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19 Oct 23. Space Force finalizes plan for commercial surge capacity during crisis. The Space Force has finalized a plan for harnessing commercial satellite capabilities in times of crisis through a Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve.
That strategy, approved in this month by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, outlines a framework for how the Space Force will scale up its use of commercial capabilities including satellite imagery and communications during a conflict to augment military systems.
“It’s an example of doing the planning and the expectation management before you actually need the capability,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said at an Oct. 18 event hosted by the Center for a New American Security. “So, pre-working the contract vehicles, pre-working . . . how would we get access to this rapidly if we needed to, so that when the crisis occurs, we don’t then start the contracting action, start the discussion.”
The service’s acquisition arm, Space Systems Command, announced last year it was making plans to create a Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve, or CASR. The team met with industry in February and created a task force soon after to work through legal, policy, contracting and programmatic concerns.
The resulting strategy, according to the head of the Commercial Space Office Col. Richard Kniseley, factors in those concerns as well as feedback from more than 60 companies. That partnership, he said during an Oct. 18 Space Industry Days conference, is key to ensuring the government and industry both understand the requirements and risks associated with leaning more heavily on commercial systems during conflict.
“The whole premise of CASR is that we know in a threat that the capacity requirements during crisis or conflict are expected to exceed peacetime, steady-state requirements,” he said. “We needed the ability to be able to be integrated, operated, wargamed and potentially prioritized depending on how expensive the battle is.”
The CASR strategy comes amid growing concern from some Pentagon officials and members of Congress about the role of commercial industry, and particularly Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in military space operations. Musk, who provided terminals to Ukraine to access his company’s Starlink communication satellites, has said he opted not to activate the capability in certain regions to prevent Ukraine from targeting key Russian assets due to escalation concerns.
The Space Force recently awarded SpaceX a $70 million contract to provide Starlink services and is heavily reliant on the company to launch military satellites.
Asked whether he’s concerned companies like SpaceX could make decisions that impede U.S. military operations, Saltzman emphasized that any Space Force contracts with commercial firms have detailed terms and requirements that are not subject to the whim of a CEO.
“We write contracts with SpaceX, not Elon Musk,” he said. “We do expectation management, we put those details in the contract and then we expect that they’ll follow through. And I have no reason to believe that they won’t.”
Companies who sign on to CASR will also be subject to contractual terms, and Kniseley explained that the strategy lays out a spectrum of services firms can provide to support scenarios ranging from day-to-day operations to a national war.
Under level one operations, firms would provide a minimum commitment of peacetime capabilities to the Defense Department. Level Two, which includes regional conflicts or a major crisis, would require a higher level of commercial services. In a level three wartime scenario, companies would be obligated to prioritize government needs over their other customers.
Kniseley noted that the Space Force is initially restricting CASR involvement to U.S.-owned companies, but is considering options for integrating international firms.
With the strategy approved, the Commercial Space Office is now working to finalize its concept of operations for CASR and craft a funding plan for the next few years. Kniseley said there may be some flexibility within the service’s fiscal 2024 and 2025 budgets to provide initial funding for the reserve, but the service plans to formalize its CASR spending plan in its FY26 budget request.
The CASR strategy is just one piece of the Space Force’s approach to engaging with commercial industry, both in peacetime and wartime.
The service has also been crafting a broader strategy meant to answer fundamental questions about which capabilities it wants to buy from industry, which it wants to own and how it will integrate commercial services and systems into its architecture and day-to-day operations.
A team led by Lt. Gen. Philip Garrant, deputy chief of space operations for strategy and programs, submitted an initial strategy for Saltzman’s approval earlier this fall, but the Space Force chief requested more detail.
“I didn’t think it provided the necessary specificity that would really help industry give us what we needed,” he said this week, adding that he’s hopeful the plan will be completed by the end of the year.
Saltzman said he wants the strategy to include more detail on things like software procurement mechanisms. He also wants it to address which capabilities and functions the Space Force wants to perform and where it prefers to buy commercial services.
“I just felt like it was important that we answered these questions first, so that when we say what we need to industry, we can say it with enough specificity that we can really get what we’re looking for,” he said. “I’m pushing them hard, because I know there’s a hunger for this.”
(Source: Defense News)
19 Oct 23. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully completed a Critical Design Review (CDR) for Relay Ground Station-Asia (RGS-A) for a contract with U.S. Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific on behalf of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command to support operation of legacy and future missile-warning satellites.
- The CDR confirms Northrop Grumman’s ability to transform the existing missile-warning system for a 2025 installation date, 18 months prior to the end of the contract.
- Northrop Grumman worked with L3 Harris Technologies (NYSE: LHX) to validate the designs during the CDR, which took place only four months after a successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR).The PDR was also completed early.
- The CDR included various subsystem designs, validation and verification plans and methodology, and final details of the system integration at the deployed location in Guam.
Calvin Pennamon, director, operational exploitation systems, Northrop Grumman: “Completing this CDR ahead of schedule showcases our commitment and ability to quickly respond to the NIWC Pacific’s pressing schedule requirements. We are on track to revolutionize current Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) missile-warning constellation infrastructure with a much-needed capability in the Pacific region.”
RGS-A is a critical component of the nation’s missile-warning system that will enable the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command to transform the existing missile-warning system with the Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) system.
A cornerstone of the FORGE architecture includes developing relay ground stations capable of supporting existing and new satellite constellations with the ability to handle changes in bandwidth and availability.
Northrop Grumman is a leading global aerospace and defense technology company. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with the capabilities they need to connect and protect the world, and push the boundaries of human exploration across the universe. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 98,000 employees define possible every day.
18 Oct 23. ‘Guardian Spirit’ Key to Space Force Success. The top officer overseeing the nation’s newest military service is tapping into the talents and drive among ranks to define the Space Force ethos and ensure its success for years to come.
Space Force Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the chief of space operations, said amplifying opportunities for Space Force guardians to shape the future of their service remains among his top lines of effort.
“There is this thing called the guardian spirit,” Saltzman said. “The people that join and the way they want to interact with the service, the way they want to interact with the military, the types of work they want to do — they come in with this innate feeling about how they want to contribute, and it’s all good.
“I just need to make sure we amplify that,” he said.
Doing so, Saltzman said, has given guardians the opportunity to shape their service from the ground up.
Last month, for example, the Space Force unveiled its revamped mission statement: Secure our nation’s interests in, from, and to space.
“I didn’t have to think of that,” Saltzman said. “The guardians in the field were the ones that really said, ‘this is what we think is important’.” And we kind of just put it together.”
He said other elements of the Space Force’s culture were the direct result of input from the ranks.
“The mission statement was largely crowd sourced,” he said. “The actual name that we call ourselves — guardians — was crowd sourced by guardians.”
The approach has also yielded other tangible successes, such as the rapid fielding of a smart phone application which serves as the go-to source for up-to-date information about the Space Force.
He said contracting out the project would have taken months and cost ms of dollars.
“A group of guardians said, ‘we can do this’,” he said. “So they had four super coders that are guardians that built this app and it took them six weeks.”
“That’s amplifying the guardian spirit,” he said. “Take what we know we can do and just let them do it.”
Salzman said his focus on leveraging that resident spirit is part of three overarching lines of effort guiding his approach as the Space Force’s top officer responsible for organizing, training and equipping the force.
He said he has remained keenly focused on fielding combat-ready forces to ensure the U.S. can lead in the space domain and deter conflict.
“That’s one of the reasons we stood up as the Space Force was to make sure that we will be ready to contest the domain to meet military objectives associated with our pacing threat,” he said. “Fielding combat-ready forces has been at the top of the list and almost everything we’ve tried to do.”
Salzman said he has also remained focused on building partnerships to ensure the U.S. and its allies stay in the lead.
Those lines of effort, he said, come down to preventing future conflicts.
“My main goal is to prevent war,” he said. “I daresay that is the Department of Defense’s goal.”
“It is continually attempting to deter,” he said. “It is continually attempting to put the right capabilities in the right place at the right time to stop any aggressive military action, to stop a crisis from turning into a conflict.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
19 Oct 23. Horizon Technologies is awarded £1.2m Grant from the UK Space Agency for the Amber™ Phoenix Mission. At an event at the Army-Navy Club in London on 11 October, Horizon Technologies announced a £1.2m grant awarded by the UK Space Agency. This grant is part of a £2.8 M total programme called the Amber™ Phoenix Mission. The Phoenix Mission will see another Amber™ RF (Radio Frequency) Earth Observation payload launched into orbit in mid-2024.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Tracking vessels attempting to avoid detection is a complex challenge, but one that Horizon Technologies can help solve with their ground-breaking technology. Our support for the newAmber™ Phoenix Mission will develop a new capability to improve space-based maritime intelligence data services and catalyst further investment into the growing UK space sector. “I’m looking forward to seeing Horizon Technologies launch many more satellites in the future.”
The UK government sponsor and initiator of the Amber™ programme is the Royal Navy via the Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC) in Portsmouth. Amber™ is a space-based data service and will play a key role in detecting “dark vessels” such as those evading sanctions against Russia, Iran, etc., illegal fishing, smuggling (people and goods), transshipments, and refugees.
Unlike other Earth Observations constellations, Amber™ is very unique. Horizon’s Amber™ payload detects, geolocates, and demodulates maritime RF (Radars and SatPhones) signals from “dark vessels.” Amber™ is amaritime intelligence data service and is unique in the marketplace. Amber™ is “always on,” and every Amber™ satellite/payload continuously covers about 3% of the world’s surface at all times. Amber™ satellites/payloads are not “tasked,” and act essentially as “space-based RF signal vacuum cleaners,” constantly picking up emitters over about 3% of the earth’s surface at all times. In addition, because Amber™ demodulates the RF data, the data is not merely “radio frequency mapping” as offered by others.
The Amber™ Phoenix Mission satellite is to be the first of a proposed constellation of over twenty (20) Amber™ payloads in orbit to provide worldwide RF data to the JMSC and other customers with 30-minute latency. Some Amber™ payloads will also be integrated and deployed on EO and SAR satellite constellations to provide tip and cue capabilities to end users.
According to Horizon Technologies CEO John Beckner, “the ability to proliferate Amber™ payloads into other constellations will (1) give us lots of extra “Looks Per Day” (LPD) around the planet resulting in more revenue for Horizon and our partners, and even better, (2) will make tipping and cueing (whereby one satellite geolocates a target of interest, and a follow-on satellite images that target [EO or SAR]) a reality, and is sure to be market disruptive.”
Previously, Horizon Technologies’ original Amber™ payload was on one of eight (8) small satellites lost on the Virgin Orbit failed launch of 9 January 2023 where Virgin Orbit’s Launcher One failed to reach the proper orbit. This was part of the Satellite Applications Catapult IOD-3 Programme for which Horizon Technologies was competitively selected in 2019. Ms. Lucy Edge, COO of the Satellite Applications Catapult stated, “it’s been a pleasure for the Catapult to support Horizon Technologies’ transition into the space sector. After the January launch setback, the Horizon team has worked tirelessly for its follow-on mission – we wish them and Phoenix a successful venture.”
Horizon Technologies’ CEO JohnBeckner stated, “Certainly, the bleak events of the evening of 9 January will not be forgotten anytime soon, but as soon as the mission failed, the whole Horizon team immediately came together to develop a plan to save Amber™ since it is a key sovereign UK technology. As one of the few UK SME’s on the Virgin Orbit launch, we received immediate guidance from the UK Space Agency team for which we are extremely grateful. Without the generous support of the UK Space Agency, we would have had to shut down this
businesssegment.” The Amber™ Programme is a leading example of why UK investment, and public/private partnerships like this, make the UK a world leader in Space.
18 Oct 23. Three pioneering German NewSpace companies, Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), Yuri, and ATMOS Space Cargo (ATMOS) announced their new partnership and launch of their joint end-to-end service for microgravity life science research and product development at this year’s edition of Weltraumkongress in Berlin, Germany.
This holistic solution represents an unprecedented and flexible alternative to the ISS laboratory and initiates a new generation for microgravity research and thus advancement in biotech, life science, and product development worldwide.
THREE NewSpace experts – ONE microgravity service
In this consortium, Rocket Factory Augsburg is responsible for the entire launch service, including the launch system, infrastructure, outbound logistics, and the operational launch campaign. RFA will be delivering ATMOS Space Cargo’s Phoenix capsule with Yuri’s ScienceTaxi to the precise target orbit in a flexible and low-cost manner. The company will be responsible for the integration of the Phoenix space capsule onto its RFA ONE launch system while providing late access to the payload.
The launch campaigns are to be carried out from SaxaVord Spaceport (previously known as Shetland Space Center) on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, UK.
Yuri operates the ScienceTaxi, which will be integrated into the Phoenix capsule by ATMOS Space Cargo. With its groundbreaking life science incubator and bioreactor solutions, Yuri will be responsible for the execution of biotech research and manufacturing in space.
ATMOS Space Cargo is responsible for the re-entry logistics and operating the return mission of the Phoenix return capsule which will be carrying Yuri’s ScienceTaxi. ATMOS will supervise and execute the safe return from low Earth orbit (LEO) to the Azores and carry out the early retrieval of the capsule after landing as well as the recovery mission to the final location.
– Jörn Spurmann, CCO at Rocket Factory Augsburg: “With “Eva” we will set up a unique global service that will allow breakthrough insights in BioTech and product development. Customers receive a complete solution from three experts in their respective fields, allowing them to focus on their core business. We are also particularly proud to be able to fully map the value chain with our partners in Germany. This is a great sign of German NewSpace Industry capability.”
– Maria Birlem, Co-CEO at Yuri: “In this new era of space exploration and commercialization, Europe and Germany must not only witness, but actively shape the future. With the combined strengths of Rocket Factory Augsburg, ATMOS Space Cargo, and Yuri, we’re not just aiming to level the playing field with the USA; we’re setting our sights on pioneering new frontiers in LEO commercialization. It’s high time Europe takes its rightful place at the forefront of space innovation.”
– Christian Grimm, Lead Systems Engineer and Co-Founder of ATMOS Space Cargo: “We are excited to establish the first full end-to-end service for biotech research in microgravity and thus creating new possibilities to utilize space for in-orbit product development. With our partners at Yuri and at the Rocket Factory Augsburg, we will boost the German NewSpace industry to the forefront of Europe’s expertise in space. This will mark the turning point for affordable in-orbit science and a possible role model for the commercialization of space – launch, return, repeat!”
18 Oct 23. The UK Space Agency is Unlocking Space for Business.
The UK Space Agency has launched a new programme to help businesses unlock the benefits of satellite data and services.
The UK Space Agency Unlocking Space for Business programme logo with the London city skyline in the background.
Global satellite services currently support activity that contributes £370 bn to the UK economy, which is around 17.7% of our GDP. As the cost of accessing space continues to fall and the pace of innovation increases, a greater number of businesses now have the opportunity to harness the advantages offered by satellites through enhanced imagery, connectivity and navigation capabilities.
Unlocking Space for Business is an 18-month programme designed to bring these untapped benefits to hundreds of new organisations across the UK, focused on the leading transport and logistics and financial services sectors.
Opportunity areas can include using satellite imagery to improve the measurement of climate variables and verification of customer insurance claims after extreme weather events, satellite position and navigation to support location tracking and enabling the movement of people and satellite connectivity to help crew and passengers keep in touch with operators and families on shore.
Unlocking Space for Business will provide workshops, networking events, learning and development sessions, and online resources to support companies in their understanding of what satellite data and services can mean for them as well as offering the opportunity to bid for a share of up to £6 m UK Space Agency funding later this year to help launch innovative pilot projects, data procurement or partnerships.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
Unlocking Space for Business will champion the use of space and help tackle barriers facing organisations that have not traditionally used satellite data or services. This will help catalyse further investment into our growing space sector and deliver greater benefits for businesses, people, and the environment.
This is just one of the ways we’re working to deliver the goal set out in the National Space Strategy to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, developing new skills and creating jobs.
Satellite data and services have the ability to unlock and deliver new revenue growth opportunities, operational efficiencies, improved customer experiences and ESG benefits for organisations.
Unlocking Space for Business will connect leading data suppliers, technology integrators, insight providers and end-users to encourage the development and adoption of innovative solutions using satellite data and services.
Delivery of the project is being supported by PwC, a leader in human-led, tech powered business transformation, and the Satellite Applications Catapult, a leader in bringing space-based services to market.
Faye Melly, Delivery Partner at PwC, said: “Businesses today face significant challenges which demand innovative solutions. The to-do list can range from driving operational efficiencies and strengthening customer experience, through to taking action to drive towards Net Zero. In all of these areas space can play a pivotal role. Unlocking Space for Business gives UK firms the opportunity to realise the benefits of satellite data and services, and we’re proud and excited to be supporting the delivery of this programme for the UK Space Agency, in partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult.”
Organisations can register their interest to get involved with the project and keep up to date with planned activities including Insight and Networking Events, Exploration Workshops and learning and development sessions ahead of the funding call opening later in the year.
Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer and Acting CEO at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said:
We’re excited to launch Unlocking Space for Business today. By bringing together key players in the satellite industry, integrators and end users, we’ll make it easier for businesses to access the business-critical data they did not even know was available to them. We’ll also connect companies with government funding sources to test out pilot projects using satellite tech.
Satellite services drive innovation in all businesses and will boost the bottom line. By building up these partnerships and support systems, we aim to accelerate the adoption of satellite solutions across the private sector.
Unlocking Space for Business is part of the UK Space Agency’s Inspiration Programme, directly delivering the National Space Strategy (NSS) goal to use space to deliver for UK citizens and the world by increasing public awareness of the critical role space-based assets play in our daily lives, emphasising how they can be leveraged to enable business benefits such as improving public services and combating challenges such as the climate emergency.
Find out more on the Unlocking Space for Business website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/unlocking-space-for-business (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Oct 23. Satcom Direct reveals new plans for Viasat’s Jet ConneX inflight broadband service. Satcom Direct, the business aviation solutions provider, has unveiled an expanded range of service plans for Viasat’s Jet ConneX inflight broadband service. The new service plans will be made exclusively available to Satcom Direct operators, equipping their aircraft with the SD Plane Simple® Ka-band tail mount terminal. The option includes the first-ever ‘Power by the Hour’ option for Jet ConneX, enabling business jet operators to pay an hourly rate for inflight connectivity.
Delivering greater flexibility and providing even more choice, the new service plans offer streamlined global connectivity for more aircraft owners worldwide, with compact hardware that requires minimally invasive installation.
The terminal, which is purpose-built for business aviation, consists of only two line-replaceable units (LRUs) – a tail mount antenna with a reduced footprint and the SD Modem Unit, which sits in the unpressurized part of the fuselage, saving valuable cabin space. In combination with the new service plans, including the Power by the Hour options, SD and Viasat are making more powerful Ka-band connectivity available for more aircraft sizes than ever before. High-speed data transfer for teleconferencing, HD video streaming and multiple digital applications for high volumes of users travelling on mid to large-size jets will be the norm for owners and operators.
SD President Chris Moore says, “Our goal is to ensure our business aviation customers can benefit from consistent, reliable service. Our Plane Simple Ka-band technology, combined with the new plans and our industry-leading customer support, adds further value to our offering. Customers require flexibility and consistency, and together with Viasat, we are committed to delivering a superior service that aligns with diverse operational budgets and individual customer demands.”
In addition to the new service plans, Satcom Direct and Viasat have confirmed that the SD Plane Simple Ka-band terminal will connect immediately with the GX satellite constellation, launched by Viasat’s recently acquired Inmarsat business and be upgradable to Viasat’s full Ka-band network, including the ViaSat-3 satellites and next generation GX satellites as they come online. This will enhance the long-term return on investment for operators adopting the next-generation terminal and ensure aircraft are future-proofed to stay aligned with evolving connectivity technologies.
Kai Tang, Head of Business Aviation, Viasat, adds, “Our continued joint innovation with Satcom Direct delivers seamless, global connectivity solutions that meet and exceed customer expectations. With the strength of our next-generation satellite network and the advanced hardware technology of our partner, we can continue to provide exceptional connectivity experiences for business aviation passengers.”
The new service plans will enter commercial service once flight testing of the SD Plane Simple Ka-band terminal is finalized and required regulatory certification is confirmed, which is anticipated to be granted in early 2024.
08 Oct 23. The launch of Arianespace Flight VV23 is a smallsat deployment success. The Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana. Photo is courtesy of Arianespace. After liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport, the Vega launcher was powered by the first three stages for a little over six minutes before the separation of the upper stage from the third stage, ZEFIRO-9.
The AVUM upper stage ignited twice before releasing simultaneously the two main satellites at an altitude of 601 km. Following two other ignitions of the AVUM, the ten cubesats composing the auxiliary payload all successfully separated, thus marking the end of mission VV23, one hour, 43 minutes and 58 seconds after liftoff. A fifth and last AVUM ignition de-orbited the launcher.
With this launch, Vega successfully orbited: THEOS-2 (THailand Earth Observation System-2), a very-high-resolution Earth observation optical satellite, provided by Airbus Defence and Space to support the Kingdom of Thailand’s key development priorities.
FORMOSAT-7R/TRITON, an experimental satellite designed and manufactured by TASA (Taiwan Space Agency). FORMOSAT-7R/TRITON plays two roles: it is both a weather satellite and a scientific satellite.
Arianespace is responsible for operating the new-generation Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers, developed by ESA, with respectively ArianeGroup and Avio as industrial primes. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore.
Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the Ariane and Vega European launcher industry, and ESA and CNES as censors.
Regarding the cubesats for institutional missions and the European Commission, all separation commands were properly executed; the confirmation of the separation was acquired for 8 satellites; the separation of the last 2 cubesats is still to be confirmed. As prime contractor for the Vega, in charge of development and production, AVIO Spa (Colleferro, Italy) delivers a flight worthy launcher on the launch pad to Arianespace, which sells and operates the launcher from the Guiana Space Center (CSG). During the launch campaigns, Arianespace works closely with CNES, the French space agency and the launch range authority at the European Spaceport in Kourou, who is notably looking after the satellite preparation facilities.
”Congratulations to Arianespace teams and their partners, amongst them Avio, ESA and CNES, for this successful Vega launch, commented , after the separation of the last satellite. By delivering multiple satellites to orbit, Vega again has demonstrated its unique versatility. I wish to thank our customers, Airbus Defence and Space for Thailand, Taiwan Space Agency, and the operators and sponsors of the cubesats, amongst them the European Commission, for their trust.” — Stéphane Israël, CEO, Arianespace
”We are very happy about the success of the mission, said . (Source: Satnews)
09 Oct 23. Philippines to use Canadian satellites to counter Chinese ‘dark’ tactics in territorial waters. In the volatile arena of the South China Sea, tensions between the Philippines and China continue to escalate, with recent developments indicating a growing concern for maritime security in the region.
The Philippines has announced a strategic move to enhance its ability to monitor and respond to Chinese vessels employing the controversial tactic of “going dark” in its territorial waters.
Ottawa’s Ambassador to Manila, David Hartman, unveiled this initiative during a press briefing aboard HMS Vancouver, a Canadian warship, on a friendly visit to the archipelago.
The Challenge of Tracking ‘Dark’ Vessels and Their Covert Tactics
Ambassador Hartman told reporters the crucial role Canadian satellites will play in detecting and tracking vessels that switch off their Automatic Information System (AIS) transponders to evade detection.
AIS is a globally recognized signaling system mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for identifying a vessel’s type, position, course, speed, and other navigation safety information.
The act of “going dark” refers to the practice of disabling these transponders to operate covertly, a tactic frequently employed by Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels.
Safeguarding Philippine Interests Amidst Escalating Tensions
This initiative marks a significant step forward for the Philippines in safeguarding its territorial waters and fisheries.
Don McLain Gill, a Manila-based geopolitical analyst, underscored the importance of this cooperation, explaining to EurAsian Times how “[s]uch forms of cooperation benefit the Philippines given its interest in improving its ability to track and trace vessels that indulge in illegal fishing within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).”
Gill said that this proactive approach will allow the country to manage its precious marine resources more efficiently, ensuring their sustainable use for future generations, as well as safeguarding the interests of Filipino fishermen, who depend on these waters for their livelihoods.
The Enigma of China’s Coast Guard Ships
The recent escalation in tensions was exemplified by a standoff involving a small Philippine resupply vessel and six China Coast Guard ships. During this incident, only one of the Chinese ships had its AIS active throughout the engagement, while two others intermittently transmitted AIS signals. Three Chinese Coast Guard ships remained in “dark” mode throughout the confrontation, highlighting the deliberate use of this tactic to maintain the element of surprise.Read Next: Shangri-La Sh owdown: Austin Says China Undermines Security in Indo-Pacific, Beijing Fires Back
One vessel, in particular, stood out – the shadowy China Coast Guard ship numbered 5201, notorious for seldom activating its AIS transmitter. Even when it did, it typically utilized a counterfeit identification number (412000008) shared by numerous other Chinese vessels.
Analysts argued that the absence of adverse weather conditions during such incidents dispelled any claims that extreme weather hindered AIS transmission.
Tactics and Strategies in the South China Sea
The utilization of AIS transponder manipulation is not an isolated event; it has been recurrently observed during incidents involving the Second Thomas Shoal (also known as Ayungin Shoal) resupply missions and provocations against the Philippine Coast Guard.
On February 6, 2023, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel harassed a Philippine Coast Guard ship using a bright green laser, or “dazzler.” Such tactics are indicative of China’s assertive posture in disputed waters.
China has demonstrated its readiness to both disable and enable AIS transponders as a means of asserting its jurisdiction. For instance, in the oil and gas fields off Vietnam’s southeastern coast, the Chinese Coast Guard frequently toggles their transmitters while patrolling near Vanguard Bank.
International Response to South China Sea Tensions
This strategic maneuver by the Philippines to enlist Canadian satellite assistance is part of a broader international response to Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.
Canada recalibrated its Indo-Pacific strategy last month, aligning itself with the Philippines to counter these aggressive postures.
A Canadian Halifax-class frigate is presently stationed in the Philippines, participating in the archipelago’s annual maritime drills with the US, aptly named “Sama-Sama” (All Together), which began on October 2 and will continue until October 13 in southern Luzon.
In addition to Canada, like-minded nations such as Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom have joined the maritime drills, with New Zealand and Indonesia observing the exercises. This international participation underscores the significance of the South China Sea issue on the global stage.
Persistent Territorial Disputes and China’s Expanding Claims
The confrontations between the Philippine and Chinese coast guards in the South China Sea have persisted, with both nations asserting their territorial claims.
Recent incidents include the removal of a Chinese-installed floating barrier near the disputed Scarborough Shoal by Filipino forces. This shoal falls within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile EEZ as defined by international maritime law, a ruling affirmed by The Hague’s International Court of Arbitration.
Canada’s joint patrol with the Philippines in the South China Sea in September demonstrated the commitment of both nations to assert their rights in the region.
Despite a 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines, China continues to assert claims and undertake military and economic activities in the region. This includes the construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea housing military bases with ports and air bases.
A Ten-Dash Line and Ongoing Maritime Concerns
China’s expansive territorial claims, notably its “nine-dash line,” have extended to a “ten-dash line,” further escalating tensions in the South China Sea.
The presence of People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia and China Coast Guard vessels shadowing or harassing Philippine vessels remains a persistent concern. (Source: Satnews)
13 Oct 23. Success on Friday the 13th for SpaceX Starlinks satellite launch. On Friday, October 13 at 7:01 p.m. ET, Falcon 9 launched 22 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
This was the 14th flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched CRS-22, Crew-3, Turksat 5B, Crew-4, CRS-25, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13G, mPOWER-a, PSN SATRIA, and now six Starlink missions. SpaceX is targeting Friday, October 13 at 7:01 p.m. ET for a Falcon 9 launch of 22 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. If needed, five backup opportunities are available starting at 7:51 p.m. ET until 10:29 p.m. ET. Five backup opportunities are also currently available on Saturday, October 14 starting at 6:36 p.m. ET until 9:51 p.m. ET.
A live webcast of this mission will begin on X @SpaceX about five minutes prior to liftoff.
This is the 14th flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched CRS-22, Crew-3, Turksat 5B, Crew-4, CRS-25, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13G, mPOWER-a, PSN SATRIA, and five Starlink missions. Following stage separation, the first stage will land on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. (Source: Satnews)
09 Oct 23. SatVu’s first First Light imagery from revolutionary thermal imaging satellite. SatVu, the British climate tech company recently announced a significant achievement in space technology, releasing the First Light imagery from its revolutionary thermal imaging satellite, HOTSAT-1, at the same time as announcing their move into commercial operations. This milestone is a major step in Earth observation and climate monitoring.
HOTSAT-1, named in homage to its cutting-edge thermal imaging capabilities, was launched into orbit in June aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
SatVu is now releasing their First Light imagery and video beginning a new era of data collection and analysis.
This represents a significant stride forward in SatVu’s mission to leverage space technology for climate and environmental insights as they launch commercial operations. As the first satellite in the planned constellation, HOTSAT-1 will provide invaluable and unique data enabling transformation in economic activities and energy efficiency, aligning seamlessly with global Net Zero goals and SDGs.
Thermal datasets at an accuracy, frequency and resolution that the world has never seen before
HotSat-1 Launch & Separation
HOTSAT-1’s initial images provide unique insights and new data layers across various geographical locations.
- In Canada – the imagery reveals active fire fronts (in this case, as at July 28th, 2023) vividly depicted in orange, enabling emergency responders organizations to predict speed of progression and potential paths of impact.
- The smoky aftermath, portrayed in a light blue hue, showcases the scorched terrain left in the fires’ devastating wake.
- Unlike previous images typically collected by current satellites, SatVu’s imagery uniquely uses high resolution thermal infrared wavelengths.
- This distinct perspective unveils a much higher resolution view of the area unobscured by smoke, which is impenetrable at visible wavelengths. This coupled with insight into course and speed derived from the video captured, means that firefighters can better manage the fire front safely by identifying and extinguishing small hidden fires. Moreover, the fact that SatVu’s images can also be captured during the night underscores the unprecedented potential of high resolution thermal infrared satellites as indispensable tools for global fire fighting activities.
- This visual account not only highlights the gravity of the situation but also serves as a catalyst for broader discussions on climate change, disaster response, and the urgent need for advanced monitoring technologies.
- In Chicago – images were captured with the potential to monitor rail logistics.
- The technology discerns locomotive thermal signatures and train speeds, offering crucial data for transportation and logistics optimization.
- This independent verification of data is key when monitoring net zero targets and optimization offers both energy and cost-saving value to customers.
- In Las Vegas – the high-resolution observations shed light on urban heat islands.
- This imagery delivers unprecedented access to heat island insights within local environmental planning.
- This information is invaluable as heat stress is having a catastrophic impact on populations globally and the urban heat island effect means we are currently wasting energy on excess cooling.
- In Cushing – the imagery highlights the benefits of industrial activity monitoring.
- This illustrates how SatVu’s technology can be used to monitor oil storage facilities and pipelines.
- This data will become invaluable for energy-related decision-making, providing unique insights on the operating capacity of facilities and offering the ability to ensure industrial regulations are being adhered to.
Anthony Baker, CEO and Co-founder, SatVu stated, “As we receive the First Light imagery from HOTSAT-1, we are thrilled to announce the transition of our thermal imaging satellite into commercial operation. This milestone not only reflects the dedication and hard work of our entire team but also underscores our commitment to using advanced technology for the betterment of our planet. HOTSAT-1’s ability to capture valuable thermal imagery with applications ranging from logistics optimization to environmental planning and energy-related decision-making is truly groundbreaking. With this achievement, we move forward with renewed determination, working towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient future, where space technology plays a pivotal role in shaping our world for the better.”
To date, SatVu has secured a total of £30.5m ($37.9m) in Venture Capital funding. With the satellite transitioning into its operational phase, SatVu’s focus has now shifted to converting Early Access Program customers into revenue bookings, bringing novel datasets to market, and building a scalable organizational structure.
With the successful launch and start of commercial service complete, SatVu anticipates embarking on a Series B fundraising round in Q1 2024 to propel the growth of their satellite constellation, enabling high-frequency thermal monitoring at scale.
Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate commented, “Congratulations to SatVu. The successful receipt of First Light imagery from their thermal imaging satellite, HOTSAT-1, marks a milestone in the evolution of Earth observation and climate monitoring.
“This achievement highlights the remarkable capabilities of UK space technology and demonstrates the pivotal role that innovation can play in addressing global challenges. HOTSAT-1’s ability to provide actionable data across sectors will empower organizations with a clearer picture of our energy impact, so they can make better and more effective, climate-conscious choices to benefit both our planet and its people.”
These initial images demonstrate the incredible potential of HOTSAT-1 to provide detailed and actionable information across a range of critical industries. SatVu is eager to continue this journey of discovery and innovation as they work towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient future. (Source: Satnews)
10 Oct 23. AstroAgency secures space expertise as UK economic growth is targeted. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a governmental economic development agency that is focused on supporting a region of the UK with four developing spaceports and wider space cluster activity, has engaged Scottish headquartered, commercial space industry experts, AstroAgency, to provide specialist advice.
Having worked with close to 60 space clients worldwide, including private innovators across satellite manufacture, launch and data science, as well as several government projects across the UK, Australia, Switzerland and the Middle East, AstroAgency were selected following a competitive tender process that was recently concluded. The company responded to the opportunity with the support of several specialist subcontractors, any of which can be brought in to tackle projects set by HIE, depending on the skillset and scope of work requested, across the duration of the framework agreement.
AstroAgency’s combination of space industry experience, sector-specific knowledge and business guidance services, together with the firm’s strategic approach to communications and outreach, is expected to be of huge value to a global industry that continues to flourish and attract investment in spite of continuing geopolitical unrest.
The news comes as a further boost to Scotland’s growing space industry, with the Highlands and Islands home to Shetland-based SaxaVord Spaceport, Sutherland Spaceport, Machrihanish Spaceport in Argyll and sub-orbital focused Spaceport 1 in North Uist. The developing North Coast space cluster is already home to companies such as Orbex, an orbital launch vehicle developer that has already created around 100 skilled jobs in Moray and will build and operate Sutherland Spaceport. The region has also attracted interest from some of the biggest names in the smallsat launch market, including UK based Skyrora, German rocket firms HyImpulse and Rocket Factory Augsburg, as well as ABL Space Systems from the United States.
The UK Government has posted online a guide to UK Spaceports, available at this direct infolink…
Earlier this year, despite operational challenges caused by the invasion of Ukraine, AstroAgency announced the onboarding of new clients that included Glasgow-based Spire Space Services, a publicly-listed company that has built and launched more than 160 satellites. The space-focused promotions and intelligence agency also increased its scope of work with leading global space and satellite market intelligence firm, Euroconsult, component manufacturer Alpha Data and space situational awareness company Spaceflux, as well as signing new contracts to support ground station providers Leaf Space, Manchester University spin-out SmartIR and EOLAS, a company using data from satellites as part of their solution to identify and monitor animal groups for conservation purposes.
On the government side, AstroAgency has added new government communications contracts with the UK Space Agency’s space sustainability team and the Swiss Business Hub, part of the Embassy of Switzerland in London. Last mont,h the firm announced its leadership of a new UK Space Agency International Bilateral Fund project, matching UK Earth Observation capabilities with opportunities in the Middle East in partnership with the National Space Science Agency of Bahrain and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, home of the UAE Space program.
The Scottish Space Strategy has targeted a £4 bn share of a global market that continues to grow, with satellite-sourced data in high demand due to its role in supporting environmental protection efforts and a wide variety of business sectors, through services that include geolocation and EO. The Scottish and wider UK space sector have placed strong emphasis on a sustainable approach to space activity, with the world’s first space sustainability roadmap being produced earlier this year by AstroAgency and Optimat to support the efforts of Space Scotland’s Environmental Task Force.
The collaboration between Highlands and Islands Enterprise and AstroAgency is set to run for an initial two-year period. (Source: Satnews)
11 Oct 23. 4 Geo satellites have problems. Avanti Communications and YahSat have issues with their orbiting satellites. There are also reports that two so-called Space Tugs are also suffering problems.
The insurance industry, already reeling from problems on a Viasat satellite and a major claim on an Inmarsat craft, are expecting significant claims to be made.
The problems are reportedly based on power modules which drive the plasma thrusters which maintain a satellite on its correct orbital position. Space News says the affected satellites are Avanti’s Hylas 4 and YahSat’s Al Yah 3.
Engineers have lowered the output from the Power Processing Units (PPU) which seems to have eased the problems on the units which have not already failed.
The two Space Tugs, Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicles MEV-1 and MEV-2 are also operating on reduced power output from their remaining PPU units.
The PPUs were reportedly supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company is now owned by L3Harris.
The satellites were built at Northrop Grumman’s facility between 2018-2020.
Hylas 4 was launched in April 2018. YahSat’s Al Yah 3 was launched in May 2018. Both would have been expected to have a lifetime expectancy of at least 15 years. That lifetime could be impacted, hence the insurance dilemma. (Source: Satnews)
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