Sponsored By Viasat
02 Mar 23. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, today announced the launch of its Trusted Cybersecurity Services (TCS) solution, a hosted intrusion detection service that integrates classified government threat intelligence to identify existing, potential and emerging threats on an organization’s network. The service leverages cyber threat intelligence provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) Enhanced Cybersecurity Services (ECS) program to help protect U.S.-based organizations from malicious cyber threats. Viasat is the only company currently authorized by DHS as an ECS services provider, and the ECS program offers a unique cybersecurity capability available to the commercial market leveraging classified U.S. government cyber intelligence.
This new Viasat threat detection service will reinforce cyber defenses for private companies, critical infrastructure, and state and local organizations by using CISA-sourced threat intelligence. The service is designed to augment organizations’ current cyber monitoring, detection, and incident response practices, enabling classified indicators of compromise to be leveraged for non-classified environments. In addition, the Viasat TCS solution will use Viasat’s National Security Agency (NSA) certified technology and machine learning to actively monitor network traffic for government furnished indicators, as well as curated threats gathered through the Viasat Cybersecurity Operations Center (CSOC). Viasat’s CSOC protects a global network with millions of endpoints through a combination of machine learning automation and a team of cybersecurity analysts actively investigating and mitigating threats.
“Viasat is excited to support the mission of the ECS program and bring to market a cybersecurity service that can give users an advantage against emerging threats and adversaries,” said Craig Miller, president of Viasat Government Systems. “As U.S. businesses and critical infrastructure are increasingly targeted, this new service offers a unique capability to help organizations strengthen their network security posture and reduce cybersecurity risks by utilizing threat intelligence which is not available through any other means to stay ahead and protect against potentially damaging attacks.”
Viasat TCS leverages both government threat intelligence and Viasat threat intelligence collected by Viasat’s advanced and global CSOC. The service will detect and alert customers of potential malicious activity on their networks up to six months before other commercially available threat detection indicators.
Viasat received DHS accreditation to operate as an ECS service provider following a comprehensive audit of Viasat’s cybersecurity capabilities, security architecture and facilities to ensure high standards of security competence and compliance, including the ability to safeguard sensitive and classified information.
03 Mar 23. Australia to acquire ‘soft kill’ tech to disable satellites. The head of the ADF’s Space Command has said Australia is looking to acquire “soft kill” technology to disable enemy satellites.
Speaking at AVALON, Air Vice Marshal Cath Roberts said, “I think it’s a really important part of where we’re going to is just looking at how we can have that electronic warfare capability to allow us to deter attacks, or certainly interfere.
“We are working on making sure that we’ve got a level of capability so that we can deter attacks on our satellites … through non-kinetic means so that we can have some impact.”
Soft kill capabilities usually refer to the ability to disable an enemy device without physically destroying it, something that could create more space junk.
It comes after the Australian government in October committed to an agreement to not test physical missiles against satellites in space.
Australia joins countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany and the Republic of Korea in making the commitement.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wnlast year emphasised the need for cooperation.
“The global community must work together to build a common understanding on rules and norms that can guide how states behavein outer space,” she said. “This commitment to responsible behaviour helps build a meaningful framework that contributes to the security, safety and sustainability of outer space.”
Concerns have been raised about the amount of space junk orbiting the Earth, either from broken or destroyed satellites or even simply from decommissioned satellites that have been left to orbit.
Adding to the concern is the increasing number of anti-satellite missile tests carried out by the Russian Federation in recent years.
Russia has carried out seven anti-satellite missile tests since 2015. The latest of these tests, which destroyed the Kosmos 1408 satellite, caused a debris cloud that required the ISS to manoeuvre around to avoid a collision.
The Australian Defence Force’s Space Command – a new division of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) – commenced operations in March last year.
Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts, AM, CSC, was appointed as its inaugural commander.
Among the responsibilities of Space Command will be supporting space domain awareness, sovereign-controlled satellite communications and space-based Earth observation and navigation.
The division includes personnel from all three services, as well as public servants and industry contractors.
Defence Space Command is expected to work alongside the Australian Space Agency, industry partners, and research and scientific institutions. (Source: Space Connect)
02 Mar 23. Raytheon to make seven missile-tracking satellites for US space agency. The U.S. Space Development Agency has awarded Raytheon Technologies a $250m contract to build seven missile-tracking satellites.
The satellites, which will feature a wide-field-of-view sensor that can detect and track hypersonic weapons from space, were paid for by a funding increase in the fiscal 2023 Appropriations Act and will launch as part of the agency’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer. The contract was signed “late last week,” according to an SDA spokesperson.
“Developing a resilient and affordable proliferated satellite constellation in low-Earth orbit will improve our ability to track emerging threats like hypersonic missiles,” Dave Broadbent, president of space and command and control at Raytheon Intelligence and Space, said in a March 2 statement.
The missile-tracking space vehicles are a key component of the agency’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture that is ultimately planned to consist of hundreds of satellites operating primarily in in low Earth orbit — about 1,200 miles above the planet’s surface. SDA plans to launch them in batches, or tranches, every two years, and it and will add new capabilities with each iteration. The first batch of tracking satellites, referred to as Tranche 0, are slated for launch later this month.
The $250m from Congress adds to the $500m SDA requested in its FY23 budget for missile warning and tracking satellites. The agency projects it will need another $3.2bn for the effort between FY24 and FY27.
Raytheon’s contract increases the size of SDA’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer from 28 satellites to 35. In July, the agency awarded contracts to Northrop Grumman and L3Harris Technologies to each build 14 satellites. Northrop received $617m and L3Harris got $700m to develop the spacecraft, which SDA expects to start launching in 2025.
Raytheon will build the wide-field-of-view sensor for its satellites, and its space electronics subsidiary, SEAKR Engineering, will provide the electronics payload. Another Raytheon subsidiary, Blue Canyon Technologies, will build the satellite bus. Both subsidiaries are based in Colorado. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Feb 23. Space Force wants launch ranges to be more resilient. As the U.S. Space Force takes steps to make its satellites more resilient against an enemy attack or a mishap in space, the service’s launch enterprise is making similar moves on the ground.
Col. Mark Shoemaker, vice commander for operations at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Delta 45, said the service is “taking analytical steps” and building operational concepts to ensure its launch ranges can operate in adverse conditions, including national disasters or enemy attacks.
“Whether the degraded environment . . . is a hurricane or a powerline goes down off of our complex or there’s some other activity that goes on – by whatever means it arrives, we need to be able to operate through that,” he said Feb. 21 at the Space Force’s inaugural Space Mobility Conference in Orlando. “We can’t shut down the cape for weeks and months at a time.”
Florida’s Eastern Range, home to Cape Canaveral and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, launches civil, commercial and national security rockets. The complex is the world’s busiest launch range — and if trends hold, it will only get busier. The Space Force projects the range will support 92 launches this year, up from 57 in 2022 and 31 in 2021.
Shoemaker said that while the launch capability at the Eastern Range is secure and reliable, it’s also consolidated. To improve resiliency as launch rates increase, he said, the U.S. government must ensure that all of its spaceports offer the same level of security and reliability.
“Much like when you travel in an airport in the United States . . . you trust that the security is going to be there and you can do what you need to do, we’re going to need all of that in spades from a space access perspective,” Shoemaker said. “Those are the kinds of things we’re thinking about.”
Along with its internal work, the Space Force is also part of a National Spaceport Interagency Working Group created in 2022 to, among other tasks, develop a strategy to make U.S. spaceports more resilient and interoperable. The group also includes representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the departments of state and commerce and NASA.
Maj. Gen. Purdy, the head of the Space Force’s launch enterprise, told C4ISRNET in a Feb. 13 email that the group expects to complete a draft of its spaceport strategy this year. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
01 Mar 23. Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Demonstrates Mission Success with D-Orbit on Falcon 9. Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense (EBAD), a leader in spacecraft dispensing and separation systems, has successfully deployed an experimental payload with its Payload Release Ring (PRR) spacecraft separation system.
D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier successfully delivered EBAD’s experiment to low Earth orbit. The data gathered from this experiment ensures EBAD’s new spacecraft dispensing products carry the same reliability that the industry is accustomed to with its heritage NEA® release mechanism. The experiment provided valuable data on the performance of the PRR, which is designed to separate satellites from the launch vehicle or orbital transfer vehicle (OTV). Available in 8-inch, 15-inch, and 24-inch diameters, the PRRs utilize the NEA® Hold Down & Release Mechanisms (HDRM) and are configured to fasten directly to industry-standard circular mounting interfaces, and to satellites up to 800KG in mass. The PRR demonstration mission launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 on January 31, 2023, and the PRR successfully deployed the payload from D-Orbit’s ION carrier on February 8, 2023.
Chad Thompson, president of EBAD, said EBAD’s extensive experience in providing reliable, high-quality products to various missions across markets helps them create a product that clients can rely on, no matter the scale of their mission.
“EBAD serves both the satellite and launch vehicle markets, giving us a unique understanding of separation and dispensing systems requirements, which reside at the crossroads of both space markets. Our high volume and vertically integrated production capabilities allow us to deliver reliable payload deployment systems with higher value and significantly shorter lead times,” Thompson said.
Outside of this mission, EBAD has a long history of successful space separation events with its ultra-low shock and high reliability NEA® Hold Down & Release Mechanisms and resettable TiNi™ Mechanisms, including 187 releases on the James Webb Space Telescope, 80 deployments of the OneWeb satellites, and most recently, the release of the O3b mPower satellites in a 4-Point Mount configuration.
This most recent demonstration focused on the PRR 8-inch diameter and EBAD has several other upcoming flight demonstration missions for its 15-inch and 24-inch diameter PRRs, and its integrated 4-Point Mount Separation System, which also utilizes the flight-proven NEA® HDRMs.
Based in Simsbury, Conn., Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense has been in business for more than 180 years, supplying world-class initiation and separation system products for space programs for more than 60 years. With facilities in Graham, Ky., Moorpark, Calif., and Simsbury, the company delivers mission-critical solutions for satellites (separation and dispensing), human spacecraft, missiles, and launch vehicles, and has the Space industry’s widest array of flight-proven pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic separation system solutions.
From the Apollo mission to Artemis… to Mars and beyond. EBAD is Right for Your Mission™ (Source: PR Newswire)
01 Mar 23. JP 9102 – the backbone that makes next-gen capabilities possible: Airbus. Australia’s ambitious AU$4bn JP 9102 Sovereign Military Satellite Communications program will play a transformational role in the future ADF. For the Airbus-led Team Maier, the emphasis is on delivering a truly sovereign capability, delivering the digital backbone that will empower the next-generation of ADF to expand Australia’s interests in the region.
Space is often described as the ultimate high ground, in fact, it is the motto of Australia’s recently formed Defence Space Command, with many nations recognising the growing need for sovereign, integrated, and resilient space capabilities.
While it will surely be superseded by the upcoming Defence Strategic Review, the 2020 Defence Strategic Update (DSU) highlighted the growing importance of space to Australia’s national security and multi-bn dollar, multi-decade investment in critical, tactical, and strategic defence capabilities — and one can be safe in assuming, space will only figure more strongly in the Defence Strategic Review.
Viewing the 2020 Defence Strategic Update as a “foundation”, we get a better understanding of the capabilities the Commonwealth is eager to pursue and develop, with an emphasis on building and delivering true sovereign capability in country, with Australia’s growing space sector growing from strength to strength.
The DSU emphasised a number of critical capabilities across the space domain that will become increasingly fundamental to the Australian Defence Force’s capacity to deliver “impactful projection” as identified by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles at the launch of the Defence Strategic Review, namely:
- The government will significantly increase investment in Defence’s space capabilities, totalling nearly $7bn in investment, to deliver space situational awareness, including sensors and tracking systems;
- This also includes plans for a network of satellites to provide an independent and sovereign communications network and an enhanced space control program; and
- Additionally, the government will continue investment in space situational awareness, including sensors and tracking systems.
At the core of this multi-bn investment is JP 9102 which will deliver a next-generation, transformational “sovereign satellite communications” capability for the Australian Defence Force — bringing the nation a strategic game changer and placing it among the ranks of a select few nations that possess such strategic capabilities.
One of many contenders is the Airbus-led industry consortium, known as Team Maier, which draws on the operational experience, technical skill, manufacturing capacity, and economies of scale from across the team to present the Australian Defence Force with a unique opportunity that is focused on proven and future-proofed capability to survive in a contested operational environment.
As part of its offering, Airbus and Team Maier’s supply chain will incorporate five indigenous businesses and 12 Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that will be onboarded into the Airbus supply chain, with a total of 43 SMEs receiving a technology readiness uplift to help compete in global markets — broadly equivalent to inclusion in the various global supply chain programs.
Building on this commitment to the Australian industry, Airbus and Team Maier have identified the significant economic impact their offering would have not just directly for the Australian economy, but specifically for enhancing the capacity, competitiveness, and resilience of Australia’s growing space sector. The company has identified a number of key initiatives, including:
- $12.5m investment in educational facilities and learning opportunities;
- A sustainable pipeline of local talent through 110 scholarships and 36 international scholarships to support the development of a globally competitive and capable space workforce; and
- 115 graduate, PhD, and VET scholarships.
Innovation and R&D investment:
- $8.6m five-year R&D program call for innovation projects – creating a continuous cycle of innovation;
- $16.6m investment in JP 9102 payloads – accelerating space-specific innovation; and
- $35.7m investment in strategic national facilities for Australia – including satellite assembly, integration, and testing for harsh environments.
Interoperability with the United States, the United Kingdom, and more broadly, NATO nations, is a critical component of the Team Maier offering, with Richard Franklin, managing director, United Kingdom, Airbus Defence and Space, explaining to Defence Connect the importance the company has placed on building true interoperability into the Team Maier offering for JP 9102, saying, “We run to NATO standards, our system is fully interoperable with the US and the WGS networks, and indeed our main customer for the repositioned SkyNet satellite over the Pacific is the United States Marine Corps — we demonstrated this when our carrier had 300 US Marines and 10 F-35Bs that required constant contact with the United States” during the Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group’s Indo-Pacific tour in 2021.
Bringing this capability into the Indo-Pacific, particularly during the Carrier Strike Group cruise, brought the capability into a contested environment which provided the company the opportunity to demonstrate its resilience, particularly in the face of active Chinese spoofing and interest in the capability, with Franklin adding, “We deployed through the Indian Ocean and got to the South China Sea, where China tried to show that it could project its force too and was really actively testing how we would respond.
“That included into the SATCOM spectrum … they were actively testing how we would react and would change our operations. We provided the comms with 100 per cent success throughout the operation and all the way back (to the United Kingdom) we had no loss of signals, no loss of terminals, and together, it was deemed an absolute success. We also learned an awful lot, we learned and had to test for things we haven’t faced for 10 years — this really helped shape the thinking of the design for this next generation of what in Australia is part of the JP 9102 program,” Franklin expanded.
The final pillar for the Team Maier offering is an emphasis on sovereignty, from the workforce development and training, including the Defence personnel who will, like their British counterparts, be moulded, trained and developed into experienced space system operators by the Airbus-led team, through to the next-generation of engineers, infrastructure developers, and small-and-medium businesses that form part of the complex, yet thriving supply chain.
Stephen Forshaw, Airbus chief representative, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, told Defence Connect, “It [sovereignty] is a decision to be made. I think Australia, an opportunity to have a sovereign capability and that is certainly what we would suggest from the operational sovereign capability, that is the ability to operate the system, the satellites, the comms without recourse to anyone else, and of course, the establishment, or rather furthering the development of a strong satellite capability.
“Our approach is very much to take the sovereignty approach, we’re very much a partner within Team Maier, working with partners like UGL and Blacktree Technologies,” Forshaw added.
Building on these point, Forshaw highlighted the critical role the 9102 program will play in the future of the Australian Defence Force and the suite of capabilities planned and expected to be developed and delivered in the coming decades as a result of the findings and recommendations of the DSR and the outcome of critical security pacts, like the AUKUS agreement, telling Defence Connect, “ultimately, this will form the digital backbone of the ADF, it will give it a peerless capability to absorb, analyse and communicate critical information in a highly contested environment.”
Team Maier is the teaming arrangement led by Airbus Defence and Space to deliver next-generation military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) capability to Australia under the JP 9102 program. Team Maier’s proposed solution is low-risk and battle-proven, based on the UK Ministry of Defence’s Skynet 6A system, which has already been deployed in support of UK Carrier Strike Group operations in the Pacific Ocean.
It will be fully operable with systems used by the US, the UK, and other Five Eyes nations, as well as offering additional benefits that will enable the solution to be deployed as a two-satellite rather than a four-satellite system, helping the ADF to keep costs down.
Airbus Defence and Space is a highly experienced developer and operator of MILSATCOM capabilities, having managed the UK’s Skynet 5 capability since 2003. It has also delivered MILSATCOM capabilities for the Egyptian, French, German, Malaysian, Spanish, and the UAE governments. (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Mar 23. European firms line up behind push for secure SATCOM standard. European satellite communications industry and academia have kicked off a government-supported effort to develop a new protected waveform for the continent’s militaries.
The European Protected Waveform is one of the 61 projects to receive inaugural European Defense Fund (EDF) support, the European Union announced in summer 2022. The goal of the program is to design a new secure and resilient waveform standard that will help EU armed forces tackle increased throughput demand over satellite while supporting dispersed operations, mobility, and novel security threats, according to an EDF fact sheet.
The consortium formally kicked off in January at EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, according to satellite communications company ST Engineering iDirect Europe, which is leading the industry players in the project. Twenty companies and academic institutions across Europe are currently part of the group, ST Engineering iDirect said in a Tuesday press release.
“The development of waveforms has always been part of our company’s DNA, and we aim to seek the best balance between efficiency, agility and security,” said Koen Willems, the company’s vice president for EU program and government relations. “With their combined knowledge and experience, bringing together these key players under the EPW consortium will equip European countries with highly reliable, seamless satellite communications to ensure that they can communicate with confidence and security no matter where they operate.”
The project is slated to receive a maximum of €25m of EDF support out of an estimated €30m program cost over 39 months, covering the study and design phases, according to the European Protected Waveform EDF fact sheet. The goal is for small and medium-sized European nations to access an interoperable, and affordable, secure military-grade protected waveform alongside larger EU countries, via the EDF initiative.
The full consortium includes the following companies and institutions: Belgium’s ST Engineering iDirect Europe, Antwerp Space, and Royal Military Academy; Germany’s Airbus Defense and Space, Neosat, and OHB Digital Connect; Italy’s Elital, Leonardo, and Thales Alenia Space Italia; France’s Eutelsat and Thales Six GTS Space; Spain’s Indra and Telespazio; Croatia’s Amphinicy; Poland’s GISS; Romania’s Lasting Software; Luxembourg’s LuxGovSat; Denmark’s QuadSat; and the Netherlands’ CTG Celestia and Royal Netherlands Aerospace Center. (Source: Defense News)
01 Mar 23. CMA provisionally clears satellite comms deal following in-depth review. The decision comes after a Phase 2 review revealed Viasat and Inmarsat will likely face significant competition from both emerging and established players as the sector expands.
- While Viasat and Inmarsat compete closely, the merged company would be challenged by new competitor Starlink, as well as established firms like Intelsat and Panasonic, in the coming years
- The satellite communications sector is rapidly expanding – a trend that is expected to continue
- As the sector grows, airlines will have more options to choose from when selecting a provider for on-board wifi services
Satellite communications firms Viasat and Inmarsat – which agreed to merge in November 2021 – supply businesses globally with satellite connectivity that enables services such as internet, email, and video calling, including for use in aircraft.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) referred the deal to an in-depth Phase 2 inquiry after identifying competition concerns during its initial, Phase 1, investigation.
Over the past 4 months, an independent CMA panel has gathered and scrutinised a wide range of evidence in order to better understand the sector, as well as the potential impact of the deal. This included internal documents from Viasat and Inmarsat, as well as the companies’ competitors (including their plans for future expansion); evidence from airlines; the CMA’s own analysis of sector conditions – and how these could change.
In a Phase 2 review, the panel considers whether it is more likely than not that a deal will lessen competition – a higher threshold than Phase 1. Accordingly, some mergers that are referred to Phase 2 will ultimately be cleared.
The CMA’s investigation into the Viasat/Inmarsat deal has provisionally found that, while the companies compete closely in the aviation sector – specifically in the supply of satellite connections for onboard wifi – the deal does not substantially reduce competition for services provided on flights used by UK customers.
The CMA’s investigation has found that the satellite sector is expanding rapidly – a trend the evidence suggests is likely to continue. This is due to increased demand for satellite connectivity, driven in large part by the ever-growing use of the internet by businesses and consumers both at home and whilst travelling.
The satellite industry has seen a number of new players entering – or planning to enter – the sector, including Starlink (operated by SpaceX), which is rapidly increasing its presence in the provision of satellite connections to aircraft. During our investigation, the firm has launched a significant number of additional satellites and won its first contract with a European airline, airBaltic.
Established competitors, such as Panasonic and Intelsat, are also investing and entering into new partnerships. For example, both firms have signed agreements with recent entrant OneWeb to use its satellite fleet to enhance their offerings to airlines.
Richard Feasey, chair of the independent inquiry group carrying out the Phase 2 investigation, said:
This is an evolving and rapidly expanding sector, in which there have been significant developments even during the course of our 4-month investigation. We see this continuing as demand for satellite connectivity increases.
While Viasat and Inmarsat compete closely, the evidence suggests that the merged company will face significant competition in the coming years – from both emerging players like Starlink and from established firms like Intelsat and Panasonic.
This competition has led us to provisionally conclude that airlines and their UK customers will not be adversely affected by the deal.
Today’s findings are provisional, and the CMA will now consult on its findings and listen to any further views before reaching a final decision.
The CMA welcomes responses from interested parties to its provisional findings by 21 March 2023. These will be considered ahead of the CMA issuing its final report, which is due by 30 March 2023.
For more information, visit the Viasat / Inmarsat merger inquiry page.
- The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy carried out a separate investigation and made a final order pursuant to section 26 of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 to provide assurance that (i) controls are in place to protect information from unauthorised access and (ii) strategic capabilities continue to be provided by Inmarsat and Viasat to the UK government.
- Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the CMA has a duty to make a reference to Phase 2 if the CMA believes that it is or may be the case that a relevant merger situation has been created, or arrangements are in progress or contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation; and the creation of that situation has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any markets or market in the United Kingdom for goods or services.
- Viasat owns and operates a network of geo-stationary satellites and provides satellite connectivity services for use in consumer, commercial, and government applications. Viasat also provides communications and cybersecurity products and services, and manufactures and supplies equipment and network technology for satellite connectivity services.
- Inmarsat owns and operates a network of geo-stationary satellites and provides broadband and narrowband connectivity services for government and commercial applications.
- Viasat entered into a share purchase agreement with Inmarsat’s shareholders on 8 November 2021 pursuant to which Viasat agreed to indirectly acquire 100% of Inmarsat’s issued share capital.
27 Feb 23. Airbus teams up with Blacktree for UHF MILSATCOM offering. Airbus Defence and Space has selected Perth’s Blacktree Technology to deliver a ground segment to support the Airbus-funded UHF military communications capability.
The ultra-high frequency (UHF) payload will be hosted onboard the company’s commercial telecommunications satellite, which is designed to support 200 simultaneous conversations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, as well as large parts of Asia, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans across 18 UHF channels.
The two companies have worked together for over 15 years, including under Team Maier for JP 9102 and the UK’s Skynet 5.
“We’ve been excited to see how much technology is being developed by local companies to support the development of the space industry in Australia, and that they are winning selection to provide global solutions in space,” Stephen Forshaw, Airbus chief representative, New Zealand and the Pacific, said.
Martin Rowse, Airbus Defence and Space Australia director, explained that the relationship was fundamental for ensuring connectivity.
“We have selected Blacktree as they offer a proven Australian solution which will support this critical satellite communications capability. The ground segment will be essential in ensuring our customers have access to vital UHF connectivity across the region and beyond,” he explained.
Earlier this year, Airbus Defence and Space has announced that it is joining Voyager’s commercial space station project that is currently in development.
Airbus will work with the US-based Voyager Space on the Starlab space station, providing technical expertise in the design and support of the space station.
The initial announcement did not include in-depth details of the partnership, merely stating that Airbus will be involved in the development.
Voyager has already announced in 2021 that it will be working with space industry giant Lockheed Martin on the Starlab project. Now, with Airbus at the table as well, the future prospects of the commercial space station look bright.
It is hoped that Airbus’ involvement in the project will make it easier for European governments and corporations to access the Starlab space station once the International Space Station (ISS) is retired in 2031.
The Starlab space station is expected to include a docking node and bus, and an inflatable module that will be able to house up to four astronauts at one time.
Starlab has been in development for several years, with Voyager winning a contract from NASA for commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) development in 2021, worth $160m.
The contract is part of NASA’s plan to future-proof orbital space operations once the International Space Station is retired. NASA plans to transition its space activities to using commercial space stations such as Starlab or Axiom Space’s planned space station.
Airbus’ executive vice-president of space systems, Jean-Marc Nasr, commented on the space station deal.
“This collaboration is an important step in making Starlab a reality, providing a foundation for long-lasting European and American leadership in space.”
His sentiments were echoed by Dylan Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Voyager Space, who released a statement regarding the partnership.
“Working with Airbus, we will expand Starlab’s ecosystem to serve the European Space Agency (ESA) and its member state space agencies to continue their microgravity research in LEO.”
The partnership between Airbus and Voyager is an important step in bringing Europe’s space industry into the fold of plans for commercial space stations.
Concerns have been raised about European governments and scientific organisations having to pay to use commercial space stations once the ISS is retired, a move that may prove problematic in the minds of European taxpayers. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Feb 23. UK companies to provide services for future Moon missions. The UK Space Agency has announced over £50m for UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for missions to the Moon.
The new funding is part of the European Space Agency’s Moonlight programme, which aims to launch a constellation of satellites into orbit around the Moon, from 2028.
This will allow future astronauts, rovers, science experiments and other equipment to communicate, share large amounts of data including high-definition video, and navigate safely across the lunar surface.
The UK is one of the two leading international investors in the programme, alongside Italy, placing the UK space sector at the heart of this new frontier.
Independent research suggests more than 250 missions to the Moon are due to launch over the next decade alone, generating almost £90bn in global economic returns and thousands of new jobs.
The UK space and satellite sector currently employs 47,000 people across the country and is set to grow further, with increased government support.
Minister of State in the UK Department of Science, Technology and Innovation George Freeman said: “Space and satellite science and technology are at the forefront of our Science Superpower mission, which is why we have set out a 10-year Industrial Strategy for Space to attract the bns of commercial investment now coming into this sector, already worth £16.5 bn to the UK economy. This new funding will help UK companies provide satellite services for the fast-emerging lunar communications economy for years to come, deepening our international collaborations through ESA, kick-starting the lunar economy and inspiring a new generation of scientists and explorers.”
NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon in the coming years and, working with ESA and other partners, intends to put a new space station called the Gateway with living quarters for astronauts in lunar orbit. The UK space industry is making important contributions to the Gateway, including the refuelling module.
Reliable navigation and communication capabilities are essential for these missions, and others like it, to succeed, supporting a future sustainable human presence on the Moon. Creating a shared telecommunications and navigation service can reduce some of the complexity and reduce overall costs.
Companies involved in Moonlight will be able to create a telecommunication and navigation service for ESA, while being free to sell lunar services and solutions to other agencies and commercial ventures.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
This is an incredibly exciting time for space exploration, with the successful Artemis I mission paving the way for humanity’s return to the Moon in the coming years.
These endeavours are more international and more commercial than ever before – and by playing a leading role in the ESA Moonlight programme, we are opening up significant opportunities for UK companies to build on their extensive expertise in satellite technology and benefit from the new lunar economy.”
The UK already leads the Lunar Pathfinder project to provide initial communications services to the Moon, which will also help to prepare for the next stage of Moonlight. The Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft, designed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), will include a navigation payload demonstrator to allow positioning and navigation on the lunar surface using satellites for the first time, similar to how we use satellite navigation on Earth. It is due to launch from 2025.
Science missions using Moonlight will be able to live stream high-quality video, increasing the volume of data and the speed of transfer, vastly improving the potential science outcomes.
Lunar rovers equipped with Moonlight receivers will be able to navigate autonomously with high accuracy on the lunar surface, enhancing mission opportunities and potential applications, and lowering their associated risk and cost.
UKspace Chair, John Hanley, said: “By investing in UK companies to develop communication and navigation services for the Moonlight Programme, the Government is not only supporting innovation and technological advancement, but delivering a critical component of the forthcoming vibrant and thriving lunar economy. We have seen previous lunar endeavours stimulate a range of unexpected technologies and processes used to enhance life on Earth, such as in food safety protocols or reflective insulation. This Moonlight investment will contribute to the next generation of advancements in lunar exploration that will lead to further scientific discoveries and technological improvements – all of which have the potential to benefit our lives on Earth.”
As a founding member of ESA, which is independent of the EU, the UK space sector plays a leading role in international missions and innovative commercial programmes. The UK committed £207 m to ESA telecommunications programmes during the Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris in November 2022. The £51 m announced today for Moonlight is part of that commitment.
If you are interested in taking part in Moonlight please contact the UK Space Agency at . (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
24 Feb 23. Space Force launch plan mirrors shift to smaller satellites. The U.S. Space Force’s acquisition plan for its next phase of National Security Space Launch contracts reflects a shift toward launching more small satellites in a more diverse range of orbits.
The service announced its approach for what it calls NSSL Phase 3 on Feb. 16, issuing a draft solicitation to allow launch companies to provide feedback before a formal call for proposals this summer. The strategy would establish two provider groups, or “lanes,” with Lane 1 companies competing for less complex, commercial-like missions and those in Lane 2 vying for more stressing launches with unique requirements.
The two-lane approach is a departure from the service’s prior contract, Phase 2, which split all National Security Space Launches between two providers: United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy, the director of the Space Force’s launch enterprise, told C4ISRNET this week the Space Force’s approach for Phase 3 — namely the addition of a new lane for emerging launch companies — supports its changing approach to satellite programs.
Rather than launch fleets of a few large, expensive satellites, the service is eyeing what it calls “hybrid architectures.” These fleets of spacecraft feature a mix of small and large satellites in low and high orbits, spreading out what is now a more a consolidated capability. Officials hope this approach will make it harder for an adversary to target its satellites.
The Space Development Agency is leading the service’s shift toward hybrid constellations and Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration Frank Calvelli wants other parts of the Space Force to follow suit.
“The architecture changed a little bit in Phase 3,” Purdy told C4ISRNET in a Feb. 22 interview at the Space Force’s Space Mobility Conference in Orlando. “[Undersecretary] Calvelli has been very vocal about the distributed architecture going forward.”
The acquisition team expects Phase 3 to include up to 70 launches, with about 30 awarded through Lane 1 — which is open to a larger pool of providers — and 40 in Lane 2. Companies in the first lane will have to meet some launch vehicle requirements depending on the type of mission they’re supporting and those in Lane 2 must meet more stringent requirements.
SpaceX and ULA are the only companies that qualify for Lane 2 missions, but Blue Origin, owned by bnaire Jeff Bezos, is in the process of being certified for those launches.
Col. Chad Melone, senior materiel leader for the Space Force’s mission solutions space acquisition delta, told reporters during Feb. 24 phone briefing that while the service is in the early days of its hybrid architecture transition, the Phase 3 acquisition strategy is intended to “make room” for growth — both for companies looking to break into the military launch market and for the Space Force as it increases the resiliency of its satellites.
“We think there is a warfighter benefit to the diversity that we’re going to see in Lane 1,” Melone said. “As much benefit as we think there’s going to be in on-ramping providers and allowing new, emerging providers to compete, we also think that the warfighter benefits from that resiliency and diversity.”
Maintaining a solid base
According to Purdy, when the Space Force was initially contemplating its Phase 3 strategy, it expected to take a sharper turn away from the Phase 2 approach of buying large blocks of launches from a small number of providers.
But moves in the commercial launch market caused the service to reconsider. Purdy said the launch acquisition team watched closely when Amazon in 2021 and 2022 opted to award bulk contracts to three companies to launch large portions of its Project Kuiper broadband internet constellation — an approach that was very similar to the Space Force’s Phase 2 strategy.
He said the service spoke with Amazon about its strategy and those conversations reinforced the benefits of using that approach for a portion of its launches. Buying in bulk reduces launch costs and locks in sub-suppliers, he said.
“When they did that, we realized we need to make sure that we’ve got a solid foundation for our most important missions, for our hardest missions,” Purdy told C4ISRNET. “There was a lot of influence and discussion as a result of that.”
The Space Force plans to award contracts to two Lane 2 companies and expects to have at least three competitors in that group: incumbents ULA and SpaceX and newcomer Blue Origin. Other companies could have their launch vehicles certified prior to the 2024 contract award, but the service hasn’t signed certification agreements with other providers.
Col. Douglas Pentecost, deputy program executive officer for assured access to space, told reporters in the Feb. 24 briefing that both lanes have drawn significant interest from industry. In fact, 27 companies have already signed up for an industry day on Feb. 28.
“There’s a lot of hunger in the industry,” he said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
17 Feb 23. NOAA awards JPSS EO ground station services contract. NOAA has awarded the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Ground Sustainment Services (LGSS) contract to Peraton, Inc. based in Herndon, Virginia.
The value of the contract, which includes a base period of five years, with three 12-month option periods is $399,288,456. The period of performance begins on March 1st, 2023.
The purpose of the LGSS contract is for sustainment of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Common Ground Services (CGS), while accommodating enhancements and additions to NOAA’s existing LEO satellite constellations and partner missions.
Work will occur at the contractors’ facilities in Greenbelt, Maryland; Clarksville, Virginia; and Bellevue, Nebraska; and at NOAA facilities located in Suitland, Maryland; Fairmont, West Virginia; and Fairbanks, Alaska.
JPSS is NOAA’s current operational LEO program that acquires and distributes global environmental data from multiple polar-orbiting satellites.
The agency’s LEO program includes the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) mission, NOAA-20, NOAA-21 and the JPSS-3/4 missions, as well other leveraged missions and partnerships.
The JPSS Ground System is responsible for implementing JPSS Program command, control, and communications and data processing requirements for JPSS CGS-serviced missions.
Future NOAA and partner LEO missions will be supported by the CGS throughout the life of the JPSS Program. The JPSS Program plays a critical role in NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, oceans, coasts, and space environments. It also supports the Nation’s economy and protects lives and property. (Source: Satnews)
18 Feb 23. The Amazon Kuiper NGSO constellation application is approved by the FCC. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted, subject to conditions, the application of Kuiper Systems LLC (Kuiper) for modification of its license for a non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite constellation providing fixed-satellite service (FSS) and Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) using Ka-band radio frequencies.
Specifically, the FCC grants Kuiper’s request for approval of its updated orbital debris mitigation plan, thereby satisfying a condition of the agency’s action in 2020 conditionally granting Kuiper’s request to deploy and operate their NGSO system.
This action will allow Kuiper to start deployment of its constellation in order to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to customers around the world. In granting the Amazon Kuiper Systems modification, the FCC considered the issues raised by interested parties in the record.
These issues include, but are not limited to, collision risk, post-mission disposal reliability, completion of satellite design, and orbital separation. (Source: Satnews)
17 Feb 23. Antaris™ JANUS-1 smallsat is successfully launched by the ISRO’s SSLV-D2 rocket — SIA-India launch congratulations. The Antaris JANUS-1 smallsat has successfully reached orbit — JANUS-1 rode on the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) SSLV-D2 rocket, which was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre of India under a commercial arrangement with New Space India Limited (NSIL). The satellite features five payloads from a range of global providers and those will be commissioned and begin nominal operations during the coming days.
Additional tech demonstration satellites from Antaris and manufacturing partners Ananth Technologies and XDLINX Labs are planned for 2023, including 6U, 12U and 27U satellite reference architectures.
JANUS-1 is a 6U satellite featuring payload and subsystem technologies from AICRAFT, Morpheus Space, Netra, SayariLabs Kenya, SpeQtral, Transcelestial and Zero-Error Systems (ZES) that will perform Internet of Things (IoT) communications, advanced experimental laser communications, radio communications and machine learning (ML) during orbit.
Antaris SatOS software manages core bus responsibilities while orchestrating multi-tenant payloads and onboard computing — in addition to showcasing secure TT&C (Telemetry, Tracking and Command) protocols with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and ATLAS Space Operations, who are providing ground communications services. (Source: Satnews)
19 Feb 23. Cross-banding successfully connects DoD’s MUOS with legacy UHF SATCOM systems. Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific personnel successfully completed a cross-banding demo that successfully connected legacy 5 kHz Ultra High Frequency (UHF) military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) channel operators with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) modern Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) Wideband Code Division Multiple Assets (WCDMA) group operators.
The DoD uses SATCOM to support air, land and sea operations critical to U.S. national security, including beyond line-of-sight communications between command posts and operators in the field. UHF SATCOM has long been the foundation of DoD’s Beyond-Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) capability — supporting more than 50% of all deployed users. UHF terminals are unique in that they primarily support line-of-sight communications between various units, while providing a BLOS SATCOM mode to connect users and manage geographically dispersed operations.
MUOS is DoD’s newer, more advanced UHF SATCOM system and is designed to provide joint warfighters with reliable, worldwide voice and data communications in challenging weather environments and through thick foliage. MUOS offers significant improvements over legacy systems, including a ten-fold increase in overall communications capacity, reduced signal interference and improved connectivity performance.
Two portable radio communication (PRC)-117G single-channel radios were configured, one to legacy UHF communications mode (representing a U.S. or international partner user with limited accesses) and the other to MUOS WCDMA Group Voice mode. The third terminal, a PRC-158 two-channel radio, operated on both legacy UHF SATCOM and the MUOS WCDMA Group service. In this configuration, the PRC-158 received legacy UHF voice communications from the first PRC-117G and automatically retransmitted the communication to the second PRC-117G over MUOS WCDMA (and vice versa). (Source: Satnews)
17 Feb 23. Kacific and ST Engineering iDirect technology partner to expand satellite connectivity in Southeast Asia and other region. Kacific Broadband Satellites Group (Kacific) and ST Engineering iDirect have reaffirmed their long-term technology partnership through deep cooperation on the ground systems infrastructure for Kacific’s fleet of satellites. ST Engineering iDirect, whose Dialog hub platform was instrumental to Kacific1’s highly successful program, will provide a comprehensive next-generation ground infrastructure including systems integration, as part of this strategic partnership.
Riding on the success of Kacific1 which has provided essential satellite internet access to both people and governments across Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Singapore-based broadband satellite operator Kacific is now working to expand its capabilities and coverage, adding capacity manyfold with services throughout the region. As a first step, the company’s next-generation satellite aims to address the soaring demand for satellite connectivity in its existing Southeast Asian markets, and extend its reach further into Southeast Asia, Central and Western Asia, and Eastern Africa. The International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests that satellite bandwidth sold across the Asia-Pacific would reach 335.6 Gbps by 2026, with an estimated 1 bn unconnected people in Kacific’s areas of interest, representing a total addressable market of US$8 bn.
The upcoming Kacific next-generation satellites are planned to be reconfigurable, with flexible bandwidth allocation and high spectral efficiency. ST Engineering iDirect will match the space segment with a new generation of fully scalable, distributed ground systems that leverage standards-based, automated resource and service orchestration to enable dynamic allocation of satellite resources. Its next-generation ground system will enable extremely flexible services that align with new applications and changing customer demands, and facilitate the delivery of ultra-high-throughput services that can meet the demands of the most challenging applications, from community access to business networks.
Utilizing ST Engineering iDirect’s cutting-edge technology, Kacific will take advantage of the latest advancements in virtualization and cloudification for unprecedented scale and ease of operations. With a fully digitalized ground network, the Kacific satellites will accelerate new services and capabilities to market and meet the growing demand across the region.
These new innovations, combined with ST Engineering iDirect’s next-generation Network Management System (NMS), will allow Kacific to streamline the management and operations of a complex large-scale network, optimizing costs, performance, and quality of the service delivery to ensure exceptional customer experience.
“Through Kacific1, we have successfully broken ground to democratize satellite broadband in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Christian Patouraux, Kacific CEO. “New generation software-defined-satellite technologies, supported by a comprehensive ST Engineering iDirect-run ground system, set the stage for successful new broadband satellite programs, meeting unabated demand in our existing markets and opening up new opportunities.”
“We are proud to extend our technology partnership with Kacific and enable them to deliver the next generation of broadband satellite connectivity that will continue to empower communities across the Asia-Pacific region,” said John Arnold, Regional Vice President, ST Engineering iDirect. “We are looking forward to this next chapter in Kacific’s journey, and evolving with their technological requirements to provide the highly efficient, agile and cost-effective connectivity that their customers need.” (Source: Satnews)
22 Feb 23. Terran Orbital’s Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems wins contract to build hundreds of LEO satellites for Rivada Space Networks.as part of the contract, Terran Orbital will also develop 12 “spare” satellites for a total production of 300 spacecraft.
Terran Orbital, through its subsidiary Tyvak, will act as the prime contractor to design and manufacture the approximately 500 kg satellites, integrate the communication payload, and perform the final satellite assembly, integration, and test. The company will also be responsible for developing portions of the ground segment.
Mission operations for the on-orbit satellites will be conducted from a state-of-the-art, satellite operations, control center. Rivada expects to start deploying their constellation as early as 2025, subject to compliance with applicable regulatory requirements, with the anticipated launch of four of our satellites.
“Terran Orbital is thrilled to form this new partnership with Rivada Space Networks,” said Marc Bell, Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Terran Orbital. “Our partnership will show why Terran Orbital continues to be a satellite manufacturer of choice for aerospace and defense companies worldwide. We are ecstatic to work alongside Rivada and look forward to building out their LEO constellation.”
“We at Rivada see Terran Orbital as a kindred spirit of sorts. We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this project to fruition with them,” said Declan Ganley, Chairman and CEO of Rivada Networks. (Source: Satnews)
18 Feb 23. SpaceX Suspends Plan For Rig-Based Offshore Launch Platforms. According to The Maritime Executive magazine, “SpaceX has suspended their plans to convert two offshore drill rigs into floating launch pads for the firm’s Starship rocket system, a top executive told reporters last week. “SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell told media at a press conference that the two rigs were “not the right platform” for conducting space launch operations at sea, though she left the door open to future sea-based launch options once the system is in service.” (Source: Satnews)
01 Mar 23. USAF advisers study use of satellites for tracking moving targets. A board of scientific advisers is looking at ways the Air Force can use satellites to track moving targets on the ground and in the air — a task traditionally performed by aircraft.
Air Force officials are concerned that the radar-equipped aircraft it uses to track and engage moving targets aren’t fit to fly in contested environments. In the last few years, the service has been working with the Space Force to better understand what role satellites could play in that mission. Former Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond said he expected initial funding for a development effort to begin in fiscal 2024.
According to a recently released study outline, the service tasked its scientific advisory board with assessing the feasibility of using both aircraft and satellites in low Earth orbit, about 1,200 miles (746 miles) above the planet surface, to track moving targets.
“Current commercial efforts are driving down the cost of proliferated LEO satellite constellations with constellations comprised of thousands of satellites proposed and hundreds already launched,” the study outline states. “In addition, alternative sensing approaches and innovative concepts, at the individual satellite level and at the overall systems level, may help to drive down the cost of satellites.”
The external advisory board was created in 1944 and provides expert scientific analysis on Air Force and Space Force technology challenges. For this study, the board will consider what requirements are necessary for a future moving target indicator, or MTI, capability as well as the risks and challenges associated with using satellites and space-based radars to perform the mission alongside aircraft. It will also propose near-term and future funding strategies for these systems.
Along with the MTI assessment, the scientific advisory board is pursuing three other studies in fiscal 2021 that will explore advanced air and space mobility concepts, development and operational testing approaches, and resilient air operations. The board will brief Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on its findings in each topic area in July and publish reports in December.
The air and space mobility study will focus on how concepts like autonomous refueling, space cargo transport and innovative tanker designs could improve mobility in a future war with China.
“Due to the wide geographic expanses and limited basing availability in the Pacific, increasing Combat Air Force reliance on distant bases will place increased demands for aerial refueling offload,” the study description states. “Similarly, base resilience concepts including Agile Combat Employment and reduced runway dependence will rely heavily on inter-theater and intra-theater airlift for deployment and sustainment.”
The board will assess the Air Force’s tanker and airlift capabilities and shortfalls and recommend science and technology investments in those areas.
For the resilient air operations study, the service wants the board to assess current threats to bases in the European and Pacific regions and consider options for air defenses that have a “favorable cost exchange ratio.” Air Force wants a review of a range of technologies, including directed energy weapons, lasers, non-kinetic interceptors and “runway independent aircraft technologies.”
The board’s testing study is geared toward ensuring the Air Force’s processes for assessing new capabilities is moving quickly and efficiently.
“In an era of competition with China, which is developing and introducing new operational capabilities at a high rate, there is concern that the [developmental and operational testing] enterprise is not helping to provide operational capabilities rapidly enough to adapt to the changing technological and competition environment,” the outline states.
The study will survey technology advances like artificial intelligence and modeling and simulation that could improve the Air Force’s testing enterprise. It will also identify technology and process issues in the service’s approach.
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power ms of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.