Sponsored By Viasat
25 June 19. Viasat, Teledyne Partner to Deliver Connected Flight Deck Services to Commercial Aviation Customers.
- Viasat’s High-Speed Satellite Connectivity Coupled with Teledyne’s Avionics System Allows Airlines to Stream Flight Deck Data in Real-time
- Driving Operational Efficiencies and Cost Savings
- Qantas Airways Currently Seeing Value through Modernized Flight Deck Communications Delivered through the Viasat/Teledyne Partnership
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, and Teledyne Controls LLC, a leading provider of sophisticated avionics systems, announced today a partnership to bring real-time connected flight deck services to commercial airlines. Designed for Viasat in-flight connectivity (IFC) customers, this partnership allows commercial airlines to decrease operational costs by eliminating expensive manual data off-loading processes; make better use of data mid-flight with improved data analysis and relevancy; and reduce data loss through preventative maintenance and the immediate access of flight deck information.
As data becomes increasingly critical in aviation operations, commercial airlines are looking to leverage analytics to identify actionable insights that will help streamline operational efficiencies, reduce costs and increase safety. Using Viasat’s IFC system paired with Teledyne’s Aircraft Interface Device (AID), airlines can off-load Quick Access Recorder (QAR) data and reliably stream Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) messages in real-time from the flight deck. Additionally, airlines can augment flight operations and maintenance quality assurance programs by immediately identifying and responding to maintenance issues, reducing aircraft on ground (AOG) timelines.
“The combination of Viasat’s in-flight connectivity service with Teledyne’s Aircraft Interface Device is delivering tremendous cost savings along with data benefits to commercial airlines,” said Murray Skelton, senior director of Aircraft Solutions, Teledyne. “In working with Viasat, we can securely off-load over 80% of ACARS data in real-time, which allows airlines to improve quality assurance programs and reduce costs associated with sending messages over expensive Very High Frequency (VHF) radio systems, especially when over water.”
Don Buchman, vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, Viasat added, “Through our partnership with Teledyne, we’re changing connected flight deck services by enabling airlines to creatively use in-flight connectivity to create a fully connected fleet. Commercial aircraft generate large volumes of data, and our goal is to help airlines use this data more effectively by removing the expensive manual, post flight data acquisition process as well as create an environment where communications and analysis happens between the flight deck and ground operations teams—all in real-time.”
Qantas Airways finds success through connected flight deck communications
Qantas is using high-speed Viasat satellite connectivity with Teledyne’s GroundLink® avionics software across its domestic fleet of B737 and A330 aircraft with Wi-Fi to stream information over the Viasat system. The airline is also looking at new ways to leverage the system for Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) application – for tracking and visualizing weather, turbulence modeling and to improve pilots’ overall situational awareness when in flight.
“Viasat’s inflight connectivity service delivers a comprehensive aircraft data delivery solution for the flight deck and cabin,” said Alex Passerini, Qantas Chief Technical Pilot.
“Together with Viasat and Teledyne, we have an innovative solution that has modernized our flight deck communications, allowing us to streamline the process for how we deliver information to the ground for advanced flight tracking and real-time aircraft monitoring. It is also enabling aircraft communications in remote areas of Australia without traditional ACARS coverage.” (Source: ASD Network)
27 June 19. A new report on why military space is so expensive. A new Pentagon report notes that the industrial base supporting the military’s space efforts continues to be extremely specialized, making it difficult for the Department of Defense to fully take advantage of the commercial sector.
“The DoD space industrial base remains a niche market with highly specialized and capital-intensive capabilities that are not efficiently managed through individual program investments,” reads the fiscal year 2018 “Industrial Capabilities Annual Report to Congress,”which was cleared for publication May 13. “Gaps in the space sector result in a limited or degraded domestic supply of qualified critical materials and components to support National Security Space missions.”
The problem is that the space sector can’t effectively capitalize on economies of scale needed to offset the high cost of cutting edge technologies built to exacting standards. Production runs for space-related military technology generally remains low, when in fact high production runs are needed to support viable commercial efforts in this area.
The report examined every aspect of the space industry from satellites to ground systems, networks and launch services. Of primary concern for the Pentagon is the inadequate domestic supply of aerospace structures and fibers, radiation-hardened microelectronics, radiation test and qualification facilities, and satellite components and assemblies. The future for these supplies is uncertain, the report said, despite the growing importance space represents to national security.
“Increasing cyber threats, non-trusted supply chains, foreign acquisitions, reliance on vulnerable foreign sources, economic policies of competitor nations (in the form of subsidies, domestic preference, etc.), and erratic demand are threats to the United States in the form of losing essential space capabilities and critical skills,” the report read.
The Pentagon has tried to build up a stronger industrial base for space through the Space Industrial Base Capability Investment Program, which produces a list of critical technology to help mitigate risk to the industrial base. The department also has a joint effort from multiple agencies to subsidize critical sections of the commercial sector and to plan acquisitions in a way that avoids duplications and inefficiencies.
The report includes few recommendations, beyond noting that risk mitigation plans for some components are unfunded. (Source: Defense News)
17 June 19. Visat-3’s Commercial Launch on Next-Gen Ariane 64. Viasat Inc., (NASDAQ: VSAT) and Arianespace have modified the original ViaSat-3 satellite launch contract, signed in 2016 — under the new agreement, the two companies agreed to move the ViaSat-3 satellite from an Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle to the next-generation Ariane 64 (A64) launcher. With this contract, Viasat will become the first commercial customer to commit to launch on the A64. The A64 launcher is expected to maintain launch quality and reliability, but with added mission effectiveness, efficiency and flexibility. The A64 launch vehicle will feature a modular configuration based on core stages powered by lower and upper liquid propellant modules, which is supplemented by four solid rocket motors. The A64’s configuration will also provide added performance to deliver a ViaSat-3 satellite into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit where it can begin on-orbit operations faster.
Arianespace will launch the ViaSat-3 satellite from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Moving to the A64 launcher completes Viasat’s integrated launch strategy, which is designed to bring an on-time launch to all of the ViaSat-3 spacecraft through launch vehicle diversity and an integrated approach to launch planning. Viasat will announce specific mission assignments for each of the contracted launch vehicles at a later date.
The ViaSat-3 class of Ka-band satellites is expected to provide unprecedented capabilities in terms of service speed and flexibility for a satellite platform. The first two satellites will focus on the Americas and on Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), respectively, with the third satellite planned for the APAC region, completing Viasat’s global service coverage. Each ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to deliver more than 1-Terabit per second of network capacity, and to leverage high levels of flexibility to dynamically direct capacity to where customers are located.
Dave Ryan, president, Space and Commercial Networks at Viasat commented that the company has a long-standing partnership with Arianespace and trusts that their A64 launcher will allow Viasat to meet key business objectives, which include bringing high-speed, high-quality broadband connectivity to end-users, worldwide. The A64 vehicle is a highly competitive launcher, and incorporates key features to ensure a more cost-effective, dependable ViaSat-3 spacecraft launch.
Arianespace Chief Executive Officer, Stéphane Israël, said, the company is honored that Viasat initially chose Arianespace for one of their ViaSat-3 launches and has now evolved the program, enabling them to be the first commercial launch customer to commit to fly on the company’s powerful Ariane 64 launcher. By moving to the A64 vehicle, Arianespace is confident next-generation market adaptability will be demonstrated — one that responds better to customers’ needs. (Source: Satnews)
28 June 19. Australian Space Agency submissions close for International Space Investment initiative. Australian space companies and others have until Monday to say how the government should spend the funding it has allocated to the space sector. The Australian Space Agency (ASA) said it was seeking views on the design of the International Space Investment initiative launched in the federal budget in April.
“In particular, we would like to hear from businesses and researchers that are currently engaged, or would like to be engaged, in international space projects. Submissions close 1 July 2019,” it said.
This initiative provides grants to strategic space projects that generate employment and business opportunities.
That funding isn’t huge – $15m over three years, with $3 m in 2019-20, $5m on 2020-21 and $7m in 2021-22.
This will target projects with a minimum of 80 per cent of the investment in Australia for the benefit of Australian space industry firms.
ASA said the Australian space sector was growing fast, with forecasts of up to 7.1 per cent growth per year over the next five years, outpacing GDP. However, Australia is entering a rapidly growing and fiercely competitive international market and Australian space businesses face a range of market barriers that limit growth. That includes accessing investment and venture capital markets.
“Australian space businesses will need to build capability and capacity to enter international supply chains,” it said.
ISI objectives are to help unlock international space opportunities for the Australian space sector, expand capability and capacity and demonstrate the sector’s ability to successfully deliver space-related products and services internationally.
The ASA proposes there should be two streams of ISI funding. Through the Open Doors stream, grants would target international space agency projects that will unlock opportunities for the Australian space sector.
Under the Expand Capability stream, grants would be awarded competitively to build capability and capacity of the Australian space sector and support creation of jobs.
ISI program design will be finalised in July and August and applications for funding will open in September. The first grants will be delivered in November. (Source: Space Connect)
28 June 19. Falcon Heavy launch to provide Aussie weather monitoring satellites. SpaceX has launched its largest rocket so far, as the Falcon Heavy blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday Australian time carrying 24 research satellites and 152 paying passengers. Admittedly the passengers weren’t appreciating the experience as they were long dead, their ashes placed in low-Earth orbit as a lucrative sideline of the space launch business. Of greater relevance to Australia was the launch of the six COSMIC-2 weather satellites designed to improve global weather forecasting and space weather monitoring.
Satellite data underpins the weather and climate services delivered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and the COSMIC-2 mission was expected to bring major benefits to Australia, including better storm forecasting, especially in warm, tropical areas near the equator.
Bureau of Meteorology chief data officer Dr Anthony Rea, said the bureau was pleased to be playing a role in this international effort.
“The bureau’s technical experts will be working closely with our international partners to ensure the successful deployment of the COSMIC-2 satellites and monitoring them from the bureau’s ground station in Middle Point, Northern Territory,” he said.
“The bureau has a large network of ground stations from which we can send and receive signals from satellites. This enables us to make a valuable contribution to international space missions, such as COSMIC-2. In the case of COSMIC-2, we will be sending commands to the satellites as well as downlinking real-time data.”
COSMIC is actually an acronym for Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate. COSMIC-2 follows the initial COSMIC satellite mission, launched in 2006. Each COSMIC-2 satellite is about the size of a standard kitchen oven and carries a precision GPS receiver.
As COSMIC-2 satellites orbit the Earth, they receive signals from GPS satellites that are distorted as they pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, a process known as radio occultation.
COSMIC-2 can detect those distortions in the signal that can be used to determine atmospheric density, temperature, pressure and moisture in near real time.
As secondary payloads, COSMIC-2 also carry three instruments to detect electron density and other space weather information.
The first COSMIC mission satellites circled the Earth in near polar orbits but COSMIC-2 satellites will orbit near the equator, taking measurements of the tropics and subtropics, and monitoring the ionosphere for the effects of solar storms.
This was the third Falcon Heavy launch but the first contracted by the US military for the the US Air Force Space Test Program-2 (STP-2), designed to provide lower cost launches by commercial providers.
To reduce costs, the aim is to reuse rocket components. Two side boosters landed back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff, as they did after the launch in April. The nose cone was caught in a giant net at sea.
However, the new core booster missed an ocean platform in what SpaceX boss Elon Musk termed a RUD – rapid unscheduled disassembly. That wasn’t unexpected as this was a difficult mission with success billed as no higher than 50-50.
On this mission was the US Orbital Test Bed satellite, carrying a number of science experiments including NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock intended to test the performance of a small highly accurate clock, which could aid in navigation for future deep space missions.
This satellite also carried a payload from Celestis, a company that organises for cremated remains of people and even their pets to be sent into space.
Remains sent into orbit stay within their capsules in the satellite and burn up when the satellite re-enters the atmosphere.
The basic service costs US$2,495 to go to the edge of space and back to Earth, US$4,995 to be placed in orbit and US$12,500 for remains to be sent to the moon. (Source: Space Connect)
27 June 19. The importance of enhancing Australia’s strategic space situational awareness. Space situational awareness (SSA) is emerging as one of the major battlegrounds of the 21st century. For Australia – a world leader in the development of SSA capability – the capacity will provide an area of strategic advantage for the nation and its allies, highlighting the importance of SSA.
The increasing dependence and vulnerability of space-based intelligence, surveillance and communications assets, combined with the ever-advancing pace of anti-satellite technology, is opening avenues for Australia to leverage domestic expertise to develop a credible, cost-effective ‘multi-domain’ force multiplying, space situational awareness capability.
While platforms like the Army’s growing web of integrated, networked platforms like the Boxer CRV, next-generation air and missile defence systems, Navy’s Hobart and Hunter Class ships, the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, P-8A Poseidon and the E-7A Wedgetail are individually highly capable platforms – their reliance on integrated, secure and highly capable space-based networks is a key and rapidly exploitable vulnerability.
This vulnerability is not unique to Australia and its period of modernisation and capability development – rather, every modern military, including those of major powers like the US, Russia, China and India, are all equally dependent upon the uncontested access to their own integrated space-based communications, intelligence and surveillance networks.
SSA provides Australia with a area of natural competitive advantage compared with other nations. Ben Greene, EOS group chief executive, explained the unique position Australia finds itself in: “As a nation, Australia has a natural advantage in space services, but we have to leave the door open to disruptive technologies being developed to help increase Australian access because in some of these disruptive technologies everyone, including Australia, is starting from the same basic levels.”
In the broadest sense, SSA may be defined as a knowledge of the energy and particle fluxes in near-Earth space, natural and artificial objects passing through or orbiting within this space, including the past, present and future state of these components. The realm of near-Earth space may be left rather vague at this stage. It is definitely within cis-lunar space, but extends to an Earth-radius of at least 100,000 kilometres to include nearly all man-made objects currently in orbit.
The Space Foundation defines SSA as “the ability to view, understand and predict the physical location of natural and man-made objects in orbit around the Earth, with the objective of avoiding collisions”.
Dr Greene added, “When it comes to SSA capabilities, Australia is one of the top five major global space powers, however, at a national level the indigenous capability is essentially zero – while Australia hosts foreign sensors, there isn’t that uniquely national capability at this point in time.”
Recognising the opportunity presented by the growing field of SSA and the tactical and strategic advantages SSA can provide, why isn’t Australia focusing on developing this key tactical and strategic force multiplier, particularly as peer competitors like Russia and China continue to take more interventionist stances towards space-based systems?
Enhancing SSA and ‘soft kill’ capabilities
Australia’s world-leading SSA capabilities, combined with renewed government focus on developing an offensive domestic cyber capabilities, domestic development of directed-energy weapons to ‘dazzle’ or ‘blind’ competitor space assets, and the nation’s growing electronic warfare capabilities, provide avenues for Australia to develop a complementary ‘soft kill’ capability.
Australia’s world-leading JORN network and the Harold E Holt base outside of Geraldton in Western Australia, combined with the continuing development of ionosphere scanning technology and the development of space-based tracking and related situational awareness capabilities by local companies (including world leading companies, like EOS Space Systems, Sabre Astronautics and their joint participation in the US Space Fence program), additionally supports the nation’s push to develop a credible SSA and soft kill capability.
The rapid development of peer and near-competitor anti-satellite and counter-space capabilities, recently exemplified by the successful Indian anti-satellite weapons test and the resulting threat of space debris, requires the development of a robust and considered Australian response – enabling the nation to protect and deter its sovereign space interests while supporting the long-term development of Australia’s own sovereign space capabilities.
Dr Greene added, “The importance part of SSA and the way it feeds into a more interventionist approach toward space is the need to establish and maintain an extensive intelligence database to make sure that any action against space debris doesn’t have a negative impact on the broader space environment throughout the various levels of orbit.”
‘Joint Force’ supporting the SSA capability
The modernisation of the ADF – namely the introduction of next-generation, multi-domain capabilities across each of the ADF’s branches – provides interesting avenues for Australia to develop a reliable, survivable and complementary counterspace and anti-satellite capability.
In particular, the Navy’s acquisition of advanced surface combatants, in the Aegis-powered Hobart and Hunter Class destroyers and frigates, serves as the basis of the sea-based leg of Australia’s own counterspace capability –albeit a final resort option given the dangers posed by space debris.
The power of the Aegis Combat System and continued upgrades in development and in service with the US Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, in the form of ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability packages added into the Aegis system and advancing SPY radars supporting targeting and tracking by advanced SM-series missiles, provides avenues for Australia to leverage these capabilities in conjunction with the nation’s major strategic partner.
Developing and implementing these naval capabilities does require the modernisation of Australia’s Aegis fleet to incorporate the BMD capabilities, as well as the introduction of the SM-3 series missiles, provides the nation with a credible anti-satellite deterrent capability.
Meanwhile, the nation’s recognised leading-edge phased-array radar and SSA capabilities through companies like CEA Technologies and EOS Space Systems provide further avenues for Australia to develop a niche, leading-edge capability to fulfil Australia’s unique tactical and strategic requirements. (Source: Defence Connect)
26 June 19. General Atomics Orbital Test Bed Satellite Successfully Launched and Deployed. Launched On-Board SpaceX Falcon Heavy, On-Orbit Comms Link Acquired. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today that its Orbital Test Bed (OTB) satellite was successfully launched on-board the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. OTB was then successfully deployed into orbit after launch, and communication was established between the spacecraft and ground operations to begin satellite commissioning and operations.
“This first OTB launch marks a very exciting beginning for us and our multiple payload customers,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “We are extremely proud of our team, whose tremendous efforts over the past few years have culminated in today’s successful launch. We’ve successfully initiated the post-launch commissioning activities and the start of payload mission operations.”
The launch, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force’s Space Technology Program 2 (STP-2), is delivering 24 separate satellites to various orbits around Earth. The multiple hosted payloads launched today on GA-EMS’ OTB spacecraft include: NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Deep Space Atomic Clock, designed and built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to support deep space navigation and exploration; a Modular Solar Array developed for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL); an Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer sensor payload developed by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy; the RadMon next generation radiation effects monitor; the FlexRX programmable satellite receiver; and Celestis cremains.
“Establishing the proper orbit, communications and control is the first critical post launch step for our hosted payload customers,” added Nick Bucci, vice president of Missile Defense and Space Systems. “We can then provide the information they need when they need it.”
OTB’s modularity and versatility allows for the simultaneous launch of multiple demonstration payloads on a single satellite. This eliminates the need for customers to bear the costly burden of a dedicated platform and launch. (Source: ASD Network)
26 June 19. ESA conducts experiment to burn up re-entering satellite. When satellite orbits finally decay and they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up into metal vapour in a spectacular meteor-like moment as they speed through the sky. Right?
The answer is not necessarily, as was dramatically demonstrated when the US Skylab re-entered in 1979, with parts raining down over Western Australia, causing much a media and public sensation but no actual harm.
More concerning was Kosmos 954, a Russian spy satellite which re-entered in 1978, scattering debris over outback Canada, some of it radioactive from the craft’s onboard power reactor.
The basic rule seems to be that denser, more robust satellite components may survive re-entry. Operators with control over their dying birds steer them to an area of the southern Pacific Ocean, now graveyard for more than 250 old satellites.
To determine the mechanism of satellite atmospheric burn up, the European Space Agency has conducted an interesting experiment on one of the densest components of an Earth-orbiting satellite, placed it in a plasma wind tunnel then proceeded to melt it into vapour.
ESA said the aim was to better understand how satellites burn up during re-entry, to minimise the risk of endangering anyone on the ground.
That took place as part of ESA’s Clean Space initiative, with the testing conducted inside a plasma wind tunnel at the German Aerospace Center’s site in Cologne.
The test subject was a 4×10 centimetre section of magnetotorquer, an instrument that interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field to adjust satellite orientation.
That comprised an external carbon fibre reinforced polymer composite, with internal copper coils and an iron-cobalt core, which was heated to several thousand degrees.
“We observed the behaviour of the equipment at different heat flux set-ups for the plasma wind tunnel in order to derive more information about materials properties and demisability. The magnetotorquer reached a complete demise at high heat flux level,” said ESA Clean Space engineer Tiago Soares.
“We have noted some similarities but also some discrepancies with the prediction models.”
ESA said in theory re-entering space debris was entirely consumed in the course of plunging through the atmosphere. In practice some pieces can make it to Earth, some big enough to do serious damage.
In 1997, for instance, Texans Steve and Verona Gutowski were woken by the impact of a 250-kilogram rocket fuel tank 50 metres from their farmhouse.
Space regulations say that should not happen.
As part of a larger effort called CleanSat, ESA is developing technologies to ensure future low-Earth orbit satellites are designed according to the concept of D4D – design for demise.
Earlier studies have identified some satellite components more likely to survive re-entry. That includes magnetotorquers, optical instruments, propellant and pressure tanks, drive mechanisms for solar arrays and reaction wheels – spinning gyroscopes used to change a satellite’s orientation.
ESA said a big source of uncertainty in the demise process is the tendency for parts to fragment, creating multiple items of debris, with higher risk of damage or harm when they impact the Earth’s surface.
“Basically put, the more pieces in play, the higher the overall casualty risk estimation,” ESA said. (Source: Space Connect)
26 June 19. Elbit Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: ESLT and TASE: ESLT) (“Elbit Systems”) announced today, further to its announcement of August 17, 2017, that on June 25, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC ruled completely in Elbit Systems’ favor against Hughes Network Systems, LLC (“Hughes”) for infringing an Elbit Systems patent relating to high-speed satellite communications, U.S. Patent No. 6,240,073. The Court of Appeals’ judgment affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which had also ruled in Elbit Systems’ favor. The amount of damages awarded to Elbit Systems (including a $21.1m jury award, pre-verdict and post-verdict royalties, costs and interest) totals approximately $30m. The trial court has yet to rule on the extent to which it will grant Elbit Systems’ request for $13.8m in attorneys’ fees due to Hughes’ “bad faith litigation misconduct,” which the Court found to be “exceptional.” Any eventual award of attorney’s fees would be subject to a separate potential appeal by Hughes.
26 June 19. USQ prepares to support Queensland space industry lift-off. The University of Southern Queensland has welcomed new impetus from the Queensland government to boost the state’s participation in the growth of the Australian space industry. The state government’s acceptance of 15 recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry into job creation opportunities in Queensland arising from the establishment of an Australian space industry should help Queensland take the essential enabling steps in building a multibillion-dollar local space industry.
Among the recommendations are calls to develop launch technologies, create new collaborations between universities, business and government, as well as increase the number of young Queenslanders studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) needed for the career opportunities in the new space industry.
Vice-chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said USQ was well placed to play a leading role in the space opportunity with planning well underway with a private sector partner for a static rocket-testing site near Toowoomba.
“USQ is committed to supporting efforts by the Australian and Queensland governments to establish the infrastructure and skills necessary to seize a part of the burgeoning growth in the global space industry,” Professor Mackenzie said.
There are a number of space-related research projects currently operating at USQ, including a collaboration with Gilmour Space Technologies on advanced rocket technology research, testing and STEM initiatives.
The Queensland government announcement comes just days after a number of delegates, including acting Queensland chief scientist, the director of international and national engagement at the Australian Space Agency, and the deputy director-general of the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, toured USQ’s Mount Kent Observatory.
“Our proposed static rocket testing site will catalyse local innovation and attract researchers to Queensland, building on the international interest generated by other unique facilities such as our Mount Kent Observatory,” Professor Mackenzie explained.
The site, located outside Toowoomba, hosts remote-access telescopes for the Shared Skies Partnership with the University of Louisville (USA) and MINERVA-Australis – the only southern hemisphere observing facility dedicated to NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.
Professor Mackenzie added, “Queensland has many advantages to offer the space industry and USQ ranks among a number of home grown institutions very well-placed to become a key driver in this field.” (Source: Space Connect)
25 June 19. Avanti Communications (Avanti), a leading provider of satellite data communications services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has been awarded the very first Landing Permit in the history of Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This authorization enables Avanti to strengthen its business in the largest African economy. The Permit was granted to Avanti at the NCC headquarters in Abuja with several dignitaries in attendance. Speaking on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman, the Director for Spectrum Administration, Dr Austin Nwaulune, emphasized the NCC’s mandate which is to foster the deployment of communications services to grassroots, to create economic growth and development.
Ann Vandenbroucke, Chief Regulatory Officer at Avanti Communications said:” Avanti is the only operator to have invested in satellite gateways in Nigeria to ensure the highest quality of service in the country. Together with our local partners, we aim to drive greater access –including in outlying rural areas- to innovative services that are available and affordable to all citizens, businesses and schools.”
25 June 19. SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy rocket with 24 satellites. SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on Tuesday from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, carrying 24 experimental satellites in what Elon Musk’s rocket company called one of the most difficult launches it has attempted. The craft blasted off to cheers from onlookers at 2:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) after a three-hour delay from the original launch time late Monday. The boosters separated safely as the craft began its six-hour mission to deploy the satellites.
The two-side booster rockets returned safely to Earth, landing on adjacent Air Force landing pads, but the rocket’s centre booster missed its mark, crashing in the Atlantic ocean.
Musk, who predicted trouble with landing the centre booster on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic, said on Twitter early Tuesday, “It was a long shot.”
The mission, dubbed Space Test Programme 2 (STP-2), is the third for the Falcon Heavy rocket, which SpaceX describes as the most powerful launch system in the world. It was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defence, the key contractor for commercial space companies such as SpaceX. The company is putting satellites into orbit for agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), defence department laboratories, universities and a non-profit organisation, SpaceX said.
The mission is one of the most challenging in SpaceX history, with four separate upper-stage engine burns and three separate orbits to deploy satellites, the company said on its website.
The payloads on the satellites Falcon Heavy is putting into orbit include an atomic clock NASA is testing for space navigation, another testing new telescope technologies, and a solar sail project part-funded by the Planetary Society, a non-profit organisation headed by Bill Nye, “The Science Guy” on television presentations.
The LightSail is a crowdfunded project that aims to become the first spacecraft in earth orbit propelled solely by sunlight, the society, which has championed solar propulsion for decades, says on its website.
Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket in the world “by a factor of two,” SpaceX says on its website. It has the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 pounds) – more than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973 from the same launch pad, delivered more payload to orbit, it says. (Source: Reuters)
26 June 19. Harris delivers satellite navigation payload for USAF GPS III satellite programme. Harris Corporation has delivered the sixth advanced navigation payload to Lockheed Martin contracted for the US Air Force’s (USAF) GPS III satellite programme, the company announced on 11 June.
The payload features a mission data unit (MDU) with a 70% digital design that links transmitters, radiation-hardened processors, and atomic clocks to enhance the navigation signals. The payload is designed to increase the signal power, improves the system’s jamming resistance by eight times, and helps extend the satellite’s durability, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin. For example, GPS III satellite’s lifespan is expected to reach 15 years, which is 25% longer than any of the 31 GPS satellites currently on orbit. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
25 June 19. US firm demonstrates capability for in-space refuelling. A US space start-up, which plans to set up orbiting fuel tankers to top up low on gas satellites, has successfully demonstrated its basic technology with a transfer of water to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Orbit Fab experiment involved a pair of CubeSats, one transferring water to the other, inside the ISS, a process overseen by NASA astronaut Christine Koch. That was then transferred to the station’s onboard water supply, the first time a private payload had supplied the station water in this manner. This wasn’t a big amount of water, just a few litres, but it successfully demonstrated Orbit Fab technology and its ability to transfer water between two satellite testbeds. Curiously, Orbit Fab called its experiment Furphy, Australian slang for an unsubstantiated rumour or improbable story. Furphy and Sons made water carts, around which Australian soldiers congregated, in Australia and then during the Gallipoli and subsequent campaigns of WWI to swap stories and rumours. The name has endured.
“The Furphy mission has allowed us to test the viability of refueling satellites in orbit,” said Jeremy Schiel, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Fab.
He said the trial was intended to measure effectiveness of the company’s propellant transfer technology in microgravity and its ability to handle issues such as sloshing.
This test used water but Orbit Fab said the same technology could be used to transfer common propellants such as hydrazine and even xenon for electric propulsion systems.
Ken Shields, chief operating officer of the ISS National Laboratory, said the test demonstrated NASA’s flexibility and desire to accommodate private sector clients who are utilising the ISS US National Laboratory as a stepping stone to an industrialised low-Earth orbit.
Central to Orbit Fab technology is the company’s Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI), which is designed to allow reliable propellant in zero gravity and vacuum.
In-space refuelling is a very significant and promising capability, which could be used to support future global space operations and extend the life of expensive satellites once they have exhausted their onboard fuel supply.
A number of companies are developing refuelling technology. One issue is that current satellites were never designed to be refuelled and aren’t equipped with any orbital refuelling capability.
Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) plans to get around that by docking with low on gas satellites and using its large onboard fuel reserves for satellite manoeuvring and station keeping.
Northrop Grumman, though its new company Space Logistics, already has a client, Intelsat for its first two MEV missions, with the first planned for launch later this year.
The next big step for in-orbit refuelling is global adoption of a standardised refuelling interface that could be fitted to future satellites. (Source: Space Connect)
25 June 19. Qld government accepts space report recommendations. Queensland is aiming for its share of the national space sector, with the state government accepting all the recommendations of a report on job creation opportunities from a local space industry. Among them is an assessment of sites suitable for space infrastructure – a launch site.
Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said Queensland had all the right fundamental drivers for a booming space economy.
Releasing the government’s response to the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee’s report on job creation opportunities in the space industry, Minister Dick said the Australian government had committed to establishing a national space industry.
“My vision is a future where Queensland is getting our share of the jobs and growth that will create,” he said.
“Following last year’s launch of the Queensland Aerospace 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan and this year’s Deloitte Access Economics report on Queensland’s space industry capabilities and potential economic growth, the committee’s recommendations show that what’s needed now is to build on our strengths and accelerate industry growth.”
The report made 15 recommendations. Minister Dick said the government had accepted all 15 in whole or in principle.
“This includes conducting an initial assessment of sites suitable for space infrastructure and working closely with the federal government on the market for Australian launch sites,” he said.
“The alignment between the committee’s recommendations and the work we’ve already started is more proof that our space economy is on track.
“According to the Deloitte report Sky is not the limit: Building Queensland’s space economy, Queensland is well-placed to capitalise on Australia’s emerging space industry, which in Queensland already contributes 2,000 full-time positions and generates $760m per year to the state economy.
“Importantly, the report compiled for the first time a Queensland Space Economy Capability Directory, capturing more than 50 organisations operating in Queensland with capabilities valuable for the space industry.
“These included leading Earth observation, robotics and automation, data analytics and ground systems businesses.”
Minister Dick said the next step would be a fully-fledged strategy for growing Queensland’s space industry, building on the state’s competitive strengths identified in the Deloitte report.
As a space state, Queensland has been overshadowed by South Australia but it has a big advantage through its location closer to the equator. The further north rockets are launched, the more they can benefit from the Earth’s spin with higher speeds meaning less fuel is needed and greater payloads can be carried.
Retired RAAF Air Vice-Marshal Neil Hart, Queensland’s strategic defence adviser for aerospace and chair of the Queensland Space Industry Reference Group, said many existing Queensland government initiatives would help drive space industry growth.
“Key enablers for the space industry include advanced manufacturing capabilities, a healthy R&D and innovation start-up ecosystem and solid base of people with STEM skills,” he said.
“Initiatives like the Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Defence Industries and Mining Equipment Technology and Services 10-Year Roadmaps and Action Plans, Schools of the Future STEM Strategy and the Advance Queensland suite of programs give this state a strong launchpad for space industries.”
Minister Dick said the Queensland government is working to transform the Queensland economy and create high paid, knowledge-based jobs for our state’s future, particularly in regional Queensland.
“From our work so far, we know that the future is bright for Queensland’s space industry. The opportunity is not only huge, it’s also real,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)
21 Jun 19. Nato prepares first outer space strategy to deal with new threats. Alliance looks to combat growing military capabilities of Russia and China beyond Earth Aiming for the skies. Nato is set to launch its first strategy for space, as the alliance looks to combat the growing military capabilities of Russia and China beyond planet Earth. Defence ministers from its 29 members are next week expected to open a debate on how Nato should deal with threats ranging from satellite disruption to the militarisation of space and the threat from space debris. Diplomats say the talks could lead Nato to make space an official domain of operation with the possibility that attacks there would trigger the organisation’s “Article 5” provisions on collective defence, although they also cautioned that internal differences remained.
“What we are looking towards is to bring space firmly on to the agenda at Nato. What the environment is, what the threats are,” said one alliance diplomat. “It is about understanding how things in space interact with what is on Earth — and understanding what resilience we would need to mitigate that.” Ministers are expected to agree the creation of the space strategy at their regular meeting in Brussels starting on Wednesday, after leaders last year sought a solution to the issue and ahead of another summit due in London in December. The Russians understand it, the Chinese understand it . . . space gives a huge advantage for the alliance Nato diplomat The initiative aimed to take advantage of existing and future capabilities, rather than launching new Nato assets to replace a previous generation of alliance satellites whose decommissioning concluded in 2009, diplomats said. The anticipated decision comes as Russia and China increase their presence in space.
The US Defence Intelligence Agency warned in a report this year that both countries were developing jamming and cyber capabilities in space, directed energy weapons and ground-based anti-satellite missiles — though Beijing and Moscow deny any hostile intent. Another Nato diplomat said alliance countries were recognising that their prized dominance in space — where they still account for well over half of satellites — also created vulnerabilities. “The Russians understand it, the Chinese understand it . . . space gives a huge advantage for the alliance,” the official said. US President Donald Trump, who has been pushing fellow Nato members to increase their defence spending and prove their military relevance, has also been taking an increasing interest in the issue. He last year announced a new Space Force branch of the military, in the face of opposition from the Pentagon and criticism from the House of Representatives armed services committee. “There is pressure [on Nato] from the US and pressure from international developments,” Christian Mölling, deputy director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said of the alliance’s space move. “Every western military operation depends on space for GPS, surveillance radar and communications, so there is no way to fight a war without the use of space infrastructure.”
Recommended Anjana Ahuja Our dark, quiet skies could be dazzled by satellite pollution Diplomats and analysts say potential threats will rise as terrestrial civilian and military infrastructure grows increasingly dependent on space-borne communications — and thus increasingly prone to physical disruption and electronic corruption. A Chinese-based hacking group successfully infiltrated computers that control western satellites, according to a report last year by Symantec, the security company. Nato allies hold varying views over the importance of upgrading space to a formal domain of operation, diplomats said. Some countries, including France, cherish their “strategic autonomy” over their military assets and are historically cautious about handing over control to other parties such as Nato commanders. (Source: FT.com)
21 Jun 19. Space Development Agency head exits just months into job. After less than four months since the official launch of the Space Development Agency, the office’s first leader has stepped down.
Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said Fred Kennedy will return to a role at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, adding that an acting director for the SDA will be announced “soon.”
“There is no change to the mission or activities of the Space Development Agency,” Babb said in a statement. “SDA will drive the department’s future threat-driven space architecture and will accelerate the development and fielding of the new military space capabilities necessary to ensure our technological and military advantage in space for national defense.”
Space News first reported Kennedy’s exit.
The SDA is part of a broader reorganization for the Defense Department’s space efforts. Stood up by Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, the office had been tasked with developing a layer of small, inexpensive low-Earth orbit satellites that will transfer data between space and ground assets.
The resignation comes at a time when the SDA had outlasted its chief opponent inside the Pentagon. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who departed in May after two years as the service’s top civilian, fiercely opposed the SDA, openly questioning the need for its existence; her exit has left Matt Donovan in the acting position, who this week told Defense News he supports the SDA.
This week John Stopher — Wilson’s space adviser and another SDA opponent — resigned from his post.
Multiple sources told Defense News last week that Stopher would be removed from his post at the behest of Air Force leaders who wanted to break from Wilson’s space policies. The sources pointed to Stopher’s role in framing Wilson’s public comments on the space enterprise reorganization, and they said he was a dominant force in slow rolling Space Force-related policies.
Friday also marks the last day in the building for acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who had been the most vocal proponent of the SDA, apart of Griffin. (Source: Defense News)
24 June 19. Sydney uni team plans first satellite launch for next 12 months. Sydney University’s new satellite research and training organisation plans to launch its first satellite in the next 12 months.
Professor Iver Cairns, director of the new Australian Research Council Training Centre for CubeSats, Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles and their Applications (CUAVA), said their satellite was to be called CUAVA-1.
Its purpose is to certify advanced communication, remote sensing, GPS, and space environment instruments in order to provide their data to users on Earth.
“Within the next year we will be launching our first satellite and new instruments into orbit, and performing our first uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) campaign,” he said at the official launch of CUAVA this week.
“We are thrilled to be working with our 11 partners, including three industry partners, four government labs, and three Australian universities and two American universities. We have five PhD students and four Postdoctoral fellows engaged and making exciting progress on our research and commercialisation projects.”
CUAVA is working to train the next generation of workers in commercial space and conduct research to develop the Australian space industry. It was officially opened by Senator Arthur Sinodinos who as industry minister launched the review which resulted in formation the Australian Space Agency.
Australian Research Council chief executive Professor Sue Thomas said that the council was proud to support the new training centre as it would be sure to boost capacity and capabilities in the Australian space industry.
“The applications of CubeSats and Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles will have great importance to the Australian economy, improving satellite communications and observations, and making space more accessible than ever before,” she said.
For its first satellite launch, CUAVA signed an agreement in March with Japanese space start-up Space BD for satellite deployment services from the International Space Station.
After being selected as a commercial service provider by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Space BD has grown rapidly. The agreement with CUAVA was their first overseas contract for end-to-end launch and deployment services.
“Signing this launch contract with Space BD is a crucial and very exciting step forward for CUAVA and all our students and partners,” Professor Cairns said at the time.
“We look forward to a long-term partnership with Space BD and to the CUAVA-1 CubeSat enabling major progress on our research and commercialisation projects.” (Source: Space Connect)
23 June 19. India’s space startups ignite investor interest. From companies building palm-sized satellites to those aiming to propel satellites into space using cleaner fuels, a new wave of space technology startups are mushrooming in India, catching the attention of investors keen to join the space race.
Bengaluru-based Bellatrix Aerospace, which wants to propel satellites into orbit using electric and non-toxic chemical thrusters, has raised $3m from a group of investors, co-founder Yashas Karanam told Reuters.
Venture capital fund IDFC Parampara is leading Bellatrix’s pre-Series A round. The family office of Suman Kant Munjal, who belongs to the billionaire family that controls Indian motorcycle maker Hero MotoCorp, and Deepika Padukone, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, are two of the other seven investors.
Meanwhile, Mumbai-based Kawa Space, which designs and operates earth observation satellites, has closed a seed round of an undisclosed amount, one of its investors, Vishesh Rajaram, managing partner at Speciale Invest, told Reuters.
Bellatrix and Kawa are two of over a dozen Indian startups developing satellites, rockets and related support systems which can power space missions serving a range of industries.
Their fundraising represents a big leap in private space investments in India, a leading space power but where the government has enjoyed a near-monopoly for decades.
“No venture capital firm which does tech investments in India has invested an amount of this size in space technology before,” said Narayan Prasad, co-founder of online space products marketplace Satsearch, referring to Bellatrix’s funding.
Besides Bellatrix and Kawa, seven space technology companies in India are funded, according to startup data tracker Tracxn and interviews with investors.
Space technology is red hot thanks partly to activity happening 2,000 km (1,200 miles) above the earth in the low-earth orbit, much closer and easier to reach than the geostationary orbit where many communications satellites operate.
Here, small and cheaper satellites are snapping images used in everything from crop-monitoring and geology to defense and urban planning, bringing down costs and increasing the frequency of images.
In the past five years, some two dozen Indian startups have grown into unicorns – companies with over $1bn valuations – most betting on India’s growing middle-class and the consumer boom at home.
India’s space technology firms are part of a new breed of startups, and investors are paying attention, given the surging global interest in everything from space exploration to space vacations.
Satellite launches planned in the coming years worldwide give investors confidence in such companies, said Bellatrix investor Jatin Desai, whose Parampara Capital collaborated with lender IDFC to form IDFC Parampara.
“That gives us a large addressable potential market,” Desai said.
Over 17,000 small satellites could be launched between 2018 and 2030, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates.
“There is money to be made … These are exciting times for lots of entrepreneurs,” said Rajaram, whose Speciale Invest has bet on three space startups in India.
LONG GESTATION PERIOD
To be sure, investors aren’t opening the coffers for India’s space startups in large numbers just yet.
Indian venture capital firms Maple Capital, Ideaspring Capital, Bharat Innovation Fund and 3one4 Capital, say they have held talks with space startups but are taking a wait-and-watch approach.
“The gestation period is long by the time you see returns,” said Naganand Doraswamy, managing partner at Ideaspring, referring to the multiple stages of development, testing and government approvals involved in space missions.
The state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), currently preparing for its second lunar mission, has a monopoly on launching rockets in India.
Still, Indian firms are free to use ISRO’s rockets or overseas launch services such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX or New Zealand and Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to send satellites to space.
Most Indian space startups are hopeful that parliament will pass a long-pending space law, which will give clarity on how private companies can operate in the sector.
The administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought suggestions from stakeholders for a draft Space Activities Bill, which it has said could “possibly” be introduced in parliament this year. Bellatrix Aerospace’s first customer is ISRO, which is also mentoring the company as it readies a water-based propellant to help maneuver satellites in space.
Bellatrix is not the only company racing to develop newer satellite propulsion systems, with at least three others overseas reportedly working on similar products.
The company says its systems are affordable, less toxic and much lighter, providing more room for payload on satellites. “This will be the future,” co-founder Karanam said. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
24 June 19. Lacuna Space and Semtech Successfully Test Global Coverage for LoRa® Technology Anywhere, No Matter How Remote. Lacuna Space has successfully concluded their first phase of testing in the company’s mission to provide complete global coverage for LoRa® devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology) to anywhere in the world, no matter how remote. Lacuna Space is engaged in satellite IoT connectivity, with low-cost and high-scalability as its fundamental tenets in its system design. Over the course of the last two years, Lacuna has been collaborating with Semtech Corporation to extend LoRa Technology connectivity to the whole world. Lacuna Space has been developing satellite gateways and working with Semtech to evolve LoRa Technology to enable direct communication from LoRa-based devices to satellite gateways using the LoRaWAN® protocol.
Lacuna’s first satellite launch of the year was on April 1, 2019, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India, where the satellite shared a ride to LEO with EMISAT and 27 additional satellites. Lacuna’s LoRa-based Space Gateway was hosted on a 6U cubesat satellite provided by Nano Avionics and Lacuna has revealed that the satellite and the Space Gateway are out-performing expectations during the initial commissioning phase. An additional three satellites are set for launch in Q3 and Q4 of this year to complete Lacuna’s initial demo constellation. Lacuna is aiming to be ready to perform more extensive demonstrations with a select group of potential users towards the end of the year thanks in part to funding and support from the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency.
Rob Spurrett, the Lacuna Space CEO, remarked that the company is eager to get these next satellites launched so the firm can increase the performance of the whole system, including the fine tuning of this novel, adaptive, radio approach that enables Lacuna Space to detect tiny signals directly from battery powered sensors in remote locations.
Thomas Telkamp CTO, Lacuna Space, said that the company has test systems deployed around the world, in countries as diverse as South Africa, Netherlands, UK, USA, India, Japan, Slovenia and the Reunion Island. Lacuna Space has shown that the firm is to communicate effectively from anywhere in the world, no matter how remote, to the company’s LoRa-based Space Gateway.
Nicolas Sornin, CTO, Semtech, added Lacuna’s expanding LoRaWAN-based network coverage to the most remote regions is an incredible technical achievement. More users will develop LoRa-based applications that need long range, low power and flexible capabilities. (Source: Satnews)
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