Qioptiq logo LINCAD logo


Sponsored By Viasat



05 June 19. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, today announced its Commercial Broadband Modem (CBM)-400 became the first-ever software-defined modem to successfully complete the Army Forces Strategic Command (ARSTRAT) certification process. By successfully completing the certification process, the Viasat CBM-400 modem is now the only software-defined modem authorized to operate on the Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) communications network, which will significantly enhance air, land and sea performance capabilities while reducing overall satellite communications (SATCOM) costs for U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) customers. The Viasat CBM-400 combines the power of high-speed connectivity with the flexibility to switch over to new satellite networks in near real-time in order to meet the needs of nearly any mission and application. The CBM-400 delivers satellite broadband performance whether at-the-halt or on-the-move. With the CBM-400, ground vehicles, sea vessels and aircraft will have the ability to securely send and receive high-definition video, voice and cloud-based networking data from nearly anywhere across the battlespace.

“Successful completion of the ARSTRAT certification process validates the proactive business approach and forward leaning capabilities of the only U.S. Government-validated software-defined modem,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “With our CBM-400, DoD customers now have access to the significant advantages and flexibility of a software-defined architecture, which will allow customers to rapidly meet evolving communications needs and emerging mission requirements by utilizing modems and terminals that readily and affordably adapt to embrace new waveforms and satellite networks.”

The CBM-400 currently supports three waveforms heavily fielded throughout the DoD including the LinkWay waveform, the Enhanced Bandwidth Efficient Modem (EBEM) waveform and the ArcLight waveform. The software-defined nature of the CBM-400 also allows operators to easily switch between waveforms to meet the unique demands of each mission. The CBM-400 running the LinkWay, EBEM, or ArcLight waveform have all been certified by ARSTRAT for operation on the WGS constellation.  The software-defined architecture enables the CBM-400 to readily embrace innovation due to its ability to keep pace with rapidly accelerating private sector SATCOM technology trajectories.

Importantly, the Viasat CBM-400 is purposefully designed to fit into Viasat’s Hybrid Adaptive Network (HAN) architecture concept, which would allow users to seamlessly operate across both commercial and government purpose-built SATCOM networks, such as WGS. The HAN concept creates an end-to-end network that provides mitigation against congestion situations, intentional and unintentional interference sources and cyber threats through implementation of layered resiliency in highly-contested environments.  Terminal equipment like the CBM-400 supports the HAN architecture concept by readily and affordably adapting to operate over new, innovative SATCOM networks as they become available.


The Viasat CBM-400 is available for purchase and use across all branches of the U.S. DoD. The modem’s hardware platform comes in both a standard 19-inch 1RU rackmount version and a ruggedized, sealed enclosure, outdoor variant. Both CBM-400 variants are certified for operation on the WGS constellation.

07 June 19. Kleos set to launch Scouting Mission satellites. Satellite company Kleos Space is set for an August launch of its first satellites to monitor maritime radio transmissions. These first four satellites of what’s termed the Scouting Mission will form the basis of an eventual constellation of 20 providing global radio frequency reconnaissance.

Kleos chief executive Andy Bowyer told US website SpaceNews that Kleos would focus on different parts of the radio frequency spectrum, how they were being used and what could be done with that information.

“Radio frequency is an untapped resource. Most companies are focused on imagery and weather data. We want to deliver a very good dataset in this domain,” he said.

Kleos plans to launch four eight-kilogram CubeSats into low-Earth orbit as the primary payload aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle, fired from its New Zealand launch facility.

Kleos satellites have been constructed by Danish satellite maker GomSpace. Once in orbit, the four members of the Scouting Mission will form a loose formation and begin monitoring the radio frequency spectrum, providing daily observations.

Kleos is based in Luxembourg and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in August last year, raising $11m to fund its operations.

The company plans a global constellation of 20 small satellites able to geo-locate maritime radio transmissions.

That allows accurate location of vessels in distress, as well as those not broadcasting automatic identification system (AIS) signals. AIS is the maritime version of aircraft transponder identification systems.

Geo-location data from VHF radio transmissions from vessels not identifying themselves by AIS can be used a to cue a closer examination by other assets such as ships or aircraft.

Kleos said that would allow governments and organisations to detect activity such as drug and people smuggling, illegal fishing and piracy. Government agencies can use that information to enhance border and maritime security and safety.

Bowyer said that once the initial four satellites are operating and bringing in revenue, Kleos plans to launch additional satellite clusters to provide more frequent observations.

Kleos doesn’t have this niche market all to itself. US start-up Hawkeye 360 also tracks radio signals from space. It launched its first three satellites last December and is now marketing its services. (Source: Space Connect)

07 June 19. Dozens of satellites joining Vega’s ride-share to space. More than 40 satellite missions will be launched at once by Europe’s Vega launcher this autumn, thanks to the innovative, modular “Lego-style” dispenser resting on its upper stage.

Up until now, the smallest classes of satellites – all the way down to tiny CubeSats, built from 10 cubic centimetre modular boxes – have typically ‘piggybacked’ to orbit. They have to make use of any spare capacity as a single large satellite is launched, meaning their overall launch opportunities are limited.

Giorgio Tumino, manager of ESA’s Vega development programs, commented, “The new Vega Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) switches this into a ‘ride-share’ model, with multiple small satellites being flown together, splitting the launch cost through economy class tickets.”

The inaugural ‘proof of concept’ flight of Vega’s SSMS dispenser will take place this September, with 41 separate passengers: seven small satellites plus 35 CubeSats in all. Included in that total are a trio of ESA CubeSats:

  • The SIMBA mission studying Earth’s radiation budget; and
  • The ozone-measuring Picasso and PhiSat, investigating the application of artificial intelligence to Earth observation.

“Our development of this new SSMS dispenser – able to group together different satellites from one kilogram to 400 kilograms in mass – is a response to the market for these small- and micro-satellite missions, which has grown exponentially in recent years,” Tumino added.

In a first for any ESA launcher, part of the payload integration takes place in Europe, streamlining the cost and effort required by lean small satellite companies. Satellites are placed onto the lower part of the SSMS by its manufacturer, SAB Aerospace in the Czech Republic, with the top-level satellites added at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana ahead of launch.

This inaugural flight will deliver all its passengers to the same 550-kilometre altitude ‘sun synchronous orbit’, remaining lined up with the sun for optimal Earth observing conditions. But in future, Vega could deliver satellites to three separate orbits per SSMS flight.

Once its target orbit is achieved the SSMS, controlled through the avionics systems in Vega’s Attitude & Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) upper stage, will deploy its satellites in co-ordinated fashion, with carefully planned delays in between each separation. In a matter of minutes they will all be pushed away smoothly using springs.

When deployment is completed, the AVUM will de-orbit itself and its SSMS dispenser, fulfilling stringent international space debris regulations governing low-Earth orbit.

The three-stage solid propellant Vega launcher with a liquid-fuelled re-ignitable AVUM upper stage has been flying since 2012. Its SSMS dispenser is only one of a range of current developments to allow Vega to respond to the full portfolio of market needs.

“We aim to affordably fly everything from a 1one-kilogram CubeSat all the way up to a 2.3-tonne satellite, with still greater capacity on the way through our Vega Evolution program,” Tumino added. (Source: Space Connect)

07 June 19. UK government backs ambitious plans for a new space age. The British government is preparing for the UK to play a leading role in the new space age, with new support for domestic satellite launch capability, space weather forecasting and a National Space Council.

The government is ensuring the UK plays a leading role in the new space age as part of its modern Industrial Strategy, with new support for domestic satellite launch capability and space weather forecasting, as well as a new National Space Council to improve UK space strategy.

There are significant opportunities for the growing UK space sector as commercial space activity increases globally and the US leads international efforts to return humans to the moon by 2024.

The UK Space Agency and Cornwall Council intend to make available up to £20m for Spaceport Cornwall and US launch operator Virgin Orbit to develop facilities and operational capabilities that would enable small satellite launch from Cornwall in the early 2020s. This investment remains subject to business case approval processes, including from Cornwall Council later this year.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said, “Space is not only about pushing the boundaries of human knowledge, it is a rapidly growing sector of our economy which plays a key role in our modern Industrial Strategy, promotes global Britain and ensures our national security.”

The funding would consist of up to £12m from Cornwall Council and up to £7.85m from the UK Space Agency, including a contribution of £0.5m from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

Spaceport Cornwall could create 150 jobs and enable the UK to compete for a share of the global market for launching small satellites worth a potential £3.9bin to 2030. Launch from the UK will be an opportunity to inspire children and young people to take up careers in science, engineering or even as space entrepreneurs.

“These exciting plans from Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to make horizontal launch a reality from Cornwall will help further our position as a leader in the new space age,” Secretary Clark added.

The UK government is working with the US to establish the necessary technical and legal safeguards for US space launch vehicle operations from UK launch sites. The US State Department has already approved a technical assistance agreement (TAA) allowing detailed technical discussions and strategic planning to commence.

This would allow Virgin Orbit, which is also investing around £2.5m in the project, to operate its LauncherOne system and Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft from Cornwall Airport Newquay. A maiden US launch is expected later this year.

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, explained, “We are very proud to play a role in bringing space launch back to Britain – with a revolutionary new level of flexibility and responsiveness.

“The Virgin Orbit team has now demonstrated every major assembly of our LauncherOne system and are within arm’s reach of bringing to the UK. We’re thankful for the leadership of Minister Skidmore, MP Steve Double, Cornwall Council, the LEP and the UK Space Agency in making this partnership a reality.” (Source: Space Connect)

06 June 19. Richard Branson takes satellite launch business to Japan with airline ANA. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit said on Thursday it plans to bring its satellite launch system to Japan in partnership with airline operator ANA Holdings Inc, which will provide maintenance and possibly aircraft. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is undergoing testing with the aim of launching rockets bearing small satellites into space from a modified jumbo jet. The company said it will conduct its first orbital test flight later this year. Separately, Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, overcame years of delays to launch rocket planes to the edge of space in test missions in December and February. The latter flight carried a test passenger – chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses – for the first time, nudging the company closer to its goal of suborbital flights for space tourists.

Branson is racing against competitors such as Blue Origin, the space business of Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to bring tourists into space. Branson has said he plans to be the first passenger on a commercial flight in mid-2019, though the timeline has shifted. Virgin Orbit, which aims to offer launch services for small satellites, and ANA Holdings, parent of All Nippon Airways (ANA), in a joint statement said they will identify a launch site together with Space Port Japan, an industry-backed body which aims to turn Japan into a space business hub.

The space venture has already announced launch sites in the United States, Guam, Britain and Italy.

Japan’s space industry spans large scale government-backed rocket launches by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd – which launched the Michibiki satellite navigation system – to Interstellar Technologies, a startup backed by internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie that last month launched its first rocket to reach space. (Source: Reuters)

04 June 19. All engines GO for Vega-C maiden flight. ESA is working with industry towards the maiden flight of Europe’s new Vega-C launch vehicle in 2020 for more launches, with increased performance, to more orbits. Since the previous update on the status of Vega-C in December, the project has moved into the qualification phase following a successful critical design review in March.

Final tests in this phase will verify the design and manufacturing processes, assembly and flight hardware and software, and associated ground support systems. Computer flight simulations will show the space and ground segment work together as they should.

Industry is keeping pace with the tight schedule. The hot firing tests of the P120C first stage in Kourou, and the Zefiro 40 second stage in Sardinia qualify these solid rocket motors for flight. Additionally aerodynamic wind tunnel tests, vibration, structural and shock tests have been performed. These milestones mark the completion of all engine and motor testing.

Reviews of the system and subsystems integrating all launcher system and launch base aspects have also been successfully completed. This will be followed by a launch system preliminary requirements review planned mid-2019.

At Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, further adaptations to the existing Vega launch complex in preparation for Vega-C launches have been completed.

Mobile gantry cantilever reinforcements, platform shutters, a new mast sector and a new overhead travelling crane are now installed.

Europe’s current Vega has demonstrated unparalleled reliability since 2012 and impressive capabilities ranging from equatorial to Sun-synchronous orbits, from orbital to suborbital missions, from single to multiple payloads.

Vega-C builds on these capabilities and will become the pillar of the Vega Space Transportation System, offering a range of payload carriers for different shapes and sizes of payloads ranging from 1 kg to 2300 kg, for ‘access to’, ‘operations in’, and ‘return from’ space.

In a proof of concept flight this summer, Vega will deploy multiple small satellites using its new payload carrier system, the Small Spacecraft Mission Service, or SSMS, for the growing small satellites market. This rideshare launch will carry seven microsatellites and 35 CubeSats. The SSMS will also launch on Vega-C from 2020 offering 700 kg of extra payload capacity inside a larger fairing.

Additional payload adaptors include an enhancement to Vega’s Vespa payload adapter for dual passengers, and the Vampire for single large payloads.

The Space Rider system, integrated with Vega-C, will provide payload return capability for Europe.

Developments are underway for a Vega Electrical Nudge Upper Stage, Venus, which will provide the orbital transfer capability to satellites to extend its market reach with constellation deployment, lunar mission and in-orbit servicing.

ESA is overseeing procurement and the architecture of the overall Vega-C launch system, while industry is building the rocket with Avio as prime contractor. ArianeSpace will be responsible for Vega-C commercial operations from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Vega-Evo, an evolution of Vega and Vega-C, will further increase competitiveness beyond 2025 offering a family of configurations based on common building blocks. The Vega-Evo activities are running in parallel with the Vega-C development.  (Source: ASD Network/European Space Agency (ESA))

04 June 19. Executive Order Highlights Electromagnetic Pulse Threat. In March, President Donald Trump signed an “Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses,” which many observers see as an important step in confronting an unconventional threat that could wreak havoc on the United States.

An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is an intense burst of energy that can be released by a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere, or by a geomagnetic disturbance caused by natural phenomena such as solar flares.

Consider this scenario that some analysts have envisioned: An electromagnetic pulse hits the nation’s electric grid. The power goes out across a large swath of the country, communication systems and other critical infrastructure are disrupted, military readiness is degraded, chaos ensues and many people die.

That is a nightmare situation that the U.S. government is making a new concerted push to avoid.

“It is the policy of the United States to prepare for the effects of EMPs through targeted approaches that coordinate whole-of-government activities and encourage private sector engagement,” Trump’s directive stated.

The federal government must provide warning; protect against, respond to and recover from the effects of electromagnetic pulses through planning, investment and stakeholder engagement; and prevent EMP attacks through deterrence, defensive capabilities and nuclear nonproliferation efforts, the order said. It called for prioritizing research and development to address the needs of critical infrastructure stakeholders, and implementing pilot programs.

The executive order provided a list of implementation instructions to the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Energy, Commerce and State, and the Director of National Intelligence. It also put the assistant to the president for national security affairs and the National Security Council in charge of coordinating the executive branch’s efforts.

For years, experts and advocacy groups have been sounding the alarm about the possibility of a far-reaching, disastrous incident.

“An electromagnetic pulse … poses a direct threat to the U.S. electric grid and the products, services and activities that depend on access to electricity,” Heritage Foundation analysts warned in a policy paper published last year titled, “The Danger of EMP Requires Innovative and Strategic Action.”

“An EMP could cause widespread failure of the electric grids of entire regions, grinding the U.S. economy to a halt,” the authors added. “Without electricity, almost nothing will work, which means that millions of people will die as a result of not being able to refill medical prescriptions, millions more will be without food, and predictable rioting and looting can quickly create a state of anarchy.”

A loss of electric cooling for nuclear power plant reactors and spent fuel pools could expose Americans to dangerous levels of radiation, warned a report by the military-civilian Electromagnetic Defense Task Force, citing the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan as a cautionary tale.

The Heritage Foundation policy paper noted that a high-altitude EMP attack could also temporarily or permanently damage satellites — most of which are not hardened to withstand its effects.

Critical civilian infrastructure aren’t the only assets at risk. The U.S. military could also be vulnerable.

“From an adversary’s standpoint, military installations represent the vulnerable underbelly of the defense enterprise,” the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force said in a self-titled report published last year by the Air Force’s Air University.

An installation’s ability to maintain connectivity would depend on the nature and severity of an EMP incident. But in all likelihood, the facility would be unable to continue uninterrupted operations within a short period of time in the absence of a cohesive response and sustainment plan, the study said.

Installation response plans often omit EMP contingencies from planning and programs, it noted.

“In many cases, an interruption of [command-and-control systems] could lead to a degraded ability to bring organic mission capabilities to bear for national defense or civil recovery operations,” the report said.

Nevertheless, U.S. efforts to understand and address the EMP threat have been limited by insufficient information sharing, coordination and investment among different parts of the government and the private sector, analysts say.

Trump’s new directive aimed at addressing the problem was well received by non-governmental observers.

“It gives the issue more prominence and more visibility within the departmental agencies,” said Michaela Dodge, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation who co-authored the think tank’s policy paper. “It’s fairly specific as to which agencies do what. It puts time pressure on accomplishing what the executive order demands. And so I do believe it’s a step in the right direction.”

So far, the United States hasn’t been very successful in terms of organizing its government to deal with the EMP threat, she said. The executive order “is very positive and a large contribution to the way we sort of deal with that problem,” she added.

Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power companies, said it also views Trump’s directive as a positive step. “We are pleased with the efforts to coalesce activities of the various federal entities and the focus on non-classified research to understand the [potential EMP] impacts better,” a spokesperson said in an email to National Defense.

However, there is disagreement among observers about the magnitude of the threat and what should be done to address it.

Trump administration officials have said there is no intelligence indicating that an EMP attack is imminent.

However, William Graham, the chairman of the congressionally-chartered Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, has said that EMPs represent an “immediate, existential” danger that could wipe out a large fraction of the U.S. population through the effects of starvation, disease and societal collapse.

The Heritage Foundation policy paper described electromagnetic pulse events as “low probability” but “high risk” scenarios.

But others are warning against overreaction.

“EMPs are by no means one of the top-tier national security challenges, nor the most pressing concern for the safety of our electrical grid,” Gregory T. Kiley, a former senior staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and U.S. Air Force officer, said in a recent op-ed published by The Hill.

Trump’s executive order is reasonable but “we must also be vigilant to ensure the EMP threat is not overblown and thereby dedicate limited resources to a highly unlikely threat,” he added.

In April, the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute released the results of a three-year study titled, “High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse and the Bulk Power Systems: Potential Impacts and Mitigation Strategies.”

EMP fields can impact large areas. One stemming from a detonation of a nuclear weapon at an altitude of 200 kilometers could affect a circular area equivalent to 3 million square miles, the report said. However, the strength of the EMP field would dissipate the farther away it was from ground zero, it noted.

The study concluded that a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, or HEMP, attack similar to the ones that were modeled could cause regional disruptions or voltage collapse.

However, “research findings do not support the notion of blackouts encompassing the contiguous United States and lasting for many months to years,” the report said.

Recovery times for a HEMP-induced blackout would be commensurate with historical large-scale blackouts if robust protections for grid components are deployed. However, additional research is needed to address remaining uncertainties about electromagnetic pulse effects, the report said.

The Secure the Grid Coalition — which includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former CIA Director James Woolsey — and the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security issued a joint statement dismissing the EPRI findings as “junk science,” and accused the organization of underestimating the threat to serve the interests of the electric power industry.

Paul Scharre, director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security, said U.S. military assets could be vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses because most of them aren’t hardened against that type of threat. But the Pentagon should be more focused on other, more likely methods of enemy attack, he added.

“It wouldn’t be at the top of my agenda,” Scharre said. “I’m really more concerned about cyber and more traditional kinetic attacks on those DoD infrastructures than something more exotic like a high-altitude EMP.”

As of press time, the Defense Department had not provided comment for this story.

Studies have recommended a number of steps to protect critical infrastructure against electromagnetic pulses including: various methods of equipment shielding and surge protection; adding “firebreaks” to the national electric grid to limit the scope of damages and power outages; and investments in boost phase and space-based missile defense technology that could shoot down enemy nuclear-armed ballistic missiles before they were able to release an EMP.

Scharre said EMPs raise interesting questions about deterrence because the pulses wouldn’t kill people directly. “You would have sort of this non-kinetic attack where the [nuclear] blast wouldn’t kill anyone. It would be disrupting the infrastructure, but that might have second order effects that could lead to mayhem and death and other problems.”

It’s unclear how U.S. policymakers would react, he said.

“Would it be seen as a nuclear event or as a non-kinetic event? Is it something that’s either worse than a conventional bomb [attack] or less than a conventional bomb [attack]?” he asked.

“There’s just no good way to know how big the effect would be as well as how people would respond,” he added. “It’s one of the reasons why you do worry that it could be appealing to an [enemy] actor if they might see it as a cheap way to disable U.S. electrical infrastructure or disrupt the United States in a way that there was a perception that it was less escalatory than a more traditional form of attack.”

The situation is further complicated by the fact that geomagnetic disturbances are natural phenomena that, unlike a nation-state actor, cannot be deterred militarily.

“It seems like a low probability event and I think it’s easy to be dismissive, but it’s probably a prudent measure to shore up the resilience of our electrical grid,” Scharre said.

If there were a geomagnetic disturbance and a large section of the country lost power for a period of time, people would be angry that the government hadn’t done more to prepare, he said. “It can look like hype and people overreacting [to the threat] until one of those events occurs, and then everyone wants to know why didn’t we act sooner.”

Dodge noted that bolstering defenses against electromagnetic pulses will come with a price tag.

“There is a great deal we can do,” she said. “The question is how to fund it and who pays for what?”

Trump’s executive order noted that the federal government must foster efficient, cost-effective approaches to enhance resiliency.

In a 2017 report for the EMP Commission, Graham said protecting and defending the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures from electromagnetic pulses could be achieved at reasonable cost and with minimal disruption to existing systems.

Scharre said electric companies and other stakeholders might be reluctant to spend large amounts of money hardening their assets. Measures that make systems more resilient and robust add costs, and they are expenses that don’t add value for businesses and shareholders on a day-to-day basis, he noted.

The government could end up funding those measures directly or creating incentives for companies to do so through tax breaks or other means, Scharre said.

The Heritage Foundation policy paper said critical national defense assets that rely on the electric grid should be hardened by the federal government at the expense of taxpayers, and utilities should be allowed to recover costs for EMP-related investments.

“It’s a little bit silly to assume that the private market will automatically step in and do things when there is not a profit incentive to do so,” Scharre said. “It’s going to require some government involvement to make that happen.” (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)

04 June 19. Space Command nominee says space is no longer a ‘peaceful, benign domain.’ Gen. John Raymond, commander of the Air Force Space Command, testifies on May 17, 2017, during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on the U.S. military’s space organization, policy and programs. Looking on are Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

WASHINGTON – The Air Force general nominated to lead the Pentagon’s newest combatant command that would direct the U.S. military’s space operations told lawmakers on Tuesday that any future conflicts with major powers such as Russia or China would be partially fought in space.

“We no longer have the luxury of operating in a peaceful, benign domain. And we no longer have the luxury of treating space superiority as a given,” Gen. Jay Raymond told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to consider his nomination to lead U.S. Space Command.

Raymond has spent the vast majority of his 35 years in the Air Force working in space operations. He now leads the organization responsible for training and equipping the Air Force’s roughly 15,000 space operators while also leading space forces assigned to U.S. Strategic Command.

Pentagon officials have said once Raymond is confirmed, the Defense Department will begin establishing U.S. Space Command as its 11th unified combatant command, which are joint forces that command and control operations within a certain geographic region or functional area such as cyber operations or special operations. Space operations have been commanded by STRATCOM, which is primarily responsible for America’s nuclear capabilities, since 2002 when the former U.S. Space Command was scuttled during a post-9/11 reorganization.

In recent years, the Pentagon has pushed for Space Command to return as a full combatant command because of elevated tensions within the space domain, especially with the increase in recent years of Chinese capabilities, which include the demonstration of China’s ability to target and destroy orbiting satellites with ground-launched missiles. The Senate Armed Services Committee has backed the Pentagon proposal. Separately, it appears poised to approve the Defense Department’s request to build a new uniformed service focused on the space domain, which would be known as the U.S. Space Force.

Raymond on Tuesday endorsed all of the proposed shifts in the Pentagon space enterprises, telling senators if the United States does not react quickly to advancing Chinese and Russian space capabilities, those nations would surpass American capabilities, a common refrain in recent years from Pentagon leaders.

“It’s really important that we make some changes to stay ahead of that growing threat,” he said. “I am comfortable today. I am comfortable we are the best in the world [at space operations]. But we need to move fast, and with your support we are going to get there.”

China and Russia have advanced their space capabilities in recent years primarily by watching how the United States has integrated its capacities into its military operations, Raymond said. The U.S. military relies on space operations in some capacity for nearly everything it does, from GPS navigation to communications to guiding weapons to specific targets, he said.

In addition to demonstrating their ability to use anti-satellite missiles, China also has the ability to jam critical GPS and communications satellites, Raymond said. He told SASC members that China also has a directed energy – or laser – threat in space and they are involved in “concerning activities in orbit,” but he declined to elaborate on those actions for security reasons.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., responded to Raymond’s explanation of Chinese space capabilities, calling them “a pretty dire threat.”

If confirmed to lead U.S. Space Command, Raymond’s focus would be on the warfighting mission in space – that is coordinating the use of the individual military services’ space troops and assets and providing key functions including controlling space-based missile warning, communications, navigation, weather and imagery. His role would also focus on deterring the potential for a fight to extend into space and defending the myriad U.S. satellite constellations.

In the SASC-approved version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, legislation that provides policy direction to the Pentagon, the new Space Force would be built within the Air Force Department – similar to how the Marines are within the Navy Department – and would be led by the commander of U.S. Space Command, who would serve in two roles.

Asked Tuesday about the proposal, Raymond declined to endorse or renounce leading Space Force and Space Command, telling senators that he had not seen the proposed legislation.

“I fully am supportive of a space force,” the general said. “If confirmed, I look forward to working very closely with this committee and our leadership to get this right for the nation.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.stripes.com)

05 June 19. Aussie space start-ups need government support to secure lift off. Emerging Australian space companies face challenges securing finance, which limits their ability to compete – opening the door for government to directly invest in the long-term success of Australia’s local space industry, explains Gilmour Space Technologies chief executive Adam Gilmour.

Chinese space start-ups receive vast sums in funding from their government and private sector, and even the most modest of American and European launch companies can get $10m assistance from their governments.

But for start-ups in the Australian space business, governments provide – not very much.

Australian space entrepreneur Adam Gilmour said a problem in the Australian space business was that there were plenty of people willing to give them a pat on the back but not write a cheque.

He said the Australian government needed to step up and provide the all important seed funding to companies to develop their technology enough to then go out to the market to seek venture capital.

“We are competing against American companies that can get $1 or $2m from 10 different funding organisations. Of all my rocket competitors, the stingiest of them has got about $10m from their government,” Gilmour told Space Connect.

“The best have got $30, $40, $50m from their governments. I have got about $90,000 from my government.”

Gilmour, the founder and chief executive of Gilmour Space Technologies, said he did receive government research and development grants, which was fantastic.

But that wasn’t specifically because his company was in the space business.

“Specific grants to my company have been $90,000 since we started. That’s all from the state government, nothing from the federal government. It’s not even a per cent of the total funds that we have raised,” he said.

“I am not bashing the government. I want to work with the government. The government needs to realise what’s actually going on and step up a bit.”

The government has announced big plans for the growing space sector – to triple in size and contribution to GDP and to create 20,000 more jobs by 2030.

Gilmour said a problem seemed to be that the government saw the space industry as it used to be, where projects cost billions.

“The reality of the new space is that the government isn’t writing big cheques any more. The venture capitalists are. It is step by step. The first cheque is $5m and then you develop a cool piece of technology and then you get another [$20m] and then you keep developing that and get another [$30m]. The venture capital does it all the way,” he said.

“Compared to the other countries, the government is not stepping in to do the seed funding for these companies.”

Gilmour said this didn’t require vast sums of taxpayer money.

“I have been travelling the world for the last five years and going to space conference everywhere and my understanding is that in all the other space companies, governments are seeding money for development of all of these start-ups,” he said.

“It can be $500,000, it can be $1m. It’s across all kinds of technologies. These companies are then using that money to develop some tech and then go to investors and raise money.”

Gilmour’s suggestion is for the government to start this process soon – seeding at least another five companies over the next three years at a cost of maybe $100m.

This could even come from existing spending.

“The government spends more than $300m a year buying data from other foreign satellite operators. If they took a third of that annual spend and said we are going to fund a launch and a company to build us 10 satellites and put our own stuff up, that has multi-years effect,” he said.

“It’s a reallocation of funds. You don’t even have to spend any more money. You just have to reallocate from spending overseas to spending domestically. There is nothing hard about this.” (Source: Space Connect)

05 June 19. Gilmour Space to collaborate with USQ on rocket research. Queensland rocket company Gilmour Space Technologies has signed an agreement with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) to collaborate on advanced rocket technology research. Gilmour co-founder James Gilmour said the initial focus for this research partnership would be to develop space-grade composite capabilities and to explore new rocket test facilities in Queensland.

“We have some exciting projects in the pipeline with USQ,” he said.

“We believe it’s important to provide more pathways for bright young minds to get involved locally in the global space industry without having to leave the country. And we want to play our part in building this future-ready industry for Queensland and Australia.”

Gilmour, based on the Gold Coast, is developing new hybrid-propelled rockets for commercial small satellite launches beginning in 2021.

The company conducted its first launch in July 2016 with the blastoff of the prototype “reusable ascent separation article” (RASTA), which reached a height of about 5,000 metres.

Another trial launch is to be conducted this year.

“This research partnership is a perfect match of space-related capabilities between industry and academia to develop advanced automated composite manufacturing, hypersonics, high temperature flow diagnostics, rocket fuel analysis and satellite tracking,” said Professor Peter Schubel, executive director of the USQ Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences, said.

“USQ’s unique facilities such as the long duration hypersonic wind tunnel, solid rocket fuel manufacturing facility, composite cryotank expertise and Mt Kent Observatory place USQ as a leading space research institute in Australia, aligned to the needs of the fast-paced space industry.”

Gilmour Space and USQ are no strangers to collaboration, having engaged with NASA and others on separate projects over the years.

USQ and Gilmour Space, along with other national and international partners, are also developing STEM-related activities to encourage and train the next generation of space scientists and engineers. (Source: Space Connect)

06 June 19. Eyeing Russia, Army fields jam-resistant GPS in Europe. With an eye on sophisticated Russian jamming and spoofing technology, the U.S. Army will field test jam-resistant position, navigation and timing gear with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany this September.

The decision comes amid a pattern of Russia jamming or disrupting all sorts of communications vital to Western forces in recent years, from mobile phone networks during exercises to electronic warfare against U.S. operations on the ground in Syria. NATO affirmed that Russia jammed GPS signals during its Trident Juncture exercise in November in Europe’s High North region.

The Army will field a system called Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing, or MAPS, on some of the regiment’s vehicles — news first reported by Inside the Army. The system uses the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module for GPS, a chip-scale atomic clock for timing an anti-jamming antenna to distribute position, navigation and timing information across a unit’s mission equipment.

Russia’s electronic warfare capability fueled the fielding to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Army Col. Nicholas Kioutas, the service’s project manager for positioning, navigation and timing, said on the sidelines of the C4ISRNET Conference held in Arlington, Virginia, June 6.

“Right now what we can learn is how the equipment can hold up, because unless we’re being specifically jammed, we won’t be able to tell what happened,” Kioutas said of the upcoming fielding. “We’re constantly taking those systems and stress-testing them and trying to upgrade them, so it’s not like that’s the static system and we’re done.”

The Army is using a flexible acquisitions vehicle called an Other Transaction Authority with three vendors to develop the second generation of MAPS. Program office is asking vendors to provide it with their best technological developments, which is a reflection of the service’s less prescriptive approach to capability development.

“We want industry to show us how to fight a different way,” Kioutas said, adding later, “We said, ‘bring us your best capabilities,’ we didn’t say what those should be.”

The Army plans to experiment with using assured PNT systems as sensors. One use would be for a group of linked systems to read the way a jamming signal strikes them to conclude where the jammer is located. “That’ll be an additional capability down the road that we’ll exploit,” Kioutas said.

The program office is also developing Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing, or DAPS, for the Army’s version of a smartphone, the integrated dismounted leader situational awareness system Nett Warrior. (Source: Defense News)

05 June 19. NI, the provider of a software-defined platform that helps accelerate the development and performance of automated test and automated measurement systems, today announced the PXIe-5831 vector signal transceiver (VST) to further address time-to-market challenges for X-band, Ku-band and Ka-band radar and satellite communications (SATCOM) components and systems.

As the electromagnetic spectrum rapidly evolves to keep up with expanding requirements in areas like the electronic battlefield and SATCOM, engineers need to reduce the time it takes to prototype, validate and test radar and communication systems at higher frequency bands. The PXIe-5831 VST with modular millimeter wave (mmWave) heads expands the VST product family to provide frequency coverage up to 44 GHz. It delivers 1 GHz of instantaneous bandwidth for generation and analysis and features a high-performance FPGA, so users can perform faster and optimized measurements, inline signal processing and high-speed data transfer.

“When the first VST was released in 2012, it revolutionized the way high-performance RF test sets were developed, offering the dependability of calibrated RF measurements, the flexibility of user-programmable inline processing and the ability to program in LabVIEW or leverage existing VHDL IP,” said Luke Schreier, vice president and general manager of NI’s aerospace, defense and government business. “By extending that capability to even more radar and SATCOM frequencies, we are helping address the schedule, cost-of-test and quality issues inherent in the development of complex transmit/receive systems. As a company, we also gain significant technology leverage between these applications and the commercial 5G sectors, which enables us to more efficiently support the product.”

The PXIe-5831 combines the PXIe-5820 baseband VST with the PXIe-3622 vector signal upconverter/downconverter for direct RF generation and analysis from 5 to 21 GHz. Modular mmWave heads further expand coverage to include frequencies from 23 to 44 GHz with integrated and calibrated switching for up to 32 channels. This enables multichannel beamformer and phased-array measurements without the need for additional infrastructure.

The PXIe-5831 complements NI’s modular instrumentation portfolio of more than 600 PXI products, ranging from DC to mmWave. It also offers NI platform features such as high-throughput data movement using PCI Express Gen 3 bus interfaces and performs subnanosecond synchronization across PXI modules with integrated timing and triggering. Users can take advantage of the productivity of LabVIEW software, the flexibility of the LabVIEW FPGA Module and a vibrant ecosystem of partners, add-on IP and applications engineers. These benefits help them adapt to fast-changing technology and demanding technical requirements so they can deliver new systems on time and on budget.

05 June 19. Deep Learning Model Speeds Up, Automates Satellite Image Analysis. Algorithm trains itself to identify objects, unlocking new geospatial workflow efficiencies. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) develops satellite imagery recognition system using open-source deep learning libraries to quickly identify and classify objects or targets in large areas across the world, potentially saving image analysts countless hours manually categorizing and labeling items within an image. Global Automated Target Recognition runs in the cloud. Fast GPU’s let GATR scan a large area very quickly, while deep learning methods automate object recognition and reduce the need for extensive algorithm training.

GATR teaches itself what the identifying characteristics of an object area or target, for example, learning how to distinguish between a cargo plane and a military transport jet. The system scales quickly to scan large areas, including entire countries. GATR uses deep learning techniques common in the commercial sector and can identify ships, airplanes, buildings, seaports, and many other categories.

“There’s more commercial satellite data than ever available today, and up until now, identifying objects has been a largely manual process,” said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Space Mission Solutions. “Artificial Intelligence models like GATR keep analysts in control while letting them focus on higher-level tasks.”

GATR has a high accuracy rate, well over 90% on the models we’ve tested so far. It only took two hours to search the entire state of Pennsylvania for fracking sites – that’s 120,000 square kilometers

“I’m not an expert on what oil production sites are, and I don’t have to be,” said Mark Pritt, senior fellow at Lockheed Martin and principle investigator for GATR. “This system teaches itself the defining characteristics of an object, saving valuable time training an algorithm and ultimately letting an image analyst focus more on their mission.”

GATR builds on research Pritt’s team pioneered during a Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) challenge, called the “Functional Map of the World.” The Lockheed Martin team was the only team from a company who placed in the top five.

31 May 19. EUTELSAT 7C, Eutelsat Communications’ (Paris:ETL) newest high-power broadcast satellite, has arrived at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana where it will be launched as a co-passenger on an Ariane 5 rocket on 20 June. Built by Maxar Technologies, the 3.4 tonne satellite will serve markets across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Turkey through 49 36-Mhz equivalent Ku-band transponders. It will be co-located with EUTELSAT 7B at 7° East, increasing capacity for this dynamic neighbourhood by 19 transponders. EUTELSAT 7A will be relocated as part of Eutelsat’s fleet optimisation strategy. The launch is scheduled for 20 June during a launch window opening at 21:43 UTC and closing at 23:30 UTC. The satellite will go into full commercial service at the end of 2019 following all electric orbit raising and in orbit tests. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)

02 June 19. USAF awards $20m contract for new common ground system. The USAF is one step closer to the creation of a new common platform for satellite command and control. The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Braxton Technologies of Colorado Springs a $20m contract May 17 to begin prototyping and integrating the new Enterprise Ground Services (EGS). The Air Force announced the deal in a May 31 press release.

The purpose of EGS is to develop a common ground system and end user experience for all of the Air Force’s upcoming satellite programs. Today, most military satellites have custom-built ground systems. Not only can that be expensive, it also makes it difficult for end users to adapt to new systems and for ground systems to communicate with each other.

The new architecture will still allow for flexibility among the various space systems, as individual systems will need to be tailored to their specific mission requirements. The goal of EGS is to ensure all those space systems are built on a common base with similar end user experiences.

“We are excited to embark on this partnership which will enhance our ability to drive speed in our processes, to deliver capabilities to support the warfighters, and develop innovative solutions that add resiliency to fight and win in a war that extends into space,” Joshua Sullivan, material leader for EGS, said in a release. “This contract will allow SMC and Air Force Space Command to concentrate resources to provide the most secure, effective, and interoperable tactical command and control experience to mission partners across the Air Force space enterprise.”

The $19m Small Business Innovative Research contract awarded to Braxton Technologies has a ceiling of $100m. The work is expected to be completed by May 10, 2024.

The Braxton Technologies award follows up on a $655,000,000 contract awarded to Engility Corp. in January to provide engineering, development, integration and sustainment services supporting the Ground System Enterprise and the eventual transition to Enterprise Ground Services. That work is expected to be completed January 31, 2026. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)


01 June 19. Amazon boasts near-real time satellite interactions with new service. Amazon Web Services announced its first two ground stations, located in Ohio and Oregon, were operational and could provide a host of increased capabilities, including near realt time interactions, for commercial and government customers.

The new systems will allow satellite operators to access data in near-real time, meaning that the intelligence community and affiliated contractors will be able to look at the most up to date images of areas where events are unfolding rapidly.

Amazon leaders said the ground stations provide faster data processing, global satellite access and encrypted communications. With this system, company officials say a satellite owner can control their satellite through an AWS Ground Station and then downlink data from that satellite to the ground station, where it can be processed on the company’s cloud storage and computing.

By integrating those services, AWS is able to offer near-real time satellite interactions for customers. In a recent scenario, company officials said a customer was able to contact its satellite, download the data stored on it, task the satellite to take photos of the area it was currently in and transmit that data to the ground – all in one pass. That capability allows satellite operators to find out what data the satellite has collected already and determine what data still needs to be collected.

“If you ended up getting a bad image, you’re able to then make a decision, ‘Hey, I’m going to go ahead and task for another image the next time the spacecraft comes by because I know I want more,’” explained Shayn Hawthorne, general manager of AWS Ground Station. “You’re enabling people to look at their data in near-real time, to make decisions while they’re still talking to their satellite so that they can actually give a signal back to their system to either collect more data or maybe stop having to collect more data.”

That possibility could be vital in disaster relief scenarios, where having up-to-date images could be a matter of life and death. Hawthorne said the company’s on-demand antenna availability can provide commercial or government customers scalability in responding to a natural disaster.

“Say you had a surge time and you really need to have every hand on deck and really need to get every aperture around the world possible, you now could just start to scale up and use AWS Ground Station, and then when that natural disaster or military conflict or some other policing activity maybe rolls off and starts to go down in intensity, you can start to not use the ground stations and be able to revert back to your already government owned network.”

Hawthorne also noted that the ground stations were designed with potential government users in mind and have built in protections for sensitive data. He said the AWS Ground Stations have the ability to leave collected data in an analog format.

“So that means the government data from a government satellite can come down on AWS Ground Station terminals and it can stay in the same format that it traveled through the air; it can stay encrypted,” he explained. “The government can actually use our ground station system to use sensitive data through the network as well.”

In a May 23 press release, AWS highlighted several companies that were planning to use the ground stations, including Maxar Technologies, which works with the National Reconnaissance Office on the EnhancedView imaging contract, and Thales Alenia Space. It was not immediately clear whether any government agencies have plans to use the system.

AWS plans to bring a total of 12 ground stations online this year, though the company doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We’re going to continue adding ground stations and antennas year by year to our architecture to provide capacity ahead of demand for our customers. So this is just the start. We’re going to be putting hundreds of antennas out…in order to meet our customers’ needs,” said Hawthorne.

Ideally, as ground station coverage increases, customers won’t have to wait for their satellite to pass within range of one ground station to downlink their data. Instead, they can figure out which ground station is currently in range of the satellite, purchase on demand antenna time and access their satellite. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

01 June 19. Rethinking the US Army’s network means rethinking space. US Army leaders are putting increased emphasis on satellite communications as they build out their vision for a future battlefield network.

In the past, satellite communications have been a precious commodity, available only to select users and, even then, not always readily accessible. The Army’s emerging tactical network vision would make SATCOM virtually ubiquitous and easier to use.

“We are talking about our entire tactical force, from our theater-level satellite network hubs around the globe all the way down to the handheld devices that a soldier employs on the battlefield,” said Col. Greg Coile, the project manager of the tactical network at the Army’s program executive office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical.

The evolving Army network strives for seamlessness across the soldier experience. Army documents detail “a unified tactical network, enabling cohesive mission command at every stage of the joint operational spectrum — from home station to early entry, to the furthest edge of the battlefield.”

Given the geographic reach of the modern military, planners say SATCOM is necessary to make that vision a reality. “Once you get to issues of distance — being in the Middle East or Europe or elsewhere — you cannot just plug into a post or installation, and line of sight is limited. So, you are going to have to rely on satellite,” Coile said.

That future SATCOM infrastructure will look significantly different from what the military has relied on in the past.

In recent years, the Army has used large 2.4-meter terminals to draw a satellite signal down from high-power geostationary satellite constellations to the battalion level. Soldiers then used that signal via a line of sight radio.

Technology advances now allow for smaller, more flexible terminals. At the same time, the Army is looking to leverage the rise of near-Earth orbit (NEO) and medium-Earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations to deliver more comprehensive satellite communications.

The Army is already taking steps in this direction. With its Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced (ESB-E) pilot, the service has begun deploying small (.95 meter) and medium (1.3 meter) terminals to select user groups.

Broader availability

Military analysts and satellite service providers generally support the Army’s efforts to leverage a smaller terminal footprint as a starting point to broader satellite availability.

“You want every soldier to be a node in a network, so there is no single point of failure. Smaller terminals that are more capable speak to that desire,” said Jeff Rowlison, vice president for strategy and government relations at the consulting firm Velos.

Rich Williams, associate vice president at satellite services provider LinQuest, added that “smaller terminals, smaller footprints, go hand-in-hand with the LEO and MEO constellations. Because they are close to the Earth, there is much less power needed, which allows you to build smaller antennas, smaller amplifiers.”

Army leaders see several other advantages in leveraging NEO and MEO assets. The commercial space industry has been investing heavily in those orbits because they are closer, they will offer new levels of network performance.

“These new satellites move around the Earth and they work in series, so the message gets through much faster,” Coile said. “All of this could speed up the time that it takes to transmit applications, phone calls, video. We should get much better performance on the network.”

This all looks good on paper: These satellites reach out to small, nimble terminals to broadcast connectivity down through the echelons. Getting there is another matter, however, and will likely require close collaboration between the Army and its industry partners.

The fine print

Experts who track the Army’s network vision point to a number of areas that will require close attention as the service seeks to modernize its SATCOM offerings.

First, there are the terminals themselves. Smaller is better, but that may be not enough.

“For a long time, terminals have been purpose-built to only function within a specific frequency range or a specific system,” Rowlison said. “If the Army is looking at different networks, whether it is commercial or military bands, they will want terminals that have interoperability.”

The Army likely will have to lean on industry expertise to find terminals that are not only smaller but inherently more sophisticated.

“The terminals will have to enable the user to leverage whatever satellite capability is available in a way that is transparent to the user. It’s like turning on a cell phone, you don’t care who is providing the service, you just know that you turn it on and it works. The SATCOM environment needs that same level of interoperability,” Rowlison added.

The developing SATCOM architecture likely will also drive a need for new infrastructure at varying levels across the service.

“With the low-Earth orbit satellites, if there is a building blocking your signal in one direction, you might be wide open in another direction,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow and director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “That means you will need to have a tracking antenna on top of your vehicle so that as you drive it, it just constantly tracks and stays on the available satellite.”

Ground terminals will have to be smart enough to track not only those satellites in near earth and medium earth orbit, but also to perform a seamless hand-off, dropping and picking up signals from one satellite to another as the spacecraft rise and fall over the horizon.

Even if all that can be managed, some say the Army still will need to work hand-in-hand with industry to address a range of security concerns, as it leans more heavily on commercial satellite resources.

“They have to be worried about cybersecurity. They have to be worried about jamming and about spoofing. That’s more of a concern as you adopt these commercial networks that weren’t designed to withstand an onslaught of attack,” Harrison said. “They will need to work with these commercial companies to build that security into their satellites and their ground stations. The time to start doing that is right now, or yesterday. The military needs these things incorporated right from the beginning.”

Keep it simple

While security ranks high on the list of concerns, some industry leaders also urge Army officials to focus on simplicity as a prime consideration. They say that if service leaders are going to rethink the role of SATCOM, they ought to make it easier to use.

“Right now, [communications] trailers get deployed with a host of different boxes: Four different types of modems, three different types of RF equipment. There’s very little ability to move between those different networks and ecosystems,” said Michael Geist, vice president, strategy and technology at technology provider Envistacom. “We want to see Army reduce the appliances, the waveforms and the applications into a single subsystem that does all of those things.”

Along these lines, other Defense Department organizations look to the Army to use new technologies that make it easier to access satellites. Simplified architecture ought to be paired with a high degree of usability. “We are seeing more systems that don’t require specialized training, where you don’t have to have a specific SATCOM operator to use the equipment,” Harrison added.

All this seems to be in line with the Army’s big-picture goal of building a tactical network that is ubiquitous and uniform, one that is readily available and will look familiar to any soldier. If it all comes together that way, war fighters could gain an advantage.

“Now you can put [satellite communications] into the different echelons, moving things much further down,” Williams said. “You get more capabilities, including video and imagery, being pushed down to more people. You’ll have the ability to distribute fairly complex voice, video and data more quickly and in greater detail.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

29 May 19. Forrester Reports: Sea Launch May Move from California to Russia. Sea Launch, the floating rocket-launch business, might be moving from its Long Beach, California, HQ to Russia, according to the Interfax news agency, this according to a posting by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced-Television infosite.

The plan sees Roscosmos and local airline business S7 relocating Sea Launch to the Far East.

Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Russia’s state-owned space agency Roscosmos, told students at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, “I want us and the S7 company to implement the Sea Launch project whereby — nominally — the Soyuz-5 rocket will be loaded onto their ship in the town of Bolshoi Kamen in our Far East and we will take that ship to the equator. Then our medium rocket with the 17-tonne lift capacity will be able to remove 22-23 tonnes from the equator. Same as the Falcon 9 [rocket launch vehicle].”

Sea Launch’s main advantage is that — to date — it has launched its rockets from the Equator at a mid-Pacific location at 154 degrees West (near Kiribati), and gaining the benefit of an Equatorial launch with the advantage of heavier launch payloads.

Sea Launch has been in financial difficulties these past few years and has not been used to launch a satellite since May 2014 (when it launched Eutelsat 3B into orbit).

The company’s new owner, since April of 2018, is S7 AirSpace Corp. based in Nyon, Switzerland. Rogozin added that the move would allow for a new variant of the Soyuz-5 rocket to be developed which allowed for the return to the floating launch platform for the rocket’s first stage. (Source: Satnews)

27 May 19. Final Pre-Launch Prep Completed for the AMOS-17 Launch. Spacecom (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange: SCC), operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, has announced that the firm’s newest satellite, AMOS-17, is completing the final stages of its pre-launch preparation.

The satellite is scheduled for launch later this summer to the 17 degrees East orbital position, is specifically designed for meeting the growing communication demands of the African continent. With extensive C-band HTS capabilities, Ka- and Ku-band, the satellite will combine broad regional beams and high throughput spot beams to maximize throughput and spectral efficiency. It will strengthen Spacecom’s African, Middle Eastern and European operations.

Equipped with an advanced digital payload constructed by Boeing Satellite Systems International, the new satellite has already completed its environmental testing simulating the launch and harsh space environment. AMOS-17 is currently undergoing final preparation operations ahead of shipment to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it is scheduled to be launched on a Falcon-9 launch vehicle by SpaceX.

David Pollack, President and CEO of Spacecom, stated that the company is excited by the opportunities AMOS-17 will offer the firm’s clients throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. With a state-of-the-art digital payload, it will be the most technologically advanced satellite to service Africa and will deliver a large variety of services as well as connect Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The company has worked closely with the Boeing team and all are looking forward to moving ahead in Africa. (Source: Satnews)

27 May 19. Northrop Grumman and AFRL’s Sensors Directorate Demo the First SDR-Based, M-Code, GPS Receiver. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Sensors Directorate, demonstrated the first Software Defined Radio (SDR)-based, M-code enabled, GPS receiver on production-capable hardware during a recent flight test.

In real-time, the SDR acquired and tracked the modernized GPS military signal, known as M-code, during a live-sky demonstration.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman achieved a security certification milestone by attaining Certification Requirements Review approval for the SDR-based GPS receiver from the GPS Directorate. This milestone constitutes a critical step on the way to fielding an M-code enabled GPS receiver that can be operated in an unclassified environment.

Using a system-on-a-chip SDR approach, in lieu of the traditional fixed application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design, enabled the platform to make rapid real-time field changes, an important capability in an evolving threat environment.

Vern Boyle, VP, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman, noted that the company’s secure software defined GPS solution provides an unprecedented level of agility and enables the firm’s customers to outpace the threat.  (Source: Satnews)

31 May 19. USAF to assume responsibility for defence satellite communications. The US Air Force is set to assume responsibility for future narrowband satellite communications from the US Navy as part of preparations for the future alignment of space programmes.

The transfer will set the stage for the development of an integrated space enterprise architecture.

The decision to handover future satellite communications responsibilities to the USAF was announced in a joint memorandum.

USAF secretary Heather Wilson and US Navy secretary Richard Spencer said in the memo: “To prepare for the future alignment of space programmes, it is our intent to transfer responsibility for future narrowband capability, beyond the Mobile User Objective System, from the department of the navy to the department of the airforce.

“Completing this transfer now would be a prudent step toward consolidating space capabilities, consistent with Space Policy Directive-4.”

This plan is in line with US President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Directive-4, which requires the US Department of Defense to come up with a legislative proposal for the establishment of a US Space Force as a sixth branch of the country’s military.

The directive was signed in February to deter and counter threats in space.

Initially, the space force has been proposed to be created as a military service within the department of the airforce.

The USAF stated that the transfer will help address concerns about the alignment of major space programmes.

“Completing this transfer now would be a prudent step toward consolidating space capabilities.”

As a result of the realignment, these programmes will now be funded by the airforce budget.

A working group will be set up with a mandate to report on the joint force requirements, required resources and identification of risk areas.

The group will also suggest mitigation measures for a successful transfer of responsibility to the airforce, the memo added. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

29 May 19. STAR-Dundee’s SpaceFibre Stars as an ESA Space Standard Very High Speed Serial Link. For the past decade, STAR-Dundee has been leading the development of the next generation of SpaceWire technology: SpaceFibre. SpaceFibre is a high-performance, high-reliability, high-availability network technology for use onboard spacecraft.

STAR-Dundee’s efforts in developing SpaceFibre were recently rewarded with the publication of the SpaceFibre standard, “ECSS-E-ST-50-11C – SpaceFibre – Very high-speed serial link”, by the European Space Agency’s standardization body, the European Cooperation for Space Standardization.

SpaceFibre provides data signaling rates of 6.25 Gbit/s in current flight technology, over electrical or fiber optic cables, while its unique multi-laning features allow as many as 16 lanes to be combined into a single link, giving a theoretical link rate of 100 Gbit/s. SpaceFibre offers much more than high data rates, however.

The technology is capable of detecting, isolating and recovering from faults in the link where they occur, which prevents faults from propagating and causing further errors. SpaceFibre provides galvanic isolation, transparent recovery from transient errors, error containment in virtual channels and frames, and “Babbling Node” protection. Very versatile quality of service mechanisms allow scheduled, deterministic communication without wasting any network bandwidth.

These powerful capabilities mean that SpaceFibre is suitable for very high data rate payloads such as synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral imaging instruments and can also be used for network and equipment management and for deterministic command and control type applications. SpaceFibre allows each of these traffic types with very different requirements to share a single network, with each traffic stream operating independently within its own virtual network.

SpaceFibre has been and is being designed into its first ASICs, on-board equipment and space missions. The powerful Ramon Chips RC64 many-core DSP features STAR-Dundee IP to provide 12

SpaceFibre ports each offering up to 6.25 Gbit/s data signaling rate. SpaceFibre is being used in Europe, USA, Russia and Japan and has been incorporated in the latest revision of the ANSI/VITA 78 SpaceVPX backplane standard.

Steve Parkes, CTO of STAR-Dundee and formerly Chair of Spacecraft Electronic Systems at the University of Dundee, wrote the SpaceFibre standard with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. STAR-Dundee has designed, implemented and tested:

  • The first SpaceFibre interface
  • The first SpaceFibre routing switch
  • The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface
  • The first SpaceWire to SpaceFibre interface device
  • The first experimental SpaceFibre interface ASIC (VHiSSI)
  • The first SpaceFibre interfaces in a many core processor (Ramon Chips’ RC64)
  • The first SpaceFibre interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA (Microsemi’s RTG4)
  • The first SpaceFibre routing switch in a radiation tolerant FPGA
  • The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA
  • The first SpaceFibre link analyzer
  • The first SpaceFibre interface board.

In addition, STAR-Dundee has demonstrated the first complete SpaceFibre network representative of spaceflight applications and incorporating radiation tolerant technology. STAR-Dundee owns a patent on the SpaceFibre multi-lane technology, which is being freely licensed for space related applications. (Source: Satnews)

29 May 19. With ETID, ArianeGroup moves closer to the launcher upper stage engines of the future.

  • The ETID demonstrator (Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator) is being used to develop thrust chamber components and subsystems and to test technologies for the engines of the future
  • Through testing carried out from June 2018 to March 2019 in Lampoldshausen, Germany, the ETID demonstrator validated 14 new components, technological building blocks now available for developing a future upper stage rocket engine
  • With ETID and the Prometheus demonstrator, ArianeGroup is developing innovative technologies and manufacturing processes to significantly enhance competitiveness of the Ariane 6 liquid propellant engines as of 2023 and to develop new, very low-cost engines for future European launchers from 2030

Program validation tests for ETID (Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator), which is designed to develop new technologies for upper stage rocket engines, were completed on March 22, 2019, with the successful hot-fire testing campaign. A total of 14 thrust chamber and valve components developed by ArianeGroup and its European partners have been undergoing testing at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, in Lampoldshausen, Germany, since June 2018.

Over 23 test days, four different thrust chamber configurations were tested, with an overall runtime of more than 2,700 seconds.

The ETID project was carried out within ESA’s Future Launcher Preparatory Programme. The European partner organizations which are making a significant contribution to the ETID program – GKN Aerospace (Sweden), Safran Aero Boosters (Belgium), Aerospace Propulsion Products (Netherlands), and Carinthian Tech Research (Austria), as well as DLR Institute of Space Propulsion – today celebrated this success in Lampoldshausen along with representatives from ArianeGroup, the project lead contractor.

Gerald Hagemann Deputy Head of Liquid Propulsion Engineering, ArianeGroup

The test campaign went particularly well. Our expectations regarding new thrust chamber and valve technologies were entirely fulfilled – and even surpassed with respect to component reliability and robustness. The validated technology portfolio is now ready to further improve the cost-efficiency of the European space launcher family.”

The purpose of the ETID demonstrator is to develop thrust chamber components and subsystems to enable even more cost-efficient European space launcher production. One of the single-piece, full-scale 3D-printed injector heads developed by ArianeGroup was deployed on the demonstrator, a 10-ton class real-size thrust chamber. This injector head will in the future replace conventional injector heads, which are made up of over 400 individual parts. A cost-effective combustion chamber made of copper and various multiple igniters also underwent testing in space-representative conditions.

The success of these tests will support the decisions to be made at the European Space Agency (ESA) Ministerial Conference in Seville in November this year, for continued development of engines to power the future Ariane 6 versions.

André Hubert Roussel ArianeGroup CEO

“It is crucial that we are already working now to prepare the technologies that will be used on the launchers from 2030, and the progress made in parallel with the development of the Prometheus very low-cost engine is taking us forward in this direction. With the success of the ETID tests, ArianeGroup and the European Space Agency (ESA), supported by the German space agency DLR, have reached a further important milestone in the development of innovative technologies and thus the development of ever more competitive European space launchers.”

This success of the ETID demonstrator complements a series of cryogenic propellant propulsion innovations (liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen/liquid methane), also developed for Prometheus, the European demonstrator for a very low-cost, potentially reusable engine, for which testing is also proceeding optimally.

Prometheus and ETID are precursors of future European space launcher engines for the 2030 time-frame. The innovative technologies and industrial processes developed under these demonstrator programs will also contribute to the propulsion systems used on Ariane 6 evolutions.

The Prometheus program design review was successfully completed on February 1, 2019 at ArianeGroup’s Vernon site in France. The industrialization review is scheduled for summer 2019. These are conducted by ArianeGroup teams in Ottobrunn, Germany, and Vernon, along with those from ESA, with the support of specialists from the French and German space agencies, CNES and DLR. (Source: ASD Network)

28 May 19. Paradigm Delivers in the Antarctic. PIM-Enabled Satellite Terminals Provide Unlimited High Speed Broadband. Summer in the Antarctic, warm thoughts are pretty much the only thing warm, which makes it a challenge for scientific equipment to stand the weather extremes. Fortunately, for those taking part in the Argentine Antarctic Summer Campaign at a number of sites including Belgrano II, Argentina’s southernmost permanent base, Paradigm’s flyaway HORNET99 and CONNECT100T terminals are providing fast, reliable and critical communications.

Operating on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-Band network and supplied by Tesacom, a leading company in mobile satellite communications and an IoT pioneer in LATAM, the terminals are delivering invaluable communications support.

Via Tesacom’s services, the crew and scientists of the ARA Almirante Irizar, as well as the teams manning the bases, benefit from mobile and fixed satellite communication solutions. The connectivity provides unlimited, high speed data services to transfer data between the remote polar landmass and the flagship icebreaker vessel. The vital connectivity also promotes the wellbeing of the crew with crucial welfare comms and internet access. Additionally, the terminals and service optimize the speed and efficiency of operational activities including the transfer of up-to-date maps of navigation routes and meteorological information.

The key features of Paradigm’s terminals making them the systems of choice in these challenging environments include their portability, ruggedized, environmentally-robust enclosures and the PIM (Paradigm Interface Module) controller for quick and simple pointing requiring minimal training. The PIM optimizes the performance of terminals and also integrates all major modem types.

With last year’s successful deployment by the RAF of the SWARM terminal in the high-altitude environment of the Himalayas, Paradigm and Global Xpress are repeatedly demonstrating that internet at the extremes is a reality.

Ulf Sandberg, Managing Director at Paradigm added the not only can their PIM-enabled terminals be operated by anyone; this is also proof that location is no longer a restriction. (Source: Satnews)

31 May 19. SOCOM Sticks With Leonardo DRS For Commercial Satcom. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is sticking with its long-time provider of commercial satellite communications, Leonardo DRS, after an open competition for up to $977m in contract awards over five years.

Leonardo DRS is the US arm of Italian aerospace and defense firm Leonardo, with a market capital value of $6.9bn. The firm holds a majority share in satellite operator Telespazio and a minority share in Thales Alenia Space that manufactures satellites.

Under the new contract, Leonardo DRS will be providing and managing SOCOM’s Global Access Network (GAN) system that matches available commercial satellite bandwidth to individual missions and links the command’s far flung operations together. Under the contract, the firm will supply commercial satellite bandwidth, a satellite operations center support, and a secure and accredited terrestrial network to SCOCOM.

“USSOCOM requires an integrated satellite and terrestrial telecommunications system to support the dissemination of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence information between USSOCOM, its components, and their major subordinate units as well as selected U.S. government agencies and activities directly associated with the special operations community,” explains the company’s press release.

The contract comes at a time when SOCOM is attempting to reorganize and reequip for future great power competition, eyeing innovative ways to acquire technology. Speaking to an industry conference in Tampa (where Leonardo DRS is based) last week, new SOCOM head Gen. Richard Clarke said he’s looking to the defense industry to “expand and improve our ability in this mission area by developing suites of low bandwidth communication and collaboration tools that allow us to more rapidly and securely advise and enable our partners.”

Ben Pigsley, Leonardo DRS’s vice president for global communications, told me that the company has been providing network services for SOCOM for 17 years now. “We provide links to all commercial networks across multiple bandwidths: C, Ku, commercial X-band, Ka and L,” he said. The system is custom designed for SOCOM, and links directly into the commands protected ground stations. He noted that while the bulk of Leonardo DRS’s work for SOCOM is commercial satcom, the firm also has a small role in helping SOCOM do planning for its use of the Wideband Global SATCOM system. It also is partner (with Rafael) in the Trophyprogram to upgrade existing Army vehicles with anti-missile systems. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)


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.


Back to article list