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20 Jul 23. Space Integral to the DOD Way of War, Policy Chief Says.
Space is integral to the way the United States military fights, and that is why DOD took a top-to-bottom look at the domain, said John F. Plumb, the assistant secretary of defense for space policy yesterday.
Plumb, who spoke at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado, carefully discussed the still classified Space Strategic Review.
That review looked at the national security environment for space. It took stock of “where we are and where we’re headed,” Plumb said.
Since the 1950s, the military has been intrigued by the benefits that space provides to defense. “Space is in our DNA for the military,” the assistant secretary said. “It’s absolutely essential to our way of war.”
This was not a hard sell for military officials, who now ensure the space domain is considered in every decision, he said.
DOD is focused on China as the department’s pacing challenge, Plumb said. “China is also our pacing challenge in space,” he said. “When we look at that environment, it is very different than it was 10 years ago.”
What DOD must do is “ensure that we can deter conflict in space,” he said.
Every military mission relies on space and DOD officials must ensure that U.S. service members have what they need in the domain to carry out their missions. “That means we have to protect and defend our systems and devalue adversary attacks on our systems,” Plumb said.
Building resilience into systems is standard now in the satellite world, he said. As is developing procedures, tactics and equipment to defend satellites already in orbit.
Even then, “resilience is never complete,” Plumb said. “It will be a constant back-and-forth. But we are truly investing in becoming resilient, we’re picking off certain mission sets, think missile warning missile trackers.”
DOD is moving from an architecture that has a few very large and expensive satellites, in geostationary orbits “to a proliferated architecture in low-Earth orbit,” he said.
That has a couple of advantages, the first being it makes attacking the target harder, and it means DOD can capitalize on the so-called “refresh rate.”
The large “exquisite” satellites are very expensive and designed to last 20 years. The low-Earth orbit satellites last three to five years and “provide an ability to innovate at speed and not have to look out for my requirements 20 years from now,” Plumb said.
Planners can make a pretty good guess what they will need for three to five years, but it is far more complicated looking decades ahead technologically.
“So, there’s a lot of advantages there from a military standpoint, and I think we are all in on getting there,” he said. “But resilience is a kind of never-ending quest.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
20 Jul 23. PPM Provides the Power for Huge Satellite Test Chamber. RAL Space is the UK’s national space laboratory and an integral part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Its aim is to advance the understanding of space and the environment for everyone’s benefit. In support of this work, RAL Space has introduced a new thermal vacuum chamber for testing satellites – the largest in the UK!
The bespoke vacuum chamber is part of RAL Space’s National Satellite Test Facility, which is the first of its kind in the UK to enable larger and more complex spacecraft to be tested. It will be used to simulate the extreme vacuum and thermal conditions encountered in space, and consists of a 7m x 12m cylindrical vacuum vessel lined with temperature-controlled panels.
PPM Power, a leading UK specialist distributor of components and systems for high voltage, pulsed power and power electronics, was chosen to provide RAL Space with compact power units for the chamber’s heaters. As the space for instrumentation was strictly limited, the advanced design of the chosen TDK-Lambda UK Genesys+™ half-rack power supplies enabled all 140 required units to fit into the available volume within the chamber. The programmable units are half the size of traditional single-rack power supplies.
PPM additionally provided specialist support so that the units may be recessed and angled to allow even tighter placement within the chamber’s setup. The high-density units also provide RAL Space with the benefit of being highly reliable and coming with a long five-year warranty.
“We are delighted to be providing a compact bespoke solution on this exciting project,” said David Thornton, PPM Power Business Development Manager.
Thornton also noted PPM worked closely with power supply manufacturer, TDK-Lambda UK, to deliver the demanding project on time.
The power supplies were specified and procured for RAL Space by teams at STFC’s Technology Department, who were also responsible for executing the design, construction and commissioning of the vacuum heater control systems.
Whenfully completed, the National Satellite Test Facility will provide the UK space sector with all the major testing facilities they need under one roof.
20 Jul 23. From AI to nuclear: the technologies driving UK space exploration. The development of 11 critical technology areas and capabilities will take the UK further into space than ever before, a new report from the UK Space Agency shows. The Space Exploration Technology Roadmap will guide research and development activity and future funding decisions over the next decade, putting the UK’s growing space sector in a stronger position to collaborate with international partners including NASA, the European Space Agency and JAXA (Japan’s space agency).
The roadmap identifies a number of gaps to be addressed as well as areas of existing strength which should be built upon for the UK to fully benefit from the increasing commercialisation of space exploration and the global space economy, which is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2040.
UK Space Agency CEO Dr Paul Bate said: “Discovery is fundamental to the work of the UK Space Agency, and we are entering a new era of space exploration where governments and commercial operators are working closer than ever before. By setting out this roadmap, we are giving clarity to industry and researchers across the space sector, and positioning the UK as a partner of choice for future space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”
Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enhance the capability and efficiency of missions. As you move further away from Earth, autonomous navigation helps spacecraft explore planets and moons without the need for direct, continuous control by human crews back on Earth or in orbit. The technology is also important for the growing number of commercial satellites in low Earth orbit.
As humans return to the Moon and develop the infrastructure to travel to Mars, nuclear power will provide a reliable and lasting source of energy for activities such as construction, power, heating and life support.
A simplified list of the technologies recommended in the roadmap is below.
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Autonomy & Artificial Intelligence
- Communications & Mission Operations
- In Situ Resource Utilisation
- Life Support & Crew Performance
- Navigation & Sensing
- Sample Curation
- Science Instrumentation
- Space Nuclear Power
The roadmap supports the aims of the National Space Strategy to grow and level-up the space sector and put the UK at the forefront of pioneering research and development. It is informed by consultation with the space sector, to identify the most appropriate technologies for the UK to focus on. The roadmap will act as a brochure of UK technological capabilities for investors and customers around the world.
Further consultation and collaboration with UK organisations active in these fields will help develop detailed analysis on each specific technology area, while regular reviews of the roadmap will ensure it keeps pace with new technological and commercial developments, as well as the UK’s growing ambitions in space.
It follows the first meeting of the newly reinstated National Space Council yesterday (19th July), which saw ministers discuss government space policy, including ambitions to become Europe’s leading provider of small commercial launch by 2030. The release of the new National Space Strategy in Action was also announced during the meeting, outlining the UK space sector’s progress since the launch of the National Space Strategy in 2021, as well as plans for the establishment of more regional space clusters and a review of space regulations to boost effectiveness and innovation.
Major projects featured in the roadmap include Lunar Pathfinder, a spacecraft designed, owned and operated by Surrey Satellite Technology to trailblaze the European Space Agency’s Moonlight project to create a network of satellites that would provide communication and navigation services for exploration on the Moon.
The UK-led Rosalind Franklin Rover, due for launch to Mars in 2028 is also highlighted, along with Nammo’s satellite propulsion system and the University of Glasgow’s novel pulse elevator technology that can be used to extract solid materials with less impact that traditional drilling.
19 Jul 23. Space back atop the Cabinet agenda as reignited National Space Council re-launches UK space superpower ambitions.
The National Space Council met for the first time today since its reinstatement as part of the UK’s mission to become a true space superpower.
- The first meeting of the reinstated National Space Council took place today, kicking off with an address from UK astronaut Tim Peake and featuring actual rocks taken from the moon
- the Council saw the Science Secretary, Defence Secretary and other cabinet ministers placing the full might of the UK government behind plans to make the UK a space superpower, keeping pace with US, India and other key space leaders in the global space race
- today also sees launch of a space report outlining progress on the government’s bold plan for the UK’s space sector, and its value for driving economic growth and innovation nationwide
The National Space Council met today (Wednesday 19 July) for the first time since its reinstatement, as part of the UK’s mission to become a true space superpower and fulfil the country’s ambition to become Europe’s leading provider of small commercial launches by 2030. This builds on the already extraordinary growth of the UK space sector, which employs almost 49,000 people and generates an income of £17.5bn.
The Council was co-chaired by the Science and the Defence Secretaries, flanked by other Cabinet Ministers and with insights from astronaut Tim Peake, amongst other expert support. The Council also saw an exhibition of lunar rocks, brought to Earth during the Apollo missions, serving as a fitting metaphor for the UK’s ambitions to aim for the moon and beyond.
The Council will be responsible for coordinating government policy on space and ensuring that the UK is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the space sector to drive job creation and grow the economy, one of the Prime Minister’s 5 key priorities.
Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Chloe Smith said:
Space is critical to modern life: global telecoms, weather forecasting, and our national security all rely on satellites and as the importance of space grows, so must our ambitions for the UK.
Our reinstated National Space Council will ensure the government moves in lockstep with the sector to deliver our ambitions to grow the space economy. The UK is perfectly placed, whether geographically, economically or as a product of our world-class skills base, to be not only a European leader but a global power in space.
Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace said: “The war in Ukraine has highlighted just how critical space is to military operations. My department continues to work closely with DSIT to deliver the UK’s ambition for space to ensure we have the capabilities we need to protect and defend this critical domain and to exploit the opportunities it offers for operations into the future.”
The meeting coincides with the release by DSIT and Ministry of Defence of a new National Space Strategy in Action, a significant milestone, which outlines the government’s commitment to the space sector and sets out a bold plan for how the UK can become a leading player in the global space race.
This publication sets out the significant progress the UK space sector has made since the launch of the joint civil-defence National Space Strategy in 2021, employing almost 49,000 people and generating an income of £17.5bn, an increase of £1bn from the previous year. It will also provide clarity on the direction of the sector for businesses, giving them the confidence to make long-term investment decisions.
It covers various priority areas, including:
- the development of a Space Sector Plan to promote economic growth and resilience
- the establishment of space clusters within the UK space ecosystem
- a space workforce action plan
- a review of space regulations to ensure effectiveness and innovation
- the UK’s long term approach to civil capabilities and defence highly assured capabilities for space
- progress of the Defence Space Strategy
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The National Space Strategy in Action highlights the significant progress made towards delivering the government’s ambition to make the UK one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world. By catalysing investment into UK businesses, increasing our involvement in major space missions and championing the power of space to improve lives, the UK Space Agency is playing a major role in accelerating the growth of the UK’s thriving space sector.”
Graham Peters, Independent Chair of the Space Partnership Board said: “The ‘National Space Strategy in Action’ demonstrates that now is an exciting time as the space sector translates the national ambition into tangible actions. Great progress is already being made and the Space Partnership is delighted to be actively supporting by bringing industry, academia and government together around a range of shared priorities, including the next steps to deliver the capabilities laid out in the NSS In Action, so that the sector works collectively to deliver the National Space Strategy.”
Ben Bridge, Chairman, Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “We welcome this report and commend the government on progress and commitment to further developing the space sector. We look forward to the next phase of implementing the National Space Strategy, and the publication of the Space Sector Plan, to help the government deliver on its ambitions for unlocking growth through building and expanding national space capabilities. This will enable Airbus to further engage with the wider UK space ecosystem and extend our network of suppliers and interaction with SMEs across the country.”
Mark Dankberg, Chairman and CEO, Viasat said: “I’m glad to support the United Kingdom’s goals within the National Space Strategy to unlock economic growth, investment, trade and scientific opportunities in the New Space Age. Viasat believes the emerging industry-led Space Sustainability Standard will be an essential part of achieving these goals. Actively managing use of our shared and finite resources – both orbital and spectrum – is the only way to keep space accessible. Accessibility is crucial for continued growth and innovation by as many participants in the global space economy as possible, including in the UK.”
Alongside this milestone report, the government is today publishing brand new research that argues the ‘Case for Space’, capturing the economic value of space and the benefits it brings to the UK. Findings have demonstrated the positive impact of space activities on various industries, from the government’s investment of over £80 million in space weather forecasting, and leveraging position, navigation, and timing for emergency services, to utilising earth observation (EO) capabilities in the farming and food industry.
These announcements come hot on the heels of the recent Space Sustainability Symposium hosted by Minister Freeman last month, that brought together leading figures from the space industry, finance and academia to discuss a sustainable future for space and how the government can tackle the imminent threat of junk satellites in our atmosphere. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
19 Jul 23. Rocket Lab Deploys Satellites for NASA and Commercial Constellation Operators, Successfully Recovers Booster.
- Rocket Lab deployed seven satellites to orbit during the Company’s seventh mission for the year, topping the launch off with a successful splashdown and recovery of Electron’s booster as part of the Company’s reusable rocket program
Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, successfully launched seven satellites for NASA, Space Flight Laboratory and Spire Global from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand today at 13:27 NZST (01:27 UTC).
The Baby Come Back mission was Rocket Lab’s seventh launch for the year and the Company’s 39th Electron launch overall. In addition to delivering a flawless primary mission of deploying customer satellites to orbit, Rocket Lab completed a successful ocean splashdown and recovery of Electron’s first stage as part of the Company’s program to make
Electron the world’s first reusable small rocket. Around 2.5 minutes after lift-off, at an altitude of almost 75 km, Electron’s first stage separated from the second stage as planned. While the second stage continued onto orbit to deploy the seven satellites on board, Electron’s first stage began the journey back to Earth at speeds of more than 9,000 km per hour, reaching temperatures of 2,400 Celsius. At around 8.5 minutes after lift-off, the first stage successfully deployed a main parachute slowing its descent, enabling a soft splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. From there, Rocket Lab’s recovery team rendezvoused with the stage on the water, successfully bringing it onto a vessel using a specially designed capture cradle. The stage is now en route back to Rocket Lab’s production complex for analysis ahead to inform future recovery missions, and eventually re-flight of an Electron.
“We’re delighted to have delivered yet another successful Electron mission and would like to thank the teams at Space Flight Laboratory, Spire Global, and NASA, for entrusting us with their innovative science and tech demonstration missions,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “With this mission we’ve made big strides toward reusability with Electron and we are now closer than ever to relaunching a booster for the first time.”
Satellites launched on Baby Come Back:
NASA: NASA’s Starling mission is a four CubeSat mission designed to advance technologies for cooperative groups of spacecraft – also known as swarms. Spacecraft swarms refer to multiple spacecraft autonomously coordinating their activities in orbit. Once positioned in orbit around Earth and spaced about 40 miles / 64 km apart, Starling’s spacecraft will demonstrate the ability to autonomously fly together while keeping track of each other’s relative positions and trajectories. They also will demonstrate the ability to plan and execute activities as a group, without guidance from mission controllers, including responding to new information from onboard sensors. Starling’s spacecraft also will demonstrate creating and maintaining an inter-spacecraft communications network that automatically adjusts to changing conditions. NASA’s Starling mission will test whether the technologies work as expected, what their limitations are, and what developments are still needed for CubeSat swarms to be successful. Starling is funded by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL): Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) selected Rocket Lab to launch Telesat’s LEO 3 demonstration satellite that will provide continuity for customer and ecosystem vendor testing campaigns following the decommissioning of Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite. LEO 3 will serve an important role for low-latency customer applications testing, and for supporting LEO antenna and modem development efforts in advance of the Telesat Lightspeed network deployment.
Spire Global: Spire launched two 3U satellites carrying Global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) payloads to replenish its fully deployed constellation of more than 100 multipurpose satellites. Spire’s satellites observe the Earth in real time using radio frequency technology. The data acquired by Spire’s GNSS-RO payloads provide global weather intelligence that can be assimilated into weather models to improve the accuracy of forecasts.
Rocket Lab is preparing to launch its 40th Electron mission before the end of the month, with mission details to be released in the coming days. (Source: ASD Network)
18 Jul 23. Launch of Air Force Research Lab navigation satellite delayed again. The Air Force Research Laboratory has pushed the launch of an experimental navigation satellite until next spring due to the delayed debut of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket.
Navigation Technology Satellite-3 was slated to fly at the end of this year on Vulcan’s first national security mission, USSF-106. However, Denver-based ULA announced that the milestone will be delayed well into next year as the company incorporates a fix to a testing anomaly discovered in March.
That setback will push the NTS-3 launch to May or June of 2024, program manager Arlen Biersgreen told C4ISRNET, noting that the lab is looking for ways to offset the impact of the delay.
“AFRL has started considering options for experimentation and test activities that may be able to be conducted in the additional time prior to the launch as risk reduction for the on-orbit demonstration,” he said in an email.
Biersgreen said ULA requested the date change late last month.
AFRL initially expected NTS-3 to fly in 2022, but delays to the USSF-106 mission pushed that timeline to 2023. As it awaits its ride to space, the satellite is progressing well through its integration and testing phase, Biersgreen said.
The L3Harris-built spacecraft represents AFRL’s first major positioning, navigation and timing, or PNT, demonstration in nearly a half century. The last NTS satellite flew in 1977 and showcased capabilities that proved integral to the GPS program.
NTS-3 comes amid growing concern that GPS satellites, which provide navigation and timing signals to critical U.S. infrastructure as well as military users, are vulnerable to signal jamming and other adversary threats.
AFRL hopes the experiment will kick-start a more regular cadence for these types of demonstrations. The spacecraft will test navigation capabilities that could augment the Space Force’s GPS satellites or support a future program. That includes technologies like steerable beams to provide regional coverage, a reprogrammable payload that can receive upgrades in orbit and protections against signal jamming.
Once NTS-3 is in orbit, AFRL will experiment with those capabilities over a one-year period, exploring how new satellite configurations could strengthen the Space Force’s PNT capabilities.
That work will inform an ongoing study by Space Systems Command, the service’s acquisition arm, into whether a mix of small and large satellites in multiple orbits could provide a more resilient capability for military and civilian users.
The satellite has already participated in military exercises, including the Army’s PNT Assessment Exercise last August. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Jul 23. AROBS Engineering is the prime industrial partner and consortium leader for the independent software verification and validation of the Space Rider project.
AROBS Engineering, part of AROBS Group, is the prime industrial partner and consortium leader for the technical specifications, architecture, code development, and testing systems validation for SpaceRider, Europe’s first reusable space transportation system. Such activities will be carried out under the Space Rider Program funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Space Rider aims to provide an affordable, independent, reusable end-to-end integrated space transportation system for routine access and return from low orbit.
AROBS and its partners will conduct activities to help the SpaceRider mission ensure the quality of the specification, design, coding, and testing of the Central Software modules for both the AVUM Orbital Module (AOM) and the Re-entry Module (RM).
After landing, Space Rider Reentry Module will be refurbished for reuse, as it is designed to make at least five re-flights each lasting about two months. Up to 600 kg of payload can fit inside the environmentally controlled cargo bay. The inaugural flight is expected to take place towards the end of 2024.
Space Rider will have the potential to allow the following:
- Free-flying applications such as experiments in microgravity for:
– Physical Science
- In-orbit technology demonstration and validation for applications for:
– Exploration, such as robotics,
– Earth observation, such as instrumentation,
– others, such as Earth science, telecommunication,
- Surveillance applications such as Earth disaster monitoring and satellite inspection.
With 20+ years of experience in aerospace, AROBS Engineering will deliver custom software development with an in-depth understanding of networking technology and solutions for the future of Avionics and Aerospace Systems.
Recently, AROBS Engineering announced that it is one of the ClearSpace and the European Space Agency (ESA) industrial partners to deliver an embedded software solution for the ClearSpace-1 program. In 2020, ESA commissioned ClearSpace to build, launch, and fly a novel deorbit mission to rendezvous with and capture a large piece of debris in orbit, then safely pilot the object into Earth’s atmosphere. (Source: PR Newswire)
17 Jul 23. U.K. Parliament committee recommends streamlining launch licensing. A United Kingdom Parliament committee is calling on the government to revise its approach for licensing launches, warning it could fall behind international competitors if it fails to do so.
The House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee published a report July 14 that concluded that, based on the experience from the first orbital launch attempt from the U.K. in January, reforms are needed to streamline the process and avoid delays.
“We recommend that the Government should convene all relevant bodies without delay to take steps now to improve the licensing system of UK satellite launch,” the report stated.
That conclusion was based in large part on the delays securing a license from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a Virgin Orbit launch from Spaceport Cornwall in January. The launch was planned for last fall but delayed until January because Virgin Orbit did not get a license from the CAA until mid-December. The CAA noted at the time that it issued the license 15 months after the start of the application process, “well within the expected timescales for these types of licences.”
That launch failed to reach orbit, but the report said there was no evidence that the licensing process contributed to the failure. Virgin Orbit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and has liquidated its assets.
Other companies are planning to launch from the U.K. and are working on obtaining launch licenses from the CAA. Some of those companies testified to the committee that, after a slow start, they are seeing improvements in the regulatory process.
“We are pleased to hear that the regulatory experiences of the UK launch sector are moving in a positive direction, and we encourage the CAA to continue this trajectory,” the report stated. “However, more can be done to streamline the regulatory process to help ensure that the UK launch sector can reach its full potential.”
Government officials, including George Freeman, the minister whose portfolio includes space, told the committee the government would review lessons learned from the Virgin Orbit licensing process and related topics. The committee backed that approach but said that the review must be done “at pace” and be completed by September.
The committee offered some recommendations for launch licensing streamlining in the report based on testimony from several companies. Those recommendations focus on coordinating the various organizations involved in the licensing process, such as creating a “central portal” for companies to provide information at one time, rather than having to provide similar data, in different formats, to individual organizations.
The report also warned that the reforms identified in the report “must be carried out urgently, and conclude by the end of this year, to avoid the UK losing its head start in launch.”
“The UK has huge opportunities in the burgeoning space and satellite industry. But the sector is global and fast-paced, and to maintain our position the UK must act urgently to applies the lessons of the Cornwall disappointment to the regulatory system for satellite launch,” Greg Clark, chair of the committee, said in a statement.
The CAA noted in a response to the report that it was already working on streamlining improvements identified by the committee. “We welcome the recommendations to further streamline and simplify the space licensing process and have made significant improvements already, with many more to come,” Tim Johnson, director of space regulation at the CAA, said in an agency statement.
The committee also used the report to criticize more broadly the government’s attention to space matters. The report noted that a new National Space Council, an interagency body modeled on its U.S. counterpart, has yet to meet for the first time months after the government said it was reestablishing it. A report on a national position, navigation and timing (PNT) strategy originally slated for release in 2021 has yet to be published.
“It is symptomatic of a disjointed approach to concrete policy and leadership for the UK’s space and satellite sector which now risks hampering its potential,” the committee said of the delayed PNT strategy.
(Source: glstrade.com/Space News)
18 Jul 23. ESA Moves Ahead With In-orbit Servicing Missions.
Isn’t it strange that when satellites run out of fuel or a single component breaks down, we just discard them? ESA and European industry have joined forces to make sure that our satellites can live on.
In-Orbit Servicing (IOS) refers to extending the life or functionalities of spacecraft that are already in orbit. This can be done by performing maintenance, adjusting a spacecraft’s orbit, changing the direction it is facing, providing more fuel, or even changing or upgrading the instruments onboard.
ESA has conducted extensive work on IOS, including as part of its Clean Space initiative for the removal and prevention of space debris. As part of this research, ESA Preparation invited industry partners to outline their vision of Europe’s first IOS mission, to be launched as early as 2028.
Astroscale, ClearSpace, D-Orbit and Telespazio (collaborating with Thales Alenia Space) were given funding to mature their ideas, and their results were presented in preparation for the 2022 ESA Council at Ministerial level.
“In-Orbit Servicing could fundamentally change the way that future satellites are designed and operated. Towards the 2030s, satellites will likely need to be designed with interfaces and other features that allow service and disposal spacecraft to do their work,” says Ross Findlay, IOS system engineer at ESA.
Satellites of the future may carry less fuel and larger instruments. The option of in-orbit assembly also means that future satellites could be designed to consist of modules that are easy to assemble and individually replace. For the same reasons that plugs and sockets for electronics have standard shapes, discussions on standardised ‘docking’ structures have already begun, to make it easier for one model of servicing spacecraft to latch on to different types of satellites.
In-Orbit Servicing is a commercial question
More than half of all satellites being launched are commercial, so commercial operators need to be involved if we wish to make servicing a standard procedure. “We made it a mandatory endpoint for all four teams to have some kind of relationship to an actual customer that they want to provide this service to,” notes Ross.
“This led to very interesting discussions between ESA, the companies interested in setting up IOS missions, and companies who own the satellites to be serviced. Take for example the legal implications: if two satellites collide during servicing, who is responsible?”
The Preparation element of ESA’s Basic Activities was in a unique position to support these mission assessment studies, including the bigger-picture commercialisation opportunities. “These activities, and their contribution to the Ministerial Council meeting, demonstrates the importance of the Preparation programme in supporting ideas to become a reality,” says ESA Discovery & Preparation officer Moritz Fontaine.
Telecommunications industry wants life-extension services
The four selected companies investigated the opportunities for IOS operations for satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO). LEO hosts important satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Copernicus Sentinel Earth observation satellites, and the International Space Station. GEO hosts Europe’s series of Meteosat weather satellites and, importantly, most satellites used for telecommunications.
A clear outcome from the four studies is that the telecommunications industry is keen for life extension services to be up and running as soon as possible. Particularly relevant is orbital maintenance: operators have to make sure the spacecraft stays exactly where it should be, and change the orbit or rotation if it has drifted over time.
Doing so costs fuel. The proposals detail how a servicing spacecraft can latch on to satellites that have run out of fuel and perform the necessary orbit control. The servicing spacecraft can stay attached for as long as needed, after which it parks the satellite in a so-called ‘graveyard orbit’ and moves on to the next satellite that needs servicing.
Fresh eyes from New Space
Interestingly, three of the four proposals came from what you might call ‘New Space’ companies. “These are newer actors with perhaps slightly different ways of approaching design and development, often involving smaller teams and more fast-paced iterations. It was refreshing to compare different workflows and discuss possible forms of collaboration,” says Ross.
Following these four studies funded by ESA Preparation, ESA’s Space Safety programme has decided to move forward with two of the proposed missions. The programme envisions that IOS operations will continue to expand, both in number of missions and their capabilities. European industry has the ambition to make IOS common procedure by the early to mid-2030s. (Source: ASD Network)
07 Jul 23. SpaceX’s successful soggy Starlink launch. Force Base in California. This is the 12th flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, Transporter-7, Iridium OneWeb, and seven Starlink missions.
This is the 12th flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, Transporter-7, Iridium OneWeb, and seven Starlink missions.
Following stage separation, the first stage will land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean. (Source: Satnews)
07 Jul 23. First launch occurs from Canada’s Nova Scotia Spaceport. This international collaboration saw Maritime Launch Services leading the project, Al NajmX – Precious Payload’s Saudi partner that ensured seamless mission management — and Arbalest Rocketry, a rocketry team from York University in Canada, delivering the Goose 3 rocket for the suborbital launch.
Al NajmX coordinated all mission aspects, from initial planning to successful launch, cementing their reputation as an entity that enables entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia to streamline space missions effectively. The company contributed significantly to making Saudi Arabia a fast-growing space-faring nation, aligned with the country’s Vision 2030 goals.
The compact and light VCL-1 ChipSat, equipped with seven onboard sensors, was launched on Arbalest Rocketry’s Goose 3 rocket on July 6th. The rocket successfully reached suborbital altitudes, marking a significant milestone for the team and their mission to build rockets for suborbital flights.
The outcomes of this launch will provide valuable insights into space sciences and related engineering, helping the VisionCosmos SA team in their quest to develop more advanced payloads. Looking ahead, they have ambitious plans to launch more payloads soon, with further miniaturized technologies.
This successful partnership between VisionCosmos SA and Maritime Launch Services, aided by the expert guidance from Al NajmX and the efficient booking system of Precious Payload’s satellite launch marketplace, marks a significant achievement in international collaboration in developing space missions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Maritime Launch is developing Spaceport Nova Scotia, Canada’s first commercial spaceport. Maritime Launch was proud to offer this opportunity for international cooperation with Spaceport Nova Scotia’s first suborbital test launch in Canada. Having a small payload from Saudi Arabia included on yesterday’s mission demonstrates that we are open for business to the global space community.” — Robert Feierbach, President, Maritime Launch USA
“Our endeavor was greatly impacted by the Saudi Space Agency’s ongoing efforts to advance space sciences in the Kingdom. It is our belief that the youth of the Kingdom have a prosperous future in the field.” — Sayed Belal Mudassar, Founder, VisionCosmos Saudi Arabia. (Source: Satnews)
11 Jul 23. Orbex’s facilities’ footprint expands 30% for UK mainland’s first vertical rocket launch. UK-based spaceflight company, Orbex, has extended its footprint by over thirty percent across its Scottish and Danish design and production facilities, in preparation for the launch of its Prime rocket.
The company is adding an extra 1,500 square meters of factory and office space to its existing 4,750 square meter estate in Forres, Scotland and Copenhagen, Denmark. The additional space will increase the company’s launch vehicle production and propulsion system manufacturing capacity and add an extra software laboratory and an avionics clean room space with ISO 8 and ISO 9 sections. The additional capacity in Forres is just 3km from its test site at Kinloss, allowing for quick turnaround between the two sites, as Orbex ramps up its testing in the countdown to launch.
Orbex Prime became the first full orbital microlauncher rocket to be unveiled in Europe in May 2022. Prime is a 19-meter long rocket designed to launch small satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. Orbex has already announced several commercial launch contracts with satellite manufacturers.
Orbex received one of the largest rounds of VC funding in the global space sector in Q4 of 2022, when it secured £40.4m in its Series C round, from existing and new investors. This funding has allowed for critical expansion of its production and business facilities, in the run-up to the first launch and beyond. The company also announced last year that it was hiring an additional fifty staff in preparation for launch.
Sustainability has been a focal point in the design of the reusable rocket, which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit. The rocket is fueled by a renewable form of propane, meaning that a Prime launch has a carbon footprint up to 96 percent lower than traditional launch vehicles powered by fossil fuels, according to a study by the University of Exeter.
Prime will launch from Orbex’s ‘home’ spaceport, Sutherland Spaceport (formerly Space Hub Sutherland) on the north coast of Scotland. The facility is being built and operated by Orbex, under a fifty-year lease, with the option of extending for a further twenty-five years. As with Prime, Sutherland Spaceport is being built with sustainability in mind and is intended to be the first spaceport globally to be carbon-neutral in its construction and operation. (Source: Satnews)
11 Jul 23. hiSky’s FCC certification of Smartellite™ fixed KA terminal completes qualification of Smartellite™ 8×8 terminal family.
hiSky Ltd., provider of IoT satellite communication solutions, has been granted FCC certification for its Smartellite™ Fixed KA terminal. This certification marks a milestone for hiSky, as it completes FCC certifications for the entire Smartellite™ 8X8 terminal family, including the Fixed Ka, Dynamic Ka, Fixed Ku, and Dynamic Ku 8X8 terminals.
The FCC certification for the Smartellite™ Fixed KA terminal signifies compliance with stringent regulatory standards, ensuring optimal performance, reliability, and safety. With this certification, hiSky reinforces its commitment to delivering high-quality satellite communication solutions that meet the highest industry standards.
The Smartellite™ 8X8 terminal family encompasses a range of cutting-edge satellite communication solutions designed to cater to various applications and user requirements. The completion of FCC certifications for the entire terminal family highlights hiSky’s dedication to providing versatile and compliant communication solutions for customers across different industries, in partnership with various global satellite operators.
The Smartellite™ Fixed Ka terminal comprises patch antennas and a built-in MODEM, providing a rigidized, all-in-one solution. The design allows independent configuration and installation by the end-user. This small factor terminal directs communication through GEO satellites, ensuring minor movement caused by wind does not affect connectivity, lowering yearly maintenance costs. Now obtaining FCC certification, the Smartellite™ Fixed KA terminal joins the lineup of certified Smartellite™ terminals.
The inclusive FCC certification of all hiSky’s Smartellite™ 8X8 terminal family ensures that customers can deploy hiSky’s terminals that meet the strict regulatory requirements set by the FCC.
To support mass production, hiSky has partnered with Jabil Italy, a manufacturing company with expertise in delivering high-quality electronic products. This collaboration ensures efficient and scalable production of the Smartellite™ terminals, enabling broader availability and faster deployment of global networks.
“We are delighted to announce the FCC certification for our Smartellite™ Fixed KA terminal, completing the FCC certifications for the entire Smartellite™ 8X8 terminal family,” said Gal Diamant, COO at hiSky Ltd. “These certifications signify our dedication to delivering reliable, compliant, and high-performance satellite communication solutions. Together with our newly added production lines in Jabil Italy, we can now ensure the standard, cost reduction and availability our global partners and customers are expecting”. (Source: Satnews)
07 Jul 23. ESSP + Viasat agree to commercialize the Iris air traffic program. Viasat, through its recently acquired business, Inmarsat, has signed a long-term contract to appoint European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) as the Service Provider for the Iris air traffic modernization program, as the final preparations for pre-commercial operations take place.
ESSP will operate, provision, and lead the Iris service commercialization to European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), including managing completion as the first Pan-European company certified for satellite-based communication service by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Led by the European Space Agency (ESA), Iris enables aircraft to fly more fuel-efficient routes by providing digital satellite communications to complement VHF data link, which is nearing a capacity crunch in congested airspace. By digitally connecting the ATM ecosystem, it enhances collaboration between pilots and air traffic controllers to maximize airspace use and reduce the impact of disruptions for passengers, while also reducing emissions through the use of 4D, Trajectory-Based Operations.
Sharing these trajectories through uncongested, high-bandwidth, ELERA satellite communications allows flights to cruise at optimum altitudes and use continuous climb and descent paths, saving fuel and reducing aviation’s environmental impact. Without fast and reliable data links between aircraft and the ground, air traffic managers cannot unlock the 8-10% reduction in CO2 emissions identified by EUROCONTROL from improved Air Traffic Management (ATM).
Iris will enter commercial and operational service fully in Europe next year with airlines including easyJet and ITA Airways, supporting the Single European Sky’s ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan.
“ESSP strongly believes in Iris as a pioneering Europe-wide satellite communications data link program and we are committed to developing, operating, and commercializing it for Europe at this early stage. ESSP is proud to contribute as a service provider to the expansion of Iris technology, which will bring a wide range of benefits to the aerospace industry, as Iris will allow the development of new environmentally friendly routes, which will improve ATC management, reduce fuel costs, and finally lead to the deployment of more efficient air operations, to name just a few of the program’s strengths.” — Charlotte Neyret, CEO of ESSP
“We are proud to support the space-enabled digitalisation of Europe’s skies, which will help to make aviation greener. ESA developed the Iris system in partnership with Inmarsat and we look forward to seeing it certified so that European citizens can benefit from shorter journey times and greener travel. Iris is a great example of how ESA is accelerating the use of space for a green future.” — Javier Benedicto, Acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications, ESA
“ESSP has been appointed as Iris Service Provider at a pivotal moment, as we enter the final phase of pre-commercial operations for this ground-breaking programme and prepare for the start of commercial service over the next year. This is an important milestone, not only for Iris, but the aviation industry as a whole. While it can seem overwhelming and difficult as individuals or organisations to make a difference to climate change, when we come together working across the ecosystem, as partners with a shared goal, we can make a big difference.” — Joel Klooster, Senior Vice President Airline Operations and Safety for Viasat’s recently acquired Inmarsat business (Source: Satnews)
11 Jul 23. ITU Radio Regulations Board approves waiver for Rivada LEO constellation and the company signs an MoU with IEC Telecom. Rivada Space Networks recently announced that the ITU’s Radio Regulations Board has waived the requirement that Rivada place 10% of its constellation into orbit this year.
The ITU waiver process seeks clear evidence of funding, manufacturing and launch contracts as well as coordination with other systems. Having reviewed the submission made by Liechtenstein’s telecommunications regulator and filing administration (the “Amt für Kommunikation”), the ITU Radio Regulations Board determined that Rivada can proceed to its second deployment milestones of placing 144 satellites (plus six on-orbit spares) by June of 2026 and an additional 144 satellites (plus six on-orbit spares) by September of 2026.
“The Office for Communications has put its trust in the ITU process and is delighted about the positive decision of the RRB. These filings were secured at a very early stage in the development of NGSO constellations for global connectivity and are an important asset – not only for Liechtenstein. A shortage of launch capacity and delays in technology development have been significant challenges to overcome in order to deploy these constellations in the stipulated timeframe. The perseverance of Rivada and ITU’s positive decision mean that the deployment of the constellations can move forward for the benefit of all the stakeholders.” — Dr. Rainer Schnepfleitner, Director of the AK of Liechtenstein
“Rivada has the manufacturing and launch contracts in place to complete the constellations and launch 600 satellites by 2028, within the timeframe allowed by the ITU. We are working very closely with the regulator to make sure that all the conditions attached to these filings are satisfied and to ensure the success of these ground-breaking satellite constellations. We are building something unique, which we call the OuterNET: the first truly private global network, on which data travels through space alone and not over terrestrial networks to provide ultra secure communications anywhere on the globe.” — Declan Ganley, CEO, Rivada. (Source: Satnews)
11 Jul 23. Low Earth orbit ‘at risk of experiencing multiple collisions’ as satellite numbers increase. An article published by Interesting Engineering warns of increased risk in collisions as a result of rising numbers of satellites operating in low Earth orbit.
According to the article, a SpaceX filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shows that since the first Starlink satellites were launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2019, they have had to make 50,000 collision-avoidance manoeuvres. As satellites numbers continue to grow, these manoeuvres will also increase.
An Interesting Engineering interview with University of Regina astronomer Dr. Samantha Lawler suggested the increased potential for collisions in low Earth orbit could be catastrophic.
“SpaceX’s FCC report, filed on June 30, shows that the number of collision-avoidance maneuvers the company’s Starlink mega-constellation is having to perform is rising dramatically,” says Interesting Engineering.
“Between December 1, 2022, and May 21, 2023, Starlink’s broadband satellites were forced to change course more than 25,000 times. That’s roughly double the previous six-month period from June to November 2022. Overall, SpaceX’s satellites have had to perform these automated maneuvers 50,000 times. The worry, though, is that the number will continue to rise dramatically with SpaceX looking ahead to the deployment of its Starlink 2.0 satellites, and other companies like Amazon joining the fold with its Project Kuiper constellation.
“A report from Space.com points out that the number of avoidance-collision maneuvers appears to be doubling every six months. Hugh Lewis, a professor of astronautics at the University of Southampton in the UK, has run the numbers and he pointed out that, if current trends continue, Starlink satellites will have to perform roughly a million maneuvers every six months by 2028.
“The current trend is unlikely to change. According to Harvard astronomer and astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell’s website, Elon Musk’s space company currently has more than 4,000 Starlink satellites active in orbit. And that’s only the beginning for Starlink; the company also has partial FCC approval for its second-generation Starlink constellation, consisting of up to 30,000 more satellites.
“Astronomers are increasingly warning that the growing number of satellite mega-constellation could cause a collision in orbit, leading to the Kessler effect, also known as Kessler Syndrome. Kessler Syndrome describes a phenomenon whereby colliding satellites, or spacecraft, break up into many small pieces, further increasing the likelihood of more collisions in a dramatic snowball effect. According to NASA, there are more than 27,000 pieces of space debris in orbit. As satellites make Earth’s orbit more crowded, the chances of a collision occurring go up the more satellites are sent to orbit.
“Starlink and other similar satellite systems use a highly-efficient automated collision avoidance system. Though these systems have prevented any collisions from occurring to date, it is unclear whether they will be able to prevent a collision in an increasingly crowded orbit. Last year, astronomer Dr. Samantha Lawler told Interesting Engineering that we are already “right on the edge” of Kessler Syndrome. If it does happen, it would feel like we were “inside a snow globe within a couple of hours of sunrise or sunset.” What’s more, as space debris travels at about 15,700 mph (25,266 km/h) in LEO, any efforts to fix the problem would be akin to “collecting bullets.”
“Ultimately, if more stringent regulations aren’t put in place to help prevent the overcrowding of low Earth orbit, we may eventually live in a future where space debris is visible to the naked eye.
The problem will also likely continue to have a negative impact on astronomical observations. As NASA recently pointed out, the growing number of satellites in the night sky could impede its ability to “detect and possibly redirect a potentially catastrophic [asteroid] impact” with Earth,” says Interesting Engineering. For more information visit: www.interestingengineering.com (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)
19 Jul 23. Hyperspace Challenge Announces 2023 Program: Protecting Space Assets through Innovation, Sponsored by U.S. Space Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office.
U.S. Space Force accelerator Hyperspace Challenge announced today its 2023 program in partnership with the U.S. Space Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO). The 2023 cohort will convene researchers and companies with mature technologies to work with the U.S. Space Force to explore ways to make space assets, including satellites, more resilient to threats. The agency encourages companies from the traditional space and aerospace/defense industries, as well as from non-traditional industries such as automotive, manufacturing, and cybersecurity to apply. Potential participants should submit an initial interest form by August 15.
“Advancements in space are driving a paradigm shift on earth that have the potential to be socially and economically transformative,” noted Matthew Fetrow, Space RCO communications manager. “But the space assets enabling these advancements are increasingly at risk. We need to be able to protect these assets from growing threats, and we need to do it quickly.”
As concerns increase about threats to military, civil and even commercial satellites from deliberate actions such as physical attacks (which could create dangerous debris), signal jamming, or laser attacks that disable satellites, it has become more pressing to make sure that space is safe for everyone and that more advanced technologies are created to better maintain the security, stability, and long-term sustainability of space.
“In addition to companies already targeting the space market, we need to be partnering now with non-space companies and researchers who can think creatively about the technologies they already use in their own fields that could have wider-reaching applications in space,” Fetrow added. “This is not necessarily your typical space cohort: we are interested in companies with advanced technologies that may or may not be operating in the space industry at all now. We’ve already said the future of space includes everyone. That future is now.”
Specifically, the 2023 cohort will be exploring the application of their proposed technologies to make space assets both more resilient and responsive to threats. Space RCO is pursuing products that:
- Increase Space Visibility and Awareness using threat and hazard awareness capabilities that can quickly and accurately detect and prioritize threats either from the ground or space.
- Advance Space Analysis and Vehicle Autonomy using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or autonomous technologies that reduce ground-based vehicle operator workload, inform intelligent vehicle response decisions, and decrease vehicle response time.
- Increase Space Vehicle Lifespan and Maneuverability using advanced propulsion, refueling capabilities, and/or other fuel conservation innovations that allow space assets to maneuver freely without future negative consequences.
While companies may address each need individually, Space RCO is particularly interested in addressing the needs collaboratively in order to unlock new opportunities in space, enable safer and faster readiness and training activities, and even create new operating concepts.
As part of the program, participants will work directly and develop relationships with government officials from Space RCO.
Candidates that should apply include:
- Companies with technologies that could streamline the design, development, and deployment of solutions within the next few years;
- Companies in the traditional space or aerospace industries with technologies supportive but adjacent to their core business that could have a relevant application to the needs, including (but not limited to) those with sensor technologies, advanced computing solutions, propulsion systems, and refueling systems;
- Companies outside of the traditional space and aerospace industries with relevant technological solutions that are currently applied to other industries or sectors, including (but not limited to) those in automotive, cybersecurity, or manufacturing;
- Companies interested in learning the details behind government needs and building relationships with potential government partners.
Applications will open after a series of webinars in August. Companies interested in knowing more should submit an interest form at hyperspacechallenge.com to receive additional communications.
About Hyperspace Challenge
The Hyperspace Challenge was created in 2018 by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and CNM Ingenuity, an economic development arm of Central New Mexico Community College, to accelerate collaboration among startups, university research teams and the government, and shift space innovation into hyperdrive. The accelerator, which is now directed by CNM Ingenuity in conjunction with AFRL and the U.S. Space Force, cultivates networks in an innovation ecosystem prioritizing connection and community. To date, the accelerator has supported over 60 small businesses and universities from across the U.S. and abroad. More information about the university program can be found at hyperspacechallenge.com.
About Space Rapid Capabilities Office
The Space Rapid Capabilities Office is one of three U.S. Space Force acquisition organizations. Specializing in delivering first-of systems to fill quick-turn needs of the USSF, Space RCO executes programs to protect and defend national security interests from the growing scope and scale of space and counterspace threats. Space RCO is headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has offices in Washington DC as well as liaisons directly embedded with key U.S. Space Force and USSPACECOM offices in Colorado Springs. (Source: PR Newswire)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions 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.