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25 Feb 21. US Access to Space Is a Vital National Interest. The United States’ freedom to maneuver in space is a vital national interest that underpins national security, intelligence efforts, treaty verification and the economy, Chief of Space Operations, Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond said.
The general talked about the advantages of U.S. presence in space during a fireside chat today at the Air Force Association’s 2021 virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium.
“There’s a significantly growing economy in space between here and the lunar surface [with] estimates of over $1trn over the next handful of years. It underpins every instrument of national power,” Raymond said.
The U.S. is concerned with cyberthreats that China and Russia are continuing to develop, Raymond noted. “It’s something that we have to protect against today. That’s why the establishment of the U.S. Space Force is so important. We are purposely built to stay ahead of that growth” from other countries.
If the nation can deter conflict from beginning, or extending into space, space can deter conflict from spilling over into other domains, the general added.
“Space is a huge force multiplier [that] enables us to do things the other services can do with smaller force structures because they have integrated space to their advantage,” he explained. “We cannot afford as a nation to lose. … we’re the best in the world of space. We are running fast — the guardians are running fast — to be able to stay ahead of that threat to deter from a position of strength.”
The general said the nation can’t just launch a satellite and assume it’s going to be there forever; we have to be able to protect and defend it.
“That’s the new missionary,” he said. “That’s why the United States made the decision to stand up both the U.S. Space Command — the operational arm, the warfighting arm — and the Space Force, which is the organized training equipment [arm].”
The National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy outline a very complex strategic environment in space, one that has global challenges, multidomain challenges, and challenges that move very fast at great speeds and across great distances, he explained, adding that space is a warfighting domain, just like air, land and sea.
Spotlight: National Defense Strategy
And as a warfighting domain, the nation now has a service focused on protecting and defending that domain, he added.
With space, the U.S. has an opportunity with its allied partners, Raymond pointed out. In the first year of standing up an independent Space Force, partnerships have also been established.
“We want to build this coalition [as] friendly from the beginning to allow our international partners to invest,” Raymond said. “And we think that partnership is key to deterrence and key to our strength.” (Source: US DoD)
26 Feb 21. CGI, RAF and UK Space Agency deploy AURORA software. The UK Space Agency, RAF and CGI deployed new tracking and surveillance software across the UK’s space assets this month.
IT consulting firm CGI teamed up with the RAF and UK Space Agency to execute and implement the first round of AURORA software across the UK’s space assets.
AURORA is set to improve the tracking and surveillance capabilities of the UK’s Space Operations Centre, and will ensure that the UK Space Agency is able to maintain observational awareness over the threat of debris.
“The AURORA software will form a crucial part of our national space surveillance and tracking capability and be used by our analysts to monitor the increasing hazard of orbital debris,” said Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency.
“CGI started working with the RAF back in 2016 and we are proud to continue to work collaboratively with the MOD and UK Space Agency to deliver the AURORA capability in the MOD cloud environment,” said Neil Timms, senior vice president for UK and Australia space defence and intelligence at CGI. (Source: Space Connect)
25 Feb 21. Blue Origin delays New Glenn rocket launch to 2022. Billionaire Jeff Bezos-backed space venture Blue Origin said on Thursday that it has delayed the launch of its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket to the fourth quarter of next year.
The rocket was earlier expected to launch later this year.
The postponement comes after Space Force did not select New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement, the company said in a blog. (bit.ly/3uuO7pf)
Blue Origin, which faces fierce competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has lost out to the rival after SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) were awarded billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. national security launch contracts which begin in 2022. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. (reut.rs/3aTo3wr)
24 Feb 21. AFWERX Aims to Formally Launch SpaceWERX This Summer. AFWERX expects to formally launch SpaceWERX—a center for military-space-centric innovation intended to support Space Force acquisition—this summer, AFWERX director Air Force Col. Nathan P. Diller told reporters at the Air Force Association’s virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium on Feb. 24.
Former Air Force acquisition czar Will Roper announced the hub’s creation last December, adding that it would call Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., home. Space Force Chief of Innovation Lt. Col. Walter ‘Rock’ McMillan, who has been tasked with directing the hub, is currently assembling a team to run it, Diller said.
“We are expecting very soon—in the coming months—to actually narrow down that space topic into what would be our space prime,” Diller said. “That will be the first prime that will be moving forward under our current plan.”
Diller said that SpaceWERX would discuss “the contracting activities associated with this space prime” at the summer launch event.
In the nearer term, Diller said, AFWERX anticipates multiple space companies to participate in Space Pitch Days and seek out additional Strategic Funding Increases for their innovation efforts via AFVentures’ Supplemental Funding Pilot Program.
When it comes to easing enlisted Airmen’s reservations about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the wisest course of action is to be straightforward and well-informed, and lead by example, Chief Master Sgt. Brian P. Kruzelnick, Air Mobility Command’s command chief master sergeant, said during the Air Force Association’s virtual Aerospace Warfare…
The new enlisted guide to professional military education; the Chief of Staff on force employment and legacy systems; and the KC-46 begins to to contribute. All this and more from Day 1 of the Air Force Association’s virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium. Last week, NASA’s Perseverance rover thrilled citizens of Earth when it landed on Mars with the promise of a new chapter in red planet exploration. But the military could also learn a thing or two from the spacecraft’s trip for future research and development efforts, Space Force Chief Scientist Joel…
The Department of the Air Force’s new Office of Diversity and Inclusion is using the findings of the Air Force Inspector General’s 2020 Independent Racial Disparity Review and the framework the office used during its time as a task force to mold its future efforts, the office’s boss and Acting…
24 Feb 21. PACAF Boss Calls for E-7s to Replace Aging E-3 AWACS. The head of Pacific Air Forces is calling for new aircraft in his theater to meet the need for air superiority, including a quick short-term replacement for aging airborne warning and control aircraft and, in the future, the service’s next generation fighter. PACAF boss Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach told reporters…
Former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper’s transformational ideas on how to buy new systems will stay on track without him, senior service officials said Feb. 24. Digital engineering, agile software development, and open architectures will play a part in all new systems. But sticking to Roper’s rapid-refresh ideas about.
The creation and growth of the U.S. Space Force comes as Russia and China have recognized the importance of a military presence in space, and the U.S. and NATO need to ensure they have access to the best “indications and warnings” in that domain, the head of U.S. forces in…
Since individual readiness is the key to ensuring overall Air Force Reserve Command readiness, Air Force Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee said AFRC is being mindful of how troops’ civilian job descriptions and uniformed taskings line up, and taking a strategic, tiered approach to training them.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.airforcemag.com/)
25 Feb 21. UK’s leading space sector to benefit from new government support. Economic measures have been outlined to support the UK’s innovative space sector.
- New Space Sector Export Academy to upskill space-sector businesses
- Continued support for Leicester Space Park to become a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) for foreign investors
- Latest in series of economic-support measures to help sectors across the UK build back better.
- UK space exports reached £5.5bn in 2019, with the sector generating over a third of its income from exports.
A series of measures to support the UK’s space sector in building back better have been outlined by the government today.
The cutting-edge sector, which currently employs around 42,000 people in the UK and supports approximately 15% of the UK’s wider GDP through space-based services, will benefit from measures that will boost exports and investment, including:
- Continued support of the Leicester Space Park as a HPO for foreign investors, following on from its launch in Spring 2019.
- The HPO scheme identifies opportunities to attract foreign direct investment into emerging sectors and regions – creating new jobs and growth.
- Use of GREAT campaign branding to build a suite of new space-specific marketing material for external events.
- Set up a new virtual Space Sector Export Academy to provide training to SME space businesses and increase international trade, investment skills and knowledge
- Working with other government departments and local partners to reduce trade barriers and support international partnerships to generate commercial opportunities.
Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP said, “The UK’s vibrant and innovative space sector continues to push new frontiers. But, like so many, the sector has been hindered by the pandemic and it is vital that we provide support today to create the exciting opportunities of tomorrow. The space sector generates more than a third of its income from exports. We want to help businesses grow their exporting, and measures like the Space Sector Export Academy will upskill Space SMEs to do just that.”
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “The UK’s space sector has shown incredible resilience throughout the past year, and it’s critical that we help to get this dynamic industry growing faster so that we can establish Britain as a leading player in the commercial space race. This package of government support will enable UK space businesses to flourish, creating highly skilled jobs while driving forward innovative new products that will help improve all our lives, as we build back better from the pandemic.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart said, “We are entering a new era for the space industry and for space exploration, and Scotland is a key player in the industry. The UK Government is driving investment in Scotland’s space industry, with funding at an all time high. The space sector will be an important part of Scotland’s economic future, bringing highly skilled jobs and investment to Scotland.”
Nick Shave, Chair of UKSpace said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK space sector, particularly due to lower export demand and reduced inward investment confidence. We welcome this package support measures that the Department of International Trade has created. The measures will help innovative UK companies to position space technology and space-enabled services in the fast-growing global space market which is predicted to grow to over £400bn per annum by 2030.”
Space has real potential to be a major UK industrial success story if government and industry works closely together in partnership via initiatives like this DIT Space Sector Covid Support Plan.
These measures are the latest in a series of economic-support announcements to help sectors across the UK, from Agri-food & drink and tech, to retail & consumer to education, build back better from the pandemic through overseas trading and government support.
The latest package follows the UK-Australia Space Bridge signing on 23 February 2021. The partnership will increase expertise and investment, enhancing cooperation and alignment between the UK Space Agency, Department for International Trade, Austrade, and the Australian Space Agency to coordinate opportunities for governments and companies to work on space-related activities.
A virtual roundtable will be held on 1 March 2021 on the announcement and the support it will provide for space-sector businesses. Those interested can register to sign up here: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=7Beij6oz-0atlt_mgAa7hvd88E03kCZKjWcNXBN7RnhURVEwTkpCSVYzV1lBVFBJUUdCVFBTTFFQMy4u (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Feb 21. Blue Canyon Technologies to Develop Six Additional DARPA Blackjack Satellites. Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies LLC (“BCT” or “Blue Canyon”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX), today announced it will develop an additional six satellites for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Blackjack program under a Phase 3 contract. By incorporating commercial sector advances, including designs used for LEO broadband internet service, Blackjack will demonstrate that a constellation of LEO satellites can meet Department of Defense performance and payload requirements at a significantly lower cost, with shorter design cycles and with easier and more frequent technology upgrades. Designed specifically for LEO missions, BCT will use the final design of its multi-mission X-SAT bus to begin procurement for the additional six satellites. The customized bus includes state-of-the-art electric propulsion, a robust power system, command and data handling, radio frequency communications and dedicated payloadinterfaces capable of hosting different DoD payloads.
In late 2020, BCT and DARPA completed the bus’s Critical Design Review at BCT’s Satellite Constellation Factory in Lafayette, Colorado. BCT is currently building the first four satellites to be delivered by the close of 2021. To support DARPA’s demonstration schedule, the company will deliver the additional six satellites by the close of 2022. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
22 Feb 21. NASA to release LandSat Next Earth-observation satellite imaging sensors solicitation by about 8 March 2021. Industry will develop imaging sensors concepts for Landsat Next, which will be either a single-satellite or a constellation of small satellites.
.S. space experts are making plans to ask industry to narrow-down choices for space sensor systems for a next-generation Landsat Earth-observation imaging satellite in the late 2020s with enhanced sensor capabilities.
Officials of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., announced plans Thursday to issue an industry request for proposal (RFP) for instrument studies to support the Landsat Next project, which by late this decade is expected to offer sensors for superspectral land observations with high-spectral and high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface.
Landsat Next, which is to operate under supervision of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Reston, Va., is to be the follow-on mission to Landsat 8 and 9, and will continue a spaceborne land-imaging system to collect and process land-imaging data.
Instrument studies will develop and assess instrument concepts for Landsat Next, which will be either a single-satellite solution or a constellation of relatively small Earth-observation satellites.
Landsat Next instruments will provide Earth spectral coverage in the visible-to-shortwave-infrared (VSWIR) and thermal-infrared (TIR) spectral bands. Instruments may provide either full-swath or narrow-swath coverage for single-satellite approaches.
NASA experts particularly are interested in instrument size, weight and power (SWaP); technical maturity; long-lead items; and cost and schedule information. NASA will award several six-month study contracts.
Landsat Next is to provide improved Earth images for agricultural monitoring, ecological monitoring, urban studies, water resources management, and related applications.
In addition to enhanced imaging capability, the Landsat Next project also is expected to offer users more frequent satellite coverage — at least once every eight days, NASA officials say.
For the past 48 years, Landsat satellites and ground sites have made available global multispectral Earth images of 15-to-120-meter resolution for research on land use change, forest health, carbon inventories, and changes to Earth’s environment, climate, and natural resources.
Researchers in government, academia, and industry use Landsat data for resource issues like water resource management, wildfires, agricultural productivity, rangeland management, and understanding impacts of climate variability on ecosystems.
The USGS today operates two spacecraft, Landsat 7 and 8, which NASA developed. Landsat 9, a near copy of Landsat 8, is under development, and is expected to begin operations in 2021. Together these satellites can cover the entire Earth’s surface every 16 days.
Landsat 8 and 9 each host two instruments: the Operational Land Imager (OLI) that provides multispectral imaging in the visible-light to shortwave infrared spectral; and the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) that gathers long-wave infrared imagery.
Landsat Next also should enable new applications like monitoring surface water quality, cryospheric science, geology, agricultural crop water consumption, and improved estimation of surface temperatures.
Landsat Next may use just one spacecraft, or a constellation of three to five satellites with relatively narrow fields of view. Using a constellation of satellites, instead of just one spacecraft, would improve system resiliency, enable use of on-orbit spares, increase revisit frequency, save costs of Earth-observation sensors, and enable quick technology infusion.
Enabling technologies envisioned for Landsat Next include a new generation of focal planes and free-form optics to help acquire more spectral bands with relatively small instruments. Experts predict that each Landsat Next satellite will have either a single instrument that acquires all visible-through-shortwave infrared and thermal infrared spectral bands, or two instruments that acquire these spectral bands separately.
The Landsat Next spacecraft is expected to operate in a polar, frozen, sun-synchronous orbit with repeating ground track by using propulsive maneuvers for orbit maintenance.
The Landsat Next ground station may continue using the existing Landsat Multi-mission Operations Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., or may pursue a commercial service-based mission operations center. The future satellite also may use increased machine autonomy decrease the frequency of command and fault-management uplinks.
Companies interested should email their intent to submit an offer to NASA’s Colin Bornmann no later than 26 Feb. 2021 at . An RFP should be issued for the Landsat Next instrument studies is expected by about 8 March 2021.
More information is online at https://beta.sam.gov/opp/6b3bcaa7311c419c863d9b6936107fe9/view. (Source: glstrade.com/https://www.militaryaerospace.com/)
24 Feb 21. Engineers Key to Defense Space Efforts: ‘We Have Your Back,’ During Engineers Week, the Defense Department is highlighting its efforts to develop a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce and to increase understanding of and interest in engineering and technology. Engineers are critical to the Department of Defense achieving goals and priorities in space, said the department’s principal director for space.
“There are many important roles that engineers play” said Lindsay Millard, the principal director for space with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
Top among the priorities that engineers are tackling now is how to use cislunar space — the area between Earth and the moon.
“There are many ongoing efforts in this area across the department and agencies,” said Millard. “We’re going to be taking a look at how we can best enable and use the space between the Earth and the moon, especially because we have humans who will be traveling in that space in the future.”
Spotlight: DOD Space Strategy
With travel into space becoming a priority, Millard said, the way humans leave Earth’s surface is also becoming more critical. She said that engineers are now focused on both rapid and responsive launch.
“Rapid implies launching on a cadence. There are some companies that are achieving that goal right now, and other companies are moving toward it,” Millard said. “Responsive launch is actually having satellites ready to go on the ground, should there be an unexpected event.”
DOD will be putting several satellites in space in the coming years, Millard said. Finding ways to protect what’s already on orbit is also a priority for department engineers.
“Satellites are easily tracked,” Millard said. “How do we protect and defend those if needed because they are key to enabling our DOD forces on the ground?”
Building a robust space infrastructure to take care of service members on the ground will require advancements in communications and encryption technology — another area where department engineers are now laser-focused, Millard said.
“There are a lot of new encryption types that are coming on board,” she said. “Finding a way to get those into satellites quickly is important to help us remain secure across constellations, but also for single satellites, in general.”
Getting artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities into those satellites is another area department engineers are currently investigating, Millard said.
“We’re leveraging cloud-enabled computers on the ground to put signatures or secure dynamic tasking across satellites in orbit that have relatively less compute power,” Millard said. “We’re also looking at how to make big capabilities on smaller satellites.”
Among other things, engineers across DOD are focused on space, cyberspace, hypersonics, directed energy, quantum science and fully networked command, control and communications.
As an aerospace engineer, Millard said she’s guided in her work by the idea that she’s responsible in many ways to the service members who depend on something she may have had a part in designing for them to do their jobs or even to protect them.
“For me, personally, I’m very much motivated by protecting the people who are in harm’s way,” Millard said. “I think that DOD has a unique perspective and opportunity to do that in the sense that we can hope to decide how to best protect them.”
Engineer Week runs Feb. 21-27, and Millard said it’s a good time for aspiring engineers and engineering students to think about working within the DOD. She said the defense department is a unique employer that, in her own experience, offered opportunities that might not be found in other places.
When service members don protective gear, use new equipment that’s been fielded, or connect across space with the latest communications tools, they might not be thinking of the engineers who designed them. But, Millard said, those engineers are absolutely thinking of service members.
“We need and want to support you,” she said. “If you ever want to talk with us, please do so — because we’ve got your back.” (Source: US DoD)
24 Feb 21. CGI builds a centralized ‘pooling and sharing’ system for secure satellite communication services supported by the European Space Agency. CGI (NYSE: GIB) (TSX: GIB.A) has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to support its development of a centralized “pooling and sharing” system for satellite communications services by October 2022. The system will enable multiple satellite operators to offer secure communication services, such as data transmission, through a single booking system.
Satellite communications are becoming increasingly important for the security and competitiveness of countries worldwide, including in the European Union (EU). Access to services with resilient and robust security features is essential for both governmental and non-governmental organizations. However, to date, the delivery of satellite communication services has involved many different providers within a highly fragmented market.
Because of this, booking satellite communication services is a complex and cost-intensive process. This pooling & sharing system aims to serve as a platform where secure, reliable and cost-efficient satellite communications can be provided to organizations by bundling and sharing government and commercial satellite services.
Through the 4S (Space Systems for Safety and Security) strategic line of its Telecommunication program, ESA is supporting the industry in developing innovative and competitive products, solutions and services responding to this need and more widely to market prospects in that domain.
“We are extremely pleased to enable continuous investment in the development of highly innovative space solutions and services by European and Canadian manufacturers and operators,” said Elodie Viau, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications. “ESA is committed to develop initiatives in support of the European commercial satellite telecommunications industry and generate pioneering technology in this domain for the benefit of Europe’s worldwide competitiveness. This project with CGI represents a new step of a long standing effort in that endeavour.”
The new platform will serve as the central interface between satellite communication users and service providers. It also could serve potentially as a core component for a future EU GOVSATCOM Hub that delivers communication services in other areas, including natural disaster and maritime emergency response, border surveillance, and satellite navigation.
CGI will develop the new platform in close cooperation with German technology companies AXESS Networks Solutions, IABG and IABG Teleport, as well as the Greek satellite operator Hellas Sat.
“One of CGI’s core goals is to actively promote digitization in space through innovative solutions that address current challenges,” adds Ulli Leibnitz, Senior Vice-President Space in Germany. “With this new platform, satellite communication requirements that governmental and non-governmental agencies have today in terms of capacity, bandwidth and security can be met quickly and effectively. This contract confirms our longstanding and successful collaboration with ESA and also demonstrates our leading role in the development of groundbreaking solutions in the space domain.”
23 Feb 21. Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth talks UK Space Command. As the UK Government prepares to stand up a new Space Command, the Ministry of Defence’s Director Space Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth tells Harry Lye about the structure of the new command and the importance of space to defence operations and the UK overall.
Harry Lye: How did the idea for Space Command come about?
Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth: There’s a broader piece to this than just Space Command and it’s actually about redesigning the whole of our space enterprise, so that it is delivered in a more coherent manner.
It started in 2019 with the Forber Review, an internal piece of analysis which acknowledged the importance of space, highlighted that the threat in space is becoming much more effective and that, whilst we do a lot in space from a UK defence perspective, our efforts are spread across the services in penny packets of activity. We needed to put new structures in place to provide better coherence.
Plus, we acknowledged that we didn’t have a central owner for space within the Ministry of Defence (MOD), despite it being the strategic headquarters – and obviously space is strategic in nature because, to be completely frank, it enables the whole nation.
So, we’re on a journey and the establishment of Space Command is but one part of this journey, where our focus is to drive coherency into the whole of our space governance and the way in which we run space for defence.
The first part of the journey was my appointment as Director Space, and over the last year, we’ve built what’s called the Space Directorate, one half of the team specialising in policy and strategy, with the other half being capability focused – based within MOD in Whitehall.
Think of Space Directorate as doing the strategic thinking, policy, cross-government coherence, being an international touchpoint with all our partners and allies, and the reach into the space sector – effectively, what we’ve been colloquially calling ‘defence’s belly button for space’.
But this only caters for one part of the enterprise, hence the need to establish Space Command, under its own two-star commander, with a focus on doing the day-to-day business of space. The training of people and generation of expertise, the capability management – delivering programmes and bringing new space capability to the frontline – and the actual operations of space, such as managing capabilities we have in-orbit, or running the UK Space Operations Centre. How will Space Directorate and Space Command better allow the UK to keep pace with allies and threats?
Particularly looking through the lens of Space Command and its proposed construct, we’ve taken a unique approach – we have established a two-star command appointment where that single commander has responsibility for not just operations, but also generating, training and growing the force, and also owning the money and putting all the programmatic rigour into delivering new and exciting future capabilities.
Because a single commander owns these areas, this affords much more flexibility in managing risk, and it makes for much more agile decision-making, therefore effectively creating the very best possible unity of effort.
Imagine a single commander who runs the day-to-day business, seeing a threat emerge that maybe has come online a bit quicker than we thought: under our construct, this commander also owns the capability and so could decide: ‘I’ve seen this threat, what I want to do now is accelerate this capability delivery because I know I need it on the frontline, and I’m willing to take a bit of risk to get through the process and deliver meaningful capability to the warfighter at the speed of relevance’.
That will help us be really agile in terms of maintaining operational advantage over potential adversaries, whilst also delivering a really agile approach to our input as alliance members of entities like the Combined Space Operations Initiative (which includes the Five Eyes community plus France and Germany).
Can you explain how Space Command will fit into the structure of UK Defence?
It’s not just as clean as if we’re standing up a brand-new entity; it’s not a Royal Space Force, despite the fact that some people joke about that. We examined a plethora of different models throughout the analysis phase, but, ultimately, we landed on the current model, which I call ‘Air-led : StratCom Enabled’.
Whilst Space Command will sit under the Royal Air Force (RAF), it is a joint command, and it is a Space Command that’s delivering space for the whole of defence. In many ways the model is similar to our Joint Helicopter Command, which sits under the army, but is delivering helicopter capability for the whole of defence.
The air-led part is quite key because if we look just purely at where the bulk of space experience sits in UK Defence, it is in the RAF – moreover, the RAF has done an awful lot to take space programmes forward in recent years, such as the launch of the Carbonite 2 satellite programme, and the announcement on the UK Artemis programme for a small satellite constellation in low Earth orbit.
That said, UK StratCom has a very clear mandate as UK defence lead for all multi-domain integration, ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], PNT [positioning, navigation, and timing] and communications. We didn’t want to undermine the equities of UK StratCom because that’s why StratCom exists – it’s the central integrator for defence, and it’s incredibly important that this role is enabled as it underpins our future warfighting strategy.
We’ve had to put some quite elegant governance models in place, which allow Space Command to be its own joint command, sitting under the Royal Air Force, but with the mechanisms in place so that all of UK StratCom’s space equities are protected and enabled. I think we have met these needs with the proposed model, but undoubtedly over time the construct will be tested and adjusted. However, its starting point seems rock solid.
How does that factor into the upper levels of defence?
Sitting over the top of what I’ve already described is a very simple governance structure, which we have enabled at the two-star level, where as Director Space I will chair a new meeting called the Space Alignment Group. The clue is in the title as to exactly what it’s there for; it’s about bringing all the key players from all parts of defence around the table once a quarter to make sure we’re all completely aligned on space.
I then report up to a new four-star space group called the Defence Space Executive Board (DSEB), chaired by the Vice Chief of Defence. If there are crunchy problems that can’t be solved at the two-star board, we can always raise them to the four-star level and achieve adjudication by the very top of defence.
The other nuance that is quite key to this in terms of the four-star board is that the Vice Chief accompanies the Secretary of State to the National Space Council, which is chaired personally by the Prime Minister. So, when Vice Chief steps out of DSEB, he’s had the very latest update on what is going on in defence from a space perspective, and hence can represent that at the Space Council.
What is the timeline for Space Command, and what milestones are on the horizon?
The command will be up and running before the summer; we’re still settling on dates at the moment as various other things fall into place. But when it stands up, we must remember that this is just the first brick in a road, and there’s still quite a long journey ahead. We know what direction the road is going in, but there’ll be some meandering in terms of test and adjust with regards the final construct of Space Command: it will take its shape over a period of time.
I would wager that Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, as our first Commander UK Space Command, will spend the bulk of his tour establishing the command, getting it settled, finding its feet, getting the governance all settled, doing all that foundational work. Then for his successor, their success will be a direct indication of how well ‘Godders’ set up the foundations, and I can’t think of anybody better to trust that role to. He will absolutely get that right. I have huge confidence that with him leading there, and me leading here in the MOD, between the two of us we can take this forward in a focused and meaningful way – importantly, and to go back to that word I used right at the start of this discussion, in a coherent way, which is what this whole journey has been about all along. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
23 Feb 21. ESA Moves Forward With Harmony. Following the selection of three Earth Explorer candidate missions to enter a first feasibility study in September 2018, ESA has chosen one of the candidates, Harmony, to move to the next phase of development. Harmony is envisaged as a mission with two satellites that orbit in formation with one of the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites to address key scientific questions related to ocean, ice and land dynamics.
Earth Explorers are research missions applying new observation techniques to respond to the needs of the scientific community in their quest to understand different aspects of the Earth system and the interactions that bind the system as a whole. Advancing science and technology, they address questions that have direct bearings on societal issues such as the availability of food, water, energy and resources, public health and climate change.
Three concepts, Daedalus, Harmony (formerly called Stereoid) and Hydroterra (formerly called G-Class), have spent the last two years being scrutinised as to their scientific, technical and budgetary feasibility to be ESA’s tenth Earth Explorer mission.
This step has now culminated in ESA’s Programme Board for Earth Observation (PB-EO) accepting ESA’s proposal, based on the recommendation from the Advisory Committee for Earth Observation (ACEO) and its own evaluation that Harmony should be taken forward to the next study phase.
This phase, Phase-A, includes further feasibility assessment after in-depth system definition, including the design of the satellite platform and instruments, flight operations, technology developments and how best to exploit the data.
Josef Aschbacher, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes, said, “Harmony is an exciting concept and we are thrilled to have it moving to the next step for further design consolidation and feasibility assessment. We expect that a firm decision on full implementation, meaning development through to launch and commissioning, will be taken in autumn 2022 by ESA Member States, upon completion of Phase-A activities.”
The Harmony concept comprises two identical satellites that would fly in convoy with a Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Each Harmony satellite is being designed to carry a receive-only synthetic aperture radar as its main instrument. Working together with Sentinel-1’s radar, Harmony would provide data to measure small shifts in the shape of the land surface such as those related to earthquakes and volcanic activity, thereby contributing to risk monitoring. It would also allow for the study of 3D deformation and flow dynamics of glaciers at the rapidly changing marginal zones of the ice sheets for a better understanding of sea-level rise.
Both Harmony satellites would also carry a multibeam thermal-infrared instrument, which in the presence of clouds will enable the measurement of height-resolved cloud movements. In absence of clouds, this multibeam thermal-infrared instrument will measure sea-surface temperature differences.
Harmony would also be the first mission to provide data to improve our understanding of interactions between the air and the ocean surface by providing simultaneous measurements of wind, waves, currents, that together with measurements of sea surface thermal differences and cloud motion will enable an unprecedented view of the marine atmospheric boundary layer.
In essence, Harmony addresses key science questions in several domains. Its observation concept enables unique measurements over timescales ranging from tens of milliseconds (to measure ocean currents) to years (to measure solid Earth surface motion).
Dr Aschbacher added, “Though the recommendation of ACEO had also included Daedalus as a potential Phase-A candidate, it was not proposed for selection due to strict adherence to the cost constraints established by the PB-EO. Nevertheless, ACEO commended both Daedalus and Hydroterra mission concepts for the exploratory nature of their observations and potentially ground-breaking science objectives.
“ESA plans to explore options to further study the Daedalus concept in a different framework, through potential international cooperation. Meanwhile, some risk-reduction studies will continue on both Daedalus and Hydroterra in order to further mature each concept.” (Source: ASD Network/ESA)
23 Feb 21. Busek Ships First LEO to GEO Capable Electric Propulsion System. Design Demonstrated One Million Newton-Seconds in NASA-Led Test.
Today Busek confirmed shipment of its first flight BHT-600 Hall effect thruster system, a modular propulsion unit with the capability of raising small satellites from low earth orbit (LEO) to geosynchronous orbit (GEO) and beyond. Hall thrusters are one form of highly efficient spacecraft electric propulsion which utilize solar energy and very small amounts of propellant to create thrust. The undisclosed customer ordered the system roughly twelve months ago for a Government mission launching later this year.
The BHT-600 thruster design previously demonstrated a record-breaking 7,000-hour ground test, an activity supported by NASA’s Game Changing Development Office and the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The long-duration ground test was performed at NASA Glenn Research Center as part of a NASA Space Act Agreement. There, the thruster was independently tested in the simulated vacuum of space, processing roughly 70 kilograms of xenon propellant before the test was terminated.
“The BHT-600 is a highly capable and robust solution that’s a perfect fit for many upcoming small satellite missions,” said Vlad Hruby, President of Busek. “With this system, ESPA-class satellites, and small satellite constellations, roughly 180 – 225 kilograms in size, will be able to execute high-velocity maneuvers including orbit-raising, near-earth object rendezvous, and extend the life of GEO, MEO, and LEO spacecraft. The system is also an ideal fit to power electric upper stages on small launch vehicles.”
The BHT-600 is designed for operation from 400W to 1kW in power, and has been tested for thousands of hours on traditional and next-generation propellants including xenon, krypton, and iodine. The modular flight system features a Busek-designed radiation tolerant power processor with variable output, xenon feed system, and long-life thruster assembly. The BHT-600 joins Busek’s family of flight qualified industry-leading propulsion solutions, including Hall effect thrusters, electrospray thrusters, and iodine fueled ion engine systems.
About Busek Co. Inc.: Busek is a leader in the development and manufacture of high performance in-space propulsion, sensors, and power systems. The firm’s highly efficient designs enable a range of challenging missions for government and commercial customers. From one-off science missions to high-volume constellations, Busek brings decades of design, manufacturing, test, and spaceflight experience to missions which matter. (Source: PR Newswire)
23 Feb 21. Tawazun and Yahsat collaborate to develop ‘Made in the UAE’ SATCOM solutions.
– Collaboration will focus on the production of critical aeronautical, modem and other advanced satcom technologies in the UAE
– Aims to harness local knowledge, manufacturing capabilities and technology leadership to propel national industrialization efforts
– First ‘seed project’ to develop an advanced satellite modem and bespoke waveform for government and defense markets in the UAE and internationally
Tawazun Economic Council and the UAE’s flagship satellite services operator, Yahsat, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a new company to develop critical in-country capabilities in relation to the development and manufacture of advanced satcom solutions within the UAE, with a focus on building intellectual property locally for increased national security and advanced technology development.
The MoU confirming the planned collaboration was signed during IDEX 2021 by Eisa Al Shamsi, Deputy General Manager of Yahsat Government Solutions, and Matar Al Romaithi, Chief Economic Development Officer for Tawazun, in the presence of H.E. Tareq Al Hosani, Chief Executive Officer of Tawazun, Musabbeh Al Kaabi, Chairman of Yahsat and Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of Yahsat.
Under the MoU, the new company will develop technologies and produce products around three main streams: Aeronautical Satcom Technologies, Satellite Modem Technologies and Enablement of other Satcom Products and Technologies. It will leverage the significant knowledge and expertise establishment in the UAE and will be complemented by select international experts to build a global leader in this sector. The first seed project entails the development of a protected, multi-platform satellite modem for government and defense markets in the UAE and internationally.
Yahsat will play an integral role in ensuring that the new company’s products meet the requirements of its government customers with a differentiated and targeted product strategy, enabling the UAE Government and other local and international users to address key technology development. It will source key product development capabilities from leading solution providers and manufacturers to lay the foundation for local production lines and integrated value chain management.
“Yahsat and Tawazun are playing a key role in accelerating the advancement of the satellite communications sector in the UAE, this collaboration is further testament to our country’s position as a global pioneer across a number of high growth sectors. These partnerships are vital to the diversification of the UAE’s economy, and we are committed to supporting our UAE Investments’ portfolio companies as they contribute to our nation’s sustainable growth,” said Musabbeh Al Kaabi, Chairman of Yahsat.
CEO Tawazun, H.E. Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani said: “At Tawazun, we seek to reaffirm Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading regional hub of strategic technologies and manufacturing. We are excited about the long-term prospects of our collaboration with Yahsat. In less than a decade since it launched its first satellite, Yahsat has grown to be one of the world’s leading satellite enterprises, with an enviable track record of accomplishments that are a source of pride to all Emiratis. Our collaboration stands to gain tremendously from Yahsat’s expertise and connections, spurring innovation and technology development within the UAE.”
Ali Al Hashemi, Chief Executive Officer Designate of Yahsat added: “Yahsat has always served as a catalyst for the diversification of the UAE’s economy. We have invested heavily in nation-building through our longstanding partnership with the UAE Armed Forces and various other initiatives, driving growth and new opportunities. In keeping with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, we now look forward to commencing homegrown production of advanced communication technologies so that the UAE can achieve its national objectives with greater autonomy. We are grateful to our country’s leadership and Tawazun for entrusting us with this opportunity to develop Emirati’s to serve the growing space sector.”
By developing bespoke solutions for critical national requirements, Tawazun and Yahsat expect to raise the bar for customer satisfaction, especially among key decision-makers in the UAE, GCC and beyond. Their mission is to capture value and establish the UAE as a producer of satellite-enabled defense communication technologies, entrenching its reputation as a sustainable and sovereign space economy. (Source: PR Newswire)
23 Feb 21. NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover touched down on the Red Planet last week, with DPA Microphones along for the historic ride. Outfitted with DPA’s 4006 Omnidirectional Microphone, MMA-A Digital Audio Interface and MMP-G Modular Active Cable, the rover provided the first sounds from the surface of Mars.
After being put through vigorous testing by NASA scientists, the DPA equipment, affixed to the Mars “Perseverance” Rover, officially launched into space aboard the Atlas V-541 rocket in July 2020. Over the past seven months, the DPA equipment has faced pressure changes while leaving Earth’s atmosphere and again when entering the Martian surface, and extreme temperatures — as low as -100 Celsius/-148 Fahrenheit — on Mars. Additionally, the DPA gear has endured the massive vibrations caused by the rocket launch and subsequent landing on Mars.
“It is an honor to have been chosen for this space mission, and we are so pleased by the results,” says DPA Product Manager René Mørch. “Everything about the mission — from the launch to the landing — is hostile insofar as a microphone is generally concerned. It’s very exciting to know that DPA was able to record something from so many millions of miles away, and have the sound travel back to us so quickly. We are proud to have worked with NASA for such a historic and important mission. To have been able to deliver audio from the surface of Mars is truly a crowning achievement.”
23 Feb 21. ‘Space Bridge’ across the world will help UK and Australia get ahead in global space race. The UK and Australia have signed a new ‘Space Bridge’ partnership to increase knowledge exchange and investment across the two countries’ space sectors.
The world’s first Space Bridge will unlock improved access to trade, investment and academic research opportunities, better advice to businesses and innovative bilateral collaborations. The UK and Australia share future ambitions for space and have similar plans to increase the size and job creation potential of the sector. This agreement will further develop the longstanding relationship between the two countries which dates back to the 1970s when the Prospero satellite built in Farnborough, UK, launched from Woomera, South Australia.
The arrangement enhances cooperation between the UK Space Agency, UK Department for International Trade, Australian Trade & Investment Commission, and the Australian Space Agency, coordinating opportunities for the UK and Australian governments and companies to work on space-related activities, including sharing Earth Observation data to collaborating on robotic and artificial intelligence.
UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
The signing of today’s Space Bridge partnership, a world’s first, with one of our closet international allies, is another step forward in our ambition for the UK to become a globally-competitive space power.
The bond will allow our most innovative space businesses and universities to collaborate and share best practice more effectively than ever. I’m excited to see how this partnership will unlock new space jobs in both countries while driving forward new ideas that could enrich all of our lives.
Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP said, “Space exports hit £5.5bn in 2017 and it is this international demand for our space goods and services which is driving the development of the UK’s vibrant and innovative space industry. Like the UK, Australia recognises the enormous potential of space science and recognises that closer partnership and alignment between our two sectors can boost progress and jobs in both countries. I believe that UK exports to Australia could grow by £900m as a result of a Free-Trade Agreement and the Space Bridge programme can play a critical role in space contributing to this growth, and further strengthening our UK-Australia relationship.”
The UK boasts strong Foreign Direct Investment levels into its space sector and the Australian space sector reports a strong appetite to expand operations into the UK. Leaders for Australia and UK’s space agencies recognise the importance of stronger space ties between both countries, as the UK ramps up plans to become a leading global player in space.
The announcement comes as the UK and Australia begin the fourth round of negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement this week. We have already made good progress in several chapter areas including digital, telecommunications, customs, rules of origin, and procurement in previous rounds.
Australia is influential in the Indo-Pacific and a Free-Trade Agreement will help us pivot towards this dynamic area of the world. This will help diversify our trade, make our supply chains more resilient, and make the UK less vulnerable to political and economic shocks.
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Space Agency, said, “As the UK extends its ambitions in space, it’s only right that we forge new and stronger alliances with new and existing partners all across the globe. This agreement has the potential to unleash innovation, promote knowledge exchange and build relationships that will help both the UK and Australia maximise the vast economic and scientific potential that the space sector offers. It will help create better opportunities and greater security for people in both nations.”
Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency, “The Space Bridge Framework Arrangement will help propel the Australian civil space industry into its next phase of growth, opening doors to build local capability, as well as significantly boost our collaboration with the UK Space Agency.”
The space sector is one of the fastest-growing UK sectors with 30,000 new jobs expected by 2030. The Australian space sector is also growing with up to 20,000 new Australian jobs expected by 2030.
The Space Bridge Framework Arrangement was signed on Tuesday, 23 February 2021 at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Canberra, Australia, and at Westminster, in London, United Kingdom.
The arrangement was signed by the Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Amanda Solloway, in the presence of British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell CMG MVO, High Commissioner to the UK The Hon George Brandis QC, Australian Space Agency Head Enrico Palermo, UK Space Agency Chief Executive Officer Dr Graham Turnock, UK Space Agency International Director Alice Bunn, Chair of UKSpace Nick Shave and Space Industry Association of Australia Chief Executive Officer James Brown, who joined the signing virtually. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
19 Feb 21. Geoscience Australia taps EOS for space data contract. EOS sensors have been selected to support Geoscience Australia’s satellite laser ranging operations.
Geoscience Australia and EOS have renewed an agreement to conduct satellite laser ranging operations, extending a 20-year relationship between the organisations.
The multimillion-dollar contract for up to five years is expected to drive growth in EOS’ Australia-based workforce and support the ASX-listed firm’s own investments in developing space domain awareness capabilities.
“Accurate laser ranging data produced by EOS is used by various international space agencies, like NASA, to accurately measure a satellite’s position in orbit, tectonic plate movements and for verifying GPS data,” CEO of EOS Space Systems Craig Smith said.
“Our partnership with Geoscience Australia shows that when government and industry can work together, Australia can make a real contribution to the global space community and actively grow high technology space jobs for Australians.” (Source: Space Connect)
14 Feb 21. Rocket Lab to Launch 100th Satellite and Prepare for Moon Mission by Deploying Next-Generation Photon Spacecraft. Rocket Lab, a launch provider and space systems company, announces their next mission will be to deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, and place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA later this year.
Scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula in mid-March, the ‘They Go Up So Fast’ mission will be Rocket Lab’s 19th Electron launch overall and second mission of 2021. The launch will bring the total number of satellites launched by Electron to 104.
Seven satellites feature on the mission manifest, including:
- An Earth-observation satellite for BlackSky via launch services provider Spaceflight Inc.;
- Two Internet-Of-Things (IoT) nanosatellites for companies Fleet Space and Myriota, procured by Tyvak;
- A technology demonstration satellite for the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space;
- a weather satellite pathfinder technology demonstration from Care Weather technologies;
- A technology demonstrator for the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) through launch integration and program management services provider, TriSept;
- and Rocket Lab’s in-house designed and built Photon Pathstone spacecraft which will operate on orbit as a risk reduction demonstration to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA later this year.
The six customer payloads will be integrated onto Photon, which will initially act as a Kick Stage space tug to circularize and deploy the satellites to precise orbits. After deploying the first five satellites to a 550 km circular orbit, Photon’s Curie engine will reignite to lower its attitude and deploy the final satellite to a 450 km orbit. The Curie engine’s unique ability to perform multiple relights on orbit enables Rocket Lab to deploy satellites to different orbits on the same launch. This level of payload deployment flexibility is typically reserved for dedicated missions but is a standard capability on all Electron missions.
Following payload deployment, Photon Pathstone will remain in orbit to build flight heritage across the spacecraft’s subsystems ahead of the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA later this year, as well as Rocket Lab’s private mission to Venus in 2023. Photon Pathstone will demonstrate power management, thermal control, and attitude control subsystems, as well as newly-integrated technologies including deep-space radio capability, an upgraded RCS (reaction control system) for precision pointing in space, and sun sensors and star trackers. Pathstone is the second Photon spacecraft to be deployed to orbit, following the launch of Photon First Light in August 2020.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, says deploying customer satellites and then continuing with an independent Photon mission is a unique capability that enables multiple missions on the same launch.
“We’re delighted to be delivering tailored access to orbit for our customers once again, many of whom have previously launched on Electron. With Photon, and likewise with the Kick Stage, we’re able to give our customers an unmatched level of control over their orbital insertion, even when flying as a rideshare,” he said. “What’s truly unique to Electron is the ability to deploy a range of customer satellites, then continue with a separate Photon mission. It means making multiple, distinct missions capable within the same launch, reducing the time, cost, and complexity of innovating on orbit. It’s nothing short of a complete transformation in the way we go to space.”
Organization: Rocket Lab
The Photon onboard this mission is the latest configuration of Rocket Lab’s in-house satellite platform built for operations in low Earth orbit, deep space, and on interplanetary missions. This mission follows the successful launch and deployment of Rocket Lab’s first Photon satellite fewer than six months ago on the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical mission in August 2020.
Payload: BlackSky Global Series
Organization: BlackSky, procured by Spaceflight Inc.
BlackSky will include a single Earth observation microsatellite. This is the seventh launch of a Gen-2 spacecraft to date. Spaceflight arranged the launch and is providing mission management and integration services for BlackSky.
Payload: Centauri 3
Organization: Fleet Space, procured by Tyvak
Centauri 3 is a newly-designed 6U NanoSat that will join Fleet Space’s planned constellation of 140 Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) satellites in low Earth orbit. Designed for use in the energy, utilities, and resource industries, the Centauri 3 will also test new hardware and space systems developed by Fleet Space that will support the 2023 Seven Sisters mission, a resource exploration mission by an Australian team of space, remote operations, and resource exploration companies that will launch nanosatellites and sensors to develop new resource exploration techniques for Earth, the Moon, and Mars, in support of NASA’s Artemis Program.
Payload: Myriota 7
Organization: Myriota, procured by Tyvak
Myriota is the global leader in low-cost, secure satellite connectivity for the Internet of Things. Myriota 7 is the latest addition to its satellite constellation, and forms part of a crucial next step for the business, as it moves towards near-real time connectivity. It will support Myriota’s customers by further improving its existing service, which provides access to data from anywhere on Earth. Myriota’s long battery life and direct-to-orbit connectivity supports products from technology partners servicing a wide range of industries including utilities, transport and logistics, supply chain, agriculture, mining and defence.
Payload: Veery Hatchling
Organization: Care Weather Technologies
The Veery Hatchling mission will test Care Weather’s vertically-integrated satellite power, computing, and avionics systems in a 1U CubeSat. It paves the way for Care Weather’s future constellation of scatterometric radar weather satellites capable of producing hourly maps of global wind speed and direction over the surface of the ocean. Veery Hatchling is the first step in Care Weather’s mission to save lives and livelihoods by better forecasting Earth’s extreme weather.
Organization: The University of New South Wales’s Canberra Space
This spacecraft from the University of New South Wales Canberra Space, in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force, will bring together emerging technologies that deliver advanced capabilities in earth observation, maritime surveillance, quantum computing, advanced AI, and laser communications. M2 follows on from the successful M2 Pathfinder mission deployed in June 2020 on Rocket Lab’s 12th mission, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.
Organization: U.S. Army’s SMDC, procured by TriSept
TriSept procured the rideshare slot on Electron for the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC). Gunsmoke-J is an experimental 3U CubeSat that will test technologies that support development of new capabilities for the U.S Army. “TriSept is thrilled to be providing the rideshare slot, dispenser hardware, regulatory compliance in both the U.S. and New Zealand, and spacecraft integration for this important technology demonstration in space. We look forward to the integration of this small but game-changing payload aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron,” said TriSept CEO, Rob Spicer. (Source: Satnews)
18 Feb 21. SES GS To Provide Portable Maritime Comms Solutions To Support U.S. Service Members Overseas. SES Government Solutions (SES GS) has been awarded a new, portable, maritime solution task order against the single-award, Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for MEO, low-latency, HTS services. The solution leverages the O3b MEO satellite constellation operating 8,000 km around the Earth.
The Department of Defense procured a portable MEO service to support forward deployed U.S. military personnel. Initial deployment of the service exceeded customer expectations and was well received. This represents a significant breakthrough with the DoD using O3b MEO capabilities for portable, high-throughput, low-latency services.
SES GS’s solution integrates the O3b MEO system with a portable antenna and is designed to support both portability and freedom of movement. The self-contained ruggedized design houses all equipment in a rack system with AC unit, power distribution and a battery backup system and can achieve upwards of 400 x 200 Mbps of throughput over the O3b network.
With its new portable maritime solution, SES GS provides unprecedented connectivity in support of the deployed U.S. DoD personnel and looks forward to continuing mission support with its next-generation O3b mPOWER capability.
“The need to provide resilient and diverse satellite communications is critical to meeting Department of Defense SATCOM requirements,” said President and CEO of SES Government Solutions, Brigadier General Pete Hoene, USAF (retired). “This industrial-grade, high-throughput, low-latency capability has been integrated into a turnkey MEO terminal and can be scaled up or down based on the number of users and support requirements. The demonstrated throughput is unsurpassed in a portable maritime system of this size.”
16 Feb 21. Norway Enlists Canada’s Space Flight Laboratory to Develop Demonstrator Microsatellite. Norway’s Norwegian Space Agency (NOSA) has enlisted the expertise of Canada’s Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to develop the NorSat Technology Demonstrator (TD) microsatellite. With a primary mission of testing out new technologies in space, NorSat-TD will validate payloads and concepts from Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Italy. SFL, which developed the operational NorSat-1 and -2 microsatellites launched in 2017, as well as NorSat-3 expected to launch in Q2 2021, has been contracted to design and build the NorSat-TD spacecraft and perform integration and testing of all systems and payloads. NorSat-TD has completed its final design review and been slated for launch in 2022.
“The Norwegian Coastal Administration relies on NorSat-1 and -2 to accurately track large commercial vessels in its territorial waters and beyond,” said SFL Director, Dr. Robert E. Zee. “NorSat-TD will fly technology that is planned to augment the ship tracking capability of Norway with a miniaturized AIS-receiver and aims to expand the technology available for future missions, including micropropulsion, precise point positioning and laser-based communications.”
NorSat-1, -2 and -3 were built on SFL’s 15-kg NEMO microsatellite platform, measuring 20x20x40 cm. Due to the additional payloads planned for NorSat-TD, the demonstration satellite will be developed using SFL’s larger 30x30x40-cm DEFIANT microsatellite bus with a mass of 35 kg.
“You can think of DEFIANT as a NEMO platform that doesn’t require a dispenser,” said Zee.
NorSat-TD represents impressive technological collaboration among European nations. Multiple advanced or experimental payloads will see their first applications in orbit aboard the microsatellite:
Fifth Generation AIS Receiver – An advanced version of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers developed by Kongsberg Seatex of Trondheim, Norway, as primary instruments for the first three NorSats, this miniaturized device with CubeSat form factor will receive AIS signals broadcast by large commercial maritime vessels. AIS enables the locations and status of ships to be tracked and monitored. The new NorSat-TD receiver will also be used to test the Internet of Things in the Arctic, according to NOSA.
Small Communication Active Terminal (SmallCAT) – Developed by TNO, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, this instrument is also intended to support the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment’s experiments with laser communications between the satellite their ground station, a potential gamechanger in the data volume that is possible from microsatellites in orbit.
VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) – From Space Norway, an advanced communication system that first flew on NorSat-2 has been improved to enable higher bandwidth, more reliable two-way communications among and between satellites, ships, and land. Working together, NorSat-2 and NorSat-TD will provide greater communication capacity for ships in Norwegian waters, according to NOSA.
Onboard Laser Reflector – A miniaturized laser reflector developed by the Italian INRI SCF research laboratory will be used to track NorSat-TD with ground-based lasers in Norway, France, and Italy.
Satellite Collision Avoidance – Space Star, a space-based GPS instrument developed by Fugro will be tested as a highly accurate means of determining a satellite’s position in orbit for improved situational awareness.
Iodine-Fueled Electric Propulsion – ThrustMe, a French startup, has developed a new thruster designed to change a satellite’s orbit, which will be tested on NorSat-TD. One potential future use of the thruster will be to move a spent satellite to a lower orbit, so it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere rather than leaving behind space debris.
NorSat-TD will be the seventh satellite developed by SFL for Norway. SFL built and integrated the AISSat-1 nanosatellite launched in 2010 to determine if reception of AIS signals in orbit was feasible. AISSat-1 proved so robust that Norway soon commissioned it as an operational ship-tracking mission. Subsequently, additional AISSats were built and launched and a new line of higher capacity microsatellites, the NorSats, were developed.
“NOSA is glad to be working with SFL on this demanding project. The flexibility of SFL and their micro-satellite platforms have met the varied and demanding challenges of this multi-mission technology demonstrator. We feel that this mission is again pushing the envelope for what we are able accomplish with these fast-paced low footprint projects,” said NorSat-TD Project Manager, Tyler Jones.
SFL is a unique microspace provider that offers a complete suite of nano-, micro- and small satellites – including high-performance, low-cost CubeSats – that satisfy the needs of a broad range of mission types from 3 to 500 kilograms. Dating from 1998, SFL’s heritage of on-orbit successes includes 65 distinct missions related to Earth observation, atmospheric monitoring, ship tracking, communication, radio frequency (RF) geolocation, technology demonstration, space astronomy, solar physics, space plasma, and other scientific research.
In its 23-year history, SFL has developed CubeSats, nanosatellites, and microsatellites that have achieved more than 135 cumulative years of operation in orbit. These microspace missions have included SFL’s attitude control and, in some cases, formation-flying capabilities. Other core SFL-developed components include modular (scalable) power systems, onboard radios, flight computers, and control software. (Source: Satnews)
18 Feb 21. SpaceX Sights Set For South Africa + UPDATE1: Omnispace Hybrid Mobile Network Afoot. Elon Musk’s Starlink broadband-by-satellite system has added South Africa as a target market. South Africa’s media and telecoms regulator ICASA (Independent Communication Authority of South Africa) confirming that SpaceX is in discussion with the regulator about obtaining a license to operate in the country.
To operate in South Africa and to provide its satellite-based internet service in South Africa, SpaceX will need to acquire an Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS) and Individual Electronics Communications Service license.
“ICASA had a brief meeting with SpaceX about the regulatory requirements last week. A further meeting will be held in due course on the same matter,” the Authority told local press.
However, there’s a potential technical problem. South Africa is the host of the giant Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope which is based in a recognized ‘Radio Quiet Zone’ and extremely isolated location where external interference is minimal.
The SKA operates in the 10.6-10.7 GHz band. SpaceX uses the 10.7-12.7 GHz bands for its downlinks to users. The organization behind the SKA is worried that these downlinks from a multitude of LEO Starlink satellites will simply saturate and drown out the sensitive SKA signals.
Starlink has been widely reported to be looking to start services globally during 2022, and including South Africa.
Also of note is that Omnispace, a relatively new name in the satellite industry, states the company’s mission statement is to “redefine mobile connectivity for the 21st century.” The firm has recently raised $60m (49.3m euros) in equity financing.
Omnispace wants to build a global, 5G, hybrid mobile network and has already booked launch space on a SpaceX rocket for the company’s two satellites that being built by Thales Alenia Space for launch in 2022. Their aim is to set new standards for global connectivity solutions for the IoT, mobile satellite and mobile broadband markets.
“Omnispace is rethinking how communications networks operate. The launch of these satellites will enable the first phase of implementation towards delivering our world-class hybrid network, bringing the power of 5G from space to mobile networks, anywhere around the world,” said Ram Viswanathan, CEO, Omnispace.
The company’s strategy is to use terrestrial repeaters, and very low-cost ground (and vehicle) antennas which, with satellite coverage, can provide global coverage. The company says it will tap into 4G and 5G coverage from the likes of Verizon and Vodafone — then there’s its satellite constellation which will also use S-band transmissions.
Overall, the company says it will invest in about 200 LEO satellites and fewer than 15 MEO satellites. Omnispace owned the former ICO Global site in Queensland, Australia. The firm owns the ICO antennas in Germany. Sites in Dubai, South Africa, Chile and Mexico City are owned by the respective teleports in those locations. The company also has a key “partnership” position with Intelsat and it has outsourced its operations to that company. An Intelsat director sits on Omnispace’s board of directors. (Source: Satnews)
15 Feb 21. Aquarius VSAT Beams Out From Gilat With 5G and LEO/MEO Support. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT) has launched their next generation family of VSATs — Aquarius — supporting 5G networks and LEO/MEO constellations. These ultra-high-performance, multi-orbit VSATs provide more than 2 Gigabits per second of concurrent speeds and support seamless satellite handover.
As 5G networks are deployed and customer demands continue to exponentially grow, Gilat’s Aquarius VSATs are designed to serve, with maximum efficiency, data and media intensive applications such as cellular 5G backhauling, maritime and enterprise. The VSATs exhibit ultra-high processing capabilities achieving unprecedented high throughputs for both downloads and uploads including high packets-per-second processing to meet the high-performance demands.
The Aquarius VSAT capabilities, coupled with Gilat’s long-time experience and patented cellular backhaul technology, make it the solution of choice for enabling Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to deliver their customers a true 5G experience over satellite.
In addition, the Aquarius family is designed to provide uninterrupted service, supporting next-generation software-defined satellites in GEO and NGSO constellations. Aquarius enables seamless operation, “make before break,” using open standard terminal interfaces, especially important in LEO constellations that require frequent satellite handovers.
The Aquarius follows multiple industry-first achievements that have been demonstrated in a series of tests over GEO and LEO satellites by Gilat. Already in 2019, in two different occasions, the company demonstrated record performance in the first-ever 5G connectivity over Telesat’s Phase-1 LEO:
“As the industry progresses to 5G networks and NGSO constellations it is critical for the ground segment to evolve to meet the needs of these high-demand applications,” said Alik Shimelmits, Chief Technology & Product Officer at Gilat. “Gilat’s next generation family of VSATs, Aquarius, are designed to meet needs of a wide range of bandwidth hungry applications and thus incorporate a wide-set of innovative technological achievements, including remarkable speeds and seamless support for multiple satellites.”
“Satellite communications is an integral enabler of the 5G connectivity vision, providing the scale and scope to enable ubiquitous connectivity, as essential to materialize the vision of redefining the global experience,” said Asaf Jivilik, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Gilat. “Gilat, as the recognized leader in cellular backhaul over satellite, is well positioned to become a major participant in the evolving 5G ecosystem, having proven multiple times that its technology is ready to support the 5G experience, that will directly influence the way people live and work.” (Source: Satnews)
18 Feb 21. Kymeta Unveils Their Global TRANSEC Secure Network. Kymeta will begin offering the first commercially available iDirect TRANSEC network, ensuring that its customers and partners can receive the highest levels of encryption, authentication, and traffic concealment, exceeding the current requirements outlined by the U.S. government.
This first-of-its-kind satellite service offering provides full compliance with numerous Federal and DOD standards, including the January 2021 DoD Instruction 8523.01.
This new service, paired with the Kymeta™ u8 GOV, which includes iDirect’s 950mp modem, along with iDirect’s latest interference mitigation software, allows for the most secure and reliable satellites services to date.
The iDirect Government 950mp, boasts an overall 30% size, weight and power (SWaP) reduction. Designed for integration into highly portable satellite terminals, it features FIPS 140-2 Level 3 TRANSEC and is designed to operate within all Ku-, C-, Ka- and X-bands including WGS frequency ranges, providing flexibility in secure deployments.
The Kymeta Global TRANSEC Secure Network (GTSN), supported by Lepton Global Solutions, a Kymeta company, offers the highest level of security, encryption, and authentication while maintaining the quality of service needed to support voice, video, and data over satellite. It precludes adversaries monitoring the TRANSEC-enabled network from extracting any useful information from the protected network.
The Kymeta Global TRANSEC Secure Network covers the U.S., Middle East and Europe and secures VSAT transmissions from interception and exploitation by incorporating encryption inherent in COMSEC, conforming to 256-bit AES as specified by the Federal Information Processing Center (FIPS) 140-2.
The integration of the iDirect 950mp modem in the u8 GOV offers government, military and other users who require enhanced security features the same revolutionary software-defined, electronic beam steered antenna system with the ability to operate on iDirect’s Government platform, including TRANSEC. iDirect Certificate Authority (CA) issues x.509 digital certificate to ensure proper authentication between the remote terminal and the hub.
Kymeta Global TRANSEC Secure Network is compliant with existing FIPS 140-2 certification from Level 2 to Level 3 requirements as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The TRANSEC network is available today, and compatible with the Kymeta u8 and other hardware used in the industry.
Kymeta recently launched its next-generation antenna, terminal and services in Q4 of 2020, and has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the industry.
“Over the past 18 months we have seen a significant demand for secure, uninterrupted satellite communications from our U.S. Government and other customers,” said Rob Weitendorf, VP, Business Development, Kymeta. “With the launch of this new service, we will be able to deliver on what has been needed and mandated. TRANSEC requires all system control channels to be encrypted so that any traffic engineering information is obfuscated from an adversary, making our TRANSEC-enabled network highly secure and capable of mitigating threats and maintaining operational security.”
Lepton Global Solutions, a Kymeta company, hosts the company’s satellite connectivity solutions and offers unique, complete, and turnkey bundled solutions to the market based on best-in-class technologies and tailored customer-centric services that meet and exceed customer mission requirements. These solutions in tandem with the company’s flat-panel satellite antenna, the first of its kind, and Kymeta Connect™ services provide revolutionary mobile connectivity on satellite and hybrid satellite-cellular networks to customers around the world. Backed by U.S. and international patents and licenses, the Kymeta terminal addresses the need for lightweight, slim, and high-throughput communication systems that do not require mechanical components to steer toward a satellite. Kymeta makes connecting easy – for any vehicle, vessel, or fixed platform. Kymeta is a privately held company based in Redmond, Washington. (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.