Sponsored By Viasat
13 Jul 22. Viasat Completes Major Milestone With 2nd Viasat-3 Satellite Payload.
- Payload Delivered to Boeing to Prepare for Broadband Service to EMEA Region
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global leader in satellite communications, announced delivery of the second ViaSat-3 payload module to Boeing’s El Segundo, CA facility where it will be integrated with Boeing’s 702 spacecraft bus platform and undergo rigorous spacecraft environmental testing in preparation for launch. The second ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to provide broadband service over Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2023.
Viasat’s satellite payload, designed and built in-house, provides state-of-the-art electronics for receiving, transmitting and processing broadband internet data to and from the satellite at expected rates greater than 1 terabit a second (1,000 gigabits a second), which is three times faster than ViaSat-2, the fastest communications satellite currently operating.
“Delivery of the second ViaSat-3 payload module marks a major milestone where we transition to spacecraft integration and test on the second satellite in our constellation,” said Dave Ryan, president, Space & Commercial Networks at Viasat. “This milestone increases our momentum towards delivering the future of affordable, accessible satellite broadband services, virtually anywhere around the globe.”
The ViaSat-3 class of Ka-band satellites is expected to provide the best bandwidth economics in the industry with incredible flexibility to move and concentrate that capacity virtually anywhere there is demand – whether it is over land, the ocean or in the air. The first two satellites are planned to focus on the Americas and on EMEA, respectively. The third ViaSat-3 satellite is undergoing final integration and testing and will focus on the Asia Pacific region, completing Viasat’s global service coverage. (Source: ASD Network)
13 Jul 22. Vega-C Successfully Completes Inaugural Flight. ESA’s new Vega-C rocket has completed its inaugural flight, placing main payload LARES-2 – a scientific mission of the Italian Space Agency ASI – into its planned orbit. Six research CubeSats from France, Italy and Slovenia flew as secondary payloads. The launch caps a multi-year effort by ESA, prime contractor Avio and industrial partners in 13 ESA member states to build on the heritage of its predecessor, Vega.
Flight VV21 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 15:13 CEST/13:13 UTC on 13 July 2022 (10:13 local time). This mission lasted about 2 hours and 15 minutes from lift-off to release of final payload and final burn of the AVUM+ upper stage engine.
Total payload mass at liftoff was approximately 474kg: 296 kg for LARES-2, with the remainder being the six CubeSats, payload adapters and carrying structures.
Vega-C represents a dramatic capability boost compared to Vega, which has flown since 2012. With new first and second stages and an uprated fourth stage, Vega-C increases performance from Vega’s 1.5 t to about 2.3 t in a reference 700 km polar orbit.
Overseeing launch operations from mission control at the Spaceport, ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander remarked: “Today we open a new era of European launch solutions, starting with Vega-C and to be complemented by Ariane 6.”
Vega-C features a new, more powerful first stage, P120C, based on Vega’s P80. Atop that is a new second stage, Zefiro-40, and then the same Zefiro-9 third stage as used on Vega.
The re-ignitable upper stage is also improved. AVUM+ has increased liquid propellant capacity, to deliver payloads to multiple orbits depending on mission requirements and to allow for longer operational time in space, to enable extended missions.
The P120C motor will do double service, with either two or four units acting as strap-on boosters for Ariane 6. Sharing this component streamlines industrial efficiency and improves cost-effectiveness of both launchers.
With its larger main stages and bigger fairing – which doubles the payload volume compared to Vega – Vega-C measures 34.8 m high, nearly 5 m taller than Vega.
The new launcher configuration delivers a significant improvement in launch system flexibility. Vega-C can orbit larger satellites, two main payloads or accommodate various arrangements for rideshare missions. ESA’s upcoming Space Rider return-to-Earth vehicle will be launched to orbit on Vega-C.
The precise orbital path of LARES-2 will be tracked by laser, from ground stations. The purpose of the mission is to measure the so-called frame-dragging effect, a distortion of space-time caused by the rotation of a massive body such as Earth as predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Its predecessor, the similar LARES, was the main payload on the 2012 inaugural flight of Vega.
Six CubeSats made a secondary payload package. AstroBio CubeSat (Italy) will test a solution for detecting biomolecules in space. Greencube (Italy) carries an experiment to grow plants in microgravity. ALPHA (Italy) aims to help understand phenomena related to Earth’s magnetosphere, such as the Northern and Southern Lights.
Three other CubeSats – Trisat-R (Slovenia), MTCube-2 (France) and Celesta (France) will study the effects of a harsh radiation environment on electronic systems.
As Vega-C begins operations, development continues. A further variant, Vega-E, will from 2026 provide a simplified architecture by replacing both the Vega-C third and fourth stages with a new cryogenic upper stage. Key to Vega-E is the Europe-built M10 engine, M10 uses more environmentally sustainable propellants – cryogenic liquid oxygen and methane – and features an advanced pressure control system that enables multiple stops and restarts in space. Prime contractor Avio recently completed its first hot-fire test series.
VV21 was operated by ESA, which owns the Vega-C programme and oversees its development. This inaugural flight paves the way for the start of exploitation by Arianespace and Avio.
Following Vega’s success, Member States at the ESA Ministerial meeting in December 2014 agreed to develop the more powerful Vega-C to respond to an evolving market and long-term institutional needs. ESA member states participating in the Vega-C programme are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
- Following the success of its inaugural flight, Vega C will now begin its operational phase, under the responsibility of Arianespace, with a target of at least four launches per year and a fast-growing backlog that already includes 7 launches and 10 auxiliary payloads.
- Vega C is an upgrade to the Vega launcher and can better answer institutional and commercial customers’ needs. Thanks to its increased capabilities, Vega C will serve the burgeoning Earth observation market as well as long-term institutional and commercial needs.
- The first commercial launch of Vega C is scheduled in November 2022. The flight, designated VV22, will deliver Pleiades Neo 5 and 6, a pair of satellites wholly funded, manufactured and operated by Airbus.
On Wednesday, July 13 at 10:13 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, the first Vega C, the new European launcher designed and manufactured by AVIO, was successfully launched under the supervision of ESA from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).
“With this inaugural launch officially declared a success, Arianespace will now commence Vega C operations, a key milestone for European sovereign access to space. My warm congratulations on this success go to ESA, who operated this inaugural launch, as well as to Avio, who is responsible for the Vega C launch systems,” declared Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “Vega C, with its increased capabilities and versatility, already allowed Arianespace to capture many important customers; we are confident this is only the beginning of a true success story! Its configuration, based on our customers’ needs, has been designed in alignment with our upcoming heavy launcher, Ariane 6. This is a first step towards the full renewal of our product range, which will allow us to honor our motto: any mass, any orbit, anytime!”
Seven Vega C have been already filled and will serve both institutional and commercial missions:
- Among the institutional missions we recall: Sentinel-1C that will be launched for ESA on behalf of the European Commission; FLEX and ALTIUS, two ESA programs at the service of the environment; CSG 3 that is developed by Thales Alenia Space for the benefit of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and Italian MoD; PLATiNO 2 that is developed by SITAEL for ASI; and Microcarb contracted by the European Commission on behalf of CNES;
- Among the main commercial missions: Pléiades Néo constellation composed of 4 satellites for Airbus Defence and Space; KOMPSAT 7 for KARI (Korean Aerospace Research Institute); Theos-2 manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space for the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency of Thailand; and Formosat-7R manufactured by NSPO for Taiwan;
- Multiple small spacecraft missions are already contracted by Arianespace and will complete most of the Vega C flight configurations thanks to the modular SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service) adaptation systems.
First in the series, Vega C Flight VV22 is planned in November 2022. With this flight, Arianespace will orbit Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, two additional satellites that will join Airbus’ Earth observation Pléaides constellation. With 30cm-native-resolution, best-in-class geolocation accuracy and twice-a-day revisit capability, the four Pléiades Neo satellites unlock new possibilities with the
ultimate in reactivity. The satellite constellation has been fully funded and manufactured by its operator Airbus, whose team will also operate the satellites and sell services to commercial customers.
Vega C, which stands for Consolidation, will better respond to customers’ needs based on the lessons learned from the first decade (2012-2022) of Vega operations. The launcher has been upgraded with more powerful first and second stage Solid Rocket Motors, the first SRM being shared with Ariane 6 (where it will be used as a side booster), and with a larger fairing that will significantly increase payload mass (up to 2,350 T in SSO) and double allowable volume. This performance increase will allow Vega C to launch larger radar satellites of the class of Sentinel 1C, part of Copernicus program, previously flown on Soyuz. The launcher will also be able to better meet the specific needs of small spacecraft, thanks to its improved SSMS dispenser and to its AVUM+ that will allow seven re-ignitions instead of five. Vega C can thus achieve three reference orbits for its multiple payloads on the same mission, instead of the two previously possible with Vega.
Vega C development program is managed by ESA. It associates 12 of Member States of the Agency. Avio Spa (Colleferro, Italy) is the industrial prime contractor for both launch vehicle and interfacing ground infrastructure. Avio is also responsible for campaign operations and preparation of the launch vehicle up to lift-off. Avio hands over a “ready to fly” rocket to Arianespace, which sells the Vega C, prepares its missions, validates its flight worthiness, and operates it from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. During launch campaigns, Arianespace works closely with CNES, the launch range authority at the European Spaceport in Kourou who is notably in charge of the satellite preparation facilities as well as the protection of populations. (Source: ASD Network)
14 Jul 22. Rocket Lab Supports Significant Milestone for DARPA and Space Development Agency on the Mandrake-2 Mission.
First paragraph of release dated July 13, 2022, should read: Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, has supported a significant milestone for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Mandrake-2 mission.
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, has supported a significant milestone for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Mandrake-2 mission.
In June, the two Mandrake-2 spacecraft, Able and Baker, successfully demonstrated closing and maintaining an optical communications link for the full test duration of 40 minutes at a range of 114 km. In that time, more than 280 Gb of data were transferred between the satellites. This is an historic step in DARPA and SDA’s vision provide an assured, resilient, low-latency, high-volume data transport communication system worldwide via a mesh network of optically interconnected space vehicles.
Rocket Lab has played a leading role in the mission through its team at Advanced Solutions Inc. (ASI), a Colorado-based aerospace engineering firm delivering mission proven space software, mission simulation, and testing solutions. Acquired by Rocket Lab in October 2021, ASI has been part of the Mandrake-2 mission from the beginning of the program, contributing to delivery of space vehicles at the launch site in less than nine months.
Rocket Lab provided to the mission MAX Flight Software, Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) design and analysis, MAX Ground Data System, and mission operations. Since launch, the spacecraft have been operated from the Rocket Lab Operations Center in Littleton, Colorado. As part of operations, the Rocket Lab team is responsible for daily spacecraft health and status monitoring, payload tasking, and trajectory control between the spacecraft to support the optical cross-link testing. Rocket Lab also supplied the star trackers and reactions wheels for the spacecraft, enabling the high-precision attitude determination and control required to achieve the optical communications link. The spacecraft separation system for the mission was also supplied by Rocket Lab.
“This is a significant step toward the realization of global high-speed space network and I could not be more proud of the teams at Rocket Lab and ASI for making it possible,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Once again this is a solid demonstration of the efficiencies and reliability delivered by Rocket Lab’s vertically integrated capabilities.”
The Mandrake-2 spacecraft were developed as an early risk reduction for DARPA’s Blackjack program to demonstrate high-bandwidth optical inter-satellite links (OISL) via advanced laser communication technology. The spacecraft were developed and launch-ready in just nine months, with final testing of both spacecraft taking place at Rocket Lab’s Colorado facility prior to shipment to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
Both the satellites and payloads are healthy and performing well. The Rocket Lab team looks forward to continuing supporting DARPA and SDA to further characterize and demonstrate this critical capability on-orbit. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
07 Jul 22. US Space Force rapid capabilities office to deliver first project this year. The U.S. Space Force’s rapid development organization is on track to deliver its first system this year, a timeline that leaders say demonstrates the value of its unique role in the space acquisition ecosystem.
The Space Rapid Capabilities Office was created by Congress in fiscal 2018 to develop high-need operational prototypes as part of a push to speed up space acquisition. The office received its first projects in early 2019 and today manages 14 classified programs with the goal of transitioning them to operations within five years.
With its first projects approaching delivery at the end of this year and into 2023, Space RCO Director Kelly Hammett told reporters during a July 23 visit to its headquarters at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico that the office is meeting schedule targets and working closely with the Space Force to ensure a smooth transition.
Because the programs are classified, Hammett said he could not discuss them in detail.
Foundational to the Space RCO’s ability to move fast are its decision-making authorities and its status as a direct reporting unit to Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. The office has no special exemptions from federal acquisition regulations or, as Hammett described it, “a magic wand” to move faster, but it does have independence and focused requirements.
Also key are its partnerships with the Space Force, Hammett said, noting that being co-located at Kirtland with organizations including Space Systems Command’s Innovation and Prototyping Delta and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate helps to reinforce that collaboration.
While the offices all have a hand in the acquisition process, their roles are distinct. AFRL is focused on maturing technology and has deep space science and technology expertise. Space Systems Command fields operational capability. And the Space RCO delivers prototypes that can be quickly transitioned into SSC program offices.
Col. Jeremy Raley, outgoing director of the Space RCO’s strategic capabilities group and incoming head of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said that while the lab is good at running experiments and proving that a technology will work, the Space RCO brings urgency and measured risk-taking to the table. Those niche abilities offer opportunities to learn from one another and to capitalize on the unique strengths of each organization.
“Collaboration is absolutely important,” Raley told C4ISRNET in a June 23 interview. “If we’re going to make efficient use of the taxpayers’ money, we more or less have to kind of divide our lanes and understand what each of us are doing and how we are leveraging our strengths.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
13 Jul 22. SKYNET 6A satellite passes Critical Design Review. Airbus designed state-of-the-art secure military communications satellite on track Manufacture ongoing with more than 400 working on the programme
Airbus has achieved a key milestone with the successful completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) next secure military communications satellite, SKYNET 6A.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “Achieving this crucial milestone is tangible proof that in partnership with Defence Digital in the Ministry of Defence we are firmly on track and making great progress on this flagship programme. We now have more than 400 people working on the project at our key sites in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Hawthorn. We are building SKYNET 6A with its unique military communications payload entirely in the UK and we currently have more than 45 small to medium sized enterprises and subcontractors helping to make sure we remain on target for launch in 2025.”
Airbus was awarded the SKYNET 6A contract in July 2020 to supplement the existing SKYNET 5 fleet of four satellites and enhance the UK’s milsatcom capability. The SKYNET 6A CDR has been achieved on time, working closely with the Defence Digital team. The next major milestone will be the delivery of the Communications Structure by the end of 2022.
The SKYNET 6A contract covers the design, development, manufacture, assembly, integration, test and launch, of the military communications satellite, and includes key national technology development programmes.
The SKYNET 5 programme, provided by Airbus as a full service outsource contract, has provided the UK MOD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations since 2003. Airbus has been involved in SKYNET since 1974 and remains firmly committed to supporting a strong space manufacturing capability in the UK.
The SKYNET 6A satellite is based on the Airbus Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It utilizes the unique Airbus military communications payload, adopting the latest digital processing to provide more capacity and greater versatility than previous SKYNET satellites. SKYNET 6A will feature proven Airbus electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for UK national end-to-end satellite production and support.
SKYNET 6A is still on track for launch in 2025 on a Falcon 9 provided by SpaceX.
12 Jul 22. Space Force considers asking satellite firms to host payloads for tactical ISR. Another idea, said SSC’s Col. Dennis Birchenough, is for SSC to serve as a kind of “matchmaker” to pair ISR sensor developers with commercial operators with capacity to carry payloads extraneous to their own capabilities.
The Space Force’s acquisition arm is considering asking commercial operators of large satellite constellations to host payloads designed to provide battlefield commanders with rapid-turn-around intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, according to a senior official.
Col. Dennis Birchenough, senior materiel leader at Space System Command (SSC) Environmental and Tactical Surveillance Acquisition Delta, said Monday that the Space Force might not be ready to buy services directly like a typical customer of commercial operators — for example, nuclear missile warning and tracking. But in some of those cases, like tactical ISR, putting payloads on commercial satellites might make sense.
Birchenough is in charge of SSC’s tactical ISR acquisition branch, as well as two other branches dealing with weather data. The Space Force has been (somewhat controversially) considering how it might take on the job of providing tactical ISR, such as imagery, from space — a mission that traditionally has been the purview of the Intelligence Community.
He noted that during SSC’s reverse industry days in May on tactical ISR, officials spoke with a number of commercial firms, including Amazon, SpaceX and Terran Orbital, that are planning to launch “large constellations on the order of thousands” of satellites and might be willing to allow the Space Force to, in essence, hitch a ride for its own sensor payloads.
“Maybe there’s an in-between between building it ourselves and then taking care of the whole constellation and [commercial] providing [data] as a service,” Birchenough told the America’s Future Space Innovation Summit. “Maybe there’s a hosted payload piece in between, because many of those satellites that they’re putting up have a lot of extra space available, a lot of size or electricity and power available.”
Another idea, Birchenough said, is for SSC to serve as a kind of “matchmaker” to pair ISR sensor developers with commercial operators with capacity to carry payloads extraneous to their own capabilities.
“So, we are definitely thinking of … providing sensors, or being a matchmaker between two companies, one that might have a sensor and one that might have some some space available and pair them up. And then we get to leverage the data link,” he said.
Birchenough stressed, however, that the Space Force is not ruling out what is known as “commercial as-a-service,” but rather is still assessing what missions and where that might be the most suitable approach. He reiterated the acquisition strategy put forward by SSC commander Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, characterized in the latter’s words as “buy before we build.”
“We’re definitely thinking about as-a-service opportunities,” Birchenough said.
For example, he noted that SSC, as Breaking Defense reported in January, has put out a request for information (RFI) to industry to explore the idea of buying commercial weather data services. Industry responses to that RFI were due in February, with the Space Force tentatively planning to begin optioning data in 2025.
Senior Pentagon officials have been talking for several years about simply buying services, like individuals buy a cell phone plan, from commercial satellite communications providers, and more recently of applying the same model to other missions such as remote sensing and/or space situational awareness. Progress on that front, however, has been slow. (Source: Google/Breaking Defense.com)
12 Jul 22. Horizon Technologies will be exhibiting at the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK 18-22 July 2022 in Hall 1/1120F (UK Pavilion).
John Beckner, Horizon Technologies CEO, said “Farnborough is coming at a particularly good time for us. We have numerous new fixed and rotary-wing customers for our legacy FlyingFish™ and new BlackFish™
airborne SIGINT systems. BlackFish™ is the smallest, most capable, non-ITAR airborne Sat Phone SIGINT product on the market. It simultaneously monitors the Thuraya, ISAT, and Iridium networks providing an essential, proven, tool for ISR platforms. Together with our launch partner, Virgin Orbit, we are also pleased to announce the launch of our first Amber™ CubeSat as part of Virgin Orbit’s historical first UK space launch in September from Cornwall.”
Amber is a public/private partnership with the UK Government which will provide maritime SIGINT data to UK and international customers around the world. Beckner adds, “Due to generous UK Government and investor funding, the basis of the Amber constellation will be in operation by late next year or early 2024. It is unlikely that anyone else in this arena will be able to offer the same type of demodulated high-fidelity commercial maritime intelligence data Horizon Technologies offers.”
11 Jul 22. NASA Releases First Near Infrared Camera Scientific Image Taken by James Webb Space Telescope. Today at a White House press event, NASA released the first image of some of the earliest light in our universe, taken with an instrument that Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) designed and built. The debut photo from the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is the first from one of the most sensitive infrared cameras ever built to observe the universe. “NIRCam is a first-of-its-kind camera, and we are proud to have built this primary imager on the Webb telescope,” said Alison Nordt, space science and instrumentation director for Lockheed Martin. “Our camera is key for observing the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang and for achieving all the telescope’s science objectives. NIRCam also played a crucial role aligning Webb’s optics, as it informed what adjustments needed to be made. The image released today demonstrates that NIRCam’s performance is excellent for all types of planned science observations.”
Capturing the Past to Improve the Future
Webb is the largest, most powerful space telescope ever built, and it will reveal what our universe looked like some 13.5 bn years ago. Throughout the mission, it will seek light from the universe’s first stars and galaxies, investigate how galaxies form, explore the birth of stars and study planetary systems – as well as objects in our own solar system.
After playing a major role in aligning Webb’s intricate array of mirrors earlier this year, NIRCam will now take science images throughout the entire mission. At one m miles away from Earth in space, it holds the responsibility of functioning with utmost precision and stability in extreme temperatures.
It is critical that Webb continues to provide crystal clear images for the duration of its mission. To enable operations in deep space, Lockheed Martin developed a new technique for bonding NIRCam’s optics mounts together. This method guarantees that neither cold nor slight vibrations cause shifts in the microscopically precise alignment of NIRCam’s lenses.
NIRCam Continues Lockheed Martin’s Exploration Story
NIRCam continues the success of the company’s space observation platforms, from the Lockheed Martin-designed, -built and -operated Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes staring deep into space, to earth-facing technologies, which we’re building now to observe weather and carbon emissions on our own planet.
Lockheed Martin is also famed for producing some of the most sophisticated science and weather instruments in the industry. Most recently, these include the first-of-its-kind Geostationary Lightning Mapper and the Solar Ultraviolet Imager instruments on NOAA’s current GOES-R weather satellites.
08 Jul 22. US Space Force wants new commercial imagery tool to boost resiliency. A new commercial satellite imagery acquisition tool developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory could help the U.S. Space Force make near-term shifts to a more resilient architecture.
AFRL has been working since 2019 to develop an interface that allows combatant commands to buy satellite imagery from commercial providers and allied partners. The capability, called the Global Unified Environment, is expected to transition to the Space Force in fiscal 2024.
Col. Joseph Roth, director of the Innovation and Prototyping Delta at Space Systems Command, told reporters during a visit to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico June 23 that the Space Force is considering how it can leverage AFRL’s work. GLUE’s transition is part of a larger effort to protect the service’s constellations by diversifying its capabilities and operational concepts, be it launching small satellites to different orbits or leveraging technology that’s available from commercial providers.
“We need all hands on deck to get our capabilities up there because our systems are vulnerable,” he said. “If we do not do something about it quickly, our adversary is going to take advantage of it. And it’s not going to be 2030 when we’ve invested and all of our new systems are coming online. It’s going to be sooner than that.”
Creating a more resilient architecture is a top priority for Air Force and Space Force leadership. Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, director of Space Systems Command has said that as the service invests in new technology that could take years to develop, it needs to take near-term steps to augment its current systems, setting 2026 as a target timeline for delivering those incremental capabilities.
GLUE is an outgrowth of AFRL’s work to demonstrate the resilient capabilities Space Force leaders want through a program called the Hybrid Architecture Demonstration. 1st Lt. Jacob Perry, deputy program manager for HAD, told C4ISRNET in a July 8 email that HAD was designed to assess “the military utility of commercial and allied ISR” and GLUE is a suite of tools that will allow users to tap into that data.
Commercial satellite imagery is in high demand and its utility for military operations has been on full display during the war in Ukraine. Data from commercial space-based imagery providers is supplementing government-owned space capabilities, providing detailed insights into Russian troop movements in Ukraine.
The National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency have both ramped up efforts to buy more commercial data. The NRO awarded satellite imagery providers Maxar Technologies, Planet Labs and BlackSky 10-year contracts in May and the NGA has more than doubled its purchases of commercial imagery in the last year.
The Defense Innovation Unit is also aiding the Space Force as it shifts to a new architecture, selecting four companies this week to participate in its Hybrid Space Architecture program, which will demonstrate a space-based communications network composed of commercial and government systems. DIU announced July 7 that Aalyria Technologies, Anduril Industries, Atlas Space Operations and Enveil — all technology companies — will demonstrate a range of capabilities during on-orbit demonstrations, including secure software, data-sharing, cloud-based analytics and network security.
“The initial goals are on-demand collection and exploitation of overhead imagery and beyond-line-of-sight tactical situational awareness,” DIU’s program manager Rogan Shimmin said in a statement. “Hosting internet-of-things sensors and edge processing on every satellite further enables breakthrough civil applications, including comprehensive space domain awareness and high-fidelity mapping of the space radiation environment.”
(Source: Defense News)
04 Jul 22. Lunar Transfer Orbit achieved by Rocket Lab for the NASA CAPSTONE smallsat — 1st deep space mission success for the company.
The lift-off of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket with the CAPSTONE payload. Photo is courtesy of the company. Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”) has successfully deployed a pathfinding satellite for NASA, setting it on a course to the Moon. This deployment marks the successful completion of Rocket Lab’s first deep space mission, paving the way for the Company’s upcoming interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus.
Owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This is the same orbit intended for NASA’s Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost that will provide essential support for long-term astronaut lunar missions as part of the Artemis program.
Rocket Lab’s role in the mission occurred over two phases. First, CAPSTONE was successfully launched to LEO by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle on June 28th. From there, Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon spacecraft provided in-space transportation, power, and communications to CAPSTONE.
After six days of orbit-raising burns by Lunar Photon’s 3D printed HyperCurie engine (photo below, courtesy of Rocket Lab), CAPSTONE was deployed on its ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon, as planned, at 07:18 UTC on July 4th. The mission was Rocket Lab’s fourth Electron launch this year, demonstrating the rocket’s continued reliability. In addition to providing the launch, Rocket Lab designed, manufactured, and operated the Lunar Photon spacecraft, successfully completing a highly complex deep space mission and demonstrating Rocket Lab’s growing capabilities as an end-to-end space company.
The HyperCurie rocket engine. Photo is courtesy of Rocket Lab.
With Rocket Lab’s role in the mission now complete, CAPSTONE’s solo journey to the Moon has begun. CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey that will have CAPSTONE arriving to its lunar orbit on November 13, 2022. The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the cubesat needs to get to the Moon. Advanced Space and Terran Orbital will manage the operation of the CAPSTONE satellite for the duration of its orbital lifespan.
The CAPSTONE mission was Rocket Lab’s 27th Electron launch overall, but it featured several significant technological firsts for the Company, including:
- First deep space mission
- First use of Lunar Photon, a high energy variant of the Rocket Lab-designed and built Photon spacecraft — the company previously launched and continues to operate two LEO variants of the Photon spacecraft
- First collaborative mission between Rocket Lab and Advanced Solutions Inc., a Colorado-based flight-software company acquired by Rocket Lab in late 2021
- First time using the FR-lite satellite radio, which Rocket Lab has an exclusive license agreement with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to manufacture
- First mission where Electron’s second stage deorbited the same day as launch. First mission planning and executing lunar trajectories. At 300 kg. (661 lbs.) of payload mass, the mission was Electron’s heaviest lift, to date
“The CAPSTONE mission marks the beginning of humanity’s return to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis program and we’re incredibly proud that Rocket Lab has played a key role in that,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “The Rocket Lab team has been working on CAPSTONE with NASA and our mission partners for more than two years, developing new small satellite technology in the form of the Lunar Photon spacecraft to make this mission possible, so it’s an incredible feeling after all that hard work and innovation to achieve mission success and set CAPSTONE on a course for the Moon. This has been Rocket Lab’s most complex mission to date and our team has been incredible. We pushed Electron and Photon to their limits and proved it’s possible to do big missions with small spacecraft. Now we’ll be applying this ground-breaking technology for more interplanetary journeys, including our upcoming missions to Venus and Mars.”
CAPSTONE is the first in a series of interplanetary missions for Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft, including the ESCAPADE mission to Mars in 2024 and Rocket Lab’s upcoming private mission to Venus.
Advanced Space of Colorado, a leading commercial space solutions company, owns the CAPSTONE satellite and operates the mission.
CAPSTONE was designed and built by Terran Orbital.
CAPSTONE development is supported by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate via the Small Spacecraft Technology Program at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Advanced Exploration Systems within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate supports the launch and mission operations. NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management.
Rocket Lab launched the CAPSTONE cubesat from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, Pad B, located on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on June 28th via an Electron rocket.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) cubesat will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon.
Researchers expect this orbit to be a gravitational sweet spot in space – where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit – allowing physics to do most of the work of keeping a spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. NASA has big plans for this unique type of orbit.
Artistic rendition of the CAPSTONE mission — Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite bus will deliver CAPSTONE into a trajectory toward the Moon.
Illustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter
This historic pathfinding mission is in support of NASA’s Artemis program which will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.
Using the company’s Electron rocket and new Lunar Photon upper stage, Rocket Lab will inject CAPSTONE to a highly efficient, transfer orbit en route to the Moon.
CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space in Westminster, Colorado, for NASA.
CAPSTONE’s primary objective is to test and verify the calculated orbital stability of a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, the same orbit planned for Gateway.
The CAPSTONE spacecraft being integrated onto Lunar Photon. Photo courtesy of Rocket Lab.
NASA’s Gateway is a small space station that will orbit around the Moon to provide astronauts with access to the lunar surface and will feature living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research and ports for visiting spacecraft.
CAPSTONE will also test a navigation system developed by Advanced Space that will measure its absolute position in cislunar space using interaction with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter without relying on ground stations for navigation support.
NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat is designed to test a unique lunar orbit — the smallsat is safely in space and on the first leg of its journey to the Moon.
CAPSTONE in orbit near the Moon: Once released from Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite bus, CAPSTONE will use its propulsion system to travel for approximately three months before entering into orbit around the Moon.
Illustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter.
The spacecraft is heading toward an orbit intended in the future for Gateway, a lunar space station built by the agency and its commercial and international partners that will support NASA’s Artemis program, including astronaut missions.
CAPSTONE is currently in LEO and it will take the spacecraft about four months to reach its targeted, lunar orbit. NASA invites the public to follow the spacecraft’s journey live using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System interactive real-time 3D data visualization. Starting about one week after launch, virtually ride along with the CubeSat with a simulated view of our solar system. NASA will post updates about when to see CAPSTONE in the visualization on NASA’s Ames Research Center’s home page as well as Twitter and Facebook.
CAPSTONE is attached to Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon, an interplanetary third stage that will send CAPSTONE on its way to deep space. Shortly after launch, Lunar Photon separated from Electron’s second stage. Over the next six days, Photon’s engine will periodically ignite to accelerate it beyond LEO, where Photon will release the cubesat on a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon. CAPSTONE will then use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the remainder of the way to the Moon. The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the cubesat needs to get to the Moon.
At the Moon, CAPSTONE will enter an elongated orbit called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO. Once in the NRHO, CAPSTONE will fly within 1,000 miles of the Moon’s North Pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the South Pole at its farthest. It will repeat the cycle every six and a half days and maintain this orbit for at least six months to study dynamics.
“CAPSTONE is a pathfinder in many ways, and it will demonstrate several technology capabilities during its mission timeframe while navigating a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon,” said Elwood Agasid, project manager for CAPSTONE at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “CAPSTONE is laying a foundation for Artemis, Gateway, and commercial support for future lunar operations.”
During its mission, CAPSTONE will provide data about operating in an NRHO and showcase key technologies. The mission’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System, developed by Advanced Space with support from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program, is a spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation and communications system that will work with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to determine the distance between the two lunar orbiting spacecraft. This technology could allow future spacecraft to determine their position in space without relying exclusively on tracking from Earth. CAPSTONE also carries a new precision one-way ranging capability built into its radio that could reduce the amount of ground network time needed for in-space operations.
In addition to New Zealand hosting CAPSTONE’s launch, New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and a University of Canterbury-led team are collaborating with NASA on a research effort to track Moon-orbiting spacecraft. New Zealand helped develop the Artemis Accords – which establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s 21st century lunar exploration plans. In May 2021, New Zealand was the 11th country to sign the Artemis Accords.
The microwave-oven sized cubesat was designed and built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Corporation. CAPSTONE includes contributions from Stellar Exploration, Inc., Space Dynamics Lab, Tethers Unlimited, Inc., and Orion Space Systems.
NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) funds the demonstration mission.
The program is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The development of CAPSTONE’s navigation technology is supported by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program, also within STMD. The Artemis Campaign Development Division within NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate funds the launch and supports mission operations.
The Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida manages the launch service. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory supports the communication, tracking, and telemetry downlink via NASA’s Deep Space Network, Iris radio design, and groundbreaking 1-way navigation algorithms. (Source: Satnews)
04 Jul 22. OneWeb signs Relativity Space to launch several Gen2 satellites via the 3D printed Terran R rocket. Under the agreement, Relativity will launch OneWeb’s LEO satellites on Terran R, the first fully reusable and entirely 3D printed rocket, starting in 2025. These launches will support OneWeb’s deployment of that firm’s Gen 2 satellite network, which will add capacity and fresh capabilities to build upon the initial constellation of 648 satellites the company is currently building out.
Terran R will launch OneWeb missions from Launch Complex 16, Relativity’s site at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where the first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1, is also set for its first orbital launch this year. As a medium-heavy lift, fully reusable launch vehicle made for growing satellite constellation launch demand and, eventually, multi-planetary transport, Terran R provides government and commercial customers affordable access to space, in LEO and beyond. With the addition of this multi-launch agreement with OneWeb, Relativity now has a total of five signed customers for Terran R, including multiple launches and totaling more than $1.2bn in backlog.
Disrupting 60 years of aerospace manufacturing with 3D printing, autonomous robotics, and machine learning, Relativity’s radically simplified supply chain enables the company to print its rockets with 100x fewer parts in less than 60 days, compared to industry standards of 18 months or longer. Since its founding six years ago, Relativity has developed a new tech stack for aerospace manufacturing that centers on its Stargate printers, which are capable of 3D printing Terran 1, which is an expendable, entirely 3D printed, 110 ft. tall, 7.5 ft. wide rocket with a 3 meter payload fairing, simultaneously with Terran R – a 20X larger, fully reusable launch vehicle.
Relativity recently deployed the fourth generation of Stargate, improving its prior generation’s print speed by 10 times. Located in the company’s new 1MM+ square-foot factory headquarters, these new, fourth generation Stargate printers will allow Relativity to take its production to new heights, scale, and quality. With in-process monitoring, Stargate printers can now analyze the prints in real time, detecting any quality issues and using predictive capabilities to print fuselages to aerospace dimensional tolerances.
Tripling in size since 2020, Relativity now employs 800+ people across its Long Beach, Vandenberg, Seattle, Washington D.C., Stennis, and Cape Canaveral locations and has also begun a move to new headquarters, which has capacity for 2,000+ employees, a metallurgical laboratory, powder bed fusion printers, a mission control center, as well as dozens of the company’s proprietary Stargate 3D printers. (Source: Satnews)
04 Jul 22. D-Orbit signs launch + deployment contract with Kepler Communications. D-Orbit has signed a launch and deployment contract with Kepler Communications that covers the launch of two, 6U, telecommunications smallsats. The satellites will be boarded inside the ION Satellite Carrier (ION), D-Orbit’s proprietary, versatile, and cost-effective, orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) designed to precisely deploy satellites and perform technology demonstrations of third-party payloads on-orbit. After launch, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, the satellite will be released by ION on a 500-600 kilometer Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
The two satellites will carry Kepler’s Ku- and S-band payloads to test and validate technology that will enable inter-satellite communication and high-capacity data downlinking for the company’s next generation of satellites. Kepler is creating the infrastructure needed to support the current and future communication needs of the space industry by bringing the internet to space. The Kepler Network will provide constant connectivity to space assets, allowing mission-critical data to be received in real-time to amplify access to space-generated data. (Source: Satnews)
06 Jul 22. SWISSto12’s, new name HummingSat, partners with ESA to construct a new product line and deliver a smallsat to launch.
A new name, HummingSat, a new logo, a new product line of small telecommunications satellites, and a new partner, ESA to complete this venture.
A small but powerful European telecommunications satellite, HummingSat, the first of a series, is to be developed under a contract signed between ESA and SWISSto12, an innovative company based in Renens, Switzerland.
A new name, HummingSat, a new logo, a new product line of small telecommunications satellites, and a new partner, ESA to complete this venture. The name is inspired by the Hummingbird (or Colibri), small and agile by nature, as our small Satellite will be once deployed and operational.
HummingSat operates in geostationary orbit at 36’000 kilometers above the Earth and brings a new solution to connect society with modern technology.
Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, said, “The Micro-Geostationary Partnership Project (HummingSat) is a trend setter for ESA.
This new satellite product line and the first protoflight model are in development and construction under a Partnership contract between ESA and SWISSto12 for delivery by SWISSto12 of a satellite to an operator acting as the anchor commercial end-customer with a planned launch date in 2025.
A HummingSat is significantly smaller than conventional geostationary telecommunication satellites, and therefore benefits from a rideshare launch strategy. Despite its small size, the satellite powers a highly capable telecommunications payload with approximately 2kW of power, which is enabled by SWISSto12’s unique 3D printed Radio Frequency products and systems. HummingSat provides satellite operators with a bespoke and competitive solution for delivery of regional or gap-filling services as well as economic replacement of ageing satellites.
Emile de Rijk, CEO of SWISSto12, “SWISSto12 is proudly investing in the HummingSat product line since several years, I am now thrilled to see it has matured to become a competitive offering for satellite telecommunication operators. Our first satellite is now fully launched in its design and construction, and we aim at making reuse of this development to commercialize our HummingSats based on a standardized platform along with optimized payloads to service at best each one of our customers.” (Source: Satnews)
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