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27 Oct 22. Space Force on Notice as Russia Warns Commercial Satellites May Be a ‘Legitimate Target.’ Russia is warning it could target commercial satellites assisting U.S. military operations as its invasion of Ukraine drags on — a threat that could prompt the Space Force and U.S. Space Command to see action if Moscow follows through.
Commercial satellites have been used to take aerial images that show deployments, damage and destruction of Russia’s faltering, unprovoked campaign against its neighbor. Additionally, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites have provided internet access to the people of Ukraine, and he lauded the technology as a “major battlefield advantage” in a tweet earlier this month.
“Ironically, GPS doesn’t work on battlefields, as the signal is easy to jam, but Starlink does,” Musk tweeted Oct. 15.
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Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, said Wednesday in remarks to the United Nations that some commercial satellites pose an “extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine.”
“Apparently, these states do not realize that such actions in fact constitute indirect participation in military conflicts,” Vorontsov added. “Quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.”
Russia’s warning marks some of the strongest language to date, and puts the newly created Space Force as well as the existing U.S. Space Command on notice to defend and protect those commercial assets in orbit.
But it’s unclear how the government would respond to an attack on a commercial satellite, as the White House, Pentagon and diplomats continue to iron out a plan of action.
The Department of the Air Force, which the Space Force is part of, deferred comment on Russia’s warnings to the U.S. Space Command. But the command then deferred comment to the Pentagon. A spokesperson for the Defense Department’s space policy did not immediately return a comment to Military.com.
On Thursday, the Pentagon released the 2022 National Defense Strategy. In it, officials recognize that Russia is already “deploying counter-space capabilities that can target our Global Positioning System and other space-based capabilities that support military power and daily civilian life.”
But the new National Defense Strategy does not address the looming question of how the military would respond to an attack on a commercial satellite system connected to the U.S. or an ally.
“Starlink is used by the Ukrainians for offensive combat operations as well, including artillery … it has built up just a civilian use and also an offensive military role as well,” Seth Jones,
the director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, told Military.com on Thursday.
“It’s an interesting question, how the U.S. would respond in that case, to an attack against a U.S. or a multinational space company, particularly one that was involved in supporting an ally or a partner of the U.S.,” he continued.
Russia has taken drastic measures to flex its muscle in space in recent years.
Last November, the Russian Federation destroyed one of its own Soviet-era satellites with a missile, sending thousands of scraps of shrapnel hurtling through space, a cloud of debris that threatened other orbiting satellites, including those belonging to the U.S.
Gen. David Thompson, the Space Force’s first vice chief of space operations, told The Washington Post that Russia also sent a small satellite so close to a U.S. national security satellite in 2019 that it wasn’t clear whether it was attacking or not.
The Russian satellite backed off and conducted a weapons test by releasing a small target it then shot with a projectile.
“It maneuvered close, it maneuvered dangerously, it maneuvered threateningly so that they were coming close enough that there was a concern of collision,” Thompson told the paper. “So clearly, the Russians were sending us a message.”
Physical attacks on satellites are not widely broadcast by the military. Rather, many interferences are often never seen, and take the form of cyberattacks, radio jamming or making military equipment harder to function, according to the 2020 Defense Space Strategy.
U.S. government officials quickly rebuked the missile launch as “reckless and dangerous,” and the military took it as a sign that Russia has no qualms about opening fire in space.
Norms of fighting and what defines a notable act of aggression in space are still being defined by the diplomatic community.
The White House’s National Security Strategy, released Oct. 12, was not as focused on describing America’s role in space as a battlefield, unlike President Donald Trump’s administration.
“America will maintain our position as the world’s leader in space and work alongside the international community to ensure the domain’s sustainability, safety, stability and security,” the 2022 strategy says. “We will enhance the resilience of U.S. space systems that we rely on for critical national and homeland security functions. These efforts aim to protect U.S. interests in space, avoid destabilizing arms races, and responsibly steward the space environment.”
By comparison, the 2017 National Security Strategy said “any harmful interference with or an attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner and domain of our choosing.”
Emily Harding, a senior fellow with the CSIS think tank, told Military.com that employees with those commercial satellite companies are unsure of what backing they would get from the military if Russia took aim at their equipment.
The fact that America’s response to Russia’s warnings are not covered in the new National Defense Strategy is also cause for concern, she added.
“I do know that, from the commercial side, a lot of those companies and corporations are debating internally, ‘What have we gotten ourselves into?'” Harding said. “I do not think this [National Defense Strategy] tackles that question, and I think it’s going to become a very pressing question in the next few years.”
The Defense Department has gotten a request from Musk to take over funding for SpaceX’s satellite network that is aiding Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. The billionaire tweeted that the system is already being targeted.
“We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder,” Musk tweeted Oct. 14.
27 Oct 22. USSF WFOV GEO testbed receives ‘first light’ data.
The testbed was launched aboard USSF-12 mission on 1 July. The US Space Force’s (USSF) geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) wide field of view (WFOV) testbed has received the ‘first light’ data from its sensor.
Announced by Space Systems Command (SSC), the first light milestone was achieved on 25 October and comes after the completion of GEO WFOV calibration. The calibration was initiated by the SSC’s Resilient Missile Warning, Tracking, Defense (MW/MT/MD) and Integration Acquisition Delta in collaboration with the Tools, Applications, and Processing Laboratory (TAP Lab).
Launched aboard the USSF-12 mission on 1 July, the GEO WFOV is a new large-format sensor deployed to provide Overhead Persistent InfraRed (OPIR) capabilities in GEO to enhance the country’s hypersonic missile warning and tracking capabilities. The testbed also offers target identification/characterisation capabilities that allow the warfighters to quickly identify, track and deter missile threats.
A month after its launch, the GEO WFOV testbed went online and completed bus checkout in August.
According to SSC, the WFOV sensor data will also offer the ability to identify fast/slow-moving missiles and other re-entry vehicles.
All the new improvements together will provide greater battlespace awareness and technical intelligence capabilities, as well as enable future capability developments.
TAP Lab director Steve Polliard said: “TAP Lab is ready to play a critical role in first light and subsequent calibration and experimentation phases that will lay the foundation to operationalise WFOV.
“We’re proud to be part of a tightly integrated team that brings together world-class researchers, developers, analysts, subject-matter experts, and operators, ready to realise the full potential of this tremendous new asset in space.
“WFOV will enable us to showcase TAP Lab’s unique ability to extract meaningful information from OPIR data while hosting critical ground functions such as mission planning and mission data processing.”
26 Oct 22. Johns Hopkins SAIS to Partner with U.S. Space Force to Prepare Leaders for Evolving Challenges. The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will partner with the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to deliver a graduate education specifically designed to prepare officers for the evolving needs of this newest branch of the United States military.
Under this partnership, selected Space Force officers, as well as other service members and civilians, will study at SAIS in Washington D.C.—in an in-residence program leading to a degree, the Master of International Public Policy (MIPP). The program will include a combination of existingSAIS graduate-level courses supplemented by courses aligned with Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) requirements that meet the unique and evolving needs of USSF personnel, capitalizing on the school’s multidisciplinary course offerings in such areas as international security, ethics and leadership, and international public policy.
With the first cohort of students expected to matriculate in 2023, the Space Force enters this partnership as SAIS continues to build on its reputation for world-class education and leadership training, as well as its position as a hub of multidisciplinary research and teaching. Students will benefit from an innovative curriculum taught by a distinguished SAIS faculty of scholars and practitioners, providing opportunities for intellectual collaboration and professional advancement.
“We are very excited to be chosen by the U.S. Space Force for this opportunity and are looking forward to this partnership,” said James B. Steinberg, dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS. “This decision is a reflection of SAIS’s leadership in the field and excellence in preparing leaders to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century. Participants in this program will be integral members of our school, working closely with our distinguished faculty, students, and contributing to our intellectual community. We look forward to welcoming the first Space Force cohort—together with other service members and civilians—to SAIS next fall at our new, state-of-the-art building at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
These students will supplement their studies with functional and regional area studies electives from an extensive catalog of SAIS courses on a variety of topics including, technology, policy, and security. Additionally, they may take advantage of STEM-related expertise and resources at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory—allowing them to choose the coursework most relevant for their desired career objectives and learning outcomes.
“The interdisciplinary nature of the program reflects the stellar record of SAIS in preparing tomorrow’s leaders,” said Sunil Kumar, provost of Johns Hopkins University. “Participants will benefit immensely from the combined excellence of Hopkins faculty at SAIS, our Whiting School of Engineering and the Applied Physics Laboratory.”
The partnership provides Intermediate Developmental Education (IDE) and Senior Developmental Education (SDE) programs. The IDE/SDE partnership will deliver an innovative experience for the development of officers of the Space Force—whose service members are known as Guardians.
“Developing Guardians to compete and prevail in space and cyberspace requires a Guardian-focused professional military education experience,” said Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of the Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command. “The space domain requires a unique education for space-minded professionals; and partnering with Johns Hopkins enables greater capacity to offer new, substantive electives, research opportunities, and increased access to a wider range of commercial sector partnerships.”
26 Oct 22. Space tech incubator awards funding to Australian start-ups.
Quantum Technology Exchange has awarded $750,000 in funding to 30 Australian start-ups as part of its space and technology incubator program. The incubator program is aimed primarily at start-ups and small-to-medium companies developing technologies and services for remote operations.
Each of the 30 companies received a $25,000 grant to assist them with scaling their businesses and fostering further development and innovation.
As part of the program, QauntumTX provides the participants with access to test sites, specialist advice and expertise from industry figures, international workshops and technical mentoring.
The main areas of development targeted by the program are robotics, satellite communications, simulation development, digital systems, artificial intelligence and interoperability.
Companies participating in the program will gain access to 50 experts in the space, defence, resources and technology sectors.
This is the fourth year the program has run, with QauntumTX providing over $3m in funding through its program since its inception in 2018.
The program also provides members with the opportunity to meet potential investors and collaborators. Partnering with the program this year is Fugro, who are granting participants to their newly built Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex.
Other partners include the International Space Centre at the University of Western Australia, the Roy Hill Remote Systems Automatic Centre, and the Woodside Energy Robotics Laboratory.
The founder of QuantumTX, adjunct professor Peter Rossdeutscher, spoke about the program’s broad scope.
“The QuantumTX incubator program facilitates cross-cutting technologies from mining, energy and defence, into the space and advanced manufacturing sectors.
“The circular nature of these opportunities creates advantages, compounding returns and new jobs in all industries,” Rossdeutscher said.
The QuantumTX program is supported by AROSE, a remote operations consortium, as well as Atomic Sky, an innovation consultancy firm. The majority of the program’s funding however is provided by the Australian government’s Department of Industry, Science, and Resources through the Incubator Support initiative.
AROSE CEO Leanne Cunnold commented on the opportunities that the program is fostering.
“Australia is at the cutting edge of robotics technology and systems for remote operations,” Cunnold said.
“This capability is central to setting up a sustainable presence on the moon, and eventually supporting human exploration of Mars.” (Source: Space Connect)
24 Oct 22. Aussie company to unveil passive space radar in a box, LEO space tracking.
“We’re talking about a shipping container that includes everything: the power supply, the generator, the batteries, all of the computers, all of the antennas that will fit inside,” CEO James Palmer said. “You can put it into an area where you wish to get some coverage, deploy the aperture out, and within half-a-day you’re up and running and observing stuff in Low Earth Orbit completely covertly.”
An Australian company, Silentium Defence, has built what it calls a space observatory in a box, designed to operate almost anywhere in the world and track objects in Low Earth Orbit with an easily and quickly deployable system that does not emit any radio waves to make it a target.
Silentium, based in Adelaide, said it’s found multiple uses for its low-power passive radars, pursuing contracts with Australia’s navy, army and air force, as well as as working with several large primes as subcontractors, including American behemoths Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The company plans to unveil its new system on Tuesday, at Adelaide’s Australian Space Forum. The passive radar works by tracking reflections of objects from FM radio waves. Multiples of the relatively low-cost system can be deployed around the world to track a wide array of LEO objects as they are networked.
“We’re talking about a shipping container that includes everything: the power supply (which is a generator with batteries) all of the computers, all of the antennas that will fit inside,” CEO James Palmer said in an interview. “You can put it into an area where you wish to get some coverage, deploy the aperture out, and within half-a-day you’re up and running and observing stuff in Low Earth Orbit completely covertly.”
For perspective, there are much more advanced systems out there, such as Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Although it can track objects as small as a marble, while the Silentium system is designed to track objects larger than 10 centimeters, the Space Fence uses a 10-megawatt power station, is fixed in place and provides emissions that adversaries can use to track and target it, Palmer noted. “Now that capability is exquisite. It’s a fantastic capability. But it comes with an exquisite price tag,” he said.
The Space Fence uses Gallium Nitride (GaN) powered S-band radars. The transistors operate at higher temperatures, frequencies and voltages. That 10-megawatt station could power 1,640 American homes.
The Silentium system uses a relatively small portable generator for its power.
Secure World Foundation’s Brian Weeden told Breaking Defense he could “see a role for those systems to play in expanding” space situational awareness (SSA).
“I could see it being used to deploy in support of specific tracking campaigns, such as objects headed to unusual orbital inclinations that aren’t well covered by the existing sensors,” Weeden said. “It also could be very useful for those countries who don’t have advanced systems of their own yet but are keen to develop better indigenous SSA.”
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However, he added, “the downside is that the system is reliant on external sources of FM radio signals, say from terrestrial radio stations, which bounce off satellites in LEO. That means it might be difficult to use in very remote areas where those signals are few and far between, and it’s not going to be tracking small objects. But for the cost, I could see it being very useful.”
After its unveiling in Australia, Silentium Defence system will be showcased the first week of November at Colorado Springs, where it is being developed with the assistance of the US Air Force Research Lab as part of an initiative called the Catalyst Accelerator Program. Palmer spoke from Colorado, where he is getting ready for the demo.
Silentium was one of eight companies picked for the catalyst program’s International Space Domain Awareness Cohort. They started working with AFRL, US Space Force and others in August.
“I think, based on the sort of early conversations that I’ve been having with different parties over here, there’s absolutely a role for this system to play,” Palmer said.
Tracking the increasingly dense region of space known as LEO has grown vastly more important as commercial, civil and military satellites deploy there in large numbers.
“It’s a case of you need to understand everything up there, particularly in Low Earth Orbit where you’re seeing such a huge increase in traffic. So I think the rule of thumb 30 years ago was that 90 percent of the objects resided in low Earth orbit, whereas 90 percent of the value was in geosynchronous orbit,” Palmer said. “I think in recent times we’ve kind of seen the second part of that equation flip.” The ability of smaller satellites to maneuver in that lower orbital band has increased the need for monitoring it even more.
The US Space Force has repeatedly stressed the importance of resilience in its operations. Having a lightweight space tracking system that can be deployed almost anywhere in the world in a relatively short period of time would seem to provide greater resilience.
One intriguing fact: The Australian system is, Palmer said, ITAR free as it’s been developed entirely in Australia. That means it can be directly exported to any country Australia approves, without first getting permission from the United States. If the system proves itself, that could lead to a substantial export market. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense.com)
25 Oct 22. Kanyini satellite booked for 2023 launch. Myriota has announced an agreement with ISILAUNCH to send the Kanyini satellite into orbit in 2023. The agreement with the Dutch launch provider will see the satellite blast-off on a SpaceX Transporter mission, which is a dedicated small satellite rideshare mission using the Falcon 9 rocket.
The Kanyini project is a cooperative project between the South Australian government, Myriota, Inovor Technologies and SmartSat CRC.
It also represents the first time an Australian state has developed and launched its own satellite.
Kanyini will launch equipped with the HyperScout 2, a three-in-one flight model instrument that combines hyperspectral and thermal imaging with AI processing capabilities.
The satellite’s primary purpose is Earth observation (EO), with plans to use the HyperScout 2 alongside the Myriota internet of things (IoT) network to allow for a broad spectrum of uses.
Co-founder and chief technical officer of Myriota, Dr David Haley, spoke about the benefits Kanyini would deliver.
“This is an exciting next step for this groundbreaking South Australian space services mission which is set to benefit the state when it launches next year.
“The IoT payload will add to the Myriota Network, communicating with devices and sensors on the Earth’s surface, working together with hyperspectral imaging collected from the Earth observation payload to enable a wide array of applications.
“Kanyini will provide access to critical data anywhere and everywhere it’s needed to help improve and monitor water quality, crop health and bushfire resilience,” Haley said.
The data gathered by Kanyini will also be used by SmartSat CRC to inform future EO missions and research, as well as to improve emergency and disaster response capabilities.
SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios spoke about the bushfire-specific uses of Kanyini.
“Securing the launch with ISILAUNCH is another exciting step for the Kanyini mission which will pioneer sovereign technology in projects such as OzFuel, which will gather real-time data, monitor potentially hazardous conditions specific to Australia’s eucalypt-dominant bushland, and improve our bushfire preparedness, response and resilience.
“Other real-world applications of the data collected by Kanyini include satellite image-based smoke detection for bushfire mitigation and monitoring inland and coastal water qualities,” Koronios added.
The mission’s objectives, which are designed to benefit the Australian people, are reflected in the name given to the satellite. “Kanyini” is a term from the Pitjantjatjara language describing the concept of “the principle of responsibility and unconditional love for all of creation”.
It is fitting therefore that Kanyini will be used to protect Australians from bushfires, help monitor water quality and the health of coastlines, and provide further research into climate change. (Source: Space Connect)
24 Oct 22. Marine licence issued for Virgin Orbit satellite launch project. The Marine Management Organisation has issued a marine licence for first UK space launch from Cornwall. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has issued a marine licence to the Virgin Orbit satellite launch project. Virgin Orbit proposes to conduct a maximum of one launch in 2022 and approximately two launches per year over the next 8 years (January 2023-December 2030).
The licence issued by MMO covers the 2022 launch, the first of its kind in the UK. As there is material to be deposited into the sea that will be loaded in the UK, the activity requires a marine licence from MMO, as required by The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
The decision is a result of close collaboration between MMO and the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and follows public consultations which were carried out earlier this year.
Trudi Wakelin, Director of Licensing, Marine Planning and Global Marine at the Marine Management Organisation said: “As the independent marine manager and regulator for England’s seas, it’s important that we review any potential environmental impacts before issuing marine licences.
On this occasion, we have worked with primary advisers, interested parties and members of the public during the consultation period to ensure any potential impacts were considered and appropriately assessed.
This enabled MMO to issue the marine licence to the Virgin Orbit project, in preparation for their planned launch later this year.”
Copies of the Marine Licence application and associated information may be viewed online in the MMO public register. Case reference MLA/2022/00134. Additional information is also available from MMO’s selected cases page for this marine licence. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Oct 22. The final two Pléiades Neo satellites arrive in Kourou for launch. The last batch of the Airbus-built, owned and operated Pléiades Neo satellites has arrived at the European Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, following a transatlantic flight from Toulouse, France, where most of the manufacturing steps occurred over the last years. Scheduled to be launched at the end of November on the first commercial mission of the Vega C European rocket operated by Arianespace, the Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites will complete the Airbus 30cm resolution four-satellite constellation.
“We are just one step away from completing this pioneering constellation, which already covers one m km² per day and delivers images at 30cm native resolution,” said François Lombard, Head of Intelligence at Airbus Defence and Space. “With this upcoming launch, we will double our capacity and be able to respond to our customers’ needs even faster, providing the best quality in the market for a wide range of military and commercial applications.”
The Pléiades Neo 3 and 4 satellites were launched in April and August 2021, respectively, and since then they have been collecting imagery easily accessible from Airbus’ OneAtlas digital platform, where customers can task new imagery and have access to archived images and extensive analytics.
21 Oct 22. U.S. Space Command to Transfer Space Object Tracking to Department of Commerce. Right now, U.S. Space Command tracks more than 47,000 objects in space. But there are plans to transfer that responsibility to the Department of Commerce, an effort that will allow Spacecom to focus more on what’s happening in space rather than just on the tracking of objects there, the Spacecom commander said.
“My current priority is to invest in space domain awareness. To … gain a better understanding of the activities in space,” Army Gen. James Dickinson said. “Our challenges center on ensuring the warfighter has relevant and timely data to execute missions in a very complex and changing environment.”
Dickinson outlined priorities for his command and how industry might contribute to supporting them during a Thursday conference hosted in Los Angeles by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
“Operationally our allies and partners are increasing their investments in , offering enhanced capabilities that can augment U.S. Space Command’s globally-distributed sensor network,” Dickinson said. “We must find innovative ways to create an integrated sensor network on a global scale. Through an integrated network we can build knowledge of the environment. Through knowledge, we know we can gain better wisdom.”
Space superiority, Dickinson said, means warfighters are getting the right data, in a timely manner, to allow them to make the decisions they need to make.
“Our sensor network must better enable battle management of increasingly dynamic and changing environments,” he said.
What Spacecom is looking for, Dickinson told industry members, are new, state-of-the-art technologies not dependent on limited, onboard consumables.
“Next-generation spacecraft require renewables and resupply to extend their lifespan and assure they are available for many, many years,” he said. “This is where our partnership with industry converges. Given our pacing challenge and expansion of dynamic space operations, we need to leverage commercial capabilities that are available today or maybe tomorrow.”
The general said Spacecom is looking for “existing viable capabilities that are good enough,” and pointed to systems such as the Army’s Gunsmoke-J satellite program as an example.
“We are filling space domain awareness capacity gaps with missile warning and defense sensors such as the Army/Navy’s TYPY2, and the Navy’s Aegis BMD ships,” he said. “I encourage aerospace companies to become partners with U.S. Space Command in our mission … by joining the Commercial Integration Cell and/or the Commercial Operations Cell.”
Spacecom’s commercial integration strategy, Dickinson said, is meant to set priorities and synchronize industry integration to mitigate capability gaps, but that it’s not an acquisition strategy.
“Commercial mission partners can formalize their provision of space capabilities through cooperative research and development agreements with our functional and service component commands,” he said. “We pursue the objectives of commercial integration because we know that industry contributes greatly to our ability to protect and defend the United States, our allies and our partners. Our mission success is dependent on the partnerships and relationships that we build with all of you.”
Dickinson said Spacecom needs a comprehensive and diverse space domain awareness network capable which is capable of supporting dynamic space operations, and that industry will be key in making that happen.
“As America has always done, we must harness the best and the brightest to address our most significant operational challenges,” he said. “Military cooperation with the commercial sector is essential to our national defense. Industry is a solution provider and force multiplier, which expands the military’s warfighting capabilities. U.S. Spacecom will not go it alone in our commitment to ensure, along with all of you, that there is never a day without space.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Oct 22. Space Force readies narrowband satellite communications solicitation. The U.S. Space Force expects to release a solicitation early next year for two Mobile User Objective System satellites, a multibn effort meant to ensure military users have access to secure communications.
The service operates four active MUOS spacecraft and one on-orbit spare, all built by Lockheed Martin through a program that originated with the Navy, but transferred to the Space Force in March. The narrowband communication satellites operate in the 300MHz to 3GHz frequency range, making them less vulnerable to severe weather conditions and ideal for secure information transfer.
Barbara Baker, deputy program executive officer for Space Systems Command’s Military Satellite Communications and Positioning, Navigation and Timing Directorate, confirmed this week to C4ISRNET the service plans to request bids from companies for early risk-reduction and design work in early 2023.
The Space Force revealed in its fiscal 2023 budget request it plans to spend $3.7 bn to develop two more satellites that will launch by the end of the decade. That includes $165 m in fiscal 2023 and $1.4 bn over the next five years.
The acquisition is meant to extend the life of the constellation and is an outgrowth of a series of studies initiated by the Navy and carried forward by the Space Force. Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and Boeing —three of the top four military contractors globally, according to a 2022 Defense News analysis — all participated in those studies. The Space Force may choose more than one company for the first phase, which would be followed by a competition between those firms.
Baker said in an Oct. 14 email the service hasn’t set a timeline for a contract award. She said the satellites will have common user interfaces with the other systems on orbit and may carry new capabilities, but did not provide details.
“The satellites . . . will meet or exceed the current system performance requirements and have compatible interfaces to ensure seamless integration with the MUOS ground systems and continuity of operations,” she said.
Today’s MUOS satellites, which replaced the Ultra High Frequency Follow-on system, carry two payloads — one to maintain the legacy UHF network and a second that provides a new Wideband Code Division Multiple Access capability. The system is designed to provide 10 times the capacity of its predecessor.
Justin Keller, director of advanced programs and military space at Lockheed, told C4ISRNET Oct. 9 the company attended an industry day in September with the Space Force and other prospective vendors. The message from the service, he said, is that they want a low-risk solution that prioritizes schedule.
“Their No. 1 focus is schedule and low risk, and we’re 100% behind that,” he said. “I think the government, the Space Force, has laid out a really good plan to get us there.”
Along with schedule and risk management, the Space Force is prioritizing resilience as it makes near-term upgrades to systems like MUOS and as it sets plans for future versions of these constellations. The service is slated to begin analysis next year to consider its long-term narrowband communication needs.
Keller noted that for satellites like these that weren’t designed to be resistant to cyber threats and enemy jamming, balancing these demands can be a challenge. The Space Force hasn’t revealed what limited resilience measures it may want for the sixth and seventh MUOS spacecraft because those capabilities are often classified.
“They’re hoping to address those [threats] that will not interfere with their schedule,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work on that.”
As the Space Force moves forward with plans to buy more MUOS satellites, lawmakers have raised concerns about the performance of the current capability. The program experienced significant fielding delays, particularly with the terminals and equipment that allow users to connect to the system. A 2021 Government Accountability Office report found personnel on the ground were not able to take full advantage of the satellite’s more advanced features.
In the Senate’s version of the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill, lawmakers referenced GAO’s work and called for a demonstration of a “narrowband gapfiller” capability by January 2025. The Senate Armed Services Committee also wants a report on the status of the MUOS follow-on work.
Keller noted that while the program has experienced setbacks, feedback from users has improved as more terminals are fielded.
“Now that they have the terminals, everything we’ve heard is universal praise on the particular quality of the service compared to what they had before,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
18 Oct 22. OneWeb + New Space India to launch 36 constellation smallsats on October 22nd. OneWeb will launch 36 satellites with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) on Saturday, October 22nd, 2022 (UTC—October 23, 2022, local time). This launch marks OneWeb’s historic 14th launch and the first since re-initiating its launch program this fall and will be conducted by NSIL, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
The launch will occur at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota India. This event brings OneWeb’s constellation to 462 satellites, more than 70% of teh satellites required for OneWeb to reach global coverage.
This miles will activate a new phase of OneWeb’s launch program as the company continues their goal of bridging the digital divide around the globe and the firm remains on track to activate global coverage in 2023, with coverage solutions already live in regions north of 50 degrees latitude. (Source: Satnews)
17 Oct 22. DARPA selects 11 teams to develop LEO smallsat ‘Translator’ optical comms terminals. DARPA has selected 11 teams for Phase 1 of the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node program, known as Space-BACN, that aims to create a low-cost, reconfigurable optical communications terminal that adapts to most optical intersatellite link standards, translating between diverse satellite constellations.
Space-BACN would create an “internet” of LEO satellites, enabling seamless communication between military/government and commercial/civil satellite constellations that currently are unable to talk with each other.
The agency selected teams from academia and large and small commercial companies, including multiple performers awarded first-time contracts with the Department of Defense.
“We intentionally made making a proposal to our Space-BACN solicitations as easy as possible, because we wanted to tap into both established defense companies and the large pool of innovative small tech companies, many of which don’t have the time or resources to figure out complicated government contracting processes,” said Greg Kuperman, Space-BACN program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. “We used other transactions and were very pleased with diversity of organizations that responded and quality of proposals. After a successful Phase 0 where we got to see the teams sprint to put together an initial architecture design for Space-BACN, I’m excited to get to work in Phase 1 building the actual system.”
In the first technical area, the following performers aim to develop a flexible, low size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) optical aperture that couples into single-mode fiber:
The following teams selected in the second technical area aim to develop a reconfigurable optical modem that supports up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength:
II-VI Aerospace and Defense
Arizona State University
Intel Federal, LLC
The performer teams listed above will also participate in a collaborative working group to define the interface between their respective system components.
In a third technical area, the agency selected five teams to identify critical command and control elements required to support cross-constellation optical intersatellite link communications and develop the schema necessary to interface between Space-BACN and commercial partner constellations:
Phase 1 of Space- BACN spans 14 months and will conclude with a preliminary design review for the first two technical areas, as well as a fully defined interface between system components. The third technical area will develop the schema for cross-constellation command and control, and will conduct a connectivity demo in a simulated environment to test the schema for a baseline scenario.
At the completion of Phase 1, selected performers in the first two technical areas will participate in an 18-month Phase 2 to develop engineering design units of the optical terminal components, while performers in the third technical area will continue to evolve the schema to function in more challenging and dynamic scenarios. (Source: Satnews)
14 Oct 22. Phase Four unveils new thruster for LEO constellations. Phase Four is going to expand their Maxwell, turn-key, plasma propulsion line and offer satellite manufacturers an industry-first, high performance engine using an inexpensive, domestically sourced, iodine-based propellant — Max-V leverages the Maxwell Block 2 engine’s innovative architecture and builds on the radio-frequency thruster’s propellant agnostic capabilities.
Phase Four’s Maxwell Block 1 engine gained flight heritage in early 2021. Maxwell Block 2 engine deliveries began earlier this year. With double digit commercial flight units delivered, the company is now focusing on its Max-V development effort.
Maxwell’s new, chassis-style, design enables rapid on-ramping of improvements in the core areas of the thruster, power electronics and propellant subsystems. This architecture is streamlining the Max-V development process as is the company’s significant experience with iodine-based propellants through its recent U.S. Air Force AFWERX award.
Max-V is anticipated to be available for order in the second half of 2023. The system is designed to operate from 200 Watts to 1.5 kiloWatts, and achieve 50 mN thrust, over 1,200 s Isp and deliver over 100 kNs total impulse. Max-V’s iodine-based propellant will cost under $400 per kilogram and be incorporated in the purchase price. Max-V’s form factor is similar to Phase Four’s current Maxwell Block 2 engine. The system will ship fully fueled, ready for installation and will require no ground fueling operations prior to launch.
“Legacy electric propulsion systems are tied to noble gases like xenon and krypton,” said Phase Four CEO, Beau Jarvis. “These noble gases, while high performing, are largely sourced outside of the United States in China, Russia and Ukraine. The US has no real control over this supply chain, which is subject to high price volatility and recent severe supply issues. We’ve always said that Phase Four delivers game changing propulsion systems, and Max-V will do just that. We are building a product that will dramatically lower costs and extend operational lifetimes of small satellites in low Earth orbit and provide significantly higher total impulse for missions beyond LEO.
Phase Four board member, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “This year we’ve seen xenon prices spike to over $30,000 per kilogram. This is cost prohibitive for both commercial and government satellite constellations in low Earth orbit. The US is the world’s third largest iodine producer, and my home state of Oklahoma leads the way in domestic production. With Max-V, we can ensure a fully domestic supply chain and readily accessible low cost propellant.”
“Maxwell’s new modular chassis architecture enables us to introduce improved capabilities within the same form factor,” said Phase Four CTO, Umair Siddiqui. “Using an iodine-based propellant instead of a noble gas propellant stored at very high pressure provides a number of benefits to our customers. Iodine stores as a solid without high pressure valves or vessels, which means we can deliver fully fueled engines directly to our customers.” Siddiqui continued, “Iodine also stores about three times more densely than xenon, which means our propulsion systems will offer much higher total impulse in the same unit volume as legacy electric propulsion systems.”
Phase Four is a disruptive provider of next generation electric propulsion (EP) solutions for small satellites. The company was founded in 2015 to address the demands of the rapid proliferation of satellite constellations and to accelerate the advancement of its radio-frequency thruster (RFT). The Phase Four RFT represents a revolutionary new architecture that realizes lower cost, mass-manufacturability, miniaturized power electronics, and propellant agnosticism over incumbent technologies, without compromising performance. In 2021 Phase Four’s Maxwell turn-key propulsion system achieved flight heritage and is now being regularly utilized by small satellite operators. Learn more at www.phasefour.io. (Source: Satnews)
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