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26 May 22. All Six Terran Orbital Designed and Built Satellites Successfully Deploy From SpaceX Transporter-5. Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States aerospace and defense industry, today announced all six Terran Orbital designed and built satellites that launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-5 mission have successfully deployed on their journey to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
The Terran Orbital satellites include two NASA CubeSat Proximity Operations Demonstration (CPOD) vehicles, NASA Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 (PTD-3), Fleet Space CENTAURI-5, and two GeoOptics CICERO-2 vehicles.
“Terran Orbital is thrilled all six of our latest satellites have deployed from SpaceX Transporter-5,” said Terran Orbital Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Bell. “The satellites we develop each solve a unique problem with even more unique technology.”
Mr. Bell continued, “The Terran Orbital team has worked tirelessly to design and build technology that is not only solving the problems of today but laying the foundation for the solutions of tomorrow. Terran Orbital looks forward to continuing to partner with the likes of NASA, GeoOptics, Fleet Space, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and SpaceX as we continue to successfully deliver space-based solutions advancing humanity’s future and prosperity.”
Click here for a description of each satellite.
Terran Orbital has previously announced a significant expansion in manufacturing capabilities as well as contract awards from Lockheed Martin, the Space Development Agency, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
About Terran Orbital
Terran Orbital is a leading manufacturer of small satellites primarily serving the United States aerospace and defense industry. Terran Orbital provides end-to-end satellite solutions by combining satellite design, production, launch planning, mission operations, and in-orbit support to meet the needs of the most demanding military, civil, and commercial customers. Learn more at www.terranorbital.com. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
25 May 22. HawkEye 360 Launches Next-Generation Cluster 5 Satellites. HawkEye 360 Inc., the world’s leading commercial provider of space-based radio frequency (RF) data and analytics, today announced that its Cluster 5 satellites have successfully launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on May 25. Once Cluster 5’s on-orbit checkout is complete, the recent launches in 2022 will have doubled capacity and revisit rates, expanding HawkEye 360’s constellation to 15 satellites. This significantly boosts the constellation’s ability to serve global customer demand and to monitor activity across places such as Ukraine.
“Every enhanced satellite cluster we launch helps us deliver a higher density of valuable data to our government, commercial and humanitarian customers and partners – advancing our efforts to monitor global activities for a safer and more secure world,” said HawkEye 360 John Serafini. “Launch by launch, these space-based innovations are analyzing the knowns and uncovering the unknowns of the RF spectrum across the globe.”
Cluster 5 includes enhanced antenna functions introduced with Cluster 4, which allow greater flexibility in geolocating signals across a wide range of frequencies important to customers. Cluster 4 launched on April 1 has been completing checkout and moving into final formation to begin collecting data in late June. Cluster 5 is slated to achieve initial operating capability in August 2022.
These recent launches keep HawkEye 360 on track to exponentially increase the size of the constellation, with upcoming launches now scheduled every few months. HawkEye 360 will continue to grow the constellation to achieve revisit rates around 15 minutes in order to support timely defense, national security, and commercial applications. (Source: PR Newswire)
25 May 22. ICEYE successfully completes its largest satellite launch ever, placing five new SAR satellites into orbit. ICEYE, the global leader in persistent monitoring with radar satellite imaging and an expert in flood and natural catastrophe (NatCat) solutions, has successfully launched five new SAR satellites. All spacecraft were launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 smallsat rideshare mission via EXOLAUNCH from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Communication has successfully been established with each spacecraft. ICEYE and ICEYE US have now deployed 21 satellites since 2018, including both commercial and dedicated customer missions.
ICEYE’s satellite constellation is designed to provide customers with reliable and frequent imagery enabling the rapid detection and tracking of changes on the Earth’s surface, regardless of time of day, or weather conditions. This capability is vital for government and commercial uses in various sectors, including insurance, natural catastrophe response and recovery, national security, defense, humanitarian relief and climate change monitoring.
“The ICEYE team has launched 21 small radar imaging satellites in a few short years, which is a remarkable feat to accomplish,” says Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and Co-founder of ICEYE. “The world needs these sources of objective truth data now more than ever. With this launch, we’ll have increased performance and capacity to further support our customers and our growth across current and emerging vertical markets.”
The launch also included the second and third satellites built, licensed and operated by ICEYE US. ICEYE US, a subsidiary of ICEYE, established a satellite manufacturing facility early last year at its headquarters in Irvine, California. The newly launched ICEYE US satellites are licensed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and will be operated and controlled exclusively from the company’s 24/7 Mission Operations Center in Irvine.
“Expanding our fleet of US built satellites is a critical step that expands our capability to support our customers across the U.S. Government,” says Jerry Welsh, CEO of ICEYE US. “We are seeing a shift in the U.S. and international government sector that is now looking to fully leverage and integrate commercial remote sensing technologies into their collection architectures.”
Two of the satellites launched are provided directly to the Brazilian Air Force. The Air Force will operate the satellites in support of environmental and national security objectives. Due to Brazil’s cloudy weather, SAR satellites that can image the earth during the night or through clouds have an important advantage in gathering actionable insights.
Later this year, ICEYE plans on adding up to five additional satellites to its constellation including more satellites manufactured by ICEYE US.
ICEYE delivers unmatched persistent monitoring capabilities for any location on earth. Owning the world’s largest synthetic aperture radar constellation, the company enables objective, data-driven decisions for its customers in sectors such as insurance, natural catastrophe response and recovery, security, maritime monitoring and finance. ICEYE’s data can be collected day or night, and even through cloud cover. For more information, please visit www.iceye.com. (Source: PR Newswire)
25 May 22. Ukrainian Space Industry Woes Also Hit the West. The severe sanctions against Moscow subsequent to the invasion of Ukraine have wreaked havoc among international space programs, in the form of launch disruptions, aborted programs and discontinued cooperations.
First, Western sanctions have scuttled several science missions – including ESA’s €1bn ExoMars and Euclid, DLR’s eROSITA/Spektr-RG, and NASA’s Venera-D– with the notable exception of the International Space Station (ISS) which continues operating as normal.
Several satellite launch programs were also impacted, the most prominent being 1 CSO French military observation, 4 Galileo navigation and 216 OneWeb communication satellites – all planned aboard Soyuz rockets. Indeed, since February 26 Moscow stopped all rocket launches from the European spaceport of Kourou, and repatriated its 90 employees present in French Guiana, putting Arianespace in a delicate commercial position.
The European Space Agency (ESA) officially recognized on March 17 the end of most collaborations with Roscomos. Consequently, OneWeb switched to SpaceX to launch its constellation into orbit. Beyond those immediate ruptures, both the United States and Europe will now have to manage a tricky transition period before their homegrown systems – whether engines, rockets, or equipment – are fully operational.
A limited impact on US launchers
In the US, this transition – although not expected that soon – was anticipated and planned. Notably, the switch from Russian made RD-180 rocket engines – manufactured by the NPO Energomash and used on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rockets for Pentagon missions – to BE-4 engines – homemade by Blue Origin to propel its own New Glenn as well as ULA’s new Vulcan rocket – will be accelerated.
While Roscosmos did halt deliveries of the RD-180 engines, ULA said on March 22 it expects Vulcan to fly “sometime this year”.
It’s tougher for Northrop Grumman (NG) and its Antares rocket, which will be used to fly the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). The company is “heavily dependent” on Ukraine input: while the rocket also uses Russian made RD-181 engines, a bigger problem lies within Antares’ entire 1st stage, which is designed by Yuzhnoye and built by Yuzhmash, the two main Ukrainian companies based in Dnipro, in the Eastern region of the country.
NG did not comment on potential Yuzhnoye supply chain disruptions, but the company has previously warned shareholders that “unstable geopolitical conditions, including in Russia and Ukraine,” are among its risks.” Thus, as long as Ukraine is under attack, NG could be forced to perform an extensive redesign and it is unclear how long Antares will live in its current form.
- European launches on hold
- Ariane: not ready yet…
In Europe, the transition will be more dramatic. Ariane 5 is no longer and both Ariane 6 and Vega C on a tightrope, putting Arianespace at odds with some customers. The company will have to deal with this tricky situation without the Soyuz cover, which was considered as “the natural back-up for Ariane 6 or even Vega C”. Some say that this could be an opportunity to the new German small launchers (Isar Aerospace’s Spectrum, Rocket Factory Augsburg’s RFA One, or HyImpulse Technologies’ SL1 rockets)…
- Vega: ready, and yet…
Beyond Soyuz, European space programs are also directly hit with disruption suffered by key Ukrainian suppliers.
The first is Vega C, the latest variant of Italian manufacturer Avio’s Vega light launcher, due to enter service this year. The first stage of this uprated variant is powered by the AVUM (Attitude & Vernier Upper Module) engine, also designed by Yuzhnoye and produced by Yuzhmash. Avio, now a subsidiary of the US engine manufacturer General Electric, told investors that its maiden flight is still scheduled for May, to put the LARES 2 satellite for the Italian space agency (ASI) into orbit.
But even if the flight is flawless, the real issue will be the subsequent Vega launches. Apparently, only three engines have already been delivered to Avio, and three others were being manufactured by Yuzhmash before the Russian invasion. The fate of those additional RD-843 engines, as well as of the rest of the factory is unclear.
“We are in daily contact with our colleagues in Yuzhmash, and we are assessing the availability for the coming months,” Daniel Neuenschwander, director of space transportation at ESA, said on March 18. Falling back to an equivalent engine is always a possibility, and Neuenschwander explains that he would prefer to find an engine designed in an ESA member state that could be quickly adapted to the second stage of Vega C.
This would notably be the case for the M10 engine, developed by Avio for Vega E, the successor to Vega C scheduled for 2025. “But ESA is “also studying non-European options” that would have “the right degree of maturity.” In the end, “the choice will come down to who will be ready the earliest,” Neuenschwander said. Anyhow, Avio, Arianespace and the ESA will have to find an answer quickly, because Vega C launch schedule is fairly busy with 15 launches in 2022, 2023 and early 2024,
- The remaining Ukrainian potential
The Ukrainian space industry is mostly concentrated within the Kyiv-Kharkiv-Dnipro triangle. The latter in particular, located 400 km southeast of Kyiv and with close to a m people in normal times, is a key area for the industry. During the Soviet era, many Ukrainian scientists, engineers and designers were based there to contribute to the success of the USSR space programs. Dnipro is the place where the first Soviet nuclear missile, the R-5 Pobeda (“Victory”), was designed and assembled in great secrecy. That is also why the Dnipro National University has maintained a strong aeronautical engineering department until today.
- Yuzhnoye: six feet under?
When the USSR was dismembered, the Ukrainian state kept both Yuzhmash (Южмаш) rocket factory – known for its Zenit rocket- and the Yuzhnoye (Ю́жное) design bureau, which still operate and continue to manufacture launchers and rocket propulsion systems under their new Ukrainian names, Pivdenmach (Південмаш) and Pivdenne (Південне) respectively.
Last month, on March 11, Russia launched airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Dnipro, severely damaging infrastructure, and destroying the regional airport runway. But so far, there was no reported attack on the space cluster in and around the city. According to most local observers, this is because Russian forces want to get hold of them at some point, and use them to their own profit. But to our knowledge, Russia – unlike the West – does not depend on Ukrainian suppliers anymore for national space programs.
On April 15, Boris Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, acknowledged the plant “has not made rockets for a long time,” although it continues to work on certain subsystems, sometimes in degraded mode, or in reduced working time, due to war and curfew restrictions. A number of employees ensures that operations continue, and if necessary, a “temporary relocation” could be considered, Filatov said
- Other space locations
Dnipro also hosts several space start-ups. One of them is Promin Aerospace, where a dozen engineers work on a lightweight (100kg) autophagic (i.e. “self-eating”) rocket using solid fuel as propellant. It is due to perform a suborbital launch trial this November, an initial commercial suborbital flight in 2023, and a commercial orbital flight in 2024/2025. Promin is said to work closely with the two big state-run players. As reported by SpaceNews, the company has an office in Kiev and its co-founders Misha Rudominsky and Vitaly Yemets stand ready to move everyone in the Western part of the country if need be.
Within the Ukrainian space triangle, let’s also mention the Kyiv Radio plant, created in 2003, based on old electro-mechanical railway workshops established in Kiev before WW2, and now also active in the space domain, through equipment design and manufacturing, R&D, experiments, communication, and signal processing.
Also based in Kyiv is the State-owned Arsenal Factory, an integral part of the country’s historical military-industrial complex, founded in… 1764, and which is now active – along other military activities – in various space-based optics and infrared sensors.
In Kiev, other space startups are active such as Kurs Orbital, founded in 1985 by Volodymyr Usov, former chairman of the Ukrainian Space Agency (SSAU), which designs reusable on-orbit servicing platforms, based on the soviet-era KURS automatic rendez-vous system. In 2021, the company was planning to launch a demonstration vehicle in 2023….(Usov also founded in the UK an innovative on-demand Air-Launch System under the name of OrbitBoy
Closer to the border, Kharkiv – another historical space and missile industry cluster – also hosts a number of space players, such as Hartron, Kommunar Production Association , and Instrument-Making Research Technological Institute). But the city has already been targeted by Russian missiles, and the recent offensive launched by Russian forces in the Donbass will make it more vulnerable to strikes in the foreseeable future
- Foreign start-ups: lost opportunities
Beyond Ukrainian main entities, over the past few years, many foreign players – from Europe and North America, have settled production and research facilities locally. This is notably the case of Rocket Factory Augsburg AG from Germany (engine components), Skyrora Ltd. from Britain (R&D teams), Maritime Launch Services Ltd. from Canada (launch services using Ukrainian-made Cyclone-4M rockets), Launcher Inc. from California (engine R&D and support teams), Italspazio from Italy (satcom, teleports and geoinformation) or Firefly Aerospace Inc. from Texas (R&D centre).
Each of these companies employ dozens of engineers, technicians, and other staff in Ukraine. For example, Skyrora Ltd., a startup founded in 2017 and developing the Skylark family of rockets, recruited rocket engineers from Dnipro “for their technical skills and because they’re many times less expensive to employ than their counterparts in the U.S. or Western Europe.” The company has now 80 people on its payroll in Ukraine – about half of its workforce.
While waiting to be called up for eventual combat, most of its employees continue to work. “From the first day, the factory was fully functional, and it still is,” notes Volodymyr Levykin, Skyrora’s CEO. That said, other companies, like Launcher Inc., have relocated employees in other European countries since the beginning of the war.
Just as the European space apparatus was more dependent on Russian rockets and technology than its US counterpart, Europe through Avio’s role in Vega is also more dependent on Ukraine’s technology.
But, considering the exactions of Putin’s regime, getting rid of as much Russian gear and expertise as possible is a matter of sovereignty, as well as a political stance. In the case of Ukraine, the sovereignty issue remains, but keeping cooperation and space trade as active as possible would also send a very clear economic and political signal to the nation.
24 May 22. AWS picks 10 startups for 2022 space accelerator. Amazon Web Services announced May 24 it has picked 10 startups to join its second annual space accelerator program, which helps early-stage companies learn how to grow their businesses with cloud and analytic technologies.
The startups come from across the Earth observation, space situational awareness (SSA), launch, propulsion and space exploration markets.
- Low Earth orbit thermal imagery satellite builder Albedo
- Climate intelligence startup Blue Sky Analytics
- Satellite imagery analytics provider EOS Data Analytics (EOSDA)
- Epsilon3, which specializes in software for managing complex aerospace operations and procedures
- SSA software provider Kayhan Space
- Electric propulsion developer Magdrive
- Space weather intelligence startup Mission Space
- Ocean data management solutions provider Terradepth
- Reusable orbital vehicle developer The Exploration Company
- Positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) specialist ZaiNar Tech
They will start a four-week course beginning June with mentors and experts from AWS and program partner AlchemistX, which is part of the San Fransisco-based Alchemist Accelerator.
The early stage companies will also receive up to $100,000 in AWS technical services offered under the AWS Activate program.
AWS partnered with British early-stage space investor Seraphim for the accelerator program last year, which selected: Cognitive Space, D-Orbit, Descartes Labs, Edgybees, HawkEye 360, LeoLabs, Lunar Outpost, Orbital Sidekick, Satellite VU and Ursa Space. These startups have collectively raised more than $359m since they were picked for the course, according to an AWS spokesperson. (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)
18 May 22. CACI International Inc. (NYSE: CACI) has successfully demonstrated space-to-space optical communications links in LEO in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Space Development Agency (SDA) as part of the Mandrake II program. Mandrake II is a joint risk-reduction program with DARPA, SDA and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) to evaluate the pointing, acquisition and tracking algorithms that allow for optical communication terminals to establish and maintain high-speed communication links in the upcoming Blackjack and SDA Transport and Tracking Layer constellations. This successful test, completed using CACI’s CrossBeam, free-space, optical terminals, is the first step in establishing more secure, space-based communications networks for defense agencies using more powerful, efficient technology that can transmit more data, faster.
The Optical InterSatellite Links (OISLs) were established using CrossBeam free-space optical terminals currently on-orbit, developed by SA Photonics, with satellites that are specifically aimed at demonstrating and supporting a communication capability for the Department of Defense’s proliferated LEO (p-LEO) National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA).
In December of 2021, CACI acquired California-based SA Photonics to address a broader market spanning high-end manned flight programs to the proliferated LEO market. The combined companies offer the most advanced photonics engineering and manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. with three major manufacturing facilities in California, Florida and New Jersey.
The CrossBeam OISLs on Mandrake II successfully established an optical link during a 40+ minute test on April 14th. The link demonstrated closed loop tracking and data transfer over a 100+ km link distance, with more than 200 gigabits (Gb) of data transmitted and received. The CrossBeam technology provides satellite crosslinks and bi-directional satellite-to-Earth links via low complexity systems, minimizing size, weight, power, and cost.
John Mengucci, CACI President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Our national security depends on advanced, secure technology that enables modernized networks and enhanced intelligence systems for our warfighters using small satellites to operate at the speed of relevance. Through the acquisition of SA Photonics, our joint technology and manufacturing capabilities have enabled this successful milestone. In partnership with our mission customers, we are on the path to supporting the contested space domain with faster, more secure satellites.
“Working with our partners on this industry milestone, we are proud to support the customer mission with this proliferated LEO class of low SWaP-C optical communication terminal,” said CACI SA Photonics Chief Operating Officer, Mustafa Veziroglu. “Building on the success of the Mandrake II program, the highly-manufacturable second-generation CrossBeam optical terminal is now ready to move into volume production in our expanded Los Gatos, California campus and new manufacturing facility in Orlando.”
CACI’s has decades of experience in photonics design services, product development, and delivery of Free-Space Optical Communication and LiDAR sensing solutions. With the acquisition of SA Photonics, the combined portfolios offer resilient communications terminals for LEO and GEO orbits, improving the performance of satellites carrying out intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and telecommunications missions, and providing high data rate links at low SWaP. CACI’s approximately 22,000 talented employees are vigilant in providing the unique expertise and distinctive technology that address our customers’ greatest enterprise and mission challenges. Our culture of good character, innovation, and excellence drives our success and earns us recognition as a Fortune World’s Most Admired Company.
17 May 22. The Freeform 3D Printing Of Satellite Antennas In Space Is Developed By Mitsubishi Electric. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503) has developed an on-orbit, additive-manufacturing technology that uses photosensitive resin and solar ultraviolet light for the 3D printing of satellite antennas in the vacuum of outer space.
The novel technology makes use of a newly developed liquid resin that was custom formulated for stability in vacuum. The resin enables structures to be fabricated in space using a low-power process that uses the sun’s ultraviolet rays for photopolymerization.
The technology specifically addresses the challenge of equipping small, inexpensive spacecraft buses with large structures, such as high-gain antenna reflectors, and enables on- orbit fabrication of structures that greatly exceed the dimensions of launch vehicle fairings. Resin-based, on-orbit manufacturing is expected to enable spacecraft structures to be made thinner and lighter than conventional designs, which must survive the stresses of launch and orbital insertion, thereby reducing both total satellite weight and launch costs.
Spacecraft antenna designs are challenging, due to their conflicting requirements for high gain, wide bandwidth and low weight. High gain and wide bandwidth necessarily require a large aperture, but economical orbital deployment conventionally dictates that designs be lightweight and small enough to fit or fold inside a launch vehicle or satellite deployment mechanism. Mitsubishi Electric’s innovative approach—resin-based on-orbit manufacturing—efficiently realizes high-gain, wide-bandwidth, large-aperture antennas deployed from a lightweight, vibration-resistant launch package. By developing a 3D printer that extrudes a custom ultraviolet-curable resin formulated for vacuum, resin-based low-power freeform (without requiring auxiliary support structures) additive-manufacturing in space has now become possible.
1) 3D printer for the freeform fabrication of antennas in vacuum
— The 3D printer shares the antenna’s struts and angle-adjustment motors.
— Antenna size is not limited by the size of the fairing of the launch vehicle or the size of the satellite bus.
— On-orbit manufacturing eliminates the need for an antenna structure that can withstand vibrations and shocks during launch, which is required for conventional antenn areflectors, making it possible to reduce the weight and thickness of antenna reflectors, thereby contributing to the reduction of satellite weight and launch costs.
— Assuming the use of a 3U cubessat (100 x 100 x 300 mm) specification, an antenna reflector with a diameter of 165 mm, which is larger than the size of the cubesat bus, was fabricated in air and a gain of 23.5 dB was confirmed in the Ku-band (13.5 GHz). (Source: Satnews)
19 May 22. Gilmour develops engine to increase defence payload capacity of Eris rocket. Australian rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has developed a liquid rocket engine called ‘Phoenix’ that will power “the third and final stage” of its Eris rocket to orbit, a spokesperson for the company has told Janes.
Phoenix is a regeneratively cooled, 3D-printed liquid rocket engine that “results in a more capable rocket” because it will enable the delivery of more defence and commercial payloads to space, the spokesperson added.
This includes a new surveillance satellite that Gilmour Space is developing for the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) that will be launched in one of the Eris rockets in 2023, the spokesperson noted.
Eris Block 1 comprises a series of rockets that will be partly powered by Phoenix, the spokesperson informed Janes. While the first rocket is scheduled to be launched towards the end of 2022, Gilmour Space intends to launch “two or three” more Eris Block 1 rockets in 2023. (Source: Janes)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power ms 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.