Sponsored By Viasat
23 Apr 19. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today it has surpassed a key milestone of 1,000 AN/PRC-161 Battlefield Awareness Targeting System-Dismounted (BATS-D) handheld Link 16 radios shipped. The 1,000th production unit was delivered in March 2019, Viasat’s final quarter of fiscal year 2019. The Viasat BATS-D handheld Link 16 radio bridges a critical gap between air and ground forces by providing warfighters at the tactical edge secure, reliable access to integrated air and ground information for improved situational awareness and enhanced close air support communications.
Viasat has steadily increased BATS-D production capabilities in response to growing demand. The BATS-D handheld Link 16 radio is part of Viasat’s expansive portfolio of Non-Developmental Item solutions, which help provide warfighters with better communications to more rapidly engage enemy targets and reduce the risk of fratricide incidents.
“Delivering the 1,000th BATS-D to customers demonstrates the value of Viasat’s entrepreneurial business models, culture of innovation and deep understanding of the current and emerging mission needs of today’s warfighter,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “Our patented BATS-D technology has been field-tested and proven to significantly reduce targeting timelines, enhancing overall mission effectiveness and improving warfighter safety. Given its field-proven success, we are increasing production rates of our BATS-D radio to empower customers with leading advancements in Link 16 technologies that will provide them with the edge needed to succeed across today’s battlespace.”
The patented AN/PRC-161 BATS-D handheld radio is ideal for bringing full Link 16 network access to a number of Department of Defense customers. Viasat’s portfolio of next-generation tactical datalink systems, including the BATS-D handheld radio, are updated with new capabilities to support the operational environment and customers’ evolving mission needs.
25 Apr 19. Launch services competition cuts margins for suppliers. At a GKN Aerospace press conference held in London yesterday Hans Buthker, CEO of GKN Aerospace said that the company was in negotiations for the Ariane 6 launch programme but that launch contracts had been cut by as much as 50% to around $75m per launch from $150m for Ariane 5 launches. This was due to the entry of new companies such as Space X into the launch service industry.
In May 2016 GKN Aerospace announced that it will develop and manufacture advanced rocket engine sub-systems for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, under the prime contractorship of Airbus Safran Launchers, after securing major new contracts.
GKN Aerospace will develop and manufacture advanced rocket engine sub-systems for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, under the prime contractorship of Airbus Safran Launchers, after securing major new contracts.
The contracts cover sub-systems for both the main (VULCAIN 2.1) and upper (VINCI) stage engines for the European Space Agency-led new-generation rocket launcher. In total GKN Aerospace will provide five complex sub-systems for each Ariane 6 rocket, including four turbine assemblies for the two engines, generating power for the hydrogen and oxygen fuel systems. These turbine assemblies will be manufactured at GKN Aerospace’s engine systems operation in Trollhättan, Sweden.
Among the sub-systems being supplied by GKN Aerospace will be an advanced nozzle (SWAN) for the Vulcain 2.1 engine. This is the first flying nozzle to incorporate technologies such as laser-welded sandwich walls and additively manufactured structural reinforcements. By exploiting the company’s expertise in these cutting-edge technologies, GKN Aerospace has developed sandwich nozzle technology that is significantly more robust than earlier versions, can meet increased production rate requirements and has 40% lower manufacturing costs.
Torgny Stenholm, Vice President Services & Special Products GKN Aerospace – Engine Systems, Trollhättan, said: “With the support of the Swedish National Space Board we participated in the initial engine demonstrator programmes which allowed us to work with our customer to prove technologies in operation and at full scale. We have also been able to demonstrate the successful migration of a number of advanced technologies between our space activities and commercial aviation, with valuable benefits for commercial aerospace in weight and cost reduction, and faster production rates. These factors, along with our established expertise in metallic nozzles and space turbines, have resulted in the award of this engine sub-systems contract and we look forward to continuing to make a technological contribution to this key European space programme.”
GKN Aerospace’s space business unit, in Trollhättan, Sweden, has been active in the Ariane programme from its inception in 1974 and has made over 1,000 combustion chambers and nozzles as well as over 250 turbines for the Ariane rocket to date. Today it is the European centre of excellence for turbines and metallic nozzles, having contributed to the programme at every stage from intial research and development through cooperation with academia to the serial production of the Ariane 5 rocket. Ariane 5 is now the market-leading rocket in the commercial space sector with an outstanding track record of 71 successful launches in a row – and counting. GKN Aerospace’s sub-systems meet the extreme demands of Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2 rocket engine across performance, weight and cost.
It was clear during the Press Conference that space systems were marginal to the mainstream Aerospace business which is expanding rapidly with the opening of its Global Technology Centre in Bristol next year and a rapid push into the Chinese market. Perhaps new owners Melrose may look at the space unit as a candidate for disposal?
23 Apr 19. Forsway kicks off European Space Agency co-funded 5G development project. Forsway, a leading provider of hybrid satellite routers and innovative solutions to enable cost-efficient satellite broadband, announced that is has been awarded a co-funded development contract from the European Space Agency (ESA). The scope of the development project entails integration of the Forsway Xtend Hub with the 5G/NFV architecture (Network Function Virtualization)
Forsway’s comprehensive 5G project aims to enable and simplify a communication service provider’s (CSP) ability to significantly accelerate slow or congested networks using satellite services. The 5G/NFV architecture will make it possible for a CSP to seamlessly integrate the hybrid Forsway Xtend Hub directly into their core network. This development aligns with the Satellite for 5G initiative that is supported by ESA co-funding through its programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).
The technology provider will develop a complete satellite hub for hybrid connectivity based on the 5G NFV/SDN architecture. The Forsway 5G hub’s architecture will allow tailoring for a variety of bespoke scenarios for connected vehicles, such as connected cars and in-flight connectivity. Employing network slicing will make it possible to create customised services combining satellite and terrestrial networks in an efficient manner. To supplement the hub, Forsway will also develop a hybrid satellite/terrestrial 5G terminal to deploy validation trials.
Edvin Lindkvist, CTO, Forsway,” Forsway sees the network-of-networks approach in 5G as a perfect means of using satellites to reach underserved areas not covered by mobile broadband. We believe that satellites will play an important role when providing continuous connectivity to vehicles and that the network-of-networks approach in the 5G architecture gives a good flexibility to extend the mobile networks with satellites. The integration of the Forsway Xtend Hub into the 5G/NFV architecture will create an exciting, future-oriented platform for 5G initiatives outside our traditional customer base, such as support for connected cars and much more.”
25 Apr 19. Satcube, a disruptive development company in the satellite communications arena that manufactures game-changing portable terminals enabling high-performance broadband access anywhere, today announced it will demonstrate its award-winning Satcube Ku satellite terminal at Satellite 2019, May 6th – 9th. Throughout the exhibition, Satcube will hold feature demonstrations at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Booth 2511.
Satcube Ku highlights and Satellite 2019 demonstrations:
- Compact and light weight, feature-rich GUI: Red Dot Design winner 2019
- Benchmark, portable satellite terminal enabling rapid broadband connectivity almost anywhere on earth, with no need for engineering expertise
- Significantly outperforms BGAN devices and services in size, speed, ease-of-use and cost
- Designed for broadcast media, emergency responders, public safety organizations, tele-medicine, NGO´s, those in remote work locations needing high capacity communications
-” The Satcube mission is making seamless high-capacity satellite broadband made easy,” says Jakob Kallmér, CEO, Satcube. Comparable to a large laptop, the lightweight Satcube Ku terminal provides the ease of an iPhone and deployment of broadband in less than a minute.”
-” Tapping Satcube’s market-leading offering, couple with best-in-class technology and portable design, we are serving industry verticals and work places requiring broadband connectivity where limited or no 3G/4G connectivity is available.”
Satcube provides seamless broadband connectivity over satellite through easy to use, lightweight terminals. The innovative Satcube Ku portable satellite terminal is a highly compact, user-friendly device that delivers quick connectivity empowering people at work, businesses and global organizations, to communicate and deliver critical services at any time.
24 Apr 19. Intelsat declares near-new communications satellite a total loss. Just to show that even the most expensive space technology, developed and launched by companies well established in the space business, can break, Intelsat has declared its new 29e satellite a complete loss. Intelsat last week announced that an anomaly previously disclosed on 10 April had resulted in the total loss of the Intelsat 29e spacecraft. A failure review board has been convened with the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing, to complete a comprehensive analysis of the cause, Intelsat said.
That anomaly was unspecified damage that caused a leak of the satellite’s onboard propellant.
“While working to restore the services, on 9 April, the satellite experienced a second anomaly that caused a loss of communications to the satellite. Communication with the satellite has been intermittent,” Intelsat said.
The company said all efforts to recover the satellite were unsuccessful.
That leaves Intelsat 29e adrift and out of contact in geostationary orbit. The company said it had transferred customers using this satellite to other satellites. This isn’t a problem for Australia. Satellite 29e provided communications services for North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, 29e was almost brand new, the first of a planned six of the EpicNG high throughput satellites, providing substantially increased capacity.
It was built by Boeing, drawing on its experience with the military Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation, and launched from the Arianespace Guiana launch facility in January 2016.
That went according to plan, but Intelsat 29e barely made it past three years, rather than the expected 15-year lifespan, making whatever went wrong a very expensive anomaly.
US commercial space situational awareness company ExoAnalytic Solutions said it had spotted the satellite, adrift and apparently tumbling, along with unidentified pieces of debris, through its network of optical telescopes on 8 April.
Satellite failures aren’t that unusual.
In 2017, two communications satellites in high-Earth orbit failed through unspecified onboard anomalies, both reportedly shedding debris.
That was Indonesian communications satellite Telkom-1 and European satellite AMC-9. Both were old satellites, with Telkom-1 built by Lockheed Martin and launched in 1999, and AMC-9, built by Thales Alenia Space, launched in 2003. (Source: Space Connect)
24 Apr 19. ADF could benefit from new higher capacity comms satellite. US defence prime Boeing has been granted a contract to build another Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) communications satellite for the US Air Force, adding to the capability of the constellation, in which Australia is a partner. Under the US$605m deal, Boeing will build WGS-11, which will be completed and ready for launch by late 2023.
However, the curious bit is that the US Air Force considered the WGS constellation complete with the launch of WGS-10 in March this year.
It never sought funding for WGS-11, let alone WGS-12. However, the US Congress inserted funding for both into the 2018 US defence budget, with the contract with Boeing for WGS-11 announced late last week.
The WGS network provides fast, secure, high capacity satellite communications in the X- and Ka-bands for US and ally forces.
Australia paid its dues by funding WGS-6 and has access to the entire network and its capabilities, progressively rolling out the necessary infrastructure to access the WGS network.
Other WGS partners are Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and the Czech Republic, each with access to the capabilities provided by the full WGS system.
WGS progressively replaced the older US Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), of which the first satellite was launched in 1966. Each WGS reportedly offers the same capacity as the entire DSCS constellation.
Boeing has been the prime contractor for all the WGS vehicles since 2001. The first WGS was launched in 2007.
WGS satellites have been produced in three blocks, each providing increased capability.
The US Air Force had been considering what would come after WGS, with a number of options on the table including buying services from the booming commercial satellite market.
But then Congress quite unexpectedly provided funding for WGS-11 and WGS-12, although it made no appropriation for launch costs, which would likely add the same again.
With new satellites it didn’t really want or plan for on the way, the US Air Force now has a fresh dilemma and also, it appears, some opportunities.
One possibility is to double the capacity of earlier WGS satellites so there’s no need for WGS-12. Boeing is considering taking care of the launch, using commercial launch services to reduce the costs.
US Air Force is also asking Boeing to help recruit international partners to contribute to the costs of WGS-11 and its launch. Australia could well be asked to chip in.
USAF Lieutenant General John Thompson, Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, said it was working with Boeing and the US military to adhere to the intent of Congress.
“….but (we) don’t do things the same old way we’ve always done with respect to procuring WGS satellites,” he told the media at the recent space symposium in Colorado, US. (Source: Space Connect)
22 Apr 19. DARPA Blackjack: Who’ll Get Prized Satellite Tech, Air Force Or SDA? Large networks of small, cheap satellites derived from commercial technology would be harder for China or Russia to kill than a handful of expensive, exquisite military-unique birds. But who gets to build it?
Everybody wants Blackjack. The DARPA program, meant to demonstrate how the military can use commercially-derived technology for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, is slated to make the transition out of the DARPA-run tech demo phase and into an actual acquisition program in 2022. But who will get to run it?
Both the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and the Pentagon’s brand-new Space Development Agency (SDA) are laying plans to transition Blackjack’s technology into their own acquisition programs. It’ll be a high-stakes test case for whether the two agencies will cooperate or clash.
“SMC is currently partnered with DARPA and providing funding for Blackjack. When Blackjack is proven successful, SMC is planning a transition of the architecture to a program called CASINO [Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations],” Col. Dennis Bythewood, Program Executive Officer for Space Development at SMC, told me in a Friday evening email statement. “SMC is also working with the newly created SDA to define roles and responsibilities and how our respective efforts will complement each other. SMC is committed to continued partnership with DARPA and SDA to provide future capabilities to the warfighter.”
However, speaking at the 2019 Space Symposium, SDA chief Fred Kennedy waxed enthusiastic about his agency’s intentions to take up Blackjack when it comes to fruition. SDA is heavily focusing on the same basket of “proliferated LEO” missions in its “notional architecture” scheme that DARPA is trying to prove feasible with Blackjack. In fact, in early March Pentagon chief of research and development Mike Griffin (whose shop oversees SDA) mentioned Blackjack as one of SDA’s cornerstone inputs. In particular, Kennedy explained to me last week, he is keenly interested in the potential for incorporating Blackjack’s demonstrated capabilities into a future LEO missile tracking layer (a huge priority for Griffin, BTW). But, he added, “Anything it does, I can build on it.”
So, who’s on first? Are we looking at a potential food fight between SDA and SMC? Remember, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has had nothing good to say about SDA. She has instead touted the revamped SMC as all that is needed to speed space acquisition. But Wilson is out come May.
Meanwhile, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan — who shows every sign of staying — has given SDA a number of special authorities to bypass standard DoD acquisition rules in order to move quickly to snare commercially available capabilities.
Show Me The Money
Right now it’s hard to say where Blackjack will end up, as neither SMC’s CASINO nor SDA actually have dedicated funding to take it over.
A DARPA spokesperson explained in an email: “The DARPA program manager for Blackjack (Rusty Thomas) is working with the USAF and DoD agencies to define the transition path.”
SMC has been working since last year on how to ‘adopt’ Blackjack as a ‘real boy’ when DARPA wraps it up at the end of 2022. (DARPA programs are designed as tech demos that, if successful, are then picked up by a service as a formal RTD&E/procurement program). SMC’s interest was goaded in no small part by Congress, who infused $25m into the Air Force FY2019 budget specifically for Blackjack.
SMC Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson testified to the SASC Strategic Forces subcommittee on March 27 that CASINO, which would move Blackjack into the Air Force, is now one of nine key “pacesetter” programs under SMC’s initiative to speed acquisitions (known as SMC 2.0). “The SMC pacesetter effort, known as CASINO will expand the efforts” of Blackjack, “to increase resilience by disaggregating various mission capabilities using large, Low Earth Orbit constellations,” he said.
Further, about a month ago, Aerospace Corporation posted a job opening in its El Segundo office for the CASINO Project Manager that included the following duties:
- Engineering and technical lead for the Air Force’s Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations (CASINO) Program
- Leverage lessons from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Blackjack program
- Support CASINO requirements and architecture definition/implementation and enterprise integration studies
- Establish CASINO Integrated Product Team (IPT) structure and systems engineering processes
- Assist in the acquisition strategy, and development of request for proposal documentation
- Cultivate collaboration across SMC 2.0 organizational structure, DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratories and numerous other government, commercial, and defense industrial base entities.
One non-trivial problem: the Air Force has no funds for CASINO in fiscal 2020 or in the out years of the future-year defense plan (FYDP) for 2020-2024. The FY2020 Air Force budget justification documents show an empty line for Blackjack under the Space Systems Prototype Transitions (SSPT) budget line (PE 1206427F). Sources involved with CASINO and Blackjack tell me that SMC asked for $350m in the FYDP for CASINO and the Blackjack transition, but did not get it. (It is not clear to me at this point whether it was Air Force, Pentagon or White House budgetmeisters who wielded the knife.) SMC did not comment on the funding issue, and Aerospace referred me to SMC for comment.
For his part, Kennedy, for his part, assured me that there is “no tug of war” between SDA and SMC over Blackjack’s future. Rather, he was adamant that SDA “intends to work with the Air Force, DARPA, the IC and any other stakeholders to ensure Blackjack outputs” are integrated into the future national security space architecture. Further, SDA currently is looking at a budget of only about $150 m in FY2020 to get the office stood up and to put SDA on track accomplish Kennedy’s goal of putting up its first satellites (for data relay for MDA) in FY2022.
Under Blackjack, DARPA hopes to have successfully launched 20 demonstration satellites with a variety of experimental payloads based on a ‘standardized’ commercially-provided satellite bus by the end of fiscal 2022, according to the agency’s website. DARPA asked for $25 m for the project in FY2020, up from $16.4m the previous year.
DARPA’s latest contract solicitation for the advanced software system for the constellation (called Pit Boss) explains further: “The Blackjack demonstration program will investigate the incorporation of multiple functional layers and payload phenomenologies into a unified data collection and distribution architecture. These layers are expected to include overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors, Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) payloads for Global Positioning System (GPS) augmentation, radio frequency (RF) and optical communications, including direct connectivity with tactical users from LEO, multiple tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance payloads, and all-weather, multi-domain asset geolocation, identification, characterization, and tracking.”
In the end, it likely will be Congress, as it takes up the Pentagon FY2020 budget request, who ultimately decides where Blackjack ends up. As noted, Congress has in past years tried to push Blackjack more rapidly into the arms of the Air Force. With SDA now online, who knows where their (often fickle) Cupid’s arrow will land? But all things considered, the fate of Blackjack is at a minimum a test of how well SDA and SMC will be able to work together instead of wasting their energy on turf wars. Watch this space. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
22 Apr 19. DARPA Seeks Space Robots to Repair Satellites. The robots would service military, government, and commercial spacecraft more than 22,000 miles above the Earth. The Pentagon’s research office wants to send robots into space to inspect and repair the nation’s satellites. Today the U.S. has more than 400 military, government and commercial satellites circling the globe in geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO, a celestial path about 22,000 miles above the ground. These high-altitude satellites are ideal for telecommunications, meteorology and certain military applications, but when they break down, it’s nearly impossible to fix something far out in the cosmos. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency believes space-based robots offer the best bet for inspecting and repairing high-altitude satellites, especially with the number of satellites set to skyrocket due to a budding Space Force and federal agencies and industry ramping up operations in outer space.
Under the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program, DARPA will partner with teams to build both robots that can maintain and upgrade satellites, as well as the spacecraft to move the bots through space. Once deployed, the tech would periodically check in on different satellites and service them as needed.
Because today’s high-altitude satellites are so difficult to repair, they’re often built with numerous backup systems to take over when something malfunctions, which adds weight, cost and complexity, according to DARPA. But if robots could perform repairs, satellites would likely become both cheaper and more reliable in the near future.
The robotic repairmen would “both provide increased resilience for the current U.S. space infrastructure and be the first concrete step toward a transformed space architecture with revolutionary capabilities,” DARPA officials wrote in the solicitation. Ultimately, each system would be expected to perform “dozens of missions over several years.”
The program is scheduled to last roughly five years, and DARPA will host a proposers day on May 22. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
23 Apr 19. Boeing awards contract to Cubic unit to support MQ-25 programme. Boeing has awarded a contract to Cubic Mission Solutions (CMS) to supply communication solutions for the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refuelling programme. The contract requires Cubic to supply its Wideband Satellite Communications (SATCOM) modem system and Line-of-Sight (LOS) Common Data Link (CDL) system. MQ-25 is manufactured by Boeing under a contract secured in August last year to build four MQ-25 aircraft to the US Navy for initial operational capability by 2024.
Designed to provide a much-needed refuelling capability to help extend the combat range of F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and F-35C fighter jets, the MQ-25 is the navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft.
The current contract will support the MQ-25 engineering and manufacturing development programme.
Cubic Mission Solutions president Mike Twyman said: “Our resilient, wideband communication solution will enable the MQ-25 to conduct its missions safely and securely. We are thrilled to continue our support of Boeing’s innovative design for this critical platform.”
According to CMS, a division of Cubic, the contract will help support more than 30 jobs.
Boeing MQ-25 programme director Dave Bujold said: “The MQ-25 programme is vital because it will help the US Navy extend the range of the carrier air wing, and Boeing and our industry team is all-in on delivering this capability.
“The work we’re doing is also foundational for the future of Boeing, where we’re building autonomous systems from seabed to space.”
Boeing’s MQ-25 EMD test asset is set to undergo flight testing this year.
Earlier this month, Triumph Group won a contract to provide critical hydraulic system components for the MQ-25 programme. (Source: naval-technology.com)
23 Apr 19. Kleos customer platform commences order registration. ASX-listed Kleos Space, a space-powered radio frequency reconnaissance data provider, has commenced registering customers for its global maritime geolocation data-as-a-service products. Kleos’ Scouting Mission satellites will provide daily geolocation observation while its planned full constellation will provide near-real time updates.
Customers can register for Kleos’ RF Reconnaissance data products:
- Guardian RF – raw data from Kleos satellites suitable for customers with their own geo-location analysis / signals intelligence capability;
- Guardian LOCATE – processed data delivering geo-located RF activity for further analytics within GEOINT and data fusion programs; and
- Guardian UDT – user defined, customised data set allowing selection of specific areas of interest, ground station, level of security and level of processing by the customer.
Andy Bowyer, CEO of Kleos Space, said, “Pre-order functionality is a major step towards commercialising our data products to large end-market customers. Our new web site at kleos.space clearly defines our product offering and allows end users to pre-order data sets that complement their existing data assets, leading to enhanced accuracy and situational awareness.”
Kleos data products are generally available on a monthly or annual basis subscription and delivery will commence in the summer (European) of 2019 after data collection by the Kleos Scouting Mission satellites.
The multi-satellite Scouting Mission system will form the foundation 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 is unclear or targets are out of patrol range. The first scouting mission is made up of 4x nano-satellites built by GomSpace in Denmark, each the size of a shoebox.
Kleos Space is a space enabled, activity-based intelligence, data-as-a-service company based in Luxembourg. Kleos Space aims to guard borders, protect assets and save lives by delivering global activity-based intelligence and geolocation as a service. (Source: Space Connect)
23 Apr 19. Industry, researchers jump on board new SmartSat CRC. Australian space industry and research organisations have enthusiastically endorsed the new SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the largest ever investment in advanced space industry R&D.
Already the Australian government, local firms and research organisations, plus global partners, have contributed almost $190m in cash and in-kind support for future activities.
Australian start-ups involved in the CRC include X-Lab, Myriota, FluroSat, Fleet, Inovor, Lyrebird and Delta-V. Australian universities and research organisations include ANU, UNSW, RMIT, Swinburne, QUT, Curtin, CSIRO and the Defence Science and Technology Group.
Global partners include Airbus, BAE, MDA, Northrop Grumman, Saab and SciSys.
The SmartSat CRC bid for Commonwealth funding was led by the University of South Australia and SA-based company Nova Systems.
Nova Systems chief executive Steve Robinson said it was exciting to be at the forefront of an Australian space industry milestone.
“We have already seen overwhelming support and collaboration for the CRC from industry leaders and world-renowned research organisations,” he said.
“The CRC is another step towards the enhancement of the capability and competitiveness of the Australian space sector, providing an opportunity for the next generation of space companies and technologies.”
Professor Russell Boyce, director of UNSW Canberra Space, said the SmartSat CRC would allow Australia to grow the space research and innovation that already exists in Australia.
“Having the SmartSat will ensure that Australia continues to not only be a part of the space race internationally, but be leaders in cutting-edge research technology,” he said.
Swinburne University of Technology deputy vice-chancellor (research and development) Professor Aleksandar Subic said the university was excited to bring its world-leading capabilities in astronomical data processing and visualisation to bear on the enormous opportunities the SmartSat CRC will bring.
That would drive growth of the Australian space industry, he said.
“The challenges facing our industry partners within the CRC are of a global scale and we can help solve them with the cutting-edge machine learning and AI techniques developed at Swinburne as part of our internationally recognised Industry 4.0 capability,” Professor Subic said.
Queensland University of Technology Professor Kerrie Mengersen said there was a wealth of data generated by space technology and much more to come.
“We’re looking forward to being able to contribute to the data-focused aspects of this CRC, in particular trying to corral the data into telling us important information about space, science and our society,” she said.
Macquarie University associate professor Sam Reisenfeld, who leads Macquarie’s contribution to the CRC, said a new generation of low-cost smart satellite technology had the potential to enhance agriculture, mining, communication and national security.
“Through the CRC we will further develop our technologies to enable satellites to communicate with each other and with users faster and more efficiently,” he said.
“Our contributions to the CRC will include artificial intelligence-based algorithms for satellites and Earth stations, technologies to integrate satellites with 5G phone networks, and ways to utilise satellite technology in the internet of things.” (Source: Space Connect)
18 Apr 19. SAS Global pursues funds to launch first batch of sats next year. Australian space company Sky and Space Global (SAS) has sought to raise additional funds to proceed with its ambitious plan for a global constellation of small communications satellites. The company, which listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2016, has issued a supplementary prospectus outlining its plans to proceed with a priority offer and Tranche 2 of its shares issue. The Tranche 2 placement of almost 140 million shares aims to raise $4.1m. The company’s Tranche 1 involved 260 million shares at an issue price of $0.03 per share.
They were last traded at 2.8 cents. SAS has a current market capitalisation of $58.98m. In the supplementary prospectus, SAS said it had sufficient capital to fund ongoing operations for about two months.
“If the priority offer and the Tranche 2 placement are fully subscribed, the company will be able to undertake its intended business plan for the launch of the first batch of operational satellites by early 2020 without further delays,” it said.
“If the priority offer and the Tranche 2 placement are subscribed to 90 per cent or less, the company will need to undertake a further capital raising, or seek alternative financing, in order to execute its current business plan without changes.”
SAS is planning what it calls the Pearls constellation of around 200 nanosatellites, providing a low cost communication network for commercial use across a number of sectors, including the telecommunications and international transport industries.
SAS said the planned launch of the first batch of nanosatellites had been moved from mid-2019 to early-2020. The company’s initial plan was to place its nanosatellites in equatorial orbit, servicing for markets in Africa, South America and Asia currently not well supported by communications networks.
Under its new 6U agreement with Danish satellite builder GomSpace, there will be an additional constellation in high inclination orbits, allowing full global coverage.
That will allow the company to enter new markets, which include Australia, Russia, China, South Africa, Argentina and Canada, generating higher revenues.
SAS said it planned to use assets already developed for its Pearls equatorial constellation, including proprietary software, concept of operations and network infrastructure as part of the new 6U agreement global coverage constellation.
“The planned global coverage constellation provides the company with additional launch opportunities which are already in negotiation. In addition, subsequent launches beyond the global coverage constellation are intended to remain as planned under the current Pearls agreement,” it said.
Delivery of the new satellites from GomSpace will be in two batches, the first of eight satellites by the end of 2019 and a second optional delivery of another eight next year.
SAS has signed memorandums of understanding with Arianespace and Rocket Lab over possible future launches. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Apr 19. Inaugural small Satellite launch to take place on 17th April 2019 as part of In-Orbit Demonstration Programme. Today will see the launch of the latest miniaturised weather observing and forecasting technology into space. Destined for the International Space Station, the launch is the first of the Satellite Applications Catapult’s In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) Programme, funded by Innovate UK.
In a little over 18 months, IOD-1 GEMS will have gone from initial concept to space. Designed by Orbital Micro Systems (OMS), the Passive Microwave Sounder instrument is less than a quarter of the size and over 70kg lighter than the existing equivalent, which in turn has reduced deployment costs by 95 percent.
OMS’s involvement in the Catapult’s In-Orbit Demonstration programme has fuelled its expansion from Boulder, Colorado, to Edinburgh, UK. The company predicts this move will open up a wide variety of commercial opportunities in various markets including aerospace, maritime transportation, agriculture, insurance and energy.
When IOD-1 GEMS is fully operational, airlines and maritime operators can plan routes that optimise weather conditions, reducing delays, fuel consumption and emissions while increasing safety. To put this in context, reductions of transoceanic flight times by just three minutes per segment will save the global airline industry nearly £1m in a single day.
OMS chose to test its technology through the IOD programme because of the UK’s unique ‘space ecosystem’. Having pioneered the concept of small satellites and being the global leader in the development of large constellations, the UK is recognised worldwide for its ability to foster innovation in space services. “We could have gone anywhere, but the UK space industry is unparalleled in terms of innovation, opportunity, and speed-to-market,,” said William Hosack, CEO at OMS.
He continued: “We believe we are creating a new paradigm in weather forecasting. The IOD Programme allows us to prove our technology in space and de-risk it for both investors and customers. An extraordinary “space ecosystem” has been developed in the UK and OMS is excited to be investing in it.”
17 Apr 19. Saudi Space Agency Begins To Take Shape, Reported $bn Budget In First Year. HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Chairman of the Saudi Space Agency. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
French online national security news publication Intelligence Online is reporting that the recently created Saudi Space Agency is beginning to take shape under the leadership of Prince Sultan Bin Salman, the son of the reigning King Salman, half-brother of the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and first Saudi astronaut.
According to Intelligence Online, Sultan Bin Salman will visit Russia, France, and the United States over the next few weeks and will hold meetings with his counterparts at Roscosmos, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), respectively.
Prior to his appointment as the head of the Saudi Space Agency, Sultan Bin Salman was in charge of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and has brought a number of his advisors there to the space agency. Intelligence Online reports that Abdulaziz Al Sheikh has joined Sultan Bin Salman at the space agency as its managing director. Al Sheikh is a former consultant to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and also worked for defence and aerospace giant BAE Systems. Al Sheikh’s deputy is Tariq Al Essa who has made his career in tourism and event management, previously serving as the CEO of the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB). Lastly, the former head of international relations at the SCTH under Sultan Bin Salman, Abdulaziz Al Ghorayyeb, has now assumed the same position at the space agency.
Intelligence Online also reports that the budget of the Saudi Space Agency for its first year is expected to exceed U.S.$1bn, though there is no indication whether this level of funding is to be sustained after that period.
Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Space Agency as part of a leadership shakeup enacted by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a Royal decree issued late on 27 December 2018.
As previously reported in SpaceWatch.Global, Saudi Arabia has a long history in space and satellite activity, with much of this activity emanating from the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST). The newly created Saudi Space Agency will likely coordinate and produce Saudi Space policy and strategy across the civil, commercial, and military sectors in cooperation with other Saudi government ministries and agencies. The Space Agency will likely also be the focal point for all Saudi international space cooperation.
KACST will most probably retain its role as a Saudi centre for satellite manufacturing and research and development, as well as for implementing and managing space science and exploration research and missions.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia is believed to be actively interested in acquiring a number of military reconnaissance satellites via French or American satellite manufacturers, and is also believed to be involved in discussions with the Russian state space corporation, Roscosmos, about training and sending Saudi astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). (Source: Google)
17 Apr 19. India’s DRDO Head Suggests Test Was Not a ‘One-Off’ and Outlines Counterspace Capability Ambitions. Following its 27 March 2019 direct-ascent antisatellite (ASAT) missile test that destroyed a target satellite in low-Earth orbit (LEO), the head of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) – G. Satheesh Reddy – has outlined to Indian media his organisation’s counterspace technology ambitions for the coming years.
Reddy’s comments suggest that its March 2019 ASAT test was not a one-off, at least under the leadership of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The next few weeks sees India go to the polls for a general election, and while Indian opposition candidates are unlikely to scrap Indian ASAT programmes altogether, the DRDO agenda seems to be dependent upon the political success of Prime Minister Modi.
“We are working on a number of technologies like DEWs (directed-energy weapons), lasers, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and co-orbital weapons etc. I can’t divulge the details, but we are taking them forward,” Reddy told the Times of India.
Labeling these capabilities as “space deterrence” technologies, Reddy’s DRDO will develop counterspace weaponry (budget and politics permitting) as part of India’s quest to counter what it views as a growing Chinese space threat, and by extension, military dominance over its neighbouring adversary Pakistan.
“India has over five decades of experience with space capabilities, but most of that has been civil in focus. It is only in the past several years that India has started organizationally making way for its military to become active users and creators of its space capabilities. India’s military has been developing an indigenous missile defense program that its supporters argued could provide a latent ASAT capability, should the need arise. India held such a kinetic ASAT test in March 2019 where it destroyed one of its own satellites. However, given how much investment the Indian military is making in its satellite capacity, India’s continued insistence that it is against the weaponization of space, and the income that Indian rockets are making launching other countries’ satellites, it is unclear whether they will move to actively create an official counterspace program and they may just stop at having proved an ASAT capability,” Brian Weeden and Victoria Samson recently wrote in the latest edition Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment, published by the Secure World Foundation (Disclosure: Secure World Foundation support SpaceWatch. Global with an annual grant).
Satheesh Reddy was quoted as saying that the government is to decide on the “weaponisation” of anti-satellite systems or the creation of an Aerospace Military Command, adding that India does not intend to carry out additional tests of its new “satellite-killer.”
“Space has gained importance in the military domain. The best way to ensure security is to have deterrence,” he added.
Satheesh Reddy described the missile as a “direct-ascent, kinetic kill weapon”, adding that it is “feasible” to hit multiple satellites with multiple launches of such missiles, which can go as high up into space as 1,000 kilometres. (Source: Satnews)
16 Apr 19. Helical Communications Technology Launches Their First Antenna for Hiber Satellite. Helical Communications Technology (HCT) recently achieved the status of “Flight Heritage Status” when their custom-built Quadrifilar Helical Antennas were launched as part of Hiber’s smallsat mission.
The first two were launched into space at the end of 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India — few private companies have reached this milestone.
Founded in 2013 by Salvatore Bologna and Gregory O’Neill, HCT began researching and designing a unique omni-directional antenna for smallsats that capture a much larger footprint of geography and topography on the Earth. Within four years, HCT had developed a design that can be scaled depending on the customer’s requirements to have a wide range of circularly polarized antenna patterns.
Hiber, based in Amsterdam, contracted with HCT to send their smallsats on this mission with the objective to offer IoT connectivity to the 90 percent of the world that currently lacks access to a network. The company expects to launch multiple smallsats within the next year to keep up with customer demand.
HCT designed the custom-built “quadrifilar” helical antennas at their Rockledge-based operations and shipped them to the Netherlands, where Hiber is based. Hiber then shipped the smallsats to their launch destinations in California and India. In remote regions and developing countries worldwide, subscribers purchase a low-cost modem that is then integrated with existing connected technology devices and allows them to connect to Hiber’s IoT network. The goal is to have a constellation of dozens of satellites to enable customers to send SMS-sized messages in real time from IoT devices, such as sensors on fishing vessels or monitoring devices remote devices in locations such as Antarctica.
In 2017, HCT was selected for the NASA Technology Docking Program, a unique arrangement from the agreement between the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) and NASA that awards select companies the opportunity to work with a NASA subject matter expert to review any technology hurdle they may be encountering. Typically only five companies are selected each year. The EDC is the only EDO in the country that offers this service to their local companies.
HCT’s offices in Rockledge, Florida, also contain an anechoic chamber for testing radiation patterns without echo effects. Manufacturing is strictly completed locally in Brevard County Florida to maintain top quality and frequent inspections. The company has plans to ramp up production rapidly as customer orders increase. They expect a significant upsurge in sales due to market expansion over the next two years as their patented technology is unique, will be manufactured at a lower cost and can be custom built to scale locally depending on the application in any quantity.
Salvatore Bologna said this flight heritage milestone opens the company’s doors for more companies wishing to launch satellites into LEO in the future. The opportunity to offer daily internet access via modems located in remote regions of the world transmitted to Earth-bound, existing satellite stations is remarkable. HCT is proud to have been part of this much needed solution.”
Gregory O’Neill added that it t is an honor and privilege to work with a company such as Hiber, who possess strong business ethics. The company anticipates a long and successful relationship with them as they move forward to provide internet connectivity to millions of people who lack that ability in areas where cable connectivity is simply not a realistic option. (Source: Satnews)
18 Apr 19. RBC Signals Ensures an Increase of Space Communication Services for SpaceQuest’s THEA and BRIO. SpaceQuest selected RBC Signals to ensure that two of Space Quest’s small sats, THEA and BRIO, are supported and operational in Low Earth Orbit. Even though SpaceQuest operates its own ground station SpaceQuest engaged RBC Signals to increase the number of daily communication opportunities with their spacecraft. With support from the RBC Signals ground station network, SpaceQuest has been able to successfully operate THEA and BRIO in the crowded environment post-launch. The two spacecraft, THEA and BRIO, were delivered to orbit on the note worthy SSO-A SmallSat Express mission, which featured 64 small satellites launched onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle in December 2018.
RBC Signals’ rapidly expanding network now includes more than 65 antennas in over 40 locations worldwide. The firm’s communication capabilities span VHF, UHF, S-, C-, X-, Ku- and Ka-bands. RBC Signals can support satellites in GEO, MEO, and LEO for a wide array of mission needs.
Christopher Richins, CEO of RBC Signals said that this engagement showcases their ability to provide turnkey, flexible solutions to satellite operators. Their platform provides a simple interface for scheduling ground station access, and the RBC Signals ground station network offers multiple stations to meet the needs of their customers.
Dr. Dino Lorenzini, CEO and Chairman of SpaceQuest added that RBC Signals’ ability to support multiple passes from multiple ground stations has been critical to their commissioning THEA and BRIO. (Source: Satnews)
16 Apr 19. Virgin Orbit Selects Guam as a LauncherOne Launch Site. The Pacific island of Guam will become an additional launch site Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne service. With the site’s remote location and close proximity to the equator, Guam serves as an excellent base of operations from which the company’s unique, 747-launched rocket can efficiently serve all inclinations, a boon to the rapidly expanding small satellite market. Most excitingly, the new location enables LauncherOne to deliver more than 450 to a 500 km. equatorial orbit.
The addition of Guam to that list enhances the flexibility of Virgin Orbit’s launch operations, adding a low-latitude site with clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, giving Virgin Orbit’s customers unparalleled control over where and when their small spacecraft are deployed.
Officials at U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) have issued a letter of support for Andersen Air Force Base to host launches and other exercises with LauncherOne and its dedicated carrier aircraft’s critical step en route to a first launch from the island, which could occur in as little as a year’s time. Additionally, the largest commercial airport on the island, A.B. Won Pat International Airport, has begun the process of seeking its launch site operator’s license from the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation, in order to serve as a future launch site for Virgin Orbit.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said that launching from Guam gives the firm easy access to every orbital inclination customers need. With the company’s air-launched system, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne will fly out as any other airplane, move out to sea and release the rocket. This minimal footprint, coupled with Guam’s natural launch location, results in a great match. With the continued support from Guam’s Governor Leon Guerrero and the firm’s partners in the DoD, Virgin Orbit is well on the way toward providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space.
In addition to the launch site’s primary appeal to commercial missions, VOX Space also anticipates using Guam and other launch sites to provide responsive launch capability to the national security space community. As part of a series of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Directorate located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, CA, among others, VOX Space is developing concepts for how commercially developed space capabilities can partner with and complement the U.S. Department of Defense’s existing mobility, transportation, and space launch systems
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is now in the final phases of testing, after successfully demonstrating all major assemblies with multiple flight vehicles in production. Having just completed its fourth captive carry flight with a test rocket mated to the wing, Virgin Orbit is on track to conduct its first orbital test flight later this year. (Source: Satnews)
15 Apr 19. Kacific Signs Agreement with Tonga Satellite Limited to Supply Broadband via Satellite. Kacific Broadband Satellites Group (Kacific) has signed a 15 year agreement with Tonga Satellite Limited, a Tongan government company, to provide high speed broadband via satellite to the Pacific Island nation. The bandwidth supplied by Kacific’s high throughput satellite, Kacific1, will be used to connect communities in 89 remote outer islands with high-quality internet that is equivalent to that available in the main cities of Tonga. In the case of a fiber cable outage, similar to the one experienced over 12 days in January 2019, the satellite bandwidth can be redistributed and shared with Tonga’s main centers. The bandwidth supplied by Kacific will be focused on government infrastructure such as hospitals, health clinics and dispensaries, primary and secondary schools, police stations and post offices. The bandwidth will also be used to support local businesses and foster the creation of new platforms for economic development, such as cooperative marketplaces promoted by Tongan government.
In January 2019, the international fiber cable that connects Tonga’s capital NukuÊ»alofa to high speed internet was severed, leaving most of Tonga’s people and organisations without access to the internet or international phone calls. During the 12 days in which the cable was repaired, satellite technology was used to provide bandwidth to the nation.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a Pacific Island nation with 36 inhabited islands of its 169 total islands. These stretch across approximately 800 kilometres of water. The population of just over 108,000 people, of which 82,000 are classified as living in rural areas, usually consume around 2.4 Gbps of broadband bandwidth.
The Honorable Dr. Tevita Tui’Uata, Minister for Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labor, said Kacific will provide a formidable platform to develop powerful e-government applications and ensure continuous improvement of these applications. The Kacific system is uniquely designed for the rural and remote areas of Pacific nations and beyond. It precisely meets the needs of Tonga to provide real universal access, finally completing full broadband access to all residents of Tonga, wherever they are. This system also uniquely provides backup to avoid deep digital disruption as has been observed in the recent fiber cut. The nation has seen, first-hand, the responsiveness and efficiency of the Kacific operations in such an event. With this agreement, Tonga looks forward to moving these operations to the new powerful and Pacific-focused Kacific1 satellite
Christian Patouraux, CEO and Founder of Kacific said, the company’s satellite technology is remarkably effective in providing low cost, accessible broadband to remote areas and fiber back-up for regional towns and cities. Kacific is pleased with this partnership with the Tongan Government which showcases how building infrastructure in rural areas can help provide urban areas with back-up connectivity options in case of fiber malfunction or natural disaster. Until now, rural areas were depending on urban centers to distribute their bandwidth to them. With Kacific’s solution for Tonga, urban centers need rural and remote areas in reciprocal cooperation to complete the urban infrastructure build up. (Source: Satnews)
14 Apr 19. Space Foundation Reports on Space Industry in Conjunction with the 35th Space Symposium. According to the new Space Report, published by the Space Foundation in conjunction with last week’s Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, 465 spacecraft were deployed in 2018 and of these, 36 percent were commercial, 29 percent were civil space missions and the remaining 25 percent were military missions.
This in-depth report, which is now updated quarterly instead of annually, has sections on the Space Economy, Workforce, Space Infrastructure, as well as Products and Services.
The report is designed to improve understanding of the reach, impact and health of the space community and demonstrates how the economic and technical domain where government investments and expenditures previously dominated, has given rise to globally diverse, vibrant and technologically creative enterprises that are adept at creating new services, products and economic opportunities.
Some highlights of the findings include:
- Q1 2019 revealed increased U.S. investment in space, increase in commercial workforce, and record spacecraft deployments.
- U.S. government investment in space increased by 10 percent in 2018.
- U.S. government space budget was $48.31bn in 2018 with 43 percent of that devoted to NASA.
- Since 2011 employment in the U.S. space industry has decreased by nearly 10 percent compared to general U.S. employment which has increased by nearly 15 percent since that time.
- Commercial space workforce grew 3 percent from 2016-2017. This is the first reversal of over a decade of workforce declines.
- At the beginning of 2019:
- 16 percent of NASA’s workforce was under age 35
- 37 percent of NASA’s workforce was over age 54
- 22 percent of the NASA workforce was eligible for retirement.
- In 2018, the number of spacecraft deployed was a record-high, growing 5 percent from 2017’s record-high to 465 in 2018.
Rich Cooper, Space Foundation Vice President – Strategic Communications and Outreach, said that for years, The Space Report has been the most authoritative guide to global space activity. That is a distinction and mantle of responsibility that everyone at the Space Foundation is inherently proud to possess. The organization’s evolution of The Space Report continues that charge and stewardship, and the Space Foundation looks forward to sharing the space story for years to come.
The now quarterly instalments of The Space Report are designed to improve understanding of the reach, impact and health of the space community. The Space Report is available for purchase for $250 a quarter, or for $499 for all four quarters at https://www.thespacereport.org/pricing. The full PDF is also available to subscribers to The Space Report Online.
Founded in 1983, the Space Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to inspire, educate, connect, and advocate on behalf of the global space community, and is a leader in space awareness activities, educational programs, and major industry events, including the annual Space Symposium. (Source: Satnews)
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