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14 Apr 21. China aims to weaponize space, says intel community report. China is working to weaponize space with an array of capabilities intended to target U.S. and allied satellites as part of its ambitious plans to displace the U.S. in space, the U.S. intelligence community warned in its new Global Risk Assessment report.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s report says that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, plans to “match or exceed U.S. capabilities in space to gain the military, economic, and prestige benefits that Washington has accrued from space leadership.” Those counter-space operations will be “integral to potential military campaigns by the PLA.”
The broad-based report also highlights Russia’s space capabilities and overall calls China “the top threat” to U.S. technological competitiveness.
Asked about China’s nascent constellation of 138 commercial Earth observation satellites at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, ODNI Director Avril Haines affirmed they were part of China’s challenge to American dominance. She declined to publicly discuss U.S. capabilities.
“I think there’s just no question, as a general matter, that China is focused on achieving leadership in space, in fact, as compared to the United States and has been working hard on a variety of different efforts in this area to try to contest what has been presumed our leadership,” Haines said.
Haines told lawmakers the administration is working to help the policy community understand it supports the new Space Force’s work to maintain American leadership in space and space’s benefits economically, in communications, intelligence and national security.
The rare public disclosures come as champions of Space Force in Congress have said the government over-classifies information about the threats from space and that the American public needs to be better informed. House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., is among them.
The intelligence community projects China will have an operational space station in low-Earth-orbit between 2022 and 2024, and will continue to conduct exploratory missions to the Moon aimed at establishing a robotic research station there and later an “intermittently crewed” base.
The report underscores the increased development and proliferation of counter-space weapons. In 2019, China’s space-focused Strategic Support Force reportedly began training with direct-ascent anti-satellite, or ASAT, missiles capable of targeting satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The report says Beijing has already fielded ground-based anti-satellite missiles meant to destroy satellites in low-earth orbit as well as ground-based anti-satellite lasers, “probably intended to blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors on” low-Earth-orbit satellites.
Russia and China are continuing to train their military space elements, and both are fielding new destructive and nondestructive anti-satellite weapons, the report says. Russia’s weapons include “jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based ASAT capabilities—to target US and allied satellites.”
The report projects that Russia, with its large network of reconnaissance, communications, and navigation satellites, “will remain a key space competitor.” (Source: Defense News)
15 Apr 21. PM unveils plan for world’s largest radio telescope in W. Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a plan to create the world’s largest radio telescope in WA with $387m of support from the federal government.
The federal government has unveiled a plan to create the world’s largest radio telescope in Western Australia, with a $387m support package from the commonwealth.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined that the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) system would help to make Australia a world leader in space science, providing an important tool for Australian astronomers to research the universe. It is expected that the project will create 350 during the construction phase with 230 ongoing jobs. Construction is hoped to begin from early 2022 and last for up to 10 years.
The package is also expected to support the creation of a super-computing centre in Perth, with an investment of $64.4m earmarked for the project. The centre will be utilised to analyse the data from the radio telescope.
The Prime Minister outlined that the project forms part of the federal government’s National Economic Recovery Plan.
“This $387mi investment highlights that science and advanced manufacturing are at the heart of my government’s National Economic Recovery Plan from the COVID recession,” the PM said.
“Our investment in the construction and operations of the SKA will build our manufacturing capacity within the highly-skilled technology sector, and enable major scientific breakthroughs to be made right here in Western Australia.
“The SKA will help our scientists make more discoveries than we can imagine today. Whether it’s better understanding the origin and future of our stars and galaxies to how gravity works across the universe.
“The SKA means more jobs for Australia and it puts us in the driver’s seat for scientific discoveries.”
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter confirmed that investment in both the SKA and the super-computer will allow Australian scientists to undertake world leading space research.
“Modern manufacturing employs tradespeople, engineers and scientists, and is the core of an advanced economy,” Minister Porter said.
“In fact, several Australian companies have already developed and manufactured components for the telescope prototypes and precursor telescopes.
“This new investment will build on our $1.5bn Modern Manufacturing Strategy and be a significant boost to the space sector, which is one of the strategy’s six priority sectors. It will strengthen our efforts to develop cutting-edge industries with a global reach.
“As well as creating hundreds of local jobs, our economic modelling indicates the project will attract an estimated $1.8bn in foreign income flows into Australia as a result of the SKA’s first 30 years of operations.
“I am very pleased that the development of the SKA in my home state will also benefit local communities. Our funding includes the provision of fibre-optic connectivity to communities near the SKA, which is at CSIRO’s Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory.
“This high-speed connection will support local economic development while reducing radio interference around the telescope.”
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the project is part of a 16-member nation collaboration, which includes: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
The Western Australia based satellite will be the low-frequency portion of the system, with the high frequency system to be located in South Africa. (Source: Space Connect)
13 Apr 21. U.S. Space Force Selects Slingshot Aerospace to Develop Next Generation Visualization Tool for Battlespace Awareness and Missile Warning Detection. Slingshot Aerospace and Zoic Labs partner to generate video streams from complex data using Hollywood visual effects best practices. Slingshot Aerospace, Inc., a company building world-class space simulation and analytics solutions, announced today that it has been awarded a $1.2m contract to develop a sophisticated tool for the U.S. Space Force that streamlines the visualization of enemy missiles and enhances data integration and mission-critical collaboration. The company has partnered with Culver City, CA-based Zoic Labs, a software and advanced visualization company, to develop a video transcoder. Zoic Labs draws inspiration from sister company Zoic Studios, which created the visual effects for Avengers: Age of Ultron and others.
The new technology aims to enhance national security with advanced missile warning visualization by providing more efficient ways to view and interact with complicated data sets collected from satellite sensors. These instruments, known as overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) remote sensors, use infrared radiation to visualize adversary weapons and assets. The Slingshot Aerospace tool has the following goals with respect to three missions:
• Missile Warning – Identify and characterize missile launches and communicate key information to appropriate stakeholders faster.
• Technical Intelligence – Help operators use OPIR data to detect, track, and characterize the adversary’s assets.
• Battlespace Awareness – Carry out general surveillance to successfully apply combat power, ensure national security, and complete missions.
The Slingshot Aerospace tool will help operators identify threats and minimize false alarms. The solution will also lay the groundwork to support the Department of Defense’s new, high-priority missile warning satellite program, Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (or next generation OPIR). The U.S. government aims to launch these satellites in 2025.
“The missile warning mission is critical for the United States to maintain superiority across all defense and intelligence domains. Our innovative solution will help improve the operator experience and optimize mission efficiencies, while positioning Slingshot Aerospace to be a potential leader in next generation OPIR situational awareness,” said Melanie Stricklan, Co-Founder and CEO, Slingshot Aerospace.
During the research and development phase, the Slingshot Aerospace tool will process archived data from space-based infrared systems. The controlled data sets will be used to develop and test algorithms and processing techniques, which will be evaluated and tested by end-users while in the prototype phase. In the final step, the Slingshot Aerospace tool may be transitioned into real-world use for Air Force operators who are responsible for space-based infrared surveillance, tracking, and Missile Warning and Battlespace Awareness related reports.
Zoic Labs creates an innovative user experience through iterative software design and development that leverages collaboration between users and developers to ensure a tailored customer solution. The company will be responsible for transforming satellite sensor data into video, storing a rolling cache, and publishing requested video content in a security camera-like format available for space operator use.
“Zoic Labs is thrilled to take on a critical component of this effort, converting satellite sensor data into actionable, decision-enabling information for our space warfighters and national security leadership,” said Tim McBride, President of Zoic Labs.
This is Zoic Labs’ third project for the Space Force in addition to a myriad of projects for the U.S. Department of Defense and Intelligence Community over the past 13 years. Zoic Labs, an advanced visualization and software company with a Hollywood pedigree, infuses unique design sensibilities into its visualizations for film and television, including Battlestar Galactica and the recent television shows Space Force and The Haunting of Bly Manor.
Previously, Slingshot Aerospace was awarded a contract to develop Slingshot Laboratory for the Space Force, making this the second contract with the newly established military branch. It is also the second time Slingshot Aerospace has invited a leading Hollywood studio to co-develop modern and immersive technologies for the government. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
13 Apr 21. Indonesian Government Deploys Iridium® Push-to-Talk, Overcoming Remote Communications Challenges. Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) today announced that the Republic of Indonesia’s government has adopted Iridium Push-to-Talk (PTT) devices to support communication efforts across the country. By fully deploying 500 Iridium PTT handsets, the Indonesian government now has a reliable “grab-and-go” real-time satellite communications solution, ideal for communications on-the-move applications across the country’s diverse island landscapes.
As the largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia is made up of five major islands and more than 17,500 smaller islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited.1 The size and scope of its territory makes building and maintaining cellular or land-mobile radio (LMR) network infrastructure expensive, challenging and impractical. It also leaves a need for communications resiliency across all of Indonesia, especially during and after natural disasters, as the country’s topography is subject to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. During emergencies, Indonesian government personnel deploy on Search and Rescue missions to its remote islands that may have damaged or unreliable connectivity. Iridium PTT is helping the country conquer these challenges, immediately providing an easily deployed, cost-effective solution for reliable real-time communications on land, at sea or in the air.
Iridium service provider PT Amalgam Indocorpora supported the implementation by providing the Indonesian government with customized Icom IC-SAT100 PTT devices. With one-to-many communication at the push of a button and Iridium’s truly global coverage, the devices help ensure Indonesian government personnel remain connected. This capability brings immense value to the Indonesian government as they bridge the previous connectivity gap, allowing deployed teams to efficiently communicate with one another across the country’s islands over the Iridium network.
The IC-SAT100 is a compact, user-friendly radio with military grade ruggedness and includes a high audio speaker to ensure communications clarity, even in high ambient noise environments. Radio-style control knobs and a familiar LMR user interface make the IC-SAT100 incredibly easy to operate for existing radio users. With real-time, one-to-many communication, the highly secure service has end-to-end AES-256 encryption, making it an ideal option for militaries and government organizations in need of global group communications capabilities offering operational security and safety. Users will know that regardless of where in the world they need to deploy personnel and assets, they will remain within coverage.
“The small, lightweight and high-performing IC-SAT100 PTT device is the ideal tool for keeping dispatched personnel connected beyond the reach of traditional LMR networks,” says Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Iridium. “In Indonesia’s remote locations, where terrestrial networks are limited or non-existent, and in disaster-affected areas where terrestrial networks are damaged, the government can rely on the Iridium network to stay connected.”
“From customization to activation, it was an honor to work with the Indonesian government to ensure device best practices and a swift deployment to the field,” says Andre Halim, president director, PT Amalgam Indocorpora. “With a full suite of Iridium solutions, we are committed to working closely with our customers to support their vast connectivity needs.”
PT Amalgam Indocorpora also supports customers’ connectivity needs for businesses and governments with Iridium Certus® and IoT solutions, ideal for tracking personnel and assets, command and control, situational awareness and more. Iridium Certus is the only truly global broadband service that provides weather-resilient coverage for on-the-move internet and high-quality voice access. As the satellite IoT market continues to grow, Iridium’s suite of small form factor, low-power IoT devices continues to expand, further establishing Iridium’s position as the leader across a variety of industries ranging from maritime, aviation, government, land mobile and more. (Source: PR Newswire)
13 Apr 21. Here’s how new space tech is helping electronic warfare forces on the ground. The Space Development Agency is providing valuable and rapid electronic warfare capabilities in the tactical sphere, a top Pentagon official said.
Previously, most of the tactical electronic warfare support from the space sensing layer resulted from collaboration between the military and the intelligence community, which created barriers to timely information sharing for war fighters on the ground. Now with organic, so-called Title 10 space sensors deployed by the Space Development Agency, data can be shared more quickly.
The sensors deployed in orbit by the agency create organic military capabilities with real-time access and that provide greater force protection, according to David Tremper, director of electronic warfare within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, who spoke during an April 13 virtual conference hosted by the Association of Old Crows.
The speed becomes especially important as adversaries’ abilities to sense and target friendly systems is becoming more expansive, Tremper said.
Forces also have a much wider area to defend.
“High-altitude sensors become really important. Space Development Agency providing Title 10 sensors in space with tactical data links becomes really important,” Tremper said. “Now SDA capability with proliferated [low Earth orbit] LEO in space allows us then to, on demand, get sensing information 1,000 kilometers above us. That is critically important to wide-field-of-view types of sensing and targeting.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
13 Apr 21. DARPA chooses three firms to design nuclear-powered space vehicle. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has picked three companies to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system that will operate above low Earth orbit in 2025, the U.S. agency announced April 12.
General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin received contract awards and will be the prime contractors for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, program.
DARPA believes nuclear-powered propulsion could enable rapid maneuver in space — a capability that is difficult to achieve with current electric and chemical propulsion systems. The agency claims DRACO’s nuclear thermal propulsion, or NTP, system could potentially deliver the high thrust-to-weight ratios of a chemical propulsion system with the high propellent efficiency of an electric system. That would give U.S. military systems the agility the Pentagon wants for cislunar operations.
“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” Maj. Nathan Greiner, the Air Force program manager for DRACO, said in a statement. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.”
DARPA did not reveal the value of the three awards.
The Phase 1 contracts cover an 18-month period. General Atomics will create a preliminary design of the NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem, while Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will each independently design an operational system spacecraft concept and demonstration system spacecraft concept. The demonstration system will be derived from the operational system concept, but it will be specifically for demonstrating the NTP propulsion subsystem.
“This first phase of the DRACO program is a risk reduction effort that will enable us to sprint toward an on-orbit demonstration in later phases,” Greiner said.
DARPA will use the Phase 1 work to inform its follow-on efforts for more detailed design work, building the systems and conducting an on-orbit demonstration. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
13 Apr 21. New Tactical ISR Satellites Provide Global, Persistent Support for Warfighters. Units operating in denied areas employ survivable ISR to shorten the sensor-to-shooter timeline. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is addressing the accelerating demand for space-enabled warfighting capabilities with a new line of rapid, integrated and affordable tactical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) satellites. These satellites, based on Lockheed Martin’s LM 400 mid-size bus, enable tactical warfighters to track moving targets at long ranges and operate in contested and denied environments — on compressed timelines at the scale of battle.
Based on flight-proven and mature components, an open architecture, and a highly produceable design, the affordable LM 400 satellite bus forms the backbone of this needed capability across a variety of emerging mission areas. These satellites fully integrate space ISR with the warfighting platforms and weapons of other domains to shorten the find-fix-finish kill chain.
The LM 400-based tactical ISR satellites offer the following benefits:
• Interoperable: By following open standards like Open Mission System (OMS) and Universal Command and Control Interface (UCI), these tactical ISR satellites readily connect with other warfighting platforms and battle management systems from all services.
• Adaptable: The software-defined satellite capabilities of Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat™ platform offer the ability to responsively develop and deploy new mission capabilities on orbit ahead of the pace of evolving threats.
• Powerful: The high-powered LM 400 can also support payloads up to 14 kilowatts and up to 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms) of mass, enabling extended operation of a wide-range of sensor technologies.
• Autonomous, Survivable, Combat-Ready: Powered by on-board processing and resilient connectivity, this tactical ISR satellite line enables in-theater, low-latency sensor tasking, on-orbit processing of mission data, protected communications and direct downlink of situational awareness and targeting information, increasingly essential to shortening the sensor-to-shooter timeline against fleeting targets.
“Digital engineering and manufacturing are accelerating our ability to deploy robust, future-focused constellations that feature leading-edge technology for our customers’ missions,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “Our LM 400 is a highly-adaptable, mid-sized satellite that offers much more capability than conventional smallsats and can still be produced at scale in a rapid and cost-effective manner.”
For persistent ISR capabilities, “at scale” means larger constellations and rapid satellite production and deployment. Lockheed Martin’s new high-capacity Gateway Center satellite manufacturing facility supports accelerated space vehicle production, assembly and testing in a single, flexibly configured space, accommodating multiple security classification levels.
The LM 400-based tactical ISR satellites will play a key role in Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) by allowing tactical warfighters to better employ space-based capabilities. Lockheed Martin is also developing and building 10 space vehicles over the next two years for the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Transport Layer Tranche 0, cited as the backbone of JADC2, enabling even more connectivity between ISR and warfighters.
12 Apr 21. Rocket Lab to conduct second Electron launch vehicle test. Rocket Lab confirmed its second test for the multi-use Electron launch vehicle. Rocket Lab revealed that it is preparing to conduct an additional trial of their Electron launch vehicle in order to corroborate research from the Electron’s first trial in November. Rocket Labs describes the Electron as “the first orbital-class reusable small launch vehicle”.
The launch is currently scheduled for May 2021, and will take off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The project has been dubbed the ‘Running Out of Toes’ mission.
Rocket Lab describes that the Electron will heat up to some 2,400 degrees upon re-entry, with the vehicle re-entering with its nine 3D printed Rutherford engines facing first. The Electron will then utilise a drogue parachute, followed by a circular parachute to slow down before landing in the ocean.
It is expected that the Electron launch vehicle will land some 650 kilometres from the launch complex.
Peter Beck, founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab, outlined that Rocket Lab’s objective is to provide on-demand launch access.
“Reusability is hard for any launch vehicle, but it’s a particularly complex challenge for small rockets. The Return to Sender mission proved we could successfully bring Electron back from space. Now it’s about validating re-entry data a second time and starting to introduce the advanced systems that will enable us to launch, catch and repeat,” Beck said.
“Electron is already the second most frequently launched US rocket. Reusability will enable us to further increase launch cadence giving our customers on-demand access to space.” (Source: Space Connect)
12 Apr 21. 12 Kiwi businesses to work with German Aerospace Centre for R&D. 12 New Zealand companies selected by German Aerospace Centre for space research and development. The New Zealand government confirmed last week that they have entered into an agreement with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) to the support commercial development of New Zealand’s nascent space industry.
Minister for Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods outlined that 12 New Zealand entities were selected by the DLR to undertake an array of scientific research to support DLR’s space missions, across the fields of propulsion, communications and remote sensing.
Minister Woods noted that the New Zealand government wants to support space investment.
“New Zealand has unique competitive advantages which help to enable growth in the aerospace industry, including our geographic location and innovative thinking,” Minister Woods said.
“Remote sensing technologies have huge potential for New Zealand including for monitoring the change in our oceans and searching for vessels, pollutant spills and sea ice. Optical communications will become increasingly important for securely and quickly relaying large volumes of data to and from space craft, particularly for missions to the Moon and beyond.
“Our government has helped accelerate growth including through an enabling regulatory regime for space, the Airspace Integration Trials Programme and investing in the MethaneSAT climate change space mission.”
The New Zealand government has supported 12 commercial entities with $900,000 from the Minister for Business, Industry and Employment’s Catalyst Fund.
“Germany is one of New Zealand’s leading science and innovation partners and DLR houses some of the world’s most advanced aerospace technology capability. This is a natural partnership to enable New Zealand to be involved in cutting edge aerospace research,” Minister Woods added.
“The recipients of this funding range from universities and research organisations to start-up enterprises – many of which are conducting ground-breaking research for the future of our aerospace industry. This funding will contribute to studies that are essential for the development of their overall research and innovation efforts.” (Source: Space Connect)
12 Apr 21. Successful docking paves the way for future on-orbit and life-extension services through robotics. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, have successfully completed the docking of the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2) to the Intelsat 10-02 (IS-10-02) commercial communications satellite to deliver life-extension services. The docking was completed at 1:34 p.m. EST.
Northrop Grumman is the only provider of flight-proven life extension services for satellites, and this is the second time the company has docked two commercial spacecraft in orbit. The company’s MEV-1 made history when it successfully docked to the Intelsat 901 (IS-901) satellite in February 2020. Unlike MEV-1, which docked above the GEO orbit before moving IS-901 back into service, MEV-2 docked with IS-10-02 directly in its operational GEO orbital location.
“Today’s successful docking of our second Mission Extension Vehicle further demonstrates the reliability, safety and utility of in-space logistics,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, strategic space systems, Northrop Grumman and president, SpaceLogistics LLC. “The success of this mission paves the way for our second generation of servicing satellites and robotics, offering flexibility and resiliency for both commercial and government satellite operators, which can enable entirely new classes of missions.”
Under the terms of Intelsat’s satellite life-extension servicing contract, MEV-2 will provide five years of service to IS-10-02 before undocking and moving on to provide services for a new mission.
“Intelsat has pioneered innovations in space-based technology for more than five decades. We are proud to work side by side with Northrop Grumman on today’s groundbreaking mission, the first-ever docking of a communications satellite in GEO orbit,” said Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco. “Space servicing is a valuable tool for Intelsat in extending the high-quality service experience that our customers depend upon. Northrop Grumman’s MEV technology has helped us extend the life of two otherwise healthy and high-performing satellites, while focusing our innovation capital on advancing the Intelsat next-generation network – this technology is a ‘win-win’ for us.”
The Mission Extension Vehicle is the first in Northrop Grumman’s lineup of satellite servicing vehicles, but following last year’s robotic servicing mission award from DARPA, the company is working with the agency on a mission that will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft. This mission will expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics using the company’s Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) to conduct in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites through robotics.
To further complement its on-orbit servicing portfolio, Northrop Grumman is leveraging model based systems engineering to develop its Mission Extension Pods (MEPs) which will also provide critical life extension services to aging satellites. The MRV will be used to install these pods on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives. The company is targeting 2024 for launch of both the MRV and the initial MEPs.
As the foundational architects of satellite technology, Intelsat operates the world’s largest and most advanced satellite fleet and connectivity infrastructure. We apply our unparalleled expertise and global scale to connect people, businesses, and communities, no matter how difficult the challenge. Intelsat is uniquely positioned to help our customers turn possibilities into reality – transformation happens when businesses, governments, and communities use Intelsat’s next-generation global network and managed services to build their connected future.
12 Apr 21. Exolaunch, the leading rideshare services provider for the NewSpace industry and trendsetter in deployment solutions, today introduced its space tug program, featuring a new line of revolutionary orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) that will launch satellites to custom orbits in an environmentally responsible way – the first of its kind in the OTV industry. The company’s space tug testing and flight qualification will begin in 2022 on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rideshare missions.
With over 140 satellites deployed to date across different launch vehicles, Exolaunch has an industry insight it can leverage to develop solutions tailored towards meeting customer needs and addressing market trends. Named Reliant, Exolaunch will offer the most robust OTV platform on the market for performance, payload, capacity, and flexibility in executing orbital maneuvers.
Exolaunch’s tug is powered by an innovative green propulsion system, which also provides a high thrust-to-weight ratio and meets the highest standards for environmental safety. Its design also leverages additive technologies using lightweight carbon fiber composites and 3D printing, resulting in low mass and high cost-efficiency. The Reliant currently comes in two configurations, Standard and Pro.
The Standard configuration is optimal for moving satellites to a custom orbit altitude after they’ve been deployed from a launch vehicle on a set rideshare orbit. For example, the utilized propulsion system allows to lift the orbit from 250-300 km to 550 km in one hour, greatly expanding the reach of existing missions to the small satellite community.
The Pro configuration is equipped with a hybrid propulsion system, which combines the advantages of green propulsion and the unique capabilities of electric propulsion system. The Reliant Pro enables customers to not only change the orbit altitude, but also adjust the inclination, LTAN/LTDN and perform orbital phasing for satellite constellations. Additionally, it is designed to deorbit in less than two hours after deployment completion, minimizing the risks of space collisions and reducing orbital debris.
“There is an increased demand from our customers and the NewSpace industry for dedicated injection and custom orbit in their constellation deployment programs, but until now they’ve been limited to one orbit per launch,” said Jeanne Medvedeva, Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch. “Our space tug program will now offer customers multiple orbit options for smallsat deployments on any given mission, enabling wider access to space and diverse constellation launch strategies. It is also our contribution to the capacity-building of in-space logistics, a new emerging niche that is gaining value in the Exolaunch portfolio.”
Reliant will also set the standard for environmentally conscious OTVs, featuring the ability to install modular payloads with the purpose of tackling the growing issue of space debris. After safely deploying satellites into their target orbits, an essential task of the Reliant Pro would be to collect authorized space debris prior to deorbiting, positioning Exolaunch as a leading actor in fostering the sustainable use of space.
“In designing our OTV, we paid due regard to the space sustainability and space debris mitigation guidelines with constant thought as to how we could make a positive change and go beyond what has been done to set a new benchmark,” said Dr. Olga Stelmakh-Drescher, Exolaunch Chief Policy and Government Relations Officer. “With that in mind, we developed a feature that would allow Exolaunch to not only mitigate the risk of space debris generation, but also to reduce the amount of debris in orbit every time Reliant is launched. We believe this dedicated OTV service will be in high demand by space governmental and intergovernmental organizations, and later on by private actors once the practice is established.”
Exolaunch’s space tugs are compatible with any launch vehicle, with the primary target use on Falcon 9 under SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program. This allows Exolaunch customers to benefit from best-in-class tailored launch services, launch cost optimization, and flexible mission management while also offering access to custom orbits within the reach of a general rideshare program in an environmentally responsible way. Exolaunch’s OTVs are fully compatible with its proprietary flight-proven deployment technologies, including CarboNIX, a next-gen scalable and shock-free microsatellite separation system; EXOpod, a cutting-edge cubesat deployer; EXOport, a flexible multi-satellite adapter, and an EXObox sequencer.
Reliant is one aspect of Exolaunch’s Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability impact initiative. As a responsible business, Exolaunch prioritizes environmental performance of its products and is committed to guaranteeing the conduct of its activities in a safe and ethical manner.
12 Apr 21. Moon to Mars Trailblazer Program – public consultation opens. The Australian Space Agency has opened the Public Consultation phase of its flagship Trailblazer Program. Submissions close on 2 May. The Agency aims to grow a globally respected national space industry that lifts the broader economy and improves the lives of Australians by creating 20,000 new jobs and tripling the sector’s turnover to $12bn by 2030. The Trailblazer program is the flagship element of the Moon to Mars initiative, a $150m investment over five years to drive the growth of Australia’s space sector.
The Trailblazer program supports NASA’s space exploration program and especially Project Artemis, its plan to return to the Moon and then go on to Mars. It will contribute flagship Australian space capability within an international space exploration program. The program will also leverage Australia’s competitive strengths in space and showcase Australian capabilities to the world.
Its Public Consultation program is designed to inform the Trailblazer program; the Agency is seeking feedback on:
• the proposed objectives and outcomes of the program
• Australia’s exploration vision and potential missions
• the proposed implementation of the program.
The space sector’s comments and feedback during the consultation phase are welcomed.
The Consultation paper can be downloaded here:
Moon to Mars initiative – Trailblazer program: Consultation paper [PDF 1.1MB] [DOCX 35MB].
To support the consultation process, the Agency will be hosting an information session on 22 April to discuss and answer questions on the Trailblazer program.
Register for the information session
While the Agency will note common themes of discussion during the information session, submissions to the consultation process must be made in writing. For further information contact the Australian Space Agency on 02 6276 1166 or Consultation@space.gov.au (Source: http://rumourcontrol.com.au/)
11 Apr 21. Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband. Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Amazon.com Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.
Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”
Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.
Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.
Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.
Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.
Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.
Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.
“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.
Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.
Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.
They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.
Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.
The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10bn SpaceX and Amazon projects.
“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”
Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.
“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10bn on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”
Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.
“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.
Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.
Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.
France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400m ($317m), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600m to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246m in net income in 2020.
Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.
“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.” (Source: Reuters)
09 Apr 21. New US Space Force directorate drafting ISR, intel requirements. The US Space Force’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) chief is pressing ahead with two service-level initiatives that will lay the requirements and capabilities framework for the newest US military branch for the coming years.
The US Space Force (USSF) ISR personnel have created an internal working group to facilitate the stand-up of the National Space Intelligence Centre (NSIC), and also to help determine what the make-up of the service’s contribution will be to the new centre, and what the path ahead could look like, said Space Force ISR Director US Air Force Major General Leah Lauderback.
“Anyone that has a capability on orbit is looking for … how do we characterise the adversary better,” Maj Gen Lauderback said, regarding the potential advantages posed by the centre’s ability to organise and support the various US military and intelligence organisations with space-based capabilities. The work, co-ordinated by the NSIC, “can determine what do we have, what do we need, and how can we get it” in terms of space-based capabilities, from a government approach, she added.
A US Space Force insignia mounted aboard an Advanced Extremely High-Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite testbed. (United Launch Alliance )
With an anticipated initial operating capability (IOC) date of January 2022 for the NSIC, the centre will be the “focal point for space domain intelligence … in concert with the Space Force ISR Enterprise”, according to Space Force planning guidance issued by the Pentagon in 2020. ”The NSIC will provide a framework for growth to meet anticipated demand for increased space intelligence at foundational, tactical, operational, and strategic levels,” it added. (Source: Jane’s)
05 Apr 21. Mission Microwave’s Major Move. Mission Microwave Technologies, LLC has moved from their original offices in Santa Fe Springs to a larger facility in Cypress, California. Mission Microwave manufactures X, Ku and Ka-band solid state amplifiers and frequency converters to support the leading manufacturers of satellite uplink terminals. The company started in 2014 in Santa Fe Springs and, in 2016 and 2018, doubled their footprint in that facility to approximately 15,000 square feet.
The new Mission Microwave facility at 6060 Phyllis Drive in Cypress, California, again doubles the size of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities to accommodate the dramatic growth being experienced in the company’s Ku and Ka-band amplifier production.
“Our customers and employees have contributed the energy and enthusiasm that have made our growth possible,” said Mission Microwave’s President and CEO, Francis Auricchio. “Our new office and manufacturing center brings some well-deserved improvements in efficiency and workflow for our employees. The expanded manufacturing and development facilities will continue our customers’ confidence in our capability to support their increasing demand for our products.”
The new facility of more than 31,000 square feet is equipped with ten temperature controlled test equipment suites capable of automated production testing up to 40 GHz for high power amplifiers, up to 750 watts. The facility has enhanced power distribution and HVAC systems to accommodate the growing volume of deliveries of Mission products that each undergo proprietary burn-in, tuning and testing processes.
The new floor plan layout supports the reliable manufacturing of Mission’s well-known products such as the Cube, Dart, Stinger, Javelin, and Titan BUCs used on tactical SATCOM terminals throughout the Department of Defense (DoD) and critical commercial telecommunications networks.
Improvements to the production and testing lines also enhance Mission Microwave’s growing airborne product business including Ku- and Ka-band BUCs and transceivers for UAV’s and for DO-160 qualified terminal partners.
Mission Microwave designs RF (Radio Frequency) and microwave electronics, supports ground-based, airborne, and space-based applications. Using the latest in semiconductor technology, Mission Microwave’s focus is to minimize the size, weight, and power (SWaP) for these critical applications, while providing customers with the best possible reliability. (Source: Satnews)
05 Apr 21. Amazon Web Services Joins The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) welcomes Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the organization’s newest, 27th, Strategic-Level Member. AWS is a leading cloud platform, offering more than 200 fully featured services from data centers globally. Many enterprise and government customers use AWS Cloud to transform their organizations and businesses. AWS offers the most comprehensive and broadly adopted platform of services and features, which allow their customers to be more agile while reducing computing costs. Geospatial customers benefit from the ease, speed, and cost-effectiveness of their services, which frees them from having to purchase, maintain, and operate their own servers and data centers.
USGIF organizational membership enables organizations to play an integral role in the advancement of the geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) tradecraft through professional development and unparalleled interaction with community leaders, decision-makers, as well as the GEOINT’ers of today and tomorrow. USGIF Strategic-Level membership is the highest and most inclusive level of organizational membership. Benefits include complimentary GEOINT Symposium registrations, exclusive access to USGIF events, and the ability to participate in forums exclusive to USGIF Strategic-Level Members.
“Having AWS join the Foundation as a Strategic-Level Member is truly a big deal for us,” said Ronda Schrenk, USGIF CEO. “They bring a unique perspective and wealth of knowledge to our community and organization. We look forward to an engaging and symbiotic relationship.” (Source: Satnews)
04 Apr 21. US Space Command Completes Global Lightning 2021 Exercise. The Global Lightning exercise tests multi-domain space capabilities — many operations were conducted during U.S. Space Command’s recent Global Lightning exercise that was based in the command’s joint operations center. More than 100 U.S. Space Command personnel and 900 total participants took part in Global Lightning 2021, which integrated space capabilities into a multi-domain exercise.
Global Lightning is an annual Department of Defense (DoD) exercise designed to train joint and combined forces to assess operational readiness in creating conditions for effective deterrence against a variety of threats. This year’s simulated conflict scenario involved three combatant commands: USSPACECOM, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. European Command.
“Space is critical to any fight,” U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, USSPACECOM commander, said. “This exercise gave us a good look out how we, as combatant commands, are coordinating, cooperating and executing decisive military actions across multiple domains. Our goal is to deter a conflict in space, but we need to be prepared to win, if defense is necessary. And this is why we continue to test our space warfighters, allowing them to enhance their skill sets in ensuring a safe, secure, stable and sustainable space domain.”
Throughout the five-day exercise, USSPACECOM headquarters staff and its components integrated and synchronized interoperability efforts with USSTRATCOM, USEUCOM, allies and partners.
“We train how we fight,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Frank Kincaid, deputy director of USSPACECOM’s Joint Space Operations Forces Development Directorate. “We are giving our joint warfighters the capability to command and control joint space forces, integrating a whole-of-government approach and sharing decision quality information to the last tactical mile.”
The Australian Defence Force, the Canadian Defence Force and UK Ministry of Defence all had direct participation in Global Lightning 21.
“Every opportunity to train with our allies and partners improves our military capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Devin Pepper, deputy director of USSPACECOM’s Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate. “On an increasing scale, our allies make our collective security efforts in space more effective.”
Space — like air, land, sea and cyber — is a unique environment. The scope and complexity of the threats to space capabilities continues the need to train space warriors to out think and outmaneuver. (Source: Satnews)
08 Apr 21. OneWeb Engages The AST Group With An MoU. OneWeb has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The AST Group (AST) — by working together, AST and OneWeb will offer fixed-land and maritime customers access to OneWeb’s fast, flexible and affordable connectivity solutions seamlessly in even the most remote locations on land and at sea.
Customer beta trials will be undertaken with AST before the end of the year and will be focused on delivering fixed services to support remote connectivity in Northern Europe.
Once full commercial service is available in 2022, OneWeb seeks to provide AST’s customers, primarily in the commercial shipping, fishing and high-end offshore sectors, with access to viable, high speed, low latency connectivity as an alternative to the current VSAT internet solutions to truly enable digitization and deliver the long-awaited leap in operational efficiencies.
Commenting on the partnership, Gregory Darling, AST’s founder and Chairman, said, “We’re delighted to strengthen our relationship with OneWeb by becoming its distribution partner so that we can offer customers a fiber-like alternative to current solutions. AST’s focus is solution-based to ensure that customers improve their overall operational efficiency. OneWeb’s new satellite constellation and next-generation connectivity aligned with AST’s INTEGRA network services will enable faster and better communications for the maritime industry. This new agreement marks further progress toward this transition. This comes at a time when regulatory and commercial influences are driving demand for companies in maritime and offshore industries to decarbonize, improve broader sustainability and governance standards as well as improving business performance – all of which are underpinned by the need for more technology and data.”
Carole Plessy, Head of Maritime at OneWeb, said, “OneWeb believes that connectivity at sea should be as seamless and simple as it is onshore to improve the overall efficiency, sustainability and profitability of the maritime and offshore industries. We’re proud to work with The AST Group, not just because of the strength of its market insight, reach and capabilities, but because of our shared belief that remote, faultless connectivity is essential to delivering operational excellence. By partnering with AST, we are another step closer to making LEO connectivity available to more marine and offshore customers, ending the legacy of complex, slow and costly VSAT systems.” (Source: Satnews)
08 Apr 21. Smiths Interconnect To Develop G-Band Antenna For Mitsubishi Electronic Co. Smiths Interconnect has received a contract from Mitsubishi Electric Corporation to participate in the development of a G-band satellite for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Smiths Interconnect will design a component with dual band millimeter wave antenna and receivers as a part of the advanced microwave scanning radiometer 3 (AMSR3). The AMSR3 is designed to receive microwave radiation from the Earth and will be mounted on the Global Observing SATellite for Greenhouse gases and Water cycle (GOSAT-GW).
Artistic rendition of the JAXA GOSAT-GW satellite on-orbit.
These microwave radiation measurements will assist in preventing disasters attributed to global warming and climate change, and to advance scientific and technological methods that enable more accurate prediction of climate change. The fully integrated antenna and receiver is an integral part of the system which will provide the frequency and the bandwidth that the GOSAT-GW mission requires.
Among very few companies with both millimeter wave component and subsystem expertise combined with heritage in both space applications and antenna system design, Smiths Interconnect is uniquely positioned to provide first-class technical support and a reliable, lightweight, and compact system solution.
” We are proud to partner with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and be a part of this important satellite mission. Our extensive knowledge in the area of millimeter wave solutions for Space applications perfectly aligns us to support our customers’ current and future needs,” said Ralph DeMarco, Vice President of Business Development and Sales at Smiths Interconnect Inc. (Source: Satnews)
08 Apr 21. SES Chooses Telestream SDI/IP Waveform Monitor & QC For New Remotely Operated Playout Center. Telestream makes it easier to check quality and assist diagnostics in SES’ state-of-the-art remotely operated playout center. SES, a global content connectivity solutions provider, has selected Telestream to provide system timing, waveform monitor and quality control (QC) technology to a new remote broadcast center in Stockley Park, Greater London.
As a part of the services it delivers, Telestream is providing its SPG8000A sync generators for system timing applications throughout the new playout center. In addition, its PRISM SDI/IP waveform monitor is being used for all video monitoring and QC applications throughout the center’s distribution workflows.
SES’s new broadcast center provides playout infrastructure for linear TV channels and is capable of supporting HD formats and HDR services. Despite the data center being based in London, the network management is operated by SES teams in Munich. Telestream products play a critical role in making a remotely managed solution viable and ensuring seamless workflow.
In order to manage and maintain accurate system timing, SES chose SPG8000A sync generators with an ECO8000 change-over unit. Newly released firmware enables full remote operation through a web user interface, critical for remote operation including clock source changes between primary and backup. This product combination enables the SES teams in Munich to switch network timing sources or GPS receivers remotely without the need to be on-site in London to perform critical management and support tasks.
Additionally, SES selected the PRISM waveform monitors as their main tool for monitoring SDI signal quality and deep video analysis. Telestream’s “NoVNC Access” enables engineers in Munich to remotely operate and view all PRISM functions through a browser connection.
“When we developed PRISM platform, the primary goal was to help our customers chartered futures of UHD and IP packet-based infrastructures,” commented Charlie Dunn, Senior Vice President, Tek Business Unit at Telestream. “By using a ‘software defined’ approach this allowed us to adapt to the direction of the industry by working closely with early adopters like SES. Early on it became clear that remote-access was a key tenant to these customers’ IP transitions and, as a result, the remote-access of PRISM’s UI over the network has become one of its most valued capabilities.” (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.