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13 May 21. First ‘Space Bridge’ agreement signed. The first agreement under the UK-Australia ‘Space Bridge’ was signed this week between Australian LatConnect 60 and UK-based SSTL.
The first partnership under the UK–Australia ‘Space Bridge’ has been signed this week between Australian satellite company LatConnect 60 and UK-based SSTL, with LatConnect 60 delivering multispectral and panchromatic imaging devices for use onboard the SSTL S1-4 observation satellites.
The ‘Space Bridge’ was signed between the two nations in February in order to bolster investment, co-operation and research between the UK Space Agency and the Australian Space Agency (ASA).
It is hoped that the agreement between the two companies will support LatConnect 60’s operational capabilities ahead of the launch of the LatConnect 60 satellite constellation in 2022.
According to a statement from LatConnect 60, the announcement will support a range of sectors including agriculture and mining, with the company already having worked with major groups including NASA, the CSIRO and BHP Billiton. As a subsidiary of Airbus, SSTL has undertaken launch programs for 22 countries.
Chief executive of LatConnect 60 Venkat Pillay welcomed the agreement, outlining that it was an important step for Australia’s sovereign space industry.
“We are very excited to have signed this agreement with SSTL and to be working together at the forefront of space innovation. Our satellite service will boost Australia’s, and the region’s, strategic observation capabilities,” he said.
“Utilising satellite capacity exclusively in Australia, LatConnect 60 will be able to fill key data gaps for customers, while developing local capability which will create jobs and help grow the rapidly emerging Australian space sector.”
Likewise, managing director of SSTL Phil Brownnett outlined that the agreement strengthens the two nations’ ties in the space domain.
“We are very pleased to announce this new contract for SSTL S1-4 data with LatConnect 60, which furthers the UK’s ties with the Australian space industry and brings SSTL’s sub metric Earth observation data to new markets,” he said.
Acting general manager of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) Karl Rodrigues confirmed that the agreement will enhance opportunities for Australian researchers and businesses.
“Australian businesses and researchers have even more opportunities to showcase their capabilities to the world. It is an important step in helping to grow Australia’s space industry through international partnerships,” Rodrigues noted.
LatConnect 60 hopes to launch its first low-Earth orbit constellation in 2022.
(Source: Space Connect)
11 May 21. Lawmakers press White House for space acquisition chief. Lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration to appoint a dedicated space acquisition chief, raising concerns that lack of leadership in the area has led to costly programs and delayed scheduling on key systems, like GPS.
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chair Betty McCollum said the lack of a civilian acquisition chief for space operations was a significant problem and that the Air Force treated it like a “part-time job.”
“The Department of the Air Force has yet to resolve fundamental issues on roles, responsibilities, and authorities between its various space acquisition units,” McCollum said May 7 during opening remarks for a hearing on the Air and Space Force’s 2022 budget request, which hasn’t been finalized.
“Overseeing and leading an organization attempting to deliver such technically complex systems is not a part-time job, which is how it has been handled in the past,” she said, later adding that the space acquisition executive should be in charge of synchronizing space programs, plans and budgets department-wide.
McCollum urged the Biden administration to fill the role as “more than 80% of the Space Force’s funding goes toward acquisition.”
The lawmakers’ comments come following government watchdog reports concerning the Air Force’s acquisition schedule delays from satellites to its GPS efforts. But Congress may have to step in with a legislative fix.
The role of space acquisition executive, which can be filled by the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, has been vacant since it was created under the 2020 defense authorization bill.
John Roth, the Air Force’s acting secretary, said the position should have been filled last year and needs to be filled as soon as possible. “That is a key position,” Roth said, adding that the Air Force has reorganized the office in preparation for the role.
“That position will not become the space acquisition executive until 1 October 2022. And that is part of the problem and perhaps one of the reasons why it wasn’t filled last year as well,” Roth said.
Roth suggested that Congress amend legislation so that the position can be official sooner and no later than October 2022 “so the person, once they’re up to speed, can start taking on some of the SAE responsibilities.”
The Space Force previously announced that it was restructuring its acquisition organization, the Space and Mission Systems Center, which will become Space Systems Command, after nomination and confirmation of a commander this summer.
Gen. John Raymond, who also testified, concurred with the need for a space acquisition executive and said the service was launching a new space testing program that would integrate testing throughout the acquisition process.
“All the pieces are in place,” Raymond said.
(Source: Defense Systems)
12 May 21. A new constellation? Space Force wants to get into tactical satellite imagery business. The head of the U.S. Space Force wants the new service to take on a new mission: providing tactical satellite imagery to the joint forces. He didn’t explain whether that means the service would try to build its own satellite constellation.
“There’s a role here for the Space Force in tactical level ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance],” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond at the 12th annual McAleese Conference May 12. “I really believe this is an area that we’ll begin to migrate to because we can do it, and we can do it in a way that doesn’t break the bank and is focused on our joint and coalition partners.”
While Raymond didn’t give details, Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear suggested the idea could involve the Space Force building and launching a new constellation of imagery satellites.
“Right now, there is not a defined plan on who in the Department [of Defense] would build out those satellites. There is not even a defined plan on what that overall constellation would look like. There’s a lot of debates on that internally and all I can say is that Gen. Raymond and I have that conversation a lot, about pros and cons of different modalities and pros and cons of different constellation sizes,” said Tournear. “But the vision is the same: Someone within the department should build out a layer that provides tactical ISR that we can rely on in times of war.”
Satellites have played a significant tactical role on the battlefield since they rose to prominence during the Gulf War, providing war fighters position, navigation and timing data, enabling beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications, and detecting incoming ballistic missiles. Comparatively, satellite imagery was generally seen more as an intelligence tool than as a tactical one, partly because of how long it takes to downlink satellite imagery to a ground station, process it into a usable product and deliver it to the battlefield. The battle could be over before that intelligence even made it to the war fighter on the ground.
“Historically, the ISR business has not been something that Air Force Space Command — or the Space Force now — has done. That’s largely been an intelligence community effort,” acknowledged Raymond.
Under that paradigm, the National Reconnaissance Office built and operated the nation’s fleet of spy satellites, while the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency processed and analyzed the imagery to create intelligence products for policymakers and the joint forces.
According to the general, however, that dynamic has shifted in recent years, opening the door for the military to utilize satellite imagery at the tactical level and deliver real-time data to the war fighter on the battlefield. Raymond gave two main reasons for the change: The cost of building small satellites and launching them into low Earth orbit has dropped, and small satellites have become more operationally relevant.
Other advances — such as artificial intelligence that can process imagery instantly and new on-orbit mesh networks in development can speed up the delivery of data from satellites to the battlefield — enable war fighters to access that data in seconds, not hours or days.
Several companies have launched constellations of imagery satellites, turning what was once a nearly exclusive intelligence community capability into a widely available commercial product. The NRO and NGA are working to leverage these new commercial offerings, with the former issuing a slew of study contracts to determine how it can integrate commercial capabilities into its mission.
On the tactical front, the U.S. Army has pioneered efforts to take commercial satellite imagery, process it with artificial intelligence to detect and identify potential threats, and then send targeting data to weapons systems that can respond in a matter of seconds. Led by the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation Timing and Space (APNT/Space) Cross Functional Team (CFT), that Tactical Space Layer effort promises to enable beyond-line-of-sight targeting to the war fighter, greatly expanding the battlefield. At an Army demonstration last year called Project Convergence, the team was able to develop targeting data from satellite images and deliver it to a fires system in just 20 seconds.
The Space Development Agency — which is set to join the Space Force in October 2022 but is currently independent — is also building out a tactical geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) capability as part of its National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA). The backbone of that architecture is an on-orbit mesh network called the transport layer, made up of satellites in low Earth orbit connected by optical intersatellite links. The agency wants to use the transport layer to connect commercial imagery satellites to the Army’s Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, or TITAN, a new scalable, portable ground station currently in development that can process imagery with artificial intelligence and distribute that data across the battlefield. In other words, SDA would provide the network component of the Army’s Tactical Space Layer.
The Tactical Space Layer may be the most advanced project to integrate tactical GEOINT, but there are other lines of effort within DoD. The Air Force and the Navy have invested in tactical satellite imagery products. The Air Force Research Laboratory issued a contract for a commercial tactical GEOINT software to help them find moving targets with satellite imagery, and the Navy issued a contract for commercial synthetic aperture radar imagery and analytics.
In addition to using commercial satellite imagery, the Army has launched its own experimental imagery satellites.
In February, Raymond told reporters that the Space Force was studying whether to take up a tactical ISR mission.
“Again, it’s early in the study efforts, if you will, and whatever we do we’ll make sure that we do it in close partnership with our intelligence partners, because what we don’t want to do is duplicate efforts,” he continued. “We want to save dollars and reduce taxpayer dollars, not duplicate.”
At the McAleese Conference, Raymond sounded much more certain.
“I believe this ISR is an emerging capability that we need to get into,” he said.
So where does the Space Force fit in all of this?
One of the original justifications for the Space Force was that it would unify military space efforts, absorbing the space-related missions of the other services to reduce redundancy. That hasn’t happened yet, though Space Force leaders say they have come to an agreement with the other services over which capabilities and systems would be transferred into the Space Force.
With that in mind, one possibility is that that Space Force could create its new tactical ISR mission by completely taking over the Tactical Space Layer and related efforts undertaken by the other services. In a recent webcast with C4ISRNET, however, APNT/Space CFT Director Willie Nelson said that was unlikely.
“The Space Force certainly has a major role in that [the Tactical Space Layer], and we’re having those discussions now,” said Nelson. “But the Army would like to stay in those discussions and in that capability development because in many cases we have many unique requirements.”
Nelson drew a line between the Space Force as a provider of space-based capabilities and the services as users, each with unique needs and challenges. That’s how it works with PNT, where the Space Force builds and maintains GPS satellites, while the Army determines how its systems receive and use the GPS signal. Similarly, the Army manages its own SATCOM use, but the Space Force owns the government’s communications satellites.
“I think what you’ll see — again, out of the Tactical Space Layer — is a blended approach. The Space Force will do what they’re chartered to do and that is manage those space-based types of constellations in concert with the intelligence community. And then the Army, again, will be a significant user of that data and will try to help manage some of that data on the battlefield,” said Nelson.
Later on at the McAleese Conference, Tournear elaborated on how the Space Force is approaching a tactical ISR capability, suggesting that DoD wants a new layer of government-owned ISR satellites.
“The department, as a whole, needs to have a tactical ISR capability. There are folks that are doing this commercially, there are folks that are doing this in other government organizations that are covering the globe with different ISR capabilities. What we need to have as a department is to make sure that we have an assured means to provide that for true tactical targeting that we can rely on in times of war,” said Tournear.
12 May 21. Blue Canyon Technologies to Provide CubeSats for VISORS Space Program to Study the Sun. Leading small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies LLC (“BCT” or “Blue Canyon”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies (NYSE: RTX), today announced the company was selected to provide a pair of 6U CubeSat buses and an Engineering Development Unit for the Virtual Super-resolution Optics with Reconfigurable Swarms, or VISORS, program, a space mission sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
“Our company’s technology will enable the VISORS program to help scientists understand the sun’s plasma physics and refine models for nanoflares and corona composition.”
The objective of the VISORS program is to detect and study the fundamental energy-release regions in the sun’s corona.
“Blue Canyon Technologies is providing key components in a program that will, for the first time, reveal individual energy-release sites in the solar corona to test theories of coronal heating,” said George Stafford, co-founder and CEO of Blue Canyon Technologies. “Our company’s technology will enable the VISORS program to help scientists understand the sun’s plasma physics and refine models for nanoflares and corona composition.”
Under the contract awarded by the University of Illinois, BCT will also be providing an Engineering Development Unit that will allow the program’s instrument team to test hardware well in advance of the VISORS launch. Delivery of the buses to Georgia Tech for instrument integration is scheduled for June and September 2022.
In addition to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and a number of academic institutions are involved including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Washington State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, the University of California San Diego, New Mexico State University, Montana State University, and the University of Colorado.
About Blue Canyon Technologies
Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, offers a diverse portfolio of innovative, reliable and affordable spacecraft that enable a broad range of missions and technological advancements for the new space economy, reducing the barriers of space entry. BCT is currently supporting nearly 50 unique missions with over 90 spacecraft, all in production at their newly developed 80,000-square-foot facility in Lafayette, Colorado.
BCT has supported missions for the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and provided the Attitude Control Systems for the first interplanetary CubeSats, which successfully traveled to Mars. The company has been recognized with awards from Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies, the 2020 Best in Biz Award and the 2020 Tibbetts Award. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
12 May 21. SEAKR Mandrake I Delivers Success For DARPA Blackjack On-Orbit Tech Demonstration. SEAKR® Engineering, Inc. (SEAKR) is pleased to announce operational success of next generation commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processing hardware as part of a risk reduction technology demonstration supporting the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Blackjack Program. The Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) demonstration, known as Mandrake I, is a risk reduction mission in parallel to Blackjack’s Pit Boss program featuring satellite integrated SEAKR technology advancements for radiation mitigation and processor performance validation. The fully operational orbital platform, launched Fall 2020, affords risk buy-down for future Blackjack payloads and has shown success executing a tactical maritime experiment demonstrating engineering complexities such as mission autonomy, over-the-air (OTA) updates, massless payload deployment, and sensor edge processing and exploitation, all of which are enabled by the SEAKR payload incorporating a high-performance multi-core Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) processor and multiple Graphic Processing Units (GPUs).
As Pit Boss prime and mission integrator, SEAKR realized Pit Boss hardware and Mandrake I from concept to on-orbit in just 9 months and continues to achieve on-orbit success demonstrating portions of Blackjack’s autonomous operations. This exemplifies the processor’s power performance capabilities, handling necessary flight computer and imaging payload interface management for autonomous vehicle control, invaluable to future mission executions. Pit Boss is designed as an autonomous, collaborative, distributed space-based enterprise designed to self-task, process, and distribute tactically relevant information to manned and unmanned subscribers. DARPA’s Blackjack program focuses on integrating commercial satellite technologies into a constellation of affordable, small, secure, and resilient military satellites.
Embracing interoperability and collective advancements benefiting the warfighter and having achieved its mission objectives, the vehicle is currently available to other United States Government (USG) agencies under DARPA stewardship, for use via OTA enabled mission uploads.
SEAKR’s processing system for DARPA’s blackjack program leverages four generations of architectural capability supporting the full spectrum of payload processing performance requirements, with a high level of on-orbit reconfigurable processing capability. Pulling from its established heritage capabilities, strength in RF communications, along with the continuous product and architectural advancement, SEAKR continues to define leading edge, state-of-practice processing systems in partnership with Government, Civil, and Commercial entities. SEAKR’s previous study and prototype advancements have successfully contributed to our customer’s ability to solve complex challenges imperative in advancing capability to meet today’s most daunting mission objectives. Key technologies being deployed and leveraged include: Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) and Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) Technologies, Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based Processing technologies, and Application Specific Independent Circuit (ASIC) based processing technologies.
About SEAKR Engineering
SEAKR Engineering is the leading-edge provider of advanced electronics for space applications. We design and manufacture processors, command and data handling systems, advanced payloads, and manned space hardware. Founded in 1982 to revolutionize spacecraft memory systems, today SEAKR continues forward innovation with state-of-the-art space communications processors capable of channelization and beamforming.
For more information on SEAKR’s processing capabilities or SEAKR products, please visit SEAKR.COM (Source: PR Newswire)
12 May 21. Modernization Investments Needed to Protect the Space Domain, Says Space Force Chief. The United States is a spacefaring nation, which depends on access to space and freedom to maneuver in space. However, there’s a potential for conflict in space that could affect the lives of every American, said the chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force.
Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond spoke today at the McAleese “FY2022 Defense Programs” conference in Washington, D.C.
“The Space Force has a strong and daily connection with nearly every American citizen,” he said. “GPS enables people and goods to move efficiently and it is estimated that a billion dollars a day of U.S. economic activity depends on it. Precision timing signals synchronized clocks on smartphones, enables global financial networks and optimizes the performance of critical infrastructure.
“Our missile warning centers provide an unblinking eye, protecting the homeland and our forces around the globe,” he added.
However, China and Russia have developed their own space capabilities and are building weapon systems specifically designed to deny America’s use of the space domain, he said.
These threats include jamming GPS and communication satellites and directed energy systems that can blind, disrupt or damage satellites. They have positioned weapons in space and on the ground, designed to destroy satellites and cyber capabilities used to control satellites, he said.
“Let me be clear, we do not want to get into a conflict that begins or ascends into space. The best way I know to deter is to do so from a position of strength,” he said. “To preserve the peace, you have to be ready to win. We are today, and we will be in the future.”
Our missile warning centers provide an unblinking eye, protecting the homeland and our forces around the globe.”
Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond
To meet this challenge, the Space Force has slashed bureaucracy at every level, accelerated acquisition timelines and expanded space domain cooperation with industry, allies and partners, Raymond said.
“The domain space accounts for just 2% of the entire DOD budget. That 2% underwrites the design of the entire joint force. DOD cannot afford, nor does it have the time, to build a joint force that can win without space,” he said.
The threat demands balancing investments across four broad areas, he said. “First, we have to defend the architecture that we rely on today. Secondly, we have to shift to a more defendable architecture. Third, we must evolve offensive capability to be able to deny benefits and impose costs on our adversaries. And finally, the Space Force has to look at what other missions should go to space, now that technology allows us to do so and launch costs have gone down, so we can do it more effectively and efficiently.”
Missile warning capabilities need to evolve into survivable architectures, he said. The U.S. also needs to modernize across the entire GPS architecture to deliver assured precision, navigation and timing capabilities in denied environments. Command and control capabilities must also be upgraded to meet the growing threat.
“We’re making rapid progress, but it’s just the beginning and there’s a lot of good work to do. We cannot innovate at speed on our own. Rapid and cost effective modernization will require a closer relationship with industry,” he noted. (Source: US DoD)
12 May 21. Space Force Aims to Take on an Air Force Surveillance Mission. Ground Moving Target Indicator satellites would begin to replace decades-old aircraft as the newest service expands its mission set.
A few years ago, the Air Force began looking at ways to replace its JSTARS surveillance aircraft, to ensure it could keep providing a clear picture of ground movement when the fleet of outfitted Boeing 707s encounters a highly contested environment. The Space Force has now taken on that challenge.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond announced Wednesday the service is “building out” a Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, that would operate from space.
“The Air Force, now the Space Force, has a program that we’re building GMTI for space, from space. And so you will see that’s another area where we’re actively working to be able to provide that capability,” Raymond said at the McAleese FY2022 Defense Programs Conference
GMTI in open-source publications is known for enabling the intelligence community and DOD to track moving vehicles and people.
“Ground Moving Target Indicator is the ability to continuously track moving vehicles on the ground—knowing where everything is now, but also where it was in the past, and using that to predict where it will be in the future,” said John Ferrari, a retired Army two-star and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
“For the military, seeing a vehicle that may be a missile launcher on the road and then rewinding the ‘tape’ to see if it left a missile base, seeing the route it takes, and then predicting where you may want to hit that vehicle is extremely valuable,” Ferrari said.
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JSTARS, U2s, and Global Hawks all have GMTI capability, said Sarah Mineiro, senior director for space strategy at Anduril Industries.
“Space Force has not previously had a significant role in GMTI, leaving those responsibilities to the intelligence community or airborne assets procured by the Air Force, and to some extent the Army,” said Mineiro, who helped craft the legislation establishing the Space Force in her previous role on the House Armed Services Committee.
“Recently, there has been increasing discussion about the role that space-based assets could contribute to the GMTI, both directly and as a product of data fusion,” Mineiro said. “As Space Force continues to organize, train, and equip to provide joint warfighters with space-based capabilities, the Space Force may be reassessing its contributions to this capability area.”
The Air Force’s efforts to further tweak the capability for space-based use, and that the Space Force would become its operator to collect and feed ground-based surveillance, was not publicly reported before Wednesday. It represents one of the ways Raymond is trying to declassify information to help the public better understand the service’s mission, said Space Force spokeswoman Col. Catie Hague.
“The space-based GMTI system will replace a portion of the JSTARS sensing capability,” Hague said. It “will surpass the range limitations of current air platforms and will provide capabilities in contested and non-contested environments.”
Space-based GMTI is not yet operational and there are no program schedule dates set as of yet, a Space Force official told Defense One.
“[Space Force] guardians will operate the satellites once there is an operational capability on orbit, and that capability will support all combatant commands,” the official said. (Source: Defense One)
11 May 21. Space Force releases new service objectives. The United States Space Force has released its “Vision for a Digital Service” to support the progress of the service.
The United States Space Force had issued a new set of guidelines following from the Chief of Space Operations’ November 2020 objective of establishing a technologically advanced and ambitious military service.
The newly released document titled “Vision for a Digital Service” establishes three key concepts for Space Force to achieve its objective, supported by four focuses. Space Force must dominate and innovate in each of these areas to ensure that its stated objective is achieved.
To achieve the commander’s intent, Space Force has identified three core tenets for the service:
- Interconnected: that Space Force must effectively and efficiently relay information across the breadth of the mission.
- Innovative: that Space Force is prepared to regularly rise to the task of beating their adversaries with the adaptation of new equipment and technology.
- Digitally dominant: the creation of a smart, adaptive, and technologically astute workforce.
The four key focus areas to achieve these tenets and ensure that Space Force is a technologically advanced warfighting service are: digital engineering, digital workforce, digital headquarters and digital operations.
- Digital engineering: the creation of a Digital Engineering Ecosystem that facilitates the innovation of new technological concepts.
- Digital workforce: that Space Force will attract innovative and creative thinkers to foster a community of progress.
- Digital headquarters: remove unnecessary barriers in the service, whether bureaucratic or geographic, and prioritising “data-driven decision making”.
- Digital operations: that Space Force will use all available technological systems to achieve their operational objectives.
Last year, the Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond released a “planning guidance” document to inform the future actions of Space Force.
“We are forging a warfighting Service that is always above. Our purpose is to promote security, assure allies and partners, and deter aggressors by demonstrating the capability to deny their objectives and impose costs upon them. We will ensure American leadership in an ongoing revolution of operations in space, and we will be leaders within government to achieve greater speed in decision-making and action. We will partner with and lead others to further responsible actions in, and use of, space to promote security and enhance prosperity. Should an aggressor threaten our interests, America’s space professionals stand ready to fight and win,” he began the document.
“Data and information, along with the skills and tools to put them to use, and drive to innovate will guide and accelerate our decision-making and permeate all the key activities of the Space Force. Harnessing the best that technology has to offer and applying it in ways that can outpace the advances of our adversaries require us to change our capability development processes.”
The “Vision for a Digital Service” is expected to be supported by an upcoming “Transformational Roadmap”. (Source: Defence Connect)
11 May 21. James Webb Space Telescope/MIRI. The telescope will study the first stars and galaxies and examine the physical and chemical properties of solar systems.
Looking back in time
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will look further back in time than any other telescope – to 400m years after the Big Bang. JWST is a collaboration between ESA, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, due for launch in October 2021 as the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope.
The four key goals of the JWST are:
* to search for light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the Universe after the Big Bang
* to study the formation and evolution of galaxies
* to understand the formation of stars and planetary systems
* to study planetary systems and the origins of life
These goals can be accomplished more effectively by observation in near-infrared light rather than light in the visible part of the spectrum. For this reason, the JWST’s instruments will not measure visible or ultraviolet light like the Hubble Telescope, but will have a much greater capacity to perform infrared astronomy.
JWST will also study the atmospheres of exoplanets identified by the European Space Agency PLATO science mission – necessary to understand their potential for hosting life. Securing a leading role on this prestigious NASA mission ensures that UK scientists remain at the forefront of global space science research. As the successor to Hubble, Webb is expected to generate even more astonishing images of our Universe, inspiring the next generation of UK researchers and engineers.
What will the JWST do?
To study these distant objects the telescope will use infrared light and must be cooled to within a few tens of degrees above Absolute Zero or -273°C. This is to prevent radiation from the telescope and its instruments swamping the astronomical signals. To achieve this Webb will have a huge multi-layer sunshield which is the area of a tennis court.
The below time-lapse video reveals NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now a fully assembled observatory and is accomplishing large-scale deployments and movements that it will perform while in space. (Credit: NASA Goddard)
To capture the very faint signals Webb’s main telescope mirror is 6.5m diameter, the largest ever flown in space and is gold-coated to optimise its ability to reflect infrared light. Its 18 segments will fold up inside the rocket for launch, then unfold in space.
Webb’s Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) will house four instruments, which are:
* MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument)
* NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera)
* NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph)
* FGS (Fine Guidance Sensor)
UK Leading the build
The UK leads the European Consortium to build the Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI). MIRI will ‘see’ faint infrared (IR) light invisible to the human eye and will peer far into the past observing very distant galaxies and newly forming stars and planets. MIRI uses IR because unlike visible light, it can penetrate the dense dust clouds which surround newly forming stars and planets.
The UK provided the scientific leadership on MIRI and the instrument design and managed the overall project. The UK was also responsible for the overall construction of the instrument and the quality control to ensure that MIRI would operate as intended and cope with the harsh conditions of space.
MIRI was the first instrument to be delivered to NASA, in May 2012. Since delivery, it has been integrated and tested with the other science instruments and the telescope. MIRI and the other instruments for Webb are now with spacecraft prime contractor Northrop Grumman in California, ready to be integrated with the spacecraft.
MIRI was built for ESA by a European Consortium of 10 countries, led by Principal Investigator Prof Gillian Wright at the Edinburgh Astronomy Technology Centre. The European Consortium works in partnership with a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, who have contributed the detectors and cryo-cooler for MIRI.
The UK (UK Space Agency since 2011 and STFC) has invested almost £20M in the development phase of MIRI and has continued to support essential post-delivery testing, integration, calibration and characterisation activities by the UK MIRI team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, Johnson Space Centre and more recently at prime contractor Northrop Grumman in California. This work is critical to understanding the instrument behaviour in operations and optimising the interpretation for the science data which will eventually be returned from the mission.
STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre contributes the Instrument Science Leadership though Prof Wright, along with the optical design/ engineering and calibration sources.
Other UK institutes involved in MIRI are:
* Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Thermal engineering and instrument assembly integration and testing)
* Airbus Defence & Space UK (Consortium project management, Product Assurance co-ordination and System Engineering lead)
* University of Leicester (Mechanical Engineering and Ground Support Equipment)
* University of Cardiff (Calibration unit elements)
A full list of people from across the UK that are playing an active role in the JWST can be found on this page.
In March 2021 Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) announced the selected JWST General Observer programs for Cycle 1. The selected proposals were prepared by more than 2,200 unique investigators from 41 countries, including 43 US states and territories, 19 ESA member states, and 4 Canadian provinces. More detailed information about the approved proposals can be found here.
Due to impacts from the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as technical challenges the launch of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is now planned for 31 October 2021. This decision is based on a recently completed schedule risk assessment of the remaining integration and test activities prior to launch. Previously, JWST was targeted to launch in March 2021. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
10 May 21. ICEYE Introduces the World’s First Wide Area Imaging for Persistent Monitoring with New Space SAR Satellites. ICEYE’s persistent monitoring customers now have access to the world’s most comprehensive set of radar imaging capabilities. Finnish New Space leader ICEYE announced today the commercial availability of wide area imaging capabilities covering 10,000 km² data acquisitions with its SAR (synthetic-aperture radar) satellite constellation. ICEYE is the only New Space SAR satellite provider to achieve wide-area Scan mode imaging, with up to a 100-times larger area coverage from the closest alternatives in the marketplace. Thanks to the completely unique system design of ICEYE’s SAR satellites, ICEYE is now able to provide the world’s single most comprehensive persistent monitoring capabilities both for land and sea data use cases.
“It’s really exciting to see another world first from ICEYE. Our leading-edge persistent monitoring capabilities, now boosted with Scan mode, enable our commercial and government customers to quickly and effortlessly survey huge areas for purposes such as sea ice monitoring, ensuring maritime safety and national security use cases,” said Steve Young, Vice President, Business Development and Sales, ICEYE. “Our unique satellite constellation and technology approach makes ICEYE’s capability something alternative approaches simply aren’t able to match.”
“ICEYE’s ability to now generate wide coverage imaging brings an addition to the radar based service market, in particular for maritime users,” said Marte Indregard, Chief Commercial Officer at KSAT, an ICEYE data customer and partner. “As the largest buyer of SAR data for maritime applications we know there is a strong demand for Scan mode images providing effective large area coverage, and we are eager to start delivering this to our customers world-wide.”
ICEYE’s new Scan imaging is particularly effective for acquiring wide coverage imagery for maritime use cases, where national security authorities and maritime safety officials require persistent visibility into large sea areas. The alternative methods of monitoring these areas, such as airplanes and sending out patrol vessels to sea, are costly and not always feasible due to inclement weather or night time. Radar satellite imaging works both day and night, and even through cloud cover. ICEYE is the only New Space SAR data provider with a current system design that supports comprehensive wide area imaging.
“We’ve done trials to Scan image areas as large as 100 km x 400 km (60 x 250 miles) with a single acquisition, covering areas at once that would take more than 1500 Spot images as a comparison,” said Pekka Laurila, CSO & Co-founder, ICEYE. “ICEYE continues to lead the way with several world first technology innovations for the benefit of our customers, as we have continually done since we launched the world’s first New Space SAR satellite over 3 years ago.”
ICEYE was the world’s first company to launch a SAR satellite under 100 kg in 2018, the first New Space provider to achieve under 1-meter SAR resolution imaging in 2019, the first to demonstrate interferometric capabilities in 2020, and even the first to produce SAR videos from individual satellite passes also in 2020. In total, ICEYE has raised $152M in financing, launched 10 SAR missions, and has plans to launch up to 10 more spacecraft still in 2021.
ICEYE empowers commercial and government partners with unmatched persistent monitoring capabilities for any location on Earth. The company helps customers make informed, data-driven decisions to address time-critical challenges in various industries, to ensure infrastructure safety, and to protect the environment. ICEYE’s radar satellite imaging service, designed to deliver very frequent coverage, both day and night, helps clients resolve challenges in sectors such as maritime, disaster management, insurance, and finance. For more information, please visit: www.iceye.com (Source: PR Newswire)
07 May 21. Boeing recommends developing ‘Space Industry Plan’ to parliamentary space inquiry. Boeing unveils recommendations to support Australia’s space industry amid the parliamentary space inquiry.
Boeing released a series of recommendations for enhancing Australia’s space industry this week to coincide with the commonwealth’s parliamentary space inquiry.
The Inquiry into Developing Australia’s Space Industry was launched in 2020 by then minister for industry, science and technology Karen Andrews, and was tasked with the development of a report on the advancement of Australia’s space industry.
The series of eight recommendation from Boeing seeks to develop Australia’s space industry among several categories, including fostering a whole-of-government approach to space, minimising space industry risk, development of space mission systems, fostering international partnerships and supporting intellectual property rights.
One of the recommendations listed by Boeing was that the commonwealth government should ensure co-operation between commercial and military markets, viewing them “as a contiguous whole, rather than as separate endeavours”.
The company further stressed the need for the commonwealth to develop a nationwide “Space Industry Plan” to co-ordinate and support the continued growth of Australia’s space industry.
Boeing also marked their commitment to Australian space SMEs, recommending to the government that prime contractors seeking to win tenders on large space programs demonstrate their commitment to using local SME.
Speaking to the inquiry, Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific president Brendan Nelson commented on the importance of a growing space industry for both Australia’s military and commercial future.
“A key priority we see – and which we call out in our submission – is to harmonise Australia’s defence, commercial and civil space strategies as one. All of the investments Boeing has made in Australia are backed by a strategy or a roadmap. By aligning Australia’s cross-domain space requirements, industry can better understand and target future space investments in Australia. That is especially critical given ongoing work to support the men and women of the ADF with satellite communications and other space-based capabilities. These are critical not just for their mission success, but also the mission success of our closest allies as part of our Five Eyes Alliance,” Nelson said.
Of their recent space innovations in Australia, Boeing has collaborated with the University of Queensland on an anti-microbial surface coat, which is undergoing testing onboard the International Space Station, undertaken joint hypersonic testing with Australian company Hypersonix, invested in Australian nanosatellite company Myriota as well as undertaking partnerships with the Australian Space Agency and the CSIRO.
(Source: Defence Connect)
05 May 21. OCX On Track, Says Raytheon; Begins New Upgrade. Once delivered and accepted, Space Force will own the OCX software-based ground system for GPS, not Raytheon.
“We are still tracking to those to those commitments,” McCall said in an interview yesterday. Raytheon Intelligence & Space will finish qualification of the baseline OCX software and deliver it to Space Force this year for validation; and “final handover” of “the software and hardware that the system is going to run on” will take place in 2022.
Raytheon’s baseline OCX software, once it is up and running next year, will be used to control the GPS satellites now in operation, McCall said, including GPS IIR, GPS IIR-M and the newest GPS III model birds.
(Lockheed Martin spokesperson Chip Eschenfelder said yesterday that four GPS III satellites are now on orbit; “GPS III Space Vehicle 05 (GPS III SV05) is launching this June.”)
Currently, all the GPS satellites on the government’s current GPS control system, called OCS for Operational Control System. (Yes, it is confusing). Until OCX takes over, Lockheed Martin has been contracted to sustain the OCS through 2025, as well as provide a series of stop gap software upgrades. Those upgrades now allow the OCS to ‘fly’ the more powerful GPS IIIs (and the rest of the constellation) and task, upload and monitor the encrypted M-Code signals. UPDATE ENDS.
“The transition from the OCS system today to the OCX system in the future is going to be managed by the US Space Force,” McCall said. Raytheon I&S, he added is “doing a number of risk reduction activities” to ensure that transition “can be executed by the US government.”
McCall, who has been in his position at Raytheon Intelligence & Space only for a few weeks (previously serving as deputy), was enthusiastic about recent progress by the OCX program, despite the obstacles thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic. OCX has had a troubled history, to say the least — including a serious Nunn-McCurdy breach back in 2016 that drew the wrath of Frank Kendall, then DoD acquisition czar and now the Biden administration nominee for Air Force secretary.
“Lots of exciting things happening on the program right now,” he said.
New Software For GPS IIIF
In the latest success for the program, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) just announced a new, $228m contract for the company to tweak the baseline OCX software so it can manage the newest generation of Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System satellites, the GPS III Follow-on aka GPS IIIF. Those new satellites will sport a number of upgrades, including a higher-power, more jam-resistant signal called Regional Military Protection (RMP); and, a DoD-provided search and rescue payload, according to Lockheed Martin’s website.
The new OCX 3F software, therefore, is being specially designed ton include new features necessary to accommodate the new types of data being downlinked from those GPS IIIF satellites when they are launched, McCall explained.
For example, he said, GPS IIIF will “have different telemetry points that it sends down, it has new features that can be controlled.” So there are software “tools that I need to put in my toolbox so that I can exercise the new capabilities of the IIIF satellites.” He stressed, however, that “there’s no new equipment, or hardware, required to fly the GPS IIIF, it’s all software work” involved in the OCX 3F contract.
Raytheon will deliver the OCX 3F software in 2025 to the Space Force, McCall said. And the Space Force will then decide how and when it integrates that new software package into the baseline Block 1/Block 2 OCX software. This is because once delivered and accepted, Space Force will own the OCX software, not Raytheon.
The Space Force currently plans to begin launching the GPS IIIF satellites in 2026, Lockheed Martin spokesperson Chip Eschenfelder in an email yesterday. The company in 2018 won a $7.2bn contract to build up to 22 GPS IIIF birds. “The Space Force has exercised options for four GPS IIIF satellites so far (SVs 11-14),” Eschenfelder said.
OCX Monitor Stations Deployed
Further, McCall explained, as of yesterday, 13 of 17 the GPS monitor stations that keep tabs on the health of the satellites are now deployed worldwide. And four of the five elements that make up the OCX ground segment have been blessed by the Space Force:
* GPS OCX high-fidelity GPS system simulator (GSYS): A high-fidelity GPS system simulator developed under OCX program. The GSYS models critical tasks of GPS ground control, “including managing 17 signal monitoring stations, tasking 11 command and control antenna sites, and directing the entire lifecycle, from launch to disposal” of the birds, McCall explained in an email.
* Global Information Grid Automated Information System Element (GGAE): This subsystem “receives GPS status updates and data from the GPS OCX Master Control Station and alternate control stations and then provides web services and a display portal for armed forces users to access information.”
* Legacy Ground Antenna Element (LGAE): Four physical ground antennas that are used for “direct command and control of the GPS constellation.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
10 May 21. NanoAvionics to add TIGER-2 satellite to OQ Technology’s growing 5G IoT constellation. NanoAvionics has signed a contract with OQ Technology, a multinational satellite Internet of Things (IoT) company, to build, integrate and operate a nanosatellite for their 5G IoT mission named Tiger-2. The 6U satellite is the second mission for the Lithuanian smallsat bus manufacturer and mission integrator with OQ Technology and the latest addition to OQ Technology’s growing low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of nanosatellites. Their constellation intends to provide basic commercial IoT and M2M services, using 5G connectivity, to customers with a focus on Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
OQ Technology expects to generate revenue with this satellite, scheduled to be launched this year. To meet that deadline, the company will take advantage of NanoAvionics’ fast satellite built-time of a few months, a result of its automotive approach for speedy bus manufacturing. Following the launch, OQ Technology aims to quickly add another two missions to its constellation, followed by a batch of 6 satellites. Through the Tiger-2 mission the company also intends to secure strategic frequency licenses and partnerships in key countries.
“Tiger-2 is an example of a NewSpace startup breaking barriers and racing with time to get to orbit within a few months, while using an agile approach to quickly deliver 5G connectivity,” said Omar Qaise, founder and CEO of OQ Technology. “Without partners like NanoAvionics, achieving such a target within a short time frame will not be possible. To grow our constellation and provide global coverage we plan to add more nanosatellites soon.”
As part of the Tiger-2 mission, NanoAvionics will integrate two payloads into the modular spacecraft. The primary payload will provide satellite-based IoT and M2M services using low frequencies. The secondary payload will demonstrate the feasibility of using high frequencies for 5G IoT radio links. To deliver widespread coverage and 5G IoT/M2M communication, in line with 3GPP recommendations, OQ Technology is using spectrum in the mid band 5G (Sub-6 GHz) frequency bands.
Tiger-2 is a continuation of the collaboration between NanoAvionics and OQ Technology, following MACSAT, the world’s first agile nanosatellite mission dedicated to 5G IoT in LEO, led by OQ Technology and supplied by NanoAvionics.
Vytens J. Buzas, CEO NanoAvionics said: “Our nano- and microsats are ideal for IoT and Earth observations with single, formation and constellation setups and our rapid integration accelerates the time to market applications for companies like OQ Technology. Over 90 percent of our customers already ask for full mission services including built, integration, launch brokerage and mission operations. One key element for the success of our mission operations is that we’ve significantly increased how frequently our nano- and microsatellites can send data back to Earth data through the global ground station networks of our partners.”
OQ Technology is the first 5G IoT operator, building a global hybrid system that combines both satellite and terrestrial wireless networks. It’ll enable expansion of the 4G and 5G IoT footprint globally, which plays a critical role in enabling mobility in vertical markets such as smart cars and drones, transport, logistics, and maritime. Moreover, it provides a unique value for low latency applications (which are critical for 5G) as the satellite are in low earth orbit and provide few milliseconds latency communication which traditional GEO satellites operators cannot do.
Their hybrid system will provide seamless connectivity using 5G standards, terrestrial 5G hardware and chips for a variety of IoT applications for environmental monitoring and agriculture, logistics, maritime, smart metering, mining and oil & gas, aviation, and defence. OQ Technology already holds patents in using narrowband cellular IoT over non-terrestrial networks and is licensing its satellite frequencies globally.
Qaise said: “What makes OQ Technology different is its combination of cellular and satellite technologies, providing coverage in poorly connected areas with a low-cost solution that can match existing but expensive M2M and VSAT satellite products. We do this by using both mobile 5G chips and a low-cost infrastructure of LEO nanosatellites. This allows us to bring the 5G revolution to countries where terrestrial infrastructure and expensive satellite costs have been a bottle neck, depriving many regions from catching up with the latest developments in the telecommunication industry. OQ Technology is here to change this soon and make digitalization available everywhere.”
07 May 21. Space Force wants to be the world’s first fully digital service. The U.S. Space Force released its latest vision document May 6, laying out its desire to become the world’s first fully digital service.
The Space Force believes digital solutions are necessary to accelerate its ability to develop, field and operate space capabilities quickly in order to maintain U.S. space supremacy.
“Space is a big data environment,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond, noting that all of the service’s mission areas — missile warning, weather, domain awareness, surveillance, and position, navigation and timing — all depend on data and analysis.
“This is a really important document for our service,” he said in a media call. “The establishment of the U.S. Space Force gives us a generational opportunity to create a service that is purpose built for a very unique operating environment. And when you think about our strategic competitors and the threats that we currently face, becoming a digital service is much more than an opportunity ? it’s a necessity.”
In the document, Raymond said becoming a digital service is imperative due to the nature of the threat and the small size of the Space Force. The rapid pace with which American adversaries are developing new capabilities requires a new, faster approach from the U.S. military, he argued. Space Force leadership has asserted since its inception that nations such as Russia and China are working diligently to negate American space capabilities.
The size of the Space Force compared to the other services also necessitates a digitally fluent workforce.
“The Space Force is a small, specialized service with an expansive mission. It is inherently more bound to and driven by technology than any other mission set,” said Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Maj. Gen. Kimberly Crider. “We must be committed in turn to providing them [Guardians] with the digital age knowledge, tools and processes they can use and enable and empower their peak performance and unlimited potential in advancing how we design, develop, field and operate space capabilities today and into the future.”
The service tasked its Technology and Innovation Office with leading the digital transformation.
The vision outlines four digital focus areas: engineering, workforce, headquarters and operations.
As part of the digital engineering line of effort, the Space Force is establishing a new Digital Engineering Ecosystem, a cloud-based environment where the government can work with industry to review programs and share digital twins that mold a process or technology virtually. The initial unclassified version is coming online now, said Crider, while a classified environment is expected in late summer or early fall.
Other implementations of the digital service include using artificial intelligence to process applications as part of the hiring process and using data analytics to drive decision-making, said Crider. The Space Force is also creating digital workforce initiatives to provide Guardians access to an online learning platform and track their progress in becoming more digitally proficient. Every Space Force member will receive digital university licenses, and 30 percent of the workforce has already completed coursework, Crider noted. The service is also creating combat development teams to focus on unit-level innovation.
Other aspects of the digital service vision, such as the Unified Data Library, are already in use. The repository collects and integrates space situational awareness data from multiple sources to provide a common picture of tens of thousands of objects currently on orbit. The Space Force will stored the data needed for the Digital Engineering Ecosystem cloud in an instance of the UDL, Crider added.
Raymond said he was unable to discuss how much money the Space Force is investing in transforming into a digital service until budget proposals come out later this year. The Space Force will release a “transformational roadmap” with more details on how it will execute its vision this summer. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
08 May 21. House Defense leader: Space Force hasn’t met expectations for speedy tech. One of the top lawmakers in charge of the defense budget raised doubts Friday about whether the U.S. Space Force has lived up to its promise to reform the way it purchases space systems.
While the nascent service has moved quickly to structure itself into an independent organization, Rep. Betty McCollum, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense chair, said in a virtual hearing that she was disappointed in how little the Space Force had done to improve space acquisitions so far.
“In the 16 months since Space Force was established, significant progress has been made in standing up this operations unit,” said McCollum in a budget hearing with senior Air Force leadership and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. “However, while progress has been made on the operations side, progress in addressing long-standing acquisitions issues has been disappointing so far. Too often over the past two decades, the space acquisitions programs have been delivered late, over budget, and sometimes billions of dollars over budget.”
The Space Force may be new, but the military’s space programs have suffered from delays and significant cost overruns for years.
“Just one example is the current missile warning satellite program, which according to GAO [Government Accountability Office] was delivered nine years late — that’s nine — and $15bn over its original estimate,” said McCollum. “The intent of establishing Space Force was to fix these issues. Yet to date, space acquisition seems to be the sum of its previous parts with minor tweaks around the edges.”
A $6.2bn ground system to command and control GPS satellites has also raised concerns in recent years. In 2016, reports that software issues could lead the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) to exceed its cost estimates by 20 percent triggered a Nunn-McCurdy breach — a statutory limit designed to stop massive spending growth within government programs. A 2019 GAO report noted that the program was already five years behind schedule, and in 2020 the Space Force further delayed the project when it announced it would spend $378m to replace the system’s hardware.
“Too often we over promise and underperform, and we need to fix that,” said acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth in response to McCollum.
Even when everything goes to plan, the time it takes from setting requirements to launching a new major satellite system can easily stretch over a decade. Following up, ranking member Rep. Ken Calvert drew a distinction between the slow, years-long process that characterizes military space systems and the dynamism in commercial space.
“Status quo is not acceptable,” he noted. “How can we align our resources and our acquisition strategies and to work with industry to capture their enthusiasm and motivation?”
Raymond was quick to admit that his organization needs to be faster.
“We have got to go faster in modernizing our space capabilities and delivering capabilities and putting them in the hands of the war fighter,” said Raymond.
Significant reforms or tweaks at the edges?
Continuing, Raymond said change starts with force design, something that the Space Warfighting Analysis Center is working on. That effort will help drive unification, he said. The force design is expected by the end of the summer, and the Space Force will host an industry day to unveil its plans and gather feedback.
And while McCollum referred to the changes as “minor tweaks around the edges,” the Space Force has pursued some reforms to the acquisitions process it took over from the Air Force in 2019.
Most notably, the service has proposed restructuring its main acquisitions arm — the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) — into a new field command called Space Systems Command. That command will continue some of the reforms adopted by the Air Force a few years back known as SMC 2.0, which started pushing approval authorities down to the people actually working on the programs and streamlining the military bureaucracy.
Still, even that new field command gives some ammo to Space Force doubters. Early on, SSC was touted as a new organization that would unify space acquisitions efforts and transfer space capabilities from the other services into the Space Force. However, most of the unification and transfers remain in the future. Major space acquisitions organizations, such as the Space Development Agency and Space Rapid Capabilities Office, will remain outside of SSC for the time being, and the Space Force has yet to release a full list of which capabilities will transfer in from the other services.
SSC is expected to stand up this summer, assuming that the Senate approves a nominee to lead the field command.
The Space Force also released a list of acquisition reforms it would like to see adopted last year. While the Space Force has been able to undertake some of those on its own, such as pushing acquisition authorities to the lowest possible level, others need legislation to be enacted.
Beyond those structural reforms, the Space Force has moved with the Air Force in adopting new acquisition methods, such as the Space Enterprise Consortium and other transaction authorities (OTA). Those methods enable the Space Force to adopt rapid prototyping and experimentation, allowing multiple companies to design and build potential solutions. That way, SMC can see what solution works the best and what pitfalls might torpedo the project before the service is locked into a vendor. Other efforts like Space Pitch Day have helped to bring in nontraditional vendors that may struggle to navigate the Department of Defense contracting apparatus.
A new acquisitions executive for space
Beyond her concerns about space acquisitions more broadly, McCollum expressed frustration that the Department of the Air Force has yet to appoint an assistant secretary of the Air Force to lead space acquisitions — a new position created by Congress along with the Space Force in 2019.
“We need to see movement. Nowhere is the lack of progress more evident than the absence of a senior civilian acquisition leadership solely focused on space within the Department of the Air Force,” said McCollum. “I strongly urge the administration to quickly fill this position at the earliest opportunity and to seek a space acquisition professional to carry out this important responsibility,”
Roth was quick to agree.
“I share your concern,” said Roth. “The position ought to be filled — probably should have been filled last year as well, but for reasons beyond our control they were not filled at the time. So that position needs to be filled as soon as possible.”
Roth also pointed out that the position will not officially become the space acquisition executive until Oct. 1, 2022, under the law that established the Space Force. He suggested that Congress amend the law so the transition of those authorities can happen earlier, once the position is filled.
“Now, we haven’t sat on our hands. We’ve taken a look at that office, and we’ve organized it in a way that whoever comes in can hopefully — for lack of a better word — hit the ground running and start out,” he added.
Raymond also threw his full support behind the need to fill the position.
(Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 May 21. KSAT Adding 34 New Antennas Across The Globe Due To Increased Smallsat Constellation Network Demands. The increasing pace of the commercial satellite industry continues and, as a response, KSAT is adding 34 new antennas this year that will be dedicated for the KSATlite network, the company’s network optimized to support smallsat constellations.
The antennas will be installed across the globe, adding capacity in already existing sites as well as expanding the coverage to new sites. The roll-out of the first batch of antennas is already well on its way, the second one starting in June.
This significant investment comes as a direct response to the growing demand for services on the KSATlite network. Last year, the number of passes in a six month period time doubled on the lite network from 10 to 20k passes per month. By June, the network will be probably be handling 30k passes per month, having exceeded 1k passes daily.
The strong growth is caused by several factors. Existing and new customers are expanding their constellations, adding more satellites to their missions and requiring an increased number of contacts on the network. An important factor revolves around operational flexibility. Allowing the ground to define a standard interface gives the satellite owners flexibility and a network-oriented approach for data reception and satellite control.
Although adding 34 antennas requires a significant effort from the whole organization, deployment of the antennas across the network is “relatively” easy. The KSATlite strategy and product concept is all about standardized set-ups and scalable ground station architecture that, together with flexible API driven interfaces, are making this possible.
The 34 antennas will augment KSATs already fully operational Ka-band network that consists of 6 polar antenna systems (4 Tri-band and 2 Dual-band) and comes in addition to an already ongoing expansions as well as additional investments on the KSAT ground network this year.
“Our network loading forecasts shows no signs of this growth curve flattening. On the contrary, looking at the number of new satellites in the pipeline and the launch frequency this is a continuing trend,” said Amund Nylund, KSAT Chief Operations Officer. “We believe this reflects the current pace of the commercial space industry, as well as it speaks to the success of the KSATlite product in this fast-growing market.”
“Looking back 10 years, building and integrating four antennas at our new mid latitude sites in one year was a major achievement. Now we are deploying and integrating 34 antennas almost like it’s just another day at the office. It shows that the way we are operating now is streamlined and developing a software based architecture, makes the work a lot easier. However, it would not be possible without the effort from our dedicated KSAT Team,” KSAT CEO and President Rolf Skatteboe. (Source: Satnews)
06 May 21. U.S. Space Force Unveils Their ‘Vision For A Digital Service.’ Building on formal guidance issued last fall by the Chief of Space Operations to “Create a Digital Service to Accelerate Innovation,” a new document outlining U.S. Space Force’s “Vision for a Digital Service” has just been released. The Vision provides a clear description of what it means to be a “Digital Service” and outlines the four areas of focus essential to making this vision a reality.
Acknowledging that space is the only physical domain without humans in place to conduct military operations, the digital vision document states “everything our operators experience is derived through data received from space and our ability to rapidly analyze that data to our advantage.”
The document goes on to describe how the characteristics of the space operating environment and the growing threat presented by near-peer competitors generate an imperative to undergo large-scale cultural and technical transformation.
General John W. “Jay” Raymond. “The establishment of the United States Space Force gave us a generational opportunity to create a Service purpose-built for a contested space domain,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond. “Moreover, we are in a unique position because of the global, data-driven nature of our mission to harness data and analytics across the enterprise and serve as a change agent for the entire Department of Defense.”
The Vision for a Digital Service is founded on three key tenets that provide a pathway to a faster, more innovative, and agile service designed to meet the unique demands of the space operating environment: an Interconnected, Innovative, Digitally Dominant force.
* First, an Interconnected force effectively and efficiently shares relevant information with a broad array of stakeholders in support of the mission.
* Second, an Innovative force routinely embraces new approaches and readily challenges the status quo.
* Third, a Digitally Dominant force depends on people – establishing an empowered, digitally fluent workforce that advocates for innovation from every angle.
Informed by these tenets, the Vision for a Digital Service outlines four focus areas that serve as lines of effort for the necessary digital transformation Guardians must lead to achieve this vision:
The Space Force will foster an interoperable, resilient, and secure Digital Engineering Ecosystem (DEE) that will enable Guardians across the force to rapidly mature innovative concepts into integrated solutions and deliver critical warfighting capability faster.
The Space Force will attract, educate, develop, and retain the vital talent they need to cultivate digital fluency among all Guardians, and the USSF will equip and empower them to unleash their talent and energy toward bold, innovative solutions.
This focus area refers to a function, rather than a location – it represents the ability for all Guardians to make decisions efficiently by removing layers of bureaucracy and enabling and incentivizing data-driven decision making.
The Space Force will drive joint, all-domain solutions in, from, and to space, exploiting advantages provided by interconnected infrastructure and an innovative, digitally-fluent workforce.
The Digital Vision will be accompanied by a subsequent Transformational Roadmap product that will delve into more detail and identify the key ongoing and planned actions required to make progress toward achieving the Vision. The roadmap is expected to be released in summer of 2021.
To learn more about the military/agency/government (MAG) plans and involvement in the satellite and space market segments, consider registering for SatNews Publishers’ upcoming MilSat Symposium as well as subscribing to our monthly MilsatMagazine (no cost). (Source: Satnews)
02 May 21. A New Study For More Accurate Satellite Navigation To Be Completed By RUAG Space. The European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency GSA has now commissioned RUAG Space to conduct a study to increase the accuracy of real-time satellite navigation.
For climate and environmental research, satellites provide extremely important data every day, such as how high sea levels are rising or what effects global warming is having on glacier ice shrinkage in the Alps — this contract is worth one million euros
This study aims to further increase the accuracy of this space data from climate and environmental satellites. To make this possible, the Prague-based, European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) awarded this research contract to RUAG Space earlier this year. To provide precise Earth observation data from space, the satellite’s position in space must be known as accurately as possible. To determine the exact position of satellites, RUAG Space’s navigation receivers today use the signals from the 22 European Galileo navigation satellites.
By the end of 2022, RUAG Space will develop a new product that will be able to use the new Galileo HAS service. Navigation receivers from RUAG Space that process Galileo signals already ensure precise positioning. These include the Sentinel-6 environmental satellite, which has been in space since November 2020. It measures the amount of sea level change and provides crucial data on coastal areas at risk from sea level rise.
RUAG Space is developing a software update for navigation receivers of the current PODRIX receiver generation already in space, such as those used for Sentinel-6. This will enable these receivers to increase the accuracy of satellite positioning from the current level of about one meter to 20 centimeters.
Navigation receivers from RUAG Space process Galileo signals, allowing the satellite’s position to be determined precisely. This in turn enables satellites such as Sentinel-6 (pictured) to collect precise environmental data. The precision of satellite navigation, and thus the accuracy of satellite data, is now to be significantly improved.
“Currently, there is still untapped potential in the Galileo satellites. They transmit several signals. On one of these signals, a new service, the High Accuracy Service (HAS), will support significantly improved positioning from 2022,” said Martin Auer, who is leading the study at RUAG Space. “When this new service goes into operational use, it will need equipment that can do something with it. That’s what we’re working on.“
“The more accurate the satellite’s position can be determined, the more precise the environmental data it collects and provides. With the more accurate data, for example, the danger to coastal cities such as Venice can be predicted more effectively,” said Fiammetta Diani, Head of Market Development at GSA.
“This is a dramatic improvement – a quantum leap – in accurate satellite positioning that will contribute to much better climate and environmental data,” noted Heinz Reichinger, the product manager at RUAG Space. (Source: Satnews)
04 May 21. Dawn Aerospace’s Smallsat Green Propellant Thruster Proves Itself On-Orbit With D-Orbit’s ION Space Tug. Dawn Aerospace has confirmed the company’s novel satellite thruster has been proven in space —six thrusters were onboard D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier — the companies have been working together since early 2019.
Dawn Aerospace’s B20 thruster at work on-orbit. Image is courtesy of D-Orbit.
Since launching on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission in January of 2021, D-Orbit’s ION space-tug for satellites has performed hundreds of in-space firings of each Dawn Aerospace B20 thruster.
Photo is courtesy of D-Orbit.
This success is significant, due to the thruster’s use of alternative propellants to hydrazine, a fuel commonly used to propel satellites that is difficult to store and harmful to human health. Dawn’s B20 thruster achieves similar performance by using a unique, green-propellant combination; nitrous oxide and propylene. Having delivered this technology to both cubesats and smallsats, Dawn is demonstrating this technology can be applied to satellites of all sizes.
Thrusters, or in-space propulsion, are small rocket motors that form part of the satellite itself. They allow satellites to maneuver in space after their initial boost onto orbit. Thrusters serve several functions; they can perform corrective maneuvers if a satellite has been delivered to an incorrect orbit, they can orientate a satellite, can be used for collision avoidance, and can carry a satellite further afield, for example to a higher orbit or on a mission to the moon or another planet.
Using nontoxic propellants is naturally far less risky than using something such as hydrazine, which is toxic at extremely low concentrations – 40 parts per million. Dawn’s green propellants are great for the environment, but can also save the satellite operator about half a million (USD) per satellite by eliminating the safety precautions required to store and handle hydrazine. As Stefan Powell, the CTO of Dawn Aerospace, said, “That’s massive for small satellite companies for whom a total mission might only cost one million dollars or less. This in-orbit demonstration of our B20 product is the ultimate verification that our unique technology works. It is now possible to have the performance that satellite manufacturers loved about Hydrazine, with none of the environmental and cost drawbacks of using toxic fuels.”
On board SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission were 133 commercial and government spacecraft (including cubesats, smallsats and orbital transfer vehicles) as well as 10 Starlink satellites – the most spacecraft ever deployed on a single mission. (Source: Satnews)
04 May 21. Spaceflight Preps Four Rocket Lab Electron Launches For BlackSky. Spaceflight Inc. recently secured four, dedicated, Rocket Lab launches on behalf of the company’s customer, BlackSky. 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 of 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 LEO. The following three dedicated launches under contract will each take two more BlackSky satellites, furthering BlackSky’s goal of launching nine satellites during 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.
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.
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. The company 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.
“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.”
“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.” (Source: Satnews)
04 May 21. ORBCOMM Presents Their Newest SATCOM Device For IoT/M2M Applications. ORBCOMM‘s new, state-of-the-art, ST 2100 is a satellite communications device that enables IoT solution providers to deliver ubiquitous and affordable connectivity to customers, along with enhanced reliability, improved asset visibility and access to new markets and geographies — this versatile device features a built-in antenna that enables solution providers to extend their IoT and M2M applications beyond cellular coverage.
The ST 2100 is designed for quick integration into IoT applications with minimal development. Integrating this device into your solution enables two-way satellite communications and reliable global coverage, including areas with limited cellular connectivity. As a sole communications device or as a reliable backup, the ST 2100 provides low-cost satellite connectivity for your solution. The ST 2100 boasts a smaller footprint and more flexible installation configuration compared to previous devices, such as the IDP-280.
An optional, internal, super capacitor maximizes reliability by allowing “last-gasp” messages to be sent, allowing continued operation during a temporary power loss. A built-in GNSS module allows global location tracking and reporting.
Over the air satellite updates allow the ST 2100 to receive new firmware versions without having to send a technician on site. Other over the air capabilities include the option to use the ST 2100 to remotely reset devices and equipment. Additionally, the device features an M12 connector for easy integration into new and existing solutions, while retaining the command set from its predecessor for a seamless upgrade.
The rugged and environmentally sealed ST 2100 is designed for use in fixed and mobile asset applications across various industries such as fleet management, maritime and utilities. The ST 2100 can be configured to support a wide range of applications and customer requirements. (Source: Satnews)
03 May 21. CGI To Define PDGS For Airbus’ TRUTHS. CGI (NYSE: GIB) (TSX: GIB.A) has won a subcontract with Airbus to define the Payload Data Ground System (PDGS) for the Traceable Underpinning Terrestrial and Helio-Studies (TRUTHS) satellite. TRUTHS is an important climate mission, led by Airbus in the UK and involving the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and other ESA member states and delivered by the European Space Agency (ESA) to enable in-flight calibration of EO satellites. TRUTHS will help deliver improved confidence in Earth Observation data gathered from space and the critical forecasts driven by this data. TRUTHS will be an operational climate mission designed to enhance our ability for climate benchmarking and satellite cross-calibration, enabling a metrology laboratory in space as well as providing measurements of the solar spectrum to address scientific questions. CGI will develop the preliminary definition of the Payload Data Ground System that will be responsible for:
Exploitation of the instrument data
Facilities responsible for mission planning and control
Quality control including calibration, validation and monitoring Instrument performance assessment vital to delivering reliable data to scientists and the precise orbit determination
User services interface and acquisition, processing and archiving
Shaun Stretton, Senior Vice President for UK & Australia Space Control and Information Solutions at CGI, said, “TRUTHS is an important UK led mission that will improve Earth Observation data to drive improved climate change modelling. Accuracy of data is vital in helping scientists understand the impact of climate change and we are proud to be supporting this mission with our strong heritage of ground segment control and space data exploitation.” (Source: Satnews)
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