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25 Nov 21. UK embarks on new era of spaceflight with launch of ground-breaking regulatory council.
New Spaceflight Safety and Regulatory Council to give advice on regulations for UK space.
- inaugural meeting of the Spaceflight Safety and Regulatory Council
- committee convenes to ensure UK regulations support future UK space launches
- regulations passed this summer enable launches to take off from home soil as early as next year
The UK continues its leadership in the new era of spaceflight as Transport Minister Trudy Harrison announces today (25 November 2021) a ground-breaking partnership to shape the UK’s world-leading regulations.
The newly formed Spaceflight Safety and Regulatory Council, comprised of government members, industry experts and the Space Flight Regulator, will carry out vital work over the coming year to ensure the UK maintains the most progressive spaceflight regulations across the globe.
The current regulations were passed this summer, providing the framework to regulate the UK space industry and enable launches to take off from home soil.
They unlocked a potential £4bn of market opportunities over the next decade, creating thousands of jobs and benefitting communities across the UK.
The launch of this legislation put the UK in the position of being the first country in Europe to launch spacecraft and satellites from home.
Committee members, from organisations including Virgin Orbit and UK Space, gathered today to attend the inaugural council meeting, marking a blast-off moment in the UK’s efforts to develop a world-leading space sector.
Members will provide advice and recommendations to government, ensuring the UK has the right regulatory environment to support a future of UK space launches.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “This important step shows our commitment to developing the UK space sector as we aim to become a global spaceflight leader.”
Getting the right experts round a table to ensure our regulations remain fit for purpose is absolutely vital and this council will help us do just that as we aim to launch our first space missions from next year.
The new council will be responsible for keeping the regulations under review and providing recommendations to government on any changes which may be required as the sector continues to develop at pace in the UK. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
25 Nov 21. How the BGAN Application Tester facilitates cost-efficient security testing. Safety and security testing is important, especially when working with sensitive information or important missions. Traditionally, testing of satellite communication systems has been both expensive and time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is essential to have an extensive test setup that represents real-life conditions closely to ensure safety and security.
GateHouse SatCom offers a setup for test of how a system using a BGAN terminal to provide connectivity will work in different situations and under different circumstances. Spectra Group is a customer that has incorporated BAT into a wider SatCom package. With their setup, it is possible to facilitate cost-efficient security testing to improve stability with no expensive airtime for test purposes.
– As a SATCOM solution provider, it is important to be able to offer the ability to test the robustness of solutions. Being able to do so without incurring the cost of airtime is a major advantage for our customers, says Shaun Barry from Spectra Group.
The GateHouse BGAN Application Tester is connected via an antenna connector placed on a stand in a container to the vehicle mounted terminal via the roof mounted antenna. This setup allows for complete control of the signal to test what happens to the satellite link and connected applications when exposed to noise and interference.
The BGAN based system transmits and receives signals inside the container. Other antennas create distortions to the signals to and from the terminal, and a BGAN Application Tester from GateHouse emulates the BGAN core system to set up a connection.
The BGAN Application Tester setup brings the BGAN satellite network into a test bench, allowing clients to simulate a satellite connection for a BGAN, FBB, or SBB terminal. This results in the ability to do end-to-end test of a connected terminal under difficult radio link conditions.
Distortion and interference constitute a major problem, and it might be necessary to test the system’s robustness. The Satcom package developed by Spectra Group which includes the BAT can be used preventively to emulate impairments to discover how much noise and interference the signal can endure until it becomes insufficient for its purpose. It is already in use by defence organisations in Europe.
Testing of connected applications and terminals is of utmost importance for improving stability and safety. To be able to test how robust the system is, the antennas in the GateHouse BAT and Spectra setup creates a toxic radio environment, breaking down the connection. To discover how much distortion and interference the system is capable of enduring while still maintaining a secure connection is especially important, as it could mean life or death in a hostile environment, where reliable and resilient voice and data communication is essential.
About the BGAN Application Tester (BAT)
The BAT is a one-box solution to which monitor, keyboard and mouse are connected for the user to operate the BAT. The BAT is connected to the terminal either via coax RF cable or via antenna and RF shielded box, and application-level traffic is routed to an application server or the internet.
In the emulated environment, an application can connect to and operate a terminal as if it were connected to the live network.
24 Nov 21. Northrop Grumman Australia, L3Harris Technologies team up for JP9102. The companies have joined forces to advance a proposal to develop Australia’s next-generation defence SATCOM capability.
Northrop Grumman Australia has partnered with L3Harris Technologies to support its bid to deliver a sovereign satellite communications capability to the Australian Defence Force under the Commonwealth government’s JP 9102 project.
L3Harris has been tasked with providing in-country, ground station capability, which includes the Australian Wide Multi-Band Terminal (WMBT).
“Together with our partners, Northrop Grumman Australia and L3Harris will provide the Commonwealth with a sovereign, resilient end-to-end satellite communications capability solution, backed by our unmatched experience to support the future joint force and safeguard our national interests,” Christine Zeitz, general manager Asia Pacific at Northrop Grumman, said.
Alan Clements, corporate vice president of L3Harris Australia, welcomed the opportunity to work alongside Northrop Grumman.
“L3Harris is excited to partner with Northrop Grumman Australia on JP 9102 to provide an industry leading solution to the Commonwealth of Australia,” Clements said.
“Our two companies are well positioned to take the best of breed and leverage a strong and smart industrial base in Australia to grow Australia’s capabilities in the space domain.”
L3Harris Technologies is the latest company to support Northrop Grumman Australia’s JP 9102 push, joining UK-based SATCOM company Inmarsat.
Inmarsat has agreed to collaborate to deliver an Integrated Control Segment, designed to enhance flexibility across commercial and military SATCOM networks.
Northrop Grumman Australia is competing against a host of other major contractors, including Airbus, Boeing Defence Australia (BDA), Lockheed Martin Australia, and telecommunications giant Optus.
(Source: Defence Connect)
24 Nov 21. India clears air force procurement of GSAT-7C satellite. India’s Defence Acquisition Council, which is chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, approved on 23 November the procurement of a communications satellite system for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a press release that the acquisition of the GSAT-7C satellite and its associated ground hubs is budgeted at INR22.36bn (USD300m). The approval was framed through the provision of an ‘acceptance of necessity’; however, no schedule for the contract signing was disclosed. The MoD said the procurement of the satellite system will facilitate real-time connectivity of the IAF’s software-defined radios. The procurement will “enhance the ability of our armed forces to communicate beyond line-of-sight among one another in all circumstances in a secure mode”, it said.
The MoD added that it has designated the procurement as a ‘Make in India’ project, which envisages the design, development, and launch of the satellite from within India.
The GSAT-7C satellite has been developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with support from local industry including state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited.
In December 2018 the ISRO launched the GSAT-7A satellite, which is also operated by the IAF. The satellite, which is equipped with Ku-band transponders, is thought to interlink IAF fighter aircraft, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles, ground radar stations, and major airbases. The Indian Army also has use of approximately 30% of GSAT-7A’s capacity for communication and networking until its own GSAT-series satellite is launched. In 2013 the ISRO launched GSAT-7, the organisation’s first multiband satellite for the Indian Navy. (Source: Janes)
22 Nov 21. First Airbus built Inmarsat-6 satellite shipped to Japan ready for launch. Next generation mobile communications satellite with dual L and Ka-band payload. Step change in the capabilities and capacity of Inmarsat’s L-band services. The first Airbus built Inmarsat-6 , I-6 F1, satellite has been shipped from Airbus in Toulouse to Tanegashima in Japan ready for launch. The first satellite of the Inmarsat-6 series is due to be launched on an H-IIA launch vehicle built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in December. Inmarsat-6 F1 is based on Airbus’ ultra-reliable Eurostar E3000 spacecraft and will be the 54th Eurostar E3000 launched. It will be the fifth Eurostar in orbit that is equipped with electric propulsion for orbit raising reinforcing Airbus’ position as the world leader in electric propulsion.
The reduced mass by using electric propulsion allows for a dual payload mission (Ka and L-band) with an exceptionally large next generation digitally processed payload giving greater flexibility to Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communication services.
François Gaullier, Head of Telecom Systems at Airbus said: “Inmarsat-6 F1 features one of the most sophisticated digitally processed payloads we have ever built and delivers remarkable flexibility, capability and capacity. As a long serving supplier to Inmarsat, having built the Inmarsat-4 and Alphasat satellites, Airbus is proud to continue helping keep Inmarsat at the top of its game with this step change in capability brought by Inmarsat-6.”
Inmarsat-6 has a large 9m aperture L-band antenna and nine multibeam Ka-band antennas, and features a high level of flexibility and connectivity. The new generation modular digital processor provides full routing flexibility over up to 8000 channels and dynamic power allocation to more than 200 spot beams in L-band. Ka-band spot beams will be steerable over the full Earth disk, with flexible channel to beam allocation.
With increased capacity and flexibility, the satellite will enable Inmarsat to offer more advanced L-band services including very low cost mobile services and IoT applications to existing and future customers in the mobility sector on land, at sea, and in the air. Inmarsat-6 will complement and enhance the L-band services offered by ELERA (*) and embark a Ka-band mission to augment Inmarsat’s globally available high-speed broadband service – Global Xpress.
Investments made by Airbus in platform and payload technologies used on Inmarsat-6 are supported by the European Space Agency and national agencies, in particular the UK Space Agency and CNES. Inmarsat-6 will have a launch mass of 5.5 tons, spacecraft power of 21 kW and a design life of more than 15 years. (*) https://www.inmarsat.com/elera.html
19 Nov 21. Rocket Lab Launches 107th Satellite To Orbit, Successfully Tests Helicopter Recovery Operations. Rocket Lab, a leading launch and space systems company, has successfully deployed two satellites to orbit for real-time geospatial monitoring company BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY). Rocket Lab also successfully introduced helicopter operations to a recovery mission for the first time, using a helicopter to observe and track the Electron rocket’s first stage as it descended to Earth under parachute as part of the company’s program to make Electron the world’s first reusable, orbital-class commercial small rocket.
The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission, arranged for BlackSky through launch services provider Spaceflight Inc., was Electron’s 22nd lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Following lift-off at 01:38 UTC, 18 November 2021, Electron successfully delivered the two BlackSky Gen-2 Earth-imaging satellites to a circular 430km orbit, growing BlackSky’s constellation of real-time geospatial monitoring spacecraft and bringing the total number of satellites deployed by Rocket Lab to 107.
Today’s mission also included a controlled ocean splashdown and recovery of Electron’s first stage. For the first time, Rocket Lab stationed a helicopter in the recovery zone around 200 nautical miles offshore to track and observe the descending stage in preparation for future aerial capture attempts. The helicopter successfully tracked the returning rocket and completed communications tests in the recovery zone, bringing Rocket Lab a step closer to catching a rocket from the sky, bringing it back to the production complex for refurbishment, and then launching it to space again.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, says: “Today’s launch was a masterclass from an incredible team of engineers on how to successfully deliver customers’ satellites to space while at the same time demonstrating cutting-edge operations and innovation that pushes the space industry forward on small rocket reusability. This is our third successful proof of concept recovery mission, and further cements Electron as the leading launch vehicle for the small satellite market. We are all excited to move onto the next phase of reusability next year; catching Electron in the air with a helicopter.”
The ‘Love At First Insight’ mission was the latest launch for BlackSky as part of a multi-launch agreement to deploy numerous BlackSky satellites on Electron. Five BlackSky satellites have now been successfully deployed to low Earth orbit so far on missions across 2019 and this year. As part of the deal, another two BlackSky satellites are scheduled for launch on Rocket Lab’s next Electron mission named “A Data With Destiny”, which is scheduled to launch during a 14-day launch window that opens in December. Today’s successfully deployed satellites, along with those previously launched to space by Rocket Lab and the remaining four satellites next in line, represent the largest number of satellites BlackSky has dedicated to a single launch provider to date. (Source: ASD Network)
22 Nov 21. Lockheed Martin Australia reinforces JP 9102 team. The prime has teamed up with an education provider to support its push for the Commonwealth government’s JP 9102 contract. Lockheed Martin Australia has announced a new partnership with STEM Punks — an Australian science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education provider. The collaboration forms part of the company’s JP9102 bid to deliver a next-generation, sovereign military satellite communication (MILSATCOM) capability to the Australian Defence Force. STEM Punks has been tasked with developing and implementing a 10-year space-focused curriculum, designed for high school, university, and early-career level activities. This aims to educate, up-skill, and build Australia’s next-generation technical workforce to support Commonwealth government space projects, like JP 9102. The education program, based on a hybrid delivery model, is expected to incorporate both immersive online modules and face-to-face workshops, classes and activities. Approximately 80 schools across Australia are tipped to be involved over the life of the program, with at least a quarter representing regional and Indigenous communities.
David Ball, LMA’s regional director for space, said STEM Punks would reinforce the company’s commitment to develop sovereign space capability.
“Lockheed Martin Australia is very proud to be partnering with STEM Punks, an innovative Australian organisation operating at that critical interface between the education sector and Australian industry,” he said.
“STEM Punks’ hands-on approach to teaching and learning, its experience developing world-class educational programs, and its access through LMA into Australian space industry combine to ensure a rich pipeline of talent that will be critical to Australia’s future in space.”
Lockheed Martin Australia is currently working with STEM Punks to define requirements for a national Space Industry STEM program at the tertiary level, designed to facilitate career opportunities for university students.
STEM Punks is also expected to design a knowledge program for industry mentoring and skilling at the vocational level, providing professional development to individuals and groups from within Australia’s space sector and adjacent industries.
STEM Punks CEO and co-founder Michael Holmstrom welcomed the opportunity to work alongside Lockheed Martin Australia.
“We are genuinely excited to have the opportunity to partner with Lockheed Martin Australia on this critical pursuit which,” Holmstrom said.
“The program will inspire school students to pursue STEM-focused studies at university, and better align graduates with dynamic career opportunities in Australia’s space and defence industries.
“When you consider Lockheed Martin’s global workforce includes some 60,000 engineers and scientists, the knowledge sharing opportunities this partnership represents for students are almost endless, creating national benefits in terms of successful careers and a stronger, more resilient Australian industry capability.”
STEM Punks is the latest organisation to join the prime’s bid for JP 9102, following the likes of Shoal Group, Av-Comm, Clearbox Systems and Ronson Gears.
The LMA-led team will be competing against a host of other major contractors, including Airbus, Boeing Defence Australia (BDA), and telecommunications giant Optus. The JP 9102 tender is scheduled to close on 10 January. (Source: Defence Connect)
17 Nov 21. HD Video Streaming Via Iridium Certus For Aircraft Bring SKYTRAC and AnsuR Partnership Into Fruition. SKYTRAC Systems has announced a Letter of Intent (LOI) with AnsuR Technologies to enable the High-Definition (HD) video streaming using SKYTRAC’s Iridium Certus SATCOM terminals.
AnsuR’s innovative software solution, ASMIRA, will be integrated with SKYTRAC’s Iridium Certus terminals to enable HD and 4K video streaming over the Iridium satellite network. This will result in drastically reduced bandwidth consumption while maintaining high-quality video footage. The technology, hosted entirely onboard SKYTRAC’s IMS-350 and SDL-350 will not require any additional hardware on the aircraft. SKYTRAC’s IMS-350 and SDL-350 will interface with the camera system to collect the video feed, which AnsuR’s software will optimize and compress for transmission over a cellular or satellite network.
While streaming video over a cellular or microwave system will be limited by line-of-sight or geographic coverage, SKYTRAC’s SDL-350 and IMS-350 will leverage the globally available Iridium NEXT constellation to stream video to the ground, regardless of the aircraft’s location. AnsuR’s video compression technology will efficiently manage the available bandwidth to ensure that operators experience the highest quality video without the high operating costs typically seen with other satellite constellations. (Source: Satnews)
17 Nov 21. Uni of Toronto Talks Trash Enlisting Globalstar’s IoT Satellite Technology. Globalstar Canada Satellite Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc. (NYSE MKT: GSAT) and provider of satellite messaging and emergency notification technologies, announced that its commercial IoT satellite technology was chosen by the University of Toronto Trash Team for an innovative study of plastic pollution in Lake Ontario. The Globalstar SmartOne C Asset-Ready Satellite Trackers were purchased by the Team in its Tagging Trash Project to understand sources of plastic litter and reveal the pathways and fate of plastics in Toronto Harbour. Initial project results will be released by the Trash Team in a webinar to be held on November 23rd, 2021.
“It couldn’t be more rewarding for us to see our satellite solutions contribute to the important work that the University of Toronto Trash Team is undertaking,” said Jim Mandala, Vice President, Commercial IoT, Globalstar, Inc. “Globalstar’s complete line of commercial IoT satellite solutions are helping organizations like the University of Toronto Trash Team monitor and manage assets and optimize remote operations. All of our solutions, including the SmartOne C Satellite Tracker, operate over Globalstar’s fully modernized LEO satellite network, enabling reliable tracking of fixed and mobile assets –— essential in today’s hyper-connected, global marketplace. We congratulate the Trash Team on completing the initial phase of their project, and look forward to working with them as they continue to advance this important research.”
In Spring 2021, the University of Toronto Trash Team deployed a fleet of blender bottles at strategic locations around Toronto Harbour. Each bottle contained an embedded Globalstar SmartOne C Satellite Managed Asset Tracker. The GPS-tagged bottles were designed to represent floating plastic litter in Toronto harbour. The Trash Team uses the data captured via Globalstar commercial IoT satellite technology to follow the pathways of the bottles and reveal movement patterns and potential accumulation zones for floating litter.
“It is evident Toronto has a trash problem in the harbour,” said Cassandra Sherlock, member of the Trash Team. “The data we are collecting will help inform placement of trash capture devices, such as Seabins, to divert litter away from Lake Ontario. The data also helps us understand where litter enters the water, how it moves from point A to B, and areas where it eventually accumulates.”
The Globalstar SmartOne C Satellite Trackers are embedded in air-tight, bright orange water bottles and housed on a small platform and secured so that the trackers are constantly facing the sky and the satellites. SPOT my Globalstar cloud-based mapping service, which is integrated with every Globalstar commercial IoT device, provides critical location data which is mapped at scheduled tracking intervals. This provides the team with waypoints marking the location of each bottle, every hour. The automated reporting from SPOT my Globalstar also enables the team to look at historical reports, taking weather, wind events and other environmental factors into consideration. The SmartOne C utilizes a motion sensor, comparative GPS positions and custom-configured sensors to gather and transmit asset status information from the bottles.
“Due to the success of this project, we are now considering using the Globalstar IoT Satellite Trackers in rivers to assess the fate and transport of plastic pollution in watersheds,” said Chelsea Rochman, Science Programming, and Application Lead for the University of Toronto Trash Team. “This work will likely begin in the City of Toronto, but then may expand to other global rivers.” (Source: Satnews)
15 Nov 21. U.S. Space Force Recognizes Georgia Tech As A New Strategic Partner. United States military agencies often look to the Georgia Institute of Technology to recruit highly skilled workers, drawing from the Institute’s expertise in fields such as aerospace engineering and cybersecurity. Today, with modern warfare increasingly fought via satellite control networks, a new branch of the U.S. military has taken notice of Georgia Tech.
On November 11, Georgia Tech and the U.S. Space Force launched a strategic partnership to develop a high-caliber aerospace workforce and collaborate on advanced aerospace research. As part of a comprehensive agreement, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding, making Georgia Tech the newest member of the U.S. Space Force’s University Partnership Program.
Lt. General Nina M. Armagno, U.S. Space Force director of staff, joined Georgia Tech Provost Steven W. McLaughlin and Executive Vice President for Research Chaouki T. Abdallah to sign the agreement. The signing ceremony, on Veterans Day, occurred on the Georgia Tech’s campus.
The U.S. Space Force established the University Partnership Program to identify, develop, and retain a diverse, STEM-capable workforce to further its mission to protect U.S. and allied interests in space. Through the partnership, the Space Force will seek to recruit new members and also create educational and leadership development programs for existing Space Force employees. Georgia Tech was selected for its outstanding aerospace engineering research, its expertise in national defense and security, the diversity of its students, and its robust ROTC program.
Georgia Tech joins 11 universities selected for the U.S. Space Force University Partnership Program in fiscal year 2021. They include Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Purdue University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, University of North Dakota, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Texas at El Paso.
The institutions were selected based on four criteria: the quality of STEM degree offerings and space-related research laboratories and initiatives; ROTC program strength; diversity of student population; and degrees and programming designed to support military, veterans, and their families in pursuing higher education.
The signing ceremony was the culmination of a daylong campus visit for Lt. General Armagno and the Space Force delegation. In the morning, she met with Air Force ROTC students and gave a public talk at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs about the Space Force’s integration into the U.S. military. In the afternoon, she held a discussion with aerospace engineering students, toured the Space Systems Design Lab, and received an overview of the Georgia Space Grant Consortium and Aerospace Engineering Outreach.
As a next step, Georgia Tech and the Space Force will outline specific implementation milestones to meet the program’s objectives. This initial work will include establishing educational programs such as scholarships, internships, and mentorship opportunities, and identifying specific research areas of mutual benefit to the Space Force and Georgia Tech.
““At the heart of the Space Force’s University Partnership Program is the need to advance our science and technology to build the next generation of space capabilities, while developing the workforce of the future,” Armagno said. “With its reputation as a leader in cutting-edge aerospace research, we are confident that Georgia Tech will be an outstanding partner.”
Georgia Tech is proud of its longstanding collaborations with NASA and the Department of Defense to help achieve strategic national objectives,” Abdallah said. “We look forward to charting bold new areas of research with the Space Force and leveraging our expertise in aerospace engineering and national security to address today’s most complex space-based military challenges.”
“Georgia Tech is honored to be selected as a Space Force University Partnership School, and we look forward to collaborating in educating leaders for the aerospace workforce of the future,” McLaughlin said. “I am confident that we will continue to drive technological advancements for the U.S. Space Force, just as we have done for NASA and the Department of Defense.” (Source: Satnews)
18 Nov 21. Gilat Satellite Technology Extends Africa Mobile Networks Coverage. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: GILT, TASE: GILT) has announced that Africa’s largest satellite cellular backhaul network is extending its coverage to a dozen countries in Africa — Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) has deployed Gilat hubs and placed additional orders of Gilat cellular backhaul terminals to serve multiple Tier-1 Telcos in Africa.
“AMN has selected Gilat, due to its superior cellular backhaul over satellite technology, to support the extension of Africa’s largest satellite-based network,” said Michael Darcy, CEO AMN. “We are pleased to contribute to closing the digital divide by furthering the reach of our network with Gilat’s SkyEdge II-c Capricorn VSATs, reaching more of the population in Africa.”
“Gilat highly values its long-lasting partnership with AMN and shares a common goal of enhancing the lives of people in Africa with high quality connectivity,” said Michal Aharonov, Chief Commercial Officer at Gilat. “Gilat is working closely with AMN to further expand cellular backhaul reach in additional sites and regions throughout the coming years, including migration to 4G as the requirement for data communication rises.” (Source: Satnews)
18 Nov 21. New report sees near-term strength in space industrial base, but calls for government guidance. A new Department of Defense report on the state of America’s space industrial base finds strength in the near-term while lamenting the lack of a long-term focus. To that end, the report calls for the White House to develop a National North Star Vision to guide civil, commercial and national security space efforts.
Drawn up by the Space Force, the Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the State of the Space Industrial Base 2021 report is the result of discussions with 232 industry experts earlier this year in New Mexico.
The authors of the report find a strong industrial base with significant commercial investment in innovation that can support the government’s space missions.
“All of the near-term metrics about what’s going on in space are very exciting and strong. If you look at the number of inventions and new things that are being done in space, at the innovation ecosystem where you have lots of new companies coming into space, private investment where you have a record amount of venture capital flowing into space startups — that’s all very positive and very strong,” explained Col. Eric Felt, director of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, at an Atlantic Council event discussing the report’s findings.
That said, the authors note that the flurry of commercial space activity cannot be sustained without strategic direction. Key challenges include ensuring sufficient contract and prototyping funding and opportunities, securing American supply chains, and strategic workforce development.
“There’s lots of concern that that may not continue,” Felt said of near-term energy and growth in the space sector.
To that end, the report recommends the White House and its Space Council adopt “space development and settlement” as our National “North Star” Space Vision to synchronize efforts across the military, commercial and civil space sectors. That vision would guide near-term goals, such as the nation’s development of cislunar space, as well as more ambitious long-term goals — specifically, space settlement and “enabling humanity to become the first multi-planetary species.”
That North Star vision recommendation is a carry-over from the 2020 version of the report.
“How can we bring the civil, commercial and national security sectors together to work in a unified way?” said Bucky Butow, director of the Defense Innovation Unit’s space portfolio.
The report’s main recommendations for the Department of Defense mirror the Space Force’s messaging in its nearly two years of existence: The Department of Defense needs to adopt more commercial technologies and services while bringing in more small businesses. Space Force officials have been clear that they want to adopt more commercial services for its missions, and under the new Space Systems Command the service has established a commercial office to help do just that. The Space Force has also opened up more opportunities for small businesses by embracing Other Transaction Authorities and events like Space Pitch Days. Organizations like DIU, AFWERX, SpaceWERX and Space Prime have also been created to help bring in new contractors.
But the authors want to see more rapid adoption of commercial services in the near-term. They recommend the Department of Defense mandate 20% of the overall DoD budget go to non-traditional commercial service acquisitions. Currently that number is in the single digits.
There are specific criticisms of government efforts on this front as well. The report calls out the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for being too slow in adopting commercial imagery. While the NRO does have some commercial imagery contracts, it’s in the middle of changing the way it acquires and uses said imagery. In 2019 the agency issued study contracts to guide that effort. It plans to issue the first awards informed by those study contracts in early 2022.
The authors also call out over classification as an issue that prevents small companies from engaging fully with the government.
“Our security and resilience in space is critical for our democracy-based world order in the future,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond in a statement. “The recommendations, if followed, have the power to unite and unleash the full innovation, technological and industrial capability of the U.S. and the benefit of all humanity.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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