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05 Feb 21. Rocket Lab demonstrates new orbital manoeuvring capability. Rocket Lab has demonstrated the increased manoeuvring capability of the Kick Stage during the company’s 18th Electron launch, successfully burning the Curie engine for more than twice the standard mission duration and delivering more than 1,700 kilometres of perigee change.
Rocket Lab successfully launched a communications satellite for European space technology company, OHB Group, deploying the 50-kilogram class GMS-T satellite to a 1,200-kilometre circular orbit – around 700 kilometres higher than most Electron missions to date.
It’s an orbit increasingly in demand for a growing number of constellations, but the unique altitude isn’t a common target orbit for most rideshare missions, leaving satellites facing a long delay to find a ride going to their preferred orbit.
Electron eliminates the wait time by delivering a dedicated service to orbit on a timeline that meets our customers’ diverse needs.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, said, “Increasingly we’re seeing small satellite operators seeking unique orbits and complex mission profiles on tight timelines. The Kick Stage delivers an unmatched level of on-orbit manoeuvrability for our customers, enabling them to get exactly where they need to, and get the most functionality from their spacecraft, all on a tight timeline.”
After separating from Electron’s second stage into an elliptical transfer orbit, the Kick Stage’s 3D printed Curie engine performed two separate burns; one to raise OHB Group’s satellite to a 1,200-kilometre circular orbit, and a second burn to lower the Kick Stage’s perigee after payload deployment, speeding up the de-orbit process to avoid the Kick Stage becoming long-term orbital debris.
Across the two manoeuvres, Curie completed more than 267 seconds of total burn time and delivered 1,722 kilometres of perigee change, ascending 982 kilometres and descending 740 kilometres. The complex manoeuvres saw Curie burn for more than twice the standard Kick Stage mission profile to low-Earth orbit.
The extended burn time was made possible thanks to the adaptable design of the Kick Stage, which enabled engineers to double the standard number of propellant tanks from four to eight, delivering more on-orbit performance.
‘Another One Leaves the Crust’ was launched just six months after the launch contract was signed with OHB Group, shaving more than two years off common wait times small satellites can experience to get on orbit.
Beck added, “By being fully vertically integrated, our team is in control of critical supply chain areas and can quickly scale manufacturing pace to meet customer demand, delivering a vehicle for launch in as little as 30 days. As the second most frequently launched US last year, our team has proven they can deliver an integration and launch campaign with unmatched speed and efficiency for the small satellite industry.”
Beyond providing the launch service, Rocket Lab also built the reaction wheels and star tracker used in OHB’s payload inside the six-month window.
“In this instance the mission delivery time was just six months, but our team, manufacturing facilities, and launch infrastructure are capable of supporting even tighter timelines measured in short weeks,” Beck said. (Source: Space Connect)
03 Feb 21. Biden decides to stick with Space Force as branch of U.S. military. President Joe Biden is looking at all policies put in place by Republican predecessor Donald Trump, with a view toward possibly rolling them back, but not so the U.S. Space Force.
“They absolutely have the full support of the Biden administration,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday about the Space Force, a day after her dismissal of a question about the service suggested Biden was less than enthusiastic about it.
The Space Force was created as a separate branch of the U.S. military by Trump, who spoke enthusiastically about the need for a force to protect American interests in orbit and celebrated its new flag in an Oval Office ceremony.
Since it was carved out of the Air Force, there had been speculation that Biden might seek to send the Space Force back to where it was before and deny Trump a signature achievement.
But Biden has decided to keep what has been called the world’s only independent space force, officially established in December 2019.
“We are not revisiting the decision to establish the Space Force,” Psaki said. (Source: Reuters)
03 Feb 21. US Army, Navy Funds Unlikely For Space Force Until 2023.
“The last thing Congress intended when creating the Space Force was to end up with four different space forces,” says CSIS’s Todd Harrison in a new analysis promoting a roles and missions review.
shift in Army and Navy space resources — i.e., capabilities and funds — to the Space Force is not likely to appear in the DoD budget request until 2023, says Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond.
“Those decisions are being finalized now. The FY-22 budget has largely been baked, so I would say that this will be addressed in the next budget,” he told reporters at a Defense Writers Group briefing this am.
“We’re working very closely with the Army and the Navy,” Raymond added. “We don’t want to break the Air Force; we don’t want to break the Army; we don’t want to break the Navy as we stand up the Space Force. “We actually want to enhance our warfighting capability. We think there are things that will transfer over, … and there are other things that will remain in those services to further either the maritime mission or the ground mission.”
The Air Force up to now has provided all the resources for the new force, primarily by shifting Air Force Space Command en masse. Raymond told reporters Dec. 15 that Space Force had reached a “98 percent” agreement with the Army and Navy about what space assets should be moved, and what should stay embedded.
At that time, Raymond said he expected a process to allow personnel to shift to be wrapped up, and people to start moving, beginning this year. Indeed, the Army’s 2021 budget includes a move of 100 soldiers to the Space Force.
Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), explained in an email that this is possible because the budget for personnel is separate from the budget for programs.
“It just means the Space Force will own the people and manage their careers, but their pay will still be processed out of their original service’s MILPERS accounts. They are actually doing that for the Air Force people that transferred to the Space Force now.” He added that this “will eventually shift, but it takes time for the accounting to catch up to the organizational shifts. And keep in mind, this is not an additional cost or anything. It is just changing which accounts the money flows through.”
The Army is the US military’s biggest consumer of space services — for example, responsible for buying thousands of satellite receivers for Army troops to access GPS, satellite communications and imagery for ground ops. The locus of Army space activities is at Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Alabama — not coincidentally where the Trump administration chose to re-locate Space Command. And managing Army programs does come with budget pots (the service sadly does not break those out into a budget category to allow easy tracking) that a number of sources close to the discussions say the Army is reluctant to let go.
A recent study by RAND Corp’s Project Air Force, for example, argued that the Army’s Future Warfare Center and Technical Center’s missions specific to space should move to Space Force, along with space-related activities at Army Research Laboratory. Ditto for the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (now NIWC) and Navy Research Laboratory. RAND further argued that the Army’s 1st Space Battalion, which provides missile warning to soldiers using the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites, should be transferred to Space Force.
“While the policy document that allocates roles and missions — Department of Defense Directive 5100.01: Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components—was updated after the creation of the Space Force, it now lists the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force as separate providers of space forces responsible for conducting space operations. This overlap is likely to lead to redundancies and the inefficient use of resources. Moreover, the last thing Congress intended when creating the Space Force was to end up with four different space forces,” Harrison writes in an analysis, Rethinking Military Roles and Missions in a New Administration, released yesterday.
Sorting out what ought to be in the Space Force’s portfolio is just one small piece of a simmering debate about the overarching distribution of rolls and missions among the services since the creation of the Space Force in December 2019, as well as the transition of US military to All Domain Operations being codified in the upcoming Joint Warfighting Concept. Now due to be finalized in the spring, the Joint Warfighting Concept is looking closely at four subcomponents of future warfare that cross services boundaries: joint long-range fires, joint command and control, contested logistics and “information advantage.”
Air Force Chief Gen. CQ Brown told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) he believes that the time has come for a new roles and missions study.
“The establishment of the Space Force in December 2019 under Title 10 means the time is ripe for a thorough re-examination of the joint force roles and missions, to include the Space Force and the consolidation of space roles and missions from other Services. This is an important discussion that is still ongoing with the other Services,” he said in answers to written questions preceding his May 7 confirmation hearing.
Another reason is the growing redundancy among the services in efforts to protect bases, Brown said.
“With the growing threat and joint operations from more distributed locations, the roles and missions for base defense—from the fence line to all the way up to hypersonics—is worthy of discussion and review,” he said.
“The rapid pace of technological developments in hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities, remotely operated systems, and autonomous systems is enabling each of the services to reimagine how they operate and the types of forces they need,” Harrison’s analysis found.
The issue of competing programs between the Army, Navy and Air Force for taking out targets at very long ranges also has inflamed debate about who should be on first.
Harrison further argues that Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) — the overarching strategy for how US commanders will run all-domain war using next-generation communications and data crunching tools — is another area of conflicting roles. (He further argues that responsibility for the US ICBM force should be moved to the Army — but that is another kettle of fish.)
“I don’t think the Joint Warfighting Concept is sufficient,” he told me in an email today. “To make real progress on building a JADC2 architecture that is truly joint, DoD needs to assign a lead service and create a JPEO [Joint Program Executive Office]. This is not something that can be led out of the Joint Staff or through OSD—it really needs to be in one of the services.”
Harrison and a number of other sources say the Biden administration is not likely to launch a roles and missions review, given how controversial it would be. That said, there is some scope for tackling the most troublesome gaps and overlaps now at hand.
“[A] roles and missions review should be narrowly scoped to focus on the gaps, overlaps, and areas of ambiguity among the services that stem specifically from (1) the creation of the Space Force, (2) advances in new technologies, (3) changes in current military missions since Key West, and (4) the emergence of new mission areas that are strategically important to DoD,” Harrison argues in his paper. That could be done as part of a new National Defense Strategy.
Lloyd Austin, the new Defense Secretary, has pledged to “update” the Trump 2018 NDS by 2022, thus providing the Biden administration with an opportunity to put its own stamp on US defense policy. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
02 Feb 21. SpaceX Starship prototype rocket explodes on landing after test launch. A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded during a landing attempt minutes after a high-altitude experimental launch from Boca Chica, Texas, on Tuesday, in a repeat of an accident that destroyed a previous test rocket.
The Starship SN9 that blew up on its final descent, like the SN8 before it, was a test model of the heavy-lift rocket being developed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.
The self-guided, 16-story-tall rocket initially soared into the clear, blue South Texas sky from its Gulf Coast launch pad on what appeared from SpaceX’s livestream coverage to be a flawless liftoff.
Reaching its peak altitude of about 10 km (6 miles), the spacecraft then hovered momentarily in midair, shut off its engines and executed a planned “belly-flop” maneuver to descend nose-down under aerodynamic control back toward Earth.
The trouble came when the Starship, after flipping its nose upward again to begin its landing sequence, tried to reactivate two of its three Raptor thrusters, but one failed to ignite. The rocket then fell rapidly to the ground, exploding in a roaring ball of flames, smoke and debris – 6 minutes and 26 seconds after launch.
The Starship SN8, the first prototype to fly in a high-altitude test launch, met a similar fate in December. No injuries occurred in either incident.
A SpaceX commentator for Tuesday’s launch webcast said the rocket’s flight to its test altitude, along with most of its subsonic re-entry, “looked very good and stable, like we saw last December.”
“We just have to work on that landing a little bit,” the commentator said, adding, “This is a test flight, the second time we’ve flown Starship in this configuration.”
There was no immediate comment from Musk, who also heads the electric carmaker Tesla Inc. Hours earlier, Musk said on Twitter he planned to stay off the social media platform “for a while.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would oversee an investigation of Tuesday’s landing mishap, as it did following the previous explosion – an inquiry that revealed tensions between Musk and the agency.
SpaceX conducted December’s launch “without demonstrating” that public safety risks posed by “far-field blast overpressure” met the terms of its regulatory permit, according to the FAA. But the agency said “corrective actions” the company later took were approved by the FAA and incorporated into Tuesday’s launch.
“We anticipate taking no further enforcement action on the SN8 matter,” the agency’s statement said.
Last week, Musk tweeted that the FAA’s “space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure” and that “humanity will never get to Mars” under its rules.
The complete Starship rocket, which will stand 394-feet (120 meters) tall when mated with its super-heavy first-stage booster, is the company’s next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle – the center of Musk’s ambitions to make human space travel more affordable and routine.
A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end. Musk has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with the Starship in 2023. (Source: Reuters)
03 Feb 21. SatSure – Bellatrix Aerospace Signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Establishing a High-Resolution Satellite Constellation.
The global space industry has been growing rapidly since the last decade. India has contributed to it through its NewSpace companies and the recent formation of InSpace by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
SatSure, founded in 2016 with core business in enterprise AI-based software products and platforms, has seen a surge in demand post-COVID-19 for data insights and solutions based on high-resolution satellite imagery at affordable price points that helps in decision making across the aviation, banking, insurance, and transportation, sectors.
While Bellatrix Aerospace, an IP driven company founded in 2015 and working on advanced spacecraft propulsion systems, is currently expanding its business towards being a prime contractor for developing and operating unconventional satellite platforms for highly demanding mission requirements.
In this respect, on February 3rd, 2021, SatSure has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bellatrix Aerospace to help place its payloads in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The satellites will host a novel on-board processor for in-orbit high-resolution data processing using SatSure’s proprietary Deep Learning algorithms and ultra low-bandwidth data transmission on a microsatellite platform comprising of Bellatrix Aerospace’s unique hybrid propulsion systems. The missions will be supported by Bellatrix Aerospace’s agile satellite platform currently under development and powered by its unique hybrid propulsion technology. SatSure and Bellatrix Aerospace plan to have the first satellite of the proposed constellation launched by December 2022. A request for proposal (RFP) for payload design, integration and testing will be made available to the industry in the coming weeks.
Mr Prateep Basu, CEO & Co-Founder at SatSure AG, said, “We are very excited about this partnership with Bellatrix Aerospace. This investment from our side is a natural step to providing timely and unique insights from space to our clients globally. Many breakthrough technologies will be demonstrated in the first mission, be it the hardware, software, or hardware-software integration. It is a risky mission, but then no innovation has ever been done without trial and errors.”
Speaking about this partnership, Mr Rohan Muralidhar, CEO of Bellatrix Aerospace, said, “We see great synergies with SatSure on this mission, which we believe will set new benchmarks for frugal innovation. With this constellation, SatSure’s proven capabilities in satellite data processing and pipelines will be further augmented with the help of high-resolution real-time imagery. This is also a significant announcement for Bellatrix, as we will be working on more of such missions catering to very niche mission requirements.”
Bellatrix Aerospace is a full-suite solution provider of spacecraft propulsion systems based in Bangalore, India offering both chemical and electric propulsion technologies. The company has various recognitions for its innovation, including two National Awards.
SatSure is a World Economic Forum Global Innovator, providing decision intelligence by leveraging advances in satellites, machine learning and Big Data analytics across multiple domains like banking, insurance, agriculture, forestry, public infrastructure, and oil & gas. The company is based in St. Gallen (Switzerland), Bangalore (India), Liverpool (U.K.), and Sydney (Australia). (Source: PR Newswire)
03 Feb 21. NASA Announces New Role of Senior Climate Advisor. In an effort to ensure effective fulfillment of the Biden Administration’s climate science objectives for NASA, the agency has established a new position of senior climate advisor and selected Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, to serve in the role in an acting capacity until a permanent appointment is made.
“This position will provide NASA leadership critical insights and recommendations for the agency’s full spectrum of science, technology, and infrastructure programs related to climate,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This will enable the agency to more effectively align our efforts to help meet the administration’s goals for addressing climate change.”
Climate adaptation and mitigation efforts cannot succeed without robust climate observations and research. With more than two dozen satellites and instruments observing key climate indicators, NASA is the premier agency in observing and understanding changes to the Earth. Furthermore, NASA enjoys broad public support and trust, lending credibility to its climate observations.
“The complexities of climate processes still are not fully understood, and climate adaptation and mitigation efforts cannot succeed without robust climate observations, data, and research,” said acting NASA Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal. “The appointment of Gavin Schmidt will help ensure that the Biden Administration has the crucial data to implement and track its plan toward the path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, and a healthier, safer, more prosperous planet for our children.”
As a representative of the agency’s strategic science objectives and accomplishments, the senior climate advisor will advocate for NASA climate investments in the context of broader government agendas and work closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget.
Specifically, the senior climate advisor will work to:
- Promote and engage in climate-related investments in the Science Mission Directorate’s Earth Science Division.
- Promote aeronautics and other technology initiatives focused on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and broad climate impacts.
- Demonstrate and communicate the societal impacts and breadth of NASA investments related to climate.
- Foster communication and coordination within and outside the science community at NASA.
- Actively engage in amplifying the agency’s climate-related research and technological development.
Schmidt has been GISS director since 2014. His main research interest is the use of climate modeling to understand past, present, and future climate change, and he has authored or co-authored more than 150 research papers in peer-reviewed literature. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the inaugural winner of the AGU Climate Communication Prize in 2011. He also was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2017. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University and a doctorate in applied mathematics from University College London. (Source: PR Newswire)
04 Feb 21. ST Engineering iDirect’s Dialog® Platform Deployed by BSNL to Connect Remote Indian Islands. Multi-service platform will optimize vital satellite bandwidth to encourage socio-economic growth across the Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
ST Engineering iDirect, a global leader in satellite communications, has been awarded a contract by system integrator Shaf Broadcast, Pvt. Ltd, on behalf of the Indian state-owned telecommunications company, BSNL, to augment satellite bandwidth to the offshore Indian islands of Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep under a Universal Service Obligation (USO) project funded by the Department of Telecommunications. Utilizing the award-winning Newtec Dialog® platform to provide internet and 2G, 3G and 4G services, the connectivity will boost social and economic activity to islands that previously had limited access to bandwidth.
Lakshadweep is a tropical archipelago of 36 atolls and coral reefs off the coast of Kerala, South West India, with a total population of some 70,000 people. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, and are home to some 380,000 people scattered over 38 inhabited islands. Both archipelagos are Union Territories, which the Central Government of India is keen to develop as tourist destinations and economic hubs.
Existing Single Channel Per Carrier (SCPC) links across the islands are in need of further upgrades to support the growth of required applications that will enhance socio-economic activity across the islands. The deployment of the Dialog multi-service platform will deliver cost effective, fiber-like connectivity to meet the high demands of island users, ensuring a connectivity experience that is on a par with communications on the Indian mainland. Dialog promotes the optimal utilization of available satellite resources through more efficient use of bandwidth thanks to its dynamic return technology Mx-DMA, driving down costs and offering BSNL the capability to scale and expand when required to meet future needs.
Shaf Broadcast examined many different technologies looking for the optimum in high-speed connectivity, scalability and efficiency of the satellite bandwidth and concluded that the Dialog platform is best suited to serve BSNL’s current and future needs.
“This project is critical as it meets the growing connectivity requirements of these important island states,” said Sanjay Kumar, General Manager (Radio), BSNL. “It was integral to the project that we selected the right partner and technology in order to meet the stringent timelines as this will be closely monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Department of Telecommunications. The Dialog platform will allow us to dynamically allocate bandwidth as demand varies from island to island and offers flexibility as well as the capability to run many different types of applications, both fixed and mobile. We look forward to offering those living and working on the islands the connectivity that will enable them to grow and prosper despite their remote location.”
Under the USO-funded Project, BSNL will make it possible to deliver a broad range of applications to these Indian islands, from cellular backhaul and enterprise connectivity to maritime and remote community Wi-Fi, as well as the ability to connect with other Indian states.
“Through the Dialog platform, BSNL can take advantage of its unique benefits, such as Mx-DMA return technology which allows more efficient sharing of satellite capacity across a group of remotes, therefore lowering total cost of ownership,” said Sjoerd De Clerck, Regional Vice President of Asia, ST Engineering iDirect. “The multi-service capability offered by Dialog will enable BSNL to develop creative service plans to meet many different requirements, such as 2G, 3G and 4G services through embedded optimization and acceleration and high-speed, high-performance broadband services to every resident. We are delighted to offer this advanced suite of capabilities to accelerate development of these islands.”
03 Feb 21. The Space Force considers a new mission: tactical satellite imagery. U.S. Space Force is still in its early days, but leaders are already considering adding a new mission for Guardians: providing tactical satellite imagery for beyond-line-of-sight targeting.
“That’s something that we’re thinking through as we speak. I’ve got a group of folks doing some work on what that design might look like,” Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, the chief of space operations, said Feb. 3 during a Defense Writers Group call.
The Space Force, like Air Force Space Command before it, provides the GPS signal, missile warning information, and wideband communications with its on orbit satellites. Tactical satellite imagery, however, has not been part of its workload.
“That’s largely been more on the intelligence community side,” Raymond said.
Specifically, satellite imagery is generally the responsibility of two intelligence agencies: the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. While the NRO builds and operates the nation’s spy satellites and contracts with commercial providers to access their imagery, NGA sets imagery requirements and transforms that raw satellite data into intelligence products. The military typically relies on NGA for geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) products.
“I do think as technology has allowed for smaller satellites to be more operationally relevant and you can do so at a price point that is cheaper, that there is a role for operational level tactical satellites as you described and that the Space Force would have a role in that,” Raymond said.
“Again, it’s early in the study efforts, if you will, and whatever we do we’ll make sure that we do it in close partnership with our intelligence partners, because what we don’t want to do is duplicate efforts,” he continued. “We want to save dollars and reduce taxpayer dollars, not duplicate.”
The proliferation of small and relatively affordable small imaging satellites and the growing commercial satellite imagery market has sparked interest at the Pentagon in using satellites for beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) targeting. The U.S. Army has been at the forefront of that effort, launching its own small imaging satellite — Kestrel Eye — in 2017. More recently at the Project Convergence 2020 exercise, the Army used commercial satellite imagery to develop targeting data and shoot at BLOS threats.
The Air Force and the Navy are also investing in tactical GEOINT products. The Air Force Research Laboratory is investing in commercial tactical GEOINT software to help them find moving targets with satellite imagery, while the Navy is paying for commercial synthetic aperture radar imagery and analytics.
Elsewhere in the Department of Defense, the Space Development Agency has set BLOS targeting as one of the main capabilities it is pursuing for its new proliferated constellation in low Earth orbit, which will eventually be made up of hundreds of satellites.
“That’s where the Army is most affected and that’s where we’re working very closely with the Army to make sure that we’re tied together. So this is the ability to detect and track and maintain custody of anything, say, larger than a truck and to be able to actually give a targeting fire control solution to a weapon in the field in real time anywhere on the globe,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said in 2019. “That’s the goal. That’s the capability.”
The SDA is slated to become part of the Space Force in late 2022.(Source: C4ISR & Networks)
04 Feb 21. Thales SBAS advancements to benefit Aussie aviation. The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), the Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NIGCOMSAT), and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, will join efforts to accelerate SBAS development for aviation in Africa, with Australia playing a pivotal role in the success.
Following the successful broadcast of a SBAS (Satellite-Based Augmentation System) signal over Africa and the Indian Ocean (AFI) region, including receipt of a SBAS signal at the Optus Satellite teleport in Western Australia in October 2020, the first SBAS open service in this part of the world, the three partners have recently conducted a series of five flight demos at Lomé International Airport, successfully demonstrating critical SBAS Safety of Life Service for aviation.
The goal of the flight demos was to show in real configuration the efficiency of the technology developed in the frame of the early open service as part of the SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean program, which pursues the autonomous provision of SBAS services over the continent, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.
The tests were carried out by means of the ASECNA calibration aircraft (ATR42-300), which has been equipped for the occasion by Pildo Labs with specific sensors and embarked VIPs and pilots in five rotations over Lomé Airport.
The aim of the experiment was to demonstrate the ability of the system to allow landings on the two ends of the runway without deployment of local ground infrastructure and with a performance level close to the use of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS).
Dr Abimbola Alale, MD/CEO of NIGCOMSAT, said, “We are proud to support the SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean open service and to have contributed to the success of these inflight demos using our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload.”
These advances in SBAS Safety of Life services demonstrate the significant benefits for regional aviation in Australia and New Zealand from an aviation certified SBAS. Many small and medium-sized airports are unable to afford ground-based navigation aids such as an Instrument Landing System.
“The SBAS demonstration flight feat is in line with policy direction of the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Federal Republic of Nigeria; Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) FNCS, FBCS, FIIM for value addition and propensity not only in the telecommunications sector but aviation, maritime, rail transport, precision agriculture, survey, oil and gas, and mass-market applications for sustainable development beyond Nigerian shores.”
By utilising SBAS SoL Services, these airports have the potential to make landing in remote locations much safer, increasing the opportunity to grow future travel to the regions. For larger airports equipped with ground-based navigation aids, the SBAS SoL Service is a reliable back-up in the event ground-based systems fail. In addition, increased safety and lower operations costs provided by SBAS SoL Service helps decrease the environmental impact of air traffic by leading to lower aircraft fuel consumption, and reducing noise levels for people living near airports.
Benoit Broudy, vice president navigation business at Thales Alenia Space, said, “Our longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe and KASS SBAS in Korea combined with our new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies makes Thales Alenia Space the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently. We hope these series of demos will help to accelerate SBAS adoption in aviation in Africa.”
For Africa & Indian Ocean, these recent tests demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024, in terms of flight safety, efficiency and of environmental protection – a crucial step forward for the provision and use of satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region.
Mohamed Moussa, director general of ASECNA, added, “I’m proud to have demonstrated the utility and efficiency of the SBAS services in the continent. This event will bolster the deployment of the ‘SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean’ system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa, which will enhance air navigation safety and efficiency for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.” (Source: Space Connect)
04 Feb 21. NASA welcomes newest Deep Space Network comms dish. NASA Space Communications and Navigation’s Deep Space Network (DSN) has formally welcomed the latest node in an international network, with Deep Space Station 56 in Spain formally commencing operations.
Called Deep Space Station 56, or DSS-56, the dish is now online and ready to communicate with a variety of missions, including NASA’s Perseverance rover when it lands on the Red Planet next month.
The new 34-metre-wide dish has been under construction at the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex in Spain since 2017. Existing antennas are limited in the frequency bands they can receive and transmit, often restricting them to communicating only with specific spacecraft.
DSS-56 is the first to use the Deep Space Network’s full range of communication frequencies as soon as it went online. This means DSS-56 is an “all-in-one” antenna that can communicate with all the missions that the DSN supports and can be used as a backup for any of the Madrid complex’s other antennas.
Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator and program manager of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN), said, “DSS-56 offers the Deep Space Network additional real-time flexibility and reliability. This new asset symbolises and underscores our ongoing support for more than 30 deep space missions who count on our services to enable their success.”
With the addition of DSS-56 and other 34-metre antennas to all three DSN complexes around the world, the network is preparing to play a critical role in ensuring communication and navigation support for upcoming moon and Mars missions and the crewed Artemis missions.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA’s headquarters in Washington added, “The Deep Space Network is vital to so much of what we do – and to what we plan to do – throughout the solar system. It’s what connects us here on Earth to our distant robotic explorers, and, with the improvements that we’re making to the network, it connects us to the future as well, expanding our capabilities as we prepare human missions for the moon and beyond.
“This latest antenna was built as an international partnership and will ultimately benefit all of humanity as we continue to explore deep space.”
With DSS-56’s increased flexibility came a more complex start-up phase, which included testing and calibration of a larger suite of systems, before the antenna could go online.
On Friday, 22 January, the international partners who oversaw the antenna’s construction attended a virtual ribbon-cutting event to officially mark the occasion – an event that had been delayed due to historic snowfall blanketing much of Spain.
Bradford Arnold, DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California, said, “After the lengthy process of commissioning, the DSN’s most capable 34-metre antenna is now talking with our spacecraft. Even though pandemic restrictions and the recent weather conditions in Spain have been significant challenges, the staff in Madrid persevered, and I am proud to welcome DSS-56 to the global DSN family.”
In addition to Spain, the Deep Space Network has ground stations in California (Goldstone) and Australia (Canberra). This configuration allows mission controllers to communicate with spacecraft throughout the solar system at all times during Earth’s rotation.
The forerunner to the DSN was established in January 1958 when JPL was contracted by the US Army to deploy portable radio tracking stations in California, Nigeria, and Singapore to receive telemetry of the first successful US satellite, Explorer 1. Shortly after JPL was transferred to NASA on 3 December 1958, the newly-formed US civilian space program established the Deep Space Network to communicate with all deep space missions.
It has been in continuous operation since 1963 and remains the backbone of deep space communications for NASA and international missions, supporting historic events such as the Apollo moon landings and checking in on our interstellar explorers, Voyager 1 and 2.
The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for SCaN, which is located at NASA’s headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The Madrid station is managed on NASA’s behalf by Spain’s national research organisation, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (National Institute of Aerospace Technology). (Source: Space Connect)
02 Feb 21. MDA Announces RADARSAT-2 Continuity Mission. MDA is excited to announce that the company has embarked on a major new initiative to build a commercial Earth observation satellite mission which will serve to extend MDA’s market-leading geospatial data, products and analytics services business well into the future.
The satellite mission will be based upon its leading space-based C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology, and will provide operational continuity for its existing RADARSAT-2 customers, including commercial, government and institutional clients.
The new mission will carry forward many of the strong attributes of Canada’s RADARSAT program, while at the same time bringing innovative new technologies and operational concepts to deliver a significantly enhanced world-leading capability. This next generation system will change how and when our clients see the world.
As part of this program, MDA will leverage our industry-leading multi-mission Earth observation ground stations as well as advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques, including machine learning and deep learning, to manage large volumes of data across multiple sensor platforms and enhance our data analytics capabilities.
MDA’s RADARSAT-2, a public-private partnership with the Government of Canada, was launched in 2007 and continues today to offer reliable, near-real-time access to all-weather imagery and surveillance information for a wide range of mission-critical civil, commercial and defence applications, producing over 75,000 images per year. Providing coverage from 144 km2 to 265,000 km2 in a single scene using 20 imaging modes looking both right and left, RADARSAT-2 provides the greatest flexibility and commercial capacity of any SAR mission.
MDA has extensive experience in successfully delivering near-real time imagery and analytics-derived information products and services and providing complex and demanding operational support to government and commercial customers worldwide.
SAR data is a powerful tool that:
- Enhances our understanding of climate change, ice patterns and natural disasters;
- Informs decisions to improve agriculture, forestry and natural resource management;
- Supports initiatives to protect our environment and our communities, such as mitigation of illegal fishing, oil spills, and coastal flood damage; and
- Performs critical role in global surveillance and national security.
More details about this RADARSAT-2 continuity mission will be released in the coming weeks and months. (Source: PR Newswire)
03 Feb 21. RS-25 Rocket motor test demonstrates low-cost option for Artemis missions. Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA are gearing up for a new phase of RS-25 hot-fire testing that will validate new components for the engine, which powers the core stage of the agency’s Space Launch System super heavy-lift exploration rocket.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is under contract to build 24 new engines, and the components being validated in this test series will be introduced in this production set. This new configuration will result in a 30 per cent cost reduction in the RS-25 engine from the version that flew on the Space Shuttle.
The Retrofit-2 test series, consisting of seven tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, began on 28 January and will run through June. Each hot-fire test will last up to 500 seconds on the A1 Test Stand.
Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president, explained, “This new hardware will significantly reduce the cost of the RS-25 rocket engine by leveraging important advances in design, materials and manufacturing technology.”
Some of the components being demonstrated in the Retrofit-2 series were featured on the previous Retrofit-1B test campaign. These include a combustion chamber built using a high-tech brazing technique called Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP), and an additively manufactured Pogo Accumulator Assembly, a beach ball-sized component that damps out liquid oxygen system pressure oscillations.
This test series will put a second HIP-bonded main combustion chamber through a comprehensive series of tests. Aerojet Rocketdyne chose a HIP-bonded design because it eliminates difficult and time consuming plating processes, reduces welding defects and costly rework. Development and certification models of the HIP-bonded combustion chamber have been completed and six production units are being assembled at Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The Retrofit-2 series will also continue to test the same Pogo hardware that was previously tested to further verify its durability. The additively manufactured Pogo assembly has already been tested 13 times, accumulating 5,400 seconds of total firing time. The additively manufactured Pogo design eliminates more than 20 parts, more than 100 welds and reduces fabrication time by more than 50 per cent.
Retrofit-2 also will test two RS-25 high pressure fuel and oxidiser turbopumps built from simplified designs using modern techniques as well as 3D printed valves and redesigned actuators.
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, is a world-recognised aerospace and defence leader that provides propulsion systems and energetics to the space, missile defence and strategic systems, and tactical systems areas, in support of domestic and international customers. (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Feb 21. Fast Growth and Stellar Team Underscore SpaceLink Business Strategy to Drive Forward Game Changing Satellite Relay Service. SpaceLink adds more senior level expertise to growing company, relay service provides space connectivity with secure, continuous, high-capacity service between satellites and the ground.
SpaceLink, a company that is redrawing the map of space connectivity, announced it continues to grow a highly accomplished team to implement its business strategy for a game changing satellite relay service. Following a previous announcement of its top executives, SpaceLink added seven more industry leaders to its team. They bring deep expertise in technical and business operations to drive forward the space relay service that provides secure, continuous, high-capacity service between LEO spacecraft and the ground.
Among the names that are familiar to many in the satellite and telecommunications industry, Dr. Larry Alder joins the team as Senior Vice President of Products & Services following more than a decade at Google and more recently several years as Chief Operating Officer at OneWeb. David Nemeth, who was previously at OneWeb, was named Senior Vice President of Systems Engineering, and Craig Moll, who was the Founder and President of PATHFINDER Space Advisors, is SpaceLink’s Vice President of Commercial Business Development.
Additional leaders joining the team include Lenny Low, who is the Vice President of Space Segment. Tom Leisgang is the new Vice President of Ground Segment. David Pattillo is now Vice President of Spectrum Management, and Doug Kotval is the company’s Vice President of Supplier Management.
“SpaceLink has attracted some of the industry’s top professionals who are inspired by our business strategy and the opportunity to contribute to this game changing data relay service,” said David Bettinger, Chief Executive Officer at SpaceLink. “We’ve put together a dream team with the perfect blend of backgrounds and experience to drive our vision forward. Demand for fast access to data in near Earth orbit will continue to grow and SpaceLink will be ready with the capacity needed to serve next-generation systems.”
SpaceLink is a subsidiary of Electro Optic Systems of Australia (EOS) and benefits from financing, support, and advanced technology from its corporate parent, including optical communications. With significant spectrum rights in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), the relay system will optimize access to imagery from Earth observation satellites and will provide continuous communications for human spaceflight. It will provide a secure connection for the defense and intelligence communities and fast data transfer for space agencies.
SpaceLink continues to build its team and is recruiting engineering talent with a focus on satellite network, ground, and antenna systems. Visit our careers page at www.eosSpaceLink.com where more information is available.
SpaceLink is headquartered in the Washington DC area, with offices in Silicon Valley and secure facilities collocated with sister company EOS Defense Systems USA, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Electro Optic Systems Holdings Limited, a public company traded on the Australian stock exchange. (Source: PR Newswire)
01 Feb 21. Iran tests new satellite launcher – state media. Iran said on Monday it had successfully tested a satellite launcher to help achieve its “most powerful rocket engine”, in a move likely to trigger protests from the United States and stoke tensions over Tehran’s nuclear and missile programmes.
The United States, Iran’s long time foe, fears such long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran denies the U.S. accusation.
The spokesman for Iran’s Defence Ministry’s aerospace operation, Ahmad Hosseini told state TV that “the test helped Iran to achieve its most powerful rocket engine … the rocket can be launched using a mobile launching pad”.
“It is capable of carrying a single 220 kg satellite or up to 10 smaller ones,” he said.
Iranian state TV showed the launch of the satellite-carrying rocket, or space launch vehicle. It did not say when the launch took place.
“The Zuljanah is able to reach a height of 500 km … The three-stage satellite launcher uses a combination of solid and liquid fuels. It uses solid fuel in the first and second stages and fluid fuel in the third stage,” state TV said.
In April 2020, Iran said it successfully launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit, following repeated failed launch attempts in the previous months. (Source: Google/Reuters)
29 Jan 21. Ariane 6 Upper Stage Heads for Hot-firing Tests. The first complete upper stage of Europe’s new Ariane 6 launch vehicle has left ArianeGroup in Bremen and is now on its way to the DLR German Aerospace Center in Lampoldshausen, Germany. Hot firing tests performed in near-vacuum conditions, mimicking the environment in space, will provide data to prove its readiness for flight.
Integrated in October last year at ArianeGroup in Bremen, Germany, this ‘hot-firing model’ of the complete upper stage is fully operational having undergone extensive functional tests. Its new reignitable Vinci engine is connected to two separate liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks and is equipped with all lines, valves and electronic and hydraulic instrumentation and control systems.
On board a barge departing from Neustadt port in Bremen on 29 January, the upper stage will journey to BadWimpfen and then be taken by road to Lampoldshausen. The DLR German Aerospace Center has already tested Ariane 6’s Vinci engine and Vulcain 2.1 liquid propulsion engines.
The complete upper stage will be installed on the new P5.2 test stand. Inside this facility all aspects of the flight are simulated including stage preparation such as the fuelling or draining of its tanks. The building has platforms that give engineers access to all parts of the stage. After final preparations, a countdown marks the start of the test.
Operations inside the P5.2 testing facility are monitored from a remote central control room. During this campaign of tests, the Vinci engine will be ignited up to four times in order to gather data describing the behaviour of the whole upper stage when the Vinci engine is running.
Tests will also provide data on non-propulsive ballistic phases, tank pressurisation to increase performance, Vinci reignitions, exhaust nozzle manoeuvres, ending with passivation where all remaining internal energy is removed.
Weekly tests will typically last 18 hours each.
“We have reached another milestone in the Ariane 6 roadmap to flight. Seeing the elements of Ariane 6 coming together is very exciting. With the upcoming hot-firing tests of the complete upper stage we will gain valuable insights into the technical heart of this new European launch vehicle,” commented Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.
Karl-Heinz Servos, COO at ArianeGroup, added: “Completion of this stage for the first hot-fire tests is a major step for Ariane 6, for Germany and for European space as a whole.”
Walther Pelzer, Head of the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), commented: “With the first Ariane 6 upper stage hot-fire testing at the new P5.2 test facility at the DLR site at Lampoldshausen, we are now one more vital step closer to Ariane 6’s maiden flight.”
Meanwhile, a further two Ariane 6 complete upper stages are being integrated by ArianeGroup. The Combined Tests Model is intended for tests of the launch vehicle and the launch base at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, and the Flight Model 1 is intended for the inaugural flight of Ariane 6.
Ariane 6 will be capable of carrying out all types of missions to all orbits thanks to its multiple reignition capability and modular design. With two versions: Ariane 62, fitted with two P120C boosters, and Ariane 64, with four, this new launch vehicle further extends and secures Europe’s independent access to space. (Source: ASD Network)
29 Jan 21. UWA launches International Space Centre. The university has opened a new facility to advance the research and development of new space capability.
The International Space Centre was officially launched at the University of Western Australia (UWA) on Thursday (28 January) at a ceremony attended by federal Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and WA Minister for Science Dave Kelly.
Through the new centre, UWA aims to combine space science, research and teaching capabilities to advance the development of new technologies that enhance and sustain life on Earth and beyond.
A UWA team of over 12 research nodes, 150 researchers and 20 PhD students are set to collaborate across fields ranging from optical communications, astrophysics, health, agriculture, engineering, information technology, and social studies.
Among the research activities conducted at the centre will be the study of gravity and space on human physiology and plant biology to support space exploration and life on other planets.
“The centre will build on WA’s strength in mining, astronomy, data, communications and remote operations, and support the diversification of the WA economy and jobs growth in high skill areas,” interim head of the International Space Centre, UWA associate professor Danail Obreschkow (Australian Research Council Future Fellow), said.
“Through this centre, we will collaborate with partners to transfer knowledge, develop technological innovations and carry out impactful research. The centre will also provide new education opportunities for our students and industry.”
UWA vice-chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said advancing the scientific community’s understanding of how to sustain life in space would have enormous implications for human development and innovation.
“There is still much to learn about space and this centre will be an important step forward in providing new research and knowledge, integral to our future,” Professor Chakma said.
“For more than half a century, UWA has been actively involved in space research and developing space technologies.
“The International Space Centre is an acknowledgement of this, and our own signal that we want to do more and that we will. It brings together people who can fire each other’s imagination and the possibilities of what they can achieve together are vast.” (Source: Space Connect)
22 Jan 21. SpaceX May Well Be Rig’d. Why on Earth would SpaceX purchase oil rigs? Why, to convert them into seagoing launch platforms, that’s why… especially as such edifices can trim costs as trajectories for launch vehicles are heavily influenced by the location of the rocket liftoffs and oil rigs have a certain mobility as far as “settling in” is concerned.
Offering offshore drilling services across the globe, Valaris, who last August declared bankruptcy, sold two rigs — an Ensco 8500 and one Ensco 8501 — to a subsidiary of SpaceX. These rigs are currently positioned at the Brownsville, Texas, port and, according to sources, have been renamed by SpaceX as Deimos and Phobos.
Certainly a hint of this probably occurring was when a social media posting by Elon Musk stated, “The firm’s most ambitious project – perhaps the most ambitious spaceflight project of any kind – is a reusable heavy launch rocket dubbed Starship, designed for operations up to and including manned missions to Mars. Starship’s R&D facility is located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, just outside of Brownsville.”
Adding more fuel to the rig=>launchpad theory are SpaceX postings, also in social media, that the company is seeking staff who can design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility and who have the ability to work on an offshore platform in Brownsville, Texas.
Apparently SpaceX paid in the neighborhood of $7m for these two rigs, units that originally cost Valaris some $1bn — a bargain in anyone’s book. (Source: Satnews)
24 Jan 21. SpaceX Transporter-1 Mission Is A “Go” + Is Successfully Launched. No hesitation on Sunday, January 24, as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted 133 commercial and government payloads to space. A feat worthy of note, as this is the largest number of satellites to be launched, all seated firmly within the rocket’s fairing.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle attained supersonic speeds at 59 seconds after launch and, at approximately 07:58 into the launch, three of nine Merlin first stage engines ignited to return the the unit to the recovery vessel, Ms. Chief, awaiting the landing, positioned in the Atlantic Ocean.
This return was accomplished without any apparent anomalies at 07:22 minutes post-launch. Note the honeycomb appearing devices at the base of the first stage… those assist with the first stage’s navigation to the recovery vessel.
This launch was the fifth launch of 2021 by SpaceX and the 73rd recovery by the company of an orbital class rocket.
Update #1 info
Due to surface electrical fields, today’s launch of the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission has been scrubbed. The 70 m tall Falcon 9 rocket is sound and no anomalies have been reported for any of the launch elements.
This first Smallsat Rideshare Mission for SpaceX has another launch opportunity on Sunday, January 24, with the launch window at 10:00 EST. The honeycomb looking devices that are shown in the below graphic help the first stage steer back to “Mischief,” the company’s recovery vessel positioned in the Atlantic Ocean.
Original launch information
SpaceX is targeting Saturday, January 23, for launch of Transporter-1, SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida — the 42-minute launch window opens at 9:40 a.m. EST, or 14:40 UTC.
A former SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40.
Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission, the ANASIS-II mission, a Starlink mission, and launch of Dragon’s 21st cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.
Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the Ms. Chief droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
On board this launch are 133 commercial and government spacecraft (including cubesats, microsats, and orbital transfer vehicles) plus 10 Starlink satellites – the most spacecraft ever deployed on a single mission. The Starlink satellites aboard this mission will be the first in the constellation to deploy to a polar orbit. (Source: Satnews)
29 Jan 21. A OneWeb Satellite Is In Danger Of In-Space Collision. A rocket launched by New Zealand-based Rocket Lab last week, for its clients OHB Sweden and Thales Alenia, has posed a direct collision risk to satellites in the OneWeb constellation. According to Space Intel Report (SIR), OneWeb is demanding that the satellite be removed from its orbital plane.
The satellite, GMS-T, is a prototype LEO craft operated by OHB and is already highly controversial in that it has been launched in order to secure orbital slots and frequencies granted to Thales Alenia and intended for use by the (failed) LeoSat constellation. The frequency permissions are due to expire on January 29.
The overall controversy is not helped by SES also now claiming certain rights to the orbital positions, saying that on January 1st the company had placed a renamed O3b satellite MCSAT-2 into the orbit (at 8062 kms) using rights granted to the French National Frequency Agency (ANFR). MCSAT-2 HEO was intended to be a Ka-band craft and the forerunner of a 48-satellite constellation designed to operate in both LEO and MEO orbits. SES told SIR that it constantly looks to the future needs of its customers and modifies its orbital filings as part of its overall fleet strategy.
The problem is reinforced by ITU rules that require any satellite to be held in an authorized orbit position for a minimum 90 days to secure the slot. This valuable orbital slot has been waiting for precisely seven years to be occupied by Thales or one of its clients. This means that the problem craft (GMS-T) must stay on location until April 22nd or else lose the orbital rights.
OneWeb’s official statement stated, “OneWeb has become aware in the last 24 hours that an unnotified satellite, now known to be manufactured and launched by OHB, has been placed in an orbit creating a direct collision risk with our satellites on multiple occasions in each 24 hour cycle. OneWeb notes that this is an unproven test satellite, that has not switched-on its propulsion system according to OHB – and has unknown collision avoidance capability. Given the complete disregard shown for the responsible use of space and mitigation of risk, OneWeb asks OHB to identify who their customer is and to remove it immediately from our operating [orbits].”
SIR has subsequently reported that OHB is slightly raising the orbit of its satellite to mitigate any collision risks. (Source: Satnews)
24 Jan 21. Eight Kepler Space Smallsats Rendezvous With Space, Launched By SpaceX. Kepler Communications have welcomed eight new satellites into their constellation, further expanding the firm’s active constellation to 13 satellites in total.
These eight satellites, KEPLER-8 through KEPLER-15, were successfully launched via SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission at approximately 10:00 AM EDT on January 24. Once fully operational within the constellation, these smallsats will significantly increase the capacity of Kepler’s Global Data Services offering.
Kepler’s GEN 1 satellites were assembled at the company’s facility in Toronto, Canada. The GEN1 platform represents an evolution beyond Kepler’s pathfinder satellites, with an increase to a 6U-XL satellite system. The increased size accommodates significant technology enhancements, including additional power and antenna capabilities that allows the support of both Ku and narrowband spectrum from a single satellite.
This multi-spectrum support is achieved with Kepler’s proprietary Software Defined Radio (SDR) which has been proven onboard the five satellites already on orbit.
Kepler’s launch plans include several additional launches in 2021, with launches planned for the first half of 2021 in March and June, which will add additional GEN1 satellites to the Kepler constellation. As with this launch, these satellites will service the growing customer demand for Global Data Services and increase our ability to provide an industry leading service.
Mina Mitry, CEO of Kepler Communications, said, “We’re excited to continue our network deployment in response to the overwhelming global demand for our network capacity. As our network continues to grow, we move closer to recognizing Kepler’s vision of providing connectivity on and off the surface of the Earth.”
Wen Cheng Chong, CTO of Kepler Communications, added, “The launch of 8 GEN1 satellites on the Falcon 9 merely a few months after the launch of 2 GEN1 pathfinder satellites clearly demonstrates Kepler’s ability to 10x our capability in a short period of time; practically unheard of for a company of our size. This showcases the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our Engineering team and the company at large. We’re well on our way to recognizing Kepler’s vision of providing the internet in space.”
Kepler is a satellite telecommunications provider based in Canada, backed by Costanoa Ventures, IA Ventures and other leading investors. Kepler’s mission is to connect people and things Everywhere, on earth and beyond. To this end, Kepler will build an in-space telecommunications network through an incremental deployment of products and technologies. The first to launch and operate a Ku-band satellite service in Low Earth Orbit, Kepler has expanded its capabilities with the successful commissioning of a cubesat production facility at their Toronto headquarters, from which the GEN 1 satellites are being delivered. (Source: Satnews)
26 Jan 21. More Than 20 Spanish Companies Join Forces to Promote a Constellation of 30 Earth Observation Satellites. More than twenty Spanish companies and entities have joined forces to design, manufacture and launch a constellation of 30 Earth observation satellites; an unprecedented R&D&I project that will involve an investment of 147m euros and will enable the digitisation of multiple strategic sectors, as well as obtaining key data for environmental monitoring and ecological transition.
Open Cosmos, the company that operates satellite missions from start to finish, is leading this national and transversal project that includes companies from the entire value chain of the space sector – from satellite design to data management or specific applications for the end user – and which has been presented to the Ministry of Industry, within the framework of the Programme for the Promotion of Industrial Competitiveness and Sustainability projects that will be financed with European recovery funds.
The consortium brings together 23 actors – large entities, SMEs and research centers – leading the development of space technologies and applications in our country, including, in addition to Open Cosmos, others of the stature of Sener, the Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias, the space cluster of the Community of Madrid, IEEC, i2CAT and ICGC.
This space initiative thus stands as a revulsive for the economy, as it will promote a new industrial fabric exporting 100 percent Spanish technology, which is expected to generate 10% more quality jobs in the space sector and a turnover of more than 500m euros by 2026.
The ultimate goal of this constellation of more than 30 earth observation satellites, the first phase of which is expected to begin operating in less than two years, will be to build digital models to address the main challenges facing Spain in terms of sustainability, digitisation and optimisation of multiple economic sectors with frequent data of high scientific value.
The satellites will include novel propulsion systems, a generation of observation cameras with integrated Artificial Intelligence, a high bandwidth communications system or the integration of applications with terrestrial and satellite Internet of Things (IoT) services, among other elements.
In addition, a data platform will be deployed in the cloud where, through advanced processing techniques supported by artificial intelligence, it will be possible to analyze the environment for effective decision-making, allowing direct applications in agriculture, civil and environmental protection, alternative energies, infrastructure management, prevention and detection of natural disasters, etc. In this way, they will monitor the environment or the impact of the human footprint from space, contributing to the fulfillment of the European digitalization and environmental objectives detailed in the European Green Deal.
Strong commitment to New Space in Spain
With this project, Open Cosmos reinforces its firm commitment to Spain, where it has doubled its workforce in recent years, as well as incorporating and repatriating top-level talent. In addition, it is positioned as a promoter of New Space in our country, a booming sector called to play an important role in the recovery due to its ability to drive the economy and employment.
Open Cosmos, founded by the Mallorcan Rafel Jordá, has a great track record in the space sector that accelerated in 2017 with the launch of its first satellite and consolidated with its leadership in space missions with the British Space Agency (UKSA) or the European Space Agency (ESA), which have funded some of its most important projects. Thus, in 2017 it was selected by ESA as Europe’s first nanosatellite Space Mission Provider under the Pioneer program. In addition, in 2019 it was designated to develop the Mantis Earth observation satellite, a mission whose applications focus on monitoring and regulating oil and gas extraction, as well as monitoring mining and its impact to ensure an efficient and sustainable energy transition.
According to Carlos Fernández de la Pena, vice president of data and satellite services at Open Cosmos, “this project aligns almost an entire industrial sector, the so-called New Space or Space 4.0. This is an environment that is very rich in knowledge, but faces the difficulty of having it very fragmented in SMEs and research centerrs; without a doubt, an ambitious objective and a clear boost would place the consortium at the forefront of technology and the market. This is a project that brings together top-level talent and technology, and which will attract international investment, create highly qualified jobs and increase the sector’s export capacity”.
Open Cosmos is a space company that operates end-to-end satellite missions. It offers a comprehensive service that addresses the entire value chain of the space sector, encompassing the design, manufacture, mission management and launch of customized satellites for companies, institutions and governments worldwide. These satellites are primarily used to do three things: icollect critical Earth data for economic, environmental or security decisions; provide telecommunications services on a global scale; or develop space science and technology. (Source: Satnews)
24 Jan 21. D-Orbit’s ION SCV Laurentius Smallsat Launched By Spacex. On January 24th, 2021, at 4:00 pm CET, D-Orbit launched another ION Satellite Carrier atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida. On the same day, 1 hour 16 minutes and 28 seconds later, the vehicle was successfully deployed into a polar orbit.
The spacecraft, named ION SCV Laurentius, is an upgraded and enhanced version of the vehicle launched in the fall of 2020 which precisely deployed 12 satellites in orbit. ION Satellite Carrier is a space cargo designed to accommodate several satellites, transport them into space and release them precisely into independent orbits and orbital slots. ION’s integrated capabilities also enable the spacecraft to perform on-orbit demonstration (IOD) services for third-party hosted payloads.
ION SCV Laurentius.
During the mission, named PULSE, the vehicle will deploy 20 satellites, including 8 SuperDove satellites from Earth imaging company Planet Labs, and it will then perform the on-orbit demonstration of several payloads, including an optical instrument from EICAS Automazione and one from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC).
“In D-Orbit we focus on our customers’ success, no matter what it takes. We are the company with most heritage, reliability and results accomplished in the market in this business. It has been just two months since the historical success of our previous ION Satellite Carrier mission, and we are back in space already,” said Luca Rossettini, D-Orbit’s CEO. “We are already building the space logistics infrastructure enabling the next trillion-dollar space economy.”
One of the top five top companies in Europe operating in the new space market, D-Orbit is the first space logistics and transportation services provider in the industry. Headquartered in Italy, with subsidiaries in Portugal, UK and the US, the company’s vertical approach ranges from the production of subsystems and components to the manufacturing of a full cargo spacecraft, called ION, capable of transporting multiple payloads with a total mass up to hundreds of kilos, to the entire operations service via their proprietary mission control software platform. ION can transport a batch of satellites to space, release each one of them in independent orbital slots performing orbit-change maneuvers between each deployment, enabling satellite operators to deploy satellite constellations up to 80% faster than with other solutions on the market, at up to 40% lower costs with to respect the market average. ION also enables launch operators to maximize their payload capacity, reducing the number of maneuvers for rideshare missions and reducing the on-boarding complexities before launch. Committed to pursuing business models that are profitable, friendly for the environment, and socially beneficial, D-Orbit is the first certified B-Corp space company in the world. (Source: Satnews)
27 Jan 21. Sirius SXM-7 Satellite Suffers Misadventures. In December of 2020, the Maxar-built Sirius SXM-7 satellite was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with on-orbit testing started on January 4 of 2021. That’s apparently when the company noted some undisclosed failures of the satellite according to a securities filing by SiriusXM on January 27, 2021.
In the filing, SiriusXM stated, “During in-orbit testing of SXM-7, events occurred which have caused failures of certain SXM-7 payload units. An evaluation of SXM-7 is underway. The full extent of the damage to SXM-7 is not yet known. The SXM-7 was intended to supplement the existing fleet of SiriusXM satellites. Construction of our SXM-8 satellite is underway and that satellite is expected to be launched into a geostationary orbit later this year.”
Troubleshooting the satellite’s difficulties is involving Sirius XM as well as Maxar as both diagnose the current situation and then the extent of damage to the satellite will be evaluated. SiriusXM has notified the insurance underwriter of a potential claim, as the firm carried a $225m in aggregate insure for this satellite. (Source: Satnews)
25 Jan 21. Program Initiated To Make Space Exploration More Sustainable. The University of Colorado Boulder and the Secure World Foundation today announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the Space and Sustainability Initiative (SSI). As the first program in the nation to focus on the role of the private sector and entrepreneurship in the sustainable commercialization of space activities, the Space and Sustainability Initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder will orient much of its work toward the development of norms of responsible behavior for commercial space activities.
With projected revenues of up to $1.1trn by 2040, the global space industry is set to grow faster and larger than at any period in human history. At the same time, this growth does not come without an increase in potential consequences or costs. With every launch, satellite congestion increases and debris accumulates in all realms of near-Earth space. This presents a clear threat to current and future space operations and is particularly relevant for private sector ventures that depend on the safety and security of on-orbit assets.
The partnership will act on several key pillars:
- Norms of behavior. The long-term viability of commercial space operations will be closely tied to the decisions that aerospace companies are making today. By identifying and cataloging the activities and behaviors that can affirmatively grow the commercial space market, SSI — along with its external advisory board and Colorado’s aerospace leaders — will develop norms of behavior for the peaceful, safe and responsible commercialization of space activities.
- Promoting sustainability. The growth in commercial space activities has brought greater urgency in addressing a growing number of risk factors impeding operations in space, including congestion from satellites and spacecraft, radio frequency interference and the proliferation of space debris. SSI will explore and promote the actions that can ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities in an equitable manner.
- Space debris. Orbital debris exists in all orbital regions around the Earth, and the European Space Agency estimates that there are now nearly 1 million pieces of debris measuring between 1 and 10 centimeters threatening satellites and spacecraft alike. SSI will research the types and impacts of orbital space debris, as well as how companies and governments will need to contend with — and not contribute to — the growing threat of space junk.
- Support to entrepreneurs. A unique collaboration between the Leeds School of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), SSI will equip tomorrow’s leaders with commercial space industry market analyses and business models. In the near future, SSI will introduce an executive education curriculum for aerospace entrepreneurs.
“The projected growth in the commercial space market creates enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs and engineers — and the explorer in each of us — and the Space and Sustainability Initiative is affirmatively designed to ensure those opportunities exist for future generations,” said Dr. Mark Meaney, principal investigator of the Space and Sustainability Initiative. “We are grateful to the generous and visionary support of the Secure World Foundation for making SSI one of the first university-based programs in the country to work on this timely issue.”
“Ensuring global stability here on Earth and meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will increasingly depend on the secure, sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space,” said Dr. Peter Martinez, Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation. “We believe this collaboration can meaningfully support the peaceful exploration and sustainable uses of outer space for the benefit of all nations, now and in the future.” C
CU Boulder is located in the second-largest aerospace economy area in the country. The Space and Sustainability Initiative combines the business, entrepreneurial and social responsibility expertise of the CU Leeds School of Business with the aerospace and policy expertise at the Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), along with legal, human resources, information technologies and social impact expertise.
The Space and Sustainability Initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder is the first program in the nation to focus on the role of the private sector and entrepreneurship in the sustainable commercialization of space activities. SSI combines the expertise of the CU Leeds School of Business with the aerospace and policy expertise at the Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).
Secure World Foundation envisions the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space contributing to global stability and benefits on Earth. The foundation works with governments, industry, international organizations, and civil society to develop and promote ideas and actions to achieve the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space benefiting Earth and all its peoples. (Source: Satnews)
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