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18 May 22. Defense Innovation Unit picks designs for space nuclear propulsion demo. The Defense Innovation Unit selected two companies to develop prototypes for nuclear-powered spacecraft with an eye on launching a demonstration mission in 2027.
DIU, an organization tasked with helping the U.S. Department of Defense leverage commercial technology, chose Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and Avalanche Energy Designs for its Nuclear Advanced Propulsion and Power program. The companies will build propulsion components for small spacecraft that allow them to maneuver at will.
Air Force Maj. Ryan Weed, DIU’s program manager for NAPP, said the commercial market for nuclear propulsion technology is thriving and could have significant implications for military space operations.
“Advanced nuclear technologies will provide the speed, power and responsiveness to maintain an operational advantage in space,” Weed said in a May 17 statement. “Nuclear tech has traditionally been government-developed and operated, but we have discovered a thriving ecosystem of commercial companies, including start-ups, innovating in space nuclear.”
Ultra Safe Nuclear’s design is based on its chargeable battery called EmberCore, which it will demonstrate for space-based propulsion applications. The company is developing a next-generation system with greater power and longer life than a typical plutonium system.
The Avalanche Energy device, dubbed Orbitron, will showcase the ability to reduce the size of high-power propulsion systems for use on smaller spacecraft.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA are also working with industry to advance nuclear propulsion technology with a particular focus on how the capability could benefit operations in cislunar space, a term used to refer to the area between Earth and the moon. Because nuclear propulsion systems have a high thrust-to-weight ratio and are more efficient to operate, it’s easier to perform rapid maneuvers in space than with electric or chemical systems.
This month, DARPA released a solicitation for the second phase of its Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations program, which aims to develop and demonstrate a design for a nuclear thermal propulsion reactor and subsystem. DARPA expects to showcase the system on orbit in fiscal 2026. (Source: Defense News)
18 May 22. SA Kanyini satellite completes next phase of design before launch. South Australia’s first satellite is one step closer to launching into space after completing a critical step of its design.
Dubbed Kanyini, which means “responsibility and unconditional love for all of creation”, the 6U spacecraft owned by the South Australian government will be launched into orbit this year for Earth observation purposes such as water monitoring, emergency management and mining.
According to a statement released on Wednesday, the Kanyini Space Services Mission satellite completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) and is now ready to start its manufacture and test phase.
The state government is partnering with SA space companies, including Inovor Technologies which is designing, building and testing the satellite, Myriota which will collect its data and return it to Earth, and SmartSat CRC which will lead the mission and manage the information it collects.
“The successful CDR – this confidence in the design of the spacecraft – provides a boost as we head towards the next big milestone which is to test and integrate the payloads into the satellite which will provide services to the South Australia government,” said the founder and CEO of Inovor Technologies, Dr Matthew Tetlow.
“The process of building a spacecraft with our project partners is dynamic – the mission has a very complex payload suite which has given our team the chance to be innovative and creative in developing solutions to meet the mission requirements.”
This year marks a major step forward for Australia’s satellite industry, as many are preparing for launch in the coming months.
Southern Launch, a spaceport company is slated to complete its next launch attempt in the coming months; Gilmour Space Technologies, a rocket manufacturer, will be blasting off its Eris rocket in the latter half of 2022; Equatorial Launch Australia is preparing for its sounding rocket launch in Arnhem Land soon and many other university-led missions will also be sending their satellites up into space.
As part of testing the satellite’s capabilities, SmartSat CRC successfully demonstrated that nano-satellite communications which will be onboard Kanyini can cost-effectively monitor groundwater bores.
The research project was conducted by FrontierSI, a not-for-profit company that provides space services, Myriota, the University of South Australia, NGIS Australia and the Department for Environment and Water.
Its results saw an “end-to-end solution” of transmitting information from bores across rural and regional SA. This capability is vital to manage the source of drinking water for many rural townships.
FrontierSI deputy CEO Phillip Delaney said the partners have worked on this technology demonstration for two years to improve groundwater bore monitoring and “management in the harsh environment of remote Australia”.
“This project has created a wealth of information on groundwater, transforming once per year updates on groundwater into data points multiple times per day.
“This will be critical to underpinning decision-making, reactive to events, and understanding the impacts of developments on the whole groundwater network.”
He added that this would also reduce the need for on-site visits in remote environments, which are typically harsh and hard to access.
“The success of the Kanyini Critical Design Review marks the beginning of a new phase of the program where the Myriota and Inovor teams will proceed with assembly, integration and testing of the spacecraft and its two payloads,” said Myriota co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr David Haley.
“The internet of things payload will add to the Myriota Network, collecting data from devices and sensors on the Earth’s surface, working together with hyperspectral imaging collected from the earth observation payload to support a wide array of applications including aiding farmers in monitoring water levels so they can more accurately predict future crop yields and supporting emergency services personnel to monitor, manage and mitigate emergencies like bushfires.” (Source: Space Connect)
18 May 22. Final Pléiades Neo satellites ready to join rest of family. Integration completed, environment tests successfully passed. Dispenser-free launch configuration, clever “auto-stackable” design. The last two satellites of the Airbus-built, owned and operated Pléiades Neo constellation are on track for launch later this year, following successful final tests in Toulouse’s clean rooms.
Following the seamless parallel integration of both Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites, and the successful conclusion of the environment (thermal vacuum, acoustic, vibration) test campaign, both final spacecraft are now ready to complete the Pléiades Neo constellation.
Both satellites are due to be launched simultaneously on the Vega C European launcher from Kourou, in French Guiana. To tackle this dual launch, the Airbus space engineers came up with a smart and efficient dispenser-free design, where the satellites are stacked on top of each other, linked only by a clamp band. This compact dispenser-free launch configuration saves volume and mass, as well as reducing cost. Simultaneously testing both satellites in their stacked launch configuration enabled significant time saving, with only four days needed to pass both the three axes Sine testing and the acoustic test.
“With this new bold, dispenser-free design, we were able to seamlessly integrate and test these two very high resolution satellites and ensure an optimised launch configuration: in a single launch, we will double the acquisition capacity of the Pléiades Neo constellation, and offer even greater responsiveness to our customers,” said Philippe Pham, Head of Earth Observation and Science at Airbus.
About Pléiades Neo
Comprising four identical satellites, the Pléiades Neo constellation will work hand in hand with the existing Pléiades satellites and the rest of the Airbus Earth observation satellite fleet. The highly compact Pléiades Neo spacecraft have a light weight, next generation silicon carbide optical instrument. They also have laser comms inter-satellite links with SpaceDataHighway (EDRS) geostationary satellites to enable urgent acquisitions in just 30 to 40 minutes following a tasking request to swiftly respond to the most critical situations.
17 May 22. CACI conducts optical communication test under Mandrake II programme. CACI’s CrossBeam provides bi-directional satellite-to-earth links using low complexity systems. CACI International has successfully demonstrated a space-based communication network in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) under the Mandrake II programme.
The test was conducted in collaboration with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Space Development Agency (SDA).
The demonstration involved establishing Optical InterSatellite Links (OISLs) on the Mandrake II satellite with the help of SA Photonics’ CrossBeam free-space optical terminals.
US-based firm SA Photonics was acquired by CACI last December, following which the companies collaborated to offer advanced photonics engineering and manufacturing capabilities in the US.
The 40-minute-long process was conducted on 14 April. It helped in establishing an optical link on the satellites that aim to support communication capability for the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) proliferated LEO (p-LEO) National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA).
The test further validated data transfer and closed-loop tracking capability in a link distance exceeding 100km, with more than 200Gb of data received and transmitted.
CACI CEO and president John Mengucci said: “Our national security depends on advanced, secure technology that enables modernised networks and enhanced intelligence systems for our warfighters using small satellites to operate at the speed of relevance.”
The Mandrake II programme is a joint effort of US Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), DARPA and SDA.
It is a risk-reduction programme to evaluate the acquisition, pointing and tracking algorithms. In June 2021, DARPA successfully deployed two Mandrake II spacecraft, namely Able and Baker. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
17 May 22. Gilmour unveils new in-house built 3D printed rocket engine. Gilmour Space Technologies has just unveiled its newly built 3D printed liquid engine that will power its Eris rocket’s third stage into orbit in the company’s upcoming launch.
The Queensland-based rocket company said building the component demonstrates Australia’s sovereign capability in space manufacturing, as liquid rocket engines, which are used by SpaceX and NASA, are “notoriously complex and expensive to develop”.
Gilmour is Australia’s largest sovereign space employer, and was founded by two brothers in 2013, specialising in creating orbital-class hybrid propulsion technologies, which are safer and cheaper than traditional rockets.
By the latter half of 2022, Gilmour is set to perform the maiden flight of its three-stage Eris rocket from the Bowen spaceport in northern Queensland, paving way for the company to begin launching 300- to 4,000-kilogram satellites and payloads into low-Earth and other orbits for customers.
Announced on Tuesday, the company shared a successful 190-second mission duty cycle (mission duration) test fire of the “regeneratively-cooled” rocket engine. (Source: Space Connect)
17 May 22. $70m large satellite manufacturing hub set for NSW.
A new $71.4m facility is set to be built in NSW that will be capable of designing and building Earth observation (EO) satellites weighing up to 500 kilograms.
The “Australian Satellite Manufacturing Hub” will be based at two separate locations, create 500 jobs and have the aim of making the country’s space industry more self-sufficient.
The news was announced on Tuesday by the federal government, which said it would invest $23.6 m in the project, alongside $22.86m from the state government.
It comes after the government announced its plans to build and operate four of its own EO satellites in March, and this new hub will now make that possible.
The project will be jointly led by EOS Space Systems, a Canberra-based company that provides space debris and satellite management solutions, and Nova Systems, a NSW-based space communication company. Both EOS and Nova will also partner with rocket manufacturer Gilmour Space Technologies on the facility.
In a statement released on Tuesday, EOS said the hub will be built at two locations, including the Poplars business park in the South Jerrabomberra Innovation Precinct outside of Canberra, and at the UTS Tech Lab in Sydney.
“This new collaborative manufacturing capability fills recognised gaps in Australia’s current space manufacturing landscape by enabling the local development of large, high-quality, reliable spacecraft and optical payloads that are capable of fulfilling complex missions which deliver national economic benefit,” said EOS’ CEO Glen Tindall.
The manufacturing hub will also support the development of nano and small satellites, propellants and fuels, payloads, sensors, solar panels, structural components, optics, new space-related technologies and materials, optical wireless communication technologies and key ground segment subsystems, according to EOS.
In a recent Space Connect podcast episode, Glen Tindall told Space Connect while there is a movement towards using smaller satellites, large satellites are still important.
He said these provide economic value for Australia and are crucial for many scientific research missions, human spaceflight ambitions and defence applications.
Increasing Australia’s space manufacturing capabilities is a major priority for the nation as it steps into the international space race and bets on driving in overseas investment.
“Every day, when Australians use navigation systems in their cars or smartphones – or farmers want to monitor crops, or emergency workers respond to bushfires – they are using space technologies such as satellites,” Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.
Minister Taylor added that this hub will help grow the local supply chain, enabling the development of large satellites to be “right here at home”.
This new hub is also set to create 500 indirect and direct jobs over five years, which is a key priority for Australia to become a sovereign spacefaring nation.
While most of the funding is driven by the state and federal government, $25 m is set to be invested by the space industry.
Similar to the Australian Space Park set to be built in Adelaide for the manufacturing of smaller satellites, this new hub will fast-track the local development of larger ones. (Source: Defence Connect)
17 May 22. Satellites key to Canada’s Arctic surveillance strategy.
The Canadian government is bolstering its defense and surveillance capabilities in the Arctic with a focus on using space assets and new technology.
Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said the 2022 federal government budget, released April 7, contains 252 m Canadian dollars ($199 m) to start research on modernizing the joint Canada-U.S. North Warning system in the Arctic. In addition, that money will be used for research into long-range communications and over-the-horizon radar systems for the northern region.
Anand had previously indicated that more announcements on new Arctic-related projects are still to come. In an April 4 appearance before the Canadian Senate’s defense committee, Anand noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concern about Russian activities in the Arctic are behind the new funding.
“The current defense and security climate also has underscored that we need to do more to bolster our defenses in Canada and North America at large,” she said. “To that end, in the coming months, we will be bringing forward a robust package of investments to bolster our continental defense in close co-operation with the United States.”
In a March 29 meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Anand pointed out that modernization of the capabilities of the North American Aerospace Defense Command is a key priority for the Canadian government. Much of that modernization will center on upgrading the North Warning System or NWS.
The NWS was constructed between 1986 and 1992, and consists of a series of long and short-range air defense radar sites. Forty-seven of the 50 sites are located across the Canadian Arctic.
Canadian and U.S. defense officials still have to work out the specifics of the modernization, but the estimated cost of such a project is expected to be around $10bn.
“You’re looking at a multi-year endeavor here, obviously working hand in hand with our allies to prioritize and land on specific plans,” Canadian Department of National Defence deputy minister Bill Matthews told the senators.
However, in an Aug. 21, 2021 agreement, Canada and the U.S. set out priority areas for investment. These include situational awareness, particularly for the Arctic and maritime approaches to the continent. That would see the replacement of the North Warning System with more advanced technological solutions as soon as possible, including next-generation over-the-horizon radar systems, the two nations pointed out in a statement issued at the time. Also included were sensors both for the seafloor and in space. “The existing North Warning System is to be maintained until appropriate replacement capabilities are in place, “ the two countries noted.
Also to be examined is a modernized command and control system that would include robust and resilient communications for remote locations in support of NORAD missions.
In addition, members of Canada’s defense and aerospace industry were briefed by Canadian defense department officials on April 7 about some of the space initiatives that will move forward in the future.
One of the key programs is the Enhanced Satellite Communications Project – Polar (ESCP-P). That will involve a satellite to provide reliable and secure communications access for the Arctic.
Initial work on the project, which will provide narrowband and wideband communications capabilities, is expected start next year, according to the briefing provided to industry by Cam Stoltz, director of space requirements at the Department of National Defence.
The budget still has to be set, but the defense department has estimated it could be up to 4.9bn Canadian dollars.
At one point, the Canadian government was looking at putting into orbit a constellation of satellites to provide communications for the Arctic and gather weather data from the region. That project proved too daunting and was canceled in 2016. Instead, Canada decided to focus just on communications capabilities, the result being ESCP-P. Other nations have also expressed interest in working with Canada on ESCP-P, including New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the U.S. and France.
The system is expected to be operating starting in 2034 and will be interoperable with the U.S. Department of Defense and NATO.
Work will also begin next year on the Defence Enhanced Surveillance from Space Project (DESSP). That space system will provide surveillance of Canada’s Arctic and its maritime approaches as it is designed to be an upgrade of the defense capabilities now provided by the RADARSAT Constellation Mission.
The RADARSAT Constellation Mission, launched in 2019, uses three radar-imaging satellites to conduct maritime and Arctic surveillance. The RCM is also equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS), allowing for detection and tracking of ships.
The Department of National Defence has consulted with industry on DESSP and, in November 2021, received feedback from companies on what technology could be available for the project in the future. It will now be up to defense officials to determine how to proceed.
However, the initial operating capability of the DESSP is envisioned in 2033, Stoltz explained to industry officials. (Source: Google/https://spacenews.com/)
08 May 22. The Inaugural Launch Of Momentus’ Vigoride OTV Cleared By The FAA. Momentus Inc. (NASDAQ: MNTS) (“Momentus” or the “Company”) has received a favorable determination from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the company’s application for payload review in support of their inaugural flight of the Vigoride orbital transfer vehicle on the upcoming SpaceX Transporter-5 mission targeted for launch this month.
The FAA favorable determination marks Momentus’ final regulatory milestone needed to support its inaugural mission. The Company recently received a license from the FCC and license updates from NOAA. These licenses enable Momentus to use radio frequencies to communicate with the Vigoride spacecraft and to use the onboard cameras, respectively.
The decisions by these U.S. government agencies – which in some cases involved a review by other U.S. government departments and agencies, including the Defense Department – reflect the Company’s progress addressing previous national security concerns and commitment to implementation of its National Security Agreement with the U.S. government.
During the inaugural mission, Momentus plans to take customer payloads to orbit and generate a small amount of revenue. However, the mission’s primary goals are to test Vigoride in orbit, learn from any issues that are encountered and incorporate lessons learned into future Vigoride vehicles.
“We welcome these decisions by the relevant U.S. government agencies that clear the way for Momentus to conduct its inaugural launch of the Vigoride spacecraft,” said Momentus Chief Executive Officer, John Rood. “Our team remains focused on completing the late-stage preparation of the spacecraft and looks forward to seeing Vigoride in orbit soon.”
10 May 22. Xona’s Huginn Demo Smallsat Delivered To Spaceflight For SpaceX Transporter 5 Payload Integration. Xona Space Systems, the aerospace startup developing a precision navigation and timing (PNT) system in LEO, has announced that their first in-space demonstrator has been delivered to Spaceflight Inc. for final integration after successfully completing testing and is scheduled for launch on SpaceX’s Transporter 5 in May.
Xona is building the first ever, independent, high-performance satellite navigation and timing system designed to meet the needs of intelligent systems.
Historically, satellite navigation systems such as GPS and Galileo have been exclusively in the domain of major governments, with a price tag into the 10s of bns of dollars. The new space era has brought phenomenal new capabilities to market at orders of magnitude lower cost that has led to a wave of new commercial capabilities sprouting in satellite communications (SATCOM) and Earth Observation (EO). Xona is leveraging the new-space ecosystem to bring the benefits of the commercial space age to a different industry: satellite navigation and timing.
Xona Space is launching Huginn, the first of two missions, demonstrating the capability of their Pulsar constellation. Pulsar’s architecture uses small, but powerful, satellites in LEO, more than 20x closer to Earth than GPS, to deliver high-performance navigation and timing services. Pulsar combines modern security and signal designs with Xona’s patent-pending, distributed, atomic clock architecture to enable robust precision navigation services to be provided from low-cost satellites.
Xona’s Huginn satellite at Experior Laboratories.
Huginn will transmit the first precision navigation signals from a LEO spacecraft, designed to test and validate the core software and hardware technology that Xona has developed for Pulsar. The mission will also demonstrate the functionality of the end user equipment on Earth and supporting ground systems. Huginn is now going through final integration with Spaceflight in preparation for launch on the scheduled Transporter 5 mission in May. This mission marks a huge step toward realizing a new generation of navigation systems.
Following the Launch of Huginn, the Xona team is shifting its focus to the second demonstration mission as well as the development of the Block I Pulsar system. The final Pulsar constellation will consist of several hundred satellites in LEO, delivering secure and robust precision PNT services designed to meet the needs of advanced applications such as self-driving cars, precision agriculture and construction, augmented reality, critical infrastructure, and many others.
“We’re thrilled that Huginn has successfully completed its very rigorous test campaign in preparation for launch and are incredibly proud of the Xona team for achieving such a critical milestone,” said Brian Manning, CEO of Xona. “Through this process we learned a massive amount and will be incorporating these lessons into our second demo mission as well as the production satellites. It is inspiring to see what this team has been able to achieve going from a blank slate to orbit in less than a year from the time we completed our ground based prototype testing. This is a huge step in the development and deployment of our Pulsar constellation, and we’re looking forward to a very exciting year here at Xona.” (Source: Satnews)
10 May 22. Virgin Orbit To Launch The QPS-SAR-5 Satellite. Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) has signed a launch services agreement with Japanese Earth Observation (EO) constellation operator Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc. (“iQPS”) — the satellite is expected to join Virgin Orbit’s manifest for early 2023. Selected for LauncherOne’s proven ability to provide direct access to diverse orbits, Virgin Orbit expects to launch the QPS-SAR-5 satellite into a tailored, mid-inclination orbit to allow iQPS to expand the coverage of their constellation and revisit rate. By directly injecting the QPS-SAR-5 into the desired orbit on iQPS’ schedule, LauncherOne’s flexibility should allow for iQPS to rapidly commission the QPS-SAR-5 and begin collecting information from areas of key interest to its customers.
The iQPS QPS-SAR-5 is expected to play a critical role in enabling near, real-time EO by iQPS’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) constellation. iQPS enables the development of small, high-performance SAR satellites by employing a unique, deployable antenna that is large, yet easy to stow, and weighs only 10 kg. The antenna is also capable of penetrating clouds and collecting high-resolution images even in adverse weather conditions, enabling frequent and important EO missions.
iQPS is planning to establish a constellation of 36 satellites that will enable the observation of particular locations almost everywhere in the world in approximately 10 minutes, or every 10 minutes to a fixed area,for observation. Additionally, iQPS has succeeded in acquiring 70 cm. resolution images with QPS-SAR-2 and subsequent satellites — including QPS-SAR-5 —are expected to achieve even higher resolution.
Virgin Orbit demonstrated its ability to reach unique orbital inclinations during its January 2022 mission “Above the Clouds,” in which the company’s air-launcher system, LauncherOne and its carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl, deployed seven customer satellites to 500 km. circular orbit at 45 degrees inclination after taking off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in Mojave, California — a first for the launch industry.
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