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07 Jul 22. Companies knock, but Space Force acquisition portal ‘Front Door’ remains closed. Joy White, SSC executive director, said that information about the July 28 reverse industry day on space domain awareness out to the cislunar region should be available on the Front Door website within a few days.
Space Force’s acquisitions command, Space Systems Command, since February has been touting plans for a new one-stop-shop website for interested vendors, called the SSC Front Door, as part of an overarching reorganization designed to speed development and procurement.
But for the moment, that vaunted Front Door remains essentially closed — a static website outlining future plans, with an email address for queries. A top official said today updates are in the works.
Besides providing basic information about upcoming industry days designed to explain Space Force programmatic requirements and the command’s new pre-program “reverse industry” days, the Front Door also is supposed to connect firms, especially those new to the Pentagon’s space acquisition labyrinth, with a “sherpa” to guide them to the right office and right contracting processes.
Indeed, in recent weeks, company representatives routinely have been referred to that site to obtain information about SSC’s next “reverse industry” day on the topic of space domain awareness (SDA), including in the vast cislunar region between the Earth’s outer orbit and the Moon. The event is meant to provide an opportunity for them to show off their wares and feed into future requirements. But following those directions to the static site has left some frustrated, according to a number of industry sources who have contacted Breaking Defense seeking information about the event and/or an SSC point of contact.
“As far as I can tell, the ‘SSC Front Door’ is not a real thing yet,” one industry source said. “I emailed that address, and I first got an auto response that said they are still working on getting the Front Door set up and it may take a few days to receive a response. Then when I got a response from someone, they directed me to fill out a form that is not yet available on their website and to consult a list of upcoming events, which is also not yet available on the website. But they said both the form and the event listing would be available at some unspecified time in the future — so here’s hoping!”
Joy White, SSC executive director, today admitted that the Front Door is “still in its infancy,” and in essence asked industry to bear with the command as it stands the initiative up.
“We’re working to add a lot more capability to the front door in the coming weeks, so I asked you to continue to return to that page,” she told a webinar sponsored by the National Security Space Association (NSSA). “We’re still manning up that office, and we’re still building up that capability. So my guess is right now you’re probably seeing a few days before you get engagement.”
White added that if information isn’t yet available via the Front Door about the SDA reverse industry day, which she said would be held July 28, it should be posted on the website within the next few days.
To be fair, SSC’s plans for the Front Door are ambitious and when realized should greatly ease communications with industry.
“We’re seeking to establish a two-step process to engage with industry. First, we’ve got an engagement function performed by a strategic assessment cell, and that cell will engage with industry by performing a quick scan of incoming technology for vectoring to potential SSC opportunities,” White explained. That cell also will “actively keeping abreast of the continuing state of commercial technology” and advise SSC program executive officers and program managers, as well as “actively connecting program offices with promising industry technology.”
AFRL’s experimental CubeSat, called Recurve, uses artificial intelligence/machine learning to autonomously decide how to route data through large constellations of interlinked satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
In addition, she said, the Front Door staff will conduct “a due diligence assessment process where they’re going to look at business viability, technical feasibility and operational utility,” in consultation with experts from across the Space Force and at Air Force Research Laboratory. That vetting process is designed “to ensure that capabilities that we’re investing in or we’re looking at bringing on board can be fully integrated.”
As for reach back to industry, White said, the end goal of the portal is to emulate the live chat processes ubiquitous on retail websites.
“That’s my vision for SSC front door is that when you’re hooked in, you’re getting somebody immediately responding to you. So that’s the long term goal,” she said.
Asked for comment, SSC was unable to provide by press time an estimated date for when the full Front Door website is expected to be up and running. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
07 Jul 22. CAPSTONE Satellite, Designed and Built by Terran Orbital, Successfully Deploys from Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into Lunar Transfer Orbit. Terran Orbital Corporation (NYSE: LLAP), a global leader in satellite solutions, primarily serving the United States and Allied aerospace and defense industries, today announced the successful deployment of the CAPSTONE spacecraft from a Rocket Lab Lunar Photon into a Lunar Transfer Orbit. The Terran Orbital designed, built, and integrated Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, otherwise known as CAPSTONE, is flying a pathfinding mission to the moon in support of NASA’s historic Artemis program. With deployment complete, Terran Orbital will now commence the satellite’s mission operations. CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA.
As a pathfinder for a Moon-orbiting Gateway outpost built by NASA’s commercial and international partners, CAPSTONE will help reduce risk for future spacecraft by verifying the dynamics of a unique Lunar orbit and will validate innovative navigation technologies. CAPSTONE is the first satellite to demonstrate operations of a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This demonstration would typically be impossible for a 12U form factor such as CAPSTONE, roughly the size of a microwave, – but a radio tower antenna combined with a low-energy “ballistic lunar transfer” extend the satellite’s capability and reach.
CAPSTONE’s deployment follows six days of orbit-raising burns around Earth aboard Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon spacecraft bus, since launching on an Electron launch vehicle from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, New Zealand. The CAPSTONE spacecraft deployed from a Terran Orbital 12U Spacecraft Deployer. Post-deployment activities for CAPSTONE include spacecraft power-on, autonomously gaining attitude control, and preparation for first contact with an Earth-based communication station. In the coming days, the Terran Orbital Mission Operations team, operating from their Mission Operations Center in Irvine, CA, will be communicating with and conducting commissioning of the CAPSTONE spacecraft in close partnership with the Advanced Space Navigation and Payload Operation teams as well as NASA’s Deep Space Network.
CAPSTONE will continue a fuel-conserving ballistic lunar transfer, traveling as far as 1.5 m kilometers from Earth, before returning closer to the Earth and Moon for the spacecraft’s propulsive NRHO Insertion Maneuver. NRHO Insertion, and all other propulsive maneuvers on CAPSTONE’s lunar transfer journey, executed by Terran Orbital’s Mission Operations team, are made possible by a Stellar Exploration hydrazine propulsion system, with maneuver design by Advanced Space. This journey will last approximately four months with NRHO arrival currently anticipated for November 13th.
“Terran Orbital develops satellites that simultaneously solve today’s problems while creating the solutions for tomorrow,” said Terran Orbital Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Bell. “CAPSTONE is a true pathfinder mission that will illuminate and finetune crucial technologies as we enter this New Space generation. Terran Orbital is proud to have brought CAPSTONE to fruition alongside NASA, Rocket Lab, and Advanced Space – and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners across the aerospace and defense industry as Terran Orbital designs, builds, integrates, and operates life-changing satellites.”
“With the capabilities being demonstrated from all our industry partners, this mission is a ‘capstone’ achievement for small launch and small spacecraft,” said Justin Treptow, Deputy Program Executive for NASA’s Small Spacecraft technology program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Supporting Artemis and demonstrating navigation solutions in cis-lunar space really showcases the utility and speed of small, highly-capable teams of industry partners.”
“CAPSTONE’s spacecraft separation with a CubeSat on its way to the Moon is an incredible industry shaping event in space exploration,” said Advanced Space Chief Executive Officer and CAPSTONE Principal Investigator Bradley Cheetham. “It is only fitting to be on Independence Day. Congratulations to all our partners and people behind CAPSTONE. Advanced Space is honored to lead this historic mission for NASA. We are just getting started, in the sustainable exploration, development, and settlement of space.”
“Going to the Moon is a team effort and we couldn’t have asked for better mission partners for CAPSTONE,” said Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive Officer Peter Beck. “With the launch phase of the mission now complete, we wish Advanced Space, Terran Orbital and NASA every success with the remainder of this ground-breaking mission.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
07 Jul 22. Kleos to move into UK Space Park. The Luxembourg-based ‘“spy satellite” company, which is also on the ASX, is best known for using its clusters in low-Earth orbit to geolocate emissions from passing ships that may be trying to hide their positions. It currently has a constellation of 12 satellites, with the launch of its fourth cluster planned in the coming months.
Kleos Space said the move is the first step in a long-term strategic plan to integrate into the growing UK market.
The business’ global chief innovation officer, Miles Ashcroft, said, “The Space Park offers a fantastic work environment for us, and with its plans for the future and potential opportunities for collaboration, it is great a fit for our strategy to grow to meet the demands of our customers.”
The Space Park aims to be a ‘world-leading hub’ for innovative space research, business enterprise, and further education in space-focussed and earth observation.
Opening in the first half of 2021, it brings together academics, industry entities and students to create an organic collaborative community within the space sector.
Meanwhile, the University of Leicester has a strong history of space-focused research, innovation, and engineering, boasting a 55-year record of at least one piece of Leicester-built equipment operating in space every year.
Space Connect previously reported how Kleos signed a deal to share its geolocation data with the US Navy in June. The business’ US subsidiary will work with the country to find innovative new ways to stop smuggling, control fishing and conduct search and rescue operations. Earlier this week, it also secured $10m of debt facility from an Australian asset management company. The funding will be used to increase the company’s operational capacities on the ground and finance the expansion of its network of satellite clusters beyond the 16 planned for 2022. (Source: Space Connect)
07 Jul 22. NSW-based Antaris and Quasar to collaborate. NSW-based businesses Antaris and Quasar Satellite Technologies are to work together to develop new satellite constellation management solutions.
Antaris currently offers software to build satellites and integrate payloads, while Quasar is best known for using ground stations to talk to hundreds of satellites at once using technology developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
On Thursday, Quasar said it had committed to integrating its ‘digital multi-beam phased array technology’ — designed to enable customers to manage spacecraft constellations through a single ground station connection — into Antaris’s software-defined open satellite platform.
Antaris is set to be one of Quasar’s first demonstration users upon the launch of its multi-beam service in early 2023. Antaris also aims to make ground contact from its demonstrator satellite via an API service with the company’s S-band antenna following its launch later this year.
This is expected to provide Quasar with connectivity via its marketplace to customer base, which includes SATCOM providers, space agencies, defence and intelligence entities and contractors, and space start-ups.
“We are hugely excited to be partnering with Quasar to help mission owners and satellite operators significantly reduce the cost of managing constellations,” Antaris Inc co-founder Shankar Sivaprakasam said.
“Quasar’s digital multi-beam phased array ground station is a game changer.”
According to Sivaprakasam, Quasar’s connectivity from a single station simplifies and creates a cost-effective earth-spacecraft communication.
“Being able to offer Quasar connectivity-as-a-service via the Antaris software-defined satellite platform for our SaaS customers will give us a significant advantage as we start to roll out our platform to clients across the world,” Sivaprakasam added.
Quasar Satellite Technologies CEO Phil Ridley welcomed the opportunity to work with Antaris on building an end-to-end software defined satellite platform.
“The Antaris SaaS marketplace solution for orbiting mission design and management is a perfect match for our flexible ground station solution, and together they offer satellite mission designers a range of choices for developing their satellite capabilities for launch and then communicating with them in a cost-efficient way when in orbit,” Ridley said.
Aurora Space Cluster — which helps facilitate collaboration between start-up and mentors, supporting partners, corporates, and aerospace primes — also welcomed the partnership, with board chair Dr Tim Parsons claiming it would unlock new opportunities in the space ecosystem.
Space Connect reported earlier this year how Antaris would work with Adelaide-based AICRAFT, a company which offers computing sensors and systems with AI models. (Source: Space Connect)
07 Jul 22. Rocket Lab Introduces Responsive Space Program. The program will on-ramp customers by creating tailored responsive launch and satellite development solutions, granting them access to Rocket Lab’s rapid, 24-hour call up launch service and rapid satellite build capability.
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, has today announced it is introducing a Responsive Space Program designed to on-ramp commercial and government satellite operators to the Company’s 24/7 rapid call-up launch capability and streamlined satellite build and operation options.
“Satellites are vulnerable to natural degradation, accidents, technical failure, and deliberate actions. Unexpectedly losing the vital services and capabilities these satellites deliver has far reaching consequences back home on Earth. In today’s dynamic environment, the ability to establish new technologies on orbit is also crucial to provide time-critical insights to Earth observation and space domain awareness missions,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “We recognize our customers need a reliable responsive launch service and dependable satellite solutions that can promptly and accurately restore or establish assets on orbit, so we’ve made that possible with Electron and Rocket Lab designed and built satellites, including Photon. Responsive launch capability was baked into the design of Electron and our launch sites since day one, and we’ve made strategic investments into vertical spacecraft manufacturing to enable this. Now we’re bringing the capability under a dedicated Responsive Space Program to make it easier for our customers to access bespoke responsive space services.”
Through the Responsive Space Program, Rocket Lab works directly with satellite operators to understand their mission requirements, which may be dedicated rapid call-up launch, satellite design, build and integration, spacecraft operations, or all of the above. Once details including reference orbits, payload and integration specifications are confirmed, Rocket Lab develops a tailored responsive mission plan for each customer. From that point on, Rocket Lab remains in a state of readiness with rockets and satellites on standby, awaiting a notice from the customer to integrate and launch. From arrival at the launch site, payload integration, encapsulation and launch can be completed in as little as 24 hours. Rocket Lab’s ability to deliver responsive space is underpinned by four key aspects:
Electron is designed for standardized, rapid production. Supported by vertical integration, automation and established production complexes, a new Electron launch vehicle rolls off Rocket Lab’s production line on average every 30 days. Between this high production rate and available launch vehicles on standby, a rocket can be assigned a payload for launch on demand in days.
Responsive Launch Sites:
Rocket Lab operates three launch pads across two hemispheres, ensuring a pad is always available to support rapid call-up launch, even as planned launch operations continue in parallel on other pads.
Between Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand and Launch Complex 2 in Virginia, Rocket Lab can reach a wide range of orbits from 37 to 100 degrees. As the world’s only private orbital launch site, Launch Complex 1 also offers Rocket Lab complete launch schedule assurance as the range is not shared with other launch providers and does not rely on federal range assets. Both launch sites are supported by range control facilities, dedicated payload processing cleanrooms, and Electron integration facilities to enable streamlined integration and launch. Electron is supported by a global network of ground stations.
Whether it’s one or one hundred satellites, Rocket Lab can design, manufacture, launch and operate configurable satellites tailored to each customers’ mission. To support responsive replenishment of orbital assets, these satellites can be built and kept in a state of launch readiness, awaiting integration with the customer payload and launched on demand, either on Electron or alternative launch vehicles. Rocket Lab’s deep space systems heritage spans complete satellites through to subsystems and individual components, including space solar power, structures, radios, separation systems, propulsion, flight software, star trackers, and reaction wheels. More than 1,700 spacecraft on orbit feature Rocket Lab technology, including Photon spacecraft designed, built, launched and operated by Rocket Lab. By producing these vital subsystems in-house, we have a high degree of supply chain certainty and rapid production timelines.
Rocket Lab’s launch team is highly experienced. Having deployed more than 140 satellites to orbit across 27 missions, Electron has become the second most frequently launched U.S. orbital rocket. This deep heritage across our launch engineers, mission managers, and launch operations has resulted in streamlined, proven launch systems and processes that our team can execute rapidly and reliably. (Source: ASD Network)
06 Jul 22. Spaceflight experiment Recurve launches in support of warfighter comms. Recurve launched July 2 from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, supporting the U.S. Space Force.
Recurve is one of several CubeSats designed, built and operated within the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. A new feature includes cognitive radio frequencies capabilities, Recurve program manager Kate Yoshino said in a news release from the lab.
“AFRL’s CubeSat program is advancing the nation’s space portfolio in developing a hybrid space architecture that encompasses both large and small satellites,” Yoshino said. “Recurve will push CubeSat technology forward by demonstrating adaptive radio frequency [RF] system capability from a low Earth orbit platform.”
The launch by space service provider Virgin Orbit also supported the STP-S28A mission, which included six payloads meant to demonstrate available technology that can put Space Force capabilities on orbit.
The experimental technology of Recurve can evaluate mesh network behavior across multiple nodes. Instead of gathering information from only one node, mesh networks connect to as many other nodes as possible to improve resilience. Through those connections, the nodes work together to move data among users.
These advances will better support the transmission of information to fighters, Lt. Col. David Johnson, who serves as the chief of the Space Vehicle Directorate’s Integrated Experiments and Evaluations division, said in the release.
“Recurve advances us towards a vision of ubiquitous communication networks, to include beyond line of sight, to ensure that our warfighters have the information they need both quickly and reliably,” Johnson said.
The launch is the first of three missions the Space Force has contracted with Virgin Orbit. (Source: Defense News)
06 Jul 22. USAFRL begins integration, testing for experimental navigation satellite. Integration and testing activities for an experimental navigation satellite are ramping up at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate as the U.S. Space Force prepares to launch its first major positioning, navigation and timing demonstration in nearly 50 years.
The lab is on track to launch in late 2023 the third Navigation Technology Satellite, or NTS-3, built by prime contractor L3Harris Technologies. The effort will showcase advanced capabilities that could improve future GPS satellites or inform a new program to augment today’s constellation. Those technologies include steerable beams to provide regional coverage, a reprogrammable payload that can receive upgrades on orbit and protections against signal jamming.
Speaking with reporters during a recent visit to the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, NTS-3 program manager Arlen Biersgreen said the effort is part of a legacy of experimental positioning, navigation and timing, or PNT, missions that have shaped key military and civilian space technology.
The last NTS satellite flew in 1977 and showcased capabilities that proved integral to the GPS program. Biersgreen said the goal is for NTS-3 to create a pathway for a more regular demonstration cadence.
“The whole team has a vision for this not to be the last NTS in the near future,” he said. “The reality is — because of the threats GPS is experiencing and because of the importance that it has to military and civilian operations all over the world — we’ve got to have a faster cycle to keep up with the threats as they develop.”
In preparation for the 2023 launch, Biersgreen and his team expect to finish integrating and testing the spacecraft’s hardware and software this fall in time to deliver the satellite by the end of the year. The program recently completed key tests of major hardware and software components, including antenna arrays and the command-and-control system for the satellite bus and payload.
For the program’s ground segment, which will operate NTS-3 once on orbit, the team is eyeing integrated testing this fall and has ordered the hardware for its eventual mission operations center. In the meantime, the program has set up a mock-mission operations center for training and to ensure the various interfaces and systems work together. Once the real mission operations center is completed later this year, Biersgreen said, the team will use it for a factory compatibility test that will demonstrate functionality between the ground system and the spacecraft.
The program is also developing NTS-3 ground receivers, which allow military users to tap into the satellite’s advanced PNT capabilities. To date, the team has built four receivers and plans to provide six for the NTS-3 experiment.
Biersgreen said the program office is also eyeing opportunities to validate NTS-3′s performance during exercises with the military services. For example, the team had a chance to validate the receivers’ performance in a Navy exercise in March called NAVFEST, which is held annually at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. And in August, NTS-3 will be a part of the Army’s yearly PNT Assessment Exercise, or PNTAX.
During PNTAX, program officials wants to observe how the system works in a real-world environment and identify any necessary changes. The exercise also provides a chance to measure the satellite’s anti-jam capability, giving the Air Force Research Lab a “more convincing example of the utility of the techniques that we’re demonstrating,” Biersgreen said.
Once on orbit, NTS-3 will spend its first year performing more than 100 experiments, which will test various technologies and techniques. When the formal demonstration phase is complete, the satellite will continue to provide data for about two years.
As the lab plans for the experiment, acquisition offices within the Space Force and the Air Force are preparing strategies to buy and field the new technology. The Space Force is in the midst of a force design study that could drive changes to its current PNT architecture, and the serivce closely watching NTS-3 to see how it might augment GPS satellites.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is particularly interested in the user equipment segment of the program and is making plans to take advantage of the program’s software architecture.
“We’re working closely with our mission partners so that the data coming out of the experiment is relevant for transition across space, ground and user segments,” Biersgreen said. (Source: Defense News)
04 Jul 22. Lockheed Martin Australia, Clearbox Systems mark new step in JP9102 push. The companies have achieved a new milestone as part of their proposition for the ADF’s future defence SATCOM project.
Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) and Canberra-based satellite communications firm Clearbox Systems have completed critical ground segment software integration as part of their end-to-end military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) system offering to the ADF under the JP9102 project.
The integration is expected to further minimise technical risk across the ground and control segments of the system.
According to LMA, this would ensure project execution is “on schedule and budget”.
As part of the work undertaken by the companies,gineers integrated Clearbox’s Foresight Centralised Monitoring and Control (CMC) and Elctromagnetic Spectrum Management (ESM) applications with LMA’s Integrated Ground Environment demonstrator.
This has included integration with LMA’s control segment softwae and the enhancement of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS and free and open-source software (FOSS) applications for cyber security and operational capabilities.
The open-source capabilities are designed to maximise flexibility and support the sovereignty of the capability.
LMA’s ground and control segment solution for JP9102 has been designed to enable the integration of disparate, best-of-breed data sources and software applications.
“By investing in systems integration at this early stage, Lockheed Martin Australia is minimising technical risk and ensuring it can more seamlessly deliver an operationally superior MILSATCOM solution in a timeframe that meets Defence’s schedule requirements,” Chris Jewell, JP9102 program director, Lockheed Martin Space, said.
“Lockheed Martin Australia’s enduring relationship with Clearbox is representative of our broader commitment to investing in and developing the capabilities of Australian SMEs and strengthening the nation’s defence and space industries.”
This latest work builds on years of collaboration between LMA and Clearbox — the inaugural graduate of LMA’s Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP).
“Through its JP9102 campaign, Lockheed Martin Australia is generating significant opportunities for Australian industry team members like Clearbox to grow their space capabilities,” Matt Collins-Leslie, CEO of Clearbox Systems, said.
“It’s a win-win situation, providing Lockheed Martin Australia access to world-leading software solutions, and Clearbox access to the resources needed to grow our team and expand our offering.
“Clearbox is proud to be working alongside Lockheed Martin Australia and some of our nation’s leading defence SMEs to ensure the effective and timely delivery of a world-class, sovereign military satellite communications solution for Defence.”
Clearbox is among a number of local firms to join LMA’s bid for JP9102, including Av-Comm, Blacktree, Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, DXC, EM Solutions, Inovor Technologies, Linfox, Ronson Gears, Shoal Group and STEM Punks.
LMA is competing against a host of other major contractors, including Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman Australia, and Optus.
The JP9102 tender closed on 10 January. (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Jul 22. Virgin Orbit mission success brings UK launch another step closer. Virgin Orbit’s next satellite launch will take place from the UK, following the success of the “Straight Up” mission. Virgin Orbit’s next satellite launch will take place from the UK, following the success of the “Straight Up” mission, which lifted off from Mojave in California earlier today (2 July 2022).
Science Minister George Freeman and the UK Space Agency welcomed the news that Virgin Orbit has successfully completed its fourth mission from California, and its first night launch.
With this mission complete, Virgin Orbit is on track for launch from Spaceport Cornwall later this year. The UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council are supporting the launch, with Spaceport Cornwall set to create 150 jobs in the local area.
Science Minister George Freeman said: “Congratulations to Virgin Orbit on another successful US mission, which demonstrates the ability of its innovative launch platform to put satellites into orbit day or night. With the countdown on to the first satellite launch from UK soil, it’s incredible to see Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne in action before they head to Spaceport Cornwall.”
We are in a strong position to capitalise on the growing global demand for small satellite launch and to do so in a way that will keep space and our planet sustainable for future generations.
Matthew Archer, Director of Commercial Spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, who joined the Virgin Orbit team for the launch from the Mojave Air and Space Port, said: “The success of the Straight Up mission is another exciting milestone on our way to seeing the first satellite launch from UK soil. We are working closely with Virgin Orbit and it was a privilege to be alongside our partners to witness another successful launch for the team.”
The UK is home to some of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers, which currently ship their products overseas for launch. We are supporting them by fostering a new domestic launch market, with spaceports and launch operators providing services across the UK and catalysing investment from all over the world.
Today’s Virgin Orbit mission launched seven satellites on behalf of the U.S. Space Force that will experiment in space-based communications, in-space navigation and climate change.
A number of national and international satellites have also been confirmed for the first UK launch later this year, with customers including Space Forge, Satellite Applications Catapult and Horizon Technologies, the MOD, DSTL and US National Reconnaissance Office, and the Sultanate of Oman.
Unlike many rockets, Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One takes off horizontally, carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, named Cosmic Girl.
This was Virgin Orbit’s fourth commercial flight. In January 2021 the company put its first satellites into space, after launching from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.
Melissa Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, said: “The success of this last launch in California is extremely rewarding for Spaceport Cornwall and the UK space sector. It was amazing to see both the team from Virgin Orbit and our team working together to mirror the US operations in real-time – ensuring we’re mission-ready for the summer. This gave us a taste of what is to come and our team could not be more excited.”
The UK Government’s National Space Strategy sets out how the UK will become the first country in Europe to launch satellites into orbit in 2022. Spaceport Cornwall is one of seven (Source: Defence Connect)
spaceport sites across the UK which will help to cement the UK’s role as a science superpower and help unleash a wave of innovation across the country.
The launch name, “Straight Up,” is inspired by American singer Paula Abdul’s song of that title, from her album Forever Your Girl. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
26 June 22. Xplore completes satellite testing of Microsoft Azure Orbital. Xplore Inc., providing Space as a Service®, completed a satellite testing initiative using Microsoft Azure Orbital to conduct satellite operations for the NOAA-18 satellite. Xplore is operating over a dozen satellites on-orbit; the company completed its work with Azure and became one of the first, cloud-based, ground control software apps to operate a NOAA satellite.
Xplore integrated Azure Orbital as part of a first-ever, Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to demonstrate how commercial services and cloud operations can be used to securely control satellites and acquire data with NOAA satellites.
Legacy satellites, new constellations and experimental satellites benefit from mission operations services offered by Major Tom (Xplore acquired Major Tom’s developer, Kubos, on April 4, 2022). In the case of the NOAA-18 satellite, this initiative with Azure Orbital demonstrated technical feasibility of using the cloud to successfully connect with legacy software, designed more than 15 years ago. Further, it demonstrates how mission operations through the cloud allow satellite operators to take full advantage of commercial ground stations as a service.
Xplore’s Major Tom service offers a scalable platform with powerful satellite mission operations and planning tools. The cloud-based software allows operators to perform ground station scheduling, satellite tasking and telemetry monitoring, saving money and time on operations. It provides the ability to integrate and control ground segment applications and services, and further de-risks mission operations with features that include out-of-the-box ground network integrations, data analytics, real-time dashboards and a customizable commanding API.
Leveraging cloud data allows Major Tom to provide satellite operators with assurance and more resiliency in the system. In the case of a natural disaster, for example, Major Tom can quickly transition all operations to support spacecraft from any location, ensuring reliable continuous operations and resulting in less costly down time.
Lisa Rich, Xplore Founder and Chief Operating Officer said, “The results of this CRADA reinforce the value Major Tom offers its customers. It demonstrates our ability to offer a cloud-based solution and provides NOAA with a path to sustainability and as well, a means by which they achieve redundancy and reliability for satellite operators,” adding, “with Major Tom, users operate their missions on a secure, unified cloud platform. Data lives in the cloud and can be brought down from any location. Major Tom is a scalable platform that ultimately provides ease of use for a wide range of satellite operators seeking value, reliability and resiliency.”
Steve Kitay, Senior Director, Azure Space at Microsoft Corp. said, “Our work with NOAA and Xplore is driving innovation to virtualize satellite ground station operations in the cloud. Empowering agencies to tap into these newest commercial technologies is unlocking new levels of resiliency and global capacity for critical mission operations.”
Justin Gronert, JPSS Mission Operations Manager said, “Legacy polar satellites require additional support. Under the CRADA with Xplore Major Tom and Microsoft, the capability to provide mission support was demonstrated and we were able to conduct payload data processing via cloud-based mission control.“
Xplore provides Space as a Service®, offering data products, sensor tasking, mission operations software and payload hosting as a service to our customers. Xplore uses the Xcube and Xcraft®, our highly capable ESPA-class spacecraft to provide these services to our customers. The company operates out of its state-of-the-art facility in Redmond, Washington. Visit: https://www.xplore.com Xplore is currently advancing on flight programs and recruiting space professionals. Employees at Xplore enjoy competitive benefits and a friendly work environment. Openings at their Redmond headquarters include operations and engineering roles. Applicants may visit Xplore’s career page for details. Visit: https://www.xplore.com/careers.html (Source: Satnews)
26 June 22. Isar Aerospace + D-Orbit sign a launch services agreement. Isar Aerospace has entered into a firm, launch services agreement with space infrastructure company, D-Orbit.
The company’s launch vehicle, Spectrum, which is developed for small and medium satellites and satellite constellations, will launch D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier as a primary customer to SSO from its launch site in Andøya, Norway, with a launch term starting in 2023.
Isar Aerospace and D-Orbit share the mission to contribute to humanity’s progress and Earth’s sustainable, technological, and economic development by reducing the barriers to access space. The companies are offering start-ups, companies and public institutions opportunities to launch and place satellites in orbit in a flexible and cost-efficient way.
Based in Italy, D-Orbit ION Satellite Carrier can gear satellites to distinct spots in orbit, hosting several payloads during each mission. The company’s solution is to reduce the time from launch to operations by as much as 85% and the launch costs of an entire satellite constellation by up to 40%. Earlier this year, D-Orbit announced plans to go public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company.
Currently, most satellite constellations are launched to SSO and the demand for individual solutions is rising as many satellite constellations require specific orbit deployments to exercise their full efficiency. D-Orbit was the first in-space transportation company to prove it could move satellites in orbit to their desired orbital destinations from the point where a launch vehicle drops them off. This matches Isar Aerospace’s flexibility to target various orbits and will be further specified by D-Orbit’s capabilities to release satellites to distinct orbital slots.
“We are pleased to welcome D-Orbit on board Spectrum’s flight and thank the D-Orbit team for the trust they place in us. We are looking forward to working towards our common goal of reducing the barriers to flexible space access”, said Stella Guillen, Chief Commercial Officer of Isar Aerospace.
Renato Panesi, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer of D-Orbit, said, “We are glad to partner with Isar Aerospace and have great confidence in the technological development of the Spectrum launch vehicle. Together we will leverage the potential of in-orbit transportation.”
D-Orbit is a market leader in the space logistics and transportation services industry with a track record of space-proven technologies and successful missions. D-Orbit is the first company addressing the logistics needs of the space market. ION Satellite Carrier, for example, is a space vehicle that can transport satellites in orbit and release them individually into distinct orbital slots, reducing the time from launch to operations by up to 85% and the launch costs of an entire satellite constellation by up to 40%. ION can also accommodate multiple third-party payloads like innovative technologies developed by startups, experiments from research entities, and instruments from traditional space companies requiring a test in orbit. D-Orbit has offices in Italy, Portugal, the UK, and the US; its commitment to pursuing business models that are profitable, friendly for the environment, and socially beneficial, led to D-Orbit S.p.A. becoming the first certified B-Corp space company in the world.
Isar Aerospace, based in Ottobrunn/Munich, develops and builds launch vehicles for transporting small and medium-sized satellites as well as satellite constellations into Earth’s orbit. The company was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from Technical University Munich. Since then, it has grown to more than 250 employees from more than 40 nations with many years of hands-on rocket know-how as well as experience within other high-tech industries. The company is privately financed by former SpaceX VP Bulent Altan as well as world-leading investors including Airbus Ventures, Apeiron, Earlybird, HV Capital, Lakestar, Lombard Odier, Porsche SE, UVC Partners, and Vsquared Ventures. (Source: Satnews)
29 June 22. Plasmos to build a reusable space tug. A space tug that is fully reusable as well as a delivery system that addresses the last mile is being developed by Plasmos Inc., using the company’s developed propulsion capability
Ali Baghchehsara, the CEO of Plasmos, stated that he has been considering starting a space tug company for a while, but that he was not initially interested in such a project due to the number of numerous competitors. However, what Plasmos is now developing and building will be a reusable spacecraft that will reduce the cost by nearly 65 percent of the amount charged by the competing firms for like services.
He noted that there will be technical challenges in accomplishing this challenge, but most of these challenges have already been solved by companies such as SpaceX and Plasmos is going to use a similar, proven strategy.
“The last mile delivery in space is a problem that needs to be addressed by the industry,” Ali said, continuing, “As the number of satellites on-orbit are ever increasing, launch prices are decreasing. However, the cost for satellites to reach their final orbit remains high.”
A total of 1,713 commercial satellites were deployed during 2021 (based on the 2022 Annual report issued from the Satellite Industry Association (SIA)), an increase of more than 40 percent when compared to the numbers in 2020 — more than 80% of those satellites are considered small to medium spacecraft. Considering that this satellite segment is a rapidly growing market, Plasmos is pushing forward to develop and complete their reusable, last mile, delivery service in space.
Plasmos has developed a propulsion system that uses Velo3D‘s additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities — the space tug engine was successfully tested by the company during the week of June 19th. (Source: Satnews)
27 June 22. NanoAvionics sells their first cubesat already operating in LEO. This small NanoAvionics cubesat is their first satellite sold already operating in Low Earth Orbit, which provides data on climate change, hidden resources, agricultural improvement and other valuable processes on Earth.
Mission integrator and bus manufacturer NanoAvionics has sold, for the first time, one of its operational satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) including ongoing mission operations.
“D2 / Atlacom-1” in production
Launched last year, NanoAvionics’s shared 6U satellite mission “D2 / Atlacom-1” includes one of the world’s first 1U-sized hyperspectral imager for remote sensing, which will be used by a yet unnamed Earth observation company to provide orbital imagery services. Prior to selling the satellite, all indented missions, none of which included the buyer, had been accomplished and fulfilled.
- Brent Abbott, CEO of NanoAvionics US, said, “Selling an already launched and operational satellite, is a whole new development for us and demonstrates the continued agility of our business. Back in 2021, “D2 / Atlacom-1” only took us eight months to build, test and launch despite hosting many different instruments onboard the shared satellite, requiring extensive configurations. The already built-in hyperspectral imager allowed our customer to almost instantaneously double their capabilities and to rapidly continue assembling what could become one of the world’s most advanced hyperspectral constellations.”
Orbital imagery is one of the most sought-after markets of the new space industry. Everything in the universe has a different spectral signature and a hyperspectral sensor can, for example, ‘see’ the spectral signature of an invasive disease threatening an entire harvest. Receiving such information before it causes major damage would allow farmers to take preventive steps. Doing the imagery from space makes it possible to monitor and analyze the spectral signatures of an entire region in a single picture.
“Each year, natural and human-caused catastrophes take away shelter, food, employment, education, and human life from populations worldwide. Space technology like this hyperspectral imager will be a potent weapon to fight against such disasters,” Abbott said.
The hyperspectral camera aboard “D2 / Atlacom-1” was developed by Dragonfly Aerospace, based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The camera captures images in 148 spectral bands from 470-900nm wavelength with a 16-meter ground sampling distance (GSD).
As part of NanoAvionics continued shared satellite program, the “D2 / Atlacom-1” includes multiple instruments which were successfully demonstrated in orbit: Accion Systems’ 1U Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) propulsion experiment, 1U hyperspectral camera developed by Dragonfly Aerospace, and a new high-gain X-band antenna and an upgraded X-Band downlink transmitter both developed by South African company CubeCom. (Source: Satnews)
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