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12 Jul 19. Dutch satellite spotter snaps image of secretive US X-37B space place. In this age of smartphones and saturation media coverage, there’s little out there that remains secret but there are some things that are little known, and that includes the Boeing X-37B space plane.

This is a small unmanned winged spacecraft resembling a miniature space shuttle used for top secret military missions for the US Air Force and US Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA). Now a Dutch satellite spotter named Ralf Vandebergh has actually spotted and photographed X-37B in orbit. According to the US website Space.com, Vandebergh said he had been hunting for X-37B for months and finally managed to spot it in May.

“When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn’t meet the predicted time and path. It turned out to have manoeuvred to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers’ network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2,” he said.

Vandebergh wasn’t using an iPhone or even a quality digital camera to obtain his images. He was actually using a 10-inch F/4,8 aperture Newtonian telescope with an Astrolumina ALccd 5L-11 mono CMOS camera. Tracking was fully manual through a 6×30 finderscope, he explained.

“It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometres altitude, so don’t expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle,” he said.

“We can recognise a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail.”

While, there are a number of images of X-37B on the ground on the internet, capturing it in space is quite an achievement.

This started out as a NASA project in 1999, with Boeing selected to perform development of what was called X-37A at its Phantom Works. This subsequently transferred to the US Department of Defense, with the US Force subsequently developing its own version called X-37B.

One X-37A was made and two X-37B.

This resembles a scaled down space shuttle, with length of nine metres, wingspan of 4.5 metres and maximum takeoff weight of just under five tonnes. First mission started in April 2010. So far there have been just four missions but they’ve been rippers. Mission OTV-1 ran for 224 days, OTV-2 for 468 days, OTV-3 for 674 days and OTV-4 for 717. The current mission, OTV-5, launched in September 2017 and is still up there.

The first four launches were aboard Atlas V rockets from Cape Canaveral while the fifth was on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The next launch is scheduled for December. There’s been plenty of speculation about what the space plane does out there, including keeping an eye on China’s Tiangong-1 space station module and testing new types of drive and sensor systems. (Source: Space Connect)

12 Jul 19. Shoal Group secures first technical services contract for ASA. Systems engineering firm Shoal Group, partnering with Asia Pacific Aerospace Consultants (APAC), has secured the Australian Space Agency’s first technical services contract. The contract was signed in June by Shaun Wilson, founder and head of business development of Shoal Group, and Alexandra Seneta, executive director of regulation and international obligations at the Australian Space Agency.

Michael Waite, CEO of Shoal Group, who announced successful completion of the first milestone deliverable, welcomed the news, saying, “Shoal Group and APAC are delighted to have been awarded the first space-related technical services contract in support of the Australian Space Agency.”

The Australian Space Agency, which was established in July 2018, is responsible for the regulation and authorisation of Australian space activities. Shoal and APAC will be implementing a systems thinking approach to the review and refresh of the current Flight Safety Code (FSC) and Maximum Probable Loss (MPL) Methodology to align with the new Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 when it commences on 31 August 2019.

Managing director of APAC, Kirby Ikin, said, “Both companies are able to draw on extensive experience and involvement in the international space community to deliver well-founded advice to the agency.”

The FSC and MPL Methodology are being refreshed to recognise changes in space technology and operations in the two decades since the original code and methodology were put in place; for example, the new versions will accommodate high-power rocketry and air-launched space vehicles. A calculator tool will also be developed to provide space launch proponents initial estimates of MPL for planning purposes prior to seeking specialist advice.

Shoal has extensive experience in decision support analytics and in aerospace modelling and simulation with a long history in space safety management. A decade ago, Shoal was involved with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa ‘return to Earth’ mission, where Shoal safety analysis confirmed the trajectory and impact point of the Hayabusa Sample Return Capsule for the Australian Space Licensing and Safety Office, a predecessor to the Australian Space Agency.

Shoal has also previously conducted flight safety analyses for a range of civil space and military systems. Wilson is a board member of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS).

APAC has extensive experience in the space launch industry underpinned by the direct experience of its principal’s, Ikin and William Barrett, in evaluating launch site risks for the insurance industry and their direct experience in trying to develop an Australian launch site. Ikin and Barrett previously ran GIO Space, one of the largest space insurance underwriting units in the world.

In this role they conducted detailed assessments of launch vehicles, launch sites, launch operations, launch regulations as well as third-party liability to assess the insurance underwriting risks for launch.

During this time, APAC advised the federal government on many aspects of the Space Activities Act 1998 and its regulations. Subsequently, they were key members of the team developing launch operations including techniques to conduct the flight safety analysis under the Flight Safety Code in order to obtain the first facility licence under the Space Activities Act at Asia Pacific Space Centre (APSC), the launch industry start-up with rights to the Soyuz launch vehicle developing a spaceport on Christmas Island.

APAC regularly provides advice on all aspects of launch activities including market analysis, launch legislation and regulations, and launch insurance for both domestic and international clients. (Source: Space Connect)

11 Jul 19. Probe starts after UAE satellite lost in failed Vega launch. An investigation is under way after a European Vega rocket failed after take-off, destroying a military observation satellite as it was about to be placed in orbit for the United Arab Emirates, European space authorities said on Thursday. The Italian-built launcher blasted off from a space port in French Guiana at 10:53 pm local time on Wednesday (0153 GMT on Thursday), carrying the FalconEye1 earth observation satellite with a reported value of several hundred million dollars.

Some two minutes into the flight, controllers began reporting signs that something had gone wrong shortly after ignition of the second stage, according to a launch webcast.

“The trajectory is very degraded,” a mission controller said, while an official commentator reported a loss of telemetry data from the rocket, operated by Europe’s Arianespace.

Despite efforts to reconfigure the launcher from the ground, Arianespace later confirmed it had suffered a “major anomaly” and apologised to the UAE for the loss of its payload.

“The European Space Agency and Arianespace immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission,” ESA and Arianespace said in a joint statement.

It was the first such failure of a Vega rocket, which is sponsored by the European Space Agency for missions in low earth orbit and has carried out 14 previous missions.

The launch had twice been postponed due to bad weather.

Further Vega launches have been suspended pending the investigation, but preparations for the next launch of the larger Ariane 5 rocket are going ahead, Arianespace said.

FalconEeye1 was the first of two military reconnaissance satellites due to be launched for the UAE armed forces this year under a co-operation agreement between the UAE and France.

UAE officials were not available for comment.

Thinly traded shares in Italian aerospace company Avio Aero, which built the Vega launcher and the propulsion motor used in the second ignition stage, fell nearly 15%.

Airbus and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between France’s Thales and Italy’s Leonardo, built the FalconEye1 satellite, whose value has not officially been disclosed.

Vega launches are marketed by Arianespace, a pan-European launch firm controlled by ArianeGroup, which is a joint venture between Airbus and French engine maker Safran. (Source: Reuters)

11 Jul 19. European Vega rocket lost minutes after lift-off. A European Vega rocket has been lost shortly after blast off, the commercial space company Arianespace says. It is the first time in 15 launches that a Vega rocket has failed. The rocket had been carrying a military satellite for the United Arab Emirates when it took off from the European spaceport in French Guiana on Wednesday evening. It is believed to have crashed into the Atlantic Ocean north of the space centre.

Luce Fabreguettes, Arianespace’s executive vice president of missions, said a “major anomaly” had occurred about two minutes after liftoff at the time of the second stage ignition.

“On behalf of Arianespace I wish to express our deepest apologies to our customers for the loss of their payload,” he said.

“From the first flight data analysis, we will get in the coming hours more precise information, and we will communicate to everybody at the soonest.”

The reason for the failure was not immediately known. The flight had been postponed twice because of adverse weather conditions. The rocket had been carrying a satellite known as FalconEye1 – the first of two that will make up the UAE’s FalconEye satellite system.  Vega, which made its maiden flight in 2012, was developed to allow European countries to launch small satellites into space. French-based Arianespace markets the four-stage Vega rocket system which was jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. (Source: BBC)

08 Jul 19. ESAIL Undergoes its Final Preparations for Launch. The ESAIL microsatellite developed under ESA’s programme for tracking ships at sea is going through its final tests ahead of launch. ESAIL has successfully completed its environmental testing campaign, which was performed in just five weeks in the specialised facilities of Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium. The satellite was exposed to mechanical vibrations simulating the violence of a rocket launch, as well as to the extreme temperatures and vacuum similar to those it will experience in its near Earth orbital environment. The solar generators and antennas were also deployed to confirm the mechanisms performance after the rough mechanical and thermal vacuum test. This achievement was possible thanks to the close cooperation between delegations, industry and the ESA teams. ESAIL is due to be launched in September, in a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of more than 500km on Arianespace first Vega rideshare flight from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. ESAIL is an ESA Partnership Project with the Canadian operator exactEarth, together with the Luxembourg Space Agency and other ESA member states. Partnership Projects aim to develop sustainable end-to-end systems, right up to in-orbit validation. (Source: ASD Network)

10 Jul 19. A $655m satellite ground system contract has led to a lawsuit. Peraton is suing the government over a $655m, six-year contract to support the Air Force’s satellite ground systems.

The legal action comes on the heels of a June 11 Government Accountability Office decision that the massive contract had been awarded improperly to Engility Corporation in January, a decision that came about because of a protest Peraton had filed in March. With the Engility contract now set to end June 20—more than five years earlier than the Air Force expected—and the contract with current service provider Lockheed Martin due to expire July 5, the Air Force was in a bind. Service leaders claimed that Engility was the only company capable of continuing the work past that July 5 deadline, and on June 21 Air Force leaders awarded the company a potentially $40m bridge contract that could last up to a year.

On June 26, Peraton filed a claim in federal claims court.

The company is asking the court to intervene, putting a stop to the bridge contract and then forcing the Air Force to either award the original contract to one of the existing proposals, under which Engility would be ineligible, or fully reopening the competition to revised proposals.

When asked for comment, a Peraton spokesman pointed to its recent court filings. Engility, which was acquired by Science Applications International Corp. in January, did not return a request for comment.

The current dilemma can be traced back to the Air Force’s original request for submissions in May 2018. The service wanted a contractor who could provide engineering, development, integration and sustainment services in support of its satellite ground systems and begin the transition from the current ground systems to enterprise ground systems. The contract is part of the Air Force’s efforts to move its satellite ground systems to a common architecture.

After reviewing proposals last summer, the Air Force narrowed the competition to Engility, Peraton and a third competitor the GAO declined to name.

While Peraton’s bid was lower than Engility’s, with a proposed price of $57m compared to Engility’s $80 m, the Air Force ultimately determined that Engility’s proposal demonstrated “clear technical advantages” that outweighed the lower prices. The six-year, $655 m contract was awarded to Engility Jan. 31. According to a court document, the Air Force directed Engility to begin work Feb. 6.

After a debriefing with the Air Force, Peraton filed a protest with the GAO in March, challenging the Air Force’s evaluation of the proposals. Then in April, the company filed a supplemental claim Engility had failed to meet the small business requirements of the contract.

The original request included a requirement that a minimum 25 percent of its subcontracting on the project go to small businesses. While Engility stated in their submission that 27 percent of their subcontracting would go to small businesses, Peraton argued that the company had incorrectly calculated the percentage and the correct figure was actually 23.8 percent.

Despite the protest, the Air Force moved forward with the Engility contract, claiming that the need for the services was too urgent to wait for the protest process to play out. In its court filing, Peraton claims that the Air Force said in its justification for that action that Engility would only work on transition efforts, not on taking over the efforts handled by Lockheed Martin.

In a document supporting the bridge contract in June, the Air Force claims that the GAO protest has already put some projects behind schedule. The Air Force claims that the ground system for two Test & Evaluation Technologies for Ranges, Armaments & Spectrum program missions are behind schedule due to the protest, and any further delay risks that start of successful operation in 2020. Likewise, the ground system for the Long Duration ESPA missions is behind schedule. The bridge contract specifically allows work to continue on those projects to avoid delays.

The GAO ultimately agreed with Peraton that Engility was in fact ineligible for funding under the small business requirement and sustained the protest bid June 11. The GAO recommended that the Air Force either terminate its contract with Engility and award the contract to whichever of the other competitors had the best proposal, or alter its original request and seek revised proposals.

The Air Force faced a dilemma.

Its current contract was set to expire July 5 and the follow-on $655 m contract with Engility was now set to end June 20. On June 21, the Air Force awarded the sole source $40m bridge contract to Engility to continue providing the services while it works to correct the issues raised in the GAO report. According to the Air Force document supporting the bridge contract, Engility’s work over the past three months made them the only company capable of providing the necessary services in such a short time frame. But in documents filed with the court by Peraton, the company argued that the Air Force should have worked to ensure the current contractor, Lockheed Martin, would be able to continue providing services under a contract extension until the GAO had made its decision and a new contract was firmly in place. The Air Force had done so previously, awarding a $47m bridge contract to Lockheed Martin to continue services through January 2019, and then awarded a further $52m extension to continue services through July 5, 2019.

In its lawsuit, Peraton claims that the Air Force’s actions are not in the spirit of the GAO decision and are designed not to reopen competition for the original contract, but to simply continue on with Engility after a few tweaks to their small business participation portion of the contract. Furthermore, they claim the bridge contract is “irrational, arbitrary and capricious, and not supported by law.”

A hearing on the case has yet to be scheduled. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

10 Jul 19. White House fights for more funding for missile warning satellite system. The Trump Administration is fighting to fully fund the $1.4bn budget request for a next generation early missile warning system after a House committee declined to do so. The Trump administration is fighting a House defense committee for hundreds of millions of additional dollars for a space-based early warning missile system, claiming in a July 9 statement that without the funding the satellite program will be delayed by years and actually cost more in the long run.

The Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system will provide advanced warnings of ballistic missile attacks on the United States, its deployed forces and its allies. The Air Force says OPIR satellites will provide greater missile warning capabilities and be more survivable than the current early warning missile system, the Space Based Infrared System. The Air Force has contracted with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to build the satellites.

The Pentagon requested $1.4bn for OPIR for fiscal year 2020—$459m more than what the Department of Defense anticipated in their budget request for fiscal 2019. On June 12, the House Armed Services Committee voted to authorize $1bn for the program in fiscal 2020, about $376.4m less than the Pentagon had asked for.

“The Committee appreciates the importance of the OPIR mission to national security, and the urgent need to field a more resilient capability against growing space threats,” reads a committee report on the bill. “However, the Committee is concerned with the rapid budget growth and the Air Force strategy of relying on significant reprogramming requests to keep the program on schedule.”

Now the administration is pushing back. In a statement released July 9, the White House said it “strongly objects to the Committee’s reduction of $376.4 million for the Next-Gen OPIR program as it would delay delivery by three years and increase overall program costs by over $475m.”

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed June 27, includes the full funding requested by the Pentagon for OPIR. Assuming that the House version of the bill passes as is, the difference between the two bills on OPIR funding will have to be addressed in conference negotiations. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

09 Jul 19. Maxar Teams with Dynetics on Power and Propulsion Element for Lunar Gateway. Maxar will leverage the commercial capabilities of Huntsville, Alabama-based Dynetics for its power and propulsion element spacecraft. Maxar has signed an agreement to team with Huntsville, Alabama-based Dynetics on the power and propulsion element for the NASA-led Gateway. Image: Maxar

Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR) today announced that it has signed a teaming agreement with Huntsville, Alabama-based Dynetics to support Maxar in building and demonstrating the power and propulsion element for the Gateway − an essential component of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program and future expeditions to Mars. The teaming agreement establishes a framework for the companies to work together on the mission, with substantive work being executed by Dynetics in Huntsville, Alabama. As recently announced, Maxar was selected by NASA to build and perform a spaceflight demonstration of the power and propulsion element spacecraft. The spacecraft is the first element for the NASA-led lunar Gateway, which will play a critical role in ensuring that NASA astronauts can land on the surface of the Moon by 2024 while serving as a vital platform to support future missions to Mars and beyond. The mission is targeted for launch by the end of 2022 and will provide power, maneuvering, attitude control, communications systems and initial docking capabilities for the Gateway.

The agreement enables Dynetics to collaborate with Maxar in the design, manufacturing and operations of Maxar’s power and propulsion element spacecraft. Dynetics has a wide range of capabilities to support Maxar in areas such as propulsion systems, mechanical and propulsion testing, system integration and assembly, and mission operations.

“We’re thrilled to add Dynetics to our team and bring power and propulsion element work to Huntsville. Dynetics has decades of expertise in human space exploration, and will play a critical role in executing the Artemis mission, landing the first woman on the surface of the Moon, and establishing the sustainable space infrastructure that is necessary to explore Mars,” said Mike Gold, Maxar’s Vice President of Civil Space.

“This is an exciting time for lunar exploration. We look for space partners that share our similar core values and are eager to see America return to the Moon. Maxar fills that role and Dynetics is glad to be on the team. Maxar’s power and propulsion element will be a vital element of the lunar Gateway and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the Moon. We are looking forward to this partnership and to participating in the development of the lunar architecture here in Huntsville on our campus and in Decatur, Alabama, at our Aerospace Structures Complex,” said Kim Doering, Dynetics vice president for space systems.

The operations of DigitalGlobe, SSL (Space Systems Loral) and Radiant Solutions were unified under the Maxar brand in February; MDA continues to operate as an independent business unit within the Maxar organization. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)

09 Jul 19. Blue Canyon Technologies Providing CubeSats in Support of Two NASA Ames/MIT CLICK Flight Demonstration Missions. Small satellite manufacturer Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) announced it has been selected by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Small Spacecraft Technology program and NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, in collaboration with the University of Florida and MIT, to provide multiple 3U spacecraft for its CubeSat Lasercom Infrared Crosslink (CLICK) flight demonstration missions. The CubeSats will be used for separate demonstration missions: the first is a laser space-to-ground demonstration mission and the second will demonstrate laser crosslinks and ranging in low-Earth orbit.

“BCT has a unique advantage as a spacecraft bus provider as it is equipped to support high-rate body-pointed lasercom capabilities with our flight-proven precision stability and pointing,” said George Stafford, CEO and President of Blue Canyon Technologies.

The new communication capabilities demonstrated by CLICK will enable new classes of small satellite missions like swarms for remote sensing or global constellations for communications.

“Demonstrating precision timing and ranging over a lasercom crosslink using BCT CubeSat platforms will enable new capabilities for coordinated and distributed sensing missions,” said Kerri Cahoy, associate professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.

The 3U spacecraft uses BCT’s heritage XB1 avionics to provide a state-of-the-art CubeSat platform that maximizes payload volume. The spacecraft includes ultra-high-performance pointing accuracy, a robust power system, command and data handling, RF communications, and dedicated payload interfaces. The spacecraft bus will be developed and tested at BCT’s Spacecraft Manufacturing Center in Colorado.

BCT is currently building more than 60 spacecraft for government, commercial and academic missions. The company has doubled in size over the past 12 months and plans to open its new 80,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in 2020. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)

10 Jul 19. The growing militarisation of space and Australia’s need to take the strategic initiative. It may be a far cry from the USS Enterprise of Captain Kirk, but the recent capture of images of the secretive Boeing designed X-37B space plane raises questions about the continuing pacification of space and the path forward for Australia in the final frontier. 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-based capability.

However, the militarisation of space has long been a contentious issue with many nations, including the US, Russia and China actively pursuing the militarisation of the space, with systems ranging from largely defensive in nature, to intelligence gathering satellites, communications and more directly in recent decades, increasingly capable anti-space systems, highlighting the vulnerability of contemporary economies, militaries and governments.

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.

Recognising this, each of these powers have begun to heavily invest in both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ kill methods for leveraging these vulnerabilities – in conjunction with advanced space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities – to protect their own vulnerable assets in the face of a simmering global space-arms race. Australia’s strategic benefactor, the US has long been engaged in the development of these capabilities and platforms, most recently the X-37B has been revealed as a next-generation space capability.

Research vehicle or top secret weapons system?

The US has long been a world leader in space-based systems and platforms – the recent civilian sighting of the otherwise top secret X-37B has raised renewed questions, first asked during the revelation of the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), how far is too far when it comes to the militarisation of space?

While the nature of the capabilities and role of the X-37B platform remains secretive and hidden behind Boeing’s description of the platform, which describes the Orbital Test Vehicle as:

“The X-37B is one of the world’s newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft, designed to operate in low-Earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth. The vehicle is the first since the Space Shuttle with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis. This United States Air Force unmanned space vehicle explores reusable vehicle technologies that support long-term space objectives.”

The exact details of the space plane’s dimensions are known: It’s small, about 8.8 metres (29 feet) long, with a cargo bay not much bigger than a standard ute. Project officials have revealed that the X-37B’s manoeuvring engine runs on hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, and that it uses a different kind of thermal protection than NASA’s original space shuttles did – additionally, the X-37B has a prodigious operational time frame, with the duration of the first three missions revealed to the public, ranging from 224-674 days.

Despite assertions to being a research vehicle and platform for supporting experiments conducted by NASA, DARPA and the US Air Force – the secretive nature of operations conducted by the X-37B continues to raise questions, not just about the militarisation of space, but also about what capabilities remain to be developed and capitalised upon as force multipliers for nation’s like Australia.

Force multipliers and opportunities for collaboration

While Australia’s expertise in space situational awareness (SSA), ranging from electro-optic to laser-based platforms, phased array radars, space observation and increasingly, hypersonics position the nation well to take advantage of the rapid evolution in space-based systems – Australia’s natural and continuing advantage in autonomous systems, advanced manufacturing and materials engineering further support the development of these systems.

Australia’s world leading universities, combined with the continuing push by the Australian government towards developing a robust and globally competitive defence industry, supporting the development of leading-edge space-based systems as part of the broader space industry capability programs are attractive options for global aerospace companies, like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

The opportunity for combined economic, strategic and research and development capabilities enhances Australia’s position as a space power – and should serve as a critical component in the Australian government’s focus on developing a leading-edge space capability by combining the nation’s existing and growing areas of natural comparative advantage with the drive of global collaborators to support economic and strategic objectives in the new space race.

Australia’s expertise in developing hypersonics, combined with the development of an integrated fifth-generation force on the back of the F-35, provides additional ‘last resort’ avenues for the nation to develop leading-edge technologies, approaches and doctrines for leveraging the ‘hard kill’ vulnerabilities of potential adversaries. (Source: Space Connect)

09 Jul 19. Inmarsat introduces dedicated Arctic satellites. Inmarsat has announced that it will deliver the world’s first and only high-speed broadband capacity for mobility segments in the Arctic region, with the introduction of two new dedicated satellite payloads to the area.

The new Global Xpress (GX) payloads will work to support rapidly growing demand among both commercial and government users for “seamless, reliable, high-speed mobile broadband services in the Arctic and throughout the world”.

The payloads are being introduced in a partnership with Space Norway and its subsidiary Space Norway HEOSAT, with a focus on providing continuous, assured communications to tactical and strategic government users operating in the Arctic region, including customers from the USA, Canada, Scandinavia and other Arctic regions.

“I would like to thank Space Norway for providing this opportunity to deliver dedicated GX capacity in the Arctic region. Norway has been a strong, strategic partner for Inmarsat over many years. It is the home to one of our most advanced research and development centres, located at the Norwegian Maritime Competence Center based in Ålesund, which is part of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology campus. Today’s announcement with Space Norway is a further example of the strength of this relationship,” Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce said.

“Connectivity in the Arctic region is growing in importance as aircraft fly more northerly routes, merchant ships transit new high-value waterways and the region becomes of increasing geopolitical importance for diverse governments.

Inmarsat’s GX network will always seek to be ahead of where our customers are going and what they demand from us. This enhancement is fully backward compatible and will strengthen coverage over the Arctic to provide the connectivity needed by our customers now and into the future. As part of the existing Inmarsat GX network, customers will now have seamless, high-quality mobile broadband services as they travel in and out of the Arctic region.

“I am delighted to say that Inmarsat will be the only provider of the mobile broadband connectivity our customers need in the Arctic region.” (Source: Space Connect)

09 Jul 19. Curtin University space team prepares Binar cubesat for launch. Researchers from Perth’s Curtin University Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) have built their own cubesat satellite, which will be launched next year.

This project for a 1U cubesat is part of a larger program, named Binar, after the indigenous Noongar word for fireball, which aims to develop Western Australian space engineering capability.

This is in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), with the ultimate aim to fly a WA mission to the moon or nearby asteroids.

SSTC director and professor Phil Bland, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said a team of 12 staff and student engineers developed the miniaturised satellite.

“The Curtin team has managed to put all the systems required to operate the satellite, including the power, computer, steering and communications, on a single eight-layer printed circuit board, which at 10cm by 10cm by 2.5cm is about the size of a rather small sandwich,” Professor Bland, a John Curtin Distinguished Professor, said.

“Having everything on a single circuit board means there is more room for what the satellite is carrying, which in this case will be a camera that will capture beautiful images of Australia taken from orbit.”

Professor Bland said the other advantage of developing such a compact single-circuit board system was that it presented a more cost-effective alternative than those currently being produced by other manufacturers.

Curtin University vice-chancellor professor Deborah Terry congratulated Professor Bland and his team on their achievement in building their own miniaturised satellite to be tested in orbit.

“The fact that a major international space exploration organisation such as the European Space Agency has agreed to partner with Curtin on this project is a tremendous endorsement of the high calibre of scientific expertise we have at our Space Science and Technology Centre,” she said.

The Curtin cubesat will be launched from a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The ESA’s role is in partnering with Curtin to provide mission control capability for the project.

But first it will be extensively ground-tested, including in special vacuum chambers at Curtin University to simulate space conditions.

Then there will be a trial run in the form of a sub-orbital from the US in coming months.

Through the cubesat project, SSTC will be contributing to the new SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, a consortium of industry and research organisations, including Curtin University, which aims to develop advanced technologies for Australia’s space industry.

Last year, NASA launched cubesats into deep space as part of the Mars Cube One project to test new communications and navigation capabilities for future missions. This was part of the NASA Mars InSight Mission, involving Curtin planetary scientist Dr Katarina Miljkovic.

Members of the Binar engineering team have previously developed deep-space qualified hardware for landers on Mars and Titan and managed software engineering for ESA missions.

Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Centre was launched late last year.

“Our overarching goal is to develop an Australian capability in solar system exploration, with spacecraft built around a cubesat platform for deep space missions,” SSTC stated on its website.

“Our vision here is to integrate our program with NASA’s strategy around returning to the moon. The Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and Deep Space Gateway will open up possibilities for ridesharing to cislunar space.

“Our program will involve developing, building and testing systems and sub-systems on a series of spacecraft, with regular launches to low-Earth orbit over the next five years, culminating in missions to the moon or near-Earth asteroids.” (Source: Space Connect)

08 Jul 19. USAF anti-jamming efforts get a boost. The US Air Force will see two major satellites launched from Florida in late July following the delay of an advanced anti-jamming communications satellite launch in June. The first launch will be the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. The AEHF satellite system provides highly secure, anti-jamming communications for the military. This will be the fifth of six satellites in the AEHF constellation. Built by Lockheed Marton, each AEHF satellite provides more capacity than the entire Milstar system, which they are meant to replace.

That satellite’s launch was originally slated for June 27 on an Atlas V rocket, but a battery failure was discovered during final processing a few days prior to the launch date. The launch was delayed to allow for reevaluation and replacement of the problem battery. It has now been rescheduled for July 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

July 25 will mark the second major satellite launch, as the second GPS III satellite is launched into orbit on a Delta IV rocket.

The GPS III satellites are more accurate than their predecessors and have anti-jamming capabilities. The first GPS III satellite was launched in December 2018. The Pentagon has contracted for 10 GPS III satellites, and has already begun ordering GPS III Follow On satellites from Lockheed Martin.

The company has also announced that the third GPS III satellite is officially available for launch and is now awaiting a launch date.

“GPS III SV02 is launching just a brisk seven months after the nation’s first GPS III satellite lifted off back in December. The first satellite’s performance during on-orbit testing has exceeded expectations,” said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for navigation systems.

“More GPS III satellites are coming. If you looked at our production line back in Denver today, you would see GPS III space vehicles 04, 05 and 06 already fully assembled and in various stages of testing,” Caldwell added. “And space vehicles 07 and 08 are being built up at the component assembly level now. It is a smooth, efficient, methodical process.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

09 Jul 19. Satellite IoT market to reach $5.9bn by 2025, 30.3m devices. Analyst firm finds that initial market growth will not take away from LPWAN market, but competition will get hostile in the later part of the forecast period. The global market for IoT-focused satellite services, focused on end-device connectivity hardware and the annual connectivity fees charged, will grow to $5.9bn in 2025, after taking off in the 2021-2022 period. Incumbent satellite providers will be pressured by a new wave of startups that are leveraging the recent advances in smaller satellite technologies, but many of these new entrants are going to strike out or be absorbed by their larger and entrenched rivals.

The costs of entry to this market are much smaller than just a few years ago, thanks to improvements in the launch technologies as well as miniaturization of the satellites themselves, with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) designs now weighing just 10kg and some not larger than two shoeboxes. LEO networks are able to provide lower power consumption for end devices, and they can be deployed in a modular fashion, expanding as more customers or funding becomes available.

While terrestrial LPWAN networks have taken hold, they have not achieved the sorts of footprints first promised by the most enthusiastic marketers. While much of the nanosatellite marketing can be critiqued in the same fashion, there are vast swathes of the earth that do not have LPWAN coverage but could make use of these low-cost satellite networks.

For the incumbent satellite providers, IoT-focused customers could be a nice way to improve their margins, especially in the increasingly cut-throat broadband and broadcast satellite market. For the nanosatellite startups, these are hugely lucrative opportunities for companies that don’t have to take on anywhere near the level of capex burden that the incumbent satellite network operators have been saddled with.

However, this market is still around 3x smaller than the terrestrial LPWAN market, according to Riot Research’s recent market forecast, despite higher hardware and connectivity revenues per device. While some of the industries involved do overlap with LPWAN, these satellite devices will not compete directly with LPWAN deployments all that frequently, due to their use cases having much better tolerances and allowances for the power consumption of the end device.

Connectivity is often said to be between 10% and 20% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for an application, and because of this, higher value applications are likely going to drift towards satellite or non-LPWAN cellular options, as these applications are going to be able to justify or settle for having to swap batteries out when needed. The unlicensed spectrum LPWAN (U-LPWAN) markets also have to solve the global roaming problem quickly, in order to counter the marketing narrative from the satellite community – that satellite is the only way to get truly global coverage. While there are an estimated 2.5mn satellite IoT devices deployed currently, we expect that 2021 will see a major jump in deployed devices, as the first few startups begin launching their constellations and supporting live customers. When viewed on a graph, this presents as an initial bump that slows the next year, before a period of prolonged growth settles in.

Because of the scalability of nanosatellites, more units can be added to a constellation to support more devices, should the maximum throughput threshold be met. However, there will be some wasted resources, as many of these startups will be competing directly with each other. Should a startup fail, they will be adding to the cloud of space junk orbiting the earth – as it is not clear how easily another operator could take over these communications assets, in the wake of a bankruptcy.

By 2025, we expect there to be some 30.3mn Satellite IoT devices deployed globally, growing at a CAGR of just under 40%. We expect this growth to begin to flatten off in around 2027, due in part to the spread of terrestrial rivals for Satellite IoT connectivity, and improvements in fixed and local networks that can be used as alternatives for the global satellite ones. In terms of usage, we have identified key use cases within the three main elements of the global economy – Agriculture, Industry, and Services. (Source: Riot (Rethink Internet of Things))

01 Jul 19. Thales Alenia Space to Build the SATRIA Satellite for Indonesian Consortium. Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo) has selected the consortium led by the domestic satellite operator Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) to deploy and operate a broadband telecommunication satellite.

This consortium has awarded Thales Alenia Space (Joint Venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%)) to design and manufacture the satellite named SATRIA. The Consortium PSN has formed Satelit Nusantara Tiga (SNT) to be operating company to carry on the project. The shareholders of SNT are PSN, PT Pintar Nusantara Sejahtera (Pintar), PT Nusantara Satelit Sejahtera, and PT Dian Semesta Sentosa (subsidiary of PT Dian Swastatika Sentosa Tbk). PSN and Pintar are the majority shareholders of SNT and both will maintain majority ownership in the operating company throughout the project lifetime.

Acting as prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space will deliver the Very High Throughput (VHTS) satellite based on its Spacebus NEO full electric platform and fitted with a fifth-generation digital processor (5G). The company will also be in charge to provide two satellite control centers (main and backup), the telecommand and telemetry stations, and the ground mission segment linked to the fully processed payload.

In addition, Thales Alenia Space will put in place a complete training program for PSN engineers, where part of them will join the project team as residents in Cannes and Toulouse during the duration of the program.

The full Ka-band SATRIA satellite will carry more than 150 gigabits per second over the entire Indonesian territory. Dedicated to narrow the digital divide, SATRIA has the ambition to connect around 145,000 areas that includes 90,000 schools, 40,000 hospitals and public buildings, as well as regional government sites not linked by existing satellite or terrestrial infrastructure. The satellite will contribute to the digital infrastructure developments in Indonesia.

Jean Loic Galle, CEO of Thales Alenia Space, said the company is particularly honored to provide to PSN for Kominfo its first VHTS telecommunication satellite, which will be the most powerful one over the Asian region. SATRIA will take benefit of all the expertise already developed by Thales Alenia Space on its Spacebus NEO platform as well as on its VHTS payloads. After Palapa-D and Telkom-3S satellites, we are delighted to strengthen our collaboration with Indonesian operators.

Adi Rahman Adiwoso, CEO of PSN, added that as a consortium of Indonesian company, PSN and its partners are proud and grateful for the full trust given by the Government of Indonesia, especially Kominfo, to lead the largest satellite project in the region. We look forward to working together with Thales Alenia Space, a leading manufacturer, in realizing our goal to provide an accelerator for equal access in our communities. This project will undoubtedly give our archipelago the means for steeper growth — SATRIA is expected to be launched in Q4 2022 and will be positioned in orbit at 146° degrees E with an estimated 15 years life expectancy. (Source: Satnews)

01 Jul 19. Big Greek Agreement – Thales Hellas and Thales Alenia Space’s MoU with HSA for Future Space-Based EO. Thales Hellas, Thales Alenia Space and the Hellenic Space Agency (HSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering space cooperation. This MoU will essentially focus on Earth observation.

Thales Alenia Space has accumulated for 40 years expertise and experience in the field of space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, science and exploration, orbital infrastructures and space transportation, while Thales Hellas is a wholly owned Greek subsidiary of Thales Group that has been operating in Greece for the past 30 years.

Created in 2018, the Hellenic Space Agency (HSA) is Greece’s national entity responsible for space and is part of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks.

The MoU capitalizes on Thales Alenia Space’s heritage and Thales Hellas’ broad knowledge of the Greek market. Thales Alenia Space is keen to develop new partnerships with Greek industry for space and ground segments as well as end-to-end systems. The objective of this MoU is to foster cooperation between HSA, Thales Alenia Space and Thales in the context of national, European and international space programs with a view to maximizing the role of Greece’s industry and scientific community. The intention is to build synergies, boost the Greek space industry’s capabilities, and strengthen capacity in the space sector.

HSA aspires to play a pivotal role in space in Greece and to translate research and technology efforts into economic and industrial development. In addition, HSA is seeking to develop and implement strategic partnerships with other space agencies to implement thenation’s space policies and strategies.

Marc-Henri Serre, Vice President, Domain Observation & Science France, Thales Alenia Space said they are delighted to support the Hellenic Space Agency in developing its position in the space market. This MoU is built on the exceptional know-how of Thales Alenia Space and the historical presence of Thales Hellas which allowed fruitful collaboration with Greek industry. They are looking forward to collaborating soon through work groups on exciting space programs.

Antonios Dimitropoulos, Director of Operations at Thales Hellas, added that it is very satisfying that Thales Hellas signs this agreement to enhance cooperation with the Hellenic Space Agency. They are certain that Greece is set to play an important role in the space sector in Europe, through its network of fast-growing companies and institutions working in space. With this MoU and their closer partnership, they hope to achieve their vision of boosting Greece’s industry and supporting space-related activities. (Source: Satnews)

01 Jul 19. The SpaceX Plans for Launch of Starship – 2021 is Target. During the recent APSAT Conference that was conducted in Jakarta, Indonesia, the SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, discussed the expectations that, in 2021, the company is hopeful of the initial, commercial launch of three telecom firms’ payloads aboard the firm’s planned, upcoming, Super Heavy Rocket. As SpaceX continues to demonstrate rocket reusability, lower prices have resulted, said Hofeller. This factor should certainly enable a positive reaction when the company introduces and and initiates the use of their Super Heavy Rocket and Starship spacecraft, currently at the prototype level.

In 2019, company CEO Elon Musk said that pricing for booster missions had, at that time, already decreased from $62m to approximately $50m. When the Super Heavy rocket and Starship do debut, the company Vice President reiterated prices for SpaceX services will continue to decrease.

For those keeping track, SpaceX has successfully reused the first stage for a single Falcon 9 three times. And, debuting in 2019, the Block 5 rocket version has been designed to be refurbishment free for at least 10 launches, which, again, will result in cost savings for the company and the customer.

According to the SpaceX infosite, the combo Starship and Super Heavy Rocket represent a fully reusable transportation system that is designed to service all Earth orbit needs, as well as the Moon and Mars.

This two-stage vehicle — composed of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and Starship (ship) — will eventually replace Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon.

Through the creation of a single system that can service a variety of markets, SpaceX can redirect resources from aforementioned launch vehicles to Starship, which is fundamental in making the system affordable.

SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy rocket are designed to deliver satellites to Earth’s orbit and beyond, at a lower marginal cost per launch than their current Falcon vehicles. With a 9 meter diameter forward payload compartment, larger than any other current or planned fairing, Starship creates possibilities for new missions, including space telescopes that are even larger than the James Webb.

Starship will be able to deliver cargo and people to and from the International Space Station. Starship’s pressurized forward payload volume is greater than 1,000m3, enhancing capacity utilization for in-space activities — the aft cargo containers can also accommodate various payloads. Hofeller noted that this space delivery combo will be able to manage as much as 20 tons to GEO or more than 100 tons to LEO.

Additionally, building Moon bases and Mars cities will require affordable delivery of significant quantities of cargo and people. The fully reusable Starship system uses in-space propellant transfer to enable the delivery of over 100 tons of useful mass to the surface of the Moon or Mars. This system is designed to ultimately carry as many as 100 people on long-duration, interplanetary flights.

Another use for the Starship is for Earth-to-Earth transportation — most long distance trips could be completed in less than half an hour, due to the lack of friction as well as turbulence and weather when flying in space. In example, according to SpaceX, a trip from Los Angeles to New York, a distance of 3,983km., could be completed in 25 minutes, rather than the current 5 hours and 25 minutes flight time. London to New York? Instead of 7 hours and 55 minutes average flight time, the Super Heavy rocket and Starship travel time would be 29 minutes.

With a goal of reaching orbit as quickly as possible, Hofeller stated such could occur before the close of 2019 and that by the end of 2020, a full stack could be ready for use and customer fulfillment by 2021. Naturally, to ensure reliability, numerous test flights are planned to demo this system to all interested entities. (Source: Satnews)

01 Jul 19. Four RS-25 Engines Delivered to NASA by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the SLS Core Stage. Aerojet Rocketdyne recently delivered four RS-25 engines to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) for integration with the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in anticipation of the rocket’s first flight on the Artemis 1 mission. The RS-25 engine, an advanced version of the Space Shuttle Main Engine, has a strong legacy of safely and reliably powering human spaceflight. All four of the RS-25 engines that will fly on the first SLS flight also flew during the Space Shuttle Program; they have since been updated with new controllers and adapted for the unique operating environment of SLS.

The engines will be operated at a higher power level than was used during the shuttle flights, providing SLS with additional thrust. An infographic about the first four engines and their flight history can be found here.

In addition to the RS-25 engines, Aerojet Rocketdyne is also providing the RL10 engine that will power the SLS upper stage, known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), as well as the composite overwrapped pressure vessels and reaction control system thrusters. The ICPS is complete and ready for integration with the rest of the SLS rocket components at Kennedy Space Center.

Earlier this year, Aerojet Rocketdyne delivered the jettison motor, which is part of the Launch Abort System that will ensure crew safety in the event of a launch or pad anomaly. Additionally, Aerojet Rocketdyne has assisted in refurbishing the main engine for the service module, and delivered the reaction control system engines for the Orion crew module and eight auxiliary engines for Orion’s European Service Module, which will ride atop the SLS.

Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President, said the Space Launch System is a foundational element of our nation’s deep space exploration architecture that will allow humans to return to the Moon and eventually set foot on Mars. Built on the proven propulsion system that powered space shuttles to orbit for more than three decades, SLS will enable more complex exploration missions and will send astronauts and large cargo farther and faster than any rocket in history. Aerojet Rocketdyne engines have powered every astronaut launched from U.S. soil and, with SLS, we will build on this strong legacy. There is no other rocket built or in production with the lift capability of SLS. (Source: Satnews)

02 Jul 19. Exolaunch Completes 28 Satellite Payload Integration. Gettin’ Ready for July Soyuz Launch. In total, Exolaunch has contracted and integrated to launch 28 commercial and educational satellites from Germany, France, the USA, Israel, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Thailand, Ecuador, the Czech Republic and Estonia. Listed below is the complete list of smallsats payloads.

The smallsats will be launched on a single mission — this will be one of the largest and most technically challenging clusters ever delivered by a single smallsat integrator. All smallsats are diverse, including 25 cubesats ranging from 0.25U to 16U, two commercial smallsats and Exolaunch’s technological payload with a new shock-free separation system.

All of the smallsats on this launch are integrated into 12U and 16U EXOpod cubesat deployers provided by Exolaunch. EXOpods have already successfully flown on multiple missions and deployed dozens of cubesats. The deployment process and sequence of cubesats will be controlled by Exolaunch’s electrical management unit EXObox to ensure safe and timely deployment.

CarboNIX, the company’s new, shock-free separation system for smallsats from 15 to 150 kg., will be qualified on this launch. CarboNIX will be widely used for the smallsat constellations deployment after successful qualification in space.

The smallsat cluster was adapted to the Fregat upper stage by NPO Lavochkin through the cluster launch contracts with Glavkosmos.

The Fregat upper stage will initially deploy the primary satellite into its dedicated orbit and then change the altitude to deploy all smallsats into two different SSOs — 580 and 530km., followed by the upper stage de-orbit. With more than 50 microsatellites and cubesats launched, the Exolaunch’s team looks forward to the upcoming launch of these 28 smallsats and is preparing for a number of new launch campaigns for smaller satellites later this year, throughout 2020 and beyond. (Source: Satnews)

04 Jul 19. The Pentagon’s new space agency has an idea about the future. The Defense Department’s next generation space architecture would consist of several layers based around a mesh network of small communications satellites, according to a document released by the Space Development Agency July 1. A request for information lays out an early outline of what that new satellite architecture would look like and how the commercial sector can contribute to the effort.

The SDA is a new entity that the Pentagon established less than four months ago as part of the Trump administration’s focus on reorganizing the military’s space structure. The agency’s initial goal is to develop a next generation space architecture for military satellites in the face of near-peer adversaries’ growing interest in space.

“In an era of renewed great power competition with an emergent China and a resurgent Russia, maintaining our advantage in space is critical to winning these long-term strategic competitions,” read a request for information posted to the Federal Business Opportunities web site. “These potential adversaries are developing and demonstrating multi-domain threats to national security much faster than we can deploy responsive, space-based capabilities.”

The agency wants the new architecture to provide eight essential capabilities identified in a 2018 Pentagon report. In addition, the Pentagon wants to include development of deterrent capability, space situational awareness, a resilient common ground-based space support infrastructure, command and control systems and artificial intelligence-enabled global surveillance.

The Space Development Agency’s notional architecture is made up of several layers, each of which would contribute to at least one of the eight essential capabilities. They include:

A space transport layer: A global mesh network providing 24/7 data and communications.

A tracking layer: Provides tracking, targeting and advanced warning of missile threats.

A custody layer: Provides “all-weather custody of all identified time-critical targets.”

A deterrence layer: Provides space situational awareness—detecting and tracking objects in space to help satellites avoid collisions.

A navigation layer: Provides alternative positioning, navigation and timing services in case GPS is blocked or unavailable.

A battle management layer: A command, control and communications network augmented by artificial intelligence that provides self-tasking, self-prioritization, on-board processing and dissemination.

A support layer: Ground command and control facilities and user terminals, as well as rapid-response launch services.

The SDA’s immediate goal is the development of a transport layer consisting of a mesh network for communications and data in low earth orbit. As the agency has stated previously, that effort will rely heavily on DARPA’s Blackjack program – a project that will establish an initial transport layer with a 20 satellite constellation. The SDA wants to build sub-constellations around the Blackjack program to meet some of the needs it has identified, such as missile defense warnings and targeting, alternative positioning, navigation and timing services, and more. The constellation and associated sub-constellations will be made up of small mass-produced satellites in the agency’s vision, ranging from 50 to 500kg.

The next-generation space architecture posting is the first request for information that the agency has posted in its brief existence, and sets a tone for what it’s looking for from the commercial sector. Specifically, the SDA wants to know what capabilities and concepts the commercial sector can bring to bear on satellite buses, payloads, appliques and launches. Any proposal should fall into at least one of the suggested layers, the SDA stated.

“SDA intends to leverage investments made by the private sector in space capabilities (…), as well as industry best practices (e.g., mass production techniques for spacecraft buses, sensors, and user terminals),” stated the agency.

Among other things, the agency wants proposals for the following items: Small and cheap payloads that can provide high-bandwidth links between satellites; software that can track missiles from low earth orbit; software that can facilitate autonomous space sensor collection, processing and dissemination, and alternative methods for positioning, navigation and timing in case GPS is unavailable. In addition, the SDA wants feedback on the overall structure of its notional architecture. The SDA is also interested in industry concerns about data rights, security and protection, acquisition approaches and more.

In building this new architecture, the SDA is clear that it wants to be agile and flexible in adapting to new technology and threats, meaning it wants to be able to integrate upgrades within two year windows. While it’s not clear in the document how quickly the SDA wants to have the new architecture in place, the agency does emphasize that it is looking for efforts that can be demonstrated in less than 18 months.

Responses are due on August 5. The SDA plans to hold an Industry Day to connect with the commercial sector in the near future.

The document’s release comes shortly on the heels of Space Development Agency Director Fred Kennedy’s resignation in late June. Kennedy was the agency’s first director, having been originally appointed to the position by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan when the agency was stood up March 12. Derek Tournear, the assistant director for space within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering, was named the acting director of the agency June 24. Prior to taking the assistant director position, Tournear was the director of Harris Space and Intelligence research and development. He has also served stints at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

A Department of Defense spokesperson stated that Kennedy stepping down would not change the mission of activities of the agency.

All of this comes as the U.S. military has worked to revamp its efforts in space. In addition to the stand up of the SDA, the Trump administration is also pushing for the creation of Space Force, a proposed sixth branch of the military that would be housed within the Air Force. While the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed a version of Space Force, the House Armed Services Committee proposed a Space Corps, which would not be an independent branch of the military. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)


At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield.  As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea.  Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight.  We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible.  And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.


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