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28 Oct 21. “HK Made” Satellite Is Just Around the Corner. Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group, Ltd. (“HKATG”) (SEHK:1725) made an announcement after trading hours on October 27th, 2021, concerning the total procurement of equipment and installing service agreement entered with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC). According to the announcement, CGWI will provide support services in the areas of technology, equipment, intellectual property rights, and human resources for the establishment of the Group’s Hong Kong satellite manufacturing center and testing center. CGWIC is a commercial organization authorized by the Chinese government to provide commercial launch services, satellites and carry out international space technology cooperation while providing professional personnel training and other aerospace system integration services as well as actively carrying out international operations and professional services for aerospace technology application products.
Founded in July 2019, HKATG is the first commercial aerospace enterprise in Hong Kong with a focus on satellite remote sensing, satellite manufacturing, satellite navigation, satellite communications in the aerospace industry chain. HKATG is by far the very first listed company that is providing the satellite business. The trend of integration has emerged in the satellite industry. With such integration together with its unique model-based systems engineering, it will reshape the current process of spacecraft production. Therefore, the chain integration strategies have great significance to a fast-evolving industry. By entering the total procurement of equipment and installing service agreement, HKATG will be given the fundamental competency for manufacturing satellites, pushing the satellite scientific research even further and boosting economic benefits. HKATG will have the capability in the manufacture of satellites, creating satellite assembly, to launch and carry out full examination and control, giving the company significant advantages in the cost and efficiency of satellite manufacturing. Satellites can be deemed as consumer staples, with an estimated consumption of over 40,000 low-earth orbit satellites being used annually in various fields, whereas the operation life of a satellite is around 3 years, suggesting there are 1/3 of defunct satellites needed to be replaced every year, making satellites are always in demand, almost year-round. Having such stability of market demand, and the space industry continues its growth, there is more room for space tech firms to seize market share. It’s worth noting, price, service, and cost are the big 3 factors that contribute to a business’s success. What makes Hong Kong a tax haven is that local corporations can save up to 30% on tax expenses per year compared to other developed countries. What’s more Hong Kong is a free port and does not levy any customs tariff on imports or exports, there is no value-added tax and sales tax. From the perspective of taxation, local corporations are offered a variety of friendly profit tax treatments.
“Zero tariffs” is Hong Kong’s advantage that cannot be overlooked. Likewise, follows a free trade policy without maintaining barriers to trade, not to mention its efficient customs clearance; Hong Kong has simply given HKATG a variety of competitive advantages.
As the low-earth orbit satellite constellations based on Starlink have boosted investor sentiment across the broader space economy, the growth in commercial aerospace is expected. In addition to the low-earth-orbit communications satellite systems, there is also low-earth orbit enhanced global navigation satellite systems, low-earth orbit IoT constellations within the clan, they are derived from the low-orbit technology. In theory, these satellites assist internet companies, new energy vehicle companies, smart equipment companies, and the construction of smart cities and other parties in the industrial chain. Hong Kong has its over-dependence on the real estate and financial sectors, and this is nothing new. The GDP of the manufacturing sector in Hong Kong has dropped from 23% at its peak to 1.4% today. The satellite manufacturing of HKATG not only indicating “the return of precision manufacturing” but also makes “re-industrialization” a new economic catalyst for Hong Kong. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
28 Oct 21. UK and Canada Space Agencies Sign MOU on Joint Activities and Information Sharing. The UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency sign a Memorandum of Understanding on joint activities and information sharing on Space. Yesterday (27TH October) the UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on joint activities and information sharing on Space. The MOU was signed by representatives of both national space agencies in Dubai at the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The agreement provides a framework for collaborative activities and the exchange of information, technology and personnel between both nations.
British High Commissioner to Canada, Susannah Goshko said: “I’m delighted by this agreement to strengthen co-operation between the UK and Canadian Space Agencies. As the UK’s recent Space Strategy made clear, the importance of space to everyday life continues to grow rapidly. It is vital that our two countries work ever closer to understand the risks and opportunities this brings, and jointly benefit from space as a driver of prosperity.”
UK Space Agency chief executive, Dr Paul Bate, said: “This alliance will bring further significant benefits to the thriving space industries of the UK and Canada, allowing us to achieve our goals in space through collaborative efforts in research and innovation. As set out in the UK’s National Space Strategy, we are committed to strengthening our international relationships and building the UK’s reputation as a partner of choice in space activities.”
Yesterday’s agreement represents a significant step in growing collaboration between the UK and Canada on space, and will help to grow the capability and competitiveness of domestic space sectors in both countries.
The UK Government recently launched the National Space Strategy which outlines the long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and make Britain a science and technology superpower, including building on manufacturing and technology capacity, attracting investment and working internationally.
Established in 1989, the Canadian Space Agency employs approximately 670 employees and leads Canada’s activities in space, including space exploration, utilization and technology development, as well as scientific research.
Yesterday’s MOU signing builds on cooperation in space between the two countries in the areas of space science, technology and applications, space policy, law and regulation and human capital development.
The UK and Canada have a deep history of working together on scientific research. Our collaborations have seen us work on the forefront of global issues, from COVID19 to genomics, AI to Quantum technologies. Together, we have funded and led research to the tune of £65 million over the last 5 years.
About The International Astronautical Congress:
The International Astronautical Congress is an annual meeting of global space agencies and industry which is organised by the International Astronautical Federation, of which the UK Space Agency is a voting member. The United Arab Emirates is the first Arab country to host the IAC since its establishment in 1950.
With the theme “Inspire, Innovate & Discover for the Benefit of Humankind”, the IAC 2021 looks forward to making a contribution to humanity and to science by strengthening and enhancing cooperation between all countries in the space sector.
About the British High Commission in Ottawa:
The British High Commission in Ottawa, is the UK government’s main diplomatic mission in Canada. Along with Consulates-General in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, we work closely with the Canadian government and partners across the country to develop and maintain a wide range of substantive partnerships of real value to both countries. These partnerships cover business, defence, climate change, science and innovation, education, and culture. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
26 Oct 21. AFRL, ThermAvant and Maxar partner to develop new spacecraft technology. The next-generation spacecraft thermal control technology is known as Oscillating Heat Pipes. Shown is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS)-II supporting the oscillating heat programmes developed at the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB. Credit: Air Force Research Laboratory courtesy photo. The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has formed a strategic collaboration with ThermAvant Technologies and Maxar Technologies for new spacecraft technology development. The partnership is aimed at deploying advanced spacecraft thermal control technology. Known as Oscillating Heat Pipes (OHPs), the technology provides lightweight and more efficient temperature control on smaller spacecraft. Recently, OHP was launched in the second quarter of this year on a Maxar-built satellite.
Maxar space senior vice-president Chris Johnson said: “Maxar adopts the most innovative technologies to benefit our customers’ missions, and we are proud to support the commercial use of oscillating heat pipes developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and ThermAvant Technologies.
“This technology allowed us to provide increased capability to our customers in satisfying their desired performance needs.”
OHPs will enable the US Space Force (USSF) to execute missions at a low cost when compared to the active thermal management subsystem.
AFRL and its industry partners consider the OHPs to be the future of spacecraft thermal control.
AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Spacecraft Component Technology Branch thermal thrust lead Jon Allison said: “Oscillating heat pipes have flown in space before, but now OHPs are being relied upon to serve a mission purpose.
“The on-orbit operation of OHPs marks an important milestone in the technology transition.”
Allison expects this technology to drive spacecraft architecture for the next two decades. The OHPs implementations represent the beginning of the fourth generation of spacecraft thermal control. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
28 Oct 21. US, China, Russia Test New Space War Tactics: Sats Buzzing, Spoofing, Spying. Models shared exclusively with Breaking Defense offer a rare glimpse into nation-on-nation run-ins in space as satellites follow, flee, and, allegedly, listen in on each other. China has demonstrated the ability to track and maneuver a satellite with a remarkably high degree of precision, allowing the Chinese military to spot a US satellite moving close and then to redirect its own satellite away from the US bird in little more than 24 hours, according to never-before-seen video recreations.
In a July 2021 incident, USA 271, a space surveillance satellite developed covertly by the Air Force and Orbital Sciences, approaches Chinese satellite SJ-20, the PRC’s heaviest and one of its most advanced satellites. The US satellite, part of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSAPP), shadows the Chinese bird in parallel. But then the Chinese clearly detect the US satellite and rapidly move theirs away. (Pro tip: If you look closely, you can see how close the two satellites are by looking under “Ranges” in the video below.)
This is a rare glimpse into the often highly classified realm of nation-to-nation run-ins in space — and potential future space warfare tactics — made possible by COMSPOC, a company that provides space tracking and other information to private companies and governments. While the US military tracks objects in space, it restricts data about those with national security implications — especially US spy sats. COMSPOC provided several videos illustrating various interactions to Breaking Defense for this report.
“They start doing calibration maneuvers and they’re very, very small maneuvers, so it’s hard. It’s about having the right system that can process and detect those small maneuvers when you’re that close,” said Jim Cooper, lead for space situational awareness at COMSPOC.
In another example involving only Chinese spacecraft, the PLA in 2018 launched and deployed what the US suspects is a counterspace satellite known as the TJS 3 (Tongxin Jishu Shiyan). According to the COMSPOC data, TJS 3 took position in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), in parallel to its apogee kick motor (the upper stage of the rocket).
“You see, all of a sudden they’re both right there, maneuvered to change their orbits, and they did that at the exact same time, and then the exact same way,” Cooper explained about the May 2019 incident. “So those maneuvers were basically done in tandem with each other. And you can see that the apogee kick motor — which is basically a rocket body — is now flying where the TJS 3 counterspace platform used to be,” he said.
Why did an upper stage rocket remnant in GEO suddenly fire up thrusters and start moving parallel to the satellite it helped push into orbit?
“What we think is happening here is the development and experimentation and validation of what we call a tactic, technique and procedure, a TTP, to spoof an enemy’s network for SSA [space situational awareness],” Cooper believes.
The maneuver occurred just as the day-night terminator passed by. “So we think that they timed this such that if an optical telescope was trying to look up there and see that maneuver, they would not catch it,” he said.
A country monitoring the Chinese bird would see this spent rocket body (the kick motor) now sitting where the payload was and mistake the kick motor for the satellite. Right after that happens, TGS 3 leaves the area — a very large maneuver. That, Cooper says, could gain China several days of freedom during which they could “be off doing things that are potentially threatening” while the other country has lost track of where the Chinese satellite is.
China certainly isn’t alone in its ability to move its satellites and control them. Russia and the United States have both demonstrated this capability numerous times. Of course, as veteran space watchers know, there can be multiple applications for a satellite that can move with precision.
“There are good things happening in space today that includes things like on-orbit servicing, refueling, end-of-life disposal; all of those types of operations require satellites to get very close to and in some cases to dock with each other,” Cooper said. “But […] you can also do intentionally nefarious or threatening things with that same type of technology. What’s the actual intent as we watch this?”
Cooper said intent is “definitely” something Space Force and Space Command are concerned about.
“With that idea of space domain awareness comes understanding of the intent of the activities that they’re seeing,” he said.
The video above recounts the time in November 2019 that a Russian Luch/Olymp satellite approaches within 1.8 kilometers of an American commercial satellite, Intelsat 36, which provides service to sub-Saharan Africa and Asia .
“If they’re going to do something like this approach that close to another satellite, that could probably be deemed an irresponsible behavior,” Cooper said. “Even if they do have the precise SSA to define that Intelsat 36 orbit, you don’t know what Intelsat 36 is going to do next.”
Intelsat may be planning a maneuver, for example. If that happened, it could, Cooper noted, “very well end up in a disastrous collision because they’re that close to each other and neither of them knew what the other satellite was doing.”
Intelsat has seen this kind of behavior before, in 2015, when a Luch satellite took up position between two Intelsat satellites for five months. Space News reported at the time that this led to classified meetings among US government officials.
And that Russian satellite didn’t just pass by Intelsat 36, as the video below showing a year of the satellite’s progress makes clear, it soared by more than two dozen satellites, often pausing close to them.
In 2018 France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, claimed that during the year before a Luch/Olymp spacecraft approached the Athena-Fidus satellite, a French-Italian satellite launched in 2014 and used for secure military communications and the planning of operations, according to The Associated Press. “Trying to listen to one’s neighbor is not only unfriendly It’s called an act of espionage,” Parly said at the time. Of course, a great deal of what goes on in space is espionage, and espionage is not illegal.
But what does this conduct say about Russian capabilities?
“First off, do they have the very, very precise space situational awareness on that Intel satellite to know specifically where it is,” Cooper said. “But what they’re doing, at least as far as we can conclude, is getting close enough to these other satellites, and you see, time-wise, they stay close to these other satellites for weeks or months at a time. And what they’re probably doing is getting inside that [satellite’s] uplink from the ground and collecting intelligence from that [operator’s] uplink to that satellite.”
Cooper said that the Russian satellite’s actions amount to “clearly provocative behavior.”
“It’s clearly concerning from a commerce space technology perspective and if you’re the DoD, you want to be paying attention to these kinds of things,” he said. “But, obviously, one country can do things with one of its satellites around another one of its satellites and who’s to say they can’t do that, right?”
China has so far done what are called Rendezvous Proximity Operations (RPO) only with their own satellites, according to said Brian Weeden, a top military space expert at the Secure World Foundation. “As far as I know, China has never done an RPO with another country’s satellite,” he said.
The US had not released public data on RPOs performed by US satellites until the end of 2019, when they started releasing some data, he said.
“Apparently, they [DoD] have had multiple reviews of how to improve sharing. They are starting to provide more provisional information about some of these classified objects, but not all and not all the time,” Weeden said.
Now, none of this is a violation of international law. But these very close approaches, shadowing operations, spoofing and other actions do raise the risk of collisions.
“This all shows why there is an urgent need for the US, Russia, and China to talk about norms when it comes to close approaches and military activities in the GEO region,” Weeden said.
He pointed to the 1972 Incidents at Sea agreement between the Soviet Union and the US as a good example. “We need an Incidents in Space agreement.”
One of the key reasons for such an agreement would be to limit the fast-growing problem of space debris. The Defense Department currently tracks more than 27,000 objects in space, most of which is debris — such as defunct rocket bodies, according to NASA.
(Source: Breaking Defense.com)
26 Oct 21. France launches first Syracuse IV telecommunications satellite. An Ariane 5 rocket launched from the Guiana Space Centre placed France’s new Syracuse 4A military telecommunications satellite in low orbit on 22 October.
The first of three Syracuse IV satellites designed by Airbus and Thales will become operational in nine months, seven months after it reaches geostationary orbit propelled by its Safran electric motor (the consumption of which is six times lower than a conventional motor) and two months of testing. Test centres of the Direction Générale de l’Armement , the French defence procurement agency, carried out stress tests to prepare for the vibration of the launch.
Syracuse IV produces a throughput three times higher (1.5 Gbit/sec) than Syracuse III by operating in two bands: X and Ka. Three satellites are to be placed in orbit: the second in 2022 and the third on an unknown date.
Over 400 new-generation ground stations are also to be delivered. Among the new systems connected will be the Phénix Multi Role Tanker Transport, Scorpion armoured vehicles, and the new Suffren nuclear attack submarine.
The total cost of the Syracuse IV programme is EUR3.6 billion (nearly USD4.2 billion).
Syracuse IV is the first French military satellite with the ability to detect other satellites that are trying to gather information from it or to destroy it.
Two military telecommunications satellites of the previous generation, Syracuse III, are still in service, as is the Franco-Italian Sicral 2 satellite. One of the Syracuse III satellites will be deorbited in 2022 when Syracuse 4A is operational. (Source: Janes)
26 Oct 21. Kymeta’s Successful Test Demonstrates the Potential to Deliver Private LTE or 5GNR into a Smartphone via Broadband Satellite. Kymeta tests future connectivity capabilities using private LTE on the CBRS spectrum band using its state-of-the-art u8 terminal with integration to off-the-shelf products including Accelleran to successfully demonstrate range, performance, and resilience from the cloud via their satellite user terminal to a smartphone. Kymeta (www.kymetacorp.com), the communications company making mobile global, announced today the successful testing of private Long Term Evolution (LTE) small cell on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), demonstrating a complete connectivity solution that provides users with more reliable and robust connectivity directly to their smartphone and CBRS capable devices.
The trial was performed at Kymeta headquarters with a Kymeta™ u8 terminal, an off-the-shelf core running on an ARM single board compute (SBC), and an Accelleran small cell. The system delivers a turnkey solution to enhance the user experience by combining a private LTE network with the Kymeta terminal for broadband backhaul. CBRS enables a private intranet for communications to users like first responder teams and features video, push-to-talk, voice, and messaging apps within the CBRS coverage area while reserving the backhaul capacity for internet communications. In addition to backhaul, the system includes a core at the edge, allowing users’ devices to be bridged together locally without routing traffic back to the network core.
“Kymeta is testing and driving future technology breakthroughs as we look forward into our roadmap,” said Lilac Muller, Ph.D., Vice President of Product Management at Kymeta. “Public safety, defense, and enterprise authenticated users will have more resiliency from a small cell that is as easy as scanning a QR code. Smartphones will interact with the hybrid satellite terminal and CBRS as a private LTE hub and have both satellite and cellular backhaul in one solution.”
CBRS is a publicly available spectrum in the 3550-3700 MHz band (3.5 GHz band) designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 as a frequency for shared wireless, private broadband. It is divided among users into three tiers of authorization, including Incumbent Access users, Priority Access Licenses (PAL), and General Authorized Access (GAA).
The project’s success in demonstrating private LTE small cell on CBRS to a standard smartphone, from a system integrated with the Kymeta u8 terminal, is a notable achievement in helping chart a path for future user connectivity strategies and further validates Kymeta’s ability to develop future-proof solutions that satisfy the overwhelming demand for resilient mobile connectivity and improved user access. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
26 Oct 21. Blue Origin is building a low Earth orbit space station. Blue Origin is building a low Earth orbit space station for researchers, customers and visitors to use – set for “commercial business” in space to take off. The space giant is partnering with Colorado-based Sierra Space to build the station – dubbed Orbital Reef – to begin operating by the second half of this decade, the press release said.
“For over 60 years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade,” said Brent Sherwood, senior vice-president of advanced development programs for Blue Origin.
“We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalise space flight.”
The space station will provide services such as standard interfaces, technical support, planning, payload development, transportation, data analysis, habitation, equipment accommodation and more.
Blue Origin calls it a “mixed use business park” in space, allowing any customer or nation to “link up and scale support demand” through its amenities.
The first steps to commercialise space have been taken this year, as numerous companies have launched civilians into orbit after decades of only astronauts being given the opportunity.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin completed its first manned spaceflight onboard the New Shepard capsule on 20 July, only nine days after Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson reached orbit.
It is widely heralded that these flights have opened the door for space tourism, despite critics branding them “billionaire joyrides” – still inaccessible for the average citizen.
The press release stated Orbital Reef will be available for any customer, including seasoned space agencies, sovereign nations without space programs, media, travel companies and investors.
It is backed by numerous industry giants including Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.
“The Orbital Reef represents the next evolution of the commercial space paradigm by creating the first ever crewed private sector platform in low Earth orbit,” said Mike Gold, executive vice-president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire.
Redwire will provide services on Orbital Reef such as microgravity research, development, manufacturing, payload operations and deployable structures.
Gold said Orbital Reef will not compete against the International Space Station, but “carry forward” its legacy.
“Designed to open multiple new markets in space, Orbital Reef will provide anyone with the opportunity to establish their own address on orbit,” Blue Origin says.
“As the premier commercial destination in low Earth orbit, Orbital Reef will provide the essential infrastructure needed to scale economic activity and open new markets in space.” (Source: Space Connect)
20 Oct 21. LeoLabs announces sixth site as West Australian Space Radar. LeoLabs provides a commercial ‘mapping platform for space’ through its global network of space radars and cloud-based data solutions, which enable safe, secure, and sustainable space operations. LeoLabs announcement to build their sixth radar site near Bunbury in West Australia is a significant investment in the Australian Space Industry. The radar site is the company’s sixth in the global network and second to be built in the southern hemisphere. The West Australian Space Radar (WASR), as it will be known, will put Australia firmly on the global map of space surveillance nations. LeoLabs Australia is also proposing to domestically manufacture its next generation 2D phased array space radar systems in Australia under the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Collaboration Stream.
Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is the foundation of space safety, sustainability and Space Traffic Management (STM). LeoLabs is the world’s only commercial provider of space radar systems. Their S-band phased array space radar systems can detect small debris-sized objects down to 2cm in diameter. LeoLabs commissioned their Kiwi Space Radar site in November 2019 and this site alone collects on average 180,000 measurements per day or 7500 per hour. Combined with their latest Costa Rica Space Radar and the rest of their space radar network, LeoLabs is now the biggest provider of object data in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
LeoLabs Australia have announced that they will construct the company’s sixth space radar site, the ‘West Australian Space Radar’ (WASR), near Bunbury, Western Australia. Site works will commence in late 2021 and the two radars there are expected to be fully operational by October 2022. LeoLabs and their global customers recognise the important strategic location of Western Australia. Siting of the WASR near Bunbury will significantly expand LeoLabs coverage of LEO in the southern hemisphere. It also adds critical coverage in the Indo Pacific region that addresses an important early orbit corridor for LEO from Asia, whilst maintaining additional coverage of polar and sun-synchronous orbits in the Indo Pacific region.
“LeoLabs growing network of space radars aims to detect and track the growing debris problem and other threats in low earth orbit, such that space operators can safely and efficiently conduct their space operations” LeoLabs Australia Director Terry van Haren.
The addition of the new WASR will significantly improve data acquisition, overall performance and LeoLabs’ contribution to space safety and sustainability in LEO. The WASR will increase LeoLabs’ capacity for tracking small objects and debris and improve timeliness for detecting spacecraft manoeuvres and orbit changes. Modelling with live data suggests that the WASR will conduct on average 200 000 measurements per day (8000 per hour) and see over 8000 radar passes of catalogued objects per day. At 33 degrees south, the WASR will capture 80% of LEO traffic. The orientation of the parallel radar fields of regard have been optimised to compliment the location and orientation of the Kiwi Space Radar. These two radars alone add significant space surveillance to the Southern Hemisphere.
WASR is part of a LeoLabs strategic long term business direction. LeoLabs are not only making the investment in the radar site but are committed to establishing a permanent presence in Australia with a growing team of Space and Defence experts in LeoLabs Pty Ltd Australia; led by retired Air Commodore Terry van Haren DSM. Terry van Haren is a former Commander, Director, fighter pilot, veteran and in his last posting was the Air and Space Attaché in the USA. He established and led the Australian Embassy Interagency Space Working Group and participated in three Schriever (Strategic Space) War Games; leading the contingent in 2019. LeoLabs sees Australia as a future space leader in the Asia – Pacific region and aims to establish an independent Australian business that can grow with the Australian Space Enterprise.
Additionally, the company is offering to invest further in Australia with the manufacturing and development of LeoLabs next-generation modular space radar system under the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative Collaboration Stream. LeoLabs Australia is collaborating with five Australian companies: Lintek, SRX Global, Ampcontrol Australia, Murray Consulting Solutions, and Restek from the University of Newcastle. Under this proposal, LeoLabs Australia and partners will manufacture under license and then build: (1) LeoLabs first 2D modular LEO space radar in the Northern Territory; and (2) the world’s first commercial Deep Space Radar in north western Australia. The modular space radar system is described as exquisite technology that will be exported world-wide to LeoLabs sites over an expected ten-year production run, with overall export earning potentially over 400 mil AUD.
Dan Ceperley, CEO and cofounder of LeoLabs said “this radar site is a massive, visible step forward in LeoLabs’ long-term investment in Australia. It started earlier this year with hiring a world-class team led by Terry. This radar site and this team will make Australia a space surveillance superpower and will be the foundation of transparency, sustainability, and deterrence in space for decades to come.”
This bold ambition to build a deep space radar follows on from experimentation LeoLabs has performed with the Costa Rica Space Radar in the earlier part of the year. In this experiment LeoLabs was able to show it was able to search, detect and track two large satellites in the GEO belt using a LEO designed low power radar. The results of this experiment were tabled at the AMOS conference in September. Based on these results, system design and modelling, LeoLabs is confident it will be able to scale up the radar power and aperture to achieve small object tracking in GEO with its next generation modular radar system and current architecture. If successful, the commercial Deep Space Radar wil be a strategically important asset as it will be able to maintain ‘neighbourhood watch’ in the Indo – Pacific region. With potentially three space radars in Australia and the Kiwi radar close by, the project will produce persistent, reliable and responsive radar-based space surveillance and enable LeoLabs to detect and track every object in every orbit (LEO to GEO) in Australia’s orbital area of interest.
LeoLabs Australia also intends to rehost the LeoLabs data platform on an Australian cloud provider to provide sovereign control, national resilience and redundancy in even the most challenging cyber environments. With the LeoLabs data platform hosted in Australia, LeoLabs Australia will provide the local space industry with a unique opportunity to gain customised products and services and benefit from this dynamic mapping product for space. The platform is designed for either web client access, command line interface or direct machine to machine data transfer through the application programming interface (API). The output should be a service that offers the Australian Space Industry a strategic data advantage that will enable services such as dynamic launch, collision assessment on launch, early orbit processing, plus our other regular services such as track and monitor and collision avoidance. Our aim is to enable the entire Australian Industry to realise benefits that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential future export and space revenues.
With its growing network of phased array radars and cloud-based data platform there is no doubt that LeoLabs will transform SDA in Australia. Transparency will drive safe, sustainable and secure space operations and will propel Australian industry growth, enabling billions in new revenues in adjacent sectors.
Founded in 2016 as a venture-funded spinout of Silicon Valley research pioneers SRI International, LeoLabs provides access to critical mapping and SDA data for Low Earth Orbit (LEO). LeoLabs today serves regulatory and space agencies, commercial satellite operators, defence, and scientific/academic organisations that are driving generational change in LEO. LeoLabs’ core technology includes a patent-pending global phased-array radar network which tracks debris and satellites in LEO. Observations generated from this network are the foundation of the LeoLabs mapping and SDA software platform providing timely and accurate orbital and situational data.
Further information on LeoLabs is available at www.leolabs.com.au
(Source: Space Connect)
26 Oct 21. UK working with global partners to clear up dangerous space debris. The UK Space Agency is today announcing a range of different initiatives aimed at supporting safe and sustainable space operations.
From developing our space tracking capabilities and promoting international efforts in space sustainability, to finding novel ways of removing space debris – the UK is leading the way to ensure the Earth’s orbit can continue to be used now and in the future.
Orbital congestion and space debris remains one of the biggest global challenges facing the space sector. There are currently an estimated 900,000 pieces of space debris including old satellites, spent rocket bodies and even tools dropped by astronauts orbiting Earth.
Space debris can stay in orbit for hundreds of years and present a real danger to the rapidly increasing number of new satellites being launched each year.
The projects being announced today, during the 72nd International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, are:
- a collaboration between the UK Space Agency and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to support the next stage of international efforts to promote space sustainability. UK Space Agency funding will support a collaborative effort to advance global awareness on space sustainability and how best to implement the UN Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS Guidelines)
- two space firms, Astroscale and ClearSpace, have been awarded UK Space Agency funding to research a UK led mission to remove junk from space, supporting the government’s ambitions to be a leading nation in tackling space debris.
- the UK Space Agency will also partner with US-based company Numerica Corporation, which will provide high-quality space surveillance and tracking (SST) data from a worldwide network of optical telescopes and state-of-the-art software solutions to help keep UK satellites safely operating.
Science Minister George Freeman said: “Growing reliance on satellites for a range of everyday utilities from SatNav to meteorology is making the space tech sector increasingly valuable to the UK economy. Our National Space Strategy sets out our vision for a thriving UK space sector that pushes the boundaries of innovation including a specific commitment to lead in clearing space debris.”
These new projects will support our leading role in cleaning up our orbit, which has been neglected for far too long, and will help keep satellites operating safely so they can continue to provide vital services such as communications and climate change monitoring.
Further action is being taken to improve the UK’s SST services that can predict hazards in orbit and alert satellite operators to potential collisions in space. This builds on existing work with the Ministry of Defence to bring together data and analysis for civil, military and commercial space users, as set out in the National Space Strategy.
These are just the latest developments the UK Space Agency is making in cleaning up space. In 2020 it awarded seven UK companies a share of over £1 million to help track debris in space.
In January 2021, the UK Space Agency and UNOOSA signed an initial agreement to support international efforts to promote space sustainability through a series of events and engagement activities. Today’s announcement continues this partnership.
Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, said:
The democratization and intensification we see in the space sector represent encouraging news for the future. The sustainability challenges this new era creates must be addressed as a priority to ensure that the space sector can thrive. We must look at every action we take in space through the lens of sustainability, for which the LTS Guidelines provide an outstanding framework.
This project, generously funded by our UK partners, will continue to share information and examples of the practical implementation of the LTS Guidelines. By amplifying existing expertise of member States and international actors, it supports the promotion of actionable solutions.
The UK is also the leading contributor to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Safety programme, which provides collaboration and funding opportunities for UK scientists and industry. The programme recently awarded funding to Astroscale to develop the technology to remove a OneWeb communications satellite and to ClearSpace to implement the first-ever space mission dedicated to removing an existing object in orbit.
The UK space sector is a huge economic success story employing over 45,000 people in highly skilled jobs – from space scientists and researchers to engineers and satellite manufacturers. Government plans to strengthen the UK as a world-class space nation were set out last month in the National Space Strategy which outlines long-term plans to grow the UK space sector and consolidate the UK’s role as a science and technology superpower.
Projects in detail
In this feasibility study, the UK subsidiary of Astroscale, based in Harwell and specialising in satellite servicing and orbital sustainability across all orbits, will explore the development of technology to remove multiple retired satellites in a single mission.
This new national project could build on other Astroscale missions such as ELSA-M and ELSA-d, with ELSA-d already in orbit and comprising a spacecraft servicer demonstrating debris capture technology of a test satellite. The Astroscale team will work alongside partners including TAS and MDA to complement their extensive systems engineering, guidance, navigation and control (GNC), Mission Operations and Ground Segment expertise.
John Auburn, Managing Director, Astroscale Ltd, said: “The UK government is taking an important leadership role to plan the very first UK Active Debris removal mission to capture two defunct satellites in space. Astroscale’s technology is currently in space demonstrating debris removal with our ELSA-d mission. Our ELSA-M service will be capable of removing multiple failed satellites in a single mission. This capability, combined with our expert partners TAS and MDA, will enable Astroscale to support the UK government’s ambitious strategic goals to: rapidly accelerate space sector growth; drive the UK’s in-orbit servicing sector; and secure a sustainable space environment for future generations.”
ClearSpace – subject to final agreement
ClearSpace UK team, will study the feasibility of the first mission dedicated to removing decommissioned satellites as well as a sizable piece of debris that has been in orbit for many years. ClearSpace is focusing on developing the core technologies, including target sensors, navigation, and capture robotics, among other elements, while bringing together partners, including Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, Deimos Space UK and Satellite Applications Catapult, to execute the overall mission.
Rory Holmes, UK Lead, ClearSpace, said: “With this initiative, the UK Space Agency is enabling UK companies to obtain the first-mover advantage in this vitally important field. ClearSpace is excited to work with industry-leading UK space companies to develop the technologies and missions needed to remove debris from orbit, making today’s missions safer and preserving the space environment for future generations.”
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is a UN body based in Vienna, Austria. Amongst its’ roles, it maintains the UN Registry of Objects launched in Outer Space and works to ensure the sustainability of outer activities, fostering international solutions to problems such as the rapid increase in space debris to preserve space for future generations.
It also serves as the Secretariat for the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). As part of this project UNOOSA will consult with a range of nations to understand how to support the implementation of the long-term sustainability guidelines that were established through COPUOS. This project builds upon a previous phase of UK funding to UNOOSA, the outputs of which can be found here
As a leader in space domain awareness, Numerica operates a global telescope network of over twenty sites to help protect government and commercial satellites from on-orbit hazards and threats. In addition to providing real-time data products for decision support, Numerica also builds customized telescopes and sensor systems so organizations can track objects in low earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO).
High-quality observations produced by the Numerica Telescope Network (NTN) on behalf of the UK Space Agency will enable enhanced space domain awareness of UK-licensed satellites in deep-space including GEO, medium earth orbits (MEO) and highly elliptical orbits (HEO). This data will allow the UK Space Agency to better estimate the position, velocity, and trajectory of satellites to mitigate the risk of collision with other space objects.
Jeff Aristoff, Vice President of space systems at Numerica said:
Numerica is thrilled to support the UK Space Agency with their mission of space sustainability through the use of innovative satellite tracking capabilities.
We developed the Numerica Telescope Network for operations just like this to help prevent collisions in space and to keep watch over this increasingly important domain. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Oct 21. SpaceLink names OHB preferred tenderer for satellite manufacturing. SpaceLink, a wholly owned US subsidiary of Canberra-based Electro Optic Systems Holdings Limited, has selected German satellite manufacturer OHB Systems AG as the preferred tenderer for its initial constellation of four high-capacity optical relay satellites. The total value of the Contract is expected to exceed $300m.
The optical relay satellites are Medium Eearth Orbit (MEO) devices designed to take signals from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites with a relatively low revisit rate and relay them quickly back to earth
“Following an in-depth review of multiple manufacturing proposals, we found that OHB excelled at meeting our requirements,” said David Bettinger, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceLink. “OHB provided an advanced technical solution, based on its experience with Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, processed payloads, and secure optical communications.”
Negotiations with OHB have reached an advanced stage and the relevant terms and conditions of the Contract are expected to be legally finalized in the coming week. In addition, OHB intends to invest $25 million into SpaceLink as the cornerstone investor in the first tranche of financing for the project.
OHB System AG is one of the three leading space system providers in Europe. The company belongs to the listed high tech group OHB SE, employing around 3000 specialists and system engineers on European space programs and has sites in Bremen and Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich.
SpaceLink aims to deliver a new age of space commerce, exploration, environmental awareness, and security. The Always in Sight™ data relay system provides global coverage to empower space system operators to maximize use of their assets. SpaceLink Corporation is headquartered in the Washington DC area and has offices in Silicon Valley, California. (Source: Rumour Control)
22 Oct 21. EM Solutions completes development of naval SATCOM capability. The company has been certified to deploy its new terminal antenna system across defence applications. EOS subsidiary EM Systems has secured Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) certification for its new satellite terminal antenna diversity system (ADS). This enables the company to integrate the capability with terminals accessing the military WGS deployed by navies around the world. The ADS is designed to automatically sense and switch traffic between dual antennas when one of the signals is blocked from satellite view. The system can also split traffic between the dual antennas when visibility is established for both signals. This latest achievement follows on from ADS’s receipt of certification for operation on the commercial Inmarsat GX network.
“The ADS is an important innovation that has been several years in development for our navy customers in Australia, Europe, and the Middle East,” EM Solutions CEO Dr Rowan Gilmore said.
“If one satellite terminal is blocked from seeing the satellite by the ship’s mast or another structure the system automatically directs traffic to a second terminal on the other side of the ship.
“It also increases the resilience of the link since two terminals and their channels are normally available.”
EM Solutions is processing an 18-month order book for the supply of satellite terminals to several navies across the globe, and expects to double its factory capacity to accommodate production of the dual systems that support the ADS.
EM Solutions’ Cobra terminals are billed as the only globally-available maritime terminals capable of accessing both the WGS and other commercial constellations such as Inmarsat GX.
“The ADS is unique technology since it switches the physical path of a channel from multiple modems to the appropriate satellite antenna,” Dr Gilmore added.
“Avoiding the use of a router makes switching automatic and prevents any complexities associated with encryption. We believe it will make a step change in the resilience of naval communications.” (Source: Defence Connect)
22 Oct 21. Capella Space signs CRADA agreement with US Army’s SMDTC centre. The agreement will see the company and SMDTC integrate SAR service into networks and platforms of the US Army. Information services company Capella Space has signed an agreement to integrate its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data into the US Army’s Payload Development Lab. The cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) was signed with the US Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center (SMDTC). Under the CRADA agreement, the two entities will integrate SAR service into networks and platforms of the army. This integration will help meet tactical user requirements for quick tasking and delivery of space data. The agreement will also see Capella Space explore other space-based technology concepts within test and simulated environments. US Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) Technical Center director Tom Webber said: “SMDTC is looking forward to this partnership with the team at Capella Space.
“Capella is the first US company to commercialise SAR and is uniquely positioned to provide mission-critical support to tactical users and advance the army’s critical mission.”
Capella noted that its SAR data quickly and securely gathers quality imagery.
In addition to claiming to capture images during most weather conditions, day and night, the SARs system can capture amplitude, phase the historical data, and enables the extraction of intelligence data, including material properties, moisture, and even other small changes and movements that otherwise are possible with electro-optical imagery.
Capella Space CEO and founder Payam Banazadeh said: “Every day, the United States Armed Forces are tasked with keeping the peace and saving lives across multiple domains in a state of constant change. (Source: army-technology.com)
22 Oct 21. Imagery Industry Seeking Direct DoD Sales In Wake Of Tiny NRO Bid.
“I’d call it a VERY minor slow toe dip,” said one stunned company rep, trying to find polite words.
In recent months, commercial remote sensing company representatives have become increasingly jaded with long-standing promises by the National Reconnaissance Office to increase its acquisition from, and support of, the burgeoning industry.
Many in industry had their hopes raised in the waning years of the Trump administration, and more recently by strong congressional pressure on the agency to take commercial providers seriously. More were cheered earlier this month at the annual GEOINT Symposium, when Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stacey Dixon reiterated the robust support of the Intelligence Community, as well as the Biden White House, for this capability.
But behind all the smiles and promises, a number of industry officials tell Breaking Defense, the facts on the ground tell a different story.
For example, industry officials are pushing back against the NRO’s move, first revealed by Breaking Defense, to impose a kind of “shutter control” on sales to other customers via its contracting process. Meanwhile, word on the street is that NRO’s fiscal year 2022 budget for purchasing commercial data has been slashed, along with that of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which buys analytical products from commercial remote sensing firms. (Neither IC agency will discuss its budget.)
And for that reason, at least some industry execs now say they are pivoting marketing efforts away from the NRO and instead focusing on direct sales to other US national security customers, such as the military services and Combatant Commands — and even foreign governments. This is in part because many commercial remote sensing firms, both in the US and abroad, have been funded by short-term venture capital, and waiting for substantial contracts come to fruition can be a life or death matter.
Such a shift could chip away at the relevancy of both the NRO and the NGA, which relies on NRO to provide imagery for its map making and other GEOINT products for US government customers. Indeed, former senior US intelligence official Sue Gordon earlier this month raised the question of how the IC can maintain its role “in a world that now has access to all the same data.”
In the midst of this grumbling comes a new blow to industry confidence, in the form of an Oct. 12 release of NRO’s new Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Framework for Strategic Commercial Enhancements.
The BAA is an umbrella tool that, according to an email from NRO, covers acquisition of “new and emerging phenomenologies, such as commercial radar, hyperspectral imagery, radio frequency remote sensing, etc., as well as emerging and evolving electro-optical capabilities.” It was much touted by NRO leaders at the GEOINT Symposium earlier this month as a means to move forward more quickly than a traditional contracting pathway, developed after years of studying how commercial data best fits into the agency’s data architecture.
Along with the details of the framework (available to registered industry at NRO’s online contracting hub), NRO released a formal solicitation for bids in the first focus area, commercial SAR, open to both US and foreign-owned, US-based firms. The SAR solicitation is thus the model that NRO is using for acquisition of future “emerging phenomenologies,” with its acquisition of electro-optical imagery being kept under a more traditional contracting path.
For the SAR solicitation, “the combined stage 1 and 2 award is anticipated at $1.2 million. These awards could be made to a single provider, multiple providers, or no provider,” an NRO spokesperson confirmed in an email Thursday.
In response to a question about industry concerns and whether follow-on contracts are anticipated, the spy agency spokesperson said: “Mission requirements and needs will determine whether follow-on acquisition efforts for each of the BAA focus areas are required.”
Which, industry sources say, means that there is no way to know if a phase 3 follow-on will actually include real money, making it hard for remote sensing firms to plan how much time and effort to put toward winning NRO awards — and giving them even more incentive to abandon trying to work with the agency in favor of other customers.
Death By Study For Commercial SAR?
The tiny contract size and its duration of 30 months — the same magnitude as a typical government study contract — was a bit of a shock to industry players.
“I’d call it a VERY minor slow toe dip,” said one company rep, trying to find polite words. At the same time, the source said, “In the words of good parenting, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”
For context, Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards, used regularly by the Defense Department to bolster development of cutting-edge tech by small firms, have a range of $50,000 to $250,000 over six months. Follow-on Phase 2 contracts are generally about for $750,000 over two years.
“My question is, why are we studying this again,” said another frustrated industry source, noting that the capabilities of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sat companies have been demonstrated not just directly to NRO but also in various Combatant Command and service exercises. “We, the collective we, know what SAR does,” the source said. “So, if we have data that can help inform decision-makers today, why aren’t we getting it to them?”
A perfect example comes from Thursday’s announcement from Capella Space that it has reached a new agreement with the Army to explore the use of firm’s SAR satellite imagery. According to the release, Capella not only received a contract from NRO in 2019, but also over the past year has “signed and maintained contracts with the US Navy, US Air Force, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, In-Q-Tel, the Space Development Agency, and the US Space Force to provide on-demand, high-resolution SAR data and analytics.” (Although to be fair, other industry sources note, those contracts are small.)
Capella also took “gold’ for best SAR image resolution in the NGA’s recent “Remote Sensing Olympics” comparing global capabilities of commercial companies.
And Capella is neither the only US SAR sat firm, nor the world’s first commercial SAR sat company looking to sell to the US government and the international market. Canadian company MDA Ltd. has the honor of being the first commercial firm to launch a SAR sat, RadarSat-2, in 2007, and has been selling SAR imagery since that time. And Umbra, another California startup, emerged from stealth mode earlier this summer, pitching itself directly at the US government market.
Finland’s ICEYE, which has a US arm, markets itself as the owner of the world’s first constellation of smallsats using SAR, with 14 birds now on orbit. The tiny company came in first in the NGA mock Olympics for highest revisit rate — that is, how often one of its satellites can return to the same ground target and take an image. The US arm of the multinational European aerospace conglomerate Airbus, Airbus U.S. Space and Defense, also is offering commercial SAR products to US government customers. Airbus is the biggest commercial SAR player in the European market.
To the NRO’s credit, said the disappointed source, part of the reason for the BAA’s small size and long duration is that the spy agency is trying to keep open possible awards to very early startups. For those companies, NRO has to do more extensive evaluation — including to ensure that new sources of data can be integrated with its own complex computer networks and top secret data. Still, the source noted, the solicitation could have been shaped into phases that would have allowed NRO to buy available imagery now, and wrap in new providers at a later time.
Meanwhile, military commanders are clamoring for ever-more imagery and other types of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data from satellites (such as signals intelligence) to support future All Domain Operations around the globe with Russia and China.
The Army, at the moment, is the service most involved in trying to directly get its hands on remote sensing imagery and sat-provided ISR, not just from SAR sat operators but those providing electro-optical and other types of sensors. But the Space Force also recently put its hand up, pushing to expand its current role in providing commercial communications bandwidth to include remote sensing and ISR, eyeing service contracts with providers for open, long-term access.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Combatant Commands are eyeing using their own funding pots to acquire timely remote sensing/ISR satellite data. For example, Capella was an industry participant in the recent Northern Edge 21 exercise, sponsored every other year by Indo-Pacific Command.
“And COCOMS don’t want to wait two and a half years for this data” from NRO, one industry source noted.
The Army’s new deal with Capella is a no-cost Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the US Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center (SMDTC). It will see Capella integrating SAR data into the Army’s Payload Development Lab, which is exploring SAR and “other space-based technology concepts within both simulated and test environments,” the release says.
“Capella space is excited to be working with the United States Army as we continue to expand our support to the Department of Defense as the leading US provider of commercial SAR,” Amy Hopkins, the company’s new vice president of government services, told Breaking Defense.
Army SMDTC, as its website explains, “provides technologies to meet today’s requirements and future needs in directed energy, space, cyberspace, hypersonics and integrated air and missile defense.”
Tom Webber, the SMDTC director, said in the press release: “Capella is the first U.S. company to commercialize SAR and is uniquely positioned to provide mission-critical support to tactical users and advance the Army’s critical mission.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
22 Oct 21. US AFMC reaches IOC as servicing major command for USSF. Full operational capability is expected to be reached by the end of next year. The US Air Force’s (USAF) Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) has reached initial operational capability (IOC) for its support to the US Space Force (USSF). This milestone was declared on 1 October this year. Over the past year, a set of steps were undertaken by the USAF and USSF to help in achieving the designation of AFMC as a servicing major command (MAJCOM) for the USSF. Among these actions featured a programming plan, which was approved this summer. This programming plan detailed the functional support to be provided to airmen attached to the USSF, by the AFMC. During the declaration of the IOC, an agreement was signed between the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and USSF. The functions to be carried out and the workforce who will be serviced by AFMC were also then identified.
In a press statement, the USAF stated: “As the servicing MAJCOM, AFMC will accomplish the roles and responsibilities traditionally performed by a major command for the airmen supporting the space force.
“These major command functions typically include, but are not limited to, providing policy guidance; professional development opportunities/guidance; developmental team representation; and functional-specific roles.”
According to the USAF, some 8,000 airmen deployed to installations and units of the USSF will be serviced by the Air Force Materiel Command in due course.
Full operational capability (FOC) is expected to be reached by fall next year.
FOC will be only achieved once all functional areas are completely supported by AFMC, and it has filled in all the positions needed to offer servicing major command support to US Space Force airmen.
The DAF has launched this first-time servicing MAJCOM structure so that space force-assigned airmen receive the same force development opportunities and other functional support as those deployed at USAF installations.
In August this year, the US Space Force officially established the second field command that will be responsible for developing and procuring resilient space capabilities for troops. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
19 Oct 21. Rocket Lab’s Upcoming Launch Of BlackSky Constellation Smallsats To Also Attempt 1st Stage Electron Rocket Ocean Recovery. Rocket Lab USA, Inc. will attempt a controlled, ocean splashdown and recovery of the first stage of an Electron rocket during the company’s next launch in November. The mission will be Rocket Lab’s third ocean recovery of an Electron stage; however, it will be the first time a helicopter will be stationed in the recovery zone around 200 nautical miles offshore to track and visually observe a descending stage in preparation for future aerial capture attempts. The helicopter will not attempt a mid-air capture for this mission but will test communications and tracking to refine the concept of operations (CONOPS) for future Electron aerial capture.
The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission is scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand during a 14-day launch window that opens on November 11, 2021, UTC. The mission’s primary objective is to deploy two Earth Observation (EO) satellites for global monitoring company BlackSky, with the secondary objective to splash down and recover Electron’s first stage to further validate Rocket Lab’s recovery operations and hardware.
Rocket Lab will be tracking the stage’s descent from space and as it approaches 19,000 ft (5.7 km) from the ocean surface, a helicopter will be dispatched to conduct reconnaissance of the returning booster. The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission will also include new recovery hardware developments to Electron including an advanced parachute to be deployed from the first stage at a higher-altitude, allowing for a slower drift back to Earth to test communications and tracking for future aerial recovery.
Electron also features improvements to the first stage heat shield which protects the rocket’s nine Rutherford engines while they endure up to 2200 °C heat and incredible pressure on the descent back to Earth. A team of Rocket Lab engineers and technicians will again be stationed at sea with their purpose-built Ocean Recovery and Capture Apparatus (ORCA) to retrieve the stage from the ocean and return it to Rocket Lab’s production complex in New Zealand for analysis and inspection.
The rocket engine, named Rutherford after the famous New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford, is a Lox/Kerosene regenerative cooled pump fed engine that is intended to be the future workhorse for Rocket Lab orbital launcher program. Rutherford test firing photo is courtesy of the company.
“As one of only two companies to recover an orbital-class booster from space, we’ve proven it’s possible to make Electron the world’s first orbital-class reusable small launch vehicle,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. “We’ve perfected Electron’s controlled descent, demonstrated flawless parachute deployment, and successfully plucked stages from the ocean. Now we’re gearing up for the next stage – preparing to use a helicopter to catch a rocket as it descends to Earth from space. It’s ambitious, but with each recovery mission we’ve iterated and refined the hardware and processes to make the impossible ordinary. I’m excited to take what we learn from this launch and put it into practice with aerial capture missions in future.”
The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission follows two previous ocean splashdown recovery missions; the ‘Return to Sender’ mission in November 2020, and the ‘Running Out of Toes’ mission in May 2021. A live stream of the launch and real-time updates of recovery operations for ‘Love At First Insight’ will be available on Rocket Lab’s social media channels and website.
Approximately two and a half minutes after lift-off, the nine Rutherford engines on Electron’s first stage will shut down and Electron’s first and second stages will separate. Electron’s second stage will continue with the customer’s payload to space, where the Kick Stage will separate and deploy the satellites. Following stage separation, Electron’s first stage will begin its descent. A cold-gas reaction control system will position the stage on an ideal angle to re-enter the atmosphere.
While descending, Electron’s first stage is expected to experience intense heat and pressure while traveling up to eight times the speed of sound before significantly decelerating to enable a drogue parachute to be deployed. At approximately seven and a half minutes into the mission, Electron’s drogue parachute will be deployed at around 43,000 ft (13 km) altitude. This drogue parachute both increases the booster’s drag and stabilizes its descent as it approaches the ocean.
Earlier and higher than on previous flights, the large main parachute will be deployed less than a minute after the drogue, at an altitude of 19,000 ft (5.7 km) to further slow the stage and enable a controlled splashdown. A key objective of this mission is to increase the drift-time of Electron’s first stage to test communications and tracking for future aerial recovery efforts.
Upon receiving the all-clear from the recovery team stationed at sea, a nearby helicopter will be deployed to sight the returning stage and observe its descent to record data that will help refine Electron aerial capture CONOPS. Once in the ocean, Rocket Lab engineers will attempt to retrieve the stage onboard their vessel with their purpose-built Ocean Recovery and Capture Apparatus (ORCA), a specialised cradle and winch system manufactured to Electron specifications and dimensions, before transporting the stage back to Rocket Lab’s production complex for analysis and inspection.
The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission is the latest in a multi-launch agreement signed earlier this year for BlackSky between Rocket Lab and Spaceflight Inc., which is providing integration and mission management services for BlackSky. This mission will deploy the eighth and ninth satellites of BlackSky’s planned constellation as part of that rapid-launch agreement, with another four Gen-2 smallsats across the two additional Electron dedicated missions to follow. (Source: Satnews)
17 Oct 21. SnT and SES’ Partnership Launches Lab To Focus On NextGen Satellite Connectivity, Quantum Communications And More. Both of these teams will explore the benefits of high-throughput satellite systems in the areas of next-generation networks, including quantum communications and cybersecurity. SES and the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) announced the creation of a joint lab that will explore the benefits of high-throughput satellite systems in the areas of next-generation networks, including quantum communications and cybersecurity. The agreement will see both institutions jointly use facilities at their respective sites to expand and strengthen their long-term partnership by leveraging Luxembourg’s R&D and SES’s industry leadership positions to explore next-generation technology.
In addition to this joint initiative, SES and SnT are also collaborating to leverage early access to Luxembourg’s supercomputer MeluXina. Rated as one of the most powerful in the world, the petascale computer is powered by green energy and is renowned for its business orientation, serving a large variety of complex data-driven computational workloads, such as Artificial Intelligence and more. In the framework of the joint SnT-SES lab, the team will test algorithms for radio resource allocation for broadband satellite communications systems to maximize the system performance and to dynamically assign the resources based on user traffic demands.
The partnership will focus on studying the potential of next-generation high-throughput satellite systems and multi-orbit capabilities, such as SES’s Geostationary and Non-geostationary Medium Earth (MEO) orbit fleet.
Since 2010, SnT and SES have been collaborating on research in the domain of next-generation satellite technologies. The rewarding work in business-driven innovation projects has seen SES and SnT partnering on the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) funded projects in the BRIDGES and IPBG programs, among other initiatives. The entities have also collaborated on projects with the European Space Agency (ESA), EC’s H2020 and on national 5G testbed programs.
“The past 11 years has seen us achieve great success in our research activities with SES, spearheading new technologies with impact on standardization, satellite-terrestrial integration, 5G and more. We are delighted to expand the collaboration and broaden into new areas that will benefit information and communication technologies both in Luxembourg and beyond,” said Prof. Björn Ottersten, Director of SnT.
“This partnership extension comes at a very important time as we are putting in place next-generation space and ground systems to enable the growing connectivity demand in the high-performance networks,” said Ruy Pinto, Chief Technology Officer at SES. “Not only do the R&D activities with SnT benefit Luxembourg’s initiatives, this will also set the path for scaling them on a global level, leveraging SES’s multi-orbit capabilities and services delivered around the world.” (Source: Satnews)
20 Oct 21. D-Orbit’s Nebula Cloud Platform Offering Is Successfully Demo’d In Space. D-Orbit has successfully completed the orbital testing of Nebula, a cloud platform designed to provide distributed, high-performance, data analytics computing and storage capabilities in space.
Nebula is a hardware-software environment that enables end-users to uplink and run software and AI/ML apps in a way similar to conventional, terrestrial cloud environments. This first iteration of the system has been built in collaboration with Swedish-based AI company Unibap on top of their radiation-tolerant iX5-100 SpaceCloud® platform, which features a combination of central processing unit (CPU), graphical process unit (GPU), and vision processing unit (VPU) chips, solid-state storage, and an optimized Linux-based operating system running SpaceCloud framework API.
The system was integrated into an ION Satellite Carrier using D-Orbit’s propriety plug-and-play interfaces. ION is a space tug designed, manufactured and operated by D-Orbit to transport satellites into orbit and release them individually into distinct and precise orbital slots. ION can also accommodate multiple third-party payloads such as innovative technologies developed by startups, experiments from research entities and instruments from traditional space companies requiring a test in orbit.
The testing on Nebula was performed in space as part of the WILD RIDE mission, which is still ongoing. A major bottleneck for satellite applications is the limited bandwidth of the downlink channel. A typical imaging application requires several hours to produce usable information. The real-time ML processing of imaging data in orbit, on the other hand, produces immediate results, while reducing at the same time the volume of information that needs to be downlinked by several orders of magnitude, enabling a much faster presentation of the final result to the user.
The test campaign successfully executed 23 separate SpaceCloud compatible applications from a variety of partners, including WorldFloods, an ML payload developed by the Frontier Development Lab (FDL), a partnership led by UK-based Trillium Technologies with the University of Oxford and ESA’s Phi-lab. For this test, the applications used a combination of preloaded data from a variety of satellites, such as Copernicus Sentinel-2, and raw data collected by ION Satellite Carrier’s multi-instrument sensor D-Sense.
All mission objectives have been accomplished, validating the approach of an advanced in-orbit computing platform capable of performing advanced computations on raw data directly in space, turning them into actionable information optimized for downlink.
The next iteration of Nebula, which is scheduled to fly onboard ION’s next mission in January of 2022, will feature an advanced electro-optical instrument and will enable third parties to upload and execute applications.
“This is an important step toward D-Orbit’s vision of a comprehensive space infrastructure that will provide all kind of services to vehicles in Earth’s orbit,” said Simon Reid, COO of the UK branch of D-Orbit. “While this batch of tests used mainly pre-loaded images, our follow-on mission, which will be ready for commercial use, will provide real-time access to instrument data. Everyone with programming knowledge can easily write apps to process all kind of data directly in space.We completed this project in less than a year, demonstrating the incredible versatility of the ION platform and the opportunity it provides to develop space technology in a new, agile way. While significant, this orbital test only scratches the surface of what is possible with a platform that is scalable by adding nodes, integrating sensor types, and organizing data transfer via inter-satellite links.”
According to Dr. Fredrik Bruhn, Chief Evangelist in digital transformation and board director at Unibap, “We are currently seeing a fast global change in the space service market and the Nebula – SpaceCloud solution orbital success demonstrates a leap in the way business models around data can be implemented going forward. We are thrilled that extremely low-latency information products can be created in orbit. Going further, it is now possible to create flexible data management and user-on-demand on-orbit application services. It is great to see how our combined efforts and partnership with ESA has come together in the Nebula service and given important feedback to Unibap’s next generational SpaceCloud products and solutions.” (Source: Satnews)
20 Oct 21. SkyLink For Land, Sea + Air Applications Debuts From Blue Sky Network. Blue Sky Network has announced SkyLink, a dual-mode, data management solution for land, air, sea, and IoT applications — the product is now shipping to customers. This comprehensive software and hardware configuration was specifically engineered to capture and disseminate mission-critical information from any location.
SkyLink by Blue Sky Network is powered by Iridium Certus® satellite technology and also uses local GSM/LTE networks to create a low-latency, dual-mode, cloud-based, service solution. The SkyLink ecosystem consists of lightweight, small-form factor devices as well as powerful web-based applications that deliver internet connectivity and a suite of IoT/M2M capabilities to and from any location on Earth.
Devices can be installed in a vehicle, carried by a lone worker, affixed to an outdoor mast, or mounted inside a building, vessel, or aircraft. As a certified Iridium Connected® solution, SkyLink is ideal for use in areas where satellite service is required, cellular connection is spotty, or assets are moving in and out of cellular range.
Recently, SkyLink won the 2021 MSUA Satellite Mobile Innovation Awards Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Innovation. The Mobile Satellite Users Association (MSUA) is a global, not-for-profit organization that focuses on amplifying the voice of satellite mobile services users and innovators. SkyLink was honored with this award because it “provides a versatile air, land, and sea solution that enhances the safety and efficiency of operations, even in the most remote, austere locations on the planet,” according to the MSUA.
In June 0f 2021, Blue Sky Network announced a partnership with Maritime Tactical Systems, Inc. (MARTAC), a provider of Maritime Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs), and began integrating SkyLink on that company’s vessels with great success.
Iridium Executive Vice President, Bryan Hartin, said, “Blue Sky Network has exceeded expectations with the creativity and versatility of their Iridium Certus mid-band solution. Iridium Certus is a unique service platform in that it’s able to scale in both device size and speed to meet the end-user needs, and BSN nailed it with SkyLink.”
“We are proud to be shipping the inaugural Iridium Certus mid-band solution for land mobile, IoT and maritime markets,” said Tucker Morrison, CEO of Blue Sky Network. “There is an immediate need for this platform of solutions and the dedication from our Blue Sky Network team has paid off. Our end users were also instrumental in form and function, and it has been rewarding to witness its success in action.”
“We are very excited to be working with Blue Sky Network’s leading edge, low SWAP, multi-carrier network for our USVs. Our Devil Ray and MANTAS vessels operate beyond human capability and therefore reliable, robust, low-latency communications anywhere in the world is critical,” said Tom Hanson, COO of MARTAC.
Blue Sky Network is a provider of mission-critical fleet management, business continuity, and operational analytics solutions, serving commercial and government customers worldwide. Since the firm’s founding in 2001, Blue Sky Network has been a partner of choice to track, manage, and optimize high value-assets in real-time anywhere in the world for improved safety, reliability, and operational efficiency. Blue Sky Network is headquartered in San Diego, California, with over 450 customers and dealers in more than 50 countries. Additionally, Blue Sky Network holds ANATEL certification and maintains additional offices in São Paulo, Brazil, and Scottsdale, Arizona. (Source: Satnews)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.