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19 Feb 21. Business support scheme to boost UK space industry has lift off. A scheme to alert more firms to the possibilities space-related enterprise can bring is set to be launched by the UK Space Agency.
The up to 10-week Business Accelerator programme, delivered in partnership with business growth experts from Entrepreneurial Spark and The University of Strathclyde, offers free virtual sessions to help companies with their sights set on space to make progress.
Businesses that may not have previously considered the opportunities presented by the space industry can also benefit. Pre-launch activity already involves a nationwide targeting of relevant businesses to alert them to the possibilities for growth.
The scheme, getting under way in early March, aims to find entrepreneurs from a wide range of sectors to strengthen the UK’s space industry infrastructure.
Space has transformed into one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, trebling in size since 2010. The UK space industry now employs close to 42,000 people across the country and generates an income of nearly £15bn every year – and the government, via the UK Space Agency, wants to accelerate that growth.
Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at The UK Space Agency, said:
The space sector is ripe with opportunity, and as the UK recovers from the Covid pandemic this new support programme will bring in diverse ideas and talent to realise that growth opportunity.
A practical approach to how to develop a business, combined with access to experts who can guide success are hallmarks of the programme. This is coupled with an holistic focus on supporting truly sustainable businesses to ensure that the space sector can provide new long-term secure employment right around the country.
Key to this approach is bringing innovators together in existing and new clusters of space-related activity, thereby gathering critical mass which will also benefit adjacent parts of the economy. The relationship with universities is also key and provides a pathway for students into the sector and for vibrant knowledge exchange for business”.
The UK is already a world leader in space science, in producing small satellites, and utilising space data; and as part of the government’s strategy of achieving 10% of the global space market share by 2030.SMEs in this sector are growing by 30% per annum and there is a real opportunity to get more businesses involved in exploring how space technology can enable their growth.
Sectors targeted include
- computer and data science
- autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars)
Businesses of any size can take part. These include those that are:
- In the space sector already and looking to grow
- Using space technology as part of their business
- Open to exploring expansion into the space sector – these may include conservation, archaeology, sustainability, economics, finance, law and lifestyle and health.
Under the scheme, two strands of support are available:
Business Horizons is a series of eight one-off events. The events are one hour each, with a “rich series of orbital activities”. The first event is set for Monday, 8 March.
Leo (which stands for Low Earth Orbit, named after the orbit satellites use to travel the Earth) is a 10-week programme designed to inject pace, with entrepreneurs emerging with momentum and a clear strategy for 90 days of targeted activity to help them make progress in the UK space programme.
Companies of any size are welcome to take part.
Scotland is particularly strong within the UK’s space sector. The Scottish space industry also punches well above its weight and is home to almost a fifth of the total jobs in the UK sector, valued at £880m in 2017-18.
Sarah Burns, Space Cluster Development Manager of The University of Strathclyde said:
Scotland’s space sector has seen impressive growth over the past years and this business support programme is a great example of how universities play an important role in this growth and the business eco-system. By translating research and innovative ideas into the business and commercial worlds, and as a ‘Place of Useful Learning’, the University of Strathclyde is well-placed to support businesses wishing to explore space as a business opportunity. This programme allows us to engage with the amazing start-ups and businesses that are becoming interested in the opportunities that the space sector can enable in their respective sectors, all of which supports the growth of what is an exciting and rapidly expanding UK space sector.
Mike Stephens, CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark, added, “Space is a truly exciting industry right now, with ground-breaking developments happening all the time. SMEs in this sector are growing by 30% per annum and there is a real opportunity to get more businesses involved in exploring how space technology can enable growth for them. Entrepreneurs have a massive role to play in generating an inclusive economic recovery, and mobilising them in Space sector has the potential deliver this across the whole of the UK. You may not even realise you are using space technology in your business, and the opportunities that are open to you as a result. This is a world-class programme of free support, delivered virtually reaching every corner of the UK. Now is the time for action and our partnership is there to support space entrepreneurs every step of the way.”
To find out more about the UK Space Agency’s Business Accelerator programme, entrepreneurs and company directors should visit this link. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Feb 21. Space Lasers Will Revolutionize Military Communications, If They Work. The Pentagon has ambitious plans to launch hundreds of communications satellites in the years ahead. But getting them to talk to one another isn’t easy.
Satellites that use lasers to exchange data promise to make military communications faster and harder to intercept — if the Pentagon can figure out how to make them work.
With plans to launch a 150-satellite constellation into low-earth orbit by September 2024, the two-year-old Space Development Agency is on a deadline. It has already released a communications standard to be used by four companies supplying the laser gear for a four-satellite experiment called tranche zero, agency director Derek Tournear said Tuesday at a Space Foundation event. And by August, Tournear expects to release a request for proposals that will spell out key details for the “more robust” standard needed for the 150-satellite tranche one.
Laser communication between satellites has been around since 2011 but figuring out how to do it at the scale and reliability needed for practical communication is a big challenge. As engineer Allan Panahi’s seminal 2010 paper on the subject explains, space-based laser communication is only possible with a very narrow beam, making it much harder than radio-frequency communication but also much more difficult for adversaries to jam or interfere with. “The requirement for much more pointing accuracy, acquisition, and tracking…and the impact that this may have on the spacecraft that is moving at 3 [kilometers per second] for [geosynchronous orbit] to 7 [kilometers per second] for [low Earth orbit] is a formidable task,” Panahi wrote.
It’s also potentially big money. SpaceX, Facebook, Google and a host of other tech companies are looking at the potential of laser-based communications.
Tournear didn’t say what companies were working on his project. He did say that he wants SDA, which has plans to launch six additional satellite layers after tranche one, to become the initial go-to market for innovations in satellite communications, at a time when funding for some satellite startups has grown shaky. “We are actually trying to create a market,” he said. “I want industry to view this as a way to develop a product that then they can sell into that market to try and win a portion of that market share. As long as we do that we’ll have a robust industry base.”
The Space Development Agency is to be folded into the U.S. Space Force by October 2022, according to the recent National Defense Authorization Act. But the law also specifies that the agency will keep authorities for contracting, classification, etc. That autonomy under the Space Force is essential if the agency is to help industry create new space-based technologies that may disrupt markets, said Tournear. That’s because the agency is essentially asking businesses to take a risk in research and develop capabilities that are somewhat outside of what they could currently sell to established clients. The agency becomes the only market, at least at first, and if they disappear into a larger structure, those companies won’t see the same incentives for taking those risks.
“If you fold in too quickly, before you are able to demonstrate the value of the disruption, it may go away. What I will say is, in NDAA 21, the language in law is actually very good at trying to protect that from occurring.” (Source: Defense One)
18 Feb 21. Earth Observant Inc. Successfully Tests Next-generation Propulsion Technology to Support Future Very Low Earth Orbit Missions. Earth Observant completed tests of a pioneering Hall-effect thruster at the US Air Force Research Lab’s vacuum chamber facility at Edwards Air Force Base over a period of two weeks. The HET-X Thruster uses traditional EP fuel sources and a new, undisclosed propellant solution that is low-cost, non-toxic, and widely available.
The HET-X Thruster combines powerful new technology, including magnetic shielding with a center-mounted cathode, a unique thermal cooling design and an effective propellant management system, in a unit weighing less than 2 kilograms (kg). The preliminary test results conducted in a vacuum chamber show sustained power input levels between 350 – 2500 watts with thruster output recorded between 20 – 140 millinewtons and specific impulse between 1300 – 2200 ISP.
This propulsion technology enables crucial satellite operating maneuvers, including drag makeup, orbital plane changes, upper stage payload ferrying, and controlled deorbiting. The potential system-wide benefits of incorporating new propellant types and other design improvements include cost reduction, elimination of high-pressure storage vessels, and use of in-situ propellants during operations.
“This successful test series is an important step in the development of the HET-X Thruster and brings us one step closer to producing a commercially viable VLEO satellite,” says Christopher Thein, CEO of Earth Observant Inc. “We also foresee other organizations finding value in this innovative thruster technology for enabling in-orbit attitude adjustments, constellation spacing and alignment, and safe deorbiting of their own satellites.”
For more information about this disruptive technology, go to https://www.earthobservant.com/.
About Earth Observant Inc. (EOI)
Based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Earth Observant Inc. is developing a unique low-flying constellation of satellites to collect affordable “ultra-high” resolution image data supporting defense and commercial business intelligence. EOI’s mission is to offer radiometrically accurate ultra-high resolution imagery for all markets to encourage widespread use. (Source: PR Newswire)
18 Feb 21. MDA Selected for Major Role on Telesat Lightspeed. MDA announced today that it has been selected to provide one of the critical technology subsystems on Telesat Lightspeed, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite broadband network recently unveiled by Telesat, one of the world’s largest satellite operators. With advanced antenna design and manufacturing capabilities at its modern facility in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, this job-creating project enjoys the support of the Government of Quebec through a financial contribution.
MDA will develop the Direct Radiating Array (DRA), a revolutionary phased array, electronically-steered multi-beam antenna that will provide unlimited coverage flexibility and agility through advanced beam-forming technology. This configuration will achieve any-beam, anytime, anywhere coverage over the entire visible Earth. This new technology represents a major and key investment for the success of MDA’s Satellite Systems business, as it is expected that most LEO, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and geostationary (GEO) satellite markets will migrate to these technologies in the future. MDA will deliver over 1000 units. MDA is also in advanced discussions with Thales Alenia Space for the Lightspeed satellites’ final assembly and manufacturing in Québec.
The scope of MDA’s work on this project is expected to involve an investment of over $200m by MDA, and create approximately 280 jobs over a period of five years, while sustaining MDA’s overall highly-experienced and specialized Quebec-based engineering workforce. With the development of next generation satellite technologies, MDA expects significant growth in its Montreal-based Satellite Systems business. To support this strong economic activity, Investissement Québec will provide a loan of $50m.
With the transformation and growth in the satellite broadband market, MDA is unlocking new business models with next-generation technology, quality, performance and agility for less than the cost of traditional solutions, paving the way for more affordable software-defined satellites of the future. This will be achieved through integrating additive manufacturing techniques with very large-scale electronics through automated assembly at MDA’s high-volume smart manufacturing facility.
For more than 60 years on over 350 missions, MDA’s satellite payloads, antennas and electronics have enabled fixed, high-throughput and mobile communications systems. MDA has provided thousands of low-cost steerable antennas for satellite constellations since the inception of the non-GEO satellite market. MDA also provides communications solutions for human and robotic exploration missions, navigation and search-and-rescue space systems, remote sensing downlink, telemetry and telecommand systems, and intersatellite communications. MDA is the industry’s largest independent equipment supplier, with Industry 4.0 smart factory digital and high-volume production capabilities that link automation, data exchange, real-time communications, and the Internet of Things to empower better processes, smarter decision-making and improved quality standards. (Source: PR Newswire)
18 Feb 21. Space Force says new anti-jamming upgrade coming in 2022. The Space and Missile Systems Center completed three virtual tests of a new anti-jamming capability for satellite communications in the final months of 2020, the center announced Feb. 17.
The mitigation and anti-jam enhancement program will provide advanced anti-jamming support for Wideband Global SATCOM, which provides satellite communications to American war fighters around the world. Once operational, the capability will allow the WGS constellation to pinpoint and mitigate attempts to jam its signal.
“The MAJE system will double the anti-jam capabilities for 16,000+ users,” Maj. Shawna Matthys, WGS-11+ program manager, said in a statement.
The system will provide software and hardware upgrades to the Army’s Global SATCOM Configuration Control Element, the ground system used to detect, identify, locate and mitigate interference with WGS satellites.
The three tests — conducted virtually with support from prime contractor Boeing over 18 days — “verified system design and MAJE’s ability to provide telemetry and successfully locate signals interfering with WGS satellites,” SMC said.
The three tests conducted were the maintenance engineering evaluation, the payload application software formal qualification testing, and first article test (FAT) increment 4. The last in that list is the test that demonstrated the system’s ability to geolocate signals interfering with WGS. A fifth and final increment will complete multicapability and end-to-end testing, clearing the way for the system to begin interface verification with Army subsystems.
“The teamwork and transparency between Boeing and the combined government teams to get these capabilities verified in a virtual environment was truly impressive. It shows how dedicated we are to getting these capabilities out to the war fighter despite an ongoing pandemic,” WGS Chief Engineer Steve Hayden said in a statement.
SMC expects to complete the transition of the anti-jamming system to the Army for operational use in spring 2022. (Source: Defense News)
19 Feb 21. Australia launches $1.3bn funding program for space sector. The Australian government has invited stakeholders across the space sector to apply for funding via the $1.3bn Modern Manufacturing Initiative. The Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) has officially launched, with funding now available for stakeholders across the Australian space industry.
The MMI is providing co-funding for manufacturing projects across two of the three targeted manufacturing streams:
- manufacturing translation stream — helping manufacturers translate high quality research and ideas into commercial outcomes; and
- manufacturing integration stream — helping manufacturers gain access to domestic and global supply chains to produce and distribute high value products and high value services.
Government funding is to be provided on a co-investment basis and is expected to cover up to 50 per cent of project costs.
The $1.3bn MMI forms part of the Morrison government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy (MMS), which aims to help manufacturers scale up operations, generate jobs growth, enhance local capability, drive collaboration, and identify new opportunities to access domestic and global supply chains.
The MMI also supports the National Manufacturing Priorities, which includes the Space National Manufacturing Priority road map (Source: Space Connect)
19 Feb 21. Aus Space Agency partners with Indian research group. The Australian Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organisation have agreed to collaborate to accelerate the development of industry capability.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Australian Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), as part of a commitment to increase co-operation across civil space activities.
The MOU aims to encourage collaboration between the countries across the following fields:
- civil space research;
- technology and capability development;
- educational activities; and
- the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo said the agreement would help identify new areas of co-operation in space technology, applications, education and outreach.
“ISRO’s experience in spacecraft and systems engineering and ground stations to support space activities makes them a strategic partner for Australia as we grow our own national space capability and open doors for Australian business internationally,” Palermo said.
“Today’s signing signals a valuable opportunity for Australia to play a role in the Gaganyaan missions, further engage industry to grow our sector, and expand co-operation with India in space, science and research activities in the years to come.”
The MOU between the respective governments was signed by Palermo and Dr K Sivan, chair of ISRO and head of the Indian Department of Space. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Feb 21. W. L. Gore & Associates (Gore) joined countless scientists and space exploration enthusiasts in celebrating the successful landing of the Mars 2020 Mission’s Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet. Today’s development following a successful launch last July 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This U.S. mission addresses high-priority scientific goals for exploration to help answer the questions of potential life on Mars and was directly enabled by Gore technology.
Unique Materials Technology
Gore’s wire and cable products were critical components for successful data processing and communications between the Perseverance Rover and the descent stage of the mission. They assisted with the precise landing operation to the Martian surface until the Sky Crane enabling this operation departs. The intense entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase began when the spacecraft reached the top of the Martian atmosphere, travelling at about 12,100 mph (19,500 kph). EDL ended about seven minutes later with the rover stationary on the Martian surface.
Gore’s reliable products were selected for the mission because of their durable constructions that have been proven and trusted over time to withstand the harshest environments encountered in space. The same cables are also used on the actual rover, which is about the size of a car, but at 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms) it weighs significantly less. The mission is expected to last at least one Mars year, roughly 687 Earth days.
“The successful Martian landing of Perseverance continues Gore’s 100% failure-free flight record and is a testament to our collaborative relationship with NASA and ESA,” said Jeff Fyfe, Gore’s space global business leader. “We look forward to future missions with them, as well as those from the dynamic New Space market.” The company manufactures its space-related products in an ESA-qualified and ISO 9001:2000-certified facility.
GORE® Space Cables have been used in many missions over the decades — including the iconic Apollo 11 mission to the moon as well as the International Space Station, Envisat, Space Shuttle Program, Sentinel, Hubble Space Telescope and more.
18 Feb 21. French armed forces to rely on Thales expertise to expand their secure satellite communication capabilities.
- The French Ministry for the Armed Forces renewed its confidence in Thales by selecting the Group as prime contractor for the development and deployment of the ground segment for the Syracuse IV system capacity expansion.
- Thales will build on its extensive experience in military satellite systems integration in Europe and the Middle East to supply the end-to-end management system required for full interoperability, as well as nearly 200 ground terminals.
- Thanks to the use of Thales’s unique Modem 21 anti-jam technology, the French Forces will benefit from increased data rates and optimisation to guarantee sovereignty and information superiority,whatever their position on the globe.
Thales has been chosen by the French defence procurement agency (DGA) to lead a second part of the ground segment of the Syracuse IV satellite communications system for the French armed forces. The Group was selected to supply the satellites in 2015 and to lead the first increment of the ground segment in 2019. This second capacity increment will enhance the interoperable communications capabilities of the French Army, Navy and Air Force in terms of data rate, availability, threat resistance and end-to-end connectivity.
Military satellite communications are more critical than ever and more vulnerable to attack; they are at the heart of the battle for strategic independence across all areas of military invention. Maintaining connectivity is key to the armed forces’ ability to share information of all types between command centres and units deployed on any type of mission, including coalition operations.
This crucial programme milestone will enhance the performance of the ground segment across all theatres of operation for the three branches of the French military. The Thales solution will decisive in meeting the capacity requirements of land, naval and air force programmes such as Scorpion, FREMM, FDI, Barracuda, aircraft carrier, or Rafale. It aims to increase tenfold the secure communication capabilities of fighting vehicles on the move, surface vessels, submarines, and now also aircrafts. The Thales technology guarantees roaming communications in both X- and Ka-band and fully exploits the multi-spot potential of High Throughput Satellite (HTS) technology.
All the ground terminals in the system will be able to make optimum use of the Syracuse IV constellation. Their full interconnection via new docking terminals will allow considerable increase in data rate by ensuring joint cooperation in theatres of operations and with command centres. They will also be compatible with third-party satellite resources, depending on the area of deployment, without compromising communications security.
To achieve this objective, Thales will leverage its high-level systems integration expertise, and in particular its highly secure Modem 21 transmission system, to guarantee the availability and confidentiality of all communications and provide protection from the full spectrum of threats with no impact on operational performance, which is key to retaining information superiority in high-intensity combat. Thales’s NATO-standard Modem 21 solution has been proven in combat for over ten years.
The role of Thales Alenia Space in this contract will include mission management for the Syracuse constellation and management of the anchoring capabilities of the operator, the French Defence Ministry’s joint infrastructure networks and information systems agency (DIRISI). Thales Alenia Space is also lead contractor for the contract notified by the DGA at the end of 2015 for the supply of the space segment consisting of the Syracuse 4A and 4B satellites and their control and mission ground segment.
Building on its expertise as a technology orchestrator and integrator for satellite communication systems in France and internationally, Thales has deployed over 1,000 secure, protected satcom stations worldwide, working with local industrial partners.
“As prime contractor for the Syracuse III and Syracuse IV ground segments since 2004, Thales is proud to strengthen its partnership with the French Ministry for the Armed Forces to help maintain the informational superiority of the country’s armed forces in highly contested environments. The sovereign satcom solutions to be supplied under this contract are resilient to all types of threats, combat-proven, and fully interoperable with the systems deployed by NATO coalition forces.” Marc Darmon, Executive Vice President, Secure Communications and Information Systems, Thales.
18 Feb 21. Dstl exchange officer inducted into United States Space Force. Captain Jake Singleton, a US exchange officer with Dstl, has helped deepen international collaboration to find, fund and fast-track space innovation and technology
Captain Jake Singteton, a United States Air Force officer on secondment with the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), has been inducted into the United States Space Force (USSF).
Captain Singleton attested his Oath of Office in a “virtual” ceremony attended by Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth (UK Director Space), Col Charles Metrolis (Air Attaché, US Embassy, London), military and civilian colleagues and his family.
The newest branch of the U.S. armed forces, USSF is a military service that organizes, trains, and equips space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space.
Jake has been seconded to Dstl’s Space Programme under the US “Engineer and Scientist Exchange Programme” (ESEP), which aims to promote international cooperation in military research, development, and acquisition through the exchange of defence scientists and engineers. Jake has shown exemplary leadership and dedication to supporting the goals of ESEP to cultivate international cooperative endeavours, and it was an honour to have hosted his Oath of Office ceremony in the UK.
Captain Singleton was instrumental in deepening US/UK relationships as the lead for International Space Pitch Day (ISPD). Funded by both US and UK defence departments ISPD aims to find, fund and fast-track innovation and technology, especially those from tech start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that give advantage to military personnel and operations in the space domain.
Captain Singleton said, “Working within the Space Programme at Dstl has been a highlight of my professional experience in the Air Force. I am energized by the successes we have had in increasing international cooperation and am convinced that it was only possible through that US and UK partnership. I plan to bring every lesson learned and relationship that I have developed here in the UK into my career with the US Space Force as everything we do in the future becomes a collaborative and global effort. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take this step here in England while working directly with the UK team.”
AVM Harv Smyth commented:
“It is an enormous privilege to attend the ceremony today as Captain Jake Singleton transitions from USAF Airman to USSF Guardian. It has been phenomenal to watch from afar how the USSF has stood up, evolved, and is taking shape as a Service in its own right. I would also like to thank Jake personally for his tremendous efforts whilst serving in the UK, proving that the special relationship between our two great nations is stronger than ever, and making us all better for the experience.”
Colonel Metrolis, who administered the Oath of Office, added:
“As a previous exchange officer, I am honored to administer the Oath of Office to Captain Singleton. His leadership, devotion to country and now renewed dedication to the United States Space Force are shining qualities of an officer I am proud to serve with.”
Dstl Chief Executive, Gary Aitkenhead, said, “Jake has made a considerable impact with Dstl as an exchange officer, notably with ISPD, which reflects our commitment to using the innovative abilities of SMEs to solve technological challenges in space. Exchange officers provide a valuable means of widening international collaboration which benefit both sides of our strategic alliance, and it is fitting Jake took his USSF Oath of Office while working alongside us at Dstl.”
In addition to ISPD, Dstl is collaborating with US and other international partners on numerous research programmes to maintain safety and security in space, and ensure the continued operation of critical space infrastructure. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Feb 21. ‘Was there life on mars?’ UK scientists play key part in NASA mission to Red Planet. After a seven-month journey, NASA’s car-sized Mars Perseverance rover will make its final descent to the Red Planet to begin its search for traces of life. The rover’s mission – backed by the UK government – is to explore and collect samples for future return to Earth from diverse ancient environments on Mars. Supported by over £400,000 in funds from the UK Space Agency, researchers at Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum will help to decide which samples are sent to Earth in a search for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars.
The research destination is Jezero crater, a 28-mile-wide depression containing sediments of an ancient river delta. At this location, evidence of past life could be preserved. The Perseverance rover will gather samples of Martian rocks and soil using its drill. The rover will then store the sample cores in tubes on the Martian surface ready for a return mission to bring around 30 samples to Earth in the early 2030s.
It takes scientists, artists and engineers from all around the globe, all working together to lead a successful mission.
Find out their story, and how you can get involved at stem.org.uk/mars.
Back on Earth, Professor Sanjeev Gupta from Imperial College London will help NASA oversee mission operations from a science and engineering point of view and Professor Mark Sephton, also from Imperial College London, will be helping to identify samples of Mars that could contain evidence of past life.
Meanwhile, Professor Caroline Smith, from the Natural History Museum, will be studying the mineralogy and geochemistry of the different rocks found in Jezero Crater. Dr Keyron Hickman-Lewis, also from the Natural History Museum, will be studying the environments reflected by sedimentary rocks exposed in Jezero Crater and the potential for the preservation of ancient microbial life within.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “The Red Planet has been a source of fascination for centuries, and it is thrilling to be that little bit closer to finding out if there is life on Mars. I am incredibly grateful to the scientists, researchers and engineers involved in this effort from the UK and around the world, and trust that it will inspire a new generation of space scientists across the country.”
NASA’s Perseverance rover was one of three space missions sent towards Mars during a July 2020 ‘launch window’. This minimum-energy launch period occurs approximately once every two years and two months and is the most economical time in which a rocket can be launched in order to reach its intended target. The next window in 2022 will see the UK-built Rosalind Franklin rover blast into space.
The Perseverance mission has several science goals. It is carrying instruments geared to search for the carbon building blocks of life and other microbial biosignatures (morphological and chemical traces of life) and to reconstruct the Red Planet’s geological history.
Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said, “It is great to see a strong representation of UK scientists and engineers involved in the Perseverance mission. Over the next few years, our scientists will play a leading role in this international endeavour, from managing science operations to deciding which samples are to be returned to Earth. Perseverance will bring us one step closer to answering the question that’s been on the lips of Bowie fans and scientists for the last forty years.”
Its instruments will analyse scientifically interesting samples at the Martian surface. Selected samples will be collected by drilling down to several centimetres and then sealed in special sample tubes and stored on the rover.
When the rover reaches a suitable location, a cache of the tubes will be dropped on the surface of Mars to be collected by the Sample Fetch Rover, currently being developed by Airbus in Stevenage, which will take them to the NASA Mars Ascent vehicle. Professor Caroline Smith is involved in working with NASA and ESA scientists planning for how the samples will be curated upon their return.
Professor Caroline Smith, Planetary scientist at the Natural History Museum, said, “It’s a great honour and so exciting to be working with a fantastic team of international scientific and engineering experts on this ground-breaking mission. We have the best opportunity with the fantastic instruments on board Perseverance and with the prospect of amazing samples being returned to Earth to finally answer the tantalising question of “Was there life on Mars”!”
The rover also carries the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which will fly short distances from the rover and marks the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet. A successful test of the helicopter could lead to more flying probes – to survey the landscape on other planets.
Perseverance will be trialling technologies to help astronauts make future expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources, such as subsurface water, improving landing techniques, and characterising weather and other environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
Professor Sanjeev Gupta, a geologist at Imperial College London, will be studying the ancient delta and lake sediments exposed in Jezero crater to reconstruct its evolution.
Prof Gupta is also one of the ten Long Term Planners for the mission. He will be working closely with the science team to develop the mission’s strategic science vision, making sure that it fulfils its science objectives. Day-to-day he will work with the engineers in rover operations to search for samples of rocks for a future return to Earth.
Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Professor of Earth Science at Imperial College London said, “It is crucial to understand what the Martian climate was like early in Mars’ history and whether it was habitable for life. Analysis of data from instruments onboard Perseverance will help us define the best spots to collect rock samples for future return to Earth.”
Laboratory analyses of such samples on Earth will enable us search for morphological and chemical signatures of ancient life on Mars and also answer key questions about Mars’ geological evolution.
Professor Mark Sephton, also from Imperial College London, is an astrobiologist who specialises in recognising the organic records of past life in rocks and will help the team select samples for eventual return to Earth.
Professor Mark Sephton, Head of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London said:
This could be the mission that answers the question of whether life ever existed on Mars. Evidence of biology on another planet would mean that life on Earth was not alone.
We need to choose the best samples from a planet’s worth of opportunities and return around half a kilogram of material from Mars. The molecular fingerprints of Mars life need not only to have been generated, but also preserved over billions of years.
Once safely back on Earth the samples of Mars will reveal their secrets when examined by the most powerful instruments available.
Palaeontologist Dr Keyron Hickman-Lewis, also from the Natural History Museum, will be working as part of the Returned Sample Science team, concentrating on identifying geological materials with high biosignature preservation potential. Put simply, these samples improve our chance of finding traces of life and revealing secrets from the past environments of Mars and what sort of ecosystems may have existed.
Dr Keyron Hickman-Lewis, UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow at the Natural History Museum, said, “Jezero Crater hosts a wide array of rock types from settings that may have hosted life: fine-grained sediments, carbonates and siliceous rocks, all of which are known to preserve fossilised traces of life on Earth with exceptional fidelity. We hope that the same may be true on Mars, and that these may provide us with unparalleled opportunities to understand environments, and potentially a biosphere, during the early history of Mars.”
UK company Teledyne e2v has provided the image sensors to drive two of the instruments onboard Perseverance, SuperCam and SHERLOC. Teledyne’s sensors have previously been used in the ChemCam instrument on-board NASA’s Curiosity rover. The SuperCam and SHERLOC instruments of Perseverance will advance this capability by searching for organic compounds and minerals denoting alteration by watery environments, demonstrating habitable environments that may have hosted past microbial life on the Red Planet.
Dr Miles Adcock – President Space and Quantum at Teledyne e2v said, “Teledyne e2v has somewhat of a long and very proud tradition in supplying imaging technology for Mars missions, for both orbital and rover type vehicles and are also providing sensors for the Rosalind Franklin rover too. Our Essex based team work tirelessly to develop the technology to meet the demanding performance requirements for missions such as going to Mars and on behalf of everyone I wish the mission every success.”
Next year the Rosalind Franklin rover – named after the pioneering British chemist – will go to Mars as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission to examine the subsurface geological environment on Mars and search for signs of life, past or present.
The Rosalind Franklin rover, which was built by Airbus in Stevenage, will be able to drill two metres depth, gathering samples from regions not affected by radiation or oxidation at the surface. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Feb 21. Spaceflight Inc. Readies Its Largest Satellite Contracted to Date, Amazonia-1, for Launch. The launch service provider purchased an entire PSLV from NSIL to support the launch of Brazil’s first Earth observation satellite.
Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, today revealed details about the upcoming launch of its largest customer satellite launch to date, the Amazonia-1 spacecraft. To accommodate the nearly 700-kilogram satellite, Spaceflight purchased an entire NewSpace India Limited’s (NSIL) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The mission, named PSLV-C51/ Amazonia-1, is targeted for launch at the end of February from Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota (SDSC, SHAR), India.
The spacecraft was produced by INPE, the National Institute for Space Research (in Portuguese: Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), Brazil’s leading entity dedicated to space research and exploration and is the first Earth observation satellite to be completely designed, integrated, tested and operated in Brazil. Amazonia-1 will launch under a commercial arrangement with NSIL, an Indian government company under Department of Space (DOS) and the commercial arm of ISRO.
A Sun Synchronous orbiting satellite, Amazonia-1 will carry an optical camera that can autonomously generate images of any part of the world every five days, providing value in developing applications such as deforestation alerts in the Amazon. It will be the debut satellite based on Brazilian Multi Mission Platform (MMP), a general-purpose service bus for 500-kilogram class satellites.
“This mission is an important milestone for Brazil, INPE and Spaceflight and it has been an honor for our team to ready the inaugural Amazonia payload for launch,” said Marcy Mabry Rugland, senior mission manager at Spaceflight. “Launching a satellite of this size posed unique complexities that our team expertly orchestrated, leaning on their expertise and years of experience managing missions on the PSLV. At Spaceflight, we are committed to opening up space access for any satellite company, regardless of size, preferred orbit or budget, and to find a way to successfully launch a spacecraft while meeting specific mission needs.”
Spaceflight was awarded a multi-year contract to provide launch services for INPE through a highly competitive government procurement process among global launch providers in December 2018. The Brazilian-built spacecraft is 1.7 meters in diameter and 2.6 meters tall and will be deployed to a mean altitude 752 kilometers Sun Synchronous orbit, while the additional secondary rideshare spacecraft will be deployed at a lower altitude.
“The launch of our debut satellite for INPE is a significant achievement and we are grateful for Spaceflight’s dedication and support throughout our mission,” said Adenilson Silva, Amazonia mission responsible. “The deployment of Amazonia-1 will allow us to capture images and monitor the environment and agriculture throughout the Brazilian territory which will help us better understand the expansive terrestrial environment in the region. In addition to the technological achievements of the mission, it also represents the last step of MMP development. Spaceflight’s end-to-end launch services gives us confidence that our mission needs are managed and enables our team to fully focus on the satellite we’re preparing to launch.”
In addition to PSLV, Spaceflight works with a portfolio of global launch vehicles, including Falcon 9, Antares, Electron and Vega, to provide a variety of launch options to its customers. Most recently, Spaceflight successfully launched and deployed spacecraft on the company’s next-generation orbital transfer vehicle (OTV), Sherpa-FX1, aboard the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission last month.
This year, Spaceflight plans to launch multiple Sherpa vehicles in addition to many other rideshare missions, totaling more than 10 missions across its global launch vehicle portfolio. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
17 Feb 21. BAE Systems to Develop Advanced Military GPS Receivers and Chips. BAE Systems received a $247m contract from the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center to design and manufacture an advanced military GPS receiver and next-generation semiconductor. The technology will provide positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities to warfighters so they can execute missions in challenging electromagnetic environments.
The Military GPS User Equipment Increment 2 Miniature Serial Interface program will provide improved capabilities for size-constrained and power-constrained military GPS applications, including precision-guided munitions and battery-powered handheld devices. The program will focus on the certification of an advanced application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and the development of an ultra-small, low-power GPS module. Both products will work with the next-generation military M-Code signal technology, which provides reliable GPS data with anti-jamming and anti-spoofing capabilities to protect against electronic warfare threats.
“This program enables us to further develop our core M-Code technology to deliver high-performance, next-generation GPS capabilities,” said Greg Wild, director of Navigation and Sensor Systems at BAE Systems. “Our M-Code receiver and next-gen ASIC will enable secure and reliable military GPS capabilities in a broader range of platforms.”
BAE Systems’ Precision Strike business has 45 years of military GPS experience and more than 1.5 million GPS devices on over 280 platforms around the world. The company is currently producing M-Code GPS receivers in multiple form factors, including the lowest power, smallest form factor M-Code solution available on the market today. Additional prototypes are in development for ground, weapons, and airborne mission applications, and the company’s M-Code GPS products are available to U.S. allies via Foreign Military Sales.
Work on the program will be conducted at the company’s facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For additional information, visit: https://www.baesystems.com/en-us/product/gps-products. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
18 Feb 21. Synspective publishes first image from StriX-α satellite. Satellite data and analytics provider Synspective has acquired its first image from its 100kg-class SAR satellite ‘StriX-α’.
The image was secured on 8 February, less than a month after StriX-α was launched by Rocket Lab’s Electron from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula launch site and sent at an altitude of 500 kilometres in a sun synchronous orbit (SSO).
The second demonstration satellite ‘StriX-β’ is scheduled to be launched in 2021, with the aim of demonstrating InSAR (Interferometric SAR) technology in orbit — SAR analytics technique designed to detect millimetre-level displacements on the ground surface.
Synspective aims to develop a constellation of six satellites by 2023 and 30 satellites by the late 2020s, ultimately enabling it to observe the location of natural disasters occurring anywhere in the world within two hours.
The start-up is currently developing an automated process that analyses the observed data and assesses the disaster location before providing a solution.
“For a satellite data solution company, the most difficult but the most crucial milestone is the acquisition of data from an own-built satellite,” Dr Motoyuki Arai, founder and CEO at Synspective, said.
“Thanks to many years of hard work, including the ImPACT program, we have just obtained this great achievement. I would like to express our sincere gratitude to our team and am proud to move forward together.
“Now, we are proceeding with preparations for data sales. As launching the StriX-β within this year, we are planning to release more solution services using our own data. We will ensure to continue producing results in order to create a more efficient and resilient world.”
Toshihiro Obata, board director and general manager of Satellite System Development Department, added, “We are very happy that all the efforts of our development team members achieved this successful early demonstration.
“We continue to give further efforts to improve the quality of image and provide solutions. With partners, we are currently setting up a secure line for our satellite serial productions, by introducing manufacturing and quality control technologies from the non-space industries.” (Source: Space Connect)
17 Feb 21. L3Harris leaped from tracking weather to tracking missiles, cracking a competitive field. In January 2017, one of the government’s newest weather satellites picked up the most bizarre signal: a wildfire moving at breakneck speeds across the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, wildfires don’t spread across the ocean, and they certainly don’t move at the pace being reported. What was going on?
It turns out the satellite ― one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-R series — had accidentally detected a rocket launch off the Florida coast, mistaking the fiery exhaust of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for a wildfire.
“It was actually — honest — by accident, where we saw a rocket launch on the East Coast of Florida,” L3Harris Technologies President of Space Systems Bill Gattle told C4ISRNET. “Our weather sensor actually sent a trigger and said there’s a fire — our weather sensor actually tracks forest fires or hot spots — and today there’s this fire moving very fast across the Atlantic and so they ought to go put it out.”
That accidental discovery set L3Harris on a multiyear journey to transform its infrared weather sensor technology into a missile detecting capability for the U.S. military. The move would have the potential to bring in billions: The U.S. Air Force doled out $1.86bn for just two missile warning satellites in 2014. However, the competition is tight.
Traditionally, the Air Force built one missile warning constellation at a time with limited overlap, with only a few companies awarded massive contracts. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for all four geosynchronous satellites that make up the Space-Based Infrared System, as well as the final two expected to launch later this year. Northrop Grumman was the major subcontractor, building the satellites’ sensors.
L3Harris isn’t exactly a lightweight in DoD contracting — it’s No. 9 on the Defense News Top 100 list of global defense companies and brought in nearly $14bn in defense revenue in 2019. For perspective, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman secured about $57bn and $29bn in defense revenue, respectively.
Entering the competition
After the decision to shift its weather technology to missiles, L3Harris’ immediate plan was to compete to build SBIRS’ successor, the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared. Like SBIRS, Next Gen OPIR will be made up of a handful of satellites in geosynchronous orbit with two more in highly elliptical orbit. L3Harris faced the biggest defense contractors in the business. But with billions of dollars in contracts at stake, the company went for it.
Starting in 2018, L3Harris began investing “several millions of dollars” into the effort, according to a company spokesperson, including building a new payload production facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The company quickly realized it needed to refine its weather sensor to meet the military’s needs.
“When you’re doing a weather mission, you’re looking at the Earth, and you’re scanning the Earth for weather, but weather doesn’t move nearly as fast as a missile does,” explained Gattle. “We had to get to where we could actually track a missile very fast. So our sensor had to become much faster at tracking things.”
The company also had to invest in algorithms that can cut out background noise picked up by the sensor.
“You have to be very sensitive to what’s happening in the background when you’re seeing missiles. There’s a lot of noise, if you will, and [with] infrared there’s a lot of heat signature off the Earth. So you have to be able to distinguish if what you’re seeing is an airplane, a missile — what is it?”
The company fell short in its first attempt to break into missile tracking. The Air Force selected Lockheed Martin to build the three geostationary Next Gen OPIR satellites, while Northrop Grumman will build two more for highly elliptical orbits. At first, it might have seemed like the investment was for naught. L3Harris would have to wait years to compete for whatever satellites are added to or replace that constellation.
However, growing concerns over hypersonic weapons from the Pentagon and Congress opened new doors for the company.
A hypersonic opportunity
The emergence of hypersonic weapons over the last few years poses a problem to America’s missile warning systems. When viewed from space, the weapons appear 10 to 20 times dimmer than traditional ballistic missiles, making it harder for satellites in geosynchronous orbit to pick them up. Because the weapons are maneuverable, they can theoretically move to avoid ground-based sensors. It became clear that the U.S. needed a new constellation of space-based sensors that could detect and track the new threat.
The solution that emerged is both simple and complex. Instead of relying solely on the exquisite sensors more than 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, the military will build a proliferated constellation located much closer to the planet’s surface in low Earth orbit — less than 1,200 miles up. From that lower vantage, it is easier for infrared sensors to pick up the hypersonic weapons, track them as they move around the globe, and provide the targeting data to destroy them.
This tracking effort effectively has three parts:
- A proliferated constellation with wide-field-of-view sensors in low Earth orbit that will pick up and track hypersonic weapons as they move around the globe.
- A data transport layer of satellites to connect the sensors on orbit and pass tracking data as the threat moves in and out of view of individual sensors.
- A smaller constellation with more sensitive, medium-field-of-view satellites that will provide the final targeting data to a fires solution.
The Space Development Agency is building those first two sections as part of its National Defense Space Architecture, a proliferated constellation in low Earth orbit that will eventually be made up of hundreds of satellites. The Missile Defense Agency will develop the medium-field-of-view satellites, known as the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, or HBTSS. Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is building Project Blackjack to demonstrate many of the technologies needed to make the entire system work.
In October 2019, L3Harris got its first hint that it could crack the missile warning enterprise. MDA awarded the company a $20m contract to design an HBTSS prototype, placing the business among heavyweights Northrop Grumman, Leidos and Raytheon.
Becoming a contender
A second win came months later in May 2020, when DARPA revealed L3Harris was in the running to build an electro-optical/infrared sensor for the Blackjack demonstration. To be clear, there was no direct path from a Blackjack contract to an actual program of record with either MDA or SDA.
Still, the parallels between the DARPA demonstration and those efforts were clear, and a Blackjack program contract could be seen as a pretty significant leg up for those competitions.
Regardless, L3Harris’ bid failed. The company’s proposal was too pricey, said Gattle, and the $37m Blackjack payload contract went to Raytheon. In response, L3Harris invested to make sure it could build faster and present a more affordable solution. That would be key as the company prepared to bid on the SDA constellations.
SDA released solicitations for its initial data transport layer and tracking layer satellites last May. At stake were four contracts and 28 satellites. L3Harris made its bids.
The company failed to win a contract for the data transport layer satellites, losing out to Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems, the latter of which is another newcomer to building satellites for the DoD. While it was still in the running for the HBTSS and tracking layer satellites, L3Harris was now 0 for 3.
Based on feedback from SDA on its transport layer bid, L3Harris refocused its bid for the tracking layer around its ability to manufacture its own commercial bus for the satellite. That in particular was appealing to SDA, said Gattle.
“That was enough to convince SDA that, yes, this was a commercial — I’ll call it a commercial-like — offering,” he said.
Return on investment
The real breakthrough — and reassurance that the company’s investments weren’t in vain — came soon after.
Last October, SDA awarded the two tracking layer contracts to L3Harris and SpaceX. L3Harris received $193m, while SpaceX got $149m. The selection was a surprise: Neither of the winners had built a missile warning sensor for the government before. SpaceX hadn’t even built a satellite for the government before.
While Elon Musk’s company fought its way into winning a massive Space Force launch contract last year and is working to integrate its Starlink broadband constellation with various weapons systems, no one expected it to be building missile tracking satellites for the military. SpaceX will build the satellite bus and subcontract for the actual OPIR sensor.
While L3Harris had been in the running for several missile warning satellite contracts, it had never gotten one over the line.
“A decade ago, we probably didn’t have a shot,” said Gattle. “To be honest, we were a component supplier. We would build a handful of anything that we built.”
“This is the culmination for us of a pretty big pivot in our company. We were known mostly as a weather sensor company in this particular area, infrared,” he added. “Then a couple of years ago we saw that our infrared sensors on our weather satellites could actually pick up rocket launches.”
Chris Quilty, founder and a partner of Quilty Analytics, said L3Harris has accomplished “a remarkable string of contract successes” since it entered the satellite manufacturing business only a few years ago, noting an Air Force remote sensing constellation award, among others.
”The fact that SDA awarded this contract to L3Harris is both a testament to L3Harris’ agility and an indication of SDA’s desire to open the aperture to new suppliers,” said Quilty, whose financial and strategic firm serves the space industry.
L3Harris started 2021 with more returns on its investment: Of the four companies designing HBTSS prototypes, only L3Harris and Northrop Grumman secured contracts to build their prototypes. L3Harris won a $122m award, while Northrop Grumman got a $155m award.
L3Harris’ journey from building weather sensors to building missile warning satellites kicked off in 2017, when the company’s technology accidentally detected a rocket launch off the Florida coast. It turns out that rocket was carrying the third satellite for the nation’s prime missile detection constellation.
There’s a certain poetry to that story. The accidental detection of a missile warning satellite being delivered to orbit inspired a newcomer to enter the field, and that company went on to win a chance to help build the U.S. military’s new missile warning architecture.
In 2017, L3Harris had ambitions and a weather sensor. In 2021, it’s a missile tracking company. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
16 Feb 21. SDA, NRO Mull Direct Satellite Links To Speed Imagery To Warfighters. Directly linking SDA data transport and NRO imaging satellites is one option under discussion to speed transfer of target tracking data to warfighters, SDA Director Derek Tournear says.
The Space Development Agency (SDA) and the builder and operator of America’s spy satellites, the NRO, are discussing how to move imagery more rapidly from spy satellites to warfighters for targeting, SDA Director Derek Tournear tells me.
The two agencies are working on “joint roadmaps where we’re planning on being able to integrate their layer and get to the Transport Layer,” he says in an exclusive interview. SDA’s plan is to combine data from NRO imaging satellites with data gathered from commercial imaging providers to provide operators with near-real time ground target tracking and targeting information via what SDA calls the “Custody Layer” of its National Defense Space Architecture.
One option could be developing direct optical cross-links to connect NRO imaging satellites to SDA’s data Transport Layer constellation, Tournear said, noting that “it hasn’t been ruled out.” Another approach would be “a bent pipe” solution — downlinking NRO imagery to ground control centers, integrating it with imagery from commercial satellites, uploading that combined data to SDA’s Transport Layer, and then downlinking it to users.
SDA’s Transport Layer constellation, when completed, will comprise 300 to 500 satellites and form the “backbone” communications network that eventually all DoD command and control (C2) systems will link into, under a May order by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper meant to set up the Transport Layer as a key space node to enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).
Tournear explained that the rationale behind the Custody Layer is the need for speed, and the ability to directly transfer targeting data to ground, sea and air-based weapon systems. That ability to connect all sensors to all shooters is one of the central concepts embedded in the JADC2 strategy nearing completion by the Joint Staff.
Given that NRO is a Title 50 (Intelligence Community) organization, its main customers are the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Tournear noted. “They are really trying to answer the Intelligence Community’s questions [about] the strategic planning the nation needs to be able to make decisions. That’s their mission. … And so they will collect a lot of data, including a lot from commercial as well as their own satellites.”
SDA, on the other hand, is a Title 10 organization (military), with a tactical mission trying to answer the question: “How do I get the actual fire control or targeting solution to a weapons platform?” he said.
“So, that means that NRO is going to focus on getting ‘the most’ — the most in quantity and the most in quality data, so that they can provide that to people to do analysis. SDA is more focused on timeliness, and how can we get data to a weapons platform as rapidly as possible,” Tournear said.
A new, patented Microwave radio-frequency integrated circuit can operate at industry-leading frequencies to develop advanced applications for software-defined radios.
Noting that it would “not be in the country’s best interest” for SDA to duplicate what NRO is doing, Tournear said the Custody Layer therefore would not involve SDA building its own satellites. “What we are focused on in the Custody Layer is the ability to take those data that other people are providing and provide rapid pathway to a weapons platform,” he stressed.
SDA also will be pursuing agreements with commercial imagery firms to use their satellite data. The “ideal” plan is to provide willing commercial vendors with optical cross-linked software, developed to SDA published standards, to carry on their satellites, Tournear said. No contracts with commercial vendors have yet been signed, he said, but SDA is undertaking some demonstrations using commercial imagery. (He declined to name partners in those demos.)
Charts published by SDA on its current plans show they plan to have a limited capability to provide beyond-line-of-sight targeting data to users in 2024, when the agency’s Tranche 1 constellation of some 150 satellites is up and running. However, Tournear demurred from characterizing what that meant regarding how many satellites would be integrated into the Custody Layer by then, or exactly how they’d be integrated.
“Whatever capabilities our mission partners have fielded, or the sensing modalities, we are going to enable that to get to the Transport Layer and be fused with other sensor data so that it can be sent to a weapons platform,” he said. “It’s a little nebulous, because all I can really commit to is to say whatever our mission partners fly with sensing, … we’ll get those data into a weapon.”
SDA is readying a request for proposals (RFP) to industry for Tranche 1 for release in August, Tournear told the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium 365 forum today.
The agency currently is working to launch the first of its demonstration satellites, Tranche 0, by 2022. The idea is that every two years improved capabilities will be fielded, he explained, with SDA already having a good idea of what it wants to see through Tranche 2, for fielding in 2026, and some ideas for Tranche 3, for fielding in 2028.
SDA awarded Lockheed Martin and newcomer York Space Systems contracts to build 10 data relay satellites each for the Transport Layer’s Tranche 0, all of which are to be on orbit by 2023. Lockheed Martin’s contract is worth $187.5m; York’s is worth $94m.
In October, the agency awarded SpaceX $149m and L3Harris $194m to each build four satellites for the agency’s Tracking Layer Tranche 0. And the Missile Defense Agency awarded L3Harris and Northrop Grumman contracts to each develop a prototype satellite to carry the medium field of view Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Sensor (HBTSS) for the Tracking Layer. L3Harris’s contract worth $121m was awarded on Jan. 14; and Northrop Grumman’s $155m on Jan. 22. Those satellites also are all expected to be on orbit by 2023. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
16 Feb 21. Hughes Network Systems and COMSovereign’s Virtual NetCom Announce New SatCell Connect Partnership for RAID™ 4G/LTE Backpack Solution. New Reseller Agreement to Support Expanded Wireless Communications for First Responders, Government and Military Customers. COMSovereign Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: COMS) (“COMSovereign” or “Company”), a U.S.-based developer of 4G LTE Advanced and 5G Communication Systems and Solutions, today announced that its Virtual NetCom (VNC) business unit has entered into a reseller agreement with Hughes Network Systems LLC (“Hughes”), a division of EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS). The new agreement is for the integration and resale of VNC’s man-portable RAID 4G/LTE (Rapid Access Independent Deployable) tactical and emergency communication solution into Hughes’ SatCell Connect service.
VNC’s RAID combines the key elements of an LTE broadband communications network into a secure, highly portable system using the latest technological advancements such as network function virtualization, cloud native services and orchestration. RAID powers the LTE network portion of the SatCell Connect service, which is a novel, rapidly-deployable wireless communication solution that is integrated seamlessly with Hughes’ satellite backhaul.
SatCell Connect delivers the same features and functionally as commercial mobile wireless networks while uniquely being self-contained and portable for deployment to areas where existing communication networks have been damaged or are non-existent. As a self-contained and rapidly deployable communications system, SatCell Connect is ideal for emergency response events, temporary remote work environments, Military/Government operations and to provide cost-effective wireless access in unserved or underserved rural areas.
“We are pleased to announce our partnership with Hughes in support of their SatCell Connect service, which leverages the power of our RAID system to quickly provide vital 4G/LTE communications capabilities in nearly any location in a matter of minutes,” said John Legters, President of Virtual NetCom. “Whether it is 4G/LTE today, or 5G later this year, products like RAID are helping us to deliver fully-featured wireless communications capabilities to users wherever it is needed without reliance on expensive and complicated network infrastructures.”
Dr. Dustin McIntire, CTO of COMSovereign commented, “The ability to provide customers with secure wireless connectivity in a matter of minutes in response to emergencies or in locations where existing commercial services are unreliable or unavailable, demonstrates the power of VNC’s RAID technology. When combined with Hughes’ SatCell Connect satellite backhaul providing ubiquitous global connectivity, the power of 4G and 5G communications is available anywhere on the planet. Innovative wireless access products like RAID are just one example of how COMSovereign is working to help customers of all kinds benefit from the ability to quickly connect to the world.”
About COMSovereign Holding Corp.
COMSovereign Holding Corp. has assembled a portfolio of communications technology companies that enhance connectivity across the entire data transmission spectrum. Through strategic acquisitions and organic research and development efforts, COMSovereign has become a U.S.-based communications provider able to provide 4G LTE Advanced and 5G-NR telecom solutions to network operators and enterprises. For more information about COMSovereign, please visit www.COMSovereign.com.
About Hughes Network Systems, LLC
Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) is the global leader in broadband satellite technology and services for home and office. Its flagship high-speed satellite Internet service is HughesNet®, the world’s largest satellite network with over 1.3 million residential and business customers across the Americas. For large enterprises and governments, the company’s HughesON™ managed network services provide complete connectivity solutions employing an optimized mix of satellite and terrestrial technologies. The JUPITER™ System is the world’s most widely deployed High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) platform, operating on more than 20 satellites by leading service providers, delivering a wide range of broadband enterprise, mobility and cellular backhaul applications. Headquartered outside Washington, D.C., in Germantown, Maryland, USA, Hughes operates sales and support offices worldwide, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS), a premier global provider of satellite operations. (Source: PR Newswire)
16 Feb 21. ABL Space Announces L2 As Customer For First RS1 Launch. ABL Space Systems and L2 Aerospace have signed a launch services agreement for launch of two spacecraft on ABL’s first demonstration flight of RS1 in Q2 2021. “We’re excited to announce L2 as a customer for the first launch of RS1,” said Dan Piemont, President and co-founder of ABL. “L2 and ABL are like-minded companies focused on addressing the needs of the U.S. national security space community. By demonstrating an end-to-end responsive launch service from day one, we hope to advance the space architecture to make it more nimble and capable for the U.S. and our Allies.”
ABL is preparing for an initial flight of its RS1 launch vehicle, capable of lofting 1,350 kg to Low Earth Orbit, in the first half of 2021. “L2 Solutions is proud to partner with ABL Space on their inaugural launch of the RS1. The RS1 launch system offers robust and resilient capabilities, which complements L2’s fully integrated and end-to-end mission assurance services,” said Jim Royston, CEO of L2. “This is a significant milestone, as the RS1 will send two of L2 Solutions’ internally developed communications payloads into orbit, demonstrating a unique communications and network architecture, test cyber security applications, and validate the first instantiation of L2’s commercial Orbital Test Range.”
The integration and deployment of these spacecraft will demonstrate new technology on orbit and on the ground. L2’s satellites will provide infrastructure to rapidly test new technology and support new concepts for training scenarios. On the ground, ABL’s GS0 mobile launch system, a fully containerized, deployable system will demonstrate the rapid capabilities and minimal infrastructure needed to launch RS1.
About ABL Space Systems
ABL Space Systems was founded in 2017 to develop low-cost launch vehicles and launch systems for the small satellite industry. ABL is headquartered in El Segundo, California, U.S. To learn more, visit www.ablspacesystems.com.
About L2 Solutions
L2 Solutions provides end-to-end, vertically integrated mission assurance capabilities to meet their customers’ most challenging problems. L2 has the ability to build, launch, deploy, and operate satellites, offering internally developed intelligent data suite of payloads for communications and earth observation architectures. Their services team delivers tailored capabilities, providing insight and knowledge for any mission set. (Source: PR Newswire)
16 Feb 21. UAE’s EPI collaborates with MBRSC to manufacture components for MBZ-SAT. EPI will produce 147 machined parts for MBRSC in addition to carrying out surface treatment and inspection services. EPI, the precision engineering backbone of the UAE’s aerospace and defence industry, today announced that it is joining forces with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), home to the UAE National Space Programme, to manufacture key components for its new satellite project MBZ-SAT.
The six-month-long project will see EPI producing 147 machined parts for MBRSC in addition to carrying out surface treatment and inspection services.
Named after His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, MBZ-SAT will be the most advanced commercial satellite in the region in the field of high-resolution satellite imagery and is expected to be launched in 2023.
The synergy with EPI is well aligned with MBRSC’s mandate to engage companies in the UAE in building a local hub for space-related manufacturers and to enhance the sustainability of the national space sector in the country. In 2018, EPI was involved with MBRSC in the industrialisation phase of machining metallic components for Emirates Mars Mission project.
Speaking on the occasion, Christian Ziehe, the CEO of EPI, said, “This alliance reinforces the value of leveraging local capabilities to shape an ecosystem dedicated to manufacturing space-related technology and systems. For EPI, it serves as a unique opportunity to grow the company’s expertise in the space manufacturing field, and further diversify our operations. We are proud to be entrusted once again with supporting the UAE’s wider space ambitions.”
“MBRSC’s strategic collaboration with local companies in the UAE, to manufacture and supply the components necessary for the development of MBZ-SAT, will help enhance the sustainability of the national space industry in the UAE. Our goal is to further strengthen the regional space sector by leveraging partnerships that will support the development of MBRSC’s commercial activity through the creation of innovative new space technologies,” said, Amer AlGhafri, Senior Director of the Space Engineering Department and Project Manager of MBZ-SAT at MBRSC.
EPI manufactures high-quality complex engineering components for the defence, aerospace, and oil & gas (O&G) sectors and is equipped with advanced capabilities and cutting tools to carry out manufacturing engineering, machining, surface treatment, coating, repairing, and assemblies.
The company is part of the Mission Support cluster within EDGE, an advanced technology group for defence and beyond. (Source: Google/https://www.zawya.com/)
16 Feb 21. The sky is not the limit: could you be the UK’s next astronaut? Are you calm under pressure, fit and healthy, and looking for a new career? ESA is on the lookout for new astronauts to join its cohort of space explorers.
For the first time since 2008, The European Space Agency (ESA) is on the lookout for new astronauts, and UK citizens of any walk of life are invited to apply.
Following an intensive period of training, which will include a 3-week course in caving and a course in practical geology, the new astronauts will take their first flights into space when they are deployed to the International Space Station. They are likely to be part of the crew on the next missions to the Moon in the late 2020s and through the 2030s.
ESA is also issuing a special call for candidates with physical disabilities to apply to its astronaut reserve. The pilot project aims to open the astronaut career path to people who, until now, have been excluded from space flight. Those with a lower limb deficiency or who are considered to be of short stature and meet other recruitment criteria are invited to apply. ESA will invest in the necessary adaptations of space hardware to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as crew members on a safe space mission.
The UK Space Agency expects the next professional UK astronaut to be selected through this recruitment drive and encourages all eligible applicants to apply.
Experience of the space sector is not essential, but candidates will need a master’s degree (or higher) in Natural Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Sciences or be qualified as an experimental test pilot. Fluency in English is essential along with other requirements. The right person for the job will also be calm under pressure and be willing to be the participate in life science experiments – past experiments have included studying the effects of microgravity on human bone and tissue.
Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, said, “Becoming an astronaut is a dream for many, and Tim Peake’s historic mission to space in 2015 showed millions of Brits that it can become a reality, while putting the UK firmly on the map as a leading space-faring nation. With the UK space sector receiving more government backing than ever before, it’s time for a new generation of British astronauts to answer this call as we continue working with our European partners to push the boundaries of science and exploration even further.”
In 1989 Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut when she was selected for the joint UK/Soviet Union mission, Juno. In May 1991, Sharman spent eight days in space and became the first female astronaut to visit the Mir Space Station.
Tim Peake was the first British recruit though the ESA astronaut programme in 2009 where he and 5 other applicants from the United Kingdom made it to the final stage of the application process. In 2015 Tim spent 6 months living and working on the International Space Station and was the first British astronaut to take part in a spacewalk.
British ESA astronaut, Tim Peake, said, “Over the next few years and decades, space exploration will become even more exciting as we travel back to the Moon and even further to Mars. For space missions to succeed, they require highly motivated people from diverse backgrounds to combine their skills and work as a team. The next generation of UK citizens have so much to offer the world, and so I would encourage anyone who has dreamt of pushing the boundaries of what is possible to take this opportunity to be part of ESA’s future cohort of space pioneers.”
The position of astronaut is just one possible career path in the UK space industry, which employs close to 42,000 people in various roles from aerospace engineers, satellite technicians, research scientists to entrepreneurs and lawyers. Anyone who meets the criteria to be an astronaut is invited to submit a complete application online through the ESA careers website.
Applications will open on 31 March and stay open for two months until 28 May. There will then be a 17-month process of screening, psychological, practical, and psychometric testing, medical selections and two interview selections until the final applicants will be appointed and announced in October 2022.
The UK Space Agency has been a member of the ESA human exploration programme since 2012, and its participation is not affected by Brexit.
The UK Space Industry has a total income of £14.8bn, and its contribution to GDP is expected to grow as the government boosts investment in space-related activity. The UK Space Agency is leading major programmes to support the first UK space launches, pioneer satellite innovation, and foster space hubs across the Union. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Feb 21. Northrop Grumman’s SharkSat Payload Showcases Agility from the Ground to Orbit. A shark moves through the water with speed and agility, always focused on moving forward. It is in this same vein that Northrop Grumman recently developed SharkSat, a pioneering payload to demonstrate on-orbit mission agility and meet demands for rapid development and deployment in space.
In January, after completing a three-month stay at the International Space Station hosted aboard the company’s Cygnus spacecraft, SharkSat spent two weeks orbiting the Earth and transmitting valuable telemetry and performance data back to mission controllers.
A Northrop Grumman engineer prepares SharkSat for integration with the Cygnus spacecraft.
“SharkSat’s success directly reflects the speed and agility that our team put forth to deliver mission success,” said Candace Givens, vice president, payload and ground systems division, Northrop Grumman.
During its mission, SharkSat successfully collected on-board data, which provided insight into the health and functioning of its electronic components after departing the space station. It also validated the ability to add new software to an in-flight satellite from a terrestrial ground station and demonstrated the resilience of these technologies through the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA). The SAA is a region of space known to cause low-earth orbiting satellites to lose communication and their hardware to brown-out, interrupting operations.
Components of the payload included a multi-processor architecture to support space-to-space and space-to-ground communication targeted toward the development of a Ka-Band software defined radio. These technologies have uses in fields such as 5G telecommunications, satellite communications, and autonomous and cognitive systems. The SharkSat payload also offers a path for next generation space systems to have more capability, reduced size, weight and power (SWaP), lower cost and reduced development timelines.
In January, after completing a three-month stay at the International Space Station hosted aboard the company’s Cygnus spacecraft, SharkSat spent two weeks orbiting the Earth and transmitting valuable telemetry and performance data back to mission controllers.
SharkSat serves as a stepping stone toward reusing these technologies for multiple applications in the future. Its improvements center around using advanced and higher performance components that are more capable, yet consume less power.
While the payload itself was created based on an agile development process, the team who made it possible was assembled with that in mind. The SharkSat team was comprised of early-career and experienced professionals that brought unique experiences and perspectives on how to achieve mission success. They put a premium on achieving quality through innovation and agility while taking calculated risks, testing thoroughly and tight collaboration.
“Engaging the full capabilities of our Space Systems team laid a collaborative foundation across the business,” said Dave Schiller, SharkSat program manager for concept development and engineering, Northrop Grumman. “Our partnerships, together with an end-to-end focus, created opportunities for making exciting new ideas a reality, allowing us to overcome challenges as a team and complete a successful mission.”
Along the way to mission success, Northrop Grumman’s SharkSat team put into practice flexibility, agility, hard work and an open-mind — encouraging them to swim confidently forward to the next challenge.
15 Feb 21. Intellian’s innovative new v45C antenna brings VSAT to smaller vessels. Intellian’s innovative v45C antenna offers a compact VSAT solution for space-limited installations. Intellian is proud to announce the v45C, the smallest antenna the company has yet developed for the maritime satellite communications market. The C in the product name represents its compact form factor: this new 45cm unit will bring VSAT to new markets where there is limited space available for communications equipment, such as workboats, leisure craft, fishing boats, small commercial and government vessels.
Intellian is committed to empowering connectivity for all, and recent launches have focused on enhancing user experience and capabilities with smaller VSAT solutions; first with the 60cm v60E antenna launched last year, and now the v45C. The v60E has been a global success across multiple markets, with a significant volume of installations and sustained growth demonstrating that small VSAT is a key area of interest for both new and existing customers. The v45C extends the portfolio still further, opening up a new market of smaller vessels which have yet to benefit from the data speeds and capacity delivered by VSAT.
Both the v60E and the v45C draw on the advanced technology developed for Intellian’s NX Series antennas, which range in size from 85cm to 150cm. Installation is made straightforward by single-cable, dome-on connection, while commissioning is facilitated by the built-in, browser-based AptusNX antenna management and diagnostics software. This enables the installer to follow a simple wizard to get the system up and running, and permits both local and remote diagnostics.
Eric Sung, CEO, Intellian Technologies, said: “We’re delighted to launch the new v45C antenna, which is an innovative and keenly anticipated addition to our maritime VSAT product portfolio. The v45C antenna will deliver compact, cost-effective connectivity to multiple customer segments, especially those which have been unable to install VSAT in the past owing to space considerations or performance constraints. We expect the v45C to open up new markets, and look forward to collaborating with new customers to help them make the most of the many advantages that VSAT connectivity with Intellian products has to offer.”
Smaller antennas have been made possible through Intellian’s innovative design and the introduction of new high-throughput (HTS) satellite technology by multiple network operators. HTS satellites use spot beam technology to deliver focused, high-power service to smaller areas. This enables frequency re-use across the satellite’s coverage area and reduces cost, and for service providers means that a small antenna can deliver connectivity and performance at reasonable cost to the customer. Intellian are now leveraging these advances to bring their innovation and reliability to transform connectivity for all.
12 Feb 21. Director Explains Approaches to Fielding New Space Capability. The Space Development Agency is responsible for unifying and integrating the Defense Department’s space development efforts and accelerating the fielding of new military space capabilities. The SDA is set up to exist and to operate as an efficient, commercial-type entity within the department. As such, it’s designed to deliver capability to the warfighter, whether it be satellites and other space-based assets, such as missile and hypersonic vehicle tracking sensors, SDA Director Derek Tournear told attendees of the virtual Small Satellite Symposium yesterday.
An important approach the SDA has taken is seeking out small and large innovative technologies that have space-based applications, he said.
The current focus is on producing thousands of low-cost satellites that deliver resilience and capability through a meshed network of interconnected satellites that provide connectivity directly to existing tactical datalinks, which then talk to weapons systems, he said.
Many of those satellites will provide detection, tracking and targeting capability related to advanced missile threats, Tournear said. Others will provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and space situational awareness. Still, others provide important precision, navigation and timing. All of these satellites are supported by ground support equipment, launch vehicles and mission operations centers.
Some demonstrations will be conducted this year to develop techniques and procedures and prove this networked capability, he said. The first launching of satellites will begin in fiscal year 2022; by FY 2023 there will be 30 different types of satellites. Hundreds of satellites will be launched in the years to follow.
Sometime within the next year or two, these satellites will begin providing regional coverage; by the third year, they should be providing global coverage, he noted.
Another focus is on spiral development, he said, referring to refining rapidly developed prototypes with incremental improvements in such things as algorithm and autonomy. It’s an approach that enables new products to be fielded within two years, which is timely compared to traditional acquisition processes. This is a particularly important approach because technology and new threats are rapidly emerging.
Tournear emphasized that DOD didn’t create all this innovation. Instead, it relies heavily on commercial innovators and partnering with them. He added that he’d love to have conversations with industries that are willing to team up with the department in its space-based efforts. (Source: US DoD)
12 Feb 21. Space Force begins adding cyber warriors. The Space Force is getting its first cyber warriors, transferring cyber personnel from the Air Force into its ranks to protect sensitive systems and missions.
“Why it’s so important for us to have those cyber professionals on the Space Force team — organic to our team — is that they will be part of our crew force. They will understand the cyber terrain of space, and it will help us protect this critical domain from that threat,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond said during a Feb. 3 media call.
These forces will defend installations, such as ground terminals, and space assets, including satellites.
The emerging cadre of cyber warriors for military’s newest service began shifting over from the Air Force at the beginning of February.
These guardians are aligning with the Air Force’s cyber squadron initiative to build the Space Force’s version of mission defense teams, a Space Force spokesperson said. Air Force mission defense teams are specialized cyber teams that protect critical Air Force missions and installations. This has been possible due to the Air Force’s enterprise-IT-as-a-service model in which it has outsourced some of the more mundane and day-to-day IT work to contractors, freeing service personnel to perform cyber defense. Space Force will similarly rely on contractors, enabling its cyber workforce to defend its terrain.
Space Force cyber units, such as the 61st Communications Squadron, have participated in Air Force cyber exercises in the past to help get them up to speed and work with experienced cyber operators to game defense.
These teams are tied to their services and separate from the forces the services provide to U.S. Cyber Command through the cyber mission force. Space Force doesn’t have any plans to build cyber mission forces to present to Cyber Command, the spokesperson said.
Space Force relies on 16th Air Force/Air Forces Cyber for general network support but is working across the Department of Defense to build a cybersecurity service cell that’s focused on space systems. It will work side by side with the Cyber Defense Correlation Cell for Space as part of the mission directive for Space Delta 6 (Cyber), the spokesperson said. This cell will coordinate cyber defense with the mission defense team, as well as provide support for Air Forces Cyber operations. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
09 Feb 21. Direct From Smallsat Symposium: Major General Clinton Crosier, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Keynote Presentation. General Crosier was responsible for aerospace and satellite services with the USAF and, during his 33 years of putting satellites into orbit, space planning and budgeting, he was also involved in the standup of the U.S. Space Force (USSF), the first new arm of the military in 72 years. He joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the Director, Aerospace and Satellite Solutions.
The General said, “It is exciting to see how the space industry is growing. I have become a true believe in what the cloud can do — Amazon saw, and continues to see, the incredible potential for the space industry. AWS noted the rapidly changing space environment, the amount of global investment and the new companies coming online. AWS determined the best way to support this industry was to build a team that possessed deep space experience to help companies overcome their greatest challenges in the cloud.”
Combined, he said, the AWS team has more than 440 years of experience in the space industry. “How can cloud computing help? The number of satellites on orbit will quintuple, 5x, across LEO, MEO and GEO. Looking at the sheer number of satellites, and with collision avoidance alone, there are enormous challenges in processing all of that data. With the cloud, a company can spin up all of this ephemeral analysis and they only pay for the minutes they consume. They won’t have to pay for that infrastructure all by themselves.”
He remarked that digital design is going to become more and more important. He noted that the USSF recently announced their intention to leverage that technology for satellite design, satellite testing as well as space modeling and simulation. “This kind of work can only be done successfully at scale and at a cost that’s affordable on the cloud using functions such as high performance compute time that is tailored specifically for those space related workloads, which the AWS teams can accomplish.” He added, “One of our customers, Boom Supersonic, is using the cloud to design a new, supersonic passenger transport. They have already consumed more than 53 million hours of compute time on AWS. That company has told AWS that it has been far cheaper and far faster with the cloud than they could have built on their own.”
General Crosier offered that instead of investing millions of dollars in limited capital into computer infrastructure, a smallsat company or other small space startup can, instead, put that money directly into a payload and payload operations which is, after all, what customers really care about… data, and the insights from that data.
“As satellites become more and more capable, and we have more and more of them in orbit, we will be bringing down — literally — tens and hundreds of petabytes of space data, he said. “That extraordinary volume of data can only be processed in the cloud. No single company could build, operate and sustain the massive data storage, analysis and processing capability necessary to handle a workload like that on their own… unless they are willing to spend billions of dollars on a global, industry-leading infrastructure, which AWS has already done. Why would anyone do that when you can pay a fraction of the cost by moving that workload into the cloud and then put that capital back into your satellite capabilities to exploit the data your customers want and your customers need.”
He then brought to the attendees’ attention AWS Ground Station, which is a fully managed service that allows users to control SATCOM, process their satellite data, scale their operations, all without having to worry about building or managing their own ground station infrastructure. “We have seen companies save between 60 and 80 percent of ground station infrastructure costs by using the AWS Ground Station. As a mater of fact, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is one of our AWS Ground Station customers.”
“The Transporter-1 mission of a week or so ago, well, of the 143 satellites aboard that we launched into space, 115 of those satellites are operated by AWS customers around the globe, either using AWS Ground Station or AWS cloud tools, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Language (AI/ML), advanced analytics, data storage, distributed networking, high performance compute or dozens of other advanced cloud capabilities.
There can be no doubt that AWS is moving aggressively into the space sector. (Source: Satnews)
11 Feb 21. Direct From SmallSat Symposium: Florence Tan, NASA’s Chief Technologist Small Spacecraft Coordination Group — A Market Brief, NASA’s Synopsis of SmallSat Science Missions.
NASA is doing amazing science with smallsats. First, a little history. We are all aware of the Apollo missions to the moon in 1971. What is not so well known is that the Apollo 15 and 16 missions deployed smallsats at the command module as it left lunar orbit. Here (image below) you can see one of the satellites that flew. It carried three instruments: a magnetometer, a charged particle detector and an S-band transponder. It made a number of important measurements… plasma, particle and magnetic field of the Moon’s environment and mapped the lunar gravity field.
Traditionally, NASA uses legacy-class flight ship missions… think Hubble, Cassini or the Perseverance rover that’s landing in a few days on Mars. We use these missions to achieve our goals of extraordinary science and supporting explorations through innovative technology. There is a place for flight ship missions; however, we recognize the value and impact of smallsats, from cubesats to Esper-class spacecraft. The concepts we are able to use to perform targeted science to prove out new technologies and innovations and train and educate our future workforce.
To this end, NASA stood up the Small Spacecraft Coordination Group (SSCG), whose goal is to improve coordination among our mission directorates, to place more emphasis on the overarching, integrated, smallsat strategy to advance our agency’s objectives.
In August 2019, the SSCG released a NASA Small Spacecraft strategic plan. Our strategies are influenced by NASA’s Achieving Sciences Report Recommendations and adds guidance to those recommendations to account for the future capabilities and growth in launch systems and Esper class spacecraft.
In late 2018, SMD released a policy and established this policy, NASA STD-32. This policy enables rideshare or launch accommodation opportunities using an Esper-class ring as part of the launch service procured for an SMD (Science Mission Directorate) primary payload. In early 2020, during the Access to Space workshop, we announced the establishment of the Rideshare Office, headed by Aly Mendoza-Hill, to maximize science, exploration and technology returns by enabling accommodation opportunities for secondary payloads on SMD primary mission launches.
Across the six divisions of SMD, we have funded 72 cubesat and smallsat missions and 57 studies to date. Currently, we have 40 small spacecraft missions, or 63 spacecraft, in implementation or formulation. The funding for smallsat missions and studies over 11 years is greater than $2bn. Two-thirds of our missions are 6U or larger. We are shifting toward constellations, as well.
The next two charts are going to be a synopsis of some of our science missions. As our Associate Administrator for Science said, “These missions do big science but they are special because they come in small packages, which means you can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch.”
TROPICS, CYGNSS and PREFIRE are EO missions. CYGNSS is a cyclone, global navigation satellite system. It was launched in December of 2016 and is comprised of eight smallsats. CYGNSS measures the strength of GPS signals reflected by the Earth’s surface to divide the properties of the surface. In its four years of operation, CYGNSS has been able to make measurements of global oceans, surface winds such as tropical cyclones to help understand meteorological processes and improve numerical weather forecasts. Over land, CYGNSS has made measurements of flood inundation. CYGNSS also produces daily soil moisture data products and these are used in hydrological process studies and for disaster monitoring. Recently, CYGNSS was approved for another three years of operation.
TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats). TROPICS is a constellation of six, 3U cubesats in three orbital planes and carries scanning microwave radiometers to measure temperature, humidity, precipitation and cloud properties and offers a combination of horizontal and temporal resolutions to measure the violent conditions and inner core conditions of tropical cyclones at a near global scale. This is a profound leap forward for detailed studies of high impact meteorological events.
Next is PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in the Far-Infrared Experiment). This experiment offers a new window to polar observation and polar climate predictions. It’s going to fly two, 6U cubesats and will systematically map the Earth’s far-infrared emissions spectrum in polar or near-polar orbit for the first time. Thanks to the investments we’ve made to ambient temperature detection and miniaturized optics, we are able to fly the thermal infrared spectrometer that weighs less than 3 kg, uses less than 5 watts of power and sits within a 3U form factor. PREFIRE will fly in two, distinct orbits, separated by a few hours, and able to quantify with spectral fingerprints of atmospheric and surface cloud and ice melt. We can use these observations to integrate them with models so that we are able to ensure these measurements toward the improvement in polar climate predictions.
NASA recently announced three, exciting, selections of smallsat missions for further concept studies. Pandora is a mission to study the atmosphere features of exoplanets in our solar neighborhood. StarBurst seeks to understand the nature of neutron star mergers with LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) is a facility dedicated to the detection of cosmic gravitational waves and the measurement of these waves for scientific research. It consists of two widely separated installations within the United States, operated in unison as a single observatory. And Aspera is a small telescope that will map the gas of galaxies near our own Milky Way so that we can understand the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time. Everyone of these missions will be addressing compelling astrophysics.
Around planetary science, we just launched last month a Q-PACE (CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment) mission. We will be introducing particles in the low gravity of LEO to understand and look at the formation process of our own solar system and the genesis of planetary ring systems.
Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper, called LunaH-Map, is an exciting instrument that will launch on the Artemis I mission (September 2021) and will feature a miniaturized neutron spectrometer that will study and map hydrogen abundance within the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) of the Moon’s south pole. These PSRs may contain enough water to change our view of the formation and evolution of the Moon or may contain enough water to support human and robotic exploration of the solar system.
Then we have the SunRISE (Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment) mission, which will study the sun’s coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs can accelerate particles that produce radio emissions and we’re interested in how solar particles are accelerated and released into interplanetary space and we are very interested in this from the fundamental point of view as well as the effect on space and on Earth and our space assets. SunRISE is a combination of new 6U cubesats operating as a radio interferometer to produce an aperture with a diameter of around 10 km. The idea is to take a picture of the CME that is erupting and we know where the space stuff is because the smallsats also pickup the GPS signals. We take the data and collect it and transmit it down to the ground for processing so we can see a picture of where these particles are accelerated.
Today, NASA is leveraging the capabilities of the commercial space industry for science and smallsats. NASA has a wider diversity of options for access to space. We have new capabilities that play an important role for launching large numbers of smallsats, including constellations, as well as global telecom and data services, buses for smallsats, and NASA has a contract for commercial data buys as well as rideshares to GEO. We are working with NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation group to provide comm requirements for our Near Earth Orbit assets in order to transition to one hundred percent commercial telecom service in the years to come.
The future is bright. We see a shift toward small, mini-sats for sustained, decadal-class observations. For this, there is a need for miniaturization of instrumentation, materials and hardware that can withstand environmental space, data assimilation and simulation tools. As our sensors mature, the data products from large and small missions will become indistinguishable. We will gain new insights from multi-instrument constellation data fusion and analytics. And we will require the tools to understand the data. We will have cooperative synergies among small and large missions and internal cooperation on key, community, science measurements. Commercial services such as comms, and ground station operations, could be used for our goals.
In turn, we must re-think how we look at reliable cost risks of small spacecraft, especially in constellations. We may not have the same risk requirements profile as with a large, multi-million dollar mission. We can take advantage of affordable and more frequent access to space that allows high replenishment rates of satellite fleets. The last 10 years have seen a flowering of the domestic and international space industry, the commercial utility of LEO in all sectors.
For the more than 30 years I have worked at NASA, I take great pride and delight to see the maturation of the American space sector. It is with great satisfaction that we can leverage the U.S. space industry’s innovative technologies and services for our science missions and take advantage of the kinds of scale offered by industries and tax payer dollars. I thank you for your time. (Source: Satnews)
08 Feb 21. Direct From SmallSat Symposium: Earth Observation — Looking At The Market. The moderator for this informative session on Earth Observation (E) was Adam Keith, the Affiliate Principal Advisor for Euroconsult. His initial inquiry was, what kind of products should the industry be building?
Shay Har-Noy (Techstars) — All should start from a use case and then figure out what technology to use to satisfy the customers. Value to the end-user must be shown. Companies must think about end-users and customers because it’s all about what value can be provided to them.
Adam Maher (Ursa Space Systems) — One of his main concerns was how do we educate the markets as to what these systems can do.
Nina Soleng (KSAT) — In spite of COVID, the company was able to run as usual (with more than 20,000 passes) and able to even hire more people in spite of COVID. There were some delays in expected tenders, the result of the firm’s exposure to the rise and fall in oil prices, one of their main end users. There should be multi-mission use of different technologies as well as new agreements with satellite operators and more ground stations should be built.
Rafal Modrzewski (ICEYE) — His company has recently launched three sats and other companies within this market segment have also launched a number of SAR satellites. The firm now has 10 completed. He is excited to see additional capacity coming online and the acceleration of smallsat launches. What is everyone going to do in the future? Data must be able to downloaded quickly as the real-time, global monitoring opportunity is very big and, over the next decade, will find increased demand for various industries. Companies must bring a lot of value across many different disciplines, such as natural disasters.
Adam Keith — What must companies be good at accomplishing? The one size fits all doesn’t work at all for EO. Should companies coming to market be specialized within one, two, or three specific markets?
Rafal Modrzewski — Use cases always require a different set of tools. There’s never going to be a single data set that can solve a specific problem. Core data is one of those, but it’s never enough. More and more constellations specialize in delivering specific data, but won’t be applicable to a single solution. Acquired data must merge with other data sets.
Emiliano Kargieman (Satellogic) — Twelve new satellites have been launched by his company since the onslaught of the pandemic. The company now has more capacity for data acquisition and it’s coming to a point where the firm can show what they’ve been working on. The pandemic has accelerated this trend for more data, particularly on the government side where there’s unsatisfied demand from more and more data. That market is showing an extremely strong demand. However, as an industry, the price point still remains too expensive for EO, and it’s all about the price point. Firms are trying to calculate what the tradeoffs are when dealing with what info can be collected and at a price point that makes sense to the customer, be they commercial or government. It’s simple to turn on faucet and get water and that ease-of-use is where EO firms need to get their data. Build apps for the customer who can open the data faucet and do what they need to do to get the information into users’ hands easily and quickly.
James Crawford (Orbital Insight) — A use case determines value. Pricing is incredibly differential. The supply chain creates the need for a company to price imagery very deferentially and must show the value of the imagery to the customer in order for their ROI to be acceptable. One image or thousands of images may both possess an identical value to different customers.
Shay Har-Noy — How much do we charge for the data? How much does it cost to install the sensors? If each water module in the previously mentioned water faucet analogy is used differently, pricing becomes challenging.
Nina Soleng — If we cannot provide what the customers wants, then they end up not buying at all. Access to data is still too complicated, thanks to licensing agreements, country restrictions and so on. Combinations of different sensors and providers result in different agreements or licensing. There is a need to see a more disruptive approach. The pre-paid value approach, that’s limiting to data access. Regional restraint through exclusive regional reseller agreements are problematic. If the end-user has difficulty getting what they want, they may end up not buying at all.
Adam Keith — Does the reseller market work?
Nina Soleng — With Oil & Gas, a company can have an agreement that is mainly based in one country but that firm then wants information from all over the world and agreement problems arise and there’s a lot of issues to get that client what they need from the area they want.
Rafal Modrzewski — The more use cases you can solve with the same image for the same site is a plus. Collection stacks are constant, the volume of data produced and used all have to work on the use cases to convert that data into value, one way or the other.
Adam Keith — What about orbital congestion? Is this of concern?
Rafal Modrzewski — He notes that this is becoming more of a problem. His company is trying to find a solution to it and a lot of work has gone into this situation. He does not believe this is a dire problem as of yet — his company performs collision avoidance maneuvers, but that is not a daily occurrence.
Nina Soleng — This is a huge opportunity for virtual Earth implementation to derive a solution that is needed by the industry.
James Crawford — He believes collision avoidance systems will happen. He also commented that sub-meter imagery is going to take a few more years to develop. The aim for success is to get sub-meter resolution to customers at a reasonable price point. (Source: Satnews)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.