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31 Dec 21. Biden extends U.S. support for International Space Station through 2030. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has committed to extending the International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on Friday.
Nelson said that the Biden administration had committed to working with international partners, including Russia, to continue research being conducted in the orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade. Russia and the United States have had close cooperation aboard the International Space Station for more than two decades.
U.S. officials said in November that an anti-satellite missile test that Russia conducted generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit that endangered the station and will pose a hazard to space activities for years.
The station would operate through 2030 if approved by international partners and funded by the U.S. Congress. Currently, Congress has approved funding through 2024.
The Interfax news agency said in August that Russia and the United States will continue working together on ISS after 2024, citing a senior official at Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
“As more and more nations are active in space, it’s more important than ever that the United States continues to lead the world in growing international alliances and modeling rules and norms for the peaceful and responsible use of space”, Nelson said in a statement on Friday released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Tensions between Russia and the United States have not been confined to just issues related to space. Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday exchanged warnings over Ukraine but conveyed some optimism that diplomatic talks in January could ease spiraling tensions. (Source: Reuters)
27 Dec 21. OneWeb launches 36 satellites into orbit from Kazakhstan. Britain-based tech company OneWeb launched 36 communications satellites into space from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, live broadcasts showed. OneWeb has been launching satellites into orbit as part of its plans to deliver global high-speed internet access.
“Launch #12 represents the last in a sequence of eight launches scheduled in 2021 by OneWeb with launch partners Arianespace,” the company said on its website. French global launch services company Arianespace, Oneweb and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos all broadcast the launch.
Earlier this year, OneWeb said a launch from Russia’s Far East would allow it to offer connectivity everywhere north of 50 degrees latitude. read more
OneWeb has listed the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, continental U.S., the Arctic Seas and Canada as areas that should be offered full connectivity.
The Interfax news agency said the satellites, launched aboard a Soyuz-2.1b rocket, would be separated in stages.
OneWeb resumed flights last December after emerging from bankruptcy protection with $1bn in equity investment from a consortium of the British government and India’s Bharti Enterprises, its new owners. It has also received investment from Japan’s Softbank and Eutelsat Communications, and further financing from Bharti. OneWeb has secured $2.4bn in total. (Source: Reuters)
25 Dec 21. NASA launches revolutionary space telescope to give glimpse of early universe. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, built to give the world its first glimpse of the universe as it existed when the earliest galaxies formed, was launched by rocket early Saturday from the northeastern coast of South America, opening a new era of astronomy.
The revolutionary $9bn infrared telescope, described by NASA as the premiere space-science observatory of the next decade, was carried aloft inside the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket that blasted off at about 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launch base in French Guiana.
The flawless Christmas Day launch, with a countdown conducted in French, was carried live on a joint NASA-ESA webcast. The liftoff capped a project decades in the making, coming to fruition after years of repeated delays and cost over-runs.
“From a tropical rain forest to the edge of time itself, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe,” a NASA commentator said as the two-stage launch vehicle, fitted with double solid-rocket boosters, roared off its launch pad into cloudy skies.
After a 27-minute, hypersonic ride into space, the 14,000-pound instrument was released from the upper stage of the French-built rocket about 865 miles above the Earth, and should gradually unfurl to nearly the size of a tennis court over the next 13 days as it sails onward on its own.
Live video captured by a camera mounted on the rocket’s upper stage showed the Webb gliding gently away after it was jettisoned, drawing cheers and applause from jubilant flight engineers in the mission control center.
Flight controllers confirmed moments later, as the Webb’s solar-energy array was deployed, that its power supply was working.
Coasting through space for two more weeks, the Webb telescope will reach its destination in solar orbit 1 million miles from Earth – about four times farther away than the moon. And Webb’s special orbital path will keep it in constant alignment with the Earth as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem.
By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.
Named after the man who oversaw NASA through most of its formative decade of the 1960s, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to transform scientists’ understanding of the universe and our place in it.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, striking a spiritual tone as he addressed the launch webcast by video link, quoted the Bible and hailed the new telescope as a “time machine” that will “capture the light from the very beginning of the creation.”
COSMOLOGICAL HISTORY LESSON
Webb mainly will view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to peer through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born, while Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.
The new telescope’s primary mirror – consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – also has a much bigger light-collecting area, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back into time, than Hubble or any other telescope.
That, astronomers say, will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen – dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8bn years ago.
Hubble’s view reached back to roughly 400 million years following the Big Bang, a period just after the very first galaxies – sprawling clusters of stars, gases and other interstellar matter – are believed to have taken shape.
While Hubble caught glimmers of “toddler” galaxies, Webb will reveal those objects in greater detail while also capturing even fainter, earlier “infant” galaxies, astrophysicist Eric Smith, NASA’s Webb program scientist, told Reuters hours before the launch.
Aside from examining the formation of the earliest stars and galaxies, astronomers are eager to study super-massive black holes believed to occupy the centers of distant galaxies.
Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for evidence of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan.
The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) was the primary contractor. The Arianespace launch vehicle is part of the European contribution.
“The world gave us this telescope, and we handed it back to the world today,” Gregory Robinson, Webb program director for NASA told reporters at a post-launch briefing.
Webb was developed at a cost of $8.8bn, with operational expenses projected to bring its total price tag to about $9.66bn, far higher than planned when NASA was previously aiming for a 2011 launch. read more
Astronomical operation of the telescope, to be managed from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, following about six months of alignment and calibration of Webb’s mirrors and instruments. It is then that NASA expects to release the initial batch of images captured by Webb. Webb is designed to last up to 10 years. (Source: Reuters)
25 Dec 21. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Lifts Off with Advanced Camera from Lockheed Martin. With the liftoff of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana today, humankind is one step closer to seeing the universe in a whole new light, with help from a camera built by Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT]. The instrument will be key in giving the telescope its first glimpse of celestial light.
The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is Webb’s primary imager and one of the most sensitive infrared cameras ever built. As the telescope sets itself up in space, NIRCam will help align Webb’s intricate array of mirrors. It will then take science images throughout the entire mission.
“NIRCam’s journey is over two decades in the making, and seeing it lift off into space on Webb was the culmination of many years of hard work with Marcia Rieke and our University of Arizona partners,” said Alison Nordt, Lockheed Martin’s space science and instrumentation director, who led development of NIRCam. “Webb will rewrite the science books of how we understand our universe, and to have Lockheed Martin-built technology help advance the future of space imaging is an honor.”
The Lockheed Martin and University of Arizona team designed, built and tested NIRCam out of the company’s Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California.
How to Look at the Universe’s Oldest Light
Webb is designed to peer at the universe’s oldest light, which scientists believe occurred around 13.5 billion years ago. As the universe expands, those light waves that were once visible have now shifted into the infrared spectrum.
This light is incredibly far away and extremely dim, which is why Webb requires large mirrors – along with NIRCam’s ultra-precise optics – to see it.
Before that can happen, NIRCam’s first job is to sense incoming infrared light and take images that will help the telescope’s systems properly align its 18 primary mirror segments. This is critical to ensuring Webb provides crystal clear images once it enters science mode.
The Technology Behind NIRCam
For Webb’s mirror alignment in early 2022, NIRCam senses what’s called a “wavefront,” or an ideally perfect sphere of light particles emitted from any luminescent object. When those particles encounter another object – in this case, the telescope’s optics – they become distorted.
NIRCam measures those distortions with nanometric accuracy, and that data is then used to advise how Webb’s mirrors must adjust. This iterative process is done until the telescope’s mirrors are properly aligned.
With Webb traveling more than 1 million miles from Earth into space, NIRCam must function with extreme precision and stability in temperatures as cold as -400°F. In fact, the telescope needs frigid temperatures to ensure infrared radiating off the observatory doesn’t overwhelm the images.
To enable operations in such extreme conditions, Lockheed Martin developed a new technique for bonding NIRCam’s optical lenses to their mounts. The innovative method ensures the cold and launch vibrations don’t cause shifts in alignment of NIRCam’s lenses.
After more than a decade of meticulous engineering and rigorous testing, the team delivered one of the most capable infrared instruments ever created, and NIRCam was fully integrated onto Webb in 2014.
Now, the telescope gets situated for a decade of ground-breaking observations to shape how we see space for years to come.
25 Dec 21. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, built in partnership with Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), successfully launched today from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.
Approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb detached from the Ariane 5 rocket, marking the beginning of a million-mile journey and the start of a two-week complex deployment process to unfold the spacecraft in preparation for arrival at Lagrange Point 2 (L2).
“Since the dawn of the space age, NASA, international partner agencies and industry partners, together with Northrop Grumman, have been defining what is possible in space science and exploration,” said Kathy Warden, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman. “Over the next few weeks, the James Webb Space Telescope will transform into an awe-inspiring scientific tool that will usher in a new era in human discovery.”
During the journey to L2, Webb will convert from its stowed position in which it left Earth to the configuration that will allow it to see light coming from the earliest stars to shine in the Universe. Part of this journey is to unfold the tennis court-sized, five-layer sunshield around the sensitive mirrors that allow Webb to take pictures and collect data that will come back to Earth for scientific review. Once operational, Webb will explore farther than ever before into the cosmos, looking back 13.5 billion years.
To deliver this kind of scientific data, Webb incorporates innovative design, advanced technology, and groundbreaking engineering. Ten technological inventions were created to build the revolutionary telescope so that it can detect light from the first stars and galaxies. Some of these innovations include optics, detectors and thermal control systems.
25 Dec 21. Ball Aerospace-Built Optics and Mirror System Launched Today Aboard James Webb Space Telescope. Ball Aerospace is celebrating today’s launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) from French Guiana. The Colorado-based company designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system that will enable Webb to detect light from the first stars and galaxies.
Ball Aerospace designed and built the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope that launched Dec. 25.
“It is truly an honor to be such an integral part of the next great space observatory,” said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. “Today’s launch is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a closely integrated team that spanned across multiple mission partners and NASA. We are tremendously eager to see the science the new observatory captures.”
Announced as the Next Generation Space Telescope in 1996, and renamed James Webb Space Telescope in 2002, the space science observatory represents the largest and most complex ever built. Once on orbit, Webb will capture faint light from the very first objects that illuminated the universe after the Big Bang.
To make this possible, Ball Aerospace worked with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Northrop Grumman, the prime industry partner, to innovate the 25 square-meter (~269 square feet) mirror system consisting of 18 beryllium mirror segments working together as one mirror. It will be the largest mirror and the first segmented telescope ever deployed in space, operating at the extremely cold space temperature of -406? F (30K) necessary for infrared imaging of distant stars and galaxies.
Ball also developed the cryogenic actuators mounted on each segment to control individual mirror positioning and curvature radius within one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. To align the mirror segments, Ball also designed the 22 electronic flight control boxes to operate in a deep-freeze space environment to individually control each of the 132 actuators that keep the telescope segments properly aligned on orbit.
To innovate, validate and demonstrate technologies used to develop Webb’s pioneering optical system, Ball Aerospace drew on its in-depth experience with space hardware designed for all four of NASA’s Great Observatories (Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope).
Ball is also playing critical roles in other upcoming space observation missions. It is partnering with Goddard to develop the Wide Field Instrument for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and providing the spacecraft bus and telescope for the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx). Earlier this month, the Ball-built Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launched from Kennedy Space Center on its mission to uncover the inner workings of some of the most exotic astronomical objects in our universe, such as neutron stars and black holes.
Powered by endlessly curious people with an unwavering mission focus, Ball Aerospace pioneers discoveries that enable our customers to perform beyond expectation and protect what matters most. We create innovative space solutions, enable more accurate weather forecasts, drive insightful observations of our planet, deliver actionable data and intelligence, and ensure those who defend our freedom go forward bravely and return home safely. Go Beyond with Ball.® For more information, visit www.ball.com/aerospace or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. (Source: PR Newswire)
23 Dec 21. The US military wants to plug commercial satellites into its orbital networks. The U.S. military wants to directly plug commercial imagery satellites into its forthcoming orbital networks, enabling soldiers in the field to access that data faster. The military has become increasingly interested in using satellite imagery to extend its situational awareness and beyond line-of-sight targeting, largely because of two developments:
* The emergence of low-latency networks, like the Space Development Agency’s forthcoming transport layer — a mesh network made up of satellites on orbit connected by optical, intersatellite links — or SpaceX’s Starlink, which make it possible to get data from anywhere in the world to a soldier or weapon system faster than ever.
* The growing number of commercial satellite imagery providers means there is a massive amount of new space-based sensor data for them to access.
At events like the Army’s Project Convergence in 2020, operators were able to take satellite imagery, automatically process it to find targets and send it to the battlefield over space-based networks. According to service officials, they were able to cut down the sensor-to-shooter timeline from 20 minutes to 20 seconds by downlinking commercial satellites to an Army ground station and delivering the data over one of these networks.
But the military is working to further streamline the process of delivering commercial imagery to the soldier.
Today, service providers operate their satellite constellations independently. Once tasked, commercial satellites usually collect relevant data and downlink it to one of the company’s ground stations (or use a ground station service). After it is collected, the data is often processed and then delivered to the military.
The Space Development Agency wants to skip that initial downlink and plug the third-party satellites directly into its own orbital mesh network: the transport layer. To be made up of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit connected by optical, intersatellite links, the transport layer is a key part of the military’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort.
In November, the Space Development Agency announced it was teaming with Capella Space, a synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, provider, to link its satellites directly to the transport layer.
“We’re working with them so they can put one of our compliant, optical, intersatellite links directly on their satellites so that then they can plug directly to our transport layer. We would love to do that with all commercial ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] providers,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said during a November event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Tournear sees the data from multiple commercial and government space-based sensors feeding into the transport layer, where it can be fused on orbit before being sent down to the soldier via the Link 16 tactical network. It’s a win-win for the government and commercial providers, said the director: Providers would be able to offer their services directly to users without having to downlink and deliver it independently, while the government gets faster and more direct access to commercial data streams.
“Our team at Capella Space is thrilled to become the first commercial SAR company to demonstrate compatibility with the SDA’s National Defense Space Architecture and standards,” said Capella Space’s chief technology officer, Christian Lenz. “Enabling our satellites to integrate with the new SDA architecture efficiently is a critical step for us to work seamlessly with the U.S. defense and intelligence sector. We are proud to be able to work with the SDA in demonstrating this cutting-edge technology.”
Capella will install CONDOR Mk3 optical communications terminals built by Mynaric on its satellites starting in late 2022.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Project Blackjack — a separate but related planned demonstration of a proliferated constellation connected through an orbital mesh network — could do the same thing. Space Systems Command awarded PredaSAR a $2m contract in December to demonstrate that one of its yet-to-be-launched satellites can connect with the Blackjack constellation via an optical, intersatellite link.
It will effectively do the same thing as the SDA-Capella Space demonstration, albeit with different contractors and technologies. The Blackjack demonstration is overseen by Space Systems Command’s Commercially Augmented Space Inter-Networked Operations program office, a partner to the Blackjack effort.
“This innovative, hybrid architecture will demonstrate accelerated data transfer timelines. Accessing commercial ISR data and reducing data-transfer timelines are critical components in addressing the evolving threats to our space systems and our national security,” said Col Brian Denaro, program executive officer for space development. (Source: Defense News)
23 Dec 21. Space Force issues $32m contract for prototype space-based sensor. The U.S. Space Force has awarded GEOST a $32m contract modification for prototype space domain awareness payloads which will be hosted on a number of different satellites.
The contract modification is part of a Space Force effort to host small, low-cost sensors on a number of different satellites — owned by either the U.S. government or international partners — in geosynchronous orbit, augmenting the service’s ability to understand what is going on in space.
GEOST — an Arizona-based company that builds small- to medium-sized, electro-optical/infrared sensors —noted in a Dec. 21 statement it is already involved with that effort, having recently completed a critical design review of its payload. The contract modification brings the total value of GEOST’s contract to $39m.
The Space Force has been working toward placing space domain awareness payloads on satellites owned and operated by international partners for years. In 2020, the service signed an agreement with Japan to put sensor payloads on that country’s Quasi Zenith Satellite System, its satellite navigation system under development. In a separate but similar effort, the Space Force also plans to host U.S. communications payloads on a pair of Norwegian satellites.
GEOST’s sensor payload could be ready for integration and launch as soon as fiscal 2023. The contract includes work on ground support infrastructure, data processing and command and control capability. The company said a production program is expected to follow the prototype demonstration. (Source: Defense News)
22 Dec 21. USAF Research Laboratory is one step closer to beaming solar energy from space to Earth. The Air Force Research Laboratory and Northrop Grumman have successfully converted solar energy to radio frequency, an essential first step toward a future satellite system that could beam energy from space to soldiers on the ground. The ground experiment tested one of the key pieces of hardware needed for the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project, an innovative system that would use a satellite to collect solar energy on orbit, convert it to radio frequency, and then beam it to users on Earth who could convert it back into energy to power equipment carried by dismounted soldiers, vehicles or even a forward operating base. Lab officials see the effort as a way to get reliable solar power to remote military forces without having to carry around large solar panels with them. AFRL and Northrop Grumman were able to test the components of the “sandwich tile,” a solar panel that can convert the energy collected in RF. The panel has two layers: One of highly efficient photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy, and a second that enables the RF conversion and beamforming.
“The SSPIDR Project office is very excited about this baseline capability
being exercised in the laboratory environment,” said SSPIDR deputy project manager Melody Martinez in a statement. “Converting solar energy into RF energy at the component-level is a pivotal step to realizing space-based solar power beaming on a larger scale.”
“The successful conversion of sunlight into RF energy in a lightweight and scalable architecture is a significant step forward in delivering the technology building blocks to achieve the Arachne mission,” said Jay Patel, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s remote sensing programs business unit, in a statement.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the effort, having been awarded a $100m contract in 2018 to develop the payload. The sandwich tile will be an important part of Arachne, the space-based demonstration that will attempt to beam energy to Earth after converting it to RF. Arachne is expected to launch in 2025. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
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.