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06 May 21. There Must Be Rules for How We Use Space, Defense Leaders Say. With more nations using space for both commercial and defense purposes, there must be rules that allow everybody to operate safely — and to be able to identify what’s going to be considered a threat, say defense leaders.
“There are many benefits to having common guidelines for space operations,” John D. Hill, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said. He testified yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee.
“Among these are a safer, more sustainable, more stable and more predictable space operating environment for all space operators,” he continued. “Importantly for [the] DOD, such an operating environment can also facilitate indications and warnings of hostile intentions and hostile acts.”
Right now, Hill said, the DOD’s policies and practices for its operations in space serve as a model for space behavior.
“[The] DOD models responsible behavior through our routine space operations, and [the] DOD works carefully to ensure that our space operations are consistent with international measures the United States supports, with relevant domestic and international law, including the law of armed conflict, and the inherent right of self-defense,” he told lawmakers.
Further development of internationally agreed-upon rules for operations in space will benefit both the Defense Department and commercial space operations, Hill said.
“From the DOD perspective, United States leadership and the development of a rules-based order for space activities reap benefits for U.S. civil, commercial, scientific and national security space operators,” he said. “As space activities worldwide become more prolific and more varied, voluntary non-binding international norms, standards and guidelines of responsible behavior can benefit U.S. national security and foster a conducive environment for growing global space activities.”
Right now, said Space Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the commander of Space Operations Command, the U.S. is already very transparent about its activities in space. One example of that is the U.S.-run website, space-track.org, which makes available space situational awareness services and information.
“Given our imperative to help keep the domain safe, our command … has for many years, with the support of Congress, been providing orbital conjunction assessments to any space owner and operator around the globe, while also making available space-track.org to foster openness and transparency in the tracking of tens of thousands of objects on orbit,” Whiting said.
Having agreed-upon internationally accepted rules for space operations is increasingly important now, Whiting said, given recent examples of the increased weaponization of space.
In 2007, he said, the Chinese conducted a test to demonstrate their ability to destroy an orbiting satellite with a kill vehicle launched from the ground. And the Chinese, he said, have continued to demonstrate a willingness to showcase capabilities to interfere with assets already in space.
“We continue to see the Chinese building satellites like the Shijian 17, which is a Chinese satellite with a robotic arm that could be used to grapple U.S. or allied satellites,” he said. “We know they have multiple ground laser systems which could blind or damage our satellite systems.”
The Russian can also interfere with space-based assets, he said.
“Russia has several ground-based lasers that can jam or blind our satellites and it’s probable [that] they’ll field more later this decade,” he said.
The Russians have also launched satellites, such as Kosmos 2519 and Kosmos 2542, both of which demonstrated abilities to interfere with other assets in space. Kosmos 2542, launched in late 2019, Whiting said, was able to synchronize its orbit with a U.S. satellite. When the U.S. moved that satellite, the Russian satellite synchronized its own orbit a second time.
“Russia is a sophisticated space actor, so they must have known what they were doing, and obviously we do not support weapons tests near our satellites,” Whiting said. “But let me be clear, even with this weaponization of space, we do not want a war to extend into space, and we want to do everything possible to deter that.” (Source: US DoD)
07 May 21. On-Time Delivery Top Priority at Space Development Agency. Cost, performance and delivery drive acquisition across the Defense Department, typically in equal measure. But the Space Development Agency has prioritized delivery above all else in its effort to get satellites into space that will deliver non-line-of-sight targeting to warfighters across the globe.
“The key thing is always to focus on getting these capabilities up and operational as rapidly as possible,” said Derek M. Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency, during an online discussion today with the Space Force Association. “We will trade performance for schedule to make sure that we can maintain that.”
Budget professionals, Tournear said, are concerned about cost. “They want to make sure that the cost is correct and under control.”
And program managers are concerned about performance, he said. “They want to make sure that they can hit everything … they want to get the last ounce of performance out of their program as possible.”
But delivery, or schedule, is about getting an acquisition product to the end user on time.
“Who cares about schedule?” he asked. “The warfighter is the one that cares about schedule. No matter how good or how affordable a program or platform is, if it is not there when you need it, it’s worthless … we’re always focused on schedule. We’re going to get these capabilities up on time.”
The Space Development Agency is working now on delivering the National Defense Space Architecture. That system includes hundreds of satellites, delivered in “tranches” every two years, with each tranche providing more capability than the last.
The NDSA’s network of hundreds of optically-connected satellites will deliver two primary capabilities to warfighters on the ground, Tournear said.
First is beyond line-of-sight targeting for ground and maritime time-sensitive targets, which includes mobile missiles and ships, for instance. The system will provide the ability to detect those targets, track them, calculate a fire control solution and then deliver that solution down to a weapons platform so that the target can be destroyed.
“I want to do all of that in space, and I want to be able to close that chain in single-digit seconds — that’s what we’re focused on,” Tournear said.
The second capability is the same as the first, but for enemy missiles already in flight, he said.
“Everything we do ties back to being able to do these main mission areas,” Tournear said.
This year, Tournear said, the SDA, in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Missile Defense Agency, will launch about five satellites in support of the NDSA that will demonstrate the capability of the future system.
The Tranche 0 set of satellites, about 28 in all, will go up in 2022 and 2023 — it’ll give warfighters a taste of what’s to come, he said.
“The whole point of Tranche 0 is to demonstrate a capability so that the warfighter can start to use that in their tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said.
After that, expect to see a lot of launches as part of Tranche 1 — which will put as many as 150 satellites into the sky beginning in September 2024.
“That’s when we can actually start to affect a fight,” he said. “We want the warfighter to already have been using our Tranche 0 satellites in their exercises, so they’re ready when [Tranche 1 satellites] come online in 2024.”
Tournear said right now SDA is locked in on all the important details to get Tranche 0 satellites into the sky.
“SDA is not messing around,” he said. “We have all of our contractors on contract for Tranche 0 on firm-fixed-price contracts to push forward to deliver. September 2022 is when we’re going to be launching these capabilities. We delivered the first two satellites. We delivered them to the launch vehicle nine months after we received funds. We’re all about speed.” (Source: US DoD)
07 May 21. How commercial satellite constellations fit into the Army’s future tactical network designs. The U.S. Army will begin implementing advanced satellite communications technology to increase network resiliency as part of its next iteration of tactical network tools.
Adding low-Earth orbit and medium-Earth orbit capabilities commercial satellite constellations into the service’s tactical network repertoire is part of the service’s effort to shift to dispersed battlefields, instead of the fixed fiber communications and forward operating bases that defined the last two decades of war in the Middle East.
As part of the service’s next delivery of tactical network tools, known as Capability Set ’23, Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical will use “existing” MEO capabilities, considered more mature than LEO, to support the new battlefield communications, according to Rich Hoffman, lead electronics engineer for SATCOM at the C5ISR Center.
PEO C3T and the Network Cross-Functional Team officials hosted reporters at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall this week for a presentation of new network tools, including new tactical radios, satellite terminals and command post network infrastructure.
The preliminary design review process for Capability Set ’23, which just concluded this week, includes an initial low-Earth orbit satellite connection “at the halt” to support the command posts.
But to support the dispersed and joint war-fighting operations of future wars in places such as the Indo-Pacific, the Army needs several options to route communications in case one option is interfered with by an adversary.
“Look at this as just yet another layer. LEO, MEO, GEO — if any one of those layers may not be available or taken out” there are other options, Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, the leader of PEO C3T. “We are not going all in on a single layer.”
The Army is modernization its tactical network through deliveries of new network technologies delivered every two years. The tactical network team is currently fielding Capability Set ’21, which focused on enhance immediate network needs. The first brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division has been fully fielded. The 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy is receiving its new technology now. Fielding started for the third brigade of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, while the third brigade of the 82nd Airborne will start to receive the tools starting in July.
Capability Set ’23 is focused on strengthening the resiliency of the network and increasing throughput capabilities. Ultimately, the new SATCOM capabilities will deliver PACE plans — primary, alternate, contingency and emergency — to the tactical edge.
“Before we were kind of limited to get kind of primary and alternate sometimes but necessarily wouldn’t have a contingency or emergency,” said Col. Rob Ryan, director of operations for the Network Cross-Functional Team. “Having pace at that tactical edge allows the company commander that maneuverability and the agileness to make decisions and inform decisions up [the chain of command and] leverage assets that may be beyond brigade, and that’s critical in the multidimensional fight.”
The service’s turn to new satellite constellations is a major piece of boosting the resiliency of its tactical communications network, providing another option to communicate to servicemembers spread around a wide area if other communications links are jammed. Prototyping new SATCOM capabilities has been a major initiative for the C5ISR Center, efforts which have been boosted by $30m its partners at the Network Cross-Functional team received in FY20 for prototyping efforts.
The pivot to include MEO and LEO has significant implications on the battlefield, Hoffman said.
“Currently on the tactical battlefield, we rely on geosynchronous satellite or beyond-line-of-sight connectivity,” Hoffman said. “So when we have those longer ranges, we’re reliant on a single geosynchronous connection. In the future, we want to leverage multiple connections to have resiliency, add additional throughput … and add reduced latency. So things like sensor-to-shooter, those latency times are really important.”
The end goal, Hoffman said, is to integrate LEO and MEO with the current GEO satellites.
“We want to get to integrated terminal capabilities where we can select the constellations that we’ve leveraged for our communications based on what’s available and have the terminal there to be able to support that both on the move and at the halt,” Hoffman said.
While Capability Set ’23 will have some of the new SATCOM capabilities, the tactical network team expects to take full advantage of a more mature LEO and MEO technologies for Capability Sets ’25 and ’27.
The difference between the GEO capabilities and future commercial SATCOM links is “night and day,” according to Joe Welch, director of the C5ISR Center. The LEO and MEO capabilities allow for higher data throughput, more transmission flexibility, reduced latency and cost savings.
“Take a look at the terminals that we’ve got right now supporting fixed command posts … you have to coordinate for the channel days or months in advance if you’re using military channels, which are which are constrained, or pay a lot for the throughput for a specific channel,” Welch said. With the commercial SATCOM terminals, “you’re just paying for the service that you’re using. The satellites … they’re so much closer to the Earth that the amount of throughput that we can put through it is an order of magnitude [higher].”
LEO satellites sit below 1000 kilometers from the Earth, while GEO sits around 35,000 kilometers, providing much faster throughput. The commercial SATCOM terminals for future capability sets are also far smaller than current satellites, just a half a meter in diameter versus eight feet right now. That allows for faster data routing to its destination and increased mobility for soldiers.
“I can tell you that [latency] on some of these multi-hop geosynchronous could be a second plus, [but now] you’re talking milliseconds,” Collins said. “It’s a fraction and the megabits [are] the charts and the latency dramatically reduced. Every little bit counts on the future battlefield, not only on applications, but when you start talking hypersonics and in future sensor-to-shooter, it’s significant.”
Adopting LEO and MEO satellite constellation capabilities requires a different type of antenna than the Army currently uses. Because GEO satellites are in sync with the movement of the Earth, antennas have to be pointed at the satellites. Because the LEO and MEO satellites are closer, they move around more. To adapt to that, the Army has to use phased array antennas, where the direction of the beams of radiowaves can be steered without using the antennas, because “you have to track lots of satellites that are constantly going overhead very rapidly,” Welch said.
The tactical network team is also grappling with how to build the terminals to withstand rugged terrain while mounted on vehicles, specific military requirements that commercial industry doesn’t inherently build for.
“We don’t drive down the highway as much as we drive over rough terrain,” Hoffman said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
05 May 21. Five New Ground Stations Expand ATLAS Space Operations Ground Network. With the addition of five new ground stations to its growing global ground network, ATLAS Space Operations continues to find ways to achieve its chief mission: connecting humanity through space. The new antennas in New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Alaska, and an upcoming commissioning in Dubai, UAE represent a dramatic increase in ATLAS’ global footprint and network capacity. The move is expected to bolster global antenna coverage and establish new communications opportunities for the burgeoning satellite market.
The site in Mingenew, Western Australia stands out to the ATLAS team. A partner site with Capricorn Space, the Mingenew location is the first of its kind for ATLAS, allowing both companies to provide network-level integration to their clients. ATLAS’ unique schedule-to-schedule availability enables their Freedom™ Platform to serve as a single access point to multiple networks. This accomplishment underscores an ambition that ATLAS has long touted as critical in developing the next generation of satellite communications: one network that can interface with many others to achieve a high degree of reliability and flexibility through deep levels of integration.
“The new sites, and specifically our new partner site in Australia, represent exactly the kind of development that our clients are looking for,” said ATLAS CEO Sean McDaniel, adding, “It comes down to location and ability. Regarding location, we’re developing in the deserts of the Middle East all the way to the Arctic Circle, because we go where our clients need us to go. As for ability, our network-level integration with Capricorn Space speaks for itself—this, and developments like it, will enable the space comms sector to accommodate growing demand, while remaining adaptive and resilient.”
With new sites in New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, and UAE, as well as within the Arctic Circle, ATLAS’ network map offers a compelling argument for its vision: connecting humanity through space. For its clients, ATLAS’ new ground stations are seen as new opportunities. More antennas means more contacts, and more contacts means lower latency, which provides robust performance for space-based mission sets. The result is data that travels more freely, and is more impactful than ever before.
About ATLAS Space Operations:
ATLAS Space Operations is the fastest-growing teleport operator in the world according to the World Teleport Association’s Fast Ten, and was recognized as the 15th fastest-growing software company in the Inc. 5000, placing 102 overall. The company conducts secure and efficient space communications that drive critical decisions on Earth, all supported by Freedom™, ATLAS’ cloud-based platform. Employing a revolutionary approach that is fluid and quick to adapt to industry changes, ATLAS brings data down from space faster and more affordably than ever before. For more information visit www.atlasground.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
05 May 21. Hughes and OneWeb to Demonstrate Low Earth Orbit Service in Arctic Region for U.S. Air Force Research Lab. Hughes to provide systems integration expertise and demonstration of managed LEO SATCOM services for tactical communications. Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, and OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, today announced their selection by the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to demonstrate managed LEO satellite communications (SATCOM) services to connect the Arctic region to sites around the globe. Under the agreement, Hughes will test and implement these end-to-end services on the OneWeb system between selected U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) locations, a first step in harnessing the power of LEO satellites for high-speed, low-latency broadband access in the Arctic.
“This opportunity reinforces the relationship between Hughes and the U.S. Air Force to ensure resilient, flexible SATCOM networks for tactical, multi-domain operations,” said Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of the Defense and Intelligence Systems Division at Hughes. “We look forward to partnering with OneWeb to bring LEO innovation into the military SATCOM enterprise, especially in the strategic Arctic region where connectivity has been limited—until now.”
“The OneWeb constellation has been designed to enable low-latency broadband access across the globe, allowing connectivity in previously unreached areas—a capability that is ideal for tactical, multi-domain operations in the Polar region and beyond,” said Dylan Browne, Head of Government Services with OneWeb. “Working together with Hughes, we will bridge the gap in connectivity for NORTHCOM with an interoperable and secure solution.”
As the prime contractor on the project, Hughes will lead adaptation, integration, testing and ongoing management of this service demonstration with OneWeb and Intellian, who are developing user terminals for use on the OneWeb network. Designed for ease of installation, the new Intellian terminals will utilize next-generation technology to provide a cost-effective system to access the low-latency, high bandwidth connectivity offered by OneWeb.
Under a separate agreement with OneWeb, Hughes is engineering and producing the gateway equipment and user terminal core module, making the company a logical choice for enabling high-speed, low-latency services above the 50th parallel North, an area that has been difficult to connect with other types of satellite services. The DoD contract is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI) program.
OneWeb’s network was designed for global coverage and is uniquely capable in its ability to deliver much-needed connectivity services to the Arctic. With 182 satellites launched to date and regular 2021 launches planned and on-track, OneWeb will be able to deliver coverage to the 50th parallel North and above by the end of 2021, bridging a long-standing connectivity gap and building secure communications capability in an underserved region.
About Hughes Network Systems
Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for 50 years, provides broadband equipment and services; managed services featuring smart, software-defined networking; and end-to-end network operation for millions of consumers, businesses, governments and communities worldwide. The Hughes flagship Internet service, HughesNet®, connects more than 1.5 million subscribers across the Americas, and the Hughes JUPITER™ System powers Internet access for tens of millions more worldwide. Hughes supplies more than half the global satellite terminal market to leading satellite operators, in-flight service providers, mobile network operators and military customers. A managed network services provider, Hughes supports nearly 500,000 enterprise sites with its HughesON™ portfolio of wired and wireless solutions. Headquartered in Germantown, Maryland, USA, Hughes is owned by EchoStar. To learn more, visit www.hughes.com or follow HughesConnects on Twitter and LinkedIn.
EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS) is a premier global provider of satellite communication solutions. Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and conducting business around the globe, EchoStar is a pioneer in secure communications technologies through its Hughes Network Systems and EchoStar Satellite Services business segments. For more information, visit www.echostar.com. Follow @EchoStar on Twitter.
OneWeb will enable connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere. Find out more at http://www.oneweb.world. (Source: PR Newswire)
06 May 21. SpaceX Starship rocket prototype achieves first safe landing. SpaceX achieved the first successful touchdown of its prototype Starship rocket during the latest test flight of the next-generation launch vehicle in south Texas on Wednesday, after four previous landing attempts ended in explosions.
The feat marked a key milestone for the private rocket company of billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk in its development of a resusable heavy-lift launch vehicle to eventually carry astronauts and large cargo payloads to the moon and Mars.
The Starship SN15 blasted off from the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, along the Gulf Coast and reached its planned maximum altitude of 10 kilometers (6 miles), then hovered momentarily before flying nose-down under aerodynamic control back toward Earth.
Maneuvering itself back into vertical position under rocket thrust as it approached the ground, the 16-story, three-engine vehicle descended to a gentle touchdown on its landing gear.
“We are down, the Starship has landed,” SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker said during live commentary for the flight.
A video feed of the landing showed flames continuing to burn at the base of the rocket after the engines cut off, but an automated fire-suppression system trained a steady stream of water onto the landing pad, eventually extinguishing the blaze.
The flight came on the 60th anniversary of the first spaceflight by an American astronaut – Alan Shepard’s launch on a 15-minute suborbital mission atop NASA’s Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Musk declared success on Twitter, posting a terse message in the understated parlance of spaceflight: “Starship landing nominal!”
Four previous test flights of Starship prototypes – SN8 in December, SN9 in February and SN10 and SN11 in March – all blasted off successfully but blew to pieces.
The complete Starship rocket, which will stand 394 feet (120 meters) tall when mated with its super-heavy first-stage booster, is SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle at the center of Musk’s ambitions to make human space travel more affordable and routine.
A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end. Musk has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with the Starship in 2023. (Source: Reuters)
05 May 21. Airbus secures multiple contracts to further increase the communications capability for the UK MoD.
- Contracts range from consultancy to upgraded hardware and new terminals
- SMEs benefitting from greater engagement
- Covering land, air, sea, space and cyber domains
Airbus has been awarded a series of contracts during the first quarter of 2021 from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) both as part of its continuing programme of upgrading and enhancing services for the Skynet 5 military satcom services contract, and continued work with the MOD’s Defence Digital organisation.
Activities in the Maritime domain include introducing further quality of service improvements for Maritime Network Evolution (MNE) services to enable continued Wi-Fi access for deployed personnel while on operations. Airbus has also completed a series of baseband upgrades and improvements for eight SCOT5 FMT ships.
Focusing on the land domain, Airbus has recently had a significant order placed for its Bracer service from the UK MOD. Designed by Airbus partner QinetiQ, the Bracer device and service can operate in the planet’s harshest environments to provide end-to-end encrypted beyond line of sight (BLOS) capabilities. Together with innovative provider Ovzon, Airbus has achieved a first type of sale to deliver the T5 terminal, a compact laptop sized on-the-pause terminal and satellite services to the MOD. Airbus has also recently unveiled team ICELUS, which will focus on the upcoming System Integrator (SI) opportunity for the British Army’s future tactical communication programme, LE TacCIS. Airbus is also providing fibre broadband and infrastructure services to the MOD’s Abbey Wood headquarters.
Airbus has agreed a contract to provide Ku-band airtime for the Poseidon P8 maritime patrol aircraft as they enter service, as well as also agreeing renewals to provide continued Ku-band airtime support for the UK Reaper UAV – highlighting Airbus’ continued support to the RAF for future missions.
Focussed on a customer partnership approach, Airbus selects the best available solutions to provide the most effective, resilient and cost efficient connectivity to combine commercial off the shelf equipment, airtime and support services to the front line commands and end users. SMEs continue to be a strong part of the Airbus ecosystem, together with partner GRC Ltd, Airbus has contracted, delivered, trained and deployed an extensive range of terminal services to the end-user. Airbus also continues to work with GRC Ltd, to deliver a tactical satcom solution that provides end–to-end communications in any eventuality in a single logical network.
Richard Budd, Head of Secure Communications UK & US at Airbus Defence and Space said: “These latest services and hardware upgrades are part of the fundamental philosophy behind Skynet 5 – to continually provide the customer with innovative solutions, enabling them to stay at the forefront of expertise and technology. And in keeping with our partnership approach we work with UK SMEs to fulfil the contracts, further developing the UK Space Ecosystem and providing value for money for the taxpayer.”
The Skynet 5 programme, managed by Airbus, has provided the UK MOD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. The programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012. Through the many years of Airbus delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satellite communications to UK forces delivering both operational and information advantage at the greatest time of need.
Looking to the future, the UK’s space industry leader Airbus, has teamed with KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ to bring new thinking to future space solutions and to launch the Open Innovation – Space initiative. The aim of Open Innovation – Space is to further increase SME involvement in UK future satellite communications services and space activities creating high value jobs and growth across the UK. Open Innovation – Space will look to significantly raise this SME engagement to accelerate regional recovery by broadening potential investment in novel solutions and ideas.
04 May 21. US ‘Will Fail’ If Space Acquisition Doesn’t Reform: CSPC. Space acquisition reform so far has been focused on “small dollar” activities, with most big-ticket programs such as NSSL stuck in the bad old ways, says a new report by Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
DoD and Congress must push harder to reform space acquisition or the new Space Force may well fall back into the tired — and ever more risky — old and slow ways, says a new report by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC).
Mike Rogers, former Republican chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI), said today the “overwhelming” instinct within the DoD acquisition community is “to take what they know and plop it over” to the Space Force.
“If we do that, we will fail. We, the United States will fail,” warned Rogers, who is a principle at CSPC along with former Democratic congressman Glenn Nye. Nye, who sat on the House Armed Services Committee, is CSPC’s president.
The new report, “Maintaining Momentum In National Security Space,” makes a number of recommendations based on a year’s worth of discussions with some 200 space experts from academia, government, the military, Congress and industry.
Acquisition reform is number two on the list, stating: “Acquisition reform must move beyond the edges to the core programs of record.”
The report asserts that if Space Force does not move more forcefully on acquisition reform, the US will lose its competitive edge to China and Russia. “True reform means going beyond simply shaving time off existing acquisition cycles and instead revamping what things are bought and the way they are bought,” it says.
The report applauds the efforts being made by innovation hubs like AFWERX, and now SpaceWERX, and the Rapid Capabilities Office, but it says those “small dollar” activities are not nearly enough. It bemoans that big ticket programs by and large are continuing along well-trodden acquisition pathways.
For example, the report calls out as a “fitting example” of business as usual the $4.9bn contract to Lockheed Martin for Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) satellites. Under the program, the report explains, “five satellites [are] to be deployed by 2028, the earliest of which may fly by 2025, at a cost of nearly $9bn.”
While that contracting process “may have been ‘swifter’ than previous competitions, it by no means leverages next-generation capabilities, mega-constellations, or other cutting-edge technologies,” the report says.” If anything, it is a continuation of the deployment of “juicy targets,” in the words of Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and previous commander of U.S. Strategic Command.”
Further, the report takes a swipe at the new Space Force plan to transform Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) into Space Systems Command.
“Indeed, while the Space Force is defining its own culture, nomenclature, and heraldry—e.g. “Deltas” instead of “Wings”—if it fails to reform fundamental processes and structures, little will have ultimately changed. It is insufficient to rebrand Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) as Space Systems Command, for instance, without actually changing what is bought, how it is bought, and who is responsible for its purchase.”
The report also bemoans the ongoing approach to acquiring military launch capabilities:
“The proliferation of launch options and easier space access means that more diverse opportunities are available for the Space Force and the national security space enterprise writ large. It no longer makes sense to tie the entirety of the architecture to one class of launch vehicles hamstrung by unique or bespoke government requirements. Diversification of the supply chain will also yield resiliency in times of crisis when immovable or centralized launch sites may be threatened or out of commission.”
CSPC recommends that DoD “shift away from being the launch customer to one among several space access customers (emphasis theirs.) This will require, the report says, changing the definition of what constitutes ‘assured access.’ “Having assured access must mean more than dedicated launch providers and take on a more robust meaning.”
“The high-walled garden approach with all eggs in one, or now two baskets, may be appropriate when spacecraft are exquisite rare expensive and launches are correspondingly few, but to stay ahead of rapidly developing threats, we need faster development of more types of spacecraft and more launch options,” Brett Alexander, vice president, government sales & strategy for Blue Origin, said during CSPC’s panel discussion. “So the proliferation of launch capabilities is a good thing for national security, and we hope the Space Force will take advantage of this rapidly developing commercial launch capability as the CSPC report notes.”
Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, of course, was one of the losers in the hard-fought contest for phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX nabbed mega-billion awards in a 60/40 split to provide (at least in principle) all Space Force and National Reconnaissance Office launches between 2022 and 2027.
Blue Origin (owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos) was one of the sponsors of the report, along with ride-share firm NanoRacks and small launch firm Rocket Lab. The report itself which was based on a year’s worth of interviews and round tables with some 200 space experts from academia, government, the military, Congress, and industry.
The other key recommendations in the report are:
- The Biden administration “should maintain the momentum of the development and growth of the Space Force,”
- The “national security space enterprise must treat space as a complete ecosystem,” including “This necessitates an approach to acquisition that focuses on capabilities rather than platforms.”
- The US must “Take the necessary steps to establish a United States-led multilateral rules-based order for orbit and other planetary bodies including the Moon.”
Nye explained that CSPC will be active in trying to move its recommendations forward, including by continuing to convene stakeholders in a safe space where they can talk freely. He also expressed some optimism that the recommended changes could be made, even relatively quickly, if decision-makers so choose.
“We understand that with the creation of a new bureaucracy comes some turf battling, and we witnessed some of that,” Nye said of the process for developing the recommendations. “But we also feel like there are opportunities,” he said, “and so we’re trying to time these recommendations to be actionable, in the sense that we have the opportunity with a relative newness of the Space Force, with the new administration coming in.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
04 May 21. Second Successful 2021 Launch for Spire. Spire grows LEMUR CubeSat platform with newly deployed satellites. On April 29 Spire successfully deployed two new satellites into its LEMUR constellation. The satellites bring Spire to 143 total satellites launched, with more than 110 currently in orbit. This is the second launch of 2021 for Spire and 30th launch overall.
The Low Earth Multi-Use Receiver (LEMUR) is Spire’s CubeSat platform used to track maritime, aviation, and weather activity from space. Each satellite is equipped with multiple sensors, capable of capturing data day and night and during extreme weather conditions.
These two satellites expand Spire’s rapidly growing data capture capabilities, strengthening the company’s operational capacity to serve its growing global customer base. Spire leverages its constellation to deliver proprietary data, insights, and predictive analytics to its global commercial and government customers through a subscription.
“A successful deployment requires a lot of collaboration between Spire and its partners, and we’re delighted to celebrate another successful step in serving our customers with fresh data and insights,” said Spire CEO, Peter Platzer. “We are committed to reliably serve our customers a little better every day. With this latest deployment we’re better equipped to help organizations across the world confidently and efficiently make decisions that matter with deliberate speed.”
The satellites were named by two key members of the Spire team, one of the “perks” every person working at Spire enjoys. Keith Johnson, VP and General Manager of Federal, named the first “Special K” after a nickname from his two sons. Svante Eriksson, AIS payload captain, named the second “Svante-Amanda” for himself and his wife.
About Spire Global, Inc.
Spire is a global provider of space-based data and analytics that offers unique datasets and powerful insights about Earth from the ultimate vantage point – space – so organizations can make decisions with confidence, accuracy, and speed. Spire uses the largest multi-purpose satellite constellation to source hard to acquire, valuable data and enriches it with predictive solutions. Spire then provides this data as a subscription to organizations around the world so they can improve business operations, decrease their environmental footprint, deploy resources for growth and competitive advantage, and mitigate risk. Spire gives commercial and government organizations the competitive advantage they seek to innovate and solve some of the world’s toughest problems with insights from space. Spire has offices in San Francisco, CA, Boulder, CO, Washington DC, Glasgow, Luxembourg, and Singapore. On March 1, 2021 Spire announced plans to go public through a planned business combination with NavSight Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: NSH), to be traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “SPIR.” To learn more, visit spire.com.
About NavSight Holdings, Inc.
NavSight Holdings, Inc. is a blank check company formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses. NavSight was organized with the opportunity to pursue a business combination target in any business or industry, with the intent to focus its search on identifying a prospective target business that provides expertise and technology to U.S. government customers in support of their national security, intelligence and defense missions. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
04 May 21. Spaceflight Inc. Readies the Next of Four Dedicated Electron Launches for BlackSky. By providing a mix of both traditional rideshare and dedicated options, launch services provider delivers maximum flexibility for BlackSky’s growing constellation.
Global launch services provider Spaceflight Inc. recently secured four dedicated Rocket Lab launches on behalf of its customer, BlackSky, a leading provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services. Spaceflight will provide the integration and launch services for eight BlackSky smallsats across four dedicated Electron missions throughout 2021. The agreement also includes options for an additional two dedicated missions on Electron in Q4 2021.
The first of these four dedicated missions is scheduled to launch in May 2021 from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The mission, called “Running Out of Toes” by Rocket Lab and “RL-7” by Spaceflight to signify its seventh mission with Rocket Lab, will carry two 55-kilogram class BlackSky smallsats to low Earth orbit. The following three dedicated launches under contract will each take two more BlackSky satellites, furthering BlackSky’s goal to launch nine satellites in 2021.
Following the successful deployment of one BlackSky smallsat on Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” rideshare mission (RL-6) on March 22, 2021, the new dedicated launches provide BlackSky additional scheduled launches and orbital control to get its constellation on orbit in an accelerated timeline.
“Organizations may have a strategic business reason to choose a dedicated launch – they need to have spacecraft reach a specific orbit not served by traditional rideshare, or at a specific time when a traditional rideshare option is unavailable,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Spaceflight arranges a mix of both traditional rideshare and dedicated launches across our large vehicle portfolio to deliver maximum flexibility for organizations and ensure they get to space, exactly when and where they want. Plus, with the purchase of an entire launch vehicle, Spaceflight’s rideshare expertise continues to come into play as we’re often able to help offset the premium price by ‘filling up’ any additional capacity with other smallsats.”
In addition to the upcoming dedicated launches, Spaceflight has managed many rideshare missions for BlackSky over the past years, including ISRO’s PSLV-C43 mission and Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare mission in 2018, Rocket Lab’s “Make It Rain” and “Look Ma, No Hands” missions in 2019, a SpaceX Starlink rideshare mission in 2020, and most recently Rocket Lab’s “They Go Up So Fast” mission earlier this year.
“For our customers, it’s the combination of the launch options that’s powerful – traditional rideshare, dedication launches, or last mile delivery via one of our Sherpa transportation vehicles,” added Grant Bonin, senior vice president of business development for Spaceflight. “We work closely with each customer to find the most cost-effective option to address their mission needs each and every time they need a launch, leveraging our years of experience and long-standing relationships with a wide variety of launch vehicle providers.”
Spaceflight is preparing several ESPA-class orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) complete with electric and chemical propulsion for missions later this year along with many traditional rideshare and dedicated missions for a total of approximately 10 launches in 2021.
Celebrating 10 years of providing innovative launch services, Spaceflight has launched nearly 350 satellites across 38 missions on eight different launch vehicles, including the Falcon 9, Electron, PSLV, and Vega. It has orchestrated several industry firsts including the first fully dedicated rideshare with 64 smallsats aboard the historic SSO-A mission and the first-ever rideshare mission to GTO with a lunar lander.
About Spaceflight Inc.
As the premier global launch services provider, Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of space transportation through its comprehensive suite of launch services and Sherpa® orbital transfer vehicles. The company provides unprecedented launch flexibility to ensure customers’ smallsats get to orbit exactly when and where they want through a combination of long-standing relationships with a diverse portfolio of launch partners, innovative satellite integration capabilities, including flight and ground support hardware, licensing and logistics management, and extensive mission management expertise. Based in Seattle, Spaceflight has successfully launched hundreds of satellites and is a part of the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. portfolio, operating as an independent, U.S.-based company. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
04 May 21. TiaLinx, Inc. Announces the Successful Delivery of its Patented Planar Programmable Polarized Antenna Array with Beamsteering Capability for Wafer Scale Integration Modules at the Ka-Band.
TiaLinx, Inc., the developer of the highly integrated wireless systems announced successful implementation of its planar programmable polarized antenna technology at the Ka-band.
The smallest footprint antenna element has been integrated with the switch and phase shifter to address a fully integrated planar programmable polarized cell with beamsteering capability in an antenna array (“P3BA2TM”). P3BA2 cell is a micro module that can be expanded to 32 x 32 tiles as elements of a ground terminal connectivity with communication satellites or frond-end module for radar applications. P3BA2 is also an ideal technology to significantly enhance the coverage and quality of 5G and beyond ultra high-data rate wireless links.
The patented wafer-scale beamforming technology of TiaLinx and its planar antenna arrays enable scanning with fine lateral resolution, enhancing the connectivity of the users to satellite links or 5G cell clusters.
Furthermore, signal processing with polarization capabilities has shown suppressing radio wave scattering in a cluttered environment, while the advanced embedded lens antenna provides the user with the ability to obtain ultra-fast multi-band, multi-beam access.
Morgan Stanley estimates that the satellite broadband market could be worth as much as US$400bn by 2040. Meanwhile according to Statista’s market projections, the worldwide adoption of 5G smartphone subscription will reach to 2.8bn by the year 2024.
About TiaLinx, Inc.
TiaLinx, Inc. is a privately held company with 100% American ownership. The Company develops advanced electronic micro modules, highly integrated functionality, and advanced performance for a wide range of mobile wireless connectivity for consumer, automotive, industrial and medical applications. Utilizing tens of its granted and many more pending patent applications, the Company is uniquely positioned to provide small footprint, portable, and low-cost wireless modules. (Source: PR Newswire)
03 May 21. Exclusive: US Army Plan May Loosen IC Grip On Sat-Based ISR.
“The Army needs information when and where they want it,” said Rob Zitz, a former Army intel official. “The IC should not get a vote on what Army needs or how Army executes combat missions.”
The Army is negotiating with the Intelligence Community and Space Force about ensuring operational control of any future Army-built ISR payloads hosted on DoD, IC and/or commercial satellites, says Willie Nelson, the de facto head of Army space programs.
“This is a watershed,” said Doug Loverro, former head of DoD space policy and a long-time player in space intelligence operations. “It represents the increased importance of tactical overhead support to Army forces for long range fires.”
Why? If the service wins even a modicum of control over where future IC ISR birds are ‘pointed’ — a prerogative the IC traditionally has zealously guarded — it would represent a major break with the past.
For decades, a small committee has made the decisions about where America’s spy satellites are tasked and who gets priority access to their data steams. Today, that committee is led by the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which sets the operational requirements for the NRO to meet when it builds spy sats — as well as for any commercial ISR sat data contracted for by NRO. NGA, in effect, also has its finger on the trigger as to who gets priority for the data streaming from those satellites.
The Army doesn’t want to totally take over the steering wheel of NRO-operated imagery or signals intelligence satellites, or (at least for the moment) build its own constellation of ISR sats. Instead, Nelson explains, it is focused on ensuring that ISR (or any other) payloads it might build in future for hosting on non-Army satellites will be available when the service needs them.
One of the Army’s end-goals with its multi-pronged Tactical Satellite Layer (TSL) experiment is to ensure “dedicated” access to space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data needed to guide missiles to targets deep inside Chinese and/or Russian territory, Nelson told Sydney in an interview. Those long-range precision fire capabilities are one of the Army’s top priorities, as they are considered by service leaders to be the linch-pin for future all-domain operations.
Army requirements, he stressed, are to “sense deep, engage deep, target deep.”
The Army wants a “cooperative relationship” where ISR constellations of small satellites are managed day-to-day and launched by the traditional milspace operators, Nelson said.
This includes the NRO, and the Space Development Agency (SDA) that is working on a constellation of small satellites for communications and another for missile tracking. SDA, in turn, is expected to soon come under Space Force head Gen. Jay Raymond as part of a reorganization of Space and Missile Systems Center into a new Space Systems Command.
“We are doing this working with the Space Force and SDA and the Intelligence Community,” Nelson explained.
On the other hand, he stressed, the Army wants to be “tied at the hip” in the process for establishing how data is distributed and to be “able to directly reach out and touch and task those capabilities deliberately” rather than in an “ad hoc manner” or under a priority list made by someone outside the Army. The requirement, he said, is for “dedicated capacity, so that it is there when it’s needed.”
Battlefield Needs Vs. Strategic Needs
The Army’s campaign to ensure 24/7 access to space-based ISR data dates back all the way to Desert Storm in 1991, explain experts inside and outside of DoD. For nigh on 30 years, military users have complained bitterly that NRO and NGA don’t always meet commanders’ needs for near-real time battlefield ISR for targeting enemy assets.
“There has been a longstanding concern among DoD users of space-based ISR: will the IC be there for me when I need them? Trust has to be built,” said one former DoD official.
One longstanding attempt to ameliorate this disconnect has been the military services’ Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities Program (TENCAP). Keith Masback, once the Army’s director of ISR Integration, explained that “the TENCAP approach is a cooperative effort between the IC and DoD to build deployable systems that facilitate more rapid dissemination of data from national space assets to tactical forces.” But, he added: “While those investments do accelerate delivery, they don’t get at the larger issue of the prioritization of tasking the assets.”
Battlefield needs, commanders have consistently argued, always are susceptible to being out-competed by the strategic intelligence (e.g. nuclear-related) priorities of the IC, the president and even the State Department.
The IC argues that those assets — imagery satellites, radar satellites, signals intelligence satellites — are needed by numerous customers, who in turn have different concerns. Space-based ISR has been a limited resource because ISR satellites have been enormously expensive to build, and relatively few and far between. The job of the NGA-led committee, therefore, has been essentially to perform triage among an ever-more needy user base.
Masback, who was once chairman of the tasking committee, understands both sides of this challenge. “Warfighting commanders are unwavering and unambiguous regarding their need for assured access to ISR. The military services maintain organic ISR to meet their respective doctrinal needs, but the deep strike mission has always been vexing as it creates a reliance on national-level space assets. ‘Forces in contact’ always get the highest priority, but there is a need to timely respond to high-interest strategic requirements as well. It’s a carefully orchestrated 24/7/365 balancing act that isn’t necessarily prepared to support targeting, battle damage assessment, and re-strike at the speed of hypersonics.”
At the same time, the need for up-to-the-minute, on-demand ISR has become even more important to the Army because of its plans for hypersonic missiles and other long-range weapons. They simply will not be usable without near real-time information about targets for them to hit. While drones have been providing the Army and other services on-demand ISR for years, they are increasingly at risk from adversary anti-aircraft capabilities.
“The services have grown used to having that kind of overhead reconnaissance at their beck and call, but they know that all the fights in the future will not be in such a permissive air environment to allow small mobile UAVs to support their needs. And, as the range of fires increase, and the pace of combat quickens, you need to extend that range through space. So small tactical satellites ‘controlled by local commanders’ are the answer,” Loverro said.
Rob Zitz, a former senior government official who held leadership roles in Army Intelligence, NRO and NGA, was much more blunt. “The Army simply cannot wait for approvals from the IC to prioritize their needs when minutes matter,” he told me in an email. “The Army needs information when and where they want it. The IC should not get a vote on what Army needs or how Army executes combat missions.”
More Suppliers, More Options
In recent years, technologies to push down the size, weight and power demands for components, along with rapidly declining costs of launch, have spurred a boom in commercial satellite operators specializing in high-fidelity imagery, radar and even RF-tracking satellites.
Indeed, the IC and DoD have been trying to figure out how best to tap into those commercial capabilities. This includes directly buying data and/or services; efforts now being pursued by the IC via an NGA council. It also includes working with commercial firms to adopt and adapt their kit and capabilities; part of the SDA’s strategy for building its National Defense Space Architecture. The Space Force, meanwhile, now says it too is considering buying commercial ISR services to improve warfighter access.
The ongoing proliferation of satellite technologies opens the door for the natsec community to consider new ways to improve exploitation of space-based ISR, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Kari Bingen told me in an email.
“DoD and the IC now have a great opportunity to experiment — as the National Defense Strategy says — with different models for tasking, different pathways for distributing satellite data,” said Bingen, who recently joined commercial RF geolocation sat firm Hawkeye 360. “If the Army, NRO and NGA are all coming to the table to discuss in good faith — that’s a great development. It’s a first step, but a good thing.”
It also, several insiders said, gives Army brass a lot more ammunition to push the IC on the issue than they have had in the past.
“The legacy tasking model of ‘one control’ over everything is being stressed. And given DoD’s challenges in meeting its changing ISR needs, it’s arguably not the right approach going forward — it’s inefficient,” one former DoD official explained.
From Kestrel Eye to Hosted Payloads
The Army has experimented with developing its own micro-satellites to provide ISR, most notably with the Kestrel Eye project initiated in 2007. Kestrel Eye, a mini-fridge sized electro-optical satellite with a two-meter resolution, was launched in 2017 and operated for 10 months.
According to an undated Army Space and Missile Defense Command fact sheet, a Military Utility Assessment (MUA) “was conducted at U.S. Pacific Command” and resulted in two major findings: that Kestral Eye “successfully provided rapid imagery directly from the satellite to the tactical ground station;” and “the overall assessment conclusion recommending further development of the system to fully demonstrate its readiness to be a program of record.”
That did not happen. Instead, the Army approved a strategy “to demonstrate” obtaining tactical ISR (as well as communications capabilities) from Low Earth Orbit satellite constellations by “leveraging” DARPA’s Blackjack program and commercial capabilities.
Fast forward to today, where the Army is working with SDA to both host payloads and develop a ground station, TITAN, to link to SDA’s Transport Layer of communications/data relay sats. (Meanwhile, the SDA and NRO are discussing how spy sats might directly link with SDA’s planned Transport Layer of data relay sats as one option speeding imagery to warfighters for use in targeting.)
Indeed, the service’s current Tactical Space Layer experimentation program was established sometime in 2019, according to an Army press release, under an Interagency Memorandum of Agreement among the Army, NRO, NGA and DIA.
How and why that change happened isn’t documented anywhere that we could find. But there have been plenty of rumors floating around that when the Army finally got serious about building its own satellites, NRO and NGA weighed in to argue that this would be inefficient. Thus, they put the kibosh on the service’s plans. In other words, the current Army approach could be seen as a politically savvy fall-back position designed to tack around bureaucratic obstacles.
In any event, Nelson and other Army officials insist nowadays that the service has no plans to buy, own and operate satellites.
Rather, the TSL concept, being spearhead by the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team (CFT) that Nelson leads, is aimed at prototyping sensor payloads — and it is not even yet a program of record at all.
Those experimental payloads are largely focused on ISR capabilities, but also on alternatives to GPS for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT).
“Expanding U.S Army access to space-based capabilities will allow deep sensing in contested operational environments to enable responsive and accurate long-range precision fires, provide resilient communications, and assured PNT,” an Army spokesperson said in an email.
The Army on April 19 announced it had approved an Abbreviated Capability Development Document (A-CDD) that details service requirements, and allows rapid prototyping and experimentation through DoD’s Middle Tier Acquisition process.
“The A-CDD supports the development of Tactical Space Layer prototyping capabilities and solutions that will enable deep-sensing, targeting, artificial intelligence / machine learning, positioning, navigation and timing, and tactical communications to shorten sensor to shooter timelines,” the Army spokesperson explained.
“Funding provided will support FY21-23 development of prototypes and experimentation in coordination with the Intelligence Community, the Space Development Agency and US Space Force,” the spokesperson continued. However, how much funding is still in flux as the Army massages 2021 and future year budgets.
The TSL includes at least three ongoing Army efforts to build experimental satellites/payloads: Gunsmoke, Lonestar and Polaris.
The first Gunsmoke, a tiny Cubesat called Gunsmoke-L, was launched Feb. 20; the second, Gunsmoke-J, on March 31. A third should be launched soon, an Army press release says. Gunsmoke has been developed with support from DoD’s Office of the Undersecretary of Research & Engineering, under a contract with Dynetics, a subsidiary of Leidos.
Lonestar is designed to warn commanders about GPS jamming on the battlefield and to characterize the signals environment in a contested area so that the Army can overcome the problem and operate effectively. Dynetics also is the prime, and it delivered two “tactical space support vehicles” under the project in July 2020; launch is expected something this year.
Polaris also is aimed at APNT, but its primary goal is to provide an alternative to traditional space-based GPS in contested battle spaces. According to Tom Webber, head of SMDC’s Technical Center who is charged with the effort, the Army sees Polaris as a possible payload on SDA’s Transport Layer.
Looming Space Force Food Fight
The Army’s hopes for ‘organic’ space-based capabilities may face another hurdle going forward besides breaking away from the IC — competition with the Space Force. The newest branch of the military did not exist when the Army was transitioning from Kestrel Eye to TSL.
A number of sources inside and outside DoD say that Space Force leaders have been casting covetous eyes on all space acquisition programs, from satellite communications to ISR to missile warning and tracking — perhaps even hoping to subsume NRO and the Missile Defense Agency. As noted, it also is seeking to expand its mandate to provide commercial satellite communications to DoD users to include remote sensing, PNT and ISR, Space Force Deputy Lt. Gen. DT Thompson recently said.
Dave Deputa, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, yesterday questioned Space Force’s Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt about whether the Army is overstepping Space Force bounds with its TSL effort.
“When we go to a fight, it’s a joint fight, and so it’s a Joint Task Force Commander that’s doing the work,” he said during a virtual interview with Burt. “I mean the Air Force doesn’t have its own organic constellation of satellites to do strike targeting and planning … and the question is, why does the United States Army, as a separate service, need to have its own organic constellation?”
Burt — who wears two hats: as head of Space Command’s Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC); and deputy commander of Space Force’s Space Operations Command — downplayed any potential rivalry, however. She explained that the 1947 Key West agreement creating the Air Force didn’t result in the other service’s giving up planes — instead there are a variety of aircraft dedicated to their specific needs.
“So, I would say the same in the Space Force. We’re trying to find that balance of what space capabilities need to be retained with maneuver forces, and to protect the force, versus what are the things that are purely in the domain, or have a global effect or impact global combatant commanders, that need to be in the Space Force. So, that’s been the dialogue that’s ongoing.”
This includes, she said, LEO-based satellite constellations that the Army is interested in.
That said, she stressed that the use of any such service-specific space capabilities would “need to be coordinated and be conflicted with US Space Command.” The goal, she said, “is to figure out how to bring it together, to synchronize across the enterprise. … and then, how do we command and control and orchestrate those so that they are not either fratting [i.e. engaging in fratricide] each other, or we’re double tapping targets if we don’t need to.”
Burt also said that with regards to IC assets, Space Command is working every day via the National Space Defense Center (NSDC) to coordinate on command and control — including when Space Command might need to take over to protect those assets. She explained that NSDC “has the lion’s share” of the responsibility for coordinating with the NRO, NGA and other IC agencies on how to best bring “intelligence capabilities to the protect and defend mission.”
Masback also believes that the Army and other service needs will ultimately best be served by a networked, hybrid approach. “The services will need to integrate their organic ISR assets while leveraging those of their joint and combined partners, as well as creating agile streamlined access to traditional national space assets, the new SDA architecture, hosted payloads, and commercial capabilities to ensure that they can support their respective operational warfighting requirements. This will be their optimal pathway to timely, assured access to ISR.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
03 May 21. Taxpayer-backed OneWeb pushes for role in UK challenger to GPS. Company’s low-earth orbit satellites are believed to be possible option in building sovereign navigation system.
The taxpayer-backed satellite network OneWeb is being lined up to underpin a British navigation system intended to rival GPS and reduce dependence on America and the EU.
OneWeb is exploring whether a new generation of its satellites could support a space-based navigation system that could provide accurate signals for military and critical infrastructure.
It comes as UK space officials are reviewing options for investment in position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology, used in smartphones, mobile networks and energy grids.
Britain was forced out of the European Galileo satellite programme, an EU alternative to America’s global positioning system, during Brexit negotiations, losing access to the ultra-secure and accurate signal designed for military use.
The Government began work on building a British alternative to Galileo and GPS, but the project was scrapped last year amid concerns over estimated costs of up to £5bn.
Under a “reset” of Britain’s requirements, officials are now looking at a range of options, from a cheaper space-based system to a ground-based positioning system that would act as a backup to existing systems such as GPS.
The Daily Telegraph understands that a system involving OneWeb’s “low earth orbit” satellites is being seriously considered, with officials drawing up a number of possible scenarios that could involve the company.
OneWeb’s satellites orbit the earth at 1,200km, compared to approximately 20,000km for existing space satellite navigation systems.
Its “first generation” satellites currently being sent into space are designed for satellite broadband and have been dismissed as too small to include extra components used to deliver satellite navigation signals.
However, there is believed to be growing confidence that a low-earth orbit system could provide a backup to today’s systems.
A US government agency recently said that Satelles, a US company developing such technology, had a reliable system and the Chinese BeiDou programme is considering using low-earth orbit satellites to improve its own system.
OneWeb said that a second generation of satellites, expected to arrive towards the middle of the decade, may be more capable of delivering a satellite navigation system than its existing satellites.
“It was always clear that generation one would not provide full PNT, but the OneWeb global network, as it evolves into generation two, is perfectly capable of being a vehicle for resilient PNT,” said Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s head of government affairs.
One option believed to be under consideration would involve OneWeb’s satellites receiving data from existing systems such as Galileo or GPS and broadcasting a separate backup signal that could be less vulnerable to interference.
A GPS failure would cost the British economy around £1bn a day, according to a Government-commissioned review in 2017, and the system is increasingly seen as a vulnerability due to the ease with which signals can be blocked or interfered with.
OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy last year by the Government and Indian telecoms company Bharti in a $1bn (£720m) deal. Last week, Eutelsat, a satellite company backed by the French government, took a stake in OneWeb in a sign of potential cooperation between the UK and France over satellite broadband infrastructure.
OneWeb is launching its system amid a rivalry with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, and has recently clashed with Elon Musk’s company over the billionaire’s plans. It is planning to launch a service in the UK later this year. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
03 May 21. ESA to Build 2nd Deep Space Dish in Australia.
- ESA, in cooperation with the Australian Space Agency, will construct a new 35-metre, deep space dish antenna at its existing ground station in New Norcia, Western Australia
- The 620-tonne antenna will help ESA provide crucial communication links to its growing fleet of deep space missions
- It will be ESA’s second 35-metre antenna at the site and its fourth in total
- The joint announcement was made during a virtual meeting held between the heads of ESA and the Australian Space Agency on 29 April
On 29 April, ESA and the Australian Space Agency announced the construction of a second 35-metre, deep space antenna at ESA’s New Norcia station, located 140 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia.
The 620-tonne antenna will be a new model complementing the existing deep space antenna on the site, with novel functionality and support for additional communication frequencies.
It will feature the latest in deep space communication technology, including a super-cool ‘antenna feed’ that will be cryogenically cooled to around -263 C and increase data return by up to 40%.
The antenna will be so sensitive it can detect signals far weaker than the signal from a mobile phone – if there were one – on the surface of Mars.
Investing in Europe’s future with Australia
“We are happy to announce the latest addition to ESA’s state-of-the-art deep space communication network and this important next step in our relationship with the Australian Space Agency,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
The Agency’s deep-space stations are supporting a growing number of increasingly sophisticated exploration probes like Gaia, BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter and, soon, the ExoMars rover, Euclid and JUICE, as well as upcoming space safety missions like Hera and the Sun-monitoring space weather mission.
“ESA’s network is crucial infrastructure that helps enable cooperation and cross-support with missions flown by partners like NASA, JAXA and other agencies, and this boosts science return and efficiency for all involved,” adds Director General Aschbacher.
“It’s also part of the ESA infrastructure that can support new space and commercial actors, a key element of ESA’s Agenda 2025 priorities.”
ESA has budgeted €45m for the new antenna, covering antenna procurement and construction as well as upgrades to station buildings and services. While the prime contractor will come from an ESA Member State, a significant portion of the budget will be spent in Australia with the involvement of a number of Australian companies.
ESA’s ground station and antennas at New Norcia, Western Australia are locally operated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. CSIRO similarly operates NASA’s deep space communication complex located at Tidbinbilla near Canberra.
“The new antenna is not only positive progress in the Agency and ESA’s cooperative relationship, but also an important contributor to the local economy which will help grow Australia’s civil space industry,” says Head of the Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo.
The new deep space antenna at the New Norcia site is a joint undertaking contributing to the long-term cooperation between ESA and Australia in the space domain. It enables significant economic, technology and scientific benefits for both partners, and will pave the way for further collaboration in areas such as space communication, space situational awareness and mission operations.
Rising demand for deep space communications
Deep space antennas are used to communicate with spacecraft on missions that take them far from Earth – whether to the Moon, the Sun, the planets or even asteroids.
The number of deep space missions launched worldwide is rapidly increasing, and so is the need to upload commands and download status updates as well as valuable scientific data from these intrepid explorers.
ESA’s large antennas communicate with spacecraft so far out in space – as far as 1.44 billion kilometres from Earth and even further in future – that they can only ‘listen’ to spacecraft in a relatively small area of the sky at any one time. If two spacecraft are in a very similar direction from Earth – both at Mars, for example – it is possible to use one antenna to communicate with them both at the same time.
But as space exploration continues to take us in new directions, there will be a greater need to maintain frequent communication with spacecraft located in widely different portions of the sky – such as Mars and Mercury. To keep these missions safe and get the most out of the data they collect, ESA needs more antennas.
Around the globe: ESA ground station network
ESA’s ground station network – Estrack – is a global system of stations providing communication links between spacecraft and ESOC, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The core Estrack network comprises seven stations in seven countries.
The new antenna will be ESA’s fourth deep space antenna and will join existing 35-metre antennas in New Norcia, Malargüe (Argentina) and Cebreros (Spain).
Located in Western Australia, New Norcia provides a strategic geographical position allowing around-the-clock coverage of deep space missions, with a perfect complement to the sites in Argentina and Spain.
Building a second antenna on an existing site allows for cost-effective construction, maintenance and operation. Funding for the new antenna was confirmed at ESA’s Space19+ ministerial council in 2019.
Studies to determine the exact location of the new antenna on the New Norcia site began at the end of 2019. Construction is due to be completed in 2024 with the antenna entering operation in the second half of that year – just in time to help out with the JUICE and Hera missions, among many others. (Source: UAS VISION/ESA)
03 May 21. Orbit Communication Systems reports delivery of a military satellite communications system from the OceanTRx 4 Mil family to the Israeli Navy, for the Saar 6-class corvette. This will provide continuous satellite connectivity at a variety of frequencies to Saar 6 vessel.
Orbit Communications Systems Ltd. (TASE: ORBI), a leading global provider of maritime and airborne satcom terminals, tracking ground station solutions, and mission-critical airborne audio management systems announced today the delivery of an OceanTRx 4 Mil satellite communications system to the Israeli Navy to be installed on the Saar 6-class corvette
“We are proud that the Israeli Navy has chosen the OceanTRx 4 Mil Platform,” said Daniel Eshchar, CEO of Orbit. “This platform is one of the most advanced naval satellite communication solutions in the world. The platform supports both military and civilian bands on a single military system.”
About Orbit’s OceanTRx 4 Mil System
OceanTRx 4 Mil is a Maritime Satcom Terminal, based on the OceanTRx4 platform but with advanced military features. A patented satellite communication system designed for maritime platforms and supports a variety of configurations of 1.15-meter diameter antenna systems, operating different frequencies including simultaneous operation of a variety frequencies for global operation. The OceanTRx 4 Mil system is designed for quick and convenient installation, maintenance and upgrade, combining RF performance and exceptional system availability for security customers. (Source: PR Newswire)
03 May 21. Inmarsat, Honeywell Partner to Deliver Innovative Satcom Solutions to US Government. Strategic agreement ensures U.S. government aeronautical customers have access to highly reliable mobile communications globally. Honeywell (NYSE: HON) and Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, today announced an agreement to develop and deliver innovative commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) solutions to the U.S. government. The solutions will be focused on fixed-wing and non-fixed wing aeronautical platforms operating worldwide, including in Arctic regions. The agreement extends the companies’ best-in-class COMSATCOM services to U.S. Defense customers while continuing to advance solutions that meet mission-specific requirements.
Through the new strategic alliance, Inmarsat and Honeywell will offer U.S. government users access to a unique suite of products and services across Inmarsat’s worldwide networks operating in L-band, as well as in the commercial and military Ka-bands. L-band frequencies are lower radio frequencies between the 1 and 2 GHz range employed for a variety of applications to include highly resilient mobility satellite communications. Ka-band radio frequencies in the 26 to 40GHz range offer higher throughput for satellite communications and other applications.
“Inmarsat’s commercial satellite capabilities combined with Honeywell’s connected aircraft expertise will give us the ability to serve the U.S. government market with best-in-class reliability and connectivity services throughout the world,” said Bob Buddecke, president of Services & Connectivity, Honeywell Aerospace.
The alliance builds on Inmarsat and Honeywell’s longstanding relationship. Honeywell manufactures the JetWave series of terminal hardware for GX Aviation and sells Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX inflight service for the business aviation market. This agreement further supports Inmarsat’s ability to deliver state-of-the-art communications capabilities to airborne government users worldwide.
“Honeywell and Inmarsat have successfully serviced U.S. government customers for decades, with a particular pedigree in the aeronautical space,” said Susan Miller, chief executive officer, Inmarsat Government. “We are delighted to expand our partnership with Honeywell to deliver Inmarsat innovation and world-class aeronautical SATCOM services to government users worldwide. We are excited about the prospects that this new relationship will bring to this very dynamic and challenging market.”
Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) is the world’s first and only globally available, seamless mobile commercial wideband service. In U.S. government operation since July 2014, GX has established itself as the gold standard for reliable wideband communications across land, sea, and air for assured mobile connectivity and interoperability with government satellite communication systems. Inmarsat’s comprehensive L-band services provide highly reliable voice and data worldwide.
Jetwave delivers high-speed GX broadband SATCOM capability, purpose-built for military and government agencies that require real-time situational awareness globally via secure network resilient data connections. (Source: ASD Network)
03 May 21. Spacecom Aims to Ensure Space Domain Is Protected, General Says. U.S. Space Command supports the geographic combatant commanders by defending the space assets used by all commands that are vital to missile warnings and tracking; these include GPS and space-based sensors. Spacecom is also a geographic combatant command since its territory extends from 100 kilometers above the Earth into space.
Air Force Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt, commander of the Combined Force Space Component Command at Spacecom, spoke about that capability virtually today at the Mitchell Institute’s Space Power Forum. Burt is also the deputy commander of the Space Force’s Space Operations Command.
Burt said Spacecom’s priorities are:
- Knowing the enemy by accessing good intelligence, which is called space domain awareness. “Intel is the baseline for everything that we do,” she said.
- Keeping the space domain free and safe for all to transit and operate is vital to all nations.
- Building the command to compete and win. “Day in and day out, we’re working in all the space capabilities that we bring to the fight to support the other domains [sea, land, air and cyberspace],” she said.
- Denying the enemy space-based capabilities, if necessary. Space-based electronic warfare is a big part of that and is being contested by Russia and China.
- Maintaining key relationships with allies and partners. For instance, if the U.S. needs space-based capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, it might ask for assistance from Australia. Burt noted that the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are the “big three” space partners that work alongside Americans at space operations centers.
- Working with industry partners through Spacecom’s commercial integration cell. Burt said Spacecom currently has agreements with 10 commercial partners. “They continue to work with us every day to help us to bring on more combat capability,” she said.
- Working with other government agencies, particularly NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office.
Burt said U.S. Cyber Command is also an incredibly important partner because almost every system Spacecom uses has a cyber component that must be secure, as well as reliable. (Source: US DoD)
01 May 21. US Army approves rapid development of Tactical Space Layer.
The U.S. Army recently approved rapid experimentation and prototyping to develop a new Tactical Space Layer that will enable the service to use overhead satellite imagery for beyond-line-of-sight targets.
The Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team is leading the Army’s efforts to develop a new tactical geospatial intelligence capability, leveraging commercial satellite imagery to see farther, extend the battlefield, and target beyond-line-of-sight threats.
“What’s exciting about where we’re at today is we’re finding ways to use multiple sensors at multiple altitudes — to include airborne, high altitude and even in space — and be able to fuse that data in a positive way that, again, stretches the good attributes of those sensors and then fuse that data very rapidly,” APNT/Space CFT Director Willie Nelson said in an interview with C4ISRNET.
The Army showed the advances it’s made in that area during Project Convergence 2020, a demonstration that took place last September at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. Using artificial intelligence, the service was able to fuse data from commercial imagery satellites to create targeting data, then transport that to the battlefield via communications satellites where soldiers were able to fire on the threat.
Following that demonstration, Army leaders bragged that they were able to cut down the sensor-to-shooter pipeline — the time it takes from satellite data collection to the delivery of targeting data to a weapon system — from 20 minutes to 20 seconds.
“We were trying to cut days off a process. We’re down to cutting hours, minutes and seconds,” Nelson told C4ISRNET.
The signing of the Tactical Space Layer Abbreviated Capability Development Document, announced April 21, puts the progress made so far into writing, synchronizing related activities and informing requirements for procurement and fielding.
“What the capability document does, is it helps codify our initial requirements and then guide the experimentation and prototyping efforts within communications, PNT and ISR to help us move down the path towards a program of record, or program of records,” said Nelson.
That does not mean that the Army is planning to build and launch its own satellite constellation, Nelson clarified. Instead, document will guide the Army’s efforts to use existing or future commercial constellations, as well as satellites owned by the other services and the intelligence community, and to integrate them with Army platforms and systems.
The APNT/Space CFT worked with a number of other Army organizations to develop the capability document, including the Long-Range Precision Fires CFT; Army Space and Missile Defense Command; the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors; the Project Manager for Positioning, Navigation and Timing; the Intelligence Center of Excellence; the Fires Center of Excellence; and the Army G-2.
28 Apr 21. Arianespace’s 1st Vega Mission Of The Year Launches Pléiades Neo 3 + Five Additional Smallsat Payloads. On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, at 10:50 pm local time (01:50 UTC on Thursday, April 29), a Vega launch vehicle operated by Arianespace lifted off successfully from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America) –this mission marked Vega’s return to flight and was also the second successful launch by Arianespace’s teams in less than 72 hours.
The mission’s primary purpose was to orbit Pleiades Neo 3, the first of four satellites in an advanced EO constellation. Pleiades Neo 3 was wholly funded and manufactured by its operator, Airbus.
Payload fairing encapsulation. Photo is courtesy of Arianespace.
Arianespace’s 18th Vega mission also deployed several smallsats using the company’s rideshare service SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service). These auxiliary payloads included an observation smallsat for the Norwegian space agency, Norsat-3, and four cubesats for the operators Eutelsat, NanoAvionics/Aurora Insight and Spire.
The SSMS rideshare service, developed with the support of the European space industry, was first deployed by Arianespace in September of 2020. Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), Arianespace’s SSMS service will soon be joined by the Multiple Launch Service (MLS), a similar offering that uses the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. With these two services, Arianespace can offer a wide range of affordable launch opportunities for small satellites and constellations.
The production of the Vega launcher and preparations for mission VV18 were handled by Avio, industrial prime contractor for the Vega launcher, under the direction of Arianespace and ESA. They followed all recommendations issued by the Independent Inquiry Commission set up after the failure of the 17th Vega mission (VV17).
VV18 is the third Arianespace mission of 2021, following two successful Soyuz launches, on March 25 and April 26, from the Vostochny launch base in Russia.
Vega is a new-generation light launcher, perfectly suited to both commercial and government payloads. Because of its high performance and versatility, Arianespace provides the best possible launch solution for small and medium spacecraft headed into a wide range of orbits (Sun-synchronous, ballistic, transfer to the Lagrange point L1, etc.), for EO, science, education, defense and other applications. With Vega C, Arianespace will offer enhanced performance and greater payload volume for future customers at the same price as for launches by Vega.
“I would like to congratulate everybody involved at Arianespace, ESA and Avio for successfully returning Vega to flight,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “I am especially proud of our teams who were able to carry out two launches, on two different continents, in less than 72 hours – kudos!”
The AVUM stage will ignite its engine for the first time, in a powered phase lasting about eight minutes, followed by a ballistic phase lasting 37 minutes. The AVUM stage will then restart its engine for a second burn lasting a little over one minute, before releasing the Pleiades Neo 3 satellite.
The next two AVUM ignition phases will last about 37 minutes in all, followed by the release of the five auxiliary payloads. That will mark the end of mission VV18, one hour and 42 minutes after liftoff.
The first of four satellites in an advanced EO constellation, Pleiades Neo 3 was wholly funded and manufactured by its operator, Airbus. The 18th mission of Europe’s Vega light launcher will also orbit an observation smallsat for the Norwegian space agency, Norsat-3, plus four cubesats for the operators Eutelsat, NanoAvionics/Aurora Insight and Spire. These smallsats will be carried as auxiliary payloads on the innovative Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) deployment system. The SSMS rideshare service, developed with the support of the European space industry, was first deployed by Arianespace in September 2020.
Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), Arianespace’s SSMS service will soon be joined by the Multiple Launch Service (MLS), a similar offering that uses the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. With these two services, Arianespace can offer a wide range of affordable launch opportunities for small satellites and constellations.
The production of the Vega launcher and preparations for mission VV18 were overseen by Avio, the prime contractor for the Vega launcher, under the direction of Arianespace and ESA. They followed all recommendations issued by the Independent Inquiry Commission established after the failure of the 17th Vega mission (VV17).
About the Pléiades Neo 3 satellite
Pléiades Neo 3 is the first of the Pléiades Neo constellation to be launched. Entirely funded, manufactured, owned and operated by Airbus, Pléiades Neo is a breakthrough in Earth observation domain.
With 30 cm resolution, best-in-class geolocation accuracy and twice-a-day revisit, the four Pléiades Neo satellites unlock new possibilities with ultimate reactivity. Thanks to these state-of-the-art satellites, each step of the acquisition and delivery cycle offers top-level EO services now and going forward for the next ten years. In addition, their reactive tasking ability allows urgent acquisitions 30 to 40 minutes following request – which is five times higher than previous constellations – and respond to the most critical situations in near real-time, very useful for natural disaster. Pléiades Neo will also operate for mapping, urban and defence applications.
The Pléiades Neo constellation is 100% commercially available and will provide institutional and commercial customer’s needs. Images captured by Pléiades Neo will be streamed into the OneAtlas on-line platform, allowing customers to have immediate data access, analytics and correlation with Airbus’ unique archive of optical and radar data.
There are two additional Airbus Defence and Space Intelligence missions for three satellites in the Arianespace backlog to be launched on Vega from the Guiana space center.
Pleiades Neo 3 will be the 131st Airbus Defence and Space built satellite to be launched by Arianespace. There are currently 20 Airbus Defence and Space built satellites in Arianespace’s backlog: CERES (x3), SYRACUSE 4B (COMSAT NG 2), EUTELSAT QUANTUM, METOP-SG A1 & METOP-SG B1, THEOS-2, CSO 3, Pléiades Neo (x3), JUICE, Measat-3d, Biomass, EarthCARE and CO3D (x4). In addition, Airbus Defence and Space is involved in the construction of the OneWeb satellites. (Source: Satnews)
27 Apr 21. Avoiding Low-Earth Orbit Collisions – The Clock Is Ticking. We’ve had a few scares recently, and the number of close calls requiring an automated or manual maneuver to avoid a collision will increase dramatically in the future…
There was a recent dispute between OneWeb and SpaceX regarding the possibility of a collision between two of their low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. OneWeb’s satellite (OneWeb-1078) was launched on March 25 and headed for its orbit at an altitude of 1,200 km when, in early April, it passed near a SpaceX satellite (Starlink-1546) in orbit at about 450 km.
There was no collision, but subsequently, OneWeb’s government affairs chief Chris McLaughlin said SpaceX had turned off their autonomous collision-avoidance system so OneWeb could maneuver around their satellite and SpaceX denied that they had switched the system off and said, “there was never a risk of collision.”
This sounds a little like a PR battle, but both sides may have been sincere because satellite tracking is imprecise. The satellites were being tracked by SpaceX, OneWeb, and two independent organizations, the Air Force 18th Space Control Squadron (18 SPCS) and LeoLabs which offers a commercial satellite tracking service. As we see in the plot shown below (source), their estimates of the probability of collision vary.
In addition to helping explain the dispute between SpaceX and OneWeb, the variance in these estimates illustrates the difficulty of accurately tracking and predicting satellite orbits. The incident also highlights the difficulty of communicating and cooperating in deciding on maneuvers to avoid collisions.
SpaceX and OneWeb began deploying their broadband Internet service constellations recently, but as of early 2020, LeoLabs was tracking about 14,000 objects in LEO that were 10 centimeters across and larger. About 1,700 were functional satellites working on other applications, and the rest were debris. We also had a debris-collision warning Last week when the astronauts en route to the International Space Station were instructed to put on their spacesuits due to the possibility of a collision with a piece of space junk.
Fast forward five years
The SpaceX-OneWeb and astronaut-debris events provide an early warning. There are around 3,000 satellites in LEO today, but how about five years from now? As shown below, the five would-be broadband constellation operators have the authorization to launch over 30,000 satellites and, if we add in pending requests for approval, the total increases to around 100,000. Furthermore, Russia and the European Union are working on broadband satellite plans, as are the US and Chinese militaries. And don’t forget the forthcoming large non-broadband constellations, like Geely’s Geespace constellation.
We’ve had a few scares recently, and the number of close calls requiring an automated or manual maneuver to avoid a collision will increase dramatically in the future. Runaway debris in LEO would cost us more than just having to give up the goal of global broadband service. It would disrupt critical applications we already depend upon in climate science, emergency response, agriculture, etc. I am confident that LEO broadband providers can find solutions to the technical problems they face, like low-cost antennas, inter-satellite laser links, and spectrum sharing. Still, collision avoidance is tougher because, in addition to technical innovation like improving the accuracy and resolution of terrestrial and space-based orbit tracking, it will take political action.
The map below shows that 72 nations own and/or operate satellites, but last week, English-speaking engineers at SpaceX and OneWeb were unable to agree on the orbit data and communicate and cooperate when it appeared that a collision might be forthcoming. If SpaceX and OneWeb cannot agree, what will happen when, for example, military satellites from China and the US are involved?
Space, like the oceans, is a global commons, and it is not in anyone’s interest to spoil it. We need global regulations, standards, procedures, and a means of enforcing compliance if we are to avoid collisions and mitigate debris. We are running out of time. We’ve been working on maritime law for centuries, and the UN International Maritime Council has 174 member states — have we begun talking about this issue with the Chinese?
It’s time to act
The European Space Agency (ESA) has produced a 12-minute video (with cool animations) that describes the debris problem and the current debris mitigation guidelines, which are neither universally followed nor adequate for the future. ESA projects for automating collision avoidance, refueling and repairing satellites in space, active debris removal, and technology to hasten the deorbiting of defunct satellites are mentioned in this call for action. Indeed the title of the video is “Time to Act.”
Space, like the oceans, is a global commons, and it is not in anyone’s interest to spoil it. We need global regulations, standards, procedures, and a means of enforcing compliance if we are to avoid collisions and mitigate debris. We are running out of time. We’ve been working on maritime law for centuries, and the UN International Maritime Council has 174 member states — have we begun talking about this issue with the Chinese?
Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University – He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com (Source: Satnews)
28 Apr 21. Kratos 1st Company To Exhibit The Optimization Of Wideband SATCOM Using Enterprise Management and Control. Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS) has been the first company to successfully exhibit an integrated SATCOM capability that provides real-time Situational Awareness (SA) to an operationally secure environment.
The demonstration included roaming among different networks to optimize wideband satellite communications (SATCOM) using Enterprise Management and Control (EM&C). EM&C is an effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) to plan, initiate, monitor and restore rapid, automated access to hybrid satellite constellations and networks, operated by various service providers.
The demonstration was part of a multi-national Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) demonstration hosted by U.S. European Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, and the Department of the Air Force Chief Architect Office. EM&C capabilities provided by Kratos and its industry partners highlighted a means for providing real-time satellite communication end-to-end connectivity status and operational readiness including spectral data, link and equipment status and detecting/geolocating electromagnetic interference (EMI).
The event also highlighted a method to restore satellite service in response to interference and the capability to gather and fuse information from sensors and satellites through the Unified Data Library (UDL) which is a U.S. government owned, cloud-enabled database accessible by the DoD and coalition partners. The capabilities available through EM&C are important as they support real-time warfighter communication across domains in times of war or conflict.
EM&C is an important strategic goal of the military to effectively operate an integrated SATCOM enterprise by increasing assured SATCOM access for the warfighter with legacy and next-generation terminals. It improves the effectiveness of the DoD’s critical SATCOM infrastructure by enhancing resilience and giving more satellite link choices, reducing resource allocation times and improving bandwidth efficiency.
Funding for the recent European demonstration was provided through the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Broad Agency Announcement, of which Kratos is an award recipient. Kratos’ partnered with Knight Sky, LLC., for terminal and Gateway equipment supporting the Flexible Terminal Interface (FTI), and SES Government Solutions (SES GS) to provide SATCOM capacity.
Lieutenant Colonel Gary Thompson, Chief, Fighting SATCOM Capability Integration, SMC SATCOM Capability Integrator Office said, “This demonstration of EM&C helped the warfighters better understand the key satellite links used for communication and enabled precision identification, characterization, and troubleshooting of interference along the long-haul communication pathways. In addition, utilization of the UDL allowed the sharing of critical information across the joint forces for timely, fused situational awareness and lethality.” (Source: Satnews)
29 Apr 21. OneWeb To Open Service Demonstration Center Managed By Satellite Applications Catapult In The UK. OneWeb is opening a state-of-the-art Service Demonstration experience at the new Innovation Center at Westcott Venture Park, which is run and managed by the Satellite Applications Catapult and was funded by Buckinghamshire LEP through the Local Growth Fund.
Situated in Buckinghamshire, UK, OneWeb’s unique facility will welcome customers from May 1st to demonstrate the performance and potential applications of their satellite network in real-time.
The Service Demo will showcase equipment and high-speed connectivity, and visitors will be able to see the OneWeb network in action including download and upload speeds and latency. Sales support staff will also be on hand to discuss the technology, potential partnerships, testing requirements and further collaboration opportunities.
Focused on attracting partnerships with commercial communications or internet solution providers, the Service Demo experience will play a vital role in launching OneWeb’s unique service for UK businesses. The center will develop a long-term commercial proposition for its technology in collaboration with the UK’s innovative satellite communications sector.
OneWeb selected Westcott as part of its collaboration with the Satellite Applications Catapult to demonstrate high speed data transfer through space to their 5G network. Aligned to OneWeb’s mission to deliver broadband connectivity and bridge the Digital Divide, this strategic business partnership is the next step in OneWeb’s journey to enable a cross-fertilization of technologies to enable other businesses to collaborate and benefit from advances in the UK space sector.
Opening the Service Demo is yet another milestone for OneWeb as it continues to demonstrate its progress in commercialization of the network. In recent weeks the company has also announced an Innovation Challenge further onboarding of customers globally, and in March 2021, OneWeb conducted network demonstrations to the U.S. Government and will be rolling out additional demonstration kits and demo centers in key markets globally. (Source: Satnews)
28 Apr 21. SES Signs Agreements Across The Globe TO Build Eight, Initial O3b mPOWER Ground Stations. SES has signed agreements with key infrastructure service providers around the world to build its eight, initial, O3b mPOWER satellite ground stations.
Construction has already started on these advanced technology satellite ground stations, which will become operational in the second half of this year. The eight sites will provide telemetry, tracking and control capabilities to enable SES’s management of the constellation. They will also be leveraged to raise the satellites into the right orbit after the scheduled launches.
As previously announced, two of the satellite ground stations are located at Dubbo, NSW, Australia (operated by Pivotel) and Thermopylae, Greece (operated by OTE). Other locations include Merredin, Perth, Australia; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Chile; the United Arab Emirates; Senegal, as well as SES’s own satellite ground station in Hawaii.
Four out of the eight sites will be co-located and operated with Microsoft’s Azure data centres; the one-hop connectivity to the cloud from remote sites will provide O3b mPOWER customers the ability to optimize business operations with significant flexibility and agility.
Building on the success of O3b, each of the 11, high-throughput, low-latency, O3b mPOWER satellites will deliver high-speed connectivity services from tens of megabits to multiple gigabits per second, providing fibre-like connectivity to customers globally. The O3b mPOWER satellite ground stations have many technically advanced features compared to the existing O3b satellite ground station. They include a new generation of fast-install, 5.5-meter carbon fibre antennas which can be installed without the need of expensive and time-consuming photogrammetry.
In addition, they will use energy-efficient, solid-state power amplifiers (SSPAs) and a low electrical load for the antenna control unit (ACU). The satellite ground stations will use SES’s gateway management system for automated operations and handovers, which will be tightly integrated with SES’s unique resource management capability, Adaptive Resource Control (ARC) and other SES software sub-systems. With this configuration, SES will dynamically manage and optimise space and ground resources to meet the changing needs of its customers. These combined technology advances result in improved efficiency and lower total cost of ownership.
The first three O3b mPOWER satellites are scheduled for launch in the third quarter of this year, with the next three in the first quarter of 2022. After orbit raising, O3b mPOWER will start delivering services in the third quarter of 2022.
Stewart Sanders, Executive Vice President of Technology and O3b mPOWER program manager at SES, said, “We are thrilled to have chosen these eight locations and construction is underway. We are also deep in discussions with several telco players and operators who are keen to have their own O3b mPOWER satellite ground station. This is particularly exciting, as it means that SES’s provision of a core network of command, control and data gateways will be augmented with a number of customer satellite ground stations; satellite ground stations provisioned according to our customer needs, with regards to location, size and infrastructure requirements. We expect a number of these customer satellite ground stations to include virtualized installations of the cloud at the edge of the deployed networks, thus improving the end- user experience.” (Source: Satnews)
29 Apr 21. General Atomics’ IDR For The USSF/SMC EO/IR EWS Satellite Program Successfully Completed. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has completed their Initial Design Review (IDR) of the space vehicle and ground segment for the United States Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) satellite program.
This is the first major milestone in the EWS program that aims to deploy a space vehicle that can meet all of the military’s cloud characterization and theater imagery product requirements in time to replace the current, aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).
For EWS, GA-EMS has an experienced team including EOVista, LLC., Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc. (AER), and Parsons Corporation (NYSE: PSN). EOVista provides the EO/IR sensor payload, AER Inc. performs weather product generation, and Parsons provides the mission’s Enterprise Ground Station (EGS) command and control, and operations support.
“GA-EMS is on track to deliver a prototype EWS system by 2022 capable of filling gaps in critical weather data for the U.S. military as the DSMP approaches the end of its lifecycle,” said Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “Our low SWaP-C prototype is on the path to be the first satellite in a future constellation architecture that will provide better performance, resiliency, and mission assurance, as well as less than a 1-hour revisit time—ensuring timely and accurate weather forecast data for the warfighter and national security missions.”
“The GA-EMS prototype employs an advanced small satellite design and an enhanced sensor with significant weather imaging upgrades that meet all current and future weather needs,” said Nick Bucci, vice president of Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS. “The elegance of this satellite design leads to reduced system cost while significantly improving performance over the system lifecycle, leading the way for other USSF missions to reduce cost while improving capabilities and resilience. The combination of low cost sensor and satellite bus enables procurement of a disaggregated, global constellation that provides an organic, resilient and timely global cloud characterization capability and other weather products to U.S. warfighters.” (Source: Satnews)
29 Apr 21. Space Flight Laboratory’s NorSat-3 Maritime Smallsat Launched — Commissioning Underway For The Norwegian Space Agency.
The Norwegian Space Agency has announced the successful launch of the NorSat-3 maritime tracking smallsat, built by Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) in Toronto, successfully launched on April 28, 2012, aboard Arianespace‘s Vega Flight VV18 from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana — this is the 17th SFL satellite launched within the past eight months.
NorSat-3 carries two instrument payloads. The primary device is an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver that acquires messages from civilian maritime vessels to provide information on ship locations and marine traffic.
The smallsat is also equipped with an experimental navigation radar detector developed by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) to augment the AIS receiver.
Combining a navigation radar detector and AIS receiver will potentially provide much better maritime awareness for the Norwegian Coastal Administration, Armed Forces and other maritime authorities. Detection of navigation radar from ships will provide the ability to verify the accuracy of received AIS messages and to detect vessels whose AIS messages have not been received.
SFL developed the 16.5 kg NorSat-3 smallsat on the company’s space-proven, Next Generation, Earth Monitoring and Observation (NEMO) platform,under contract to the Norwegian Space Agency, with funding from the Norwegian Coastal Administration. SFL also built the NorSat-1 and -2 maritime tracking smallsats now on-orbit and the firm is currently developing the NorSat-TD (Technology Demonstrator) satellite that is slated for launch in 2022.
Image capture by Arianespace of Nemo-HD separating from the Vega launch vehicle and heading into orbit.
“SFL congratulates Norway on its leadership in space-based maritime traffic monitoring,” said SFL Director Dr. Robert E. Zee. “NorSat-3 was contacted shortly after launch and is healthy. Commissioning is underway.”
Other launches of SFL-built satellites in just the past eight months include missions developed for the Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates, GHGSat Inc. of Canada, HawkEye 360 of the U.S., Space-SI of Slovenia, and a Canadian-based telecommunications company.
SFL offers a complete suite of smallsats that satisfy the needs of a broad range of mission types from 3 to 500 kilograms. Dating from 1998, SFL’s heritage of on-orbit successes includes 69 satellites and distinct missions related to Earth observation, atmospheric monitoring, ship tracking, communication, radio frequency (RF) geolocation, technology demonstration, space astronomy, solar physics, space plasma, and other scientific research. In its 23-year history, SFL has developed a variety of satellites that have achieved more than 144 cumulative years of operation in orbit. These smallsat missions have included SFL’s trusted attitude control and, in some cases, formation-flying capabilities. Other core SFL-developed components include modular (scalable) power systems, onboard radios, flight computers, and control software. (Source: Satnews)
29 Apr 21. The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) awarded a $228m contract to Raytheon Intelligence and Space for the Global Positioning System (GPS) Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) Follow-On (OCX 3F) on April 30. The OCX 3F program is part of the GPS Enterprise Modernization effort. GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that provides accurate positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) for military and civil users worldwide. The GPS OCX Blocks 1 & 2 System, planned for delivery in 2022, will represent a major evolution in capabilities for the GPS enterprise. In addition to supporting the latest DoD standards and practices for cybersecurity, it also supports a number of advanced features over the legacy GPS Ground Segment. These new features include an enhanced and expanded monitor station network for improved cybersecurity and improved anti-jam capability, enhanced operational capability to control the modernized military signals, support of GPS III boosted earth coverage Military code (M-code), and the monitoring of new Galileo-compatible and safety of life signals. OCX 3F upgrades the OCX Blocks 1 & 2 system to utilize the enhanced capabilities of the new GPS IIIF space vehicles being developed by Lockheed Martin. The OCX 3F program, in combination with the GPS IIIF space vehicle program, ensures PNT will continue to be available for future generations. Raytheon Intelligence and Space will perform the work in Aurora, Colorado, and delivery is expected in July 2025. (Source: Satnews)
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