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02 Nov 23. iDirect Government Debuts REVOLUTION 450mp Multi-Waveform, Multi-Orbit SDR Modem with Enhanced Security, Resiliency and Mobility.
- New Evolution Defense 4.6 Platform Supports Modular, Next-Generation Satellite Modem for Secure MILSATCOM Applications
iDirect Government (iDirectGov), a leading provider of satellite communications to the United States military and government, today unveiled its REVOLUTION 450mp (man portable) software defined radio (SDR) modem that extends satellite communications orbit and waveform choices for the warfighter regardless of location.
The 450mp is the first 4-Series SDR, introduced with the new Evolution Defense 4.6 software. The Evolution Defense 4.6 platform incorporates improved security, including flexible key exchange for crypto-agility, strengthened transmission security (TRANSEC) and augmented Communication Signal Interference Removal™ (CSIR) technology.
With the 450mp SDR, the Department of Defense (DOD) has options for satellite orbits and waveforms for its mission-critical operations, including secure satellite communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
Featuring a small footprint with an overall 30% reduction in overall size, weight and power (SWaP), the 450mp SDR supports multiple orbits–geostationary, highly Elliptical orbit, medium-Earth orbit and low-Earth orbit–and a variety of waveforms all on one modem. The high-performance and secure satellite modem expands resiliency for users at the tactical edge and provides flexibility for ever-evolving missions.
The man portable modem allows operators to build and run multi-orbital communications networks that can stand up to cyber and electronic warfare threats. The 4-Series SDR modem is designed to meet government standards, namely the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 and Wideband Global SATCOM.
“The REVOLUTION 450mp SDR focuses on security, resiliency and mobility—the crucial foundations of iDirectGov’s Defense platform,” said Tim Winter, president of iDirect Government. “Additionally, Evolution Defense 4.6 delivers enhanced communications, protection, performance, and efficiency in support of the company’s defense and government customers whenever and wherever they need effective satellite communications. Formidable together, the 450mp and Evolution Defense 4.6 will bring resiliency and flexibility improvements to mission-critical communications at the tactical edge.”
Since its beginnings in 2007, iDirectGov has supported the DOD and other agencies, solving their communications challenges with effective and exceptional delivery. (Source: ASD Network)
02 Nov 23. US Senate passes bill for space junk removal program. The US Senate has passed a bill that would direct NASA to create a special program to reduce the amount of space junk in orbit.
A statement by the Senate committee on commerce, whose chair, Senator Maria Cantwell, put the bill forward, even cited the Indian rocket that crashed in Western Australia as a reason for its proposal.
Should it one day become law, it would direct NASA to fly a demonstrator mission to remove debris and create “competitive awards” to encourage more research.
It’s the second time the Senate has passed the ORBITS Act, but it can only come into effect if taken up by the House of Representatives.
“Nearly 1 million pieces of space junk pass over our heads every day,” Senator Cantwell said. “The ORBITS Act will jumpstart the technology development needed to remove the most dangerous space junk before it knocks out a scientific satellite, threatens a NASA mission, or falls to the ground and hurts someone.”
The Senate committee on commerce cited statistics that claim there are 8,000 metric tonnes of space junk currently in orbit, including at least 900,000 individual pieces of debris that are potentially lethal to satellites.
“Because of the magnitude of the current debris, simply preventing more debris in the future is not enough,” it said in a statement.
“Every year, there are cases of space junk falling to Earth. A car-sized object landed in Australia over the summer. In Washington state, a large piece of space junk crashed into a farmer’s property in March 2021. Washington state companies, including Seattle-based satellite servicer Starfish Space, have advocated for the acceleration of space debris removal efforts.
“Other companies in Washington state, like SpaceX, Amazon’s Kuiper Systems and Stoke Space Technologies, are also looking for new ways to reduce debris from accumulating in space in the first place or have been threatened by debris.”
The bill would also direct the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC) to publish a list of debris that poses the greatest risk to orbiting spacecraft.
It follows the ASA confirming in July that the mysterious object that washed up on a Western Australia beach was “most likely” part of an Indian rocket.
The space agency said it was an expended third stage of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), as many had speculated.
It comes after the bizarre structure was found at Green Head, 250 kilometres north of Perth, on 16 July.
Subsequent reports then suggested the cylinder could be a fuel tank of a PSLV that India uses to launch satellites.
The ASA’s conclusions vindicate the views of the head of India’s space agency, S Somanath, who quickly took responsibility for the cylinder. (Source: Space Connect)
31 Oct 23. Europe’s space agency boss sees progress on Ariane 6 launcher. Europe’s top space official said on Tuesday there was “light at the end of tunnel” in efforts to bring the delayed Ariane 6 to the launchpad and restore Europe’s independent access to space.
Europe’s new heavyweight launch vehicle has been delayed by technical glitches, leaving the continent relying on Elon Musk’s SpaceX for some launches until some time in 2024.
Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), said a more precise 2024 launch period would be defined following a delayed long-duration firing test due on Nov. 23.
“I think it is fair to say we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We are hopeful that we are on a good path for the first flight,” Aschbacher told the AJPAE French aerospace media association.
Aschbacher was speaking as attention turns to the next phase of funding for the new launcher ahead of a meeting of European space ministers to be held in Seville, Spain, on Nov. 6-7.
The ESA’s 22 nations have agreed funds for an inaugural test flight and 14 operational missions. Now, they are seeking an accord on the next phase of “stabilised” operations, covering flights 16 to 42.
Aschbacher declined to comment on the state of negotiations ahead of the Seville “Space Summit”, which is also due to address climate change and Europe’s ambitions in space exploration.
People familiar with the matter said there had been progress in narrowing differences between the three largest launch nations – France, Germany and Italy – in recent days, but that any funding round would depend on agreement of smaller nations.
The previous generation of rocket for heavy payloads, Ariane 5, was retired in July. The smaller Vega C has been grounded since Dec. 22 after a failed launch.
Europe’s third traditional path to space, the Russian Soyuz programme, was interrupted last year amid the breakdown in East-West relations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Those developments have left Europe scrambling to close the gap in launch capability as space increasingly becomes an arena for economic and strategic competition.
“We are in a launcher crisis … This is something that is highly critical for Europe,” Aschbacher said.
A task force comprising the heads of ArianeGroup – the Airbus/Safran (AIR.PA)(SAF.PA) joint-venture responsible for building Ariane 6 – operator Arianespace, French space agency CNES – which runs the launchpad – and the ESA meets every 10-14 days.
Aschbacher also highlighted efforts to give Europe a greater presence in exploration as India and China make new strides.
A group of experts including former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged the ESA this year to increase its autonomy in human and robotic space exploration. Europe currently relies on the United States, and until recently Russia, to carry astronauts.
But such plans have come up against budget constraints and competing priorities amid war in Ukraine and now the Middle East.
People familiar with the matter said that in the absence of new funds ministers meeting in Spain next week could kickstart a project to create a reusable cargo vehicle.
Such a move could benefit from a relatively modest seed funding in an attempt to kickstart private investment.
But in Europe’s system of horse-trading for space funding, any agreement on exploration is likely to depend on progress on the critical issue of Ariane 6 funding, the people said. (Source: Reuters)
31 Oct 23. US Space Force announces first non-domestic cooperative deal with Indian start-ups. The US Space Force has announced its first non-domestic Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with two Indian start-ups, 3rd ITECH and 114AI.
The historic agreement will involve artificial intelligence firm 114AI, which builds dual-use software for domain awareness, and India’s sole image sensor company 3rd ITECH, working in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate to develop Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting with many companies and universities while in India and am consistently impressed by the talent of the country’s engineers and scientists, and eagerness to collaborate with our Space Force,” according to Merrick Garb, Pentagon Headquarters Space Force Global Partnerships Directorate commercial, civil and interagency partnerships branch chief.
“It is exciting when mutually beneficial collaborations, such as this agreement with 114AI and 3rd ITECH, are signed to advance the state-of-the-art in space domain awareness and Earth observation sensor technologies.”
The signing of the agreement was followed by a joint leader’s statement from President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the White House on 22 June 2023.
That statement also emphasised the establishment and launch of the India–US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) network fostering joint defence technology innovation between the two country’s universities, start-ups, industry, and think tanks as part of the US–India initiative on critical and emerging technology.
“This CRADA represents a significant step forward in our quest to push the collaborative boundaries of space technology,” according to Dr Wellesley Pereira, AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate Space Information Mobility mission area lead.
“By bringing together the best minds and resources from different nations, we can achieve breakthroughs with mutually beneficial results.
“We are very appreciative to the entire team that worked to make this happen, including Vrinda Kapoor and Vinayak Dalmia at 114AI and 3rd ITECH, Merrick Garb at Headquarters Space Force, and Melissa Ortiz, tech transfer agreements specialist lead Space Vehicles Directorate.”
The signing of the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) and the broader INDUS-X initiative aligns with AFRL’s partnerships and the Space Vehicles Directorate’s mission to develop the latest in space component technology and transition to provide space-based capabilities to the nation.
“This is the beginning of an amazing relationship being the first collaborative effort to work with an Indian start-up,” Melissa Ortiz said.
“Looking forward to seeing many more collaborations that will evolve through this effort.” (Source: Defence Connect)
31 Oct 23. Elon Musk Hails SpaceX’s Competitive Edge After Boeing Abandons Satellite Constellation Plans. Aerospace company Boeing Co has reportedly dropped its plans to operate a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit, not unlike Starlink, leaving SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to tout his own company’s competitiveness.
What Happened: “Competing with SpaceX is tough,” Musk wrote on X, formerly Twitter. He was responding to reports of rival company Boeing halting plans for Starlink competitor constellation.
Boeing had acquired approval to operate a 147-member V-band satellite constellation in a low-Earth orbit similar to SpaceX’s Starlink in November 2021. However, the company has given up its license and paid a $2.2m forfeiture fee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Aviation Week reported.
Boeing Space Mission Systems vice president Michelle Parker told Aerospace DAILY that its test mission from September 2022 provided valuable data and learning. “We are confident that V-band will someday be commercialized as global demand for satellite broadband connectivity continues to increase,” they said. However, they added that the company would not be immediately pursuing it.
The FCC officially withdrew Boeing’s license on Oct. 12.
Why It Matters: FCC license requires operators to deploy half their constellation within 6 years of receiving the license. Under the previous license, Boeing had to launch half its constellation by November 2027.
Meanwhile, Boeing is also presently struggling with its Starliner spacecraft. NASA awarded Boeing with a $4.2 bn fixed-price contract to develop the Starliner in 2014 as part of its commercial crew program. A similar contract was also awarded to Musk’s SpaceX for about $2.6 bn. While Boeing has pegged Starliner’s first crewed flight for 2024, SpaceX is gearing up for its eighth operational crew rotation to the International Space Station (ISS). (Source: News Now/https://www.benzinga.com/)
31 Oct 23. Satellite spies Russia-to-Belarus nuclear transfer preparations. Exclusive satellite imagery captures radiological exercises in Belarus, concerning analysts that Russia will deliver nuclear weapons.
Exclusive satellite imagery of Belarus from the start of September has captured covert radiological warfare exercises by an alliance of post-soviet states, provoking concern among analysts that Russia is committed to hosting nuclear weapons in Belarusian territory.
The intra-day imagery, gathered by geospatial intelligence company BlackSky and then independently verified by specialist defence services company Preligens, exposes the radioactive decontamination of a formation of military vehicles at Bretsky Training Ground, near the borders with both Poland and Ukraine, as part of Exercise Barrier, an exercise intended to prepare ground forces for combat operations in a hazardously irradiated environment.
Evidence from 2 September weakens lingering doubts that nuclear weapon transfer discussions were a political gesture unsubstantiated by tactical preparation. Analysts from the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Polish Institute of International Affairs are considering the possible nuclear sites in Belarus that may host warheads under the watch of Russia’s elite 12th GU MO, the directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defence responsible for its nuclear capability.
A description of Exercise Barrier from the CSTO on 2 September states that the personnel were engaged in activities associated with containing biological hazards. However, the associated photography does not show biohazard preparations, and instead pictures personnel engaging in practices characteristic of radiological decontamination, according to William Alberque, director of strategy, technology and arms control at the IISS. One photograph from Exercise Barrier features a soldier in protective clothing badged with Russian insignia standing guard over materials marked as radioactive waste.
Intra-day imagery of the site in Belarus was possible because of the prograde orbit of the BlackSky satellite constellation. Many modern imaging satellite networks use constellations on polar orbits from north to south. This contrasts with BlackSky’s satellites moving with the direction of the Earth’s rotation. The approach results in a low latency between request and retrieval of imagery, as over any point of the Earth’s central bands, a BlackSky satellite traverses every hour.
Independent verification of the satellite imagery was conducted with Preligens, a specialist company for artificial intelligence and machine learning in satellite intelligence.
Exercise Barrier was a part of the six-day event Combat Brotherhood 2023, an annual joint-training exercise between member states of the CSTO including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The decision by the CSTO to run radiological CBRN exercises in Belarus this year was interpreted as a message to the analyst community that Russia is serious about transferring nuclear weapons to Belarus. “This is real low-key signalling, to professionals, that they are thinking about this,” said Alberque.
Russia is known to engage in signalling on separate discrete levels. For internal audiences, state media companies have proven compliant in spreading sanctioned narratives. Some actions are instead shaping manoeuvres, designed to influence an adversaries’ disposition through propaganda or demonstrations of force before a military operation, and will reach a similarly broad audience in the international community. However, Alberque describes the radiological exercises in Belarus as a nuanced message intended for an international community of experts in national security.
The scale of the Exercise Barrier was on a tactical level, providing a subtle indicator to analysts that Russia’s defence posturing is trending towards nuclear weapons placement in Belarus, according to the analysts consulted for this article. Were the exercises at the strategic level – decontaminating thousands of vehicles every hour – the messaging would be designed to reach a wider audience. However, Alberque is no less stirred by the discrete nature of the signal: “The first warning light has just gone off. Now do you ignore it and pretend your engine is fine, or do you wait for the engine to fall out?”
While the leaders of Russia and Belarus have in the past made brinksmanship statements suggesting a transfer of nuclear weapons would happen, and sightings of 9K720 Iskander missiles capable of carrying the warheads have been observed at sites on Belarusian territory, it appears that construction of the prerequisite transport requirement for the transfer of nuclear capability has not been pursued by either country, seeding doubt against the transfer going ahead.
The perception among national security analysts familiar with the region is that discussions on the movement of nuclear weapons to Belarus had been a strategy for Russia’s military forces to ingress within its neighbour’s territory. Ostensibly these troops would act as operators and guardians of the nuclear capability, but in reality the visiting Russian personnel from Russia’s 12th GU MO would take root to extend Putin’s political control within Belarus, while zero nuclear weapons would be transferred.
Anna Dyner, international security analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, stresses that the placement of nuclear weapons in Belarus would cause an ongoing security risk for the country. “For Belarus itself I think there are no benefits for it, I am sorry to say,” comments Dyner when asked about the drivers for deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus. “It even causes a serious danger for them. Just thinking about contingency planning and so on… it will cause a reaction from the Nato side, so it means that Belarusian territory will be a target.”
However, the decisions to run radiological exercises in Belarus has a bearing on how national security analysts calculate the likely threat landscape.
Signalling to the expert community that nuclear weapons are present in Belarus is less about sabre-rattling and bellicose posturing, and has more to do with adding rungs to the ladder of escalation, according to Alberque. Without necessarily escalating the nuclear threat, in the calculus of nuclear security experts, Exercise Barrier gives Russia more options to de-escalate, and to demand corresponding concessions from its adversaries.
Dyner highlights this aspect of Russian planning, stressing the importance of an announcement in June from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that stated Russia would be ready to withdraw its nuclear warheads from Belarus if the US decided to withdraw its nuclear warheads from the territory of Germany. (Source: army-technology.com)
31 Oct 23. iLAuNCH to test ‘space taxi’ technology. The iLAuNCH collaboration will work with Space Machines Company to help certify its upcoming spacecraft that is designed to repair and taxi other satellites in orbit.
The agreement will see Australian National University use its test facility to help SMC’s Optimus Platform reach TRL 8 – a key flight readiness indicator.
The $180-m iLAuNCH trailblazer is a partnership between academic institutions and more than 20 industry partners aimed at accelerating the development of the space manufacturing sector.
“For the entire history of space flight, we’ve launched our expensive technologically advanced satellites into orbit hoping they will survive for years, but totally unable to refuel or service them if problems occur,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer executive director, Darin Lovett.
“This partnership to develop in-space transportation and logistics services opens a new global market opportunity while setting up enduring partnerships within the Australian space ecosystem.”
SMC co-founder George Freney described his company’s technology has being like “roadside assistance” in orbit, and said it could improve the resilience and economics of satellite operations.
“The Optimus platform is scalable and adaptable to the market,” he said.
“The iLAuNCH project helps us to mature its design, leveraging National Space Test Facility’s deep expertise in spacecraft prototype testing.”
The joint project is the latest backed by iLAuNCH, who appeared on the latest episode of the Space Connect Podcast, which you can listen to above.
Space Connect also reported earlier this month how iLAuNCH has invited businesses to apply for its second round of grants to fund space research.
Companies have until Monday, 20 November 2023, to bid and the team will host an online information session on Wednesday, 1 November. To find out more, click here.
New iLAuNCH projects must be undertaken with one of three partner universities: the University of Southern Queensland, the Australian National University or the University of South Australia.
They also need to be in one of its “core commercialisation” project areas that include:
Material processing and advanced materials
Hypersonics and flight diagnostics
Rocket launch; rocket manufacturing
Satellites, communications and sensors
Advanced technologies for aerospace and space applications
“The iLAuNCH Trailblazer is a $180m program to transform Australia’s competitiveness by rapidly commercialising university research through industry partnerships. Our efforts directly enhance Australia’s burgeoning space industry,” said Lovett.
“We have already brought together a powerful consortium of industry and research partners focusing on developing advanced technologies for space and aerospace manufacturing applications, including associated manufacturing supply chains.
“iLAuNCH commercialisation projects aim to elevate the technology readiness level (TRL) of research projects to commercial-ready applications, foster pathways to market, and ultimately propel Australia’s space and aerospace industries to profitability.”
(Source: Defence Connect)
30 Oct 23. The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) an agreement with a total potential value of approximately $732m to design and build 38 data transport satellites. These satellites will support Tranche 2 Transport Layer – Alpha (T2TL-Alpha), the latest iteration of SDA’s low-Earth orbit Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).
- This Alpha announcement follows an August 2023 award to Northrop Grumman of 36 satellites as part of Tranche 2 Transport Layer – Beta (T2TL-Beta); Alpha and Beta satellites are designed to interoperate on orbit.
- This contract includes supporting ground elements and five years of operations and sustainment with the satellites scheduled to launch starting December 2026.
- Northrop Grumman was also awarded a contract for Tranche 1 Transport Layer 1 (T1TL), which similarly provide low latency, high volume data transport supporting U.S. military missions around the world.
- Northrop Grumman’s approach to the PWSA contracts is to combine our satellite technology and mission experience with strategic commercial partnerships to move at the pace the environment demands.
Blake Bullock, vice president, communication systems, Northrop Grumman: “Northrop Grumman, in partnership with our industry teammates, is fully committed to the Space Development Agency’s vision of fielding a next-generation, low-Earth orbit architecture connecting and protecting our warfighters wherever they serve. Our Northrop Grumman team is bringing our deep Military SATCOM experience to this mission, and we’re executing on our commitments.”
Details on the Proliferated Warfighter Space Network:
Northrop Grumman provides both space vehicles and ground systems for the SDA’s PWSA, a next-generation constellation in low-Earth orbit. PWSA has two major lines of effort:
- The Transport Layer: Designed to provide low-latency, high volume data connectivity supporting U.S. military missions around the world.
- The Tracking Layer: Designed to detect, track and ultimately target hypersonic and ballistic missiles.
Both layers are designed to interoperate in space using a common data standard allowing satellites made by various manufacturers to communicate seamlessly with one another. Taken together, these satellites are designed to connect elements of an integrated sensing architecture, and the network they create will deliver persistent, secure connectivity, serving as a critical element for Joint All Domain Command Control.
To date, SDA has announced awards to Northrop Grumman of 132 satellites.
03 Nov 23. Wearable devices may prevent astronauts getting ‘lost’ in space. Disorientation puts astronauts in danger — now scientists have developed wearable vibrotactile devices to keep them on track
Losing your sense of where you are can be fatal enough for aircraft pilots: spatial disorientation is a leading cause of fatal aircraft accidents. But losing your orientation in space itself is even more dangerous. Scientists have now developed wearable devices called vibrotactors that, combined with specialized training, improve people’s ability to fight spatial disorientation and could help astronauts correct themselves when their perceptions can no longer be relied upon.
The sky is no longer the limit — but taking flight is dangerous. In leaving the Earth’s surface, we lose many of the cues we need to orient ourselves, and that spatial disorientation can be deadly. Astronauts normally need intensive training to protect against it. But scientists have now found that wearable devices which vibrate to give orientation cues may boost the efficacy of this training significantly, making spaceflight slightly safer.
“Long duration spaceflight will cause many physiological and psychological stressors which will make astronauts very susceptible to spatial disorientation,” said Dr Vivekanand P. Vimal of Brandeis University in the United States, lead author of the article in Frontiers in Physiology. “When disoriented, an astronaut will no longer be able to rely on their own internal sensors which they have depended on for their whole lives.”
The researchers used sensory deprivation and a multi-axis rotation device to test their vibrotactors in simulated spaceflight, so the senses participants would normally rely on were useless. Could the vibrotactors correct the misleading cues the participants would receive from their vestibular systems, and could participants be trained to trust them?
30 participants were recruited, of which 10 received training to balance in the rotation device, 10 received the vibrotactors, and the remaining 10 received both. All participants were shown a video of the rotation device and told how it worked: moving like an inverted pendulum until it reached a crash boundary, unless it was stabilized by a person sitting in the device controlling it with a joystick.
Additional training, for the participants who received it, included tasks that taught participants to disengage from their vestibular sense and rely on the vibrotactors instead of their natural gravitational cues. These tasks involved searching for hidden non-upright balance points, which meant participants had to ignore their desire to align to upright and focus on the vibrotactors.
All participants were given a blindfold, earplugs, and white noise to listen to. Those with vibrotactors had four strapped to each arm, which would buzz when they moved away from the balance point. Each participant took part in 40 trials, aiming to keep the rotation device as close to the balance point as possible.
For half the trials, the rotation device operated on a vertical roll plane. This was considered an Earth analog because participants could use their natural gravitational cues for orientation. During the second half, which acted as a spaceflight analog, the rotation device operated on a horizontal roll plane where those gravitational cues could no longer help.
After each block of trials, participants were asked to rate how disoriented they felt and how much they trusted the vibrotactors. The scientists measured their success by looking at how often they crashed and how well they controlled their balance.
To infinity and beyond
All the groups were initially disoriented in the spaceflight analog. The scientists expected this, because participants could not rely on the natural gravitational cues that they usually use. Nearly all participants reported that they trusted the vibrotactors, but they also reported confusion from conflicts between their internal cues and the vibrotactors.
The participants wearing vibrotactors still performed better than those who only received training. The training-only group crashed more frequently, moved around the balance point more, and accidentally destabilized themselves more often. Receiving the training did help, though. As the trials continued, the group who received both training and vibrotactors performed best.
However, even with training, the participants didn’t perform as well as they did in the Earth analog. They may have needed more time to integrate cues from the vibrotactors, or the buzzing from the vibrotactors may not have given a strong enough danger signal.
“A pilot’s cognitive trust in this external device will most likely not be enough,” said Vimal. “Instead, the trust has to be at a deeper, almost sub-cognitive, level. To achieve this, specialized training will be required.”
If the sensors succeed in more extensive trials, the scientists said, the possible applications for spaceflight are many — from helping astronauts land safely on the surface of a planet, to supporting them as they move outside a vehicle in space.
26 Oct 23. Space Force sees SATCOM awards surging to $20bn this fiscal year. As the Space Force looks to modernize its military satellite communications and positioning, navigation and timing capabilities, its acquisition command is preparing to award contracts for programs in fiscal 2024 worth some $20bn.
The total value of the contracts to be solicited this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, is an exponential increase from the $1.6 bn awarded across the SATCOM and PNT portfolios in fiscal 2023, according to Cordell DeLaPena, the Space Systems Command program executive officer who oversees those programs.
Speaking Oct. 19 at a Space Industry Days event in Los Angeles, DeLaPena said the planned awards, which largely reside in the SATCOM portion of his directorate, represent a significant shift the service is making towards fielding more resilient capabilities in orbit and on the ground.
The Space Force has traditionally relied on military-owned communication satellites, residing in geosynchronous orbit — about 22,000 miles about the Earth’s service. In recent years, it has come to think of those spacecraft as targets for adversaries and has begun to transition to smaller satellites, some commercially owned, located in lower orbits that can provide a broader range of capability, including faster data transmission and protections against enemy attempts at jamming their signals.
“The MILSATCOM mission area will transform, will pivot from providing not only network communications at the tactical edge, but will evolve into the data transport backbone from space — moving data from one side of the Earth to the other,” DeLaPena said.
The service is making a similar transition in its PNT portfolio, which includes satellites like GPS, but is earlier in the process. DeLaPena said the Space Warfighting Analysis Center is designing a plan for what those capabilities may look like and should have findings within the next year.
While the Space Force anticipates awarding the contracts in FY24, the funding will be distributed over a longer period of time, as is typical for Defense Department acquisition programs.
The anticipated deals would fund new projects as well as upgrades to existing systems that will help the Space Force transition to its new architecture. That includes an $8bn contract that would fund the development of the Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications constellation, which will replace legacy Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites. The spacecraft provide secure, survivable communications for strategic missions.
Another $2 bn contract would modernize and sustain the ground system that supports the Space Force’s Mobile User Objective System satellites, which provide narrowband communication capabilities.
SSC also plans to award $464m to Boeing to build the 12th Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, which will provide more communications capacity than previous spacecraft as well as anti-jamming capabilities. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)
21 Oct 23. Successful SpaceX Saturday Starlink satellites launch. On Saturday, October 21 at 1:23 a.m. PT, Falcon 9 launched 21 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
This was the 16th flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter-5, Globalstar FM15, ISI EROS C-3, and now seven Starlink missions.
Following stage separation, the first stage landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX is targeting Saturday, October 21 at 10:17 p.m. ET for a Falcon 9 launch of 23 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 11:07 p.m. ET until 2:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, October 22. Six backup opportunities are also currently available on Sunday, October 22 starting at 9:51 p.m. ET until 1:50 a.m. ET on Monday, October 23.
A live webcast of this mission will begin on X @SpaceX about five minutes prior to liftoff. Watch live.
This is the fourth flight for the first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched ESA Euclid, Ax-2, and one Starlink mission. 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)
22 Oct 23. NASA’s innovative rocket nozzle paves the way for deep space missions nozzle made of aluminum, making it lighter than conventional nozzles and setting the course for deep space flights that can carry more payloads. Under the agency’s Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity, engineers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, partnered with Elementum 3D, in Erie, Colorado, to create a weldable type of aluminum that is heat resistant enough for use on rocket engines. Compared to other metals, aluminum is lower density and allows for high-strength, lightweight components.
However, due to its low tolerance to extreme heat and its tendency to crack during welding, aluminum is not typically used for additive manufacturing of rocket engine parts – until now.
Meet NASA’s latest development under the Reactive Additive Manufacturing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or RAMFIRE, project. Funded under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), RAMFIRE focuses on advancing lightweight, additively manufactured aluminum rocket nozzles. The nozzles are designed with small internal channels that keep the nozzle cool enough to prevent melting.
With conventional manufacturing methods, a nozzle may require as many as a thousand individually joined parts. The RAMFIRE nozzle is built as a single piece, requiring far fewer bonds and significantly reduced manufacturing time.
NASA and Elementum 3D first developed the novel aluminum variant known as A6061-RAM2 to build the nozzle and modify the powder used with laser powder directed energy deposition (LP-DED) technology. Another commercial partner, RPM Innovations (RPMI) in Rapid City, South Dakota, used the newly invented aluminum and specialized powder to build the RAMFIRE nozzles using their LP-DED process.
NASA’s Moon to Mars objectives require the capability to send more cargo to deep space destinations. The novel alloy could play an instrumental role in this by enabling the manufacturing of lightweight rocket components capable of withstanding high structural loads.
Earlier this summer at Marshall’s East Test Area, two RAMFIRE nozzles completed multiple hot-fire tests using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, as well as liquid oxygen and liquid methane fuel configurations. With pressure chambers in excess of 825 pounds per square inch (psi) – more than anticipated testing pressures – the nozzles successfully accumulated 22 starts and 579 seconds, or nearly 10 minutes, of run time. This event demonstrates the nozzles can operate in the most demanding deep-space environments.
In addition to successfully building and testing the rocket engine nozzles, the RAMFIRE project has used the RAMFIRE aluminum material and additive manufacturing process to construct other advanced large components for demonstration purposes. These include a 36 inch diameter aerospike nozzle with complex integral coolant channels and a vacuum-jacketed tank for cryogenic fluid applications.
NASA and industry partners are working to share the data and process with commercial stakeholders and academia. Various aerospace companies are evaluating the novel alloy and the LP-DED additive manufacturing process and looking for ways it can be used to make components for satellites and other applications.
“Industry partnerships with specialty manufacturing vendors aid in advancing the supply base and help make additive manufacturing more accessible for NASA missions and the broader commercial and aerospace industry. This test series marks a significant milestone for the nozzle,” Gradl said. “After putting the nozzle through the paces of a demanding hot-fire test series, we’ve demonstrated the nozzle can survive the thermal, structural, and pressure loads for a lunar lander scale engine.” — Paul Gradl, RAMFIRE principal investigator, NASA Marshall
“Mass is critical for NASA’s future deep space missions. Projects like this mature additive manufacturing along with advanced materials, and will help evolve new propulsion systems, in-space manufacturing, and infrastructure needed for NASA’s ambitious missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.” — John Vickers, principal technologist, STMD advanced manufacturing. (Source: Satnews)
24 Oct 23. Space Foundation releases The Space Report 2023 Q3.
- Space workforce in the United States and around the globe showed continued strong growth.
- India’s lunar lander demonstrated the accelerating race for the Moon.
- Space science surged with NASA asteroid samples and satellites to harness the sun’s energy for use on Earth.
- Growing concerns for U.S. leaders include funding for space, clearing UAPs, deterring
Space Workforce Around the Globe Continues Strong Growth
The Space Report shows steady growth in the global space workforce despite competition for a pool of skilled workers that is showing signs of shrinking. Although the overall U.S. provable sector hiring slowed over the past year, private space employment growth accelerated in the first half of 2023 at a 3.4% rate. Europe’s space workforce expanded by 8.2%.
The growing space industry’s need for workers is expected to continue over the next decade, with many space-related occupations projected to grow twice as fast as average. Tumbling enrollment in technical fields at two-year colleges and vocational schools could lead to a labor shortfall as space industries enter mass production.
“The continued growth of the space industry is good news, and that comes with the need for more talent to keep pace with demand,” said Space Foundation CEO Heather Pringle. “From giving tools to teachers and inspiring future leaders to building an online platform that helps people grow their skills or bring their experience to the space industry, Space Foundation and its Center for Innovation and Education are helping deliver the workforce needed today and building the bench of innovators for the future.”
Global Space Progress
In space infrastructure, the optimistic outlook for the space industry comes after India’s successful landing of a lunar probe added urgency to efforts in the United States and China to put the first humans on the moon since the Apollo era. A team of scientists from around the globe is examining NASA’s first asteroid sample successfully returned to Earth.
In another landmark for the industry, multiple countries and academic institutions are demonstrating proof of concept for space-based solar power satellites. The satellites could outperform ground-based solar facilities and assist with the European Union’s carbon-neutral goal, but infrastructure costs remain daunting. In the third quarter, Virgin Galactic offered its first tourist flights to the edge of space. With Blue Origin expected to soon return to the space tourism market, the number of private astronauts is expected to boom in coming years.
Despite a choppy quarter for some space startups, established space firms posted gains of 3% for the quarter, outperforming overall markets. Scotland is leveraging government enticements and its skilled labor force in a bid to rule the European marketplace for small satellites and launch vehicles to lift them to orbit. Plans include growing Scotland’s space workforce from 8,400 to 20,000 by 2030.
Leaning on AI
In space products and innovation, leaders are increasingly leaning on the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to parse through the growing volume of data obtained by satellites. NASA and IBM’s first open-source foundation model released in August and other AI tools are being trained to label features of interest in Earth observation data, cutting out one of the most time-consuming tasks and allowing even non-experts to quickly derive insights.
Growing Concerns for U.S. Leaders
In the U.S., lawmakers were still working on a federal budget for the fiscal year that began October 1st. Several space policy concerns also drew recent scrutiny. For the first time since the Cold War, the Pentagon asked Congress to back U.S. anti-satellite (ASAT) weaponry amid growing threats from rival powers, including Russia and China. U.S. leaders continued outreach on the Artemis Accords, which outline rules of conduct in space. Another topic drew public interest in the United States: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Formerly called UFOs, uncommon objects sighted in the sky are now being tracked by NASA and the Pentagon as lawmakers in Congress demand more transparency on a topic that was once considered more fiction than science.
The Space Report, published by Space Foundation since 2006, is the authoritative report on the global space ecosystem, covering space exploration and space-to-Earth industries. Available on a subscription basis, The Space Report provides policy analysts, congressional staff, investors, media, and space industry newcomers with research and insight on a quarterly basis. Highlighting each report is an overview of the latest data available on the space economy, space infrastructure, and other key industry indicators as well as analysis of commercial, government and educational events impacting business, workforce and our daily lives.
About Symposium 365
Symposium 365 is the premier source for information and events in the global space ecosystem, offering authoritative news and insight as well as opportunities for networking and conducting business via Space Symposium and The Space Report. Serving commercial, government and education sectors, programs and resources are delivered in-person and online around the globe. To learn more about Symposium 365, please access this direct infolink…
About Space Foundation
Space Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983, offering information, education and collaboration for the global space ecosystem. Driven by partnerships, Space Foundation unites the entire spectrum of stakeholders — business, government, education and local communities — through support from corporate members, sponsors, fundraising and grants. Visit Space Foundation at www.SpaceFoundation.org (Source: Satnews)
23 Oct 23. Launch of Ovzon 3 targeted for as soon as December of 2023. Closer to the launch window, Ovzon will communicate a detailed launch date. The launch of spacecrafts is in general dependent on good weather conditions and other circumstances that could alter the planned launch date, sometimes by several days.
“The final assembly and testing of the satellite, in addition to the complex modeling associated with changing launch vehicles, has progressed well and according to plan in recent months. We are now moving forward with further detailed launch planning and with transportation of the satellite to the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. There are always some uncertainties regarding spacecraft launches that are not possible to predict, but we are now getting really close.” — Per Norén, CEO, Ovzon. (Source: Satnews)
25 Oct 23. SDA’s agreement with SpiderOak for Rapid Resilience Command and Control Research. SpiderOak has demonstrated its OrbitSecure cybersecurity software in space on a Ball Aerospace. The Space Development Agency has awarded SpiderOak, a leader in space cybersecurity software, an Other Transactional Authority agreement to research integration of the company’s OrbitSecure software suite into the agency’s contribution to the Space Force’s Rapid Resilient Command and Control effort. SpiderOak’s end-to-end zero-trust design can enhance the cybersecurity of command and control networks as the Space Force augments its traditional Satellite Control Network with commercial and allied networks.
In partnership with the Space Development Agency, SpiderOak will research integrating OrbitSecure software to enable expanded government use of commercial, civil, and allied ground infrastructure. By employing OrbitSecure’s patented variable-trust mechanisms that allow data to travel securely on networks and infrastructure with different owners and variable-security protocols, the project will provide insight into how to attain more resilient command and control.
OrbitSecure is also purpose-built for the limited size, weight, power, and connectivity constraints of orbital operations, and has been deployed to satellites. OrbitSecure is the solution that offers complete ground-satellite-ground spaceflight heritage. SpiderOak demonstrated OrbitSecure on a Ball Aerospace prototype payload in June 2023 and on the International Space Station using Amazon Web Services’ Snowcone edge computing device provided by Axiom Space in July 2023.
SpiderOak’s software secures any type of information transiting in or through space assets at the data level rather than the network level, allowing organizations like the Space Development Agency to securely employ commercial network and ground station options for command and control. This flexibility to dynamically augment the Satellite Control Network with non-government resources securely – called “hybrid-space architecture” – also promises to reduce data latency and achieve greater resiliency against potential cyber and physical threats to satellites.
As a software-only cybersecurity suite, OrbitSecure has demonstrated backward compatibility to existing space systems on orbit. These qualities, combined with its ability to reduce latency, mean the implementation leads to faster, better, and affordable secure communications. The project will complement SpiderOak’s on-going work on a hybrid-space architecture demonstration for the Defense Innovation Unit that is demonstrating secure hybrid communications across interconnected commercial and government networks.
“The cyber threat to satellites is well documented and the threat of hypersonic missiles is imminent. Flight-proven solutions must be deployed rapidly to improve resilience through cyber-secured commercial ground systems,” said Dave Pearah, CEO of SpiderOak. He added: “Through our innovative use of variable-trust mechanisms, we secure the efficient transmission of commands and other data, improving the responsiveness of space missions. These features are needed today when pacing threats like China are already inflicting damage to government networks.” (Source: Satnews
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