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29 Mar 19. Kleos Space signs MOU with ImageSat International. ImageSat International (iSi) will look to explore opportunities to use Kleos Space’s maritime RF activity-based satellite data after the signing of a non-binding, collaborative memorandum of understanding between the two companies. The agreement will help iSi use Kleos’ satellite data to “enhance” their geospatial intelligence analytics, with the development of a value-add proposition for current and future iSi maritime customers, as well as methodology “to reduce collection to dissemination latency”.
“iSi is a global leader in satellite imagery and analysis. This collaboration is a good example of the value of Kleos’ activity-based maritime reconnaissance information as an extra data set for end-customers in the defence and intelligence sectors,” Andy Bowyer, CEO of Kleos Space, said.
“The launch of our Scouting Mission satellites will enable Kleos to commence generating revenue by delivering this commercially available data-as-a-service through collaboration with strategic global partners within the defence and intelligence sectors.”
Based in Israel, iSi has provided end-to-end space, intelligence and analytical solutions for defence and intelligence customers for over two decades.
iSi lists the company’s expertise as:
- integrated ISR solutions
- very high-resolution satellite services
- GEOINT and data analysis
Kleos also confirmed the company is on track to launch its initial Scouting Mission satellites on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket by the end of the second quarter of 2019.
The launch will take place in New Zealand.
The multi-satellite Scouting Mission system aims to “form the cornerstone of a constellation that delivers a global picture of hidden maritime activity, enhancing the intelligence capability of government and commercial entities when AIS (automatic identification system) is defeated, imagery unclear, and targets out of patrol range”. (Source: Space Connect)
29 Mar 19. Defence invests in first large-scale solar array for SATCOM. Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has announced a $4m investment in a new solar power facility at the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station in Western Australia. Minister Pyne said the site near Geraldton is a key component in the Australian Signals Directorate’s architecture defending Australia from global threats.
“The facility is the first large-scale solar array developed by Defence, which has now increased its expertise in the procurement and installation of such facilities,” Minister Pyne said.
“It is exciting that we are now producing for the first time solar-powered signals intelligence,” he said.
Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said she was delighted to open the 1.2 megawatt solar photovoltaic facility.
“The new solar-powered intelligence facility will free up electricity to meet the demands of approximately 400 households in the local community.”
The ADF has access to worldwide high-quality and high-capacity communications satellites and is moving to upgrade its existing ground terminal fleet and anchor stations to complete its next-generation satellite communications system.
The 455-hectare WA site is located in Kojarena, 30 kilometres east of Geraldton, and is jointly operated by the Australian Signals Directorate and the United States as part of a SATCOM partnership.
Originally, the location was down-selected “as it is within reasonable commuting distance from Geraldton. In addition, there are convenient access to roads, water, power and terrestrial communication services”, according to a publication made by the Department of Defence.
Minister Price added, “The solar power facility was delivered through local Australian contractors and is expected to save taxpayers up to $500,000 per year in electricity costs.” (Source: Space Connect)
28 Mar 19. India says space debris from anti-satellite test to “vanish” in 45 days. India expects space debris from its anti-satellite weapons launch to burn out in less than 45 days, its top defence scientist said on Thursday, seeking to allay global concern about fragments hitting objects. The comments came a day after India said it used an indigenously developed ballistic missile interceptor to destroy one of its own satellites at a height of 300 km (186 miles), in a test aimed at boosting its defences in space.
Critics say such technology, known to be possessed only by the United States, Russia and China, raises the prospect of an arms race in outer space, besides posing a hazard by creating a cloud of fragments that could persist for years. G. Satheesh Reddy, the chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, said a low-altitude military satellite was picked for the test, to reduce the risk of debris left in space.
“That’s why we did it at lower altitude, it will vanish in no time,” he told Reuters in an interview. “The debris is moving right now. How much debris, we are trying to work out, but our calculations are it should be dying down within 45 days.”
Few satellites operate at the altitude of 300 km, from which experts say the collision debris will fall back to earth, burning up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, instead of posing a threat to other satellites.
In 2007, China destroyed a satellite in a polar orbit, creating the largest orbital debris cloud in history, with more than 3,000 objects, according to the Secure World Foundation.
Because the impact altitude exceeded 800 km (500 miles), many of the resulting scraps stayed in orbit. “Some of it could still be there,” Reddy said, adding that India had been much more careful in conducting its test.
In Florida, on a visit to the U.S. military’s Southern Command, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan warned any nations contemplating similar anti-satellite weapons tests that they risked making a “mess” in space from debris.
The U.S. military’s Strategic Command was tracking more than 250 pieces of debris from India’s missile test and would issue “close-approach notifications as required until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said.
Reddy identified the military satellite shot down as Microsat R, weighing about 750 kg (1,653 lb) and launched on Jan. 24. by the Indian Space Research Organisation for the purpose of the test.
A week after launch, it was moved into a different orbit in preparation for the test.
“The technology has been completely proven, we hit it with centimetres of accuracy, probably less than 10 cm,” Reddy said.
India’s test of the anti-satellite weapon from an island off its eastern coast broke a lull since the United States used a ship-launched SM-3 missile to destroy a defunct spy satellite in Operation Burnt Frost in 2008.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said nearly 2,000 orbiting satellites provide key benefits to people around the world, and India’s launch showed more countries were seeking the capabilities that put satellites at risk.
“Destroying satellites…can have ripple effects, producing dangerous clouds of debris that could stay in orbit for decades or centuries, disabling or destroying any satellites they collide with,” one of its scientists, Laura Grego, said in a statement. (Source: Reuters)
27 Mar 19. The drone that convinced the NRO to invest more in satellites. The 1960s were nothing if not an era of experimental aviation, including, unexpectedly, for drones, which had bold designs but were profoundly limited by the sensors of the day. On March 21, the National Reconnaissance Office released a trove of documents about the D-21 “Tagboard”, a supersonic spy drone that was proposed in 1963 and mothballed by July 1971.
Beyond the historical novelty, the D-21 program is worth a second look for what it tells us about the threats and capabilities of its day. The D-21 was built to be carried to 80,000 feet by the A-12 spyplane, and then continue on a mission for over 3,000 miles, capturing photographs of the ground below at a resolution of about 1-½ to 2 feet. The film would then be ejected and recovered in air, a weirdly common Cold War design that feels generations removed from present-day digital cameras and data transmission. A plan for 20 D-21 drones, modifications to the A-12s, cameras, and everything else required was recommended for approval in February 1963. The intelligence agency spent $8m on the program in FY63 and $60m in FY64, or roughly $440m in 2019 dollars.
The D-21 was programmed to follow a preset flight-path, using an inertial navigator and a mechanical computer to check where it was. It could hit up to 32 destinations. A secondary function designed to check for course correction could fail, setting off the whole of the drone’s flight path. A memorandum dated March 23, 1970, details a proposed change to the computing system, adding a clock and predicted times to allow the drone to check off destinations if it flew close enough to where it was supposed to be.
This system is too rudimentary to really lump in with modern autonomous design, but the flaws of its implementation are notable for how it works in what today we would call a denied environment. Built to fly beyond the reach of remote controllers and in an era before GPS, the D-21 could rely only on its initial programming to get the job done.
It is that absence of reliable satellite architecture that made the development of D-21 possible, and it is the continued improvement of surveillance satellites that made the D-21 obsolete. One specific aim for the D-21 was to capture footage of China’s nuclear facilities. To that end four missions were flown over China between 1969 and 1971. These missions were characterized by failure, most notably an inability to safely eject and recover the film.
While satellites marked the end of the D-21, its origin included a far more human set of risks. Surveillance drones had many limitations over directly piloted vehicles, but they didn’t carry the risk of producing a human hostage if shot down. From a military standpoint, that made drones like the D-21 ideal for missions where there was a risk of being shot down. Diplomatically, satellites provided coverage that was even less obtrusive.
“Nonetheless, the political atmosphere is such that there are no areas of the world of strategic significance where we are willing to have manned overflight of denied territory,” wrote NRO Director John McLucas, “I am sure the State Department would be overjoyed to hear that we had decided to spend future development money in upgrading our satellites rather than trying to improve our drones.”
That satellite architecture is the backbone of the NRO today. Speed and scale of footage, the kinds of photos taken, and the ways in which that data is shared and processed and used have all expanded exponentially since the end of the Tagboard program. That’s to say nothing of the impact that GPS constellation has had on navigation systems used by people and drones.
Where the D-21 archive is most valuable is in looking at past answers to the challenges of drone operations in an era before satellites.
While space is formally a peaceful domain, decades of putting surveillance tools in orbit has led multiple nations (and even some nonstate actors) to develop techniques for disabling satellites, using everything from missiles to jamming to hacking. If there is a coherent impulse behind the creation of a dedicated Space Force, is is that what exists in space is invaluable for the Pentagon’s current way of fighting war. New GPS satellites are built with the present hazards in mind, to safeguard the constellation through individual satellite improvements. On March 27th, India announced that it had used a missile to destroy a low-earth-orbit satellite.
Still, the Pentagon is developing tools and techniques for a world in which objects in orbit are no longer assumed safe.
Autonomous systems, designed to complete tasks in denied environments, are first and foremost among these adaptations. The limitations of the D-21, especially its modest navigation system and its film cameras, are already solved problems in the rest of the drone world. Its operational history, and really its entire development cycle, are full of useful nuggets to mine about how drones can be designed and work in an era without persistent GPS navigation or satellite coverage. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Mar 19. Sofradir, a global leader in designing and manufacturing high quality infrared technologies, today announces that two of its large format infrared detectors (1000 x 256) lifted into orbit onboard the PRISMA (PRecursore IperSpettrale della Missione Applicativa) satellite launched on the Vega rocket from the Kourou, French Guiana Space Center on March 22.
PRISMA is a five-year program spearheaded by the Italian Space Agency, formed through a temporary joint venture of companies led by OHB Italia, which was responsible for the mission, managing three main segments: ground, flight and launch. It was joined by Leonardo, responsible for building the electro-optical hyperspectral instrumentation and on-board equipment such as solar panels and the power supply unit.
PRISMA will conduct the Earth observation mission, monitoring interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere for the purposes of detecting potential natural disasters, monitoring crops, surveilling mines, tracking soil pollution and delivering humanitarian aid. The PRISMA satellite will orbit at an altitude of 615 kilometers at speeds of 27,000kph, capturing up to 223 images of 30km x 30km scenes per day.
Sofradir’s role began in 2007 when it was contracted by Leonardo, the prime contractor for the construction of the hyperspectral instrument, to design two types of infrared detectors for integration in the instrument itself: a Saturn 1000 x 256 SWIR detector with 30μm pitch and a usable spectral band of 0.9μm to 2.5μm, and a Saturn 1000 x 256 VISIR detector with 30μm pitch and a usable spectral band of 0.4μm to 1.1μm.
“Sofradir is thrilled to have delivered on the PRISMA project, designed to help scientists make new environmental discoveries about our planet,” said Philippe Chorier, head of business development for space activity at Sofradir. “It also gave us a unique opportunity to develop the new passive cooling packaging for the Saturn detector and test the IR detector’s performance in all the types and levels of radiation encountered in space.”
Each detector is assembled in a helium-filled passive enclosure delivered without a cooling system. The detector is cooled onboard the satellite by a passive heat-transfer system that consists of a radiator facing cold space, which is linked to the detector by a thermal link. The hyperspectral imager will capture information revealing the shape of objects and use each one’s unique spectral signature to identify its chemical make-up. The instrument will be able to capture 239 spectral bands, each less than 12 nanometers wide, in the SWIR and visible range.
28 Mar 19. Resources giant to partner with Australian Space Agency. The Australian Space Agency has taken another leap forward, working with the private sector to translate research in the space industry into commercial opportunities. The signing of the statement of strategic intent and cooperation with Woodside Energy is designed to highlight areas of potential research, development and commercial outcomes for the space industry.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the signing with one of Australia’s largest resources companies shows space can enhance the capability and competitiveness of many Australian industries.
“The agency’s purpose is to transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy and inspires and improves the lives of all Australians,” Minister Andrews said.
“The goal is to triple the size of the sector to $12bn a year and create up to 20,000 new jobs by 2030,” he added.
Dr Megan Clark, head of the Australian Space Agency, welcomed the latest signing, saying: “The Australian resources sector is leading the world in remote management and maintenance through robotics, automation and artificial intelligence. These technologies and applications are critical requirements in any future near space and other space exploration initiatives.”
Woodside CEO Peter Coleman welcomed the signing and said collaborating with the space sector further demonstrated Woodside’s approach to innovation and technology.
“By looking outside our industry to the Australian Space Agency, we can accelerate the development of technologies that allow us to safely and efficiently manage assets in remote and harsh environments,” Coleman said.
The signing of the statement with Woodside adds to agreements already reached with Airbus, Nova Systems, Sitael, Goonhilly Earth Stations and Lockheed Martin. The Commonwealth government established the Australian Space Agency in July 2018 and is investing $55m in its development as part of the plan to grow the sector and create an additional 1.25 million jobs across the economy in the next five years. (Source: Space Connect)
27 Mar 19. Indian anti-satellite test shows importance of Space Force, Shanahan says. A recent anti-satellite test by India serves as an example of why the U.S. is working to create a stand-alone Space Force that will focus on military needs in that domain, according to the head of the Pentagon. In his first statement regarding the test, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan declined to comment on whether the U.S. ally should have launched the test, while warning other nations who may consider such actions against creating more space debris.
“We all live in space. Let’s not make it a mess,” he said while en route to a meeting at U.S. Southern Command. “Space should be a place where we can conduct business, space should be a place where people have freedom to operate. We cannot make it unstable, we cannot create a debris problem that ASAT tests create. So, thoughtfulness goes a long way.
“Not having rules and engagement is worrisome, so how people test and develop technology is important, but how we share this critical domain — I would expect anyone who tests does not put at risk anyone else’s assets. There are certain basic principles.”
Shanahan pointed to India’s missile launch as why an American Space Force “is so important.”
“We talk about space being a contested domain. It’s a good example of how many changes are taking place in that environment,” he said, adding that the Indians “probably aren’t the only people who have that kind of capability.”
Asked twice whether the Pentagon was given prior notice of the test by India, the acting secretary did not directly comment. He did say he has not had any discussions with Pakistani officials in the wake of the test.
Wednesday morning, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a broadcast that Indian scientists had destroyed a low-Earth orbit satellite with a missile, demonstrating India’s capacity as a “space power” alongside the U.S., Russia and China.
In a government statement following the launch, Modi’s government wrote that the “test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there is no space debris. Whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks.”
“India has no intention of entering into an arms race in outer space,” the statement adds. “We have always maintained that space must be used only for peaceful purposes. We are against the weaponization of outer space and support international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space-based assets.” (Source: Defense News)
27 Mar 19. Wind River®, a leader in delivering IoT software for critical infrastructure, today announced that satellite startup Astranis Space Technologies Corp. (https://www.astranis.com/) is using VxWorks® (http://www.windriver.com/products/vxworks/) real-time operating system for its next generation satellite that will deliver cost-effective high-speed internet to underserved markets. Over half of the world doesn’t have access to the internet – and satellites are expected to play a major role in solving that problem. Astranis is building satellites that are capable of delivering broadband internet services to individuals around the globe. It targets areas where, due to the high cost of building the infrastructure, broadband internet isn’t widely available or is completely unavailable. Astranis is using VxWorks to run the main flight computer that controls the avionics in guiding the satellite and keeping it in communication with Earth. Astranis recently announced that its first satellite will be going over Alaska, in partnership with Alaska-based internet provider Pacific Dataport, Inc.
“We are very excited to be working with Wind River on our first satellite. Wind River’s proven success in space and their longstanding relationship with NASA and others in the space industry give us confidence that they are the right partner to bring our vision to life,” said Astranis CEO and cofounder John Gedmark.
“Wind River has decades of leadership in space, and we are thrilled that Astranis selected Wind River software to power its ground-breaking technology that will bring the unconnected world online,” said Ray Petty, vice president of aerospace and defense at Wind River. “It is gratifying to serve as a core innovation enabler, helping companies like Astranis accelerate development, reduce costs, and ultimately bring game-changing technology to the market.”
Wind River’s comprehensive software portfolio for the edge supports a diverse range of customer journeys in aerospace and defense, from design to development to deployment, with technologies that span across real-time operating systems, open-source-based platforms, system simulation and virtualization. In addition to its market-leading VxWorks, the company offers Wind River and other commercial-grade open source technologies for general purpose functions. The recently launched Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform is for consolidating multiple federated systems with both safety-critical and general purpose applications onto a single compute platform. And for system simulation enabling unmodified target software to run on a virtual platform the same way it does on physical hardware, the company offers Wind River Simics®.
27 Mar 19. Anti-satellite weapons: rare, high-tech, and risky to test. India tested an anti-satellite weapon on Wednesday, saying the indigenously produced interceptor was used to destroy an object in orbit. Such a weapon allows for attacks on enemy satellites – blinding them or disrupting communications – as well as providing a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles.
India, whose space program has developed launchers, satellites and probes to the moon and Mars, created the interceptor used in Wednesday’s test domestically, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a broadcast on television.
The United States performed the first anti-satellite tests in 1959, when satellites themselves were rare and new.
Bold Orion, designed as a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile re-purposed to attack satellites, was launched from a bomber and passed close enough to the Explorer 6 satellite for it to have been destroyed if the missile had been armed.
The Soviet Union performed similar tests around the same time. In the 1960s and early 1970s, it tested a weapon that could be launched in orbit, approach enemy satellites and destroy them with an explosive charge, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit research and advocacy organisation.
In 1985, the United States tested the ASM-135, launched from an F-15 fighter jet, destroying an American satellite called Solwind P78-1.
There were no tests for more than 20 years.
Then in 2007, China entered the anti-satellite arena by destroying an old weather satellite in a high, polar orbit. The test created the largest orbital debris cloud in history, with more than 3,000 objects, according to the Secure World Foundation, a group that advocates sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.
The next year, the United States carried out Operation Burnt Frost, using a ship-launched SM-3 missile to destroy a defunct spy satellite.
Debris from anti-satellite tests can create problems for other satellites and spacecraft in orbit, as tiny bits of junk whiz through space many times faster than a rifle bullet.
The International Space Station, for example, regularly tweaks its orbit to avoid debris of all kinds.
China’s 2007 test is considered the most destructive. Because the impact took place at an altitude of more than 800 km (500 miles), many of the resulting scraps stayed in orbit.
The U.S. test in 2008 did not create as much orbital debris, and because it was at a lower altitude, atmospheric drag caused much of it to fall toward Earth and burn up.
India’s foreign ministry said in a statement that its test was done in the lower atmosphere to ensure there was no debris in space and that whatever was left would “decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks”.
The U.S. Strategic Command, which tracks objects in orbit for the U.S. military, had no immediate comment on Wednesday’s test.
Destroying an enemy’s satellites, which can provide crucial intelligence and communications in war, is considered an advanced capability.
With the successful test on Wednesday, India theoretically holds other countries’ satellites at risk.
Neighbouring Pakistan, with which India traded airstrikes last month, has several satellites in orbit, launched using Chinese and Russian rockets.
But China, which put dozens of satellites in orbit in 2018 alone, according to state media, could see India’s fledgling capability as more of a threat. India needed to build anti-satellite weapons “because adversary China has already done it in 2007,” said Ajay Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
“More than anything I would say through this India is sending a message to the subcontinent,” he added. “India is saying that we have mechanisms for space warfare.” (Source: Reuters)
27 Mar 19. India shoots down satellite in space; Modi hails major breakthrough. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had shot down a satellite in space on Wednesday with an anti-satellite missile, hailing the test as a major breakthrough in its space programme.
Modi made the announcement in a television address to the nation. He said India would only be the fourth country to have used such an anti-satellite weapon after the United States, Russia and China.
Such capabilities have raised fears of the weaponisation of space and setting off a race between rival powers.
“Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300 kilometres away in space, in low-earth orbit,” Modi said, calling it a historic feat.
“India has made an unprecedented achievement today,” he said, speaking in Hindi. “India registered its name as a space power.”
Modi faces a general election next month. He went on Twitter earlier to announce his plan for a national broadcast, saying he had an important announcement to make.
India has had a space programme for years, making earth imaging satellites and launch capabilities as a cheaper alternative to Western programmes.
Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at New Delhi’s Centre of Policy Research, said the United States Russia and China were pursuing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.
“Space is being turned into a battlefront, making counter-space capabilities critical. In this light, India’s successful “kill” with an ASAT weapon is significant.”
No comment was immediately available from old rival Pakistan. There was also no immediate reaction from China’s foreign or defence ministries. (Source: Reuters)
26 Mar 19. Sydney Uni helps efforts to build a more efficient launch platform. Combustion experts from the University of Sydney’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering have joined the International Responsive Access to Space project, which has set out to build the first successful rotating detonation engine to send payloads to space. Associate professor’s Matthew Cleary and Ben Thornber, as well as Dr Dries Verstraete, are a part of Sydney Uni’s Clean Combustion Group, and the trio have focused their research on combustion for the DefendTex-led project, which hopes to develop a “more efficient and cost-effective access to space platform for satellite launches”.
“Since the project kicked off we have worked with our collaborators to develop new computational methods to investigate supersonic combustion, which is a process known as detonation,” explained Cleary.
“Our preliminary findings from simulations of a model rotating detonation engine have led to some interesting findings about the stability of detonations in an annular channel, in particular with regard to the importance of designing the combustor geometry such that the detonation is stable and rocket thrust can be sustained continuously.
“This information is being fed to our collaborators who are now starting work on ground testing an engine. Cleary has initiated “computational fluid dynamics simulations, with preliminary results demonstrating the efficacy of the rotating detonation engine”.
The project was awarded a $3m CRC-P grant last year from the federal government, and includes researchers from the University of Sydney, Universität der Bundeswehr München, the University of South Australia, RMIT, Defence Science and Technology Group and Innosync.
The researchers have been examining methods for rockets to “effectively collect oxygen from the atmosphere during lower atmospheric ascent”.
“What’s exciting about rotating detonation engines is the potential to operate them in a so-called “air breathing” mode. The purpose of this function is to reduce the mass of the launch vehicle and increase efficiency, reduce costs and potentially allow for larger payloads, such as satellites,” Cleary said.
DefendTex chief executive Travis Reddy is confident the current research is “on track” to develop “a world-first rotating detonation engine capable of providing Australia’s first sovereign launch capability for responsive access to space”.
The project has received funding to carry it through to 2021, securing over $4m of cash and in-kind contributions from industry and university stakeholders. (Source: Space Connect)
26 Mar 19. The U.S. Air Force’s second new GPS III satellite, bringing higher-power, more accurate and harder-to-jam signals to the GPS constellation, has arrived in Florida for launch. On March 18, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) shipped the Air Force’s second GPS III space vehicle (GPS III SV02) to Cape Canaveral for an expected July launch. Designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, the satellite traveled from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, to the Cape on a massive Air Force C-17 aircraft. The Air Force nicknamed the GPS III SV02 “Magellan” after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. GPS III is the most powerful and resilient GPS satellite ever put on orbit. Developed with an entirely new design, for U.S. and allied forces, it will have three times greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities over the previous GPS II satellite design block, which makes up today’s GPS constellation. GPS III also will be the first GPS satellite to broadcast the new L1C civil signal. Shared by other international global navigation satellite systems, like Galileo, the L1C signal will improve future connectivity worldwide for commercial and civilian users. The Air Force began modernizing the GPS constellation with new technology and capabilities with the December 23, 2018 launch of its first GPS III satellite. GPS III SV01 is now receiving and responding to commands from Lockheed Martin’s Launch and Checkout Center at the company’s Denver facility.
“After orbit raising and antenna deployments, we switched on GPS III SV01’s powerful signal-generating navigation payload and on Jan. 8 began broadcasting signals,” Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for Navigation Systems. “Our on orbit testing continues, but the navigation payload’s capabilities have exceeded expectations and the satellite is operating completely healthy.”
GPS III SV02 is the second of ten new GPS III satellites under contract and in full production at Lockheed Martin. GPS III SV03-08 are now in various stages of assembly and test. The Air Force declared the second GPS III “Available for Launch” in August and, in November, called GPS III SV02 up for its 2019 launch. In September 2018, the Air Force selected Lockheed Martin for the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program, an estimated $7.2bn opportunity to build up to 22 additional GPS IIIF satellites with additional capabilities. GPS IIIF builds off Lockheed Martin’s existing modular GPS III, which was designed to evolve with new technology and changing mission needs. On September 26, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.4bn contract for support to start up the program and to contract the 11th and 12th GPS III satellite. Once declared operational, GPS III SV01 and SV02 are expected to take their place in today’s 31 satellite strong GPS constellation, which provides positioning, navigation and timing services to more than four billion civil, commercial and military users.
25 Mar 19. Say It With Space Lasers: Optical Comsats For Major War. Nine years after the Pentagon tried and failed to build laser communications satellites, can the private sector get it done? With the military’s terrestrial wireless networks threatened by Russian and Chinese jammers, Pentagon R&D chief Mike Griffin is keenly interested in communicating in space with low-powered laser beams instead of radio waves. The last time the military tried to build laser communications satellites was a disaster known as TSAT, a five satellite constellation cancelled in 2010. Nine years later, the technology has advanced so far that multiple private companies — including SpaceX — see big profits in launching large numbers of laser comsats for civilian use. Can military messages hitch a ride instead of reinventing the wheel?
“The market is telling us that this is commercially viable,” said Don Brown, general manager of government services at Telesat, which plans to have a constellation of optical satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO to the cognoscenti) in just three years. “We’re running this huge mesh network in space, [as of] 2022, where military assets can come and join that network.”
Now, the private sector prefers to call this technology “optical” communications instead of “laser” because, well, the word “laser” makes people think of stuff blowing up.
“Why don’t you just say laser communications?” said Barry Matsumori, CEO of BridgeSat. “Because a large community goes, ‘ah, laser equals thousands of watts, high energy.’ No, no, no, we are single-digit, low energy.”
But you can do a lot with a little energy, because laser beams don’t spread out and lose power as rapidly as radio waves do. “We’ve built a system that’s more than 100 gigabits per second,” said David Czajkowski, CEO of Space Micro Inc. For scale, that’s almost four times as fast as the cancelled TSAT was supposed to be, and not in a massive military-unique satellite. “A modem is the size of two Dells on top of each other, and we’re able stack these up … to a terabit. It’s integrated on a satellite and it’ll be flying later this year,” Czajkowski said.
Now, the private sector’s currently talking about satellites communicating to other satellites with lasers, though the vacuum of space. That should dramatically increase both bandwidth — the reason commercial users are so interested — and security against eavesdropping or jamming — of particular interest to the military.
But the Telesat network will still rely on traditional radio-frequency communications between the satellites in orbit and the users on the ground. That creates both a potential chokepoint for bandwidth and a vulnerability that jammers can attack. Why not close that gap with lasers too? Well, while tightly focused laser beams are much harder than radio waves for a human adversary to detect, listen in on, and disrupt, they have a much harder time getting through natural interference in the atmosphere: Even cloud cover can stop them.
“Optical is not 100 percent available once you hit the atmosphere,” said Linda Thomas, an award-winning optical communications scientist at the Navy Research Laboratory. “I always see optical as an augmentation to existing RF networks; anybody who says (that) inside the atmosphere optics will replace RF, it’s just not true.
“The challenge with laser com in the past is we’ve had a lot of component builders that want to build the high bandwidth widget,” Thomas said. “This is a watershed moment for laser com. The technology at the component level is at the maturity that we can start fielding … but you still need the right team at the engineering level to put that whole system together.”
A laser communications network will need not only the lasers themselves, but sensors to detect cloud cover, weather models to predict where those clouds are going, and sophisticated network-management software to route signals through patches of clearer sky.
Satellite-to-satellite links are definitely easier than satellite-to-ground, Matsumori agreed, but there are “a lot of advanced techniques” that should fix the problem. The simplest fix is just to have more ground stations so someone, somewhere always has a good shot at the satellite. That sounds expensive, but it turns out equipment for transmitting and receiving low-powered lasers can be cheaper, smaller, and easier to power than comparable radio-wave systems.
That lasers coms gear requires less money, room, and power than radio is also a big advantage for satellites, where every pound lifted into orbit is precious. Even if you still have to rely to radio for the ground-to-space link, you don’t need radio on every satellite. Once Telesat’s constellation is up, Brown said, “you don’t have to carry RF [radio frequency] gear on DoD mission spacecraft.”
“We are racing ahead,” Brown said. “It’s going to look really different in about 10 to 15 years.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
25 Mar 19. SIPRI Examines Convergence of Biology and Emerging Technologies in Arms Controls. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released a report entitled Bio Plus X: Arms Control and the Convergence of Biology and Emerging Technologies. The report explores the risks and challenges posed by the interaction of developments in biotechnology and advances in three emerging technologies: additive manufacturing (so-called 3D printing), artificial intelligence and robotics. All three technologies are difficult to control, particularly due to their digitization and their dual-use nature. ‘A key challenge for effective biological arms control is that treaty structures and the institutional arrangements in ministries and government agencies do not correspond to today’s technical realities,’ says Dr Sibylle Bauer, Director of the SIPRI Armament and Disarmament programme. The report recommends that, to tackle the governance issues presented by emerging technologies, national governments need to monitor and assess developments in science and technology on a more systematic basis. They should also strengthen international efforts to foster responsible science and biosecurity awareness. In addition, the report suggests that the private sector should reinforce self-regulation and compliance standards. (Source: glstrade.com)
22 Mar 19. Comtech Telecommunications Corp. Introduces New Micro Deployable X/Y Antennas to the LEO/MEO and HAPS Markets. Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (Nasdaq: CMTL) announced today that its Command & Control Technologies group’s, Space & Component Technology division, which is part of Comtech’s Government Solutions segment, introduced an exciting line of transportable, full motion antennas for tracking Low Earth Orbit (“LEO”) and Medium Earth Orbit (“MEO”) satellites and High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (“HAPS”). The Micro Deployable X/Y Tracking Antennas utilize the same two-axis pedestal technology and control software used on Comtech’s larger X/Y systems, thereby eliminating the keyhole at zenith, cable wrap, and backlash problems found on traditional elevation/azimuth (El/Az) tracking antennas. These advantages of the X/Y design are now offered in very small and lightweight packages. This highly cost effective, full hemispheric coverage solution set can be transported on a commercial airliner and can be assembled for operation by one individual in less than 30 minutes without special equipment.
“The introduction of the Micro Deployable X/Y Terminals caps a successful year of market expansion for the industry’s most extensive and mature line of X/Y antenna systems, as well as a full range of high wind rated radomes,” said Fred Kornberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Comtech Telecommunications Corp. “Comtech will continue to bring highly reliable and innovative products to the LEO/MEO and HAPS markets.”
The Micro Deployable X/Y Tracking Antennas come in three sizes: Series A that can hold 30cm – 60cm reflectors, Series B that can hold 80 cm – 1.2m reflectors, and Series C that can hold 1.4m – 1.6m reflectors. Comtech offers the antenna systems in single and multi-band frequencies from L-band to Q-band. The antenna includes a GPS system that provides precision time and terminal position, and pointing accuracy better than 0.1 degree.
With a flexible system configuration, low power consumption, and high reliability, the Micro Deployable X/Y Tracking Antennas include Ethernet (TCP/IP) remote control for monitoring and control based on a Linux operating system. Additional features include a TLE-based program track satellite scheduler and precision carbon composites reflectors. This system does not require significant maintenance. Comtech’s Space and Component Technology (“SCT”) division of Cypress, California, has specialized for over 40 years in providing ground system services in the form of turn-key site development, infrastructure, operations and maintenance of several range tracking stations in the South Pacific. Over the past 16 years, SCT added the most extensive line of LEO/MEO X/Y tracking antennas in the industry. Using the concept of product families and platform-based product development to increase variety, shorten lead-times, and reduce costs without compromising system performance, Comtech today can offer a product range with generic ‘family’ features from 30 cm to 13-meter apertures, to include auto tracking systems as well as a range of deployable, trailer mounted, or fixed systems. For more information, visit www.comtechspace.com.
The Command & Control Technologies group is a leading provider of mission-critical, highly-mobile C4ISR solutions.
Comtech Telecommunications Corp. designs, develops, produces, and markets innovative products, systems and services for advanced communications solutions. The Company sells products to a diverse customer base in the global commercial and government communications markets.
Certain information in this press release contains statements that are forward-looking in nature and involve certain significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from such forward-looking information. The Company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings identify many such risks and uncertainties. Any forward-looking information in this press release is qualified in its entirety by the risks and uncertainties described in such Securities and Exchange Commission filings. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
14 Mar 19. FMC Globalsat Employs Kymeta’s Flat Panel VSAT Aboard “Bad Daddy.” FMC GlobalSat has deployed the world’s first use of the Kymeta software-steered satellite antenna aboard a sportfishing yacht, delivering highly reliable and secure satellite and wireless network access through its 4G/LTSAT service.
Through this solution, the award-winning S.Y. Bad Daddy, a 76-foot Spencer, has global access to FMC GlobalSat’s 4G/LTSAT converged communications platform to receive uninterrupted network connectivity in port and at sea. The solution aboard the S.Y. Bad Daddy leverages a Kymeta VSAT flat panel antenna integrated with FMC GlobalSat’s portfolio of satellite and 4G wireless services.
Based in Miami Beach, S.Y. Bad Daddy operates along the Florida coast, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and into the mid-Atlantic. The yacht, captained by Jason “Tiny” Walcott, provides leisure and competitive sportfishing excursions to teams and owners. S.Y. Bad Daddy is recognized as one of the region’s foremost sportfishing vessels, recently claiming the 2018 Largest Blue Marlin captured in the Bahamas Tournament Series and the 2018 Lady Angler in Bermuda Billfish Blast.
Through the onboard FMC GlobalSat Customer Portal application, Walcott has real-time internet access enabling him to view maps and reports that include air pressure, temperature, waves, ocean currents, wind, clouds, rain and lightning while underway. Most sportfishing operators offering this level of detail typically use data from the previous evening — limiting accuracy and value. This level of visibility not only gives S.Y. Bad Daddy owners and teams an enhanced fishing experience and competitive advantage, but also helps ensure safety while at sea.
The 4G/LTSAT system provides seamless wireless roaming service in all ports of call without the need to switch SIM cards or register with a new carrier. The platform maintains 4G wireless and HTS (High Throughput Satellite) connections at all times, and automatically switches traffic to the path with the strongest signal without any intervention.
FMC GlobalSat’s 4G/LTSAT service bundles all software, hardware, and network access into a single usage-based subscription model that is simple to deploy and cost-effective for many applications. The installation aboard S.Y. Bad Daddy includes the first use of a Kymeta software-steered flat panel antenna for satellite communication on a sportfishing vessel. Through FMC GlobalSat’s unique subscription model, the Kymeta VSAT antenna is included in the bundle, enabling S.Y. Bad Daddy to leverage its advanced technology in an affordable package.
Walcott said that the company’s success revolves around rigorous planning that incorporates information on weather, water conditions and currents, which helps the firm to plan the most productive route for the company’s outings. Prior to the use of the FMC GlobalSat converged 4G/LTSAT technology, the company had no option other than relying on data that was received the night before. This technology, including both instant internet access and FMC GlobalSat customer applications, completely changes the way the vessel operates, as there is now constant access to crucial information that will locate the best fishing spots, avoid adverse weather and deliver a much better overall fishing experience.”
Emmanuel Cotrel, CEO for FMC GlobalSat, noted that the company believes the 4G/LTSAT solution can be a game-changer for private vessels that want full-time broadband connectivity. Existing satellite connectivity employs expensive and heavy hardware, expensive flat-rate access fees as well as high maintenance for moving parts. The firm’s offering is self-contained and maintenance-free, has no moving parts, weighs less than 100 pounds, and maintains a connection uptime in excess of 99.99 percent. Most of all, the entire service is provided as a subscription, delivering both value and cost-certainty to the sportfishing and yachting industries. (Source: Satnews)
18 Mar 19. Scotland Can Win European Space Race, Says Member of Scottish Parliament. Scotland is leading the way and can win a European space race, an MSP has said. Speaking at Holyrood on Thursday, Scottish Conservative Edward Mountain said all MSPs (Member of Scottish Parliament) should get behind proposals to increase the country’s space capabilities. He made the comments during a Scottish Government debate on Scotland’s strengths in technology and engineering in becoming a leading space nation.
Mr Mountain said Scotland is not just capable of building rockets, but also launching them.
He said: “Scotland builds more spacecraft than anywhere else outside California and that’s something to be proud of. It’s a remarkable success story for Scottish manufacturing. Scotland, I believe, is leading the European space race because not only can we design, build and operate, but we will now be able to launch spacecraft. I believe that the UK has the right business environment, the right industrial capability and is also blessed to have the right geography to succeed. Scotland is well placed in this space race and I believe it’s a race that we can win.”
Leading the debate, Innovation Minister Ivan McKee suggested Scotland’s space sector could be worth £4bn by 2030.
Mr McKee also outlined the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce at least one spaceport by the early 2020s.
He said: “Scotland already has an innovative and diverse engineering base, with world-class companies competing in international markets. As a country already punching above its weight in the space sector, we are in a great place to consolidate these existing strengths. Our ambitious plans for the space sector need strong leadership to succeed, and we are working with the Scottish Space Leadership Council, which has representatives from all parts of the sector including potential launch sites, satellite manufacturers and data analysis businesses. Together I’m confident we will deliver the aspiration for Scotland to become a £4bn industry by 2030 and be Europe’s leading space nation.”
More small satellites are built in Glasgow than any other place in Europe, with nearly a fifth of all UK space jobs based in Scotland.
Findings from the Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2018 report indicate a 27% increase in the number of space organisations in Scotland.
There are now more than 130 space organisations in Scotland – including the headquarters of 83 UK space industry firms – generating an estimated combined income of £140m.
Scottish Labour MSP David Stewart said: “Scotland has a fantastic space industry but it must be invested in for it to continue to grow.
“We can either grasp this opportunity to be at the forefront of space technology or we can choose to be left behind. Scotland in general, and Highlands and Islands in particular, have a comparative advantage in terms of location. Brexit cannot be allowed to become a barrier to this industry’s future prosperity.”
HOW THEY VOTED
A Scottish Government motion was passed by 79 to 21. It called for Parliament to welcome the growth of the Scottish space sector and said that investment should be encouraged to support the ambition to deliver a full end-to-end space sector capability in Scotland, to build, launch and operate satellites.
A Scottish Conservative amendment calling on Parliament to welcome both the Space Industry Act 2018 and the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, which includes support for a £50m programme to support small satellite launches and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports, was passed by 79 to 21. A Scottish Labour amendment for Parliament to note the diversification to the Scottish economy that the space sector provides and to consider future commercial viability was passed unanimously.
A Liberal Democrat amendment failed to pass by 81 to 19. It had called on Parliament to support the creation of enterprise zones in areas of Scotland where space activity is being developed. (Source: Satnews/The Scotsman)
21 Mar 19. What if satellite communication was as simple as roaming cell service. The satellites that the U.S. Department of Defense relies on for communications often each have their own ground control systems that are designed to work with specific families spacecraft. But as space becomes more a more contested, with enemies looking to undermine the United States’ information advantage, that set up can lead to problems on the battlefield.
“Today if they lose communications because of adversarial jamming, they may have to cancel their mission,” said Frank Backes, senior vice president of federal satellite Solutions at national security solutions provider Kratos. “If they depend on satellite communications to do their mission, they will be basically stuck.”
Under a program sponsored by the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, subsidiary Kratos RT Logic recently demonstrated a potential fix. The company unveiled a solution that would allow users to roam among multiple satellites and systems in much the same way the cellphones roam when they are deprived of a signal.
The prototype, known as Enterprise Management and Control (M&C), aims to make defense communications more robust by offering diverse pathways and enhanced bandwidth efficiency.
The need for roaming satellite communication connectivity comes from an evolving military landscape.
“When the present satellite communications infrastructure was set up, military communications weren’t operating in a hostile communications environment. Today that has fundamentally changed,” Backes said. “When Army or Navy is operating in theater, they run into jamming as well as unintentional interference.”
When that happens, it is possible to reconfigure the network, to switch to another satellite, but it can literally take weeks or even months to make the change. The new initiative seeks to allow soldiers to recover comms on the fly, without having to swap out equipment or reconfigure their connections.
Kratos demonstrated the capability using existing legacy terminals. “It’s primarily a software modification,” Backes said. “A lot of the solutions that have been considered would have required changing out all the ground terminals. We worked directly with DISA and with Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles so that we would not require the replacement of those legacy systems. That makes it dramatically less expensive.”
Government has long recognized the need for such a capability. “Satellites, ground control systems, and user terminals in most of the Defense Department’s major space system acquisitions are not optimally aligned, leading to underutilized satellites and limited capability provided to the war fighter,” the GAO noted in a 2009 report. The issue has been a long-running theme for the Congressional watchdog since then.
“When capabilities are delayed because of lack of alignment between satellite and ground control systems or user terminals, the war fighter may develop short-term solutions, often at diminished capability and added cost,” GAO reported.
The emerging system is designed to work with standard commercial communications satellites as well as with the military’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation. It aims to achieve a number of specific ends including:
- Giving operators rapid, automated access to multiple satellites and satellite networks, from multiple service providers;
- Allowing control of multiple modem types and software versions from within a single terminal;
- Enabling terminal reconfiguration to support diverse SATCOM architectures, including Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) networks.
The emerging system aims to do more than just restore comms when the link fizzles out. A diagnostic capability helps the system to understand why the network has gone down, which in turn enables the roaming function to take the next needed step.
“You need to be able to make the determination not just when to roam but also why,” Backes said. By understanding the cause of a network failure, “the system can then make a determination as to what satellite system might be a better choice under those circumstances, so that it would not be interfered with.”
Engineers took an open-architecture approach to designing the new interface. In addition to allowing roaming among disparate systems, this approach also could enable a rapid acquisition path, should battlefield communication needs change rapidly. “That frees the government to lease from multiple commercial companies, to set up new leases and to immediately start using those out in the field,” Backes said. “It allows the government to very quickly adjust and deploy.”
Looking ahead, Kratos executives say they hope to see a 2019 contract award for additional testing to prove operational capability. As part of that effort, engineers will push for less human intervention in the roaming capability.
“With thousands of terminals out in the field, the goal is to have it make the move on its own. The next phase of proving out this system would be to show that capacity for an automated change. That’s what make it true roaming. You don’t tell it when to switch networks. It just does it on its own,” Backes said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.