?) of them will require new receivers, which means they will require a pretty significant investment and adopting phase to implement widely.”
Even the system that was shown to be adequate (though, again, not a comprehensive solution) to serve now as a GPS alternative, NextNav’s terrestrial PNT system TerraPoiNT, ranked high on the DoT study’s “deployment effort” scale — meaning that it would require significant investment in materials and time to deploy.
In a press release touting the DoT study, NextNav says TerraPoiNT’s “signal which is over 100,000 times stronger than GPS, combined with its ability to operate independent of GPS and its cybersecurity protections overcomes the limitations of GPS.”
“The DOT report highlights the fact that viable, market-ready PNT solutions can increase the resilience and security of location and timing services,” said Ganesh Pattabiraman, NextNav CEO, in the release. “These solutions will play a vital role in addressing both the immediate need to secure our critical infrastructure, but will also enable modern applications such as autonomous vehicles and 5G telecommunication systems. We are thrilled that the DOT report both validates the TerraPoiNT technology and recognizes NextNav’s vision for the future of PNT.”
The US government source noted that part of the problem for companies developing alternative PNT technologies is the current lack of government investment, as agencies scramble to identify their own needs. Without better guidance on what government buyers want, it obviously is difficult for companies to commit internal research and development funds.
The DoT study, in fact, makes two recommendations aimed at its own future work to promote alternative PNT systems for use in the transportation sector, which relies heavily on GPS, that would go some way toward helping industry determine where to put its own money:
- DOT should develop system requirements for PNT functions that support safety-critical services.
- DOT should develop standards, test procedures, and monitoring capabilities to ensure that PNT services, and the equipage that utilizes them, meet the necessary levels of safety and resilience identified in Recommendation 1. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
25 Jan 21. The Aerospace Corporation Opens UK Subsidiary to Support Key U.S. Ally in Space, Boost UK Space Role. The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace) announced its opening of The Aerospace Corporation UK Ltd (Aerospace UK), a wholly owned, UK-based subsidiary.
As an extension of Aerospace’s role as an objective technical advisor for the space enterprise, Aerospace UK will support a key U.S. ally under contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Aerospace UK will provide technical support as the UK develops a new set of space policies and initiatives. For 60 years, Aerospace has operated a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) dedicated to solving the hardest problems for the U.S. space enterprise and its allies.
“Establishing Aerospace UK demonstrates Aerospace’s commitment to advancing the global space community and stronger, deeper partnerships with U.S. allies,” said Steve Isakowitz, Aerospace president and CEO. “We are pleased to provide the technical expertise and strategic insights that have made us a trusted partner to the U.S. space enterprise to support the UK in shaping its future in space.”
The UK is emphasizing space in planning for future defense, security and national prosperity, with specific focus on developing domestic launch facilities, a new position, navigation and timing system and a major new satellite communications capability.
Aerospace UK draws on 60 years of independent technical expertise and insight that Aerospace—as a nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC)—provides to the U.S. military, government space leaders and U.S. allies to help them make technically informed space policy decisions. Aerospace UK will function in a similar independent role, providing access to Aerospace experts while also deploying local technical specialists.
Gina Galasso will serve as the managing director of Aerospace UK. She has spent over 35 years helping Aerospace customers navigate the complex issues of space, including 15 directly supporting allied governments.
“The UK is poised to take its place as one of the world’s most important sovereign space nations,” said Galasso. “The Aerospace Corporation UK Ltd will facilitate a truly UK approach that will strengthen our allies’ space capabilities.”
About The Aerospace Corporation
The Aerospace Corporation is a U.S.-based national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 4,200 employees. With major locations in El Segundo, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the Washington, D.C., region, Aerospace addresses complex problems across the space enterprise through agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.
About The Aerospace Corporation UK Ltd
The Aerospace Corporation UK Ltd is the wholly owned UK subsidiary of The Aerospace Corporation. Headquartered in Salisbury, Wiltshire, this small-to-medium enterprise is focused on supporting a number of different government organizations in the UK space economy. The company has been established to support UK efforts in a variety of space areas, including launch, space situational awareness, systems acquisition, and program management. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org/uk.
25 Jan 21. L3Harris Technologies’ (NYSE:LHX) DarkWing™ terminal has received Category 1 and Category 4 approval to operate on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network in both commercial and military Ka (Mil Ka) globally.
DarkWing is a new addition to the GX family of terminals that combines a small form factor and lightweight flat-panel to produce a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) providing high-speed data communications for Internet, virtual private network (VPN) connectivity and video transmission. A worldwide GX subscriptions plan offers data rates up to 6Mbps x 3Mbps. Higher-speed communications are available to government customers on the GX SATCOM as a Service network up to 59Mbps x 7.5Mbps globally, and up to 90Mbps x 30Mbps using Inmarsat military Ka steerable antennas.
This ruggedized terminal solution is designed to fit in a backpack or laptop-sized case for ease of transport, ideal for small teams, VIPs or sensitive missions. Time from setup to operational use is less than five minutes, achieved through integration of the modem, radio frequency (RF) components and antenna into a single assembly, representing a significant setup time reduction over competing products.
DarkWing acquires GX satellites through a simplified manual pointing process featuring the L3Harris ViewSat-e Graphical User Interface (GUI). The flat-panel VSAT employs its built-in GPS and compass to quickly provide operators a pointing solution and visual indicators for pointing adjustments via a user-friendly front panel display.
“Expanding the global opportunities for our DarkWing terminal provides customers the capability to connect to the Inmarsat Global Xpress very high-throughput satellite system using a small, compact terminal anywhere in the world at any time,” said Jerry Adams, General Manager, SATCOM Products, L3Harris.
Steve Gizinski, President, Inmarsat Government, said: “The DarkWing terminal is a great addition to our Global Xpress terminal portfolio. This terminal enables high-speed connectivity with BGAN-style ease of use. When combined with Inmarsat’s Global Xpress service, this lightweight, flat-panel, ruggedized solution provides land expeditionary users highly reliable, always-available connectivity worldwide.”
24 Jan 21. GHGSat Satellite ”Hugo” – Rideshare Launch with SpaceX a Success. Hugo is the result of GHGSat’s first collaboration with ABB, the engineering firm which manufactured the payload. Previous GHGSat satellite launches include technology demonstrator “Claire” (or GHGSat-D), which has been in orbit since 2016, and “Iris” (GHGSat-C1), which launched September 2nd, 2020.
Hugo is the second of a fleet of 10 commercial, high-resolution satellites due to be in orbit by the end of 2022. Each satellite is equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor that detects methane emissions from sources 100 times smaller, at a resolution that is 100 times higher, than any other commercial or state-funded satellite. Iris has already detected and quantified smaller plumes than GHGSat-D (“Claire”) for industries such as oil & gas, waste management, and mining.
Stephane Germain, CEO of GHGSat: “Hugo’s successful launch doubles our commercial capacity in orbit for performing high-resolution measurements of facility-level emissions. This launch starts the year on a high note as the next step in deploying our constellation.”
Three more GHGSat satellites are currently being manufactured, and each will include patented GHGSat sensors manufactured under contract by ABB Measurement & Analytics Canada. Marc Corriveau, General Manager ABB Measurement & Analytics Canada said: “ABB is very pleased to support the rapid launch of Hugo, following the delivery of the first of many payload replicas under manufacturing. Experience gained in high-profile space programs like JPSS, Meteosat, MetOp, GOSAT and SciSat allowed us to refine the unique GHGSat technology. These complementary missions are essential to better understand our planet and carry us into a sustainable future.”
GHGSat is a leader in high-resolution greenhouse gas monitoring from space, providing actionable emission data to businesses, governments, and regulators worldwide. With proprietary remote-sensing capabilities and patented technology, GHGSat can monitor individual facilities, offering greater data accuracy, and facilitating timely strategic decision-making insights. www.ghgsat.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
22 Jan 21. Space Force Exists to Deal With Threats in Space Domain, Vice Chairman Says Threats by Russia and China to deny U.S. access and capability in space make the Space Force critical to national security, said the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, spoke at an online National Security Space Association “Space Time” event today.
Critical space assets include GPS; missile warning; reconnaissance; and position, navigation and timing.
“Russia and China are building capabilities to challenge us in space because if they can challenge us in space, they understand as dependent as we are in space capabilities that they can challenge us as a nation,” Hyten said.
“Therefore, it is our responsibility as leaders of the defense enterprise to make sure that we continue to educate the population about the threats that we face and, then, put forth recommendations to deal with those threats in a rapid, responsive way,” he said.
In a time of conflict, DOD must deny adversaries access to space while maintaining its own freedom to maneuver in that domain, he mentioned.
Russia and China are both building antisatellite weapons and other military space assets at an alarmingly fast rate, he noted.
As a result, the department has to go fast in defining joint requirements and delivering capable systems to counter the threat, he said. “We accelerate because our adversaries are accelerating.”
In going fast, you have to accept a certain amount of risk, he added.
Besides moving fast, Hyten said space systems programs need to have agility and adaptability built into them.
He noted there’s bipartisan support for the Space Force, and he expects the newest service, along with Space Command, to continue to make great strides in the new administration. (Source: PR Newswire)
20 Jan 21. A Successful ‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ Launch Completed By Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket on the launch pad prior to liftoff and the activity at the company’s launch control center. Screenshot is courtesy of Rocket Lab’s launch video.
Rocket Lab has successfully launched their 18th Electron mission, ‘Another One Leaves The Crust,’ on 20:26 NZDT / 07:26 UTC on January 20, 2021.
The launch 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 was Rocket Lab’s 18th Electron launch and brings the total number of satellites launched by the company to 97.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said, “Congratulations to our mission partners at OHB Group. We’re thrilled to have kicked off a busy year with a dedicated mission that once again demonstrates Electron’s unique ability to provide our small satellite customers with control over their mission schedule and orbital parameters.”
Details about the customers onboard Rocket Lab’s 19th Electron launch will be announced shortly.
‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ is the first mission in a busy launch manifest for 2021, which includes multiple dedicated and rideshare small satellite missions for 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.
Rocket Lab is currently targeting no earlier than 07:38, January 16 UTC for lift-off of our 18th Electron launch, the ‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ mission.
- NZT: 20:38 – 20:45 (16 Jan)
- UTC: 07:38 – 07:45 (16 Jan)
- ET: 02:38 – 02:45 (16 Jan)
- PT: 23:38 – 23:45 (15 Jan)
The company has backup opportunities available through January 25 should Rocket Lab need to stand down for any reason. For real time updates on launch day, keep an eye on Twitter @RocketLab.
- ‘Another One Leaves The Crust’ will launch a single communications satellite for OHB Group.
- The mission will be Rocket Lab’s 18th launch overall and first mission of 2020.
- Rocket Lab will not be attempting to recover Electron’s first stage for this mission. Stay tuned for details of our next recovery mission soon.
Original news story…
Rocket Lab has announced that their 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 that opens on January 16 NZT/UTC. Encapsulated inside Electron’s fairing will be a single communication smallsat 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 the 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.
Photo of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.
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.
‘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.
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.” (Source: Satnews)
17 Jan 21. Virgin Orbit’s 2nd Launch Demo Is Completed + 10 Smallsats Air Launched Via The LauncherOne Rocket.
Virgin Orbit‘s LauncherOne rocket reached space during the company’s second launch demonstration on January 17, 2021, successfully deploying 10 payloads for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP).
Virgin Orbit’s launch system uses a technique called air launch, in which a rocket is launched from under the wing of a jet aircraft, rather than from a traditional launch pad on the ground. In addition to improving the payload capacity of the rocket, this technique allows the LauncherOne system to be the world’s most flexible and responsive launch service — flying on short notice and from a wide variety of locations to access any orbit.
For today’s mission, Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft, a customized 747-400 dubbed Cosmic Girl, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 10:50 A.M. and flew out to a launch site over the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles south of the Channel Islands. After a smooth release from the aircraft, the two-stage rocket ignited and powered itself to orbit.
At the conclusion of the flight, the LauncherOne rocket deployed 10 cubesats into the team’s precise target orbit, marking a major step forward for Virgin Orbit in its quest to bust down the barriers preventing affordable and responsive access to space.
The payloads onboard LauncherOne today were selected by NASA LSP as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). Nearly all of the cubesat missions were designed, built and tested by universities across the U.S., including Brigham Young University (PICS), the University of Michigan (MiTEE), and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (CAPE-3).
This flight also marks a historical first: no other orbital class, air-launched, liquid-fueled rocket had successfully reached space before today.
With this successful demonstration in the books, Virgin Orbit will officially transition into commercial service for its next mission. Virgin Orbit has subsequent launches booked by customers ranging from the U.S. Space Force and the U.K.’s Royal Air Force to commercial customers like Swarm Technologies, Italy’s SITAEL, and Denmark’s GomSpace.
The company’s next few rockets are already well into integration at its Long Beach manufacturing facility.
“A new gateway to space has just sprung open! That LauncherOne was able to successfully reach orbit today is a testament to this team’s talent, precision, drive, and ingenuity. Even in the face of a global pandemic, we’ve maintained a laser focus on fully demonstrating every element of this revolutionary launch system. That effort paid off today with a beautifully executed mission, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.
“Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible. It was so inspiring to see our specially adapted Virgin Atlantic 747, Cosmic Girl, send the LauncherOne rocket soaring into orbit. This magnificent flight is the culmination of many years of hard work and will also unleash a whole new generation of innovators on the path to orbit. I can’t wait to see the incredible missions Dan and the team will launch to change the world for good,” said Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. (Source: Satnews)
19 Jan 21. Aurora Insight’s Charlie To Launch Via The SpaceX Transporter-1 From Canavera. The launch is a part of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare mission on the Falcon 9 rocket and will be broadcast live at www.spacex.com/launches. Aurora will host a special live stream discussion event on the morning of the launch, and details can be found at www.aurorainsight.com/charlie. Launching the satellite-based radio frequency spectrum sensor will unlock new opportunities and answers about wireless spectrum — one of the most valuable resources in the digital economy.
Charlie is the first of a two-part satellite mission this quarter. Aurora Insight partnered with NanoAvionics, a leading nanosatellite bus manufacturer and mission integrator, to build and integrate two nanosatellites, as well as provide launch services. Both 6U smallsats are based on NanoAvionics’ standard M6P bus in a higher performance configuration, providing greater technical performance capabilities for Aurora’s radio frequency spectrum mission. The second satellite is also scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2021.
Regarding the launch, Aurora Insight’s CEO Jennifer Alvarez explained, “This technology will provide Aurora Insight’s clients with an entirely new understanding of the RF spectrum environment, and we can shed light on the ambiguity that has surrounded it for years. The answers we uncover will help advance communications around the world and enable organizations to plan, invest, and move forward with a data-driven strategy.”
The satellite-based radio frequency spectrum sensor has unprecedented capabilities, including the ability to:
- Monitor the deployment and growth of terrestrial mobile networks
- Monitor the on-orbit radio frequency environmental performance to understand when and how ground-based transmissions affect satellite performance
- Identify sources of harmful interference to on-orbit assets
Traditional methods of measuring spectrum are usually ad hoc, limited in scale, outdated and offer poor visibility into the availability of wireless. Aurora has developed an autonomous sensor network, powered by machine learning and advanced radio signal processing, to continuously sample and render the full radio spectrum environment.
Aurora Insight offers accurate, impartial insights on the radio frequency spectrum to inform the next generation of wireless services. Through an autonomous sensor network and machine learning of radio signals, Aurora continuously samples and reports on the radio frequency spectrum, from licensed infrastructure to dynamic utilization, enabling the best use of this scarce commodity. Companies around the globe rely on Aurora Insight’s unmatched data to help analyze, predict, transform, and answer questions about the next generation of applications. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and funded by the country’s top innovation investors, Aurora Insight is pushing the boundaries to help advance global communication. The team is composed of data scientists, engineers, and industry veterans, who leverage a deep expertise and understanding of the challenges that face the communications industry.(Source: Satnews)
18 Jan 21. Redwire Robotics Systems Selected By Momentus For The Vigoride Spacecraft. Redwire has been selected by Momentus to develop robotics systems for their next generation Vigoride, in-space, transportation vehicle. The multi-phase contract will include a system architecture study and delivery of a flight-qualified robotics system that will operate on a flight demonstration in 2022. The agreement builds on the Memorandum of Understanding between Redwire and Momentus that was announced in September 2020.
The development of robotics systems for the Vigoride vehicle will build on Redwire’s US-based robotics expertise that is currently supporting a broad range of mission operations, including industry-leading programs for in-space assembly of satellites and robotics for human-rated spacecraft.
“Redwire is excited to collaborate with Momentus to develop a world-class reusable in-space transportation vehicle,” said Andrew Rush, President and Chief Operating Officer of Redwire. “This partnership will yield new commercially developed space infrastructure and demonstrate that Redwire’s specialized, cost-effective space robotics systems are an unparalleled solution for reusable mission architectures.”
“Momentus selected Redwire as its robotics systems partner because of the large synergies in our vision for a robotics-enabled space economy enabled by cost-effective, capable robotics systems and high value end capabilities and services,” said Rob Schwarz, Chief Technology Officer of Momentus. “Through this close alignment, Redwire was able to provide Momentus with very high value to deploy our near-term missions, with opportunities for continued collaboration as we evolve our future roadmaps.” (Source: Satnews)
21 Jan 21. Optical Comms Collaboration Between Swedish Space Corp. + Airbus D&S Netherlands. Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands (Airbus DS NL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for collaborative activities regarding ground equipment for space-to-ground optical communication.
The agreement will accelerate the development of commercially viable optical ground stations that will be offered by Airbus DS NL and used by SSC in delivering ground network services.
One of the collaborative activities in developing this capability includes optical communication tests against the CubeLCT optical terminal on the Photo Images Cross Laser (PIXL-1) Mission, organized in close co-operation with project partner TESAT. PIXL-1 will be launched on January 22.
Optical communication between ground stations and satellites in orbit enables broadband connectivity via space, providing a secure and efficient solution for the fast-growing worldwide demand for data.
“Airbus Netherlands will be an important partner as SSC continues to add optical communication solutions to our global network of ground stations. Their modern infrastructure and industry-leading knowledge will be a vital contribution to our service offering,” said Stefan Gardefjord, CEO at SSC.
“Optical communication will be a game changer in this era in which we increasingly share data. We have a strong desire to work with Swedish Space Corporation to further build up our capabilities for optical ground stations, as they have been at the forefront of ground stations services for decades,” said Maarten Schippers, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands. (Source: Satnews)
18 Jan 21. Iodine Propulsion Proven Viable For Smallsats In Space By ThrustMe + Spacety. The space industry seeks new solutions to ensure economic and environmental space sustainability with the rise of satellite mega-constellations. A solution lies in the use of on-orbit propulsion, but traditional systems are not fit for the New Space paradigm.
ThrustMe has announced that they have successfully tested the first iodine-fueled electric propulsion system in space aboard the Spacety Beihangkongshi-1 satellite. This world first, on-orbit demo has the potential to transform the space industry.
On December 28, 2020, the first iodine electric propulsion system to be launched into space was successfully fired, with a second successful test on January 2, 2021. Both test burns were performed by ThrustMe’s NPT30-I2-1U propulsion system onboard the Beihangkongshi -1 satellite from Spacety.
The satellite was launched on November 6, 2020, and after several weeks of satellite commissioning, the propulsion system was operated during two, 90-minute burns that resulted in a total altitude change of 700 m. These tests represent the first in-space operation of the NPT30-I2-1U and the first demonstration of iodine as a viable propellant for electric propulsion systems: an important step in accelerating its commercial adoption.
A breakthrough for the satellite industry.
The NPT30-I2-1U allows propulsion systems to be delivered completely prefilled to customers and that allows the satellite integration process to be significantly simplified and streamlined. Therefore, iodine offers the potential to provide both economic, and environmental sustainability for the space industry. Indeed, most conventional electric propulsion systems make use of xenon or krypton which are expensive, rare and must be stored under very high pressure. Furthermore, satellite assembly, integration and testing can be more complicated as specialized equipment and trained personnel are required to safely load fuel tanks with such propellants.
Iodine, by contrast, can be stored as a solid at room temperature, is much less expensive, more abundant, and completely unpressurized.
In 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA), supported the development of ThrustMe’s NPT30-I2-1U propulsion system through the ARTES C&G (Competitiveness and Growth) program (funded by France) for innovative technologies for the SATCOM industry. In addition to the on-orbit demonstration, the NPT30-I2-1U is being prepared for the GEO satellite market and a separate unit is currently undergoing extensive radiation testing, which ThrustMe stated is proceeding as planned.
The development of ThrustMe’s NPT30-I2-1U was also supported by the French National Space Agency (CNES) via a project as part of their R&T program.
“In 2008, we identified iodine as an ideal propellant for electric propulsion. Since then, we have developed a number of key technologies to be able to offer, as of today, a complete, standalone, propulsion system to meet current and emerging market needs. This is an important product for our customers as it allows them to deploy their satellite constellations, and to take corrective actions to mitigate collision or debris risks”, said Ane Aanesland, CEO of ThrustMe.
“It has been a long road to bring this product from dream to reality. To make it happen we had to innovate, develop a complex system from the ground up, and perform fundamental research studies since many properties of iodine are missing in scientific databases. I am happy that we have ended up with a very high performance, safe and reliable propulsion system that is now available for any smallsat, said Dmytro Rafalskyi, CTO of ThrustMe.
“The successful launch and the first firings are significant milestones in the development of ThrustMe’s iodine electric propulsion system. We are pleased to support ThrustMe in the development and demonstration of this propulsion module through the ARTES C&G program,” noted Barnaby Osborne, Small Satellite Technology Coordinator, ESA Telecommunications and Integrated Applications.
“We are very happy to have supported the in-orbit demonstration of ThrustMe’s iodine electric propulsion system and are very pleased to have helped a French company achieve such a historic milestone,” added Thomas Liénart, Head of the Propulsion, Pyrotechnics and Aerothermodynamics office at CNES.
ThrustMe is a deep-tech space propulsion company, based in the Paris-region, France. It leverages more than 10 years of applied and fundamental research at Ecole Polytechnique and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). ThrustMe offers a portfolio of turnkey propulsion systems that have been tested in space and are available for a wide range of satellites and space missions. Its unique products make use of breakthrough innovations, such as solid iodine propellant, to streamline delivery and integration with client satellites, and to enable future economic and environmental sustainability of the space industry.
The NPT30-I2-1U is a complete, standalone, propulsion system that includes all subsystems necessary for its operation such as the power processing unit, an intelligent operation controller, and iodine propellant storage and management. It has a 1-Unit CubeSat form factor, and is prefilled with solid, unpressurized, iodine propellant. The NPT30-I2-1U is the first iodine-fueled electric propulsion system to be launched into space, and can provide a total impulse of 5500 Ns at a maximum thrust of 1.1 mN and with a specific impulse up to 2450s. Extreme miniaturization of the system is achieved through several innovations that include pipe-less propellant delivery, custom RF generation technology, a dedicated plasma ignition system, and integrated thermal management. A high level of robustness and safety is achieved through the implementation of built-in self-test and self-tuning algorithms, and several layers of security checks. (Source: Satnews)
21 Jan 21. Gilat’s ESA Technology Successfully Demo’d Over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT) has successfully tested their Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) network — Gilat’s open-architecture proven ESA has been integrated with Inmarsat’s G-MODMAN solution.
For the first time, a live demonstration of an ESA terminal was performed on an Inmarsat operational GX satellite. The successful test was performed on Inmarsat-5 F1 satellite at 62.6 degrees East.
Gilat’s self-pointing antenna logged-on automatically to the GX network, supporting bi-directional real-time communication in both fixed and dynamic antenna positioning modes. Beam steering under the changing elevation and skew angles was done while managing the power spectral density (PSD) threshold, in order to minimize interference with neighboring satellites, in accordance to regulations.
“We are pleased with the successful demonstration of Gilat’s ESA technology operating over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network,” said Jerome Soumagne, Chief Engineer, VP Networks at Inmarsat. “The seamless integration of our G-MODMAN with Gilat’s antenna control system, via standard open interfaces, is a key enabler to demonstrate the ability to support Electronic Steered Array Technology in Inmarsat’s global satellite network.”
“We are delighted to partner with Inmarsat, for yet another industry first, demonstrating our proven ESA technology on their Global Xpress constellation,” said Roni Stoleru, Vice President Antenna Products & Strategy at Gilat. “Having integrated Gilat’s ESA with Inmarsat’s G-MODMAN further emphasizes Gilat’s ESA leadership and readiness for commercial deployment.” (Source: Satnews)
21 Jan 21. Momentus To Provide Orbital Maneuvering Services To Qosmosys Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”) and Qosmosys, a new venture founded in Singapore last year, have announced a service agreement for two 3UXL protoflight cubesats in 2022, followed by two options in 2023.
Momentus will provide the orbital maneuvering services necessary to deliver the spacecraft to a circular or elliptical orbit, depending on each mission requirement. Qosmosys has its specific platform design, dubbed Zeus, which will be built with major contributions from NuSpace in Singapore.
Space satellite orbiting the earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
NuSpace has also been selected to assemble and integrate all Zeus spacecraft. NuSpace signed a separate service agreement with Momentus last year for the company’s NuX-1 smallsat to be launched later in 2021.
“Momentus has exported the spirit of Silicon Valley to Singapore, bringing some fresh perspectives to launch services. Our Qosmosys missions demand a purposeful use of orbits,therefore, with Momentus, we clearly take significant benefits with their injection precision,” said Francois Dubrulle, Founder of Qosmosys. “Moreover, Momentus offers an effective solution for Qosmosys for assured access to space, flying on a regular schedule with SpaceX, and adding extra flexibility and customization to our myriad of spacecraft to be launched.”
“Momentus is thrilled to contribute to the development of an innovative business idea in space while fostering the development of NewSpace in Asia and, more specifically, Singapore,” added Mikhail Kokorich, CEO of Momentus. “We love and share Qosmosys’ bold vision of making thevastness of space accessible to all mankind – in earth orbit and beyond.”
Momentus has developed a cost-effective and energy efficient in-space transport system based on water plasma propulsion technology. Momentus has in-place serviceagreements with private satellite companies, government agencies, and research organizations. (Source: Satnews)
26 Jan 21. UN and UK sign agreement to promote space sustainability. International efforts to protect future space activity have been given a boost thanks to a new partnership between the UN and the UK government.
The agreement will help nations ensure that outer space remains safe and sustainable for future generations.
The increasing complexity of space missions, the emergence of large constellations of satellites and the increased risks of collision all affect the long-term sustainability of space activities. And there are currently approximately 170m objects in orbit – mainly debris – which could collide with satellites vital to services we use every day.
In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), of which the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is Secretariat, adopted the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS guidelines), which provide a framework to ensure the safe and sustainable use of space. The Guidelines were subsequently welcomed by the United Nations General Assembly.
Following today’s announcement, UK funding of £85,000 will support international efforts to promote space sustainability by identifying examples of the sustainable use of outer space through a series of events and outreach efforts. This project will also inform future UNOOSA capacity-building efforts to promote the future sustainability of outer space, and it will encourage all actors to implement the LTS guidelines to the fullest extent possible.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “As the Earth’s orbit becomes congested with potentially hazardous debris, it’s critical that we work with our international partners to secure the continued safety and sustainability of space. I am therefore delighted the UK is partnering with the UN to implement and promote these vital standards to all emerging and established space-faring nations, helping to ensure that outer space remains open for our next generation of astronauts. This partnership with the UK Space Agency is the first time the UK has funded a project with UNOOSA. It will enable the UN to raise global awareness on this important issue and foster the global governance of outer space based on international law. It is also the first project to be funded from the international element of the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme, launched in October 2020 to support collaborative projects between UK organisations and international partners.”
UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said, “Global investment, and dependency, on space activities are increasing rapidly. It is essential the international community comes together to make the long-term sustainability of space activities a reality. The LTS Guidelines are a landmark expression of global consensus and effective multilateralism on this crucial subject.”
UNOOSA is working to put sustainability at the heart of global space operations. This project, generously funded by our UK partners, will help us ‘connect the dots’; converting the successes of multilateral policy-making into practice, and help deliver the predictability the global space economy needs to ensure its sustained growth in the years to come. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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