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25 Mar 21. Space Force begins loaning anti-jamming GPS tech to allies. The U.S. Space Force created a three-year arrangement for allies to borrow and test equipment for navigation that uses a new GPS signal that is difficult to jam or spoof.
The M-Code signal developed for the military is intended to provide more resilient GPS access to war fighters.
Under the new agreement, allies will be able to take receiver cards for M-Code-ready Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) technology on loan for laboratory and field testing, the Space and Missile Systems Center announced March 24.
The arrangement became effective in December 2020, with Canada being the first cosigner of the document. The first receivers were delivered in February, SMC said. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Korea are set to receive the technology, while Australia, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands are expected to join the agreement later this year.
In November, SMC announced that it had received its first order for MGUE with M-Code capability from Germany. At the time, the center noted that it was working to facilitate more foreign military sales, while developing loan agreements for early testing.
While there are about two dozen GPS satellites on orbit capable of broadcasting M-Code, the new signal has been held up by significant delays on the ground. A 2019 Government Accountability Office report noted that the $6.2 billion Next Generation Operational Control System being built by Raytheon Technologies was five years behind schedule. Delivery of that system is expected this summer.
In the interim, the U.S. Air Force issued a contract to Lockheed Martin in 2017 to build an upgrade to the current GPS ground system called M-Code Early Use, a limited version of the M-Code signal. MCEU was approved for everyday use in March 2020, with the necessary hardware and software upgrades to the ground system completed in July. MCEU was declared operational in November. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 21. Myriota nanosatellites to support Rocket Lab mission. The Adelaide-based company is set to launch IoT commercial services in the US and Canada, as part of its contribution to a Rocket Lab mission.
Myriota, a local provider of low-cost connectivity for the internet of things (IoT), has announced it would supply the first of three new nanosatellites launching on Rocket Lab’s ‘They Go Up So Fast’ mission.
The seven-kilogram nanosatellites, which are expected to be available to commercial customers in the US and Canada for the first time, are designed to deliver an improved, second-generation Myriota Network.
Specifically, Myriota’s second-generation network is expected to:
- reduce latency and enable faster transfer of data between assets located anywhere on Earth and Myriota’s constellation;
- increase uplink capacity on the network, allowing customers to send larger amounts of data from devices each day;
- increase downlink capacity on the network, enhancing Myriota’s cloud-to-device communications capabilities including existing over-the-air updates; and
- support the activation of commercial network services in the US and Canada.
“The launch of our second-generation network ushers in a new era for the global IoT sector – one where data from devices is accessible anywhere on the planet in a secure and affordable manner,” Dr David Haley, Myriota CTO and co-founder, said.
“Myriota certified devices developed by our customers are already in the hands of end users and are revolutionising their industries. With our second-generation platform they will now be able to send more messages and larger amounts of data each day.
“We are very excited to be launching our commercial service in the US and Canada. This expansion puts us in pole position in the race to provide connectivity everywhere to support a global IoT market that is expected to triple in size to more than 25.4 billion devices by 2030.”
The Rocket Lab launch is the first of several planned missions to be supported by Myriota in 2021. (Source: Defence Connect)
25 Mar 21. CubeSats launch onboard Rocket Labs shuttle. UNSW Canberra confirmed that their M2 CubeSat satellites entered orbit yesterday, having launched onboard Rocket Labs’ ridesharing shuttle in New Zealand.
The satellites, delivered as part of a joint venture between UNSW Canberra Space and the Royal Australian Air Force, is hoped to improved Australia’s Earth observation and communications capabilities in space.
Professor Russell Boyce, director of UNSW Canberra Space, welcomed the successful launch.
“The M2 mission is one of the most complex CubeSat programs ever attempted. It will enable both UNSW Canberra Space and the RAAF to gain experience and capability in the development and operation of in-orbit space science and technology missions,” Professor Boyce said.
“As we depend on space infrastructure for resource management, secure communications and data collection during extreme weather events and bushfires, building our sovereign space capabilities is critical for Australian security.”
Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Head of Air Force Capability, further confirmed that the CubeSat program the massive step in Australia’s space capabilities.
“The two satellites will be able to communicate with each other, as well as ground stations back here on Earth, giving better quality data, with greater detail and less lag time – all fundamentally important for Australia’s defence. This innovative home-grown approach has been designed to meet Australia’s unique requirements for sovereign space capability,” AVM Roberts said.
Project lead Andrin Tomaschett confirmed that the CubeSats were primarily devised and constructed in Australia.
“The M2 mission is our most complex yet and it’s great to be launching again with Rocket Lab,” Tomaschett said.
“M2 comprises two connected spacecraft that will separate on-orbit to engage in formation flying, followed by a multitude of radio frequency, imaging and laser experiments.
“The M2 Pathfinder successfully tested various in-house technologies, including on-board computing, attitude control, GPS, optical imaging, communications and flight software.” (Source: Space Connect)
24 Mar 21. Leaf Space, a Leading Ground Segment as-a-Service Provider, Announces U.S. Expansion. Italian company propelled by the boom in the NewSpace economy builds upon European success, launches operations in the U.S..
Leaf Space, a leading provider of ground segment as-a-service (GSaaS) solutions, announced today that the company is expanding to the United States and will support their rapidly growing list of U.S.-based customers while also adding new ground stations to existing infrastructure. Headquartered in Lomazzo, Italy, Leaf Space enables full exploitation of space data to satellite and launch vehicle operators.
Leaf Space’s ground station antenna in the Azores. Leaf Space is a leading provider of ground station as-a-service (GSaaS) solutions and has announced the company’s expansion to the U.S.
Since Leaf Space’s inception in 2014, the company has focused on developing robust ground station services and technology with the goal of creating the most efficient and valuable GSaaS solutions available on the modern space market. The company has achieved great success working in partnership with over 15 customers including Astrocast, D-Orbit, and the European Space Agency (ESA) to increase performance and availability of crucial data while simultaneously lowering costs and decreasing latency.
Now, Leaf Space is expanding operations to the U.S. to service existing customers including Kleos Space, Momentus, Kepler Communications, and Swarm, as well as introducing the company’s innovative GSaaS solutions to a growing market of satellite and launch vehicle operators. Leaf Space is also adding more ground stations to existing infrastructure to amplify the company’s ability to provide customers with the highest-quality ground station services, at lower costs.
“There is a clear appetite among U.S. satellite and launch vehicle operators to simplify, outsource, and maximize the value from ground services and we believe that need is only going to grow,” said Jai Dialani, Head of U.S. Business Development and M.D. of Leaf Space in the U.S. “Leaf Space is uniquely positioned to provide expert level GSaaS solutions built upon years of experience with high-profile customers overseas, yet we are nimble enough to offer customers flexible solutions that support their unique business needs and mission requirements at scale.”
Leaf Space pioneered the concept of GSaaS for forward-thinking satellite and launch vehicle operators around the world. The company already provides GSaaS solutions for RF intelligence company Kleos Space, ensuring reliable and efficient communication with their satellite clusters in orbit.
“We have been working with Leaf Space on our ground segment operations for over a year and the expertise they provide is very valuable to us,” said Andrew Bowyer, CEO of Kleos. “Leaf Space’s GSaaS flexibility and commitment to partnership allowed us to build a solution that fits our individual needs. We are thrilled to see Leaf Space grow into the U.S. market and congratulate them on this major milestone.”
Leaf Space currently offers GSaaS solutions for satellite and launch vehicle operators throughout the entire lifecycle of their satellite or launcher’s operations, beginning with launch and early operations (LEOP), ongoing mission operations, and extending through decommissioning of the space asset. Leaf Space’s services include Leaf Line, a fully managed, multi-mission and flexible ground segment service; Leaf Key, a dedicated ground station management service, ideal for medium-large constellations; and even launch vehicle tracking as-a-service.
“While we were one of the first companies to introduce the idea of GSaaS solutions, we have seen the vertical grow exponentially alongside the explosion of the smallsat industry and we anticipate the demand for GSaaS solutions will continue to grow,” said Jonata Puglia, co-founder and CEO of Leaf Space group. “Leaf Space’s expansion to the U.S. is an exciting next step for our company and I look forward to seeing what our ambitious team will achieve as we work to simplify access to space.”
Leaf Space’s U.S. expansion comes just after the company announced its Series A round, which included investment from Whysol Investments, Primo Space, and RedSeed Ventures bringing Leaf Space’s total funding to €10 million.
About Leaf Space
Leaf Space is pioneering the concept of ground segment as-a-service (GSaaS) for forward-thinking satellite and launch operators around the world. Since its inception in 2014, Leaf Space has focused on developing the highest quality ground station services and technology with the goal of creating the most efficient and valuable ground segment solutions available on the modern space market. Leaf Space is based in Lomazzo, Italy and is funded by RedSeed Ventures, Whysol Investments, and Primo Space. For more information, please visit: leaf.space.
(Source: PR Newswire)
24 Mar 21. Russia has begun spaceplane project, says Soviet shuttle designer. Russia is developing a reusable spaceplane, a subsidiary of the Kalashnikov conglomerate said on Wednesday, in Russia’s first such project since the late Soviet Union’s ill-fated Buran space shuttle.
A full-size model of the plane was presented at a closed pavilion during a Russian military forum last year and the project is now under development, said the general director of the Molniya research-to-production facility.
“The goal has now been set and the development of a multi-use civilian complex with an orbital plane is in full swing,” Olga Sokolova was quoted as saying in comments posted on Molniya’s website.
The Molniya facility designed the long-mothballed Buran space shuttle in the 1980s in response the launch of the U.S. space shuttle programme during the Cold War era.
But the Buran flew only once. Though it made a successful return trip from the Baikonur cosmodrome in 1988, the programme went no further because authorities struggled to find a use for the shuttle before the Soviet Union was dismantled and funding dried up.
The end of the Soviet era was followed by years of accidents and setbacks for the national space programme, including the 2002 collapse of the roof to the cosmodrome hangar where the Buran was stored.
The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, said in May last year that Moscow was considering developing a piloted spaceplane, adding that the Buran had been ahead of its time. (Source: Reuters)
24 Mar 21. Scottish-based space companies secure £8.5m to bring pioneering launch technologies to market. 2 British space companies have successfully secured a total of £8.5m to develop their world-leading small satellite launch technologies. Orbex and Skyrora, both based in Scotland, received the funding under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! initiative and will use the money to develop their world-leading launch technologies further and bring them to market. This will support government’s vision for the UK to be at the global forefront of the commercial small satellite launch market.
New small satellite constellations will improve our access to data and communications and revolutionise services such as satellite navigation and Earth observation, enhancing the way we see ourselves and interact with our planet.
Orbex, an orbital launch services company based in Forres near Inverness, has been awarded over £6m, the largest Boost! award so far, to support development of their innovative Prime launch vehicle which will launch small satellites into orbit from Space Hub Sutherland in 2023.
Prime is fueled by bio-propane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel which reduces CO2 emissions by 90% compared to kerosene-based fuels and has been designed to leave zero debris in orbit around the Earth. The Prime rocket is being built in Orbex’s Forres design and manufacturing site which currently employs 40 people and is looking to expand further to cater for the growing market for UK launch.
Scottish rocket company, Skyrora has received £2.5m to complete the development of their Skyrora XL launch vehicle which will carry small satellites into orbit. This will contribute to the creation of an additional 170 jobs directly within the company and will trigger onward job creation across the UK’s space, manufacturing and engineering sectors. The vehicle is on course to be test-launched in 2022 from a UK spaceport.
The UK invested £12m into the Boost! programme in 2019, one of the largest investments from ESA member states. The funding will also enable Skyrora and Orbex to benefit from ESA’s pioneering facilities, technical teams and business networks.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway, “The UK’s space industry is thriving and we have bold ambitions to be Europe’s leading destination for small satellite launches, developing world class commercial spaceflight capability up and down the country. Today’s funding for two of our most innovative space businesses is not only a step forward for UK spaceflight, but it will also help to create highly skilled jobs and local opportunities as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Ian Annett, Deputy CEO, UK Space Agency said, “This funding is great news for the UK space sector and will ensure companies such as Orbex and Skyrora really are at the forefront of the European space industry. This support to our thriving space sector, alongside our flexible regulations and strong international agreements, means the UK is well placed to benefit from the new commercial opportunities UK launch will bring.”
Rachel Maclean, Transport Minister, Department for Transport said, “Today’s announcement is another key step in paving the way for space launches from British soil. By supporting these innovative businesses, we can help enable a thriving commercial spaceflight market within the UK. Along with the most modern piece of space legislation in the world, we are cementing our leading role in this sector, unlocking a new era in commercial spaceflight for all four corners of our nation.”
Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex said, “We very much appreciate the investment in new, commercially-focused space launch services from ESA’s new Boost! Programme.
We’re especially grateful for the strong support we received from the UK Space Agency in a wide range of areas. Orbex´s environmentally sustainable rockets will soon be launching commercially for the first time from the UK, and ESA’s recognition of the economic opportunities this brings to the whole of Europe is significant to our progress.”
Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora said, “Receiving funding from the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency is excellent news. It will help Skyrora accelerate progress towards our orbital launcher’s flight readiness, Skyrora XL, from UK soil in 2022.”
Skyrora has already delivered four launches, established manufacturing and engine test facilities throughout Scotland and performed the static fire test of our orbital third stage. Furthermore, our pioneering work to achieve environmentally friendly spaceflight, such as our eco-fuel, will help establish the UK not only as a world leader in space technology but also the greenest space industry in the world.
The UK aims to be the first country in Europe to offer small satellite manufacturers a direct end to end route to launch. Earlier this month, Government published its response to the Spaceflight consultation, paving the way for the UK to install a regulatory and guidance framework to enable commercial small satellite launch from 2022.
The government’s Integrated Review into security, defence, development and foreign policy, published on 16 March, reaffirms the government’s commitment to making the UK a leading player in space, including through the UK’s first national space strategy by June.
This will bring new jobs and economic benefits to communities and organisations right across the UK, as well as inspire the next generation of space scientists and engineers.
The European Space Agency is not an EU organisation, and the UK remains a member of ESA. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Mar 21. The first two Airbus-built Pléiades Neo imaging satellites have arrived at Cayenne airport, French Guiana and are now en route to the European Space Centre in Kourou.
Scheduled to launch in April 2021 on a Vega launcher, Pléiades Neo 3, the first of the new generation of very high-resolution satellites will join the existing Airbus fleet of optical and radar satellites, with increased resolution, revisit and coverage. It will be closely followed by its twin, Pléiades Neo 4, also scheduled for launch on a Vega rocket a few weeks later.
Entirely funded, manufactured, owned and operated by Airbus, Pléiades Neo will provide commercial and institutional customers with high-level insights for the next decade. Each satellite will add half a million km² per day at 30cm native resolution. The images will be easily accessible on Airbus’ OneAtlas digital platform, allowing customers immediate access to both freshly acquired and archive data, as well as extensive analytics.
Comprising four identical satellites, the Pléiades Neo fleet will work hand in hand with the existing Pléiades satellites. The highly compact Pléiades Neo spacecraft have a light weight, next generation silicon carbide optical instrument. They also have inter-satellite links with SpaceDataHighway (EDRS) geostationary satellites to enable urgent acquisitions just 30 to 40 minutes following the tasking request to swiftly respond to the most critical situations.
“Pléiades Neo is a game changer for Airbus and its geo-intelligence customers. Thanks to our disruptive and bold investments we can offer a state of the art constellation delivering 30cm resolution imagery in near real-time, opening up a completely new range of applications to give our customers more detail, more quickly,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, head of Space Systems at Airbus.
23 Mar 21. Spirent GNSS Simulator Enhanced with Unrivalled Update Rate and Interference Testing Capabilities. Spirent Federal Systems, the nation’s leading provider of positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) test solutions, announces several new enhancements to its GSS9000 Series constellation simulator that benefit the U.S. military and prime government contractors. These enhancements offer unrivalled precision and realism in global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signal simulation.
The first enhancement is a doubling of the software and hardware update rate to 2 kHz: a 2 kHz simulation iteration rate provides GSS9000 users with the ability to improve accuracy of simulated trajectories without compromising performance. This is of particular benefit to military high-dynamic applications, such as space missions and hypersonic or spinning vehicles, such as missiles. A high-rate iteration of the simulation motion models and pseudorange calculations is needed to allow determination of spin rotational direction. The GSS9000 now supports execution of these calculations against current scenario run-time at .5 millisecond intervals.
“The 2 kHz simulation iteration rate provides significant benefits to Spirent Federal’s U.S. government customers,” said Roger Hart, Director of Engineering for Spirent Federal. “With effectively zero latency for hardware-in-the-loop simulation, our customers are positioned for success in their ultra-high-dynamic applications. This level of accuracy is unmatched in the industry.”
Multi-faceted interference testing enhancements now give the GSS9000 even greater power and flexibility. Extended interference ground transmitter (GTx) capabilities allow larger or denser jamming fields to be produced. Spirent has increased the carrier offset range from ±5 to ±25 MHz to support interference testing on wide spectrum signals, increased bandwidth resolution and repetition rates, and added variable bandwidth control on additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN). The GSS9000 supports Blue Force Electronic Attack (BFEA) jamming waveforms, allowing users to create scenarios to test military GPS user equipment (MGUE) TRD (technical requirements document) threshold and objective requirements. Additionally, a new advanced spoofing feature supports repeaters/meaconing; spoofer transmitters can now be enabled as ground-based repeaters.
“Our jamming and spoofing simulation enhancements underscore Spirent’s commitment to be first to provide new capabilities to our customers, so as military PNT equipment evolves, our customers’ testing can stay ahead of that evolution,” stated Jennifer Smith, Spirent Federal’s Director of Business Development. “These interference GTx capabilities add to our already-robust MNSA M-code test environments to greatly benefit MGUE developers and integrators.”
The third enhancement is an extended scenario duration of 65 days. In a simulation environment, where control and repeatability are key for a realistic representation of the mission, reducing the number of user inputs is essential. The new update will use the same initial conditions for the simulation throughout the duration of testing to deliver uninterrupted high-performance simulation.
The enhancements to the Spirent GSS9000 series will be available to new and existing customers at the beginning of Q2, 2021. For more information, visit the GSS9000 Series product page. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
23 Mar 21. Kymeta Interoperability with Kepler LEO Satellites Promises Powerful Connectivity of the Future with Kymeta™ u8 Terminal.
Extended testing in Inuvik, Canada shows Kymeta u8 approaching speeds 10X faster than previous generations in extreme weather conditions and temperatures.
Kymeta (www.kymetacorp.com), the communications company making mobile global, and Kepler Communications (www.kepler.space) announced today the successful demonstration of the Kymeta u8 Terminal with LEO satellite acquisition, tracking and throughput measurements, during extreme cold weather temperatures. The collaboration with Kepler supports Kymeta’s goal to develop solutions that are future proof with a clear LEO upgrade path and compatible with growing mega constellations.
In 2020, Kepler was selected for an extended u8 beta trial to capture the extended Northern winter in Inuvik, Canada. Frequent revisit times from the Kepler LEO satellites combined with the local environment of unprotected cold weather, snow, and ice provided a unique testing opportunity for the latest Kymeta technology. Results have demonstrated a significant increase in performance with lower latency, enhanced look angles and speeds that are approaching 10X faster than earlier products with higher throughput and total data passed.
The u8 system is designed to work down to -40oC. During testing, Kymeta and Kepler were able to update software facilitating the testing of new algorithms in real time. Updates included capabilities of on-board FPGA-based tracking receivers, which allowed for usage of channels more than 2 times larger than previous demonstrations.
Testing results exceeded expectations during these cold weather trials with average uplink and downlink speeds of 100 Mbps, providing the ability to transfer more than two gigabytes of data with each pass. Initial testing was completed using linear polarization on the u8 – in a future software upgrade the addition of circular polarization support will lead to additional increases in data transfer speeds.
“Kepler has been a great trial partner because they are agile and able to make adjustments for optimized performance at the same time we are adjusting the u8 terminal,” said David Harrower, Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Kymeta. “Many of our customers are interested in compatibility with LEO satellite services, and this testing helps ensure the longevity of the u8 and Kymeta Connect as well as offer a solution that takes advantage of the increased utility of LEO satellites.”
“The performance of the Kymeta u8 with Kepler’s Global Data Service has exceeded our expectations,” said Wen Cheng Chong, Kepler’s CTO and Co-Founder. “Our recent testing and development efforts demonstrated not only the ability to move many more gigabytes of data than expected with each pass, but also the u8’s ability to operate in polar environments, where many of Kepler’s early adopters operate. With Kepler’s recently increased capacity the u8 can serve customers globally, pole-to-pole and all points in between.”
In January, Kepler launched 8 new satellites via SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program. On March 22nd, Kepler launched an additional two satellites via the Soyuz-2, expanding its active constellation to 15 satellites in total. An additional launch is planned for June. Kymeta believes the collaboration with Kepler and further testing is instrumental to providing reliable connectivity and superior benefits to customers.
Kymeta next-generation solutions are built for mobility and designed specifically for the needs of global defense agencies, government, public safety, and commercial customers. Through the launch of the u8 and Kymeta Connect, the company has meaningfully increased antenna throughput and reduced the total cost of ownership. Its products offer a breakthrough in performance, ease of use, and hybrid satellite-cellular connectivity services. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
24 Mar 21. “The place is getting congested, it’s getting contested.” UK’s leading space commander calls for international regulation of the space domain. Speaking at an online King’s College London event yesterday, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, inaugural commander of the newly established Space Command, discussed the need for accepted international norms and behaviours, not just from countries but also businesses operating in the space environment.
He was joined by Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, Ministry of Defence Director Space at the first ever in conversation event in front of a public audience between the UK’s leading space commanders, which was hosted by the Freeman Air and Space Institute in the School of Security Studies, King’s College London, in partnership with Airbus.
AVM Smyth also spoke of the need for new agreements to “future-proof” and ensure appropriate deterrents for the space domain working with international bodies such as NATO, rather than continuing to rely on an outdated space treaty from 1967.
Without this space regulation, AVM Godfrey underlined the risk, as with cyber security, of the “unregulated nature of these domains”, particularly given the dramatic increase in satellites being launched in space every year, with China set to launch 40 upwards this year. He also touched on the critical problem of space debris, which NASA estimates could exceed over 100 million small one-millimetre pieces in space with the potential to damage critical space infrastructure, but also the need for transparency:
“One person’s debris clean up and old satellite clean up could be another person’s nefarious anti-satellite instrument.”
At a time when space power is critical both to the UK’s national security and prosperity, and the threat from adversaries operating in space is a growing challenge. AVM Smyth commented:
“The space domain is changing fast, for many years it was relatively benign, [but] in recent years, decades we’ve seen it exponentially change, specifically in terms of…how it’s being contested…the threat grows by the day.”
Commenting on the need for public space awareness as part of an approach to deterrence, AVM Godfrey called for a re-think on how information is classified:
“The space domain remains highly classified…deterrence comes about when we can tell people about what capabilities there are and what is happening up there…what we need to do…is…start to look at where can talk to…the general public in terms of why we are doing certain things”
He went on to emphasise a greater public understanding of the extent to which we rely on space in our daily lives:
“There’s so much more to space than just the military side…our normal lives…are dominated by space, by GPS, by communications, satellite TV, timing, all sorts of things, we need to understand that side of it.”
Space was forefront in the recently announced UK Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy, Harv Smyth commented:
“This IR has been an inflection point for us, it’s given us the stage to really land the narrative about space, to really get formal and overt recognition for the domain…no different from how we treat air, land, maritime, cyber.
“I’m starting to see people wake up to the importance of it…The PM is very clear on his ambition for where we go with space and how we utilise it as a nation that sees itself as an R&D superpower by 2030.”
He also discussed the growing influence of commercial space use:
“There is as much a role to play for commercial as there is for military or governments…as we see more and more the commercialisation of space and big companies batting at a level that is equivalent to a state…it won’t be long before we see [commercial organisations] have as much of a say in what goes on up there as a state would.”
Launching on 1 April, UK Space Command will have oversight of all space-based developments, including space operations, space workforce generation and space capability.
As part of the event the commanders were questioned by a leading panel of space experts from industry, politics, military and academia. The commanders shared their priorities for UK space defence, including their work to launch a national space strategy and defence space strategy coming out in June. They explained how it will be delivered across government and will involve a collaborative approach to space policy across government, industry, research, science and technology.
23 Mar 21. Australia’s first private rocket testing site. Rocket Technologies International and the University of Southern Queensland built Australia’s first private rocket testing site. Rocket Technologies International and the University of Southern Queensland have developed Australia’s first private rocket testing site, dubbed the Helidon Rocket Test Site.
The test site, which is built form a sandstone quarry, is the first such site outside of the Australian Defence Force and will afford space businesses the opportunity to test their developments. It is expected that the site will allow them to measure important launch data such as temperature and thrust.
Professor Peter Schubel, executive director of the Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences at the University of Southern Queensland welcomed the progress.
“Rocket Technologies International and the University of Southern Queensland has partnered in order to build capacity for Australia, to develop the space industry and support fledgling rocket manufacturing companies so that they can enter the space race, advance technologies and sovereign capability,” Professor Schubel said.
“Through this partnership, we have been able to deliver this site for both research purposes and for commercial testing.
“This is mainly around satellite communication systems, so there is a need for satellites to go up in the next five-10 years and Australia is in a very strong position to support that activity.”
Allan Payne, owner of Rocket Technologies International and the Helidon site, further expressed how important the development is to Australia’s space industry.
“I am investing in space research as it is the future. The opportunities are endless,” Payne said.
“The relationship we have with the University of Southern Queensland is second to none and the most important thing is educating the future generation.”
Dr Fabian Zander, senior research fellow at the university, confirmed that the project provides researchers with the chance to undertake leading research.
“It is unprecedented in Australia to have this type of access and we can bring ourselves, our fellow researchers and students down here to gain practical experience with the work that we are doing,” Dr Zander said.
“Internationally, the space industry is booming. A large part of that is propulsion, including rocketry and high-speed flight, so we are looking at the fundamentals of that, constructing capability within Australia and educating a new generation of people to work in that field.” (Source: Space Connect)
23 Mar 21. Lockheed Martin and Omnispace Explore Space-Based 5G Global Network. 5G satellite hybrid connectivity would bolster terrestrial mobility. Omnispace, LLC and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), have entered into a strategic interest agreement to explore jointly developing 5G capability from space. The proposed global 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide. This type of network has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location.
Omnispace’s vision is ‘one global network’ that will combine the reach of a non-geostationary orbit satellite constellation with the capacity of the world’s leading mobile wireless carrier networks. This 5G NTN will leverage the company’s priority 2 GHz S-band spectrum rights and employ 3GPP standards to enable direct-to-device connectivity and interoperability. In collaboration with Lockheed Martin, this hybrid 5G network would provide the coverage and capacity to support essential applications requiring seamless, reliable, global communications.
“Omnispace is fully committed to the vision of creating a new global communications platform that powers 5G connectivity directly to mobile devices from space,” said Ram Viswanathan, president and CEO for Omnispace. “We welcome Lockheed Martin’s holistic approach to complex systems and deep expertise in satellite technology and government markets, along with their commitment to creating innovative communication solutions.”
Seamless, global 5G connectivity has a wide range of civil and commercial applications. It also brings the coverage and capacity to support defense, government and military use, including mobile joint all-domain interoperable communications.
“We share a common vision with Omnispace of a space-based 5G global network that would enable users to seamlessly transition between satellite and terrestrial networks — eliminating the need for multiple devices on multiple networks,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “Ultimately, it’s about empowering end users with low latency connections that work anywhere. This step forward has the potential to upend space-based mobility.”
Through a shared vision to redefine mobile communications for the 21st century, Omnispace and Lockheed Martin are collaborating to deliver a potential global 5G from space solution. This would be the first truly dual-use 5G platform for commercial and government missions.
23 Mar 21. OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) global satellite communications company, is preparing for the launch and deployment of 36 satellites at 02:47 GMT Thursday 25 March by Arianespace for the second time from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
This will be the second of five launches that will enable OneWeb to deliver connectivity services north of 50 degrees latitude by the end of the 2021. These initial regional services will begin in the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas, and Canada, with global service becoming available in 2022.
This is OneWeb’s fifth launch, which will bring the total in-orbit constellation to 146 satellites, part of the company’s 648 LEO fleet designed to deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity.
OneWeb continues hiring at a fast pace with over 200 employees joining since the autumn. The company is continuing to build its global ground station network and is pushing forward on user terminal development including a $73m+ contract with Intellian to provide compact, affordable user terminals for enterprise and government applications.
Last week, furthering its aspirations in the global aerospace arena to deliver high speed, reliable wifi inflight, OneWeb announced an agreement with leading multi-beam antenna and terminal design specialist SatixFy UK. Together they will develop a new Inflight Connectivity (IFC) terminal over the OneWeb network, as well as Geostationary (GEO) satellite networks.
OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture with Airbus, is manufacturing the satellites and has returned to full production. In addition, OneWeb has already secured global ITU priority spectrum rights.
In early March, OneWeb conducted its first demonstrations #OneWebDemo of the year showcasing its high-speed, low latency network capabilities for the U.S. Government.
22 Mar 21. Rocket Lab Successfully Launches 19th Electron, Deploys 100th Satellite. The successful rideshare mission brings the total count of satellites deployed by Rocket Lab to 104. Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts off on the company’s 19th mission, deploying satellites for government and commercial organizations.
Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has successfully launched its 19th Electron mission and deployed six spacecraft to orbit for a range of government and commercial customers. The mission, named ‘They Go Up So Fast,’ also deployed Rocket Lab’s latest in-house manufactured Photon spacecraft to build flight heritage ahead of the upcoming CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA.
The mission launched from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 22:30, March 22, 2021 UTC, successfully deploying an Earth-observation satellite for BlackSky Global through Spaceflight Inc; two Internet of Things (IoT) nanosatellites for Australian commercial operators Fleet Space and Myriota; a test satellite built by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force; a weather monitoring CubeSat for Care Weather Technologies; and a technology demonstrator for the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC). The mission took the total number of satellites deployed to orbit by Rocket Lab to 104.
After Electron successfully launched to an initial 550km circular orbit, the rocket’s integrated space tug or Kick Stage deployed its first five satellites to their individual orbits. The Kick Stage’s Curie engine was then reignited to lower its altitude and deploy the final small satellite to a 450km circular orbit. With its relightable Curie engine, the Kick Stage is unique in its capability to deploy multiple satellites to different orbits on the same small launch vehicle.
Following the deployment of the final customer payload on this mission the Kick Stage was reconfigured to Photon, Rocket Lab’s in-house built spacecraft. Photon Pathstone is equipped with new power management, thermal control, and attitude control subsystems that will be utilized for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon for NASA later this year. Photon Pathstone is also testing on orbit new deep-space radio capability, an upgraded RCS (reaction control system), and sun sensors and star trackers.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says: “Congratulations and welcome to orbit for all of our customers on Electron. Reaching more than 100 satellites deployed is an incredible achievement for our team and I’m proud of their tireless efforts, which have made Electron the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually. Today’s mission was a flawless demonstration of how Electron has changed the way space is accessed. Not only did we deploy six customer satellites, but we also deployed our own pathfinding spacecraft to orbit in preparation for our Moon mission later this year.”
Details about Rocket Lab’s 20th Electron launch will be announced shortly, with the next mission scheduled to take place from Launch Complex 1 within the next few weeks. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
23 Mar 21. Thales partners with USYD, HEO Robotics for new R&D project. The organisations have agreed to collaborate to explore new technologies capable of autonomously detecting and tracking space objects.
Thales Australia has signed a research agreement with the University of Sydney (USYD) and Australian start-up HEO Robotics, aimed at identifying new technologies for autonomous vision-based space object detection and tracking.
The research agreement is expected to centre on the identification of sensor technologies capable of operating on in-orbit platforms, in support of both space domain awareness and closer proximity navigation and inspection requirements, which form part of docking and maintenance intervention operations.
The project, funded by the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), will initially involve a scoping study phase, which could evolve into further capability development phases.
According to Thales Australia, the commitment forms part of its strategic statement of intent signed with the Australian Space Agency in December 2019, designed to support the growth of a sovereign Australian space industry.
“Thales Australia has a long and proud history of partnering with academia and SMEs to develop next-generation sovereign technologies,” Michael Clark, director technical strategy at Thales Australia, said.
“This research project is no exception, and is another great example of demonstrating how collaboration will help grow sovereign space capability, while providing additional opportunities for SMEs to feed into our global projects.”
Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sydney, added, “This project represents an outstanding opportunity to engage with a global industry leader in the area of satellite systems, while also nurturing our domestic capability in Australia.
“This project will engage our staff and students in the development of state-of-the-art satellite capabilities.
“Having recently been designated as the Academic Institution of the Year at the Australian Space Awards, the University of Sydney is in a unique position to deliver on the proposed project outcomes.”
William Crowe, CEO of HEO Robotics, welcomed the opportunity to work with Thales and the University of Sydney.
“HEO Robotics is an ambitious Australian space start-up that is already supplying customers with insights using our HEO Inspect product,” he said.
“We’re pleased to work with the likes of Thales Australia and the University of Sydney to supercharge our development and feed into the global supply chain of leading space companies.”
SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios said the agreement was a “fine example” of the federal government’s efforts to foster industry collaboration.
“This is being recognised internationally and demonstrates future opportunities for Australian companies in the global space ecosystem,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Mar 21. US Army Rushes To Deploy Anti-Jam GPS Alternative For Armored Force. Rather than wait for a much-delayed Air Force system, the Army’s plan is to deploy Generation 1 of its new receiver this year, starting with the 2nd Calvary Regiment, the 1st Armored Division, and the 1st Infantry Division.
The Army intends to field a first iteration of its MAPS navigation system on armored vehicles this year, as it pushes to begin initial production of a more capable version in fiscal 2022.
“MAPS delivers … to every ground combat platform across the entire Army,” Mark Kitz, deputy program executive officer (PEO) for intelligence, electronic warfare, sensors (IEW&S), said today. “So [it’s] a significant effort for the Army, ensuring that we have assured PNT in a tiered and layered approach.”
MAPS is another of the Army’s horrid nesting acronyms, mercifully short for Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT) System. “Mounted” refers to it being installed on vehicles; the portable version for foot troops is calls DAPS, D for Dismounted. Both are designed as rugged, jamming-resistant PNT systems to let ground units know exactly where they are — and exactly what time it is, a key feature for many communications systems — even when GPS signals are unavailable.
The Air Force has its own program to develop new hardware (a microchip and card module) to enable ground receivers to process the GPS encrypted M-Code signal. But this has been repeatedly delayed, according to a January report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That delay is part of the reason the Army’s pushing ahead with MAPS and DAPS.
The Generation 1 MAPS receiver was initially fielded for testing and use on Stryker armored vehicles in 2019 to the 2nd Calvary Regiment in Germany to help troops overcome routine Russian GPS jamming in the region. It eventually will be deployed on Stryker armored vehicles, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the MI Abrams tank, and the M109 Paladin howitzers among others — more than 22,000 vehicles, GAO said. The Army requested $68.7m in its 2021 budget request for MAPS.
According to charts Fitz presented today to the AUSA’s Global Force Next 2021 conference today, the plan is to deploy Generation 1 of the new receiver first with
- the 2nd Calvary Regiment, a brigade-sized Stryker unit based in Germany;
- the 1st Armored Division (a division is made up of multiple brigades), based at Fort Bliss, Tex.
- and the 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kans., which despite its name is a heavily armored force
Meanwhile, milestone C and low-rate initial production decisions on MAPS Gen-2 will be made in the second quarter of fiscal 2022, according to Kitz’s chart. The Army in October launched a program of record for MAPS Gen-2, awarding Collins Aerospace an initial development contract, but did not release the value.
The MAPS Gen-2 upgrades will bring the ability to tap into the M-Code, by integrating an L3Harris chip and a BAE ground receiver card developed under the Air Force’s Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) effort. An anti-jam antenna is included in MAPS Gen-2, as well as an ALTNAV (alternate navigation) receiver to pick up other sources of PNT data, such as Europe’s Galileo satellites, or even optical navigation based on star-tracking.
“As we move forward with software defined radios, there’s opportunities to get after some of those signals that are already out there and being able to use those signals to help you figure out where you’re at,” Jeffrey Langhout, head of the Aviation & Missile Center at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM). “And of course, you know, ‘navigate by the stars,’ that’s been around for a day or two. And so, how can we better use that? … What about star trackers that can that work with some of the [new] technology?” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
22 Mar 21. Arianespace to launch satellites to boost internet connectivity. Flight ST30, Arianespace’s second commercial mission performed in conjunction with a Starsem affiliate from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, is set to launch 36 OneWeb satellites into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometres.
The mission, scheduled for 25 March, is expected to last a total of three hours and 51 minutes and will include nine separations of four satellites, which will raise themselves into operational orbit.
Flight ST30 will increase the total number of satellites deployed on behalf of OneWeb Satellites — a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space — to 146.
OneWeb’s constellation is designed to deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, governments, and emergency response services.
Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation is expected to enable user terminals capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi coverage to provide high-speed access globally via air, sea and land.
The first six satellites were successfully orbited by Arianespace from French Guiana in February 2019, with a further 68 launched in February and March of 2020 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on two successful Soyuz flights. In December 2020, the team delivered an additional 36 satellites into orbit, with first commercial flight operated from new Vostochny Cosmodrome. (Source: Space Connect)
19 Mar 21. NASA, SpaceX Sign Joint Spaceflight Safety Agreement. NASA and SpaceX have signed a joint agreement to formalize both parties’ strong interest in the sharing of information to maintain and improve space safety. This agreement enables a deeper level of coordination, cooperation, and data sharing, and defines the arrangement, responsibilities, and procedures for flight safety coordination. The focus of the agreement is on conjunction avoidance and launch collision avoidance between NASA spacecraft and the large constellation of SpaceX Starlink satellites, as well as related rideshare missions. A conjunction is defined as a close approach between two objects in space, usually at very high speed.
“Society depends on space-based capabilities for global communications, navigation, weather forecasting, and much more,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “With commercial companies launching more and more satellites, it’s critical we increase communications, exchange data, and establish best practices to ensure we all maintain a safe space environment.”
The Starlink spacecraft are equipped with global navigation satellite service receivers to estimate orbital parameters, an ion propulsion system, and an autonomous maneuvering capability that provide data for prompt and proactive exchange of information. Both NASA and SpaceX benefit from this enhanced interaction by ensuring all parties involved are fully aware of the exact location of spacecraft and debris in orbit.
SpaceX has agreed its Starlink satellites will autonomously or manually maneuver to ensure the missions of NASA science satellites and other assets can operate uninterrupted from a collision avoidance perspective. Unless otherwise informed by SpaceX, NASA has agreed to not maneuver its assets in the event of a potential conjunction to ensure the parties do not inadvertently maneuver into one another.
NASA and the Department of Defense have decades of experience in proactively managing collision risks, as well as potential impacts. Effective mitigation relies on inter-operator coordination, accurate data, a sound technical basis for risk analysis, as well as proactive processes for appropriate actions to mitigate risks. By working together through this agreement, the approach to collision avoidance can be improved for all users.
In addition to this agreement, NASA is supporting growth in the U.S. commercial space sector through the release of the “Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook,” which the agency issued in December 2020 to improve global awareness of space activity and to share NASA lessons learned regarding close approach coordination and mitigation. The handbook is available at: https://go.nasa.gov/34f9ijM (Source: ASD Network)
14 Mar 21. Northrop Grumman’s MEV-2 Closing On Target Satellite. Heading into space, a Northrup Grumman ‘space tug’ rescue mission is closing in on its target satellite, Intelsat’s 10-02 craft.
The Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) has spent the past few days getting up close and personal with the Intelsat satellite while systems have been tested. The MEV-2 craft is having to be ultra-cautious as 10-02 is still a working satellite. Last year, its predecessor MEV-1, had a somewhat easier time of it, given that its then target satellite Intelsat-901 was already in a safe (and so-called) graveyard orbit.
MEV-2’s role is to act as an orbiting power unit and fuel tank to what is otherwise a valuable and working satellite. The target 10-02 satellite has been working since 2004 and otherwise would be nearing its normal ‘end of life’ and would need to be replaced with a new satellite. The MEV-2 eliminates that need for the mission’s contracted five years. The MEV-2 will also return the satellite to its nominal orbital position.
Intelsat 10-02 is located at 1 degree West (359 degrees East) and carries 45 active C-band transponders and 16 Ku-band transponders. The satellite’s official design life in orbit was 13 years and has already outperformed its mission duration. (Source: Satnews)
14 Mar 21. NSR: Finally Time for Optical Satcom? In late January ten Starlink satellites equipped with inter-satellite laser links (ISL) were launched, and the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk tweeted that in addition to these satellites, all future Starlink satellites would also have ISLs. The launch represents a five-fold increase of total laser terminals launched into orbit to date. In many ways, this represents a landmark milestone for Optical Satcom technology, and we should expect a large influx of these new communications terminals in the coming years.
Today, government customers dominate laser communications terminal (LCT) revenues, driven in particular by security-specific (and higher data-rate) requirements. The technology is critical to many military actors operating in RF-denied environments involving UAS operations, or high security applications from both GEO and LEO HTS.
According to NSR’s recently published Optical Satcom Markets, 3rd Edition report, the market for laser comm terminals represents a $3bn opportunity over the next ten years. Indeed, NSR forecasts more than 1,000 ISL terminals for space-based applications to be shipped by 2025. However, it is not just for satellite, but closer to Earth for larger Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as well.
Radio frequency communication (RF) has yet to reach the limit of its inherent capacity offer. This is, however, expected to change with the emergence of increasingly data-heavy applications which, in the long-term, will drive the adoption of Optical Satcom. Specifically, Optical laser communication may boast superior data rate speeds even if in the near to medium-term, pricing of equipment is a big impediment to compete with RF such that the upcoming cadence of demos should help drive volume and in turn, impact prices.
While SpaceX is currently producing terminals in-house, other players in the Optical Satcom market are launching over 15 in-orbit demonstrations in the next 3 years. Airbus and Xenesis, AAC Clyde’s subsidiary Hyperion Technologies, the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) and NASA are just some of the many players planning demos. This implies that the industry will likely see an increase in offers of various space-verified laser terminals and related necessary components.
In the near-term, suppliers are scrambling to get their production lines operational as revenues mature post 2025, and lower volume terminals are expected to be brought to the market with economies of scale that will lower the price.
The industry has benefited from strong government support, with initiatives such as the Public-Private-Partnership between Airbus and ESA’s European Data Relay Services (EDRS — also known as the Space Data Highway), and Japan’s recent launch of the Japanese Data Relay Services (JDRS-1) satellite in 2020.
Looking ahead, NSR expects this trend to continue with China and Russia’s Optical data relay systems to come online to support their respective planned Earth Observation (EO) constellations, much like the Space Data Highway supports Europe’s Sentinel satellites with data downlink.
Commercially, today’s Optical Satcom market is in the process of customer trials with equipment manufacturers dedicating intensive capital resources towards their production lines to meet the oncoming constellation and UAS demand. Within five years, a greater supply of space-verified and competitive laser communication equipment (for all sizes) will enter the market, as seen from planned demos and funding announcements.
SpaceX may manufacture their LCTs internally; however, the recent launch signals lasercom’s technological readiness and the wave of future commercial demand that can be anticipated. With security concerns driving decisions around the globe, NSR expects government customers to continue driving the development of the commercial sector, and constellations like Starlink, Project Kuiper, and Telesat to expand the services to a wider commercial market. In reality, the time for Optical Satcom is much closer than ever before. (Source: Satnews)
15 Mar 21. Impact: More SATCOM Consolidation On The Horizon? An NSR Report. The global satellite communication industry is transitioning to meet new market trends and match projected threats from perceived disruptors. It is typical to expect mergers and acquisitions (M&A) within any maturing industry, especially technology-driven sectors, where inventors regularly threaten incumbents. In the case of SATCOM, the industry is entering a new consolidation cycle, where vertical integration is becoming as inevitable as horizontal solidification.
Between 2012-2017, the industry witnessed a wave of M&As across operator-distributor, equipment-service provider and multiple cross-value-chain consolidations. While the recent wave of consolidation builds on the industry’s past M&A trajectory, it, most importantly, points to a new direction for SATCOM’s future. With equipment providers expanding into service business lines, vertical mergers are becoming more common within the operator-SP-Equipment provider triad.
What is Driving this New Consolidation Cycle?
- Pricing Pressure and Commoditization of Capacity
It is well known that with the growth of capacity supply from High Throughput Satellite (HTS) fleets, the industry sees an increasing demand for cheaper HTS capacity vs. traditional FSS GEO capacity. GEO operators are making larger bets on new HTS capacity, with Hughes’ Jupiter-3 planned for launch in H2 2021 and ViaSat’s ViaSat-3 rescheduled for early 2022. Eutelsat’s Konnect VHTS is due to become operational in 2022, while SES plans to launch SES 17 later this year. This trend puts pressure on overall capacity pricing in the market as FSS supply undercuts price to remain competitive, while HTS fleets pursue volume to increase fill rates.
The impact is that capacity supply is increasingly becoming a commodity business as operators rely on rising sales volume to compensate for price erosion. With large HTS payloads coming online from 2021, attrition from FSS to HTS will continue, resulting in declining fill rates, even as media demand continues to shrink. Highly efficient HTS fleets will be launched in the next 2-3 years, with different application focus and fixed/steerable beams to suit mobility and Gov/Mil applications.
Smaller operators and service providers will be cut up in the murky middle as capacity pricing pressure persists and more capacity is available in the market post-2021. For example, Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer recently told analysts that Eutelsat plans to “take back” some of its capacity leased by Nilesat on the 7|8 degrees West hotspot over the Middle East, to “distribute it ourselves”. With the contract renewal due by July 2021, Eutelsat expects to re-negotiate the lease deal or take back the capacity and redistribute it via its Middle East-focus distribution subsidiary Noorsat. A race for market share will erode value, while higher integrating offerings will increase revenue per bit leased.
Operators are moving closer to customers down the value chain through vertical integration to cushion against changing wholesale market dynamics. Operators are rolling out distribution strategies or acquiring service providers to capture market share and optimize fill rates by launching more differentiated services and products down the value chain. This trend is expected to remain as integrated operators such as ViaSat and Hughes continue to outperform their peers across various operational and solvency metrics.
- Stunted Growth in Video
According to NSR’s Satellite Industry Financial Analysis, 10th Edition report, video revenues continue to decline year-on-year, contracting by 15.1% cumulatively in 2019 across the top six operators analyzed and further in 2020. Video contributes most of the wholesale capacity revenue pie, making it challenging for operators to retain the pure-play high EBITDA wholesale business as video revenue shrinks. Non-integrated operators face severe organic growth challenges as there is a balancing act between video and non-video business.
Non-video revenues will continue to increase, with the service business retaining the lead over lease revenue in the long term as operators guard against a top-line erosion with video on the decline. The industry appears to have factored in this trend a long time ago, and operators are now actively consolidating towards various service strategies across different non-video verticals. Initial growth in managed services for Gov/Mil, the pre-COVID gains in mobility and steady performance of fixed broadband services appear to be major drivers accelerating consolidation in the non-video business.
The highest performers include ViaSat (on the back of Gov/Mil, Broadband and Aero), Hughes (Broadband), Inmarsat (Mobility) and expected to have risen further post PE acquisition, and finally SES (with O3B service revenues in Trunking, Cruise and Energy). Eutelsat’s acquisition of Bigblu’s broadband business in Europe, the roll-out of Konnect in Africa, and Intelsat’s acquisition of Gogo’s Commercial Aviation business are recent examples of the growing investment into the service business.
- Perceived Threat from Non-GEO Constellations
Perhaps, the most significant driver of this ongoing cycle of satcom industry consolidation is the perceived disruption of the market landscape by non-GEO constellation operators such as SpaceX Starlink, Amazon Kuiper, OneWeb, and Telesat Lightspeed, among others. Following the success of the March 14 launch, SpaceX now has more than 1,200 Starlink satellites in orbit.
In October, SpaceX began rolling out a public beta service to customers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and have reportedly entered parts of European markets, with regulatory processes in the works across various countries globally. In January, FCC filings revealed that SpaceX has more than 10,000 beta users on Starlink. Recently, SpaceX applied for regulatory approval to begin connecting large vehicles – from trucks to jets to ships – via Starlink, indicating the LEO operator is ready to battle for market share not only in the direct-to-premises consumer broadband market but also in the mobility market.
While the full impact of these NGEOs plays remains to be seen, its long term threats on market access and capacity supply show enough worry for incumbents to consolidate in order to stay competitive. With some of these new entrants making incredible technological advances and matching the financial base to fuel commercialization, the big questions now border around their go-to-market strategies and their impact on the competitive landscape. The NGEO effect is driving a transition across the industry, with operators looking to bridge the gap with end customers and exercise more control over its distribution. As capacity supply abounds from non-GEO and GEO HTS fleets, distribution is expected to become the core success factor.
The Consolidation Landscape
The industry is already significantly moving towards vertical integration. NSR’s Satcom Business in Models in a 3.0 Era outlined seven major components of the changing consolidation landscape within the context of small, medium and large satellite operators’ exposure to risk. Intelsat’s acquisition of Gogo’s IFC business, Eutelsat’s downstream play with Noorsat in the Middle East for video and broadband play in Africa and Europe, and SES’ vertically integrated network offerings for the cruise, telecom and Gov/Mil sectors, among other recent M&As, show the changing landscape is focused on protecting market access across key verticals. NSR expects consolidation to deepen further from gaining market access across various verticals to expanding market share through horizontal solidification.
The Bottom Line
The new state of affairs in SATCOM will likely play out via a number of trends and strategic moves:
- Integrated GEO businesses and high-volume wholesale capacity models will remain viable, while small stand-alone operators or service providers will find it challenging to survive post-2024.
- Cash-rich companies such as SES and Hughes could make large bets to compete against large NGEOs.
- Smaller operators struggling with cash and service providers unable to generate enough cash will need to merge or declare bankruptcy or write off legacy assets soon to remain competitive against the more efficient capacity of the 2020s.
- Regional and domestic operators in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia will likely see horizontal mergers and vertical integration with SPs as smaller operators are unable to compete against low pricing from large GEOs or LEOs. Large GEO and LEO operators will seek to acquire critical spectrum rights and landing permits in these regions by making outright acquisition bids or form JVs with operators and SPs in these markets.
- With a European constellation announcement on the anvil and with media business in Europe struggling, an SES and Eutelsat merger could help both companies consolidate positions in Video, Mobility and Gov/Mil, and expand on broadband services. (Source: Satnews)
17 Mar 21. Space ISAC Partners With Cyware To Automate Threat Sharing.
A threat response automation platform that combines cyber fusion, advanced orchestration, and automation to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats affecting enterprises in real-time.
Cyware, a Virtual Cyber Fusion Platform provider, is partnering with the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Space ISAC) to provide the organization and its members with the ability to collect, analyze, and share threat intelligence.
Space ISAC is the global community of critical infrastructure owners, operators and supply chain p on sharing timely, actionable, and relevant information with each other including cyber and physical threats, incidents, and vulnerabilities along with advice on best practices, mitigation strategies, and other valuable information. Space ISAC’s membership includes some of the major defense, technology and security institutions in both the private and public sectors including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Parsons Corporation and Kratos Defense.
“Cyware is delivering a service that meets the needs of the information sharing community by taking into consideration the human needs of workflow and collaboration. It operates at a level of innovation that is unprecedented for threat sharing. This capability enables Space ISAC members real-time threat sharing and collaboration with partners across the U.S. government and international community,” said Erin Miller, Space ISAC’s Executive Director. “Our members protect the lifeblood of the space industry. Our partnership with Cyware assures the enhancement of secure operations and collaborative threat response is efficient, and continues as paramount in defending the space industry from both traditional and evolving cybersecurity threats.”
“The capability to intuitively and collaboratively share threat data is critical in progressing any cybersecurity program today,” said Chris Bogdan, Vice Chair Space ISAC, and Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton. “The easier it is to spot indicators early and often, the easier it is to build out informed threat response action to shore up cyber posture. The capability that Space ISAC has architected with Cyware technology to enable its member organizations to comprehensively share threat intelligence helps cyber teams in the space industry speed the time to accurately respond to its shared threat landscape.”
With over a dozen Community Emergency Response Teams and ISAC’s using the Cyware platform to automatically share threat intelligence with their respective membership bases, Cyware is expanding its portfolio to include Space ISAC, across multiple connected modules. With Cyware’s Situational Awareness Platform (CSAP) and Threat Intelligence Exchange (CTIX), Space ISAC members can share threat intelligence including indicators of compromise (IOCs), malware alerts, vulnerability advisories, security incidents, phishing, and spear-phishing attacks among the global space community.
CSAP and CTIX enable Space ISAC members to collect, share, and provide security alerts on the changing threat and risk landscape along with intelligence on specific attacks facing the space industry today.
“Working with Space ISAC helps us deepen our partnership with the space industry’s foremost cybersecurity and security practitioners,” said Anuj Goel, CEO, Cyware. “We fit the needs of ISAC’s, and the enterprises and mid-sized businesses who rely on understanding how to lever threat intelligence and advanced automation to power strategic, transformative Cyber Fusion centers. Cyware’s relationship with Space ISAC will help us continue to prioritize innovation for its members, and to continue to build powerful orchestration and automation capabilities for all customers.” (Source: Satnews)
15 Mar 21. Omnispace Demo’s Sat5G Capability With U.S. Navy + Marine Corps. Omnispace has successfully demonstrated 5G satellite capability with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) as well as with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. Omnispace was selected by NSIN in 2020 to pilot its technology in connection with Verizon’s new 5G “Living Lab.”
Omnispace successfully tested an initial 5G-via-satellite capability in a LinQuest lab demonstration for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. A number of commercial-off-the-shelf 5G devices communicated voice and data services via an emulated 5G radio access network (RAN), to Omnispace’s on-orbit satellite, leveraging LinQuest Corporation’s lab facility in Northern Virginia.
Omnispace is continuing the development of a global hybrid 5G communications network based on 3GPP standards, which will the ensure security and interoperability of devices all over the world for a wide array of enterprise and government customers.
The company plans to make its direct-to-satellite 5G NTN connectivity solutions available through its ‘one global network,’ which will use the company’s existing 2 GHz priority spectrum rights. Initial elements of the Omnispace network will enter into service in 2022.
“Omnispace is honored to have been selected to work with the U.S. Navy and Marines to demonstrate 5G capability from space,” said Campbell Marshall, Vice President, Government and International Markets, Omnispace LLC. “The development of standards-based 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) technology powered by Omnispace’s S-band spectrum will allow small tactical 5G devices to communicate directly and seamlessly with 5G-capable satellites and terrestrial networks, giving our warfighters ubiquitous global connectivity and true comms-on-the-move.”
“5G will be a critical technology for our military operations in the very near future, and those operations aren’t limited to dense urban environments where most 5G infrastructure is being deployed,” said Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Brandon Newell, Director, SoCal Tech Bridge, Naval X, a driving force behind some of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) 5G initiatives. “Truly global, mobile 5G connectivity in aero, maritime and remote areas will be essential across a broad spectrum of our government and military operations.” (Source: Satnews)
17 Mar 21. Maxar and Busek Thruster System Pass Milestone For NASA Lunar Gateway. Busek Co., a developer of high-performance electric propulsion technology for space applications, and Maxar Technologies (NYSE: MAXR) (TSX: MAXR), their partner and innovator in Earth intelligence and Space Infrastructure, have completed an end-to-end hot fire test campaign validating all major elements of the 6-kiblowatt solar electric propulsion (SEP) subsystem for the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) of NASA’s Gateway in lunar orbit.
The electric propulsion subsystem for the PPE spacecraft features Maxar-built high-power control electronics (PPU-6000), a Moog xenon feed system, and four Busek-built BHT-6000 Hall effect thrusters. Together, this system is 30 percent more powerful than any SEP system flown by these companies. Busek’s thrusters will help enable highly efficient electric orbit-raising, station keeping, and maneuvering for Gateway.
“Busek’s BHT-6000 electric thrusters offer high-power capabilities at a competitive price point and are a great fit for both our near-Earth and deep space programs,” said Robert Curbeam, Senior Vice President of Space Capture at Maxar. “The SEP systems we are evolving for PPE are a fantastic example of innovative commercial technology with great flight heritage being leveraged for NASA programs. We continue to make steady progress on the PPE, with the next major milestone being the spacecraft Preliminary Design Review, which is targeted for later this year.”
The PPE will provide power, maneuvering, attitude control and communications systems for the lunar orbiting outpost. Gateway is a foundational part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the Moon and enable future crewed missions to Mars. The PPE is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio and Maxar is working on the program from its facilities in Palo Alto and San Jose, California.
“This will be the first time a crewed platform leverages electric propulsion technology, and Busek is extremely proud to provide next-generation Hall thrusters for the Power and Propulsion Element. We applaud NASA’s commercial procurement approach to PPE, and Maxar’s shared vision for the BHT-6000. Busek’s participation in the historic Artemis program is uniquely demanding and extremely rewarding for the entire team,” said Vlad Hruby, President and Founder of Busek. (Source: Satnews)
16 Mar 21. Quilty Analytics’ Latest Satcom Quarterly Briefing Validates SpaceX Starlink’s Consumer Broadband Focus. Quilty Analytics, a boutique firm for research, strategy, and inevstment banking advisory to the Satellite & Space industry, has issued to subscribers the latest edition of its Satcom Quarterly Briefing, that delves into SpaceX Starlink, its achievements to date, market focus, and the role the system is likely to play in fulfilling SpaceX’s ambitions to colonize Mars. The Starlink evaluation includes an assessment of the prime broadband markets most likely to drive success of new commercial LEO satellite systems.
“With over 1,000 satellites on orbit and favorable reviews from man. “With Starlink’s investment program likely to exceed $10bn over time, we sought to address the pivotal question of where SpaceX will focus its resources and what impact it will have.”
Quilty Analytics concluded that:
- Starlink, being an end-to-end/retail service provider, will likely have to generate yearly revenues that exceed the global satcom industry’s total broadband data revenues today in order to generate attractive investment returns; and,
- Given current trends in technology and strong motivations in developed countries to quickly close their respective “digital divides” (highlighted by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic), there could be upwards of 15 million consumer satellite broadband subscribers worldwide by 2030 (and potentially as many as 30 million). The substantial potential for consumer markets is predicated on global networks, high-performance, and low-latency – and assumes cost-effective equipment and service.
The Quilty Analytics team would like to thank the many companies and experts whose timely input contributed to our findings. We hope this briefing stimulates discussion and we look forward to receiving comments from friends and colleagues across our industry. (Source: Satnews)
18 Mar 21. Quad Push: ISRO Taking Space Ties With US, Japan & Australia To A higher orbit.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, second right, speaks during the virtual summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S., a group known as “the Quad”, at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via AP)
Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue”, the Quad grouping held its first virtual summit last week…
As Quad takes a leap forward, India is deepening space ties with the US, Japan and Australia — the other three member nations of the group.
Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue”, the Quad grouping held its first virtual summit last week.
The four countries plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on climate change; critical and emerging technologies, including working to set technology standards and norms and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future, officials said.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) last week shipped the S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to U.S. space agency NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the joint NASA-ISRO SAR (NISAR) mission moved forward.
NISAR is a joint collaboration for a dual-frequency L- and S-band SAR for earth observation.
“NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimeter across”, according to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
The mission is targeted for launch in 2022 from ISRO’s Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, about 100 kms north of Chennai.
NASA is providing the mission’s L-band SAR, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder and payload data subsystem.
ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus,the S-band radar,the launch vehicle and associated launch services for the mission, whose goal is to make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.
On March 11, Bengaluru-headquartered ISRO and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reviewed the ongoing cooperation in earth observation, lunar cooperation and satellite navigation.
“Both sides have agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in space situational awareness(SSA) and professional exchange programme”, according to ISRO.
On the occasion, ISRO and JAXA signed an ‘Implementing Arrangement’ for collaborative activities on rice crop area and air quality monitoring, using satellite data”.
ISRO and JAXA have planned a joint mission — Lunar Polar Exploration (LUPEX) — to explore the Moon’s south pole in 2023.
LUPEX received a boost as Japan reportedly earmarked 2.8bn Yen (USD 26m) for it for the fiscal 2021.
In February, ISRO and Australian Space Agency (ASA) inked an Amendment of the ‘2012 India Australia Inter-Governmental MoU for cooperation in Civil Space Science, Technology and Education’.
This Amendment makes India’s Department of Space and ASA as the Executive Organisations and provides scope for other related entities to conclude implementing arrangements for specific cooperation activities.
The two agencies reviewed the status of ongoing cooperation activities in earth observation, satellite navigation, space situational awareness and establishment of transportable terminal in Australia to support Indias ‘Gaganyaan’ program.
Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews had said the new agreement strengthens existing ties between Australia and India and allows the two countries to work closer than ever in space for the benefit of both nations.
Head of the ASA, Enrico Palermo, said the signing symbolizes the importance of the strong collaborative partnership between the Agency and ISRO, which will look to identify new areas of cooperation in space technology, applications, education and outreach.
“An ISRO built L- and S-band Airborne SAR (ASAR) was flown over the United States aboard NASAs aircraft during November – December 2019 and data acquisitions were made in 92 sites.
ASAR repeat flight campaigns are being planned for spring and summer 2021”, according to ISRO.
“Both agencies are working for an implementing arrangement to carry NASAs Laser Reflectometer Array (LRA) in Chandrayaan-3.
ISRO-NASA Joint Working Group on Human Spaceflight Programme (HSP) is exploring collaboration opportunities”, it said.
ISRO and JAXA are specifically working on sharing earth observation data and to carry out calibration/validation experiments, and establishing ISROs NavIC reference station in Japan.
NavIC refers to the space segment consisting of the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) constellation of eight satellites.
Both agencies have completed the feasibility study for the LUPEX and are currently finalising the Phase-A study report, according to ISRO. (Source: Satnews)
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