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23 Apr 21. Kleos Space Polar Vigilance satellites passes Development Milestone – Integration Readiness Review.
- Development milestones confirms Polar Vigilance satellites are on track for mid-2021 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
- Satellites planned delivery to site expected by the end of May
- Polar Patrol Mission, 3rd Cluster scheduled to launch in December 2021
- Every satellite cluster launched increases the ground covered and the time covered, thus, the value of our radio frequency geolocation data increases
Kleos Space S.A (ASX:KSS, Frankfurt:KS1), a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, confirms development of its second satellite cluster, the Polar Vigilance Mission (KSF1), is on track for a mid-2021 SpaceX launch after successfully completing Integration Readiness Review, and the satellites start the build process with satellite builder ISISPACE.
The four Polar Vigilance nanosatellites are in the assembly and testing phase in preparation for final acceptance. Kleos’ satellites will then be delivered to the launch site for integration into the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The KSF1 Polar Vigilance Mission satellites are scheduled for a mid-2021 launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, under a rideshare contract with Spaceflight Inc. The KSF1 satellites will launch into a 500-600km Sun Synchronous orbit, increasing Kleos’ coverage to the north and south of the 37o inclination of the Scouting Mission satellites, which successfully launched in early November 2020. Kleos’ third satellite cluster, the Polar Patrol Mission, is scheduled to launch in December 2021 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.
Kleos’ satellites detect and geolocate radio frequency transmissions to provide global activity-based intelligence, improving the detection of ‘dark’ activities such as drug and people smuggling, border challenges, and illegal fishing.
Kleos Space CTO Miles Ashcroft said, “Development of the KSF1 cluster is progressing at an incredible pace with delivery to site planned for the end of May. Kleos is leveraging the experience and enthusiasm of its satellite builder, Netherlands-based ISISPACE, to develop and deliver quickly as well as improve hardware and software capability. We are growing our constellation rapidly in 2021 with a further cluster scheduled for launch towards the end of the year. Every satellite cluster launched increases the ground covered and the time covered, thus, the value of our radio frequency geolocation data increases, enabling tiered subscription licences for governments and commercial entities to be offered.”
22 Apr 21. Isar Aerospace Signs Launch Deal with Airbus Defence and Space. Isar Aerospace had signed a deal for launch services with Airbus Defence and Space, the companies announced April 22. The deal sees Airbus Defence and Space commit to one launch, plus options, of a small Earth Observation (EO) satellite into orbit with Isar Aerospace’s Spectrum launch vehicle.
This is a significant deal as according to Munich-based Isar Aerospace it constitutes the first major launch contract between an established space company and a privately-financed European launch company. Airbus said that the Spectrum launch vehicle is complementary to existing medium and large launchers in Europe. The Spectrum launch vehicle is designed to carry payloads up to 1,000 kg to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
“There is an enormous need for access to space from companies around the world, but launch capacity is still limited, expensive and inflexible. We are proud to offer customers a flexible alternative for their individual space transportation needs,”Alexandre Dalloneau, vice president of Mission and Launch Operations at Isar Aerospace, said in a statement. (Source: Google/https://www.satellitetoday.com/)
22 Apr 21. LeoLabs Announces Costa Rica Space Radar “Fully Operational.” LeoLabs achievement represents the world’s most advanced commercial space radar for mapping low Earth orbit, deployed in record time
LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today confirmed “fully operational” status for its Costa Rica Space Radar, effective immediately. This new phased-array radar reinforces LeoLabs’ leadership as the premier data and services provider to inform and protect the rapidly expanding commercial and governmental activities in LEO.
“Only nine months after breaking ground in Costa Rica, it is gratifying to announce full operational status for the most advanced commercial space radar of its kind anywhere on the planet”, said Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs co-founder and CEO. “The Costa Rica Space Radar is a critical addition to the global constellation of radars LeoLabs is building, and clearly demonstrates not just our rapid deployment capabilities, but the dramatic increase in data underpinning our LeoLabs services platform.”
Costa Rica Space Radar: Unique Contribution to New Space
With its newest radar site, LeoLabs introduces a unique asset that provides equatorial coverage for low inclination orbits, giving the company full coverage of LEO. In addition, the Costa Rica Space Radar provides unprecedented capability to track objects, including active satellites and orbital debris down to 2cm. These objects represent the vast majority of the risk in LEO. It is these risks that are critical considerations for all of LeoLabs’ customer base, which includes satellite operators, defense, space and regulatory agencies, insurance, and the scientific community.
“The implications of the Costa Rica Space Radar are two-fold,” explained Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut and LeoLabs co-founder. “First, it provides an increased level of data to inform and improve the operational services we offer to emerging satellite constellations entering LEO. Every service we provide, such as collision avoidance or early launch tracking, benefits from the additional data flowing off the Costa Rica Space Radar. This is foundational. Second,” Lu continued, “in combination with our other radars, the Costa Rica Space Radar expands our ability to provide a real time map of more objects in LEO, to characterize the risks, and feed that insight to our customers. This is a major contribution to space sustainability and safety of flight.”
Investment and Partnership in Costa Rica
“LeoLabs is pleased to make this strategic investment in Costa Rica,” remarked Dan Ceperley. “We view this as a long-term partnership for LeoLabs, and we are grateful for the support provided by Costa Rica, and our shared commitment to participating in the new space economy.”
To mark the occasion today, LeoLabs hosted an inaugural ceremony at the Costa Rica Space Radar site, attended by numerous government officials, including Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. “LeoLabs investment in its Costa Rica Space Radar is a true example of the range of opportunities we have as a country in attracting state-of-the-art technology companies that promote a greater environment for innovation,” said President Alvarado. He continued, “this project extends responsible management of caring for the environment to space, an inherent value in a country like ours.”
For her part, the Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Paola Vega Castillo, expressed that “the arrival of LeoLabs to the country is a relevant milestone that reminds us of the importance of maintaining efforts to promote the development of our population for the opportunities of the knowledge era, and to support the consolidation and opening of new businesses based on technology with vision of future.”
In addition to LeoLabs’ Edward Lu, the event was also attended by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz, CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company, a LeoLabs partner in Costa Rica. “It’s very exciting for the Costa Rican space community to witness this important step,” said Chang- Diaz. It is exactly the kind of project that will enable new science, empower students, and improve the safety of future human spaceflight. We are very happy to be working with LeoLabs on the execution of this groundbreaking facility.”
Founded in 2016 as a venture-funded spinout of Silicon Valley research pioneer, SRI International, LeoLabs provides access to critical mapping and SSA data for low Earth orbit. LeoLabs’ services include collision prevention, risk assessment, constellation monitoring, and commercial SSA. LeoLabs today serves space agencies, commercial satellite operators, defense, and scientific/academic organizations that are driving generational change in LEO. LeoLabs’ core technology includes a patent-pending global phased-array radar network which tracks debris and satellites in LEO. Observations generated from this network are the foundation of the LeoLabs mapping and SSA software platform, providing timely and accurate orbital and situational data. (Source: PR Newswire)
22 Apr 21. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been selected by the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) to proceed with its ongoing Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) Rapid Prototype program, with a flight demonstration of the company’s PTS payload set to occur in 2024.
Selected for the initial award through the Space Enterprise Consortium, this continuation enables Northrop Grumman to proceed with the completion of the detailed design, manufacturing and testing of the payload. The company will also integrate its payload onto a host space vehicle and conduct its on-orbit demonstration.
“Northrop Grumman’s selection to continue its Protected Tactical SATCOM rapid prototyping reflects our close collaboration with SMC and allows us to further support the Space Force’s critical mission,” said Cyrus Dhalla, vice president, communication systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our digital engineering approach has enabled the rapid pace of our analysis and demonstrations, which have validated that the Space Force can deliver significantly enhanced anti-jam performance to the warfighter.”
Northrop Grumman completed the preliminary design peer review of its PTS prototype in December 2020. The company has also demonstrated the interoperability of its prototype with the government’s PTS test terminal, and has successfully validated the advanced, anti-jam performance of its design using the Protected Tactical Waveform, an anti-jam communications waveform that allows access to secure, protected communications by the tactical warfighter.
Through this program, Northrop Grumman builds on more than four decades of experience in delivering protected military SATCOM mission capabilities. The company’s flight demonstration of the PTS payload will feature advanced anti-jam SATCOM links as an element of the Protected Anti-Jam Tactical SATCOM architecture, which includes space, ground and gateway segments.
22 Apr 21. OneWeb Advances its ‘Five to 50’ ambition with Launch #6.
- On schedule to cover down to 50 degrees latitude and over the Northern Polar region, with service ready to start by the end of the year
- Launch will bring total satellites launched to date in 2021 to 108 as monthly momentum builds
- Multiple commercial partnerships with The AST Group, the Government of Kazakhstan, among others with more soon to be announced demonstrate growing attractiveness to global customers
London, UK, 22 April, 2021: OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) global satellite communications company, confirms plans to launch a further 36 satellites into Low Earth Orbit on 26th April as part of its sixth launch. The launch will be conducted by Arianespace from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Lift-off will take place on 25th April at 23:14 BST, 26th April at 07:14 Local Time, Vostochny and the mission to insert the satellites into initial orbit – prior to raising to operational orbit is expected to last approximately four hours.
The planned launch will bring OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation to 182 satellites and is the third launch in OneWeb’s ‘Five to 50’ programme, to deliver its connectivity solution to reach regions north of 50 degrees latitude by June 2021.
OneWeb’s ‘Five to 50’ programme aims to connect broadband data users in the northern hemisphere, with services covering the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Artic Seas and Canada. Service will be ready to start by the end of year, with global service available in 2022.
OneWeb also continues to grow rapidly as it sees increasing demand across its customer base. The company has recently announced distribution signings across multiple industries with The AST Group, PDI, among others, and more signings to be announced in the coming weeks as OneWeb expands its global capabilities.
OneWeb also agreed its latest MoU with the Government of Kazakhstan this month as it continues to demonstrate the company’s commercial viability and the confidence customers have in its services and offering.
In March 2021, OneWeb conducted its first network demonstrations to the U.S. Government and will be rolling out additional demonstration kits and Service Demo-centres in locations such as: Westcott 5G Centre, U.K., Talkeetna, Alaska, in the Washington D.C. area and more.
22 Apr 21. GPS III SV05 Arrives Safely in Florida. The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center successfully delivered the fifth Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, April 6. GPS III Space Vehicle (SV) 05 was successfully transported from the Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado to the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida by a C-17 Globemaster III crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Now that the satellite has arrived at the Astrotech Space Operations facility, the latest addition to the GPS constellation modernization effort will begin final testing and checkout before the launch. While at Astrotech, it will undergo final post-ship functional testing, loaded with onboard propellant and subsequently encapsulated for launch. Once these items are accomplished, SV05 will be horizontally integrated with the first-ever SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle to be reflown for a National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission.
“SV05 is the third GPS III satellite shipped to the Cape in the last 14 months and marks a key step to our larger goal of GPS constellation modernization. As the fourth GPS III launch campaign with SpaceX, this NSSL mission is historic both for the first reflight of a Falcon 9 rocket and for being the 24th Military-Code (M-Code) satellite introduced to our constellation, the last needed to bring M-Code to full operational capability,” said Col. Edward Byrne, SMC’s Space Production Corps Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief.
Slated to launch in June 2021, GPS III SV05 will join the operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites, delivering enhanced performance and accuracy through a variety of improvements. Improvement highlights include increased signal protection, L1C signal interoperability, and the newest civilian signal, L5. As a crucial technological foundation for internet, financial, transportation, and agricultural operations, GPS delivers the gold standard in positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting U.S. and allied operations worldwide.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning systems, military satellite communications, a meteorological satellite control network, range systems, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.
21 Apr 21. China poses longer-range threat, says USSPACECOM chief. As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to modernise, an increasingly capable and lethal Chinese joint force “will almost certainly be able to hold US and allied forces at risk at greater distances from the Chinese mainland”, US Army General James Dickinson, the commander of the US Space Command (USSPACECOM), said on 20 April.
In a written statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee the commander said that China, which poses “a major security challenge and remains a long-term strategic competitor to the United States”, is focused on developing and fielding advanced military capabilities in all warfighting domains to build what it terms a ”world-class military”.
To achieve this, Beijing is putting special emphasis on long-range precision strike, cyber-space, electronic warfare, space, and counter-space capabilities alongside a modern, effective nuclear deterrent, while restructuring the PLA into a “combat-capable global joint force”, said the commander.
Focusing on the country’s space capabilities, the general noted that China has already developed “robust and capable” space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
Moreover, the commander said China is making improvements to existing systems, including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations, while warning that the country’s BeiDou navigation system, which is now globally operational, may “mask potential military activities and may be considered dual-use in nature”. (Source: Jane’s)
21 Apr 21. Space Development Agency wants to update the standard for its orbital mesh network. Before its first satellites are on orbit, the Space Development Agency is reaching out to industry for feedback on how it should upgrade its communications standards for its second generation of satellites.
Established in 2019, the agency was charged with developing the National Defense Space Architecture, a proliferated constellation to eventually be made up of hundreds of satellites mostly operating in low Earth orbit. The backbone of the architecture is the transport layer, a mesh network on orbit connected through optical intersatellite links. The transport layer will allow the DoD to rapidly move data through space, and will be the glue that will connect the services’ various Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control networks.
“The whole idea is to be able to move data as rapidly as possible to get that tactical information directly to the war fighter,” said SDA Director Derek Tournear at the annual C4ISRNET Conference. “So what the transport layer consists of are hundreds of satellites that form a resilient optically interconnected mesh network that will pass data directly to existing tactical data links. So what that means to the war fighter is the following: I can now move data from a targeting cell that could be located CONUS or ideally that targeting cell will actually form a target onboard on the satellites and I can send that data down directly to an existing tactical data link on a weapons platform or on a weapon itself.”
SDA is using a spiral development approach to build out the NDSA, putting up new tranches of satellites every two years. The first set of 28 satellites — tranche 0 — will begin launching in 2022 and provide a war fighter immersion capability. Tranche 1 will have closer to 150 satellites and will be an operational system.
SDA adopted standards for its tranche 0 optical intersatellite links, but it’s already looking to change those standards for its tranche 1 satellites, which are set to be launched beginning in 2024.
“Now in essence what we did in tranche 0 was we wanted to show the minimum viable product was that we could form a mesh network and that we could send that tactical data directly to the war fighter,” Tournear said. “We chose an optical crosslink standard at the time that we knew could affordably be produced based on mostly developments that were done by AFRL [Air Force Research Laboratory] at the time.”
That standard made sense for the 28 satellites in tranche 0 the director noted. It made less sense for the scale of tranche 1, which will see about 150 satellites added to the constellation.
“Tranche 1 is a completely different ballgame,” Tournear said. “That’s our initial war fighting capability We will be able to provide regional persistence to the war fighter with this low latency comm. So now if we’re looking at 150 satellites and we’re looking at, you know, something on the order of three to five optical crosslinks per satellite and we want those crosslinks to not only be satellite to satellite but satellite to air, satellite to ground and satellite to air and maritime assets, we had to start to look and say, ‘Okay now we really need to look at the optical comm standard and say, what is industry doing?’”
On April 16, SDA issued a request for information seeking industry feedback on an optical communication standard for tranche 1. Tournear said that standard is expected to hold through tranche 2 with minimum changes and backward compatibility.
“Starting in tranche 3, that’s when we will look and fold in the lessons learned from tranche 1 and any new technology that’s been developed and any new threats that have come online and and have basically a revamp, so tranche 3 will likely be quite a bit different than tranche 1 and 2,” said the director.
The new tranche 1 standard will also be the standard used to tie commercial and Space Force satellites into the SDA mesh network. Tournear said he expects Space Force systems to connect to the transport layer via optical intersatellite links in tranche 2. Commercial capabilities are expected to tie in even sooner.
In addition, the agency is working with three to four companies to ensure their satellites can connect to the transport layer via optical intersatellite links, he said. Those commercial satellites will form the custody layer, an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that will provide overhead satellite imagery for tactical targeting. The agency is also talking with commercial services that could provide high bandwidth data backhaul in case the architecture was disabled. SDA is expected to order its tranche 1 transport layer satellites this summer. Responses to the optical communications RFI are due April 30. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
22 Apr 21. ThinKom satellites selected for US Army trial. The US Army is set to put ThinKom satellites to the test for its ABCT pilot program. ThinKom has been selected to supply phased-array satellite terminals for a pilot program aimed at assessing communications on-the-move (COTM) options for the US Army’s Armoured Brigade Combat Teams (ABCT).
Specifically, ThinKom has been tasked with integrating enhanced mobile network solutions directly onto select vehicles to bolster the expeditionary capability of command posts, while also supporting network connectivity across the battlefield.
This follows the acquisition of three ThinKom ThinSat 300 vehicular satellite antennas by General Dynamics Mission Systems, the program’s prime contractor, for testing as a design option for mounting on command-post vehicles in armour formations.
The Ku-band ThinSat 300 antennas leverage ThinKom’s patented and proven Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub (VICTS) phased-array technology, currently deployed on over 1,600 aircraft.
“The ABCT pilot program will demonstrate that our field-proven commercial off-the-shelf technology can provide a reliable and low-cost solution to meet this demanding requirement in support of US armed forces,” Bill Milroy, ThinKom’s CTO and chairman, said.
The COTM pilot program is expected to lead to prototype deployment and testing under the Army’s two-year Capability Set cycle in 2023. (Source: Defence Connect)
21 Apr 21. Boeing’s 1st Core Stage for NASA’s Space Launch System is Ready for Journey to Launch Site. Stennis refurbishment complete following flawless test fire. NASA to accept delivery of rocket stage to prepare for transport to Kennedy Space Center for integration and launch
Boeing [NYSE: BA] begins delivery of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket cryogenic core stage to NASA today in preparation for launch of the Artemis I mission, the first moon mission in nearly 50 years.
Boeing refurbished the stage after it successfully completed hot fire testing last month at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, closing out the Green Run campaign on the B-2 test stand. The flight hardware will now go to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the Orion crew spacecraft, Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage upper stage and solid rocket boosters in preparation for launch.
SLS will launch NASA’s Artemis I mission that will send an uncrewed Orion crew vehicle around the moon and back. That test flight will be followed by Artemis II, the first crewed lunar fly-by for the Artemis program.
“We thank NASA for their partnership as we deliver the first of the Artemis core stages that will launch a new era of human deep space exploration,” said John Shannon, SLS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “Boeing shares this achievement with the hundreds of companies and thousands of highly skilled workers who contribute to this program and form the backbone of this industry.”
Boeing is the prime contractor to NASA for the SLS core and upper stages and avionics. The company is joining major elements for the Artemis II core stage now at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
“Data from Green Run testing validated the core stage’s successful operation and will be used to help certify the stage for flight, as well as to inform our production system for future stages,” said Shannon.
Boeing also is working on evolvable capabilities for the rocket system such as the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), which is entering production at Michoud. The more powerful SLS with EUS will be able to lift three times as much mass to deep space as any other rocket, enabling sustainable, crewed and uncrewed exploration, science and security missions. SLS’ evolved capability to transport massive payloads in a single launch reduces mission complexity and risk while increasing safety, reliability and probability of success.
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services. As a top U.S. exporter, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries. Building on a legacy of aerospace leadership, Boeing continues to lead in technology and innovation, deliver for its customers and invest in its people and future growth.
21 Apr 21. OneSat Final Design Review successfully achieved. Airbus’ fully reconfigurable, high-capacity OneSat satellite takes major step forward. Support from ESA, UKSA and CNES stimulates innovation in European industry, enhancing space solutions. Commercial success of Airbus telecom satellite products OneSat and Eurostar Neo, help preserve European sovereignty, competitiveness and jobs
Airbus has passed an important milestone for the OneSat flexible satellite product line, with the Final Design Review successfully achieved with customers and space agencies.
The fully reconfigurable OneSat product line features major innovations and disruptive technologies including the latest digital processing and active antennas enabling several thousand beams. In addition, to meet the demanding schedule for OneSat development, Airbus is applying agile new ways of working with its industrial partners, customers and space agencies.
François Gaullier, Head of Airbus Telecom Systems, said: “The worldwide commercial success of Airbus’ telecom satellite products OneSat and Eurostar Neo, proves our investment strategy focusing on new technology and innovation is spot on. This was largely made possible thanks to key support from space agencies, which further reinforces European industrial competitiveness and jobs, preserving Europe’s sovereignty in space. These investments gave us the impetus to innovate and offer pioneering technological and industrial solutions to our customers. Thanks to our intuitive reading of the market, the right technological choices and a disruptive supply chain approach, we see Eurostar Neo and OneSat as key pillars in the current and future geostationary telecoms market.”
Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, added: “I am proud that ESA is associated, through the OneSat Partnership Project, with the development of this innovative software defined satellite product line. Such partnership projects allow Industry to engage in ambitious and challenging endeavours to accompany the transformation of the satcom market, to strengthen European leadership, and ultimately to ensure our citizens are better connected.”
Airbus is currently manufacturing seven OneSats for its customers as well as eight state-of-the-art Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellites. Development of both programmes is supported by ESA, as well as the French Space Agency (CNES), and the UK Space Agency.
21 Apr 21. Dstl leads successful experiment to observe satellites docking. Data captured during the Phantom Echoes 2 project, headed by an international group of defence space scientists, will help improve performance and space safety.
Following almost 3 months of observation and data collection, last week saw the culmination of a space domain awareness (SDA) experiment known as ‘Phantom Echoes 2’ to successfully observe the rendezvous of 2 active satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO).
Data captured by observers from the international science and defence communities under the leadership of Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) will influence how allied SDA sensors and processing capabilities can be integrated to enhance performance and improve space safety for UK and allied satellites.
2020 saw a step-change in the working model for space with Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1); the first successful commercial mission being undertaken to extend the life of an existing satellite on orbit. This unlocked huge opportunities for future space activity, as satellites no longer need to be designed as single-use systems that are simply discarded when they near end of their operational life.
On 12 April 2021, the Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2) satellite servicing spacecraft (operated by Northrop Grumman / Space Logistics LLC) approached and docked with the Intelsat 10-02 communications satellite, beginning a mission to extend the lifetime of its client through the provision of manoeuvre capabilities to maintain its orbital position. This activity necessitates increased awareness of activities on-orbit as part of an SDA capability to identify satellites in close proximity, given the size (mass larger than 1 tonne) and speed (orbital velocities of approximately 7,000 mph) of each satellite, and the critical nature of GEO for terrestrial communications services for both civil and military users.
The Phantom Echoes team, headed by an international group of defence space scientists from the Five-Eyes nations (UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) under Dstl leadership, aimed to explore the use of non-traditional space situational awareness sensors (located both on the Earth and in space) and data processing to observe the rendezvous and obtain a higher fidelity picture of the event than available using legacy processes.
A variety of optical and radio frequency instruments from across the UK, Canada and Europe were used to collect measurements on the spacecraft and their orbital motions, using this event to understand the challenges posed by these types of missions in the GEO orbital regime, approximately 36,000 km above the Earth. This included traditional satellite-tracking telescopes, prototype cameras, multi-colour science instruments and radio telescopes. From these instruments, the team have sought to understand the relative motions of the 2 vehicles, how they can be individually identified, and whether a successful docking process could be independently verified from external observations.
Measurement data was collected from a variety of instruments and observers from 10 organisations as the 2 satellites manoeuvred towards each other and performed docking operations. The organisations included:
- Dstl Observatory (Wiltshire, UK)
- The UK Satellite Geodesy Facility (East Sussex, UK)
- University of Warwick telescopes (La Palma, Spain)
- The Liverpool Telescope (La Palma, Spain)
- Sapphire and NEOSSat (Canadian satellites in low-Earth orbit)
- Goonhilly Earth Station (Cornwall, UK)
- Basingstoke Astronomical Society (within the ‘Argus’ initiative)
The experiment sought to demonstrate how allied SDA sensors and processing capabilities can be integrated to enhance the performance over individual systems working independently to improve space safety for UK and allied satellites in and near geostationary orbit. Observation of real-world events such as these are used by the research team to understand future challenges to space safety, advise the development of operational SDA architectures within the Combined Space Operations (CSpO) initiative and demonstrate the value of international collaboration in space domain awareness.
The experiment was conducted by the following national lead organisations:
- Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl, UK)
- Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC, Canada)
- Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL, USA)
- Defence Technology Agency (DTA, New Zealand)
- Defence Science and Technology Group (DST, Australia)
Contributions were also received from the following academic, industry and commercial partners enabled by these national laboratories:
- Northrop Grumman / Space Logistics LLC (US)
- University of Warwick (UK)
- Safran Data Systems (France and US)
- University of Liverpool (UK)
- Basingstoke Astronomical Society (UK)
- University of Arizona (US)
- UK Space Geodesy Facility, Herstmonceux (UK)
- Goonhilly Earth Station (UK)
- Airbus Defence and Space (UK)
- Deimos Space UK (UK)
- University of Kent (UK)
- Bluestaq LLC / Centauri Corp. (US)
21 Apr 21. Arianespace to launch new tranche of OneWeb satellites. Arianespace has confirmed it will launch a further 36 OneWeb satellites into near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometres.
The mission, Flight ST31, is scheduled to take place on 26 April from the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport.
This launch, aboard a Soyuz rocket, is expected to bring the total fleet of OneWeb satellites to 182.
According to Arianespace, the mission is likely to have a total duration of three hours and 51 minutes and would include nine separations of four satellites.
The launch is aimed at supporting OneWeb’s goal of expanding internet coverage by creating a global connectivity platform via a satellite constellation in low-Earth orbit.
OneWeb’s constellation is designed to deliver highspeed, low-latency connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, as well as governments, emergency response services and more.
Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation is expected to enable user terminals that are capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi coverage.
(Source: Space Connect)
19 Apr 21. DARPA Selects Performers for Phase 1 of DRACO Program. Industry teams to develop propulsion design, spacecraft concepts for demonstrating on-orbit Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system.
DARPA has awarded contracts for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. The goal of the DRACO program is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit in 2025. The three prime contractors are General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin.
Rapid maneuver is a core tenet of modern Department of Defense (DoD) operations on land, at sea, and in the air. However, rapid maneuver in the space domain has traditionally been challenging because current electric and chemical space propulsion systems have drawbacks in thrust-to-weight and propellent efficiency, respectively. DRACO’s NTP system has the potential to achieve high thrust-to-weight ratios similar to in-space chemical propulsion and approach the high propellent efficiency of electric systems. This combination would give a DRACO spacecraft greater agility to implement DoD’s core tenet of rapid maneuver in cislunar space (between the Earth and moon).
“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” said Maj Nathan Greiner, USAF, program manager for DRACO. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.”
Phase 1 of the program will last 18 months and consist of two tracks. Track A will entail the preliminary design of an NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem concept. Track B will produce an Operational System (OS) spacecraft concept to meet mission objectives and design a Demonstration System (DS) spacecraft concept. The DS will be traceable to the OS concept, but specifically focus on demonstrating an 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,” added Greiner.
General Atomics will perform the Track A reactor development work. Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will independently perform the Track B work to develop OS and DS spacecraft concept designs. DRACO’s Phase 1 is expected to inform follow-on phases for detailed design, fabrication, and on-orbit demonstration. Any follow-on phases will be solicited by DARPA in a future announcement. (Source: ASD Network/Darpa)
17 Apr 21. Space Force wants to introduce commercial capabilities to all mission areas. There’s a role for commercial in every mission area of the U.S. Space Force, says the new service’s portfolio architect.
While commercial services have played a significant role in the military’s satellite communications and launch enterprises, the Space Force has not integrated commercial services more widely, said Col. Russell Teehan, portfolio architect at the Space and Missile Systems Center. But as the service begins looking at its future plans, it sees industry as a much bigger partner.
“As we go through the force design for the next 10 years, commercial is vital across every mission area,” said Teehan. “In nearly every mission area, we’re looking for rapid tech innovation. We’re looking for hybrid architectures. And in a lot of cases, we’re looking for commercial partnerships that lead us directly to allied partnerships in many of these areas.”
“Priorities in the past have been wideband SATCOM, launch, space domain awareness — but we’re seeing significant growth on the Space Force side for going after ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], weather, more launch, logistics, servicing — and so you’re starting to see a large growth. It’s no longer going to be, ‘Which areas are using commercials?’ All areas are going commercial, and right now it’s not a matter of when are we doing it, it’s how we do it, and how we do it rapidly so that we can have the Space Force acquire at the speed that commercial is already going,” he added.
Part of that effort, said Teehan, is creating more opportunities to work with small and nontraditional vendors.
“The old ecosystem was geared towards large primes that have eight to 15-year toeholds within a mission area or with a particular system, and the small businesses were in small business innovation research, and their only hope of coming up was to be integrated into some of those larger primes,” said Teehan. “But a lot of the ecosystems we’re working with now, we’re trying to offer opportunities — like in software programs — where the small businesses can come directly into the ecosystem and into the market.”
The Space Force is working to open up more opportunities and engage with small businesses and nontraditional vendors, said Teehan. Events like Space Pitch Day, where companies can present their ideas and technologies to government officials and win contracts instantly in a “Shark Tank”-style event, give small businesses the chance to interact with officials and learn about their needs.
While those sorts of events have opened new doors, one thing Teehan would like to see is more interactions between operators and industry.
“That’s what the Army does really well. When the Army comes back from deployment, they go straight to one of the industry teams. The industry team invites another 10 industry teams, and they talk about what they wish they would have had in theater.”
Those sorts of touchpoints help companies learn what operators want in a way that requirements sometimes don’t. In addition to fostering more contract opportunities for small businesses, Teehan wants the Space Force to create more engagements like that between guardians and all industry partners.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond has emphasized that the Space Force needs to build stronger ties to industry in year two.
“We want to build a very fused connection with commercial industry. We’re a small service and we think we can do that,” said Raymond. “The explosion of commercial space … provides us a great opportunity.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 Apr 21. Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully completed its historic first flight. The Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed its historic flight on Mars and safely landed back on the surface, according to NASA. The first powered, controlled flight on another planet took place at 3:30 a.m. ET.
Unlike when the helicopter’s fellow traveler, the Perseverance rover, landed on Mars on February 18, there was a bit of wait to know how the helicopter fared in its attempt.
The helicopter team was in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, early Monday morning to receive and analyze the first data from Ingenuity’s flight attempt.
Live coverage began on NASA’s site Monday morning at 6:15 a.m. ET, and a postflight briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.
The flight was originally scheduled for April 11 but shifted after a command-sequence issue was discovered when the helicopter went through a system of preflight checks with its software.
Ingenuity conducted a high-speed test of its rotors on April 10, but the command sequence ended early due to a watchdog timer that expired. This early end of the test happened when the helicopter was trying to shift the flight computer from preflight into flight mode.
The helicopter team determined a command sequence tweak fix that will alter the timing when the helicopter’s two flight controllers start up. This should ease the transition from preflight to flight for both the hardware and software.
This tweak was chosen rather than modifying and reinstalling the existing flight control software, which is the backup plan if the tweak doesn’t allow for a successful takeoff.
The helicopter team received data on April 16 showing that the helicopter successfully completed its rapid spin test after employing the tweak.
The chopper autonomously flew through the thin Martian atmosphere, with no help from its teams on Earth.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL “We’ve been talking about our Wright Brothers moment on another planet for so long. And now, here it is.”
Ingenuity, which is a technology demonstration, flew for about 40 seconds total on Monday. The 4-pound helicopter spun up its two 4-foot blades, rose up 10 feet (3 meters) in the air, hovered, took a photo, and touched back down on Mars.
Ingenuity could fly up to four more times over the coming weeks.
The little helicopter has checked off multiple milestones so far, like wiggling its blades and surviving the freezing cold nights on Mars.
Mars Perseverance rover snaps selfie photo with Ingenuity helicopter
Radio signals take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to cross the current gap between Earth and Mars, which spans 173 million miles (278.4 million kilometers).
“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too,” Aung said. “It has significantly less gravity, but less than 1% the pressure of our atmosphere at its surface. Put those things together, and you have a vehicle that demands every input be right.”
Capturing first flight
The Perseverance rover helps the helicopter and its mission team on Earth communicate with each other. It received the flight instructions from JPL and sent those plans on to the helicopter. Perseverance is parked at an overlook 215 feet (65 meters) away from the helicopter so it could safely watch the flight and capture images and videos. (Source: CNN)
16 Apr 21. SpaceLink, Gilmour Space sign MOU. The companies have agreed to collaborate to develop new communications services for small satellite platforms. Electro Optic Systems (EOS) subsidiary SpaceLink and Australian launch services provider and spacecraft manufacturer Gilmour Space have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The firms have agreed to jointly explore opportunities to incorporate the SpaceLink relay network for communications on Gilmour’s small satellite platform, and integrate Gilmour-built satellites into the SpaceLink network.
The MOU is also expected to involve:
- work to support the compatibility of SpaceLink communications terminals with the Gilmour space platform;
- the sharing technical and business information to support Gilmour’s implementation of SpaceLink’s communications services; and
- the extension of the communications capabilities to Gilmour’s customers.
Ultimately, the MOU aims to facilitate the negotiation of a definitive contract, and explore further contracts for launch services later this year.
“We see the signing of this MOU as a strong endorsement of the business plans of both SpaceLink and Gilmour Space,” Ben Greene, chairman and CEO of EOS, said.
“SpaceLink looks forward to working with Gilmour Space on a definitive contract later this year.”
Adam Gilmour, CEO of Gilmour Space, added, “We are very excited to be working closely with another leading space and defence company to enhance our small satellite and launch capabilities.
“The SpaceLink relay service has the potential to bring real time, high-capacity communications capability to our satellite customers.”
About the offerings
The SpaceLink relay service is designed to provide secure, continuous, high-capacity communications between low-Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft and the ground, providing capacity for tasking, data download, and a variety of other communications requirements.
According to SpaceLink, the service also helps “close the business case” for operators of small satellites, Earth observation companies, commercial space stations, and satellite servicers and tugs.
Gilmour Space is developing new launch vehicles powered by lower-cost and safer hybrid propulsion technologies and is introducing a specialised ‘G-class’ satellite bus for space systems.
The firm’s Eris orbital rocket is designed to help smallsat operators find affordable and reliable launches into LEO from 2022. (Source: Space Connect)
19 Apr 21. Thales Alenia Space secures ESA contract. The joint venture has been selected to support the European Space Agency’s Horizon 2020 Satellite Navigation Program. Thales Alenia Space — a joint venture between Thales (67 per cent) and Leonardo (33 per cent) — has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) on behalf of the European Commission to support the Horizon 2020 Satellite Navigation Program (HSNAV).
The consortium has been tasked with developing the Advanced Orbit Determination and Time Synchronisation (ODTS) Algorithms Test Platform (A-OATP), supporting the implementation and experimentation of the navigation algorithms used for the Galileo Second Generation ground mission segment.
These new orbitography algorithms are expected to deliver an improvement in positioning performance and real-time operability of the Galileo system, by leveraging the accuracy of GNSS orbit and clock estimation.
“With this new contract, Thales Alenia Space applies on a deep experience concerning orbitography algorithms as well as a good knowledge of the Galileo system, to strengthen its position as a major actor for the development of the new generation of this satellite system,” Thales Alenia Space noted in a statement.
This comes just months after Thales Alenia Space was selected to support the Galileo Second Generation constellation by providing six satellites and initiating the B2 phase. (Source: Space Connect)
16 Apr 21. SpaceX wins $2.9bn Nasa contract to land Americans on the moon. Elon Musk beats Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to be sole contractor to build next lunar lander. The Starship SN10 prototype during a test flight after engines were ignited just before the test was aborted at SpaceX’s South Texas test facility near Boca Chica Village in Brownsville, Texas, on March 3. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon, beating rival tech billionaire Jeff Bezos to one of the most prominent prizes in the commercial space race. Nasa on Friday named SpaceX as the sole contractor to build its next lunar lander and carry out a single demonstration visit to the moon, potentially as soon as 2024. SpaceX offered to build and operate its lander for $2.9bn, which was “significantly” less than a rival bid from Bezos’ Blue Origin, according to a Nasa document obtained by the Washington Post. A third company, Dynetics, had submitted a bid that was higher still. The selection of a sole contractor breaks with recent Nasa practice of picking two rival projects for the most important elements of its space programme, and reflects the severe budgetary pressure the agency has been operating under as it tries to return to the moon for the first time since 1972. “We awarded the contract to SpaceX given what we believe are realistic budgets in future years,” said Mark Kirasich, a Nasa official. The choice of SpaceX threatens to widen the gap with other commercial space concerns, and leaves Nasa increasingly dependent on Musk’s private space company. Besides pioneering a new era of fixed-cost commercial space programmes for Nasa, SpaceX was the first to carry cargo to the International Space Station, and last year brought human space flight back to US soil for the first time since 2011 when it took Nasa astronauts to the ISS. Nasa officials said they were launching a review into how they can maintain competitiveness in the development of human landers, including a round of consultations with the rest of the commercial space industry. The discussions were designed to lead to a “sustainable” series of visits to the moon, following in the wake of the single SpaceX demonstration landing, they said. Bezos had sought to align himself with some of the traditional powers of the US space industry, fronting a project to build a lunar lander alongside Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. SpaceX will use its Starship, which is under development, for the demonstration lunar landing. Despite the company’s plans to eventually use the craft for a complete journey between the Earth and Mars, its role in the landing announced on Friday will only be to take two astronauts from orbit around the moon down to the surface before returning them. The mission is part of Nasa’s Artemis programme, which will use the giant SLS rocket being developed by Boeing, along with the Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin, to fly astronauts to and from a “gateway” in lunar orbit. Despite Starship’s potential to replace both of these programmes, Kirasich said Nasa had “no plans to change our architecture” and would stick with its existing plans to reach the moon. SpaceX has suffered a number of fiery crashes this year in its first efforts to prove it can safely land the Starship. Lisa Watson-Morgan, Nasa’s programme manager for the lunar lander, said of the glitches: “As we have areas to work through, we will work through those. But right now, everything looks good.” (Source: FT.com)
15 Apr 21. ICEYE Opens New Spacecraft Production Facility in Irvine, California, Expands U.S. Manufacturing, Research and Customer Operations. ICEYE enters agreement with In-Q-Tel to advance capabilities for the U.S. Government. ICEYE, the global leader in persistent monitoring of Earth from its constellation of radar imaging satellites, today announced that it has opened a new manufacturing facility in Irvine, California. The company’s U.S. headquarters will host the production of multiple spacecraft simultaneously and also contain a research and development lab, offices, and a customer engagement space. Importantly, the Irvine location also houses a Mission Operations Center for monitoring and operating U.S. licensed spacecraft.
“With our new production facility in the U.S., we will add significant next-generation capabilities to our space and ground segments,” said Jerry Welsh, CEO of ICEYE US. “This will provide us with the most reliable operational foundation, and give us the flexibility and efficiency to best accommodate the requirements of our U.S. government customers.”
In line with the company’s rapid growth and strong customer demand, ICEYE US is hiring talents that have skills in spacecraft engineering, assembly, integration and testing, project management, software development, ground services, sales, and customer service. The company expects to have offices on the east and west coasts by mid-2021.
“Like other aerospace hubs around the country, Southern California has a rich space legacy, a tremendous talent pool, and an excellent base of suppliers and partners,” said Deepak Grover, Vice President of Operations at ICEYE US. “We look forward to further fueling our growth trajectory and Irvine is the perfect spot to set up our new facility.”
In order to better serve U.S. customers, ICEYE has signed an agreement with In-Q-Tel to accelerate the delivery of cutting-edge capabilities to U.S. government organizations. In-Q-Tel identifies and partners with companies developing innovations that have both high national security impact and the potential for commercial success.
“ICEYE’s world-class SAR satellites and their market-leading global coverage allows for capture despite time of day and weather conditions. We are pleased and excited to bring this technology to our government partners,” offered Simon Davidson, Managing Partner, In-Q-Tel, and EVP, IQT Emerge.
“It’s our privilege to join forces with In-Q-Tel to field advanced technologies relevant to our U.S. customers,” said Eric Jensen, President of ICEYE US. “Our new facility strengthens ICEYE’s ability to rapidly deliver decision-quality insights, to build assets for U.S. missions, and to address the hybrid architecture needs of the U.S. government as a trusted provider of commercial services.”
At any given time, most of the Earth is covered in clouds or darkness. Unlike traditional Earth observation satellites, ICEYE’s small radar imaging satellites can form high-resolution images of areas of the Earth in daylight, at night, and through cloud cover. They can ‘see’ any part of the Earth multiple times a day. ICEYE has successfully launched 10 missions to date and operates the world’s largest fleet of commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.
ICEYE empowers commercial and government partners with unmatched persistent monitoring capabilities for any location on Earth. The company helps customers make informed, data-driven decisions to address time-critical challenges in various industries, to ensure infrastructure safety, and to protect the environment. ICEYE’s radar satellite imaging service, designed to deliver very frequent coverage, both day and night, helps clients resolve challenges in sectors such as maritime, disaster management, insurance, and finance. For more information, please visit: www.iceye.com (Source: PR Newswire)
11 Apr 21. Aussie’s Spiral Blue Computers Partner With Polish SatRevolution STORK Satellites. Australian startup, Spiral Blue, has announced today it will partner with Polish satellite manufacturer SatRevolution to host Spiral Blue’s Space Edge Zero (SEZ) computers onboard 2 satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5. SEZ hardware has arrived in Poland and is currently undergoing final integration with these satellites, ahead of a launch no earlier than June 2021 onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket.
Spiral Blue’s SEZ, is a prototype computer designed to allow in-space processing of satellite images. This upcoming mission will see end to end testing and space qualification of the SEZ. Each of SatRevolution’s Earth observation STORK satellites, will carry an optical payload that can capture multispectral images at 5 metre resolution. This imagery will then be passed onto an onboard SEZ unit, allowing the prototype computer to take in and process earth observation imagery in real time.
Earth observation images are currently used in many industries, including defence, agriculture, and financial services, but require the raw satellite data to be processed here on Earth. Space Edge Computers allow much of this processing to happen in space. Spiral Blue intends to open access to Space Edge Computers through its Space Edge Services platform, allowing any developer to rapidly and affordably access and process Earth observation data. This will improve lead times, affordability, flexibility, and ease of development for organizations developing Earth observation services.
The Virgin Orbit mission will launch the STORK satellites and SEZ in a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 400km-500km. Following in-orbit qualification, the SEZ will be tested in Q4 2021 and throughout 2022.
“We intend to test a variety of algorithms on these images, including machine learning based algorithms such as Vessel Detect and Canopy Mapper,” Spiral Blue’s CEO, Taofiq Huq, said. “This gives us the opportunity to do a full end-to-end test of Space Edge Computing from both a technological and commercial perspective – taking images, processing them, and delivering the processed data.”
Spiral Blue was recently a recipient of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Supply Chain Capability Improvement Grant, a grant which supports the Australian space industry to build capacity to deliver products and services into domestic and/or international space industry supply chains that could support Moon to Mars activities. This grant is supporting the development of Spiral Blue’s Space Edge Services platform. The company is also developing Vessel Detect under a Defence Innovation Hub contract.
Spiral Blue is a Sydney SME focused on building the next generation of Earth observation services with artificial intelligence and Space Edge Computing. Spiral Blue technology has applications in defensrre, city planning, utilities, and other industries. Founded in 2018, the company is on track for its first Space Edge Zero prototype to be launched to orbit in June 2021. (Source: Satnews)
11 Apr 21. Space & Missile Systems Center To Be Re-Designated As The USAF’s New Space Systems Command. The U.S. Space Force has released the organizational structure for the military arm’s new Space Systems Command — the Command is set to officially stand up in the summer of 2021, once all required conditions are met to re-designate the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, as SSC headquarters.
SSC will rapidly identify, prototype, and field innovative, space-based solutions to deliver swift and responsive space capabilities to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy.
“Space Systems Command’s organizational structure was purpose-built to anticipate and be responsive to the challenges presented by a contested space domain,” said Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations. “We took the SMC 2.0 transformation of 2019 to the next level, aligning missions and organizations, and pushing authorities down from the three-star level to lower echelons in order to reduce cost and go fast. This will allow us to move at speed in delivering the resilient space capabilities necessary to stay ahead of a growing threat.”
The establishment of SSC will elevate the current responsibilities of SMC to that of a U.S. Space Force Field Command. SSC will be responsible for developing, acquiring, equipping, fielding, and sustaining resilient space capabilities to enhance joint lethality. This includes launch, developmental testing, on-orbit checkout, and sustainment. SSC will also provide strategic oversight of USSF science and technology activities.
“SMC led the nation in developing and delivering unparalleled, enduring space capabilities to the warfighter and our nation’s allies,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander. “With the re-designation of SMC as SSC, we will further build upon the success seen with SMC 2.0, while synchronizing the science and technology research, capability development, system production, launch operations, and system sustainment efforts to more effectively deliver cutting-edge space systems needed to ensure the future of our national security and prosperity. Furthering our focus on accelerating the pace of acquisition while still delivering excellence, we will continue to emphasize more partnerships and more innovation.”
One of the required conditions to establish SSC will be met after a USSF general officer is nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to fill the position of the three-star general officer SSC commander.
The SSC deputy commander will be a two-star USSF officer, who will also serve as the Assured Access to Space leader, responsible for integration and oversight across the entire Launch Enterprise.
Upon official establishment, additional units will realign from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force or re-designate as part of SSC. As these units and mission sets realign to the Space Force and SSC, military and civilian personnel in those units will also be assigned to the new armed service. No geographic moves of personnel or units are anticipated as a result of actions required to establish this Field Command.
These unit changes include:
- SMC subordinate units will realign to SSC.
- The 61st Air Base Group at LAAFB is projected to be re-designated as the Los Angeles Garrison, aligned under SSC.
- The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB, California, will be re-designated as Space Launch Delta 30 and the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, will be re-designated as SLD 45. SLD 30 and SLD 45 and their respective subordinate units will realign from under Space Operations Command to SSC.
- The SLD 45 commander will be a one-star USSF general officer who will also be the director of the eastern range, the SSC operations director and the acquisition lead for the range of the future.
- Subordinate group-level organizations such as the mission support group and operations group at 30SW and 45SW are planning to inactivate, and units previously aligned under these organizations will look to realign under their respective Space Launch Deltas.
- The 45th Range Squadron at Patrick SFB will be re-designated as the 1st Range Operations Squadron and will transfer the airfield management and associated maintenance responsibilities and resources to the existing 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron. The operational mission communications responsibilities and resources will realign from 45th Space Communications Squadron to 1 ROPS.
- The Launch Enterprise will be established as an office under SSC. The Launch Enterprise will realign under the SSC deputy commander.
- The manpower and funding of the Air Force Research Laboratory units that perform space science and technology functions will be under the administrative control of SSC, but will remain aligned to the AFRL commander for unity of effort. These units include Space Vehicles Directorate, Space Electro-Optics Division, Rocket Propulsion Division, and the Space Systems Technology Division.
- The Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division will transfer from Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to SSC. The Division is the program office for ground-based radars, missile warning, space domain awareness, missile defense systems, and shared early warning capabilities.
- The Space Force Commercial Satellite Communications Office is currently aligned under SMC as approved under a previous organization change request and will remain aligned to SSC when it is established as a field command.
Additionally, SSC will provide select administrative and integration support to the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, which is currently a direct reporting unit to the Chief of Space Operations. The Space Rapid Capabilities Office will receive their acquisition authorities from the Service Acquisition Executive.
Per the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Space Development Agency will transfer from the Department of Defense to the U.S. Space Force on October 1, 2022, as a unit aligning directly to the CSO. Upon transfer, SSC will provide select administrative and integration support to SDA. The Space Development Agency will receive their acquisition authorities from the Service Acquisition Executive at that time.
The USSF organizational structure for echelons below the service headquarters is designed to support a lean, agile and mission-focused force. In order of hierarchy, the USSF field echelons are named field commands, deltas or garrisons, and squadrons. There are three planned field commands aligned to specific mission focuses, of which SSC will be the second established.
The other two field commands are Space Operations Command and the planned Space Training and Readiness Command. SpOC was established on October 21, 2020, and is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping fielded space forces who execute space warfighting operations for combatant commanders, coalition partners, the joint force, and the nation.
STARCOM is projected to stand up in 2021 and will oversee training, education and professional development of units and personnel, doctrine development, and operational test of fielded systems.
The Space Force’s new field structure effectively organizes space forces to fight in place within mission deltas. Installation support functions align under garrisons and look to utilize Air Force units and personnel through Air Force mission support groups, medical groups, and special staff. (Source: Satnews)
13 Apr 21. USAF’s Air Combat Command Adds To Apogee’s ISR, Cyberspace + Innovation Division Contract. Recently, Apogee Engineering (Apogee) marked their first year anniversary by adding to their contract with Air Combat Command’s Intelligence Directorate (ACC/A2) to provide requirements analysis, systems engineering and operational subject matter expertise in the Air Force Cryptologic Office’s (AFCO) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)–Cyberspace and Multi-Domain Innovation Division.
In this role, Apogee provides highly qualified staff support to help Sixteenth Air Force (16 AF) fulfill its mission to integrate multi-source ISR, cyberspace operations, electronic warfare (EW), and information operations (IO) capabilities across the conflict continuum to ensure the USAF is fast and fully integrated in both competition and war.
In supporting the Cyber Multi-Domain Innovation Division, the Apogee Team conducts studies, analyses, and evaluations to advance multi-domain requirements definition, capability development, force modernization, and experimentation activities. Apogee also provides assessments and evaluations related to the development of urgent operational capabilities that deliver multi-domain, cross-functional effects to air component commanders and integrate cyberspace operations, ISR, and EW technologies through rapid development of innovative multi-domain operational capabilities and non-kinetic operations planning support.
In its Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) support role, the Apogee Team applies its knowledge and experience with USAF DCO and ISR operations to advise and assist 16 AF staff on ACC, USAF, National Security Agency, and USCYBERCOM cyber-related intelligence and ISR issues. Apogee supports the 16 AF information warfare mission by analyzing and providing technical advice on “ISR for DCO” capabilities and tactics in competition and war.
Primary work for Apogee’s ACC and 16 AF support will continue to be conducted at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia and Joint Base San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.
“As illustrated in President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the global security landscape is being shaped by the convergence of actors, technologies, threats, and vulnerabilities in the dimensions of ISR, space, cyber, IO, and EW – all overlaid on a digital matrix of next gen communications, big data, and artificial intelligence.” said Frank Varga, Apogee Vice President of Operations. “We look forward to continuing to work side-by-side with Air Combat Command and 16th Air Force develop integrated, multi-domain capabilities to meet the challenges described in the President’s guidance.” (Source: Satnews)
14 Apr 21. Constellations… Accidents Waiting To Happen? An NSR Report.
Last week, two major constellations operators, OneWeb and SpaceX, nearly crashed in space when two of their satellites almost collided. Another near-miss happened the same day when two other satellites nearly struck each other over the Arctic. And last month, the 2-ton NOAA-17 satellite broke up, sending dangerous debris all along its orbit.
This type of space debris and close calls are becoming too common, especially as more satellites are launched, and space junk, even from decades ago, persists and compounds the problem.
Space Situational Awareness (SSA), the commercialized service of monitoring orbit and warning operators, maybe the best market response to this litter challenge. Yet, while the risk and opportunity grow daily, the SSA market lags.
Fractured coordination, capabilities, offering, and pricing structure, and long-established low priority affected to cleaning up space is such that SSA struggles as any emerging market does with a solid perception that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Furthermore, it presents different views on the danger of debris, and the necessity of its services. Lastly, it suffers from far smaller funding and budget than is provided to constellations. However, while constellations may appear crucial, especially to certain investment and bottom lines, SSA is, in fact, crucial to the safe and sustainable use of space to avoid constellations from becoming accidents waiting to happen.
Why is the SSA market lagging, what impact will that have on the industry, and what can be done to change the situation?
Government Play or Commercial Opportunity?
NSR’s In-Orbit Servicing & Space Situational Awareness Markets, 4th Edition (IoSM4) report forecasts SSA services to grow from just $2m to $282m in annual revenues between 2020 and 2029. While that seems impressive, NSR also forecasts that SSA players will only capture 20% of the serviceable addressable market during that time. In other words, out of every five high-risk satellites operating over the next decade, only one will be actively monitored and tracked, with warnings provided to its operator by a commercial provider.
Competition with government programs is one reason behind this trend. Increased funding and development of programs, such as the U.S. Space Fence, JAXA’s SSA, and the EU Space Surveillance & Traffic (EUSST) will challenge the commercial market through the capabilities and services offered.
Additionally, the issues of dual-use, and splitting between classified and non-classified data, muddy the water and are expected to limit the commercial play. However, given the high-strategic value of the assets, government and military customers are still expected to drive commercial SSA market revenues, at 53% of the cumulative opportunity over the decade, 95% of which will be for non-GEO satellites.
While growing government programs will bring greater monitoring capability, a severe lack of coordination and fragmentation of performance hold the SSA market back, at best, and spell disaster for operators in the worst case.
Worst Case Scenarios
Take the OneWeb/Starlink near-collision. According to one report, the U.S. Space Force alerted OneWeb, who then contacted Starlink to quickly create a mitigation plan. For a reason yet unknown outside of SpaceX, the company turned off its automated collision avoidance system, allowing OneWeb to take full control of the situation by maneuvering their satellite away. There was no pre-arranged plan, and coordination was handled last minute.
There is no central governing authority for SSA or satellite collision avoidance. Licensing regulations remain fragmented, region to region, and underdeveloped, failing to set minimum required capabilities and standards.
While it is generally imprudent to fear that the sky is falling, these incidents will continue, in greater frequency, and one day, the worst-case scenarios will unfold, and collisions will happen. In the meantime, late coordination costs money, through reactive avoidance maneuvers, shortening satellite & revenue-generating lifetimes.
There is hope here. Support for SSA coordination has grown, such as through statements made recently by the U.S. Space Command who support setting international “rules of behavior in space.” At the same time, projects such as IBM’s SSA, and Imagine LAB’s Eyes on the Sky projects are aiming to crowdsource and coordinate the development of SSA data and monitoring capabilities. In the commercial sector, partnerships such as those between LeoLabs and SpaceX serve to support and improve the development of SSA services. The Bottom Line
Space is full of junk. Debris, defunct satellites and other objects like rocket bodies as far back as from the first few rocket launches remain a danger in orbit. With constellations continuing to drive the market, the chances of collision will only increase.
Space Situational Awareness is necessary for monitoring and warning against this risk, yet the capabilities and market remain significantly fragmented and underdeveloped. Coordination, collaboration, and setting stronger standards for collision avoidance will be necessary to move this market forward. Otherwise, collisions, not constellations, will be the main market outcome. (Source: Satnews)
14 Apr 21. C-COM Integrates SpaceBridge’s VSAT Router Into Their iNetVu Antenna Controllers. C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. (TSXV: CMI and OTCQB: CYSNF) have completed integration of the SpaceBridge U7400 Professional Modem Series for Mobility/Trunking VSAT Router with its iNetVu® antenna controllers. The latest SpaceBridge VSAT networking platform, which encompasses several new modems, is now fully compatible with all C-COM Flyaway and Driveaway antenna systems.
Using the SpaceBridge U7400 VSAT router and testing for satellite acquisition, C-COM’s 98 cm Ka-band driveaway antenna system configured with the iNetVu® 7710 controller, was able to seamlessly acquire satellite in under two minutes and offers interoperability with 15 different modem manufacturers and with more than 37 different models.
The interoperability of the SpaceBridge U7400 Professional Modem Series, with its OpenAMIP supported capabilities and its integration with C-COM’s antenna systems, enables users to leverage high performing, efficient and reliable connectivity solutions for demanding mobility applications.
C-COM mobile antennas with iNetVu® controllers, compatible with U7400 series VSAT L3 Switches, are available for immediate delivery.
“We are happy to add the SpaceBridge U7400 highly advanced networking platform to our list of integrated and supported VSAT modems,” said Leslie Klein, President & CEO of C-COM Satellite Systems, Inc.
“C-COM is a valued partner that we enjoy collaborating with. The SpaceBridge U7400 Professional Modem Series with our unique WaveSwitch™ multiple waveform switching capabilities, provides the versatility needed to succeed in mobile communication transition between MFTDMA and SCPC over a single Modem,” added David Gelerman, President & CEO of SpaceBridge. (Source: Satnews)
15 Apr 21. Keysight Technologies Reveals Their Satellite + Aerospace Channel Emulation Toolset. Keysight Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: KEYS) has announced their Keysight S8825A Satellite and Aerospace Channel Emulation Toolset. This offering delivers advanced channel emulation capabilities that can speed deployment of non-terrestrial networks (NTN) vital to many new 5G services.
The delivery of cost-effective and secure broad-band cellular connectivity in remote areas for consumers as well as public safety, smart cities and agriculture, mining and extraction industries, rely on a combination of satellite and terrestrial networks. As a result, the global cellular standards organization 3GPP has included 5G NTN in the release-17 specifications (Rel-17) which is expected to be complete by the spring of 2022. NTN supports 5G backhaul and provides improved coverage and data speeds in rural areas.
Keysight combines expertise in commercial communications and aerospace to create integrated 5G NTN test solutions with end-to-end satellite link emulation capabilities. Part of Keysight’s wider portfolio of aerospace test and measurement solutions, the new toolset supports end-to-end field acceptance testing, crucial in the delivery of global coverage, aeronautical and maritime communications, as well as emergency and disaster recovery in rural areas.
Keysight’s S8825A Satellite and Aerospace Channel Emulation Toolset leverages PROPSIM FS16 and F64 channel emulator hardware and software platforms to provide real-world radio channel capabilities, including dynamic multipath propagation, wider bandwidths and up to 64 radio or aerospace channels. Offering comprehensive support for all 5G NTN system requirements, the new toolset enables customers to:
- Create end-to-end mixed terrestrial and space test networks in a laboratory environment for cost-effective end-user experience verification
- Emulate ground-to-satellite, satellite-to-ground as well as ground-to-ground satellite links to holistically verify the performance of both terrestrial and non-terrestrial infrastructure
- Achieve highly accurate measurements by addressing link verification complexity introduced by long delays, high mobility of LEO satellites, Doppler Effect and mesh network topology
Keysight’s GCM Channel Studio harvests the powerful PROPSIM platform by enabling the customers to create complex channel models and test scenarios. It simplifies the creation of multi-link test scenarios for wireless testing and special radio systems testing. The GCM tool supports user-defined 3D spatial scenarios and dynamic modeling of movement for 5G testing
“Keysight’s new toolset, an application specific 5G NTN test solution, enables vendors and mobile operators, as well as providers of satellite equipment and networks, to verify complex systems consisting of both earthbound infrastructure and orbiting satellites,” said Janne Kolu, research and development director of Keysight’s channel emulator products. “We’re pleased to contribute with deep industry insight and solutions for both 5G and space. This will help the cellular industry bridge the knowledge gap and deliver on the complete vision of 5G new radio.”
Keysight delivers advanced design and validation solutions that help accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. Keysight’s dedication to speed and precision extends to software-driven insights and analytics that bring tomorrow’s technology products to market faster across the development lifecycle, in design simulation, prototype validation, automated software testing, manufacturing analysis, and network performance optimization and visibility in enterprise, service provider and cloud environments. Our customers span the worldwide communications and industrial ecosystems, aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, semiconductor and general electronics. Keysight generated revenues of $4.2B in fiscal year 2020. (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.