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11 Nov 22. Close call for Skynet 6 SDW award between the BT and Seco Teams. Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the recommendation for the Skynet 6 Service Delivery Wrap Award (SDW) is with the Minister and will be announced in January. The extension of the current Airbus contract appeared to put Airbus on notice that they would not be chosen for the new award. The award is believed to be a close-run contest between the Seco and BT led teams.
Serco is believed to have put in a very competitive bid and has the advantage that the company currently employs the existing workforce who easily transition to the new contract.
The Serco led consortium comprises global defence and aerospace company Lockheed Martin, global IT specialist CGI and UK satellite operator Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, supported by a number of other highly skilled providers from across the domain, including South Wales based Spectra, the satcom communications specialist. Serco and Lockheed Martin have worked together on a number of UK defence programmes over many years, whilst Serco, CGI and Inmarsat have worked closely together on the current Skynet 5 service from the start of its delivery. All the partners have a strong UK presence and track record with the UK MOD and wider space sector.
The strength of the BT Team should not be overlooked. BT employed formed MoD comms supremo John Cole to lead the bid so his presence on the team could be crucial.
BT, NSSLGlobal and Viasat partnered to bid for the Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) contract for the UK’s Skynet 6 Satellite Communications (SATCOM) programme. The group said it can provide the Ministry of Defence (MOD) ‘fully managed best-in-class SATCOM solutions.’ The SDW competition was initiated by the UK in late 2019 in support of the wider Skynet 6 SATCOM programme. The programme will consist of a five-year contract to support Skynet 6 and will replace the existing Skynet 5 contract which will deliver SATCOM services to the MOD up until August 2022. Watch this space for the award in January!
12 Nov 22. Boeing-Built X-37B Completes Sixth Mission, Sets New Endurance Record.
– Autonomous orbital test vehicle spent 908 days on orbit before landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
– This mission marks the first time the vehicle hosted a service module, which successfully carried experiments for Naval Research Laboratory, U.S. Air Force Academy and other partners.
The Boeing [NYSE: BA] built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) set a new endurance record after spending 908 days on orbit before landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:22 a.m. ET, November 12, 2022. This surpasses its previous record of 780 days on-orbit.
With the successful completion of its sixth mission the reusable spaceplane has now flown over 1.3 billion miles and spent a total of 3,774 days in space where it conducts experiments for government and industry partners with the ability to return them to Earth for evaluation.
For the first time, the vehicle carried a service module to augment the number of payloads it can haul. The module separated from the OTV prior to de-orbiting ensuring a safe and successful landing.
“This mission highlights the Space Force’s focus on collaboration in space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, within and outside of the Department of the Air Force (DAF),” said Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations.
The sixth mission was launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in May 2020. Hosted experiments included a solar energy experiment designed by the Naval Research Lab, as well as a satellite designed and built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The satellite, dubbed FalconSat-8, was successfully deployed in October 2021 and remains on orbit today.
This mission also hosted multiple NASA experiments including the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS-2), which evaluated the effects of space exposure on various materials to validate and improve the precision of space environment models. This was the second flight for this type of experiment. Mission 6 also hosted a NASA experiment to evaluate the effects of long-duration space exposure on seeds. This experiment informs research aimed at future interplanetary missions and the establishment of permanent bases in space.
“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch. “With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”
The X-37B program is a partnership between the U.S Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the U.S. Space Force. Boeing designed and manufactured the spaceplane and continues to provide program management, engineering, test and mission support from sites in Southern California, Florida and Virginia.
In 2020, the X-37B received the Robert J. Collier Trophy for advancing the performance, efficiency and safety of air and space vehicles.
As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future, leading with sustainability, and cultivating a culture based on the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity. Join our team and find your purpose at boeing.com/careers.
10 Nov 22. US Army showcases space-enabled targeting system at Project Convergence. A prototype designed to allow the U.S. Army’s next-generation ground system to pull targeting information from military and commercial satellites joined the service’s Project Convergence demonstration going on now.
Project Convergence, led by the Army but supported by each of the military services, aims to demonstrate Joint All-Domain Command and Control — the Department of Defense’s vision for a networked, connected, data-enabled force. The exercise kicked off in October in the western U.S. and the Pacific and continues through this month.
The Army’s Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node is a key piece of JADC2 that’s being designed to connect sensors with users in the field to support beyond-line-of-sight targeting. Raytheon and Palantir are developing competing prototypes for TITAN and, in parallel, Northrop Grumman is designing a kit that will be installed on those systems to allow them to ingest data from space-based sensors.
Northrop announced Nov. 9 the first of two “pre-prototype” systems has been delivered to the service and was used as part of Project Convergence.
“The mobile, semi-autonomous, pre-prototype system leverages commercial and military space assets to facilitate deep-sensing, reduce sensor-to-shooter timelines and maximize the effectiveness of long-range precision fires,” it said in a statement. “This new capability fully integrates data from multiple assets into a single mobile system.”
The space prototype is being managed by the Army’s Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities office and the Defense Innovation Unit.
The Army plans to field two versions of TITAN, advanced and basic, with the key difference being that the advanced will have the space kit installed. The advanced version will integrate with tactical trucks, like the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle fleet’s M1083, and the basic variant will be installed on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
The service awarded Raytheon and Palantir $36 million each in June to complete their TITAN prototypes and plans to choose one of their designs next summer. The winning contractor will produce six advanced and five basic systems. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
10 Nov 22. Albany, WA to become the home of new spaceport. Albany, Western Australia has been selected as the planned location for Western Australia’s first commercial spaceport.
The site, located about 30 minutes from Albany’s CBD, has been approved for development and the spaceport is aiming to be operational by 2024.
The location was chosen by Western Australia Spaceport founder April Walker early on in the planning and design process. Walker believed Albany was perfect for a launch site, providing better access to preferred orbits as well as offering fewer building and flight restrictions in comparison to the proposed sites in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.
“The proposed site in Albany offers a wide range of launch inclinations, a proximity to Albany itself and a low-risk launch window … which means the vehicles can go quite a way off course before it is an issue that leads to range safety officers terminating the flight,” Walker said.
Walker claims that the desired orbits, which are polar and sun-synchronous orbits, came first in the design process and that she “designed in reverse” to find the best location for the spaceport.
The proposed location of the spaceport has a clear expanse of the Southern Indian Ocean to its south with the capability of launching into azimuths up to 50 degrees eastwards from the south and 85-90 degrees westwards from the south.
WA Spaceport’s aim is to support international and domestic small satellite launches and to enable satellite manufacturers, operators, end users and launch service providers to focus on their research, development and innovation rather than the costly and time-consuming process of developing their own launch facilities.
“I’m a bit of a contrarian in our space community,” Walker said.
“I disagree with many voices in the Australian space community that [the country’s] competitive edge is derived from things like our geography, our stable political environment or our climate … these are not advantages, these are just attributes which allow Australia to participate.”
The project relies on a launch facility licence to be granted by the Australian Space Agency to be completed. If regulatory approval is secured, it will be the first and only licensed and independent orbital launch facility in Western Australia.
Walker believes that it is in both the state and nation’s best interests to pursue the development of space facilities. Without a sustainable path for the development of space infrastructure, Australia risks falling further behind the rest of the world in space exploration and launch capabilities. (Source: Space Connect)
11 Nov 22. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) spacecraft, built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), successfully launched today aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with launch services managed by NASA’s Launch Service Program. JPSS-2 is the third satellite for the joint NOAA and NASA JPSS program. These satellites provide meteorological data and observations to enhance the prediction and preparation for extreme weather conditions and observe long-term climate trends.
Northrop Grumman designed and built JPSS-2 to increase the timeliness and accuracy of climate and weather data patterns which support more timely decision making and natural disaster advanced planning efforts. This mission is one of several Northrop Grumman payloads set to launch through the end of 2022, supporting customer missions that span human exploration, scientific discovery, communications and national security.
“JPSS-2 improves on NOAA-20’s broadcast capacity by allowing any ground system around the world to receive data in real time, allowing NOAA to receive global data and distribute it to activate emergency preparedness and protect lives,” said Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial space, Northrop Grumman.
In addition to the space vehicle, Northrop Grumman manufactured the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) for JPSS-2. The ATMS measures microwave radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere and surface during the day and night regardless of cloud cover.
“The global temperature and moisture profiles generated by the ATMS will allow meteorologists globally to create more accurate weather forecasting models that will help communities with natural disaster and emergency preparedness efforts,” said Aaron Dann, vice president, strategic force programs, Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman delivers cost-effective, reliable satellites, instruments, satellite components and ground systems to support a diverse array of scientific and discovery missions. This includes Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2, Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 and Landsat 8 and 9, which have produced vital data on climate patterns, atmospheric conditions and land use.
The company also built JPSS-2’s solar array, thermal control, propellant tank and primary structural elements inclusive of the main instrument deck, along with structural elements for key sensors and the reaction control propellant tanks for the Atlas V rocket. Northrop Grumman was selected to manufacture JPSS-3 and 4 satellites, which are expected to launch over the next decade.
10 Nov 22. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), SES and Hughes Network Systems (HUGHES) worked together to successfully demonstrate multi-orbit satellite communications (SATCOM) using a GA-ASI-supplied MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The demonstration took place on Oct. 20, 2022, at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, Calif. The higher data rate SATCOM transmission featured SES’s multi-orbit satellite communications service leveraging high-throughput, low-latency Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), and Geostationary (GEO) fleet, and was powered by a Hughes HM series software-defined modem and Hughes Resource Management System.
“This demonstration proves the importance of next generation SATCOM for operators of our aircraft,” said GA-ASI Senior Vice President for MQ-9 Systems, Fred Darlington. “As we expand into new and more intricate payloads for our RPA, we’ll require higher data rates that provide the bandwidth, security and robustness to operate our sensors.”
The demonstration used SES’s O3b MEO system that provides fiber-like carrier-grade performance, scalability, and resilience that set the path to widely leveraging open architectures and achieving network sovereignty. SES’s multi-orbit fleet that delivers global coverage, high-throughput, low-latency and increased levels of security, was leveraged to show how unmanned aircraft, such as the GA-ASI MQ-9 series, can maintain high-workload, mission-critical connectivity and resiliency, even in contested environments. During the demonstration, the connectivity service seamlessly roamed between O3b MEO and AMC-15 GEO satellites. Later this year, SES will be launching its second-generation MEO system, O3b mPOWER, to further support governments through unprecedented performance, waveform-agnostic service and enabling network sovereignty.
“We are very proud of our partnership developed over the years between SES, GA-ASI and their government customers. Innovation is key in supporting transformational changes in the ISR services, and this demonstration is one more example of how the industry can work together to bring something special to market,” said Will Tong, Vice President of Strategic Government Initiatives and head of the Aero ISR market at SES. “Together with GA-ASI, we were able to prove out new levels of secure, flexible and high-performance multi-orbit services for ISR, with 10x performance on a significantly smaller form factor, with increased resiliency and security for the end users.”
Integrated onto the MQ-9B, the milspec Hughes HM System modem (HM400) powered the MEO and GEO SATCOM with Low-Probability of Intercept/Low Probability of Detection (LPI/LPD) modes for the resiliency necessary in congested and contested environments. Together with the Hughes Resource Management System, the HM400 automatically optimized and switched satellite signals smoothly and within seconds, demonstrating a near real-time capability that enhances the military’s Primary Alternative Contingency Emergency (PACE) planning.
“Working together with General Atomics for many years, we are pleased to support the MQ-9B program with the commercially based Hughes HM400 modem integrated as the standard for real-time communications for beyond line of sight mission opportunities,” said Rick Lober, Vice President and General Manager, Hughes Defense. “Combined with the Hughes Resource Management System, the frequency-agnostic, open architecture HM System helps GA-ASI meet their military customer’s requirements for uninterrupted, high data rate, multi-orbit SATCOM, ensuring secure information accessibility for the right people at the right time.”
10 Nov 22. The first Spanish rocket, MIURA 1, is ready to fly (from Spain) beginning of 2023. The Spanish PLD Space successfully completes for the first time in Europe a flight mission test of a microlauncher.
The objective has been to ensure that all the components of its suborbital space vehicle work correctly or, if not, to fine-tune the parameters for the first flight unit
During 122-second trial, rocket ‘thinks’ it’s on its way to space
This 122-second test is equivalent to the time the motor stays on in a real launch. Its main purpose is to check the correct operation of all subsystems during a simulated flight. With the information obtained in the different tests, the PLD Space team has been able to verify that each of the parts of the rocket works as expected or, if not, take advantage of this data to fine-tune all the parameters of the first unit of flight.
After passing this test campaign, MIURA 1 is ready for its first launch, scheduled for the end of 2022 from El Arenosillo (Huelva)
PLD Space , the Spanish company that leads the space launch business for small satellites in Europe, has successfully completed the first qualification campaign for its suborbital rocket, MIURA 1. The company once again makes history by carrying out, for the first time in Europe, a complete test flight mission of an integrated space vehicle. After passing all the relevant tests at its technical facilities in Teruel, the rocket is ready for its first launch, which continues to be scheduled for the end of 2022 from El Arenosillo (Huelva).
Although PLD Space had already tested and validated each of the subsystems that make up the launch vehicle, it had not yet tested all of them integrated. A definitive test to continue advancing in the planned program of MIURA 1.
The MIURA 1 qualification campaign has been a success because no critical subsystem has failed. “We have collected a list of small modifications that require programmatic management, such as changing a component or updating a design that we need to improve; but nothing critical”, says Torres. “With each trial, we manage to evolve and improve the flight rocket.”
On October 20, 2022
PLD Space, the leading European company in the microlauncher industry, and Repsol signed a pioneering collaboration agreement to promote the use of renewable fuels for space vehicles. The agreement includes both feasibility studies to replace current fuels with others produced with sustainable raw materials, as well as the design of new renewable fuels, which will be custom-made at Repsol Technology Lab for the rocket propellants manufactured by PLD Space, specifically , for MIURA recoverable microlaunchers. In this way, both companies advance in the objective promulgated by the European Union of climate neutrality by 2050.
With this agreement, the two companies revolutionize the future of rocket fuels that currently use liquid kerosene similar to that used in civil aviation, or a specific fuel for rockets called RP-1.
Repsol will formulate the new fuels from renewable or recycled raw materials. Specifically, from advanced biofuels made with waste as raw material or using synthetic fuels that are produced from renewable hydrogen and CO2 removed from the atmosphere. In this way, a reduction in the carbon footprint is achieved that can reach 90% and even become negative.
Raúl Verdú , CBDO and co-founder of PLD Space, pointed out that “we were the first company in Europe to publicly bet on the recovery of its launch vehicles as proof of its commitment to the environment. We want to continue investigating all the alternatives that allow us to reduce our carbon footprint, also in propulsion”.
10 Nov 22. UK seeks up to three wideband satellites for Skynet.
Up to three wideband satellites will be acquired under the Skynet programme, and the Skynet Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) project will commence in 2023, according to UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials.
Under the umbrella of the Skynet Enduring Capability (SKEC) programme, the MoD intends to acquire up to three wideband satellites, which will be introduced in the late 2020s, Peter Lymn, UK MoD project manager for Skynet Integrated Enterprise Solution, said at the Global MilSatcom 2022 conference and exhibition held in London from 8 to 10 November.
A competition for the satellites is expected in the middle of 2023, Lymn added.
In August, it was announced that the MoD was seeking to acquire multiple medium-sized Wideband Satellite Systems (WSS) with X- and Mil Ka-band payloads for the SKEC space segment. (Source: Janes)
09 Nov 22. U.S. Army system integrates both commercial and military space data to help warfighters with actionable data and faster decision-making. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) delivered its Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) space pre-prototype ground system to the U.S. Army for demonstration at Project Convergence 2022 – a military exercise aimed at advancing the Army’s role in Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capabilities. The pre-prototype is the preliminary model of the first of two space prototypes Northrop Grumman is developing for the Defense Innovation Unit and the Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) office.
The mobile, semi-autonomous pre-prototype system leverages commercial and military space assets to facilitate deep-sensing, reduce sensor-to-shooter timelines and maximize the effectiveness of long-range precision fires. This new capability fully integrates data from multiple assets into a single mobile system. The groundbreaking technology supports the Department of Defense’s strategy for its JADC2 network to conduct multi-domain operations.
“Our TITAN solution is a pioneering technology integrating critical space capabilities into a mobile system,” said Pablo Pezzimenti, vice president, integrated national systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our unique ability to provide access to multi-domain, actionable intelligence from commercial and military space systems directly contributes to success on the battlefield by helping the warfighter make quicker decisions when every second counts.”
The prototype capabilities are part of a larger TITAN program, a scalable and expeditionary intelligence ground station that will leverage space, high altitude, aerial and terrestrial layer sensors to provide targetable data to commanders at all levels so they can quickly assess threats. The system will also connect the joint force by providing near real-time intelligence using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to rapidly deliver fused data from multi-domain sensors to weapon platforms, such as artillery, jammers and airborne systems.
09 Nov 22. Ubotica and Open Cosmos Agree to Launch AI Centric Satellite. Ubotica Technologies™, the leading provider of smarts for smart satellites, and Open Cosmos, leading space mission and data provider, have signed an agreement to deliver CogniSat-6, the first AI centric CubeSat mission to include autonomous capabilities.
As part of the agreement, CogniSat-6 will carry the flight proven (TRL-9) CogniSat™ edge computing platform to low earth orbit and will provide reactive retargeting to optimise image gathering on specific areas of interest identified in-orbit without requiring any intervention from ground stations. This allows faster response times for satellite tip and cue operations resulting in higher value data gathering which significantly accelerates the mission return on investment (ROI).
Additionally, the mission will be used to execute a wide selection of CogniSat applications. These applications enhance the value of imagery available for analysis through smart AI-enabled compression techniques. This results in a six-fold increase in the usable data received by the ground station when compared with the transmission of uncompressed images and a two-fold increase when compared with the use of standard compression approaches.
Announcing the agreement, Fintan Buckley, Co-Founder and CEO of Ubotica Technologies, said: “CogniSat-6 builds on the solid foundation of flight proven Ubotica technology to deliver the first AI centric CubeSat mission with autonomous capabilities. CogniSat-6 also uses CogniSat on-board edge computing to realise considerable system savings. For example, applications running on CogniSat-6 will increase the system value by expanding system data throughput and cutting downlink costs. Satellite System Designers are already telling us that it is a compelling proposition.”
This mission will be joining the OpenConstellation project: a global, shared satellite infrastructure built and managed by Open Cosmos to enable anyone to access satellite data to address challenges around the climate crisis, energy and natural resources. The OpenConstellation enables business, organisations, national and regional governments to participate and access insightful, actionable data from space for the first time while keeping high levels of governance and security.
Commenting on the agreement Rafel Jorda Siquier, founder and CEO of Open Cosmos, said “We are delighted to announce Ubotica as the first edge computing and AI partner for the OpenConstellation. The OpenConstellation is attracting both private and public partners willing to share infrastructure with the aim to make data and information available to everyone. CogniSat-6 addresses real needs we see from customers and will enable OpenConstellation users to implement comprehensive AI-enabled system developments.”
08 Nov 22. Collins Aerospace and AVIC LETRI Receive FAA TSO Certification for COMAC C919 Weather Radar Antenna.
- First FAA Technical Standard Orders (TSO) – certified avionics component to be developed and manufactured by a company in China
- Collins Aerospace also provides communications, navigation, and electric power systems for the COMAC C919
Collins Aerospace and AVIC Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI) announced that they have received TSO certification for COMAC’s C919 Weather Radar Flat Plate Antenna (WFA), designed by LETRI, from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A TSO is a minimum performance standard for specified materials, parts, and appliances used on civil aircraft.
AVIC LETRI is a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) which formed a joint venture company – AVIC Leihua Rockwell Collins Avionics Company (ALRAC) – with Collins Aerospace in 2013. ALRAC focuses on bringing the latest surveillance products to the COMAC C919 aircraft.
“We have been working with LETRI since 2016 to become a qualified supplier for COMAC’s C919 and this is a significant milestone for our partnership as the WFA is the first FAA TSO certified avionics component to be developed and manufactured by a company in China, with more on the way”, said Grace Du, managing director for avionics, “This is testament of our long-term commitment to our local customers and partners.”
(Source: ASD Network)
08 Nov 22. Intelsat Chooses SWISSto12 to Build Intelsat 45.
- Providing service continuity and growth capacity, HummingSat is smaller than conventional GEO satellites
Intelsat, operator of one of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial networks and leading provider of inflight connectivity (IFC), today announced that scale-up manufacturer SWISSto12 will produce the Intelsat 45 satellite (IS-45). With the order, Intelsat becomes the first commercial customer for the innovative HummingSat geostationary (GEO) telecommunications product.
Scheduled for launch in 2025, Intelsat 45 will provide Ku-band fixed-satellite services enabling Intelsat to provide specialized and efficient service to Media and Network customers.
“The SWISSto12 product brings two innovations to meet our business needs,” said Jean-Luc Froeliger, SVP of Space Systems, Intelsat. “The small size addresses a gap in our fleet strategy, enabling us to be increasingly more targeted to meet specific customer requirements. In addition, the additive-manufacturing process used for this spacecraft is paving the way for faster satellite build cycles in the future. We are confident in the HummingSat technology and want to support the success of new players in the field of commercial communication satellites.”
HummingSats are just over one cubic meter in volume, one-tenth the size of conventional satellites placed in geostationary orbit. SWISSto12 is developing the satellites in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) through its public-private-partnership program. Each HummingSat is designed to launch as a rideshare mission on a rocket carrying one or more large spacecraft to GEO transfer orbit. The new satellite product line recently passed its system requirements review, assessed by a panel of ESA experts.
Dr. Emile de Rijk, SWISSto12 founder and CEO: “The award of the IS-45 program by Intelsat is a landmark moment for SWISSto12. We are humbled to embark on this journey with Intelsat, who are the foundational architects of satellite communications. It is unprecedented for a specialist high growth scale-up to secure a contract of this depth with a leading telecommunications operator. It provides a solid start to our HummingSat product line to open a new chapter in the satellite communications industry.” (Source: ASD Network)
09 Nov 22. French Syracuse satellite confirmed for launch in 2023. A French military satellite communications (satcom) system will be launched in 2023. Speaking at the Global MilSatCom 2022 conference and exhibition held in London between 8 and 10 November, Lieutenant Colonel Marina Ballanger, Satcom International Affairs at the French defence procurement agency (Direction générale de l’armement: DGA), announced that the launch date for the Syracuse 4B satellite has been confirmed for early 2023.
Development of the satellite is expected to be completed by December 2022, and ready for its launch date in early 2023, she said.
The Syracuse IV programme, launched in 2015 and valued at EUR3.6bn (USD3.6bn), involves the complete renewal of the Syracuse III satellites and ground stations. Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space are prime contractors. (Source: Janes)
08 Nov 22. DARPA’s robot could start servicing satellites in 2025. A robotic arm developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has completed key tests and is on track to be integrated with a Northrop Grumman spacecraft next year and launch to geosynchronous Earth orbit in 2024, the agency said Nov. 8.
“The program anticipates on-orbit satellite servicing activities will begin in 2025,” DARPA said in a news release.
Meeting that goal would mark a major victory for DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS), a program the agency started in 2017 building on a decade of research and lessons from a 2007 experiment.
DARPA wanted to take advantage of emerging commercial space technology to be able to inspect and repair aging satellites in GEO. “Currently, no options exist for visual diagnosis, upgrades, or repairs of a malfunctioning satellite’s components,” the agency said.
The plan was to team up with a commercial satellite provider that would build the spacecraft to carry the payload. DARPA 2017 selected SSL as its commercial partner. But in 2019 SSL’s parent company Maxar Technologies bowed out of the partnership for financial reasons. DARPA solicited new bids and in 2020 selected Northrop Grumman’s subsidiary SpaceLogistics as its partner.
The platform for the RSGS payload is SpaceLogistics’ Mission Robotic Vehicle, a 3,000-kilogram spacecraft. DARPA completed testing of robotic payload elements, not the entire spacecraft.
Still to be completed is testing of the flight robotic hardware and software. Integration of the robotic payload with the spacecraft bus will begin in 2023, followed by testing and verification of the combined system.
After launch in 2024, the vehicle will use its electric propulsion to climb to GEO.
“We are seeking to create a persistent operational dexterous robotic capability in geosynchronous Earth orbit,” said Ana Saplan, DARPA’s RSGS program manager. The robotic arm was designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with DARPA funding.
“Instead of relegating satellites to space junk because of a broken part or lack of propellant, our robot mechanic will be making repair ‘service calls’ in space,” Saplan said.
The hardware that DARPA will provide to SpaceLogistics includes two robotic arms, multiple robotic tools, on-orbit checkout and calibration equipment, equipment stowage ports, cameras and lighting, and avionics boxes.
DARPA said the first assembled arm has successfully completed functional, vibration and electromagnetic testing, and is preparing to begin thermal vacuum testing. The second arm is completing integration and will begin environmental testing this fall at NRL.
SpaceLogistics announced earlier this year that its first customer for the Mission Robotic Vehicle is Optus, Australia’s largest satellite operator. The plan is to install propulsion jet packs that would extend the service life of a 2,000 kilogram satellite by six years.
The MRV and three propulsion jet packs — known as Mission Extension Pods — are being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Dulles, Virginia. Three pods will launch in 2024 with the MRV — one will be installed on an Optus satellite and the other two are for other customers that have not yet been announced. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Space News)
08 Nov 22. Gilmour Space completes final qualification test of Sirius rocket engine. Australian rocket engineers at Gold Coast-based Gilmour Space Technologies have successfully completed the final qualification test of its main Sirius hybrid rocket engine, paving the way for the country’s first orbital launch attempt of an Australian-made rocket next year. The company is developing Eris, a three-stage launch vehicle that will be a cost effective and greener alternative to traditional liquid and solid propulsion rockets.
“What you see here is Sirius, our main hybrid rocket engine, five of which will power the first and second stages of our Eris rocket to orbit in the first half of 2023,” said Adam Gilmour, CEO and Co-founder of Gilmour Space. Sirius is a single-port hybrid rocket engine developed by Gilmour Space, which uses a liquid oxidiser and a proprietary solid fuel.
“As this was a final qualification test, we also tested it to destruction to help us understand the limits of its design,” he added. Any findings will help improve the performance of future engines.
“I’m happy to share that the test was a success. Our Sirius engine generated a record 115 kilonewtons (or 25,850 pounds force) of stable and efficient combustion. This is the most powerful rocket engine ever developed in Australia; and it achieved its mission duration requirement before failure,” he said. “All engines are now qualified for our first orbital test launch next year.” (Source: Rumour Control)
07 Nov 22. Rocket lab failed to catch booster despite successful launch.
Rocket Lab successfully launched its “Catch Me If You Can” mission over the weekend but failed to catch the Electron booster via helicopter.
The Electron rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 1, Pad B in New Zealand at 6:27 am (NZDT) on Saturday (5 November).
The mission managed to successfully launch the Swedish MATS satellite into orbit according to plan, with the satellite deploying from the rocket’s kick stage nearly an hour after lift-off.
Rocket Lab’s secondary mission objective was not quite so successful. The team was aiming to catch the Electron rocket booster with a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter to avoid a sea-based retrieval and improve reusability.
This was the second time Rocket Lab has attempted to recover one of its Electron rocket boosters with a helicopter, with the first attempt in May being called off due to unexpected flight behaviour once the booster was hooked.
The recent mission also met with failure, although this time it was due to issues with the rocket’s telemetry systems.
Murielle Baker from Rocket Lab explained why the mid-air retrieval was aborted.
“We are not bringing Electron home dry on this mission due to some telemetry loss from the rocket’s first stage during re-entry,” Baker added.
“As standard procedure for safety, we pull the helicopter out of the recovery zone if this happens, so we couldn’t attempt a catch today.
“But this is what test programs are all about: pushing hardware and systems to their limit and iterating.”
Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, reiterated the focus on safety during the mission.
“Rocket telemetry dropped out (it happens a bit during reentry) but we did not regain a solid link in time,” Beck said.
“Without that link it’s just not safe to put the helicopter into the recovery zone, so we stood it off.”
Despite failing to catch the booster before it plunged into the sea, the team at Rocket Lab said that they would instead recover the stage from the ocean, which has been the previous procedure taken by the company.
Even after being dunked in corrosive seawater for hours, there are promising signs that the Electron booster will still be reusable. The first mid-air recovery attempt in May was retrieved from the sea, with Rocket Lab refurbishing one of the nine Rutherford engines.
The refurbished engine was then tested according to strict protocols, which it successfully passed. (Source: Space Connect)
07 Nov 22. Rocket Lab Opens Archimedes Engine Test Stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
- The complex located at the Center’s A-3 Test Stand will be used to develop and test the Archimedes reusable engines, fast-tracking Rocket Lab’s development of the Neutron launch vehicle.
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today kicked off operations for testing the Archimedes engine with a ribbon cutting ceremony at NASA’s historic Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The Archimedes Test Complex will be home to engine testing for the 165,000 lbf engines to be used on Rocket Lab’s reusable Neutron rocket.
The Archimedes Test Complex is located across a 1 m square foot area at the Stennis Space Center’s A Test Complex and includes use and development of existing infrastructure of the A-3 Test Stand to develop and test Neutron’s Archimedes engines. With the opening of the Archimedes Test Complex, Rocket Lab will be able to create dozens of new jobs and make significant capital investments in the state of Mississippi.
Neutron is Rocket Lab’s reusable rocket in development, designed as a cost-effective, reliable, and responsive launch service to help build mega-constellations, deliver large spacecraft to low-Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, and interplanetary destination. Neutron is also being designed to be human spaceflight capable in future.
Rocket Lab Founder and CEO, Peter Beck, says: “It was only a few weeks ago when we announced Stennis as the location of our Archimedes Test Complex and we’re already fast at work to get the site up and running to deliver Neutron. Thanks to our partnership with NASA and the state of Mississippi, we can begin to develop the existing infrastructure and test stand at Stennis to fast-track Neutron’s first launch. We look forward to breathing fire in the great state of Mississippi.”
Rocket Lab Vice President of Launch Systems, Shaun D’Mello, says: “It is thrilling to say we’ve reached the next step in the development of Neutron as we begin operations at the Archimedes Test Complex at Stennis. We are excited to tap into the workforce in the area to fast-track Neutron’s development.”
The Archimedes Test Complex will complement the under-construction Neutron Production Complex and launch site at Wallops Island, within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Together, the two sites can create hundreds of jobs on over two m square feet of operations for Neutron’s production, testing, and launch facilities. (Source: ASD Network)
07 Nov 22. Intellian receives WGS Certification for the new NX PM VSAT terminal. Intellian Technologies, a leading provider of feature-rich, resilient satellite communications solutions, announces that their flagship v130NX PM Dual-Ka (AN/USC-73) terminal has been certified for use on the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation. WGS is a high-capacity United States Space Force satellite communication system, developed in partnership between the Defense Departments of the US, Canada, Australia and other member nations.
Intellian’s v130NX PM Dual-Ka (AN/USC-73) is now approved for use on the WGS satellite constellation by the United States Space Force, Space Delta 8 (USSF), without any caveat or special stipulations. The terminal provides Naval WGS users unprecedented flexibility to access WGS without the complexity inherent in legacy WGS/DSCS certified maritime terminals.
Built upon the field tested and market proven NX series, the v130NX PM Dual-Ka terminal features the AptusNX antenna management and control system which provides an intuitive interface for configuration and maintenance.
The v130NX PM is certified for multi-carrier Ka-band services on WGS. It was designed completely to support Intellian’s Orchestra policy-based connectivity management system. The certified WGS configuration includes Intellian’s Intelligent Mediator IM8, an active RF matrix switch that mediates top-side terminals and below-deck modems or waveforms. These capabilities provide the crew with additional unprecedented layers of connectivity resiliency for their respective missions.
This terminal was designed to meet the modern requirements of the US DoD. The v130NX PM Dual-Ka (AN/USC-73) terminal electronically switches between Military and Commercial Ka-band services, to provide resiliency and orbit diversity without the manual intervention necessary with previous WGS certified maritime antenna systems.
“WGS Certification is one of the most stringent and intensive certifications for any satellite communication hardware system to complete successfully. Additionally, Intellian is extremely proud to have achieved the “unconditional use” classification. The successful WGS Certification of the v130NX Dual-Ka validates Intellian’s position as a leading designer and supplier of cutting-edge satellite communications systems. We are thankful for the opportunity to work with our DoD customers to help solve their complex communications challenges” said Sam McKee, General Manager of Intellian Technologies USA, Inc.
07 Nov 22. Airbus partners with Space Compass to serve the Japanese market with mobile connectivity and earth observation solutions. Airbus HAPS Connectivity Business (Airbus HAPS) has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Space Compass Corporation of Japan (Space Compass) for a cooperation agreement to service the Japanese market with mobile connectivity and earth observation services from the Stratosphere with Airbus’ record breaking Zephyr platform.
Samer Halawi, Chief Executive of Airbus HAPS, commented on the agreement: “Our dedicated team will be working closely with Space Compass to offer 4G/5G low-latency mobile services, at unprecedented economics. Our innovative, record-breaking, green-energy-powered, platform is attracting interest from multiple mobile network operators and satellite and other service providers globally”.
Airbus HAPS is an Airbus subsidiary, which intends to provide new environmentally-friendly services from its stratospheric-operating, Zephyr solar-powered aircraft for Mobile Connectivity, Platform Mobility, Earth Observation and for Government applications. With the ability to provide low-latency 4G/5G services, Zephyr acts as a tower in the sky, complementing terrestrial networks, and providing MNOs with a profitable solution to serve rural and remote areas as well as an emergency response.
06 Nov 22. Frontier Precision and Sysnpective’s distribution partnership in North America for SAR satellite-based geospatial solution.
Frontier Precision, a large U.S. distributor of geospatial and unmanned solutions, and Sysnpective, a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data and solutions provider, announce a new distribution partnership for SAR-based solutions across North America.
Synspective develops and operates high-frequency, high-resolution SAR satellites to provide efficient data set and solution services. The company has already succeeded in putting three satellites into targeted orbit. And, by 2023, it will have six satellites in orbit, bringing them closer to a planned constellation of 30 satellites around 2026. In addition, the company utilizes data science and machine learning to develop SAR data solutions for various remote sensing applications, including Land Displacement Monitoring (LDM) and others suited for large-area applications.
Frontier Precision is an employee-owned company with over 34 years of experience serving survey, mapping, engineering, construction, GIS, drones/UAS/unmanned, forensics, law enforcement, forestry, water resources, mosquito & vector control, and natural resources professionals throughout the western United States. As a high-tech company, the company has been at the forefront of technologies and established globally as one of Trimble’s largest and geospatial distributors in the world.
Under this partnership, Frontier Precision will be working closely with Synspective in bringing to North America, as part of global market expansion, the unique data sets leveraging its SAR constellation and unique solution.
CEO of Frontier Precision, Dennis Kemmesat commented on the distribution agreement by saying, “We felt strongly after looking at the product Synspective will be offering to go forward this was a great fit in our overall geospatial and unmanned portfolios – a complementary technology to everything else we offer to the geospatial community.”
“This is an exciting step for Synspective in our expansion to the United States. We believe that our solutions are the ideal addition to the existing portfolio held by Frontier Precision. It will help develop our reach to North America, especially to their transportation, mining, and disaster recovery verticals which are already key target segments for both companies,” said Dr. Motoyuki Arai, Founder and CEO of Synspective
06 Nov 22. Rocket Lab and Inmarsat Government to develop L-Band radio for NASA’s Communications Services Project. Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a launch and space systems company, has been selected by Inmarsat Government as partner to develop and manufacture an L-band radio in support of NASA’s Communications Services Project (CSP). CSP seeks to accelerate the development of commercial near-Earth communications services by partnering with satellite communications (SATCOM) providers. Rocket Lab will help enable Inmarsat’s InCommand, a real-time, near-Earth telemetry, command, and control (TT&C) service for satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) for the CSP with the Company’s new Frontier-L radio connecting to Inmarsat’s ELERA global L-band network in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).
As NASA prepares to decommission the agency’s owned and operated Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) system, which has provided communication for the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and numerous NASA’s Earth-observation satellites, the CSP aims to tap into commercial satellite communications services to ensure future NASA missions have similar reliable, secure, and high-performance space relay capabilities.
Rocket Lab’s Frontier-L radio is a transmitter that will support Inmarsat Government’s demonstrations of a variety of TT&C applications, enabled by Inmarsat’s ELERA worldwide L-band network, including Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP), ubiquitous command and control, real-time tasking, and contingency operations for satellites in LEO orbits.
“Rocket Lab and Inmarsat Government both share a culture of innovation, pioneering technology and delivering reliable mission success, so we’re honored to be working together to support NASA in this vital project to enable major missions of the future,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “We look forward to building on the strong heritage of our Frontier radios by supporting Inmarsat’s world-renowned satellite network and leading capabilities providing satcom as a service.”
Frontier-L join’s Rocket Lab’s existing line of radios including the software-defined telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) S-band Frontier-S and X-band Frontier-X radios which can support near Earth and deep space missions. Based on the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Lab (APL) Frontier Radio, Frontier-L packs Deep Space Network (DSN) and other typical waveforms (SN, KSAT, SSC) into a compact package with up-screened commercial components for high reliability applications. The family of Frontier by Rocket Lab radios includes extended functionality not typically available in a low-cost radio including a coherent transponder to enable radiometric navigation methods, precision timekeeping functions, forward error correction (FEC) encoding and decoding, and a hardware based critical command decoder (CCD).
Steve Gizinski, President, Inmarsat Government, said, “Inmarsat Government has joined with major space-based industry suppliers to demonstrate the capabilities of Inmarsat’s ELERA global, reliable satellite network, including for NASA’s Communications Services Project and Rocket Lab is a key partner for us. Rocket Lab’s Frontier-L radio will leverage InCommand on the ELERA network as an important new capability for ubiquitous command and control to enhance the operation of low Earth orbit spacecraft. This will enable new communications services for industry and government alike.” (Source: Satnews)
06 Nov 22. Ground Control joins Inmarsat’s ELEVATE program to focus on satellite IoT. Inmarsat has launched a new IoT service plan to drive growth and generate long term business for its distribution partners — this new service plan will be available to distribution partners who have signed up for the company’s ELEVATE program — remote connectivity solutions provider, Ground Control, is the first business to benefit from the offering.
Inmarsat’s new ‘Internet of Things Growth Plan’ will give distribution partners access to a preferential pricing framework to help build competitive large scale IoT solutions using the BGAN M2M service. The pricing plan is just the latest benefit to be enjoyed by members of the ELEVATE program, the goal of which is to attract highly innovative, fast-moving IoT solution providers into the BGAN M2M fold.
With Inmarsat and Ground Control building on their existing relationship and pledging even closer strategic alignment going forward, the latter will unlock value from the new pricing model as the businesses look to work together on larger scale, global IoT projects over the coming months. The new pricing framework will be available to all distribution partners when they sign-up to the ELEVATE program going forward, delivering significant cost benefits for themselves and their end users, in addition to gaining access to broader capabilities and solutions via the partner ecosystem.
The pair also plan to develop several new joint solutions for the ELEVATE marketplace in the future. Ground Control expects to introduce a number of its existing solutions to the ecosystem in the meantime, including integrating all BGAN M2M airtime packages into its next-generation data and device management platform, Cloudloop. This will enable existing and future customers to track, monitor and control their BGAN M2M terminals from any location.
Inmarsat’s ELEVATE program is open to new entrants, disruptors, and established brands of any size who have developed an innovative digital product or service but may need additional support to exploit the benefits of satellite-enabled IoT solutions. Inmarsat provides dedicated technical guidance on how to integrate and support its highly reliable satellite services, go-to-market strategy planning and exposure to the Inmarsat distribution channel to enable access to new markets.
Providers working across a diverse range of industries, including agriculture, aid and NGOs, energy, exploration and leisure, media, mining, transport and utilities, as well as agnostic technology providers, will be considered for membership.
Mike Carter, President at Inmarsat Enterprise, said, “The launch of our IoT Growth Plan is an important update to our ELEVATE offering and we’re excited to see how it advances and accelerates our work with existing and new distribution partners to turbocharge the development of mission critical satellite IoT solutions across industries. We believe our partner ecosystem is key to helping solve some of the world’s biggest challenges through the power of satellite IoT. We’re excited to be kicking this next phase of our ELEVATE journey off with our long-term partner Ground Control and look forward to welcoming more distribution partners to the family going forward.”
Alastair MacLeod, CEO of Ground Control, said, “We are delighted to be the first distribution partner to have joined Inmarsat’s ELEVATE program and look forward to strengthening our strategic alignment with Inmarsat over the coming months. We believe close collaboration and access to reliable satellite connectivity are vital to harnessing the true value of IoT solutions across sectors and couldn’t have picked a better partner to achieve this with.” (Source: Satnews)
03 Nov 22. Additional contracts awarded by Defense Innovation Unit to expand operational network. The Defense Innovation Unit‘s Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA) project seeks to integrate commercial and government capabilities to preserve operational and informational security, while enabling collaboration between services as well as with our allies and partners.
This project is to link multiple ground communications systems with diverse satellite networks, using all available links including, but not limited to, the Electromagnetic Radio Frequency spectrum (RF/EM), Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISL), Military Tactical Data Links (TDL), and legacy and future ground segment wired networks.
DIU is collaborating with the United States Space Force (USSF) Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC), the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate, and the USSF Space Systems Command (SSC) on this effort.
DIU awarded four contracts in the second phase of HSA to companies collectively pursuing the goals of an agile and resilient communications architecture that will move data across commercial, military and allied assets while integrating multi-domain cloud based storage and analytics. The organizations joining the DIU effort include SpiderOak Mission Systems, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and Microsoft Azure Space.
In July, DIU posted an initial overview of Phase I of the efforts which was to create a Hybrid Gateway Satellite to prove some of the networking technologies. Phase II, now underway, will expand the operational network to link terrestrial cloud and internet services with massively proliferated commercial communications satellite constellations over a secure backbone of user authentication and data assurance using blockchain ledgers to realize the variable trust architecture that truly enables a hybrid public/private network.
A fully networked battlespace has been the dream of commanders for decades. While being a fundamental enabler of concepts such as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the vast benefits to warfighters vary from on-demand and near-real-time satellite imagery and theater-wide asset tracking to reliable broadband internet at remote operating bases for improved morale and family welfare.
Hosting 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. A present day use case is in Eastern Europe where armies currently in conflict rely on multiple cloud servers and various commercial communication terminals both on the ground and in space to move data to and from the battlefield.
In a fully realized hybrid architecture, it will not matter if a commercial node is blocked, shut down, or destroyed, the future network will self heal and provide true resilience as long as there is an entry point for an individual user into the network.
“Hybrid Space Architecture ventures into an experimental communications vision that connects users from around the globe using modern and future communications,” said Steve Butow, director of DIU’s space portfolio. “The additional four awards from this solicitation provide new capabilities while seamlessly integrating into this dynamic and innovative collective of information and networking infrastructure that will provide resilient communications, and future technologies access, world-wide and beyond.”
“This project will pursue the goals of an agile and resilient communications architecture that will be able to move data through commercial, military and allied assets while integrating multi-domain cloud based storage and analytics,” said Dr. Rogan Shimmin, DIU program manager for HSA. “It’s time for the internet to move off-planet.” (Source: Satnews)
03 Nov 22. SSC will support the Swedish smallsat MATS mission scheduled to launch on November 4th. Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) will support the Swedish research satellite MATS through Launch and Early Operations (LEOP) and routine Telemetry, Tracking, and Control (TT&C) from the firm’s ground stations at Esrange Space Center and in Punta Arenas, Chile. Over a two-year period, MATS will study waves in the Earth’s mesosphere by observing infrared light from oxygen molecules in the atmosphere (airglow) and ultraviolet light reflected by nocturnal clouds.
“We’re pleased to be part of this exciting satellite mission in the Swedish space program. I’m proud of the MATS team, not least my colleagues who has been preparing the ground stations and will be ready to operate the important first and second contacts to the satellite from the Punta Arenas ground station in Chile and the Esrange ground station in Sweden. This mission is a great example of the worldwide network of SSC CONNECT and its capabilities,” said Petrus Hyvönen, Head of Engineering of SSC ground network services.
“OHB Sweden is happy to rely again on the trusty worldwide service from SSC to support this mission. Together with SSC we demonstrate that Sweden has the capability to provide complete space services for missions,” said Nils Pokrupa, MATS Project Manager at OHB Sweden. (Source: Satnews)
03 Nov 22. Orbex’s Sutherland Spaceport readies to lead with construction and operational management. Orbex, a Scottish rocket manufacturer and orbital launch services provider based in Forres, Moray, will build and operate the first vertical launch site for satellites on the UK mainland.
Orbex has signed a lease with development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for the spaceport location on community-owned land on the A’ Mhoine peninsula in north-west Sutherland.
HIE has been developing launch plans for several years and leases the site from Melness Crofters’ Estate. The sub-lease with Orbex will run for 50 years, with an option to extend for a further 25 years.
Orbex will oversee the construction and assume full operational management of the new facility. The 10-acre launch site will become the long-term ‘home’ spaceport of Orbex and will see the launch of up to 12 orbital rockets per year, carrying satellites into low Earth orbit.
Orbex’s role in the spaceport will stimulate significant private investment that will benefit the local community through job creation, supply chain opportunities and other associated economic benefits. Total private investment over the initial three-year period is expected to reach £20 m.
In addition to increased opportunities for local businesses and contractors as part of the spaceport’s construction, Orbex expects to create up to 40 technical and non-technical FTE jobs to support the operation and maintenance of the site. The roles will span a number of areas including facilities and operational management, security, general administration and finance, marketing, stakeholder engagement and launch campaign-related roles. Employment opportunities will be advertised locally when recruitment commences.
David Oxley, HIE (left), Dorothy Pritchard, MCE (centre) & Chris Larmour, Orbex (right) complete Sutherland Spaceport lease agreements. Courtesy of Orbex
HIE identified the potential for the Highlands and Islands to play a significant role in the UK’s growing space sector several years ago, recognizing that rural locations that are close to coasts and have a northern latitude can make ideal satellite launch sites.
With the backing of the UK Space Agency, HIE set to work developing plans for the Sutherland spaceport in 2018, with specialist input from architects NORR and construction consultants Gardiner and Theobald. At the same time, HIE commissioned detailed environmental studies to inform a broad range of protection measures around the site.
Planning permission was granted by the Highland Council in August 2020. A separate development application to the Scottish Land Court – which was required as the launch site is on crofting land – was also successful.
Following its recent participation in Orbex’s Series C funding round, it has been confirmed that global technology-forward solutions company, Jacobs, will assume the role of prime construction contractor on behalf of Orbex. Jacobs will collaborate with Orbex to provide spaceport operations support, operations consultancy, and engineering services, drawing on its experience of managing and operating complex, highly regulated sites such as Cape Canaveral in the United States. Jacobs is NASA’s largest services provider, delivering mission-tailored solutions and full lifecycle aerospace capabilities including the Mars Perseverance Rover and the Artemis deep space human exploration program.
Overseeing the construction and operational management of the new spaceport will allow Orbex to streamline the development of the state-of-the-art facility, drafting in industry experts such as Jacobs to help meet its objectives. Sutherland Spaceport is intended to become the world’s greenest spaceport, both in terms of its construction and its operation. One illustration of this is how peat lifted during the construction will be re-used to repair large areas of peatland that have degraded over centuries.
The unique new Orbex Prime rocket is powered by a renewable biofuel, Futuria Liquid Gas, supplied by Calor. This fuel allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world. A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. Prime is also a re-usable rocket which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit. Orbex has already received a great deal of interest from commercial satellite manufacturers and has signed launch contracts with a number of customers.
The spaceport is being constructed on the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, on land owned and managed by the Melness Crofters’ Estate (MCE) who have worked closely with HIE to bring the spaceport project to fruition and deliver local economic benefits. (Source: Satnews)
02 Nov 22. U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command launches experimental satellite Tetra-1. Tetra-1 is an experimental satellite designed for a variety of prototype missions in and around geostationary orbit, or GEO Photo Courtesy of Millennium Space System.
Delivered in less than 15 months by prime contractor Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing company, Tetra-1 is an experimental satellite designed for a variety of prototype missions in and around geostationary orbit, or GEO. The launch marks a new era for the Space Force, as it focuses on building and fielding new capabilities faster than in the past.
“The threat to our space systems is real. Speed is critical in developing advanced capabilities to stay ahead and, if necessary, defeat the threat.” said Col Joseph J. Roth, Innovation and Prototyping senior materiel leader for the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command. “Tetra-1 is a great example of how a small company, and an innovative contracting approach, authorized by Congress, came together, and delivered an advanced satellite in record time.”
The small sat, about the size of a large dorm-room refrigerator, will help Space Force operators develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for Department of Defense missions.
Tetra-1 was the pacesetting first prototype awarded under Space Systems Command’s other transaction authority, or OTA, called the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), that seeks to speed up procurements and diversify industry partnerships.
To move fast on development and production of Tetra-1, Millennium Space Systems pulled its expertise from a variety of programs, including the GEO ALTAIR Pathfinder satellite that launched in 2017.
“It is important for SSC to deliver capabilities on time and within budget,” said Roth. “It is also important for the commercial space sector to continue to innovate and help drive down costs.”
“We’re known for delivering systems fast,” said Jason Kim, chief executive officer of Millennium Space Systems. “Our innovation is enabled by the fact that we build 80 percent of our components in-house. That lets us design, build and deliver a completely new satellite in a very short timeline.”
Such is the kind of innovation that Space Systems Command is looking for in procuring new capabilities, like Tetra-1 – working with partners that can take advantage of commercial best practices and existing satellite production. Photo Courtesy of Millennium Space Systems.
Small Sats, Layered Architecture
The Defense Department’s embrace of Tetra and other small satellites is being driven by the need to introduce resilient satellite systems and architectures to counter the Great Power competition. That’s because large, costly, exquisite satellite systems such as the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) — the fifth one was launched in mid-2021 and cost about $1 bn — are increasingly vulnerable to outright attack, which is a capability Russia demonstrated in November when it destroyed one of its own satellites with an anti-satellite missile.
“What we’re seeing is that some of the high-value asset missions that we’ve traditionally done in the past are being envisioned for large constellations of small satellites instead,” said Kim. “There are some benefits to the large constellations of small satellites in that the unit price point of each small satellite has gone down over the years. That lends itself to more affordability. And we’re now building these small satellites much faster and more efficiently, providing schedule savings.”
Use of small sats in a layered architecture spread across low-Earth orbit, medium-Earth orbit, and GEO will let the DoD quickly reconstitute capabilities should certain satellites become inoperative. For instance, loss of one SBIRS satellite in its five-satellite constellation could leave a major gap in missile-warning coverage. Conversely, loss of a few satellites in a larger constellation of dozens of satellites will only incrementally degrade capabilities and can be replaced in a faster fashion.
“Distributing the space architecture will help us build resiliency over time so that there’s not a single point of failure anywhere,” explained Roth. “We’re focused on making our systems and architectures more resilient and robust so if something happens, the Space Force can still perform the mission without fail.” (Source: Satnews)
04 Nov 22. Rocket Lab launches the Swedish MATS satellite from New Zealand aboard an Electron rocket. Rocket Lab USA Inc. has successfully launched its 32nd Electron mission to deploy the firm’s 152nd satellite to orbit, a science payload for the Swedish National Space Agency. The MATS satellite was deployed to its 585 km. circular orbit by Electron following lift-off at 17:27 UTC.
The company’s attempt to capture the Electron rocket with a helicopter as it descended to Earth from space was not successful; however, the ocean recovery of the rocket was successful and will be returned to the Rocket Lab’s Auckland Production Complex to be processed and assessed by engineers and technicians for possible re-use.
This science research satellite was built by space systems provider OHB Sweden. The Mesospheric Airglow/Aerosol Tomography and Spectroscopy (MATS) satellite is the basis for the SNSA’s science mission to investigate atmospheric waves and better understand how the upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere interacts with wind and weather patterns closer to the ground.
MATS was originally due to fly on a Russian launch service before the mission was manifested on Rocket Lab’s Electron. The MATS payload continued to its orbit onboard the rocket’s second stage while Electron’s first stage descended back to Earth.
The “Catch Me If You Can” mission also resulted in a successful ocean splashdown of the Electron rocket’s first stage. Rocket Lab had planned to attempt amid-air capture of Electron’s first stage with a helicopter if conditions allowed, however not all requirements were met to ensure a successful capture. Due to a brief telemetry loss with Electron’s first stage during its atmospheric re-entry, the helicopter was moved out of the capture zone per standard safety procedure. The Electron first stage completed a safe splashdown and Rocket Lab’s recovery vessel is now alongside the stage to bring it onboard and back to Rocket Lab’s production facility for inspection and analysis.
“Congratulations to the teams at OHB Sweden and the Swedish National Space Agency on their mission,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “It’s been a long journey for MATS, so I’m proud of the Rocket Lab team for doing their part to support this mission with a fast contract-to-orbit turnaround of just four months.”
Catch Me If You Can was Rocket Lab’s ninth mission of the year, adding to an already-record year of successful orbital launches for the Company. Rocket Lab remains on track to launch its first Electron mission from Virginia before the end of the year, on a mission for HawkEye360 that is scheduled to launch in December.
“Bringing a rocket back from space is a challenging task and capturing it mid-air with a helicopter is as complex as it sounds,” said Peter Beck. “The chances for success are much smaller than that of failure because many complex factors must perfectly align. We are proud to have successfully recovered our fifth rocket from the ocean now and we look forward to another mid-air capture attempt in future as we work toward making Electron a reusable rocket.” (Source: Satnews)
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