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09 Aug 19. Canberra to host GEO Week and ministerial summit. Canberra will host the Group on Earth Observations’ (GEO) GEO Week in November, a major event set to be attended by a wide range of specialists in the field of Earth observation from space. Significantly, the 2019 event in Canberra features the GEO Ministerial Summit, which is only held every four years and brings together ministers from GEO’s 105 member governments. The theme for the 2019 summit is “Earth observations: investments in the digital economy”. The Canberra event also features an Industry Track, with technology and space companies from around the world invited to attend and promote their capabilities.

“The launch of the Industry Track recognises the important role companies play in harnessing the full potential of Earth observations and the need to build relationships between the commercial sector and the GEO community,” the Australian Space Agency said.

GEO Week will be held from 4-9 November with main events in Canberra’s National Convention Centre.

Geo Week 2018 was held in Kyoto, Japan, while GEO Week 2017 was held in Washington. Hosting the Australian event will be Resources Minister Matt Canavan. The GEO Week website outlines the vision for the ministerial summit.

“In our rapidly changing world, almost all economic activity and almost all business decisions must consider how the planet on which we depend is changing,” it said.

“At the same time, digital technologies are disrupting our societies and economies, changing how we work and how we live. This change is happening at an extremely rapid pace, and presents us with new challenges and opportunities to deliver sustained and inclusive economic growth.

“The integration of Earth observation data into the broader digital economy will be critical to achieving this goal.”

The website said Pacific island countries and territories are disproportionately exposed to the impacts of climate change, disasters and economic development challenges and have expertise and knowledge essential to the future work of GEO.

As host, Australia will facilitate discussions on how the Pacific island countries and territories can engage with GEO, benefit from its efforts and contribute to its progress.

In the ministerial commit in Mexico City in 2015, ministers adopted a new strategic plan for GEO, with GEO to support progress in key areas, including sustainable development, climate change and disaster risk reduction.

GEO’s efforts support three global frameworks – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Paris Climate Accord and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“The GEO community has completed its realignment towards these new strategic priorities and is now structured for action. The broader discussion on implementing the three global agendas has matured, both at a global level within formal UN institutions, but most critically at a national and community level. The action required is clearer,” the website said.

“The business case for Earth observation as a driver of economic growth has become clearer in the minds of those outside the Earth observation community.” (Source: Space Connect)

08 Aug 19. The U.S. Air Force’s 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base is now “talking” with the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) protected communication satellite after its successful launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, this morning. The Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)-built AEHF-5 satellite is now responding to the squadron’s commands as planned. The squadron began “flying” the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after the rocket’s successful 6:13 a.m. ET liftoff.

AEHF-5 complete a geostationary ring of five satellites delivering global coverage for survivable, highly secure and protected communications for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. Besides U.S. forces, AEHF also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

“This fifth satellite adds an additional layer of flexibility for critical strategic and tactical protected communications serving the warfighter. This added resilience to the existing constellation will help ensure warfighters can connect globally to communicate and transmit data at all times,” said Mike Cacheiro, vice president for Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin Space. “In the weeks ahead, AEHF-5 will move towards its operational orbit, deploy all of its solar arrays and antennas, and turn on its powerful communications payload for a rigorous testing phase prior to hand over to the Air Force.”

AEHF-5, with its advanced Extended Data Rate (XDR) waveform technology, adds to the constellation’s high-bandwidth network. One AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite Milstar communications constellation.

“Individual data rates increase five-fold compared to Milstar, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data,” said Cacheiro. “AEHF affords national leaders anti-jam, always-on connectivity during all levels of conflict and enables both strategic and tactical users to communicate globally across a high-speed network that delivers protected communications in any environment.”

Lockheed Martin designed, processed and manufactured all five on-orbit AEHF satellites at its advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. The next AEHF satellite, AEHF-6, is currently in full production in Silicon Valley and is expected to launch in 2020.

The AEHF team includes the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the AEHF prime contractor, space and ground segments provider as well as system integrator, with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Redondo Beach, Calif., as the payload provider.

08 Aug 19. United Launch Alliance rocket blasts off from Florida carrying Air Force communications satellite. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, blasted off into space on Thursday morning, one of the final satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s new secure communications network.

The satellite was launched at 6:13 a.m. (1030 GMT) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop ULA’s Atlas V rocket, the same vehicle primed to send a manned space capsule into orbit for NASA by 2020.

Thursday’s successful launch followed a rare spate of technical delays with the venture’s flagship rocket.

The Lockheed Martin-built Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite is one of six in a constellation upgrade to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s older Milstar network.

The AEHF-5 mission was originally slated for lift-off on June 27, but a battery issue pushed that date to July 9. Launch was again delayed due to a mishap with a supplier’s component of the rocket, which “demands that all parts are suspect until we can prove otherwise,” ULA chief executive Tory Bruno wrote on Twitter after suspending a separate ULA launch for the Air Force over the same mishap concern.

The joint venture is transitioning from its Atlas V rocket — a legacy workhorse for U.S. national security missions — to Vulcan Centaur, a heavy-lift vehicle tailored to compete for lucrative defense contracts and wean the United States off the Russian-made RD-180 engines that power Atlas. ULA is one of a handful of companies vying for a five-year, 25-mission Air Force contract that will be awarded in 2020 to two winners, posing a high-stakes battle between the launch stalwart and newer entrants such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which are also expected to submit bids.

The $1.1bn satellite launched Thursday marked ULA’s 74th mission for the U.S. defense department and the fifth secure communications spacecraft for the Air Force’s new constellation that will serve military-grade ground, sea and air communications for the U.S. troops, Canada, Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. The final satellite in the constellation is due for launch in March 2020. (Source: Reuters)

08 Aug 19. Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) received security certification for new GPS modules and receivers from the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The new modules and receivers will give military aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and weapon systems secure and reliable access to modernized GPS.

“Because GPS is under constant attack, we worked with our government partners to create new M-code modules and receivers that give the military secure and resilient navigation systems,” said Eric Ditmars, vice president of Raytheon’s Secure Sensor Solutions. “And since the tech is platform agnostic, it will work on a wide-range of platforms in the air, on the ground or at sea.”

Raytheon’s military code common GPS module was certified, along with its ground-based GPS receiver, or GB-GRAM, and the avionics GPS receiver, or GRAM-S/M. GB-GRAM and GRAM S/M are jointly developed with Trimble Inc., while General Dynamics provides cryptographic capabilities for the modules.

“Operators need a system that is flexible and fast,” said Chad Pillsbury, director of Resilient Navigation at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “We’ve designed these GPS systems with a common security architecture – meaning we can get this capability in the hands of operators faster and eliminate the need for additional security certifications.”

06 Aug 19. EDRS-C Successfully Launched. The second satellite to join the constellation that forms the European Data Relay System (EDRS) has been successfully launched. The satellite was launched on board an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 6 August at 21:30 CEST (19:30 UTC). EDRS enables people to observe Earth almost live, accelerating responses to emergency situations and spurring the development of new services and products that create jobs and increase prosperity. EDRS – dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’ by its private operator Airbus – uses innovative laser technology to dramatically cut the time needed for Earth observation satellites to deliver information to the ground. The satellites can transmit data at a rate of up to 1.8 Gbit/s.

The latest satellite, called EDRS-C, will operate in geostationary orbit. It will join its sister EDRS-A, which was launched in January 2016.

The geostationary position, higher than typical low-Earth orbiting satellites, will enable the constellation to maintain an almost constant connection with the lower Earth observation satellites that could otherwise only transmit their information when in direct line-of-sight with their ground stations, which introduces delays of up to 90 minutes.

Instead, the EDRS satellites can then beam the information back to Earth in almost real time.

Since the end of 2016, EDRS has, on a daily basis, been transmitting the images of Earth acquired by the Copernicus programme’s four Sentinel observation satellites. It is also due to relay information from the International Space Station, once the required equipment is installed on the outside of Europe’s Columbus laboratory. EDRS is a new, independent European satellite system, and is a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus as part of ESA’s efforts to federate industry around large-scale programmes, stimulating technology developments to achieve economic benefits.

On this launch, Ariane 5 features new slightly elongated upper-stage cryogenic tanks. This has allowed them to carry several hundred kilograms more  propellant, bringing a launcher performance gain of about 100 kg payload allowance to geostationary orbit, corresponding to an extended burn duration of about 30 seconds. These modifications are part of ESA’s continued development that makes Ariane 5 and Europe’s future Ariane 6 competitive in the global launch market. (Source: ASD Network)

07 Aug 19. Israel’s Amos-17 satellite enroute to target orbit after SpaceX launch. Space Communication said on Wednesday its Amos-17 communications satellite was launched into space and was enroute to its orbital position after separating from its SpaceX rocket. The Israeli satellite operator is counting on Amos-17, which was manufactured by Boeing and will provide communication services to Africa, to help it rebound from some major setbacks, including the loss of a satellite in 2016 when a SpaceX rocket exploded. “Following a sequence of in-orbit tests that are expected to take approximately three months, Amos-17 is scheduled to begin commercial operations at the 17°E orbital position later in 2019,” the company said. The launch took place at Cape Canaveral in Florida at 2:23 am Israel time (2323 GMT) and marked the third flight for the Falcon 9 booster, according to SpaceX. The satellite had a total budget including manufacturing, insurance and launch of about $250m (£205m), and will join three others Spacecom operates. (Source: Reuters)

02 Aug 19. ‘Moving fast:’ Musk’s SpaceX eyes Florida for launch site for Mars rocket. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expanding its facilities in Florida to make room for the space company’s forthcoming super heavy-lift launch vehicle dubbed Starship, according to a draft of the plans seen by Reuters on Friday. Starship, a 384-foot reusable two-stage rocket taller than the Statue of Liberty, is a central piece of Musk’s interplanetary space travel ambitions as well as U.S. space agency NASA’s goal to send humans to the moon again by 2024.

The Starship rocket is expected to launch up to 24 times a year from SpaceX’s current flagship launchpad 39A, the draft of the company’s environmental assessment said. SpaceX did not specify in the report when it would reach that cadence, but Musk said in September 2018 he wanted to be conducting orbital flights with Starship in two to three years.

SpaceX’s launchpad 39A would support NASA’s future moon missions from the same Kennedy Space Center site used for the Apollo lunar missions a half century ago.

“They’re moving very fast,” said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government relations at Space Florida, the state’s commercial space development agency. “This is actually getting closer to what Elon got into this business for to begin with. This is fundamental infrastructure to get to Mars, the early stages of it.”

SpaceX has also suffered a number of program delays and mishaps over the years on its various space endeavors. In April, one of the company’s Crew Dragon capsules exploded on a test stand, raising fresh scheduling doubts over a flagship NASA astronaut taxi program.

Dozens of U.S.-based space companies have been scrambling to heed NASA’s goal of sending humans back to the lunar surface by 2024, an accelerated timeline set by Vice President Mike Pence in March.

Separately, Boeing Co (BA.N) is developing NASA’s colossal Space Launch System to anchor the agency’s moon-to-Mars Artemis program, though it is years behind schedule.

SpaceX said in its draft environmental assessment that Starship will make return landings on the Air Force landing pad currently used for the company’s Falcon 9 boosters.

The company is also considering a plan to install another landing site at the 39A pad. The first booster stage will land on SpaceX’s unmanned barge some 300 miles off Florida’s coast, the draft said.

This week, NASA said it plans to work with SpaceX to figure out how to land rockets on the lunar surface and develop a refueling station for deeper space exploration.

“Orbital refilling is vital to humanity’s future in space,” Musk tweeted on Thursday. “More likely spacecraft to spacecraft (as aircraft do aerial refueling), than a dedicated depot, at least at first. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)

07 Aug 19. US Army interested in iPad-sized satellite terminals. The US Army is interested in a new commercial satellite service with a focus on small, mobile terminals. According to a July 2 request for information, the Army wants to expand beyond line-of-sight communications capabilities for tactical users with a new commercial satellite service. The proposed network would put small terminals, slightly bigger than the larger iPad Pro, in the hands of soldiers in the field, allowing them to communicate via a low earth orbit or medium earth orbit constellation.

John Swart, the director of the Army’s Technology Applications Office, said that the Army was simply interested in learning more from industry. He declined to provide further comment.

The Army currently relies on a combination of military and commercial satellites for beyond line-of-sight communications, but satellite coverage and the size of terminals can limit their availability. The suggested satellite service would provide the Army with global coverage, excluding the polar regions.

Part of the benefit of using LEO or even MEO satellites is that they reduce the need for larger, bulkier terminals. Since they are closer to Earth, users need less powerful terminals to communicate with the satellites. That means the terminals can be physically smaller, and that’s a key focus of the request.

The Army wants the commercial satellite service provider to supply troops with so-called “ultra sat terminals” ― basically small terminals 12 inches by 12 inches. Ideally, the Army wants terminals for aircraft, vehicles and dismounts that are small enough to fit in a rucksack, although airborne terminals can be larger. These terminals would preferably be able to switch between satellites as they move from coverage area to coverage area, allowing for uninterrupted service.

Broadly, Department of Defense leaders have said that as they develop new satellite architectures they will have face a significant expense in replacing legacy terminals that are not compatible with modern satellites.

While the service said it is willing to obtain the satellite services and terminals from different suppliers, they would prefer to go with one provider. It’s not clear from the request how many terminals the Army would be interested in acquiring. Responses to the request were due July 31. (Source: Defense News)

08 Aug 19. US company HawkEye 360 to add more satellites. US space company HawkEye 360, competing directly with Australian-Luxembourg company Kleos in the space maritime radio frequency monitoring market, will add another satellite cluster to its growing constellation next year. To fund this expansion, HawkEye has raised another US$70m in series B financing, the company announced at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah this week.

HawkEye chief executive John Serafini told SpaceNews that this US$70m, plus more than US$30m raised earlier, gave them plenty of funding for construction and launch of their constellation of six satellite clusters. Each cluster comprises three satellites in formation, allowing them to geolocate the origin of RF signals.

In the US venture capital market, far more mature than Australia, acquiring series B financing is regarded as an important threshold for a start-up.

HawkEye 360 launched its first satellite cluster last December and rolled out its first RF signal mapping product, RFGeo, in April. That’s designed to identify and geolocate maritime radio signals, emergency distress beacons and vessel automatic identification system (AIS) signals.

This is the same service Kleos plans to provide. It intended to launch the first four satellites, the Kleos Scouting Mission, aboard the next Rocket Lab launch from New Zealand but that’s now been deferred to October.

Kleos, based in Luxembourg and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, eventually plans a constellation of 20 satellites providing global monitoring of maritime radio frequencies. That allows precise location of ships, even those not using AIS.

Government agencies can use that information to enhance border and maritime security and safety. It’s also of great interest to port operators and the insurance sector.

After its launch next year, HawkEye plans to rapidly build and launch four more clusters.

The series B funding round attracted new investors Airbus and Esri as well as additional funding from existing investors.

Evert Dudok, Airbus Defence and Space executive vice president of communication, intelligence and security, said analytics from space was a game-changer for the industry.

“HawkEye 360’s satellite data are highly complementary to Airbus’ global portfolio of optical and synthetic aperture radar satellites. Therefore, we believe our investment will support accelerating their plans and be of mutual business benefit to our companies in the future,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)

06 Aug 19. US Army Space and Missile Defense Command is getting a new leader. Maj. Gen. Daniel Karbler, who is the chief of staff at U.S. Strategic Command, will depart Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, to take up command at Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, several sources have confirmed to Defense News. Prior to his job at STRATCOM, Karbler was in charge of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and was also the director of joint and integration efforts within the Army G-8.

Karbler’s nomination appears in the Congressional Record on July 31 but does not state the position for which he is nominated. He would receive his third star if confirmed.

The two-star general has an extensive background in air and missile defense stemming back to the beginning of his career. Karbler commanded two different batteries in the 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command in the European theater.

He also commanded the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 32nd AAMDC at Fort Bliss, Texas; the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 32nd AAMDC at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and the 9th AAMDC at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

Karbler is a U.S. Military Academy graduate. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in the air defense artillery branch.

Karbler will take the reigns from Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, who is tapped to become the deputy commander at the newly created U.S. Space Command. Defense News first reported Aug. 6 that Dickinson was nominated for the position while reporting from the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. (Source: Defense News)

07 Aug 19. HYLAS 3 satellite launches into orbit. Avanti’s latest high-throughput satellite will provide flexible and quick-to-deploy Ka-band communications across EMEA. Launched at 20:30 GMT on 6th August 2019 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, HYLAS 3 is Avanti Communications Group’s latest satellite deployment, and one of its most ambitious to date. With over 4GHz capacity of steerable beam technology in a unique steerable user and gateway beam combination – which allows coverage to be quickly allocated where it is needed – HYLAS 3 extends Avanti’s satellite connectivity across EMEA creating a comprehensive and flexible communications network in that region. HYLAS 3 has been carefully constructed in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), MDA, Airbus and OHB. It shares a platform with EDRS-C, a data relay mission for low earth orbiting satellites.

HYLAS 3 has a multi-beam steerable cluster.  enabling mobile and broadband coverage to be moved to where it is needed within minutes. For example, on Avanti’s HYLAS 4, one of the steerable beams was deployed in less than 24 hours to assist humanitarian aid relief in Mozambique following Cyclone IDAI in April 2019.

Avanti CEO, Kyle Whitehill, says: “Our objective was to bring connectivity to areas where it doesn’t exist and HYLAS 3 adds to Avanti’s already extensive capability and coverage in EMEA. With this satellite in orbit, we are now providing a comprehensive communications network that will empower individuals, communities, and businesses across this region.”

HYLAS 3: The Facts

– 4GHz of steerable beam capacity

– Providing flexible connectivity across the EMEA region

– A steerable cluster of 8 Ka-band beams

– Mission life of 15 years

– Government and civilian frequencies

– Independently steerable gateway beam

06 Aug 19. Maxar’s 1300-Class Communications Satellite Built for Intelsat Performing According to Plan After Launch. Intelsat will use the satellite to deliver video distribution and connectivity services to its broadband network, mobility and government customers. Maxar Technologies (NYSE:MAXR) (TSX:MAXR), a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure, today announced that the high-power Intelsat 39 communications satellite, built for Intelsat, successfully launched today and is performing according to plan.

Intelsat 39 began receiving and sending signals following a launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the Arianespace launch base in Kourou, French Guiana. Tomorrow, Intelsat 39 will begin firing its thrusters to propel toward its final orbit at 62 degrees East longitude. Once in service, Intelsat 39 will provide video distribution and broadband connectivity services across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The satellite will also enhance mobile connectivity for aero, maritime and government users operating in the Indian Ocean region.

“The satellite replaces Intelsat 902, which was also built by Maxar and launched in 2001. By the time of its replacement, Intelsat 902 will have exceeded its expected 13-year design life by six years, or 45% – a strong testament to the reliability and on-orbit longevity of our 1300-class product line,” said Megan Fitzgerald, Maxar’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Space Solutions. “Intelsat 39 is the 52nd satellite that Maxar has built for our long-term customer, Intelsat. I’d like to thank the team at Intelsat for their enduring partnership and commend them for their commitment to advancing the state of global communications.”

Intelsat 39 is equipped with both C-band and Ku-band transponders, and is based on Maxar’s decades-proven 1300-class platform, which offers high power, reliability and flexibility to support a broad range of applications and technology advances. The satellite will maintain its position using all-electric propulsion, which provides efficiency for satellite operators by reducing launch mass while increasing spacecraft flexibility and performance.

“For many years, we’ve trusted Maxar to consistently deliver innovative and reliable satellites that exceed our expectations, and we’re delighted to continue our long-standing collaboration with Intelsat 39,” said Ken Lee, Intelsat’s Senior Vice President, Space Systems.

The operations of DigitalGlobe, SSL 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)

06 Aug 19. The small sat solution to hypersonic weapons, explained. Hypersonic weapons break all the rules of the missile defense game. With speeds surpassing Mach 5 and the ability to maneuver mid-flight, hypersonic weapons defy the missile defense status quo, potentially making the United States’ current defenses obsolete. China and Russia are vigorously pursuing hypersonic weapons, and the United States is desperate to neutralize them.

“China is also developing increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile warheads and hypersonic glide vehicles in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems,” Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley said in his March 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment. “Russia claims a new class of hypersonic glide vehicle under development will allow Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems. Iran is pursuing long-range, precision land-attack cruise missiles as well as development of more powerful space launch vehicles — boosters that would be capable of ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] ranges if configured for that purpose.”

The Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency have a plan: a proliferated low-Earth orbit constellation comprised of hundreds of satellites capable of detecting and tracking hypersonics. And Congress appears to be supportive of the concept. Both the House and Senate opted to include $108m for a hypersonic weapons tracking layer in space in the national defense policy bill, which was on the MDA’s list of unfunded priorities.

Some in the national security community believe a space sensor layer is the key to meeting the hypersonics threat, but what exactly is the hypersonic threat and how would a space sensor layer change things?

The hypersonic threat

Here’s how the United States’ current missile defense architecture is supposed to work: An adversary launches a ballistic missile bound for a friendly target. The Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System in geosynchronous orbit detects a launch and informs the rest of the missile defense system. An array of ground, space and naval sensors are used to track the missile to predict its trajectory, and an intercept missile is fired to destroy the missile. Problem solved.

Hypersonics upend those assumptions.

Far from traveling on a predictable arc through the atmosphere before returning to Earth, hypersonics are capable of changing course mid-flight. Not only does this make it more difficult, if not impossible, to plot out an intercept course — experts speculate some hypersonics might be able to maneuver around radar coverage, effectively neutralizing one of the military’s key missile defense sensor components.

“All of this is going to require more comprehensive birth-to-death tracking of these delivery systems,” said Thomas Karako, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of the think tank’s Missile Defense Project.

At the same time, hypersonics can reach incredible speeds, with some weapons surpassing Mach 5. The speed drastically narrows the time window when the military can intercept the weapon, making early detection and tracking all the more important. But hypersonics are designed to make early detection difficult.

According to testimony delivered April 3 by former Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, then the head of the MDA, to a Senate Armed Services subcommittee, hypersonics are far dimmer for tracking tools than most objects the military follows from space.

The current missile defense system was designed for ballistic missiles, not hypersonics that are faster, less predictable and harder to detect. Can it be adapted or augmented to effectively stop hypersonics?

Sensing from space

Enter the idea of a space-based sensor layer.

“It’s the only solution for tracking a maneuvering delivery system like a hypersonic glide vehicle,” Karako said. “The reason for that is geography, or rather the shape of the Earth. You can try to fight the curvature of the Earth, and you will lose every time.”

The Missile Defense Agency’s 2019 Missile Defense Review elaborates further:

“The wider view from space allows for improved tracking and potentially targeting of advanced threats such as HGVs, which fly at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles and can maneuver throughout their trajectories to avoid some radar coverages. This capability would also provide the ability to track the dim upper stage of some ballistic missiles. This capability will be necessary to provide the tracking information needed for defense against HGV threats in the future.”

The idea of using space-based sensors to detect and track missiles is nothing new for the United States, where they are already play a critical role in the country’s missile defense system. What’s unprecedented here is the scale of a space-based sensor layer.

Today, the Pentagon relies on the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System, which consists of four geosynchronous satellites and two payloads hosted on classified satellites in a highly elliptical orbit. SBIRS is used to detect missile launches, providing an early warning for the entire missile defense system. The Air Force is working on a SBIRS successor, the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, or OPIR, system, to provide increased capabilities.

The Missile Defense Agency controls two other missile warning systems: the Space Tracking and Surveillance System and the Space-based Kill Assessment system. STSS consists of just two experimental satellites that can track ballistic missiles in the boost phase and mid-course. The Space-based Kill Assessment program, which was launched into orbit in 2018, consists of sensors hosted on commercial satellites that are capable of detecting successful missile interceptions.

These sensors have proven to be an effective part of the United States’ missile defense system — at least when it comes to traditional ballistic missiles. But hypersonic weapons present new challenges, and the current space architecture isn’t good enough.

Now, the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency envision a proliferated low-Earth orbit satellite constellation made up of hundreds of satellites capable of detecting and tracking hypersonics.

“MDA is working with the (SDA), [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] DARPA, and the U.S. Air Force to conduct prototype concept design activities for a space-based missile tracking sensor system known as Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor,” Greaves said. “As part of an integrated multi-tier OPIR enterprise architecture, HBTSS would detect and track additional and emerging threats using persistent infrared sensors.”

Greaves also noted that the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, which operated in low-Earth orbit, served as a test bed for the hypersonic tracking layer.

The new satellites would be one of many layers being built into what the Space Development Agency, or SDA, envisions as a proliferated space architecture comprised of hundreds of small satellites. The agency was established in March to quickly create a layered architecture that would provide more resiliency for several space missions, to include a tracking layer.

An additional benefit to including the hypersonic tracking layer in the SDA’s architecture is that it allows for system updates more quickly than existing satellite programs, said Joy Stein, who is in charge of developing the tracking layer for the SDA.

Take SBIRS, for instance, a system comprised of large, expensive satellites. Once in orbit, it is practically impossible to upgrade the hardware on the satellite. While slight changes can be made to future satellites in the system, upgrades on a whole are limited. To drastically increase the capabilities and install more sensitive sensors in space, the Air Force decided to develop an entirely new system to replace it with OPIR.

In contrast, the SDA’s architecture is built around the idea of using hundreds of small, relatively cheap and easily replaceable satellites. By reducing the cost of putting additional satellites into orbit, the SDA hopes to make it easier to get more advanced sensors into space more quickly.

The SDA’s goal is to provide technology upgrades to all of its systems every two years. That method will allow the SDA to get new technology into space as soon as it’s operational instead of waiting until the system is fully developed because, the thinking goes, the upgrades can be sent up in the next batch.

“The SDA is going to incorporate all of the features of HBTSS into our architecture,” Stein said. The agency may begin launching sensor payloads before the full hypersonic tracking system is fully developed. Not only will that allow the tracking layer to meet the challenge presented by hypersonic weapons, it will also allow the military to more rapidly adapt to new threats that arise.

“The architecture has to allow for innovation and flexibility because we don’t know what we’ll need it to do next,” she said.

The SDA wants to have tech demo satellites in orbit by 2021, adding more satellites in subsequent years to reach full capacity.

While the SDA has received mixed support from Congress this spring, legislators seem to be more uniformly behind the concept of a space-based sensor layer.

“Congress on a very bipartisan basis is supporting this,” Karako said. “And that’s a good thing, but now we have to actually move out with this in a programmatic way.”

Despite its relatively rapid approach to development, Karako said, the Pentagon is not moving fast enough to counter hypersonic weapons, and part of the problem is the department’s home for the program. As the SDA is only a few months old, he questioned whether giving the space-based sensor layer to the agency instead of leaving it with the MDA was the right decision. (Source: Defense News)

07 Aug 19. Rocket Lab plans reusable booster for satellite launches. Small-satellite launch firm Rocket Lab announced on Tuesday a plan to recover the core booster of its Electron rocket using a helicopter, a bold cost-saving concept that, if successful, would make it the second company after Elon Musk’s SpaceX to reuse an orbital-class rocket booster.

“Electron is going reusable,” Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said during a presentation in Utah, showing an animation of the rocket sending a payload into a shallow orbit before speeding back through Earth’s atmosphere. “Launch frequency is the absolute key here.”

The Auckland, New Zealand-based company is one of a growing cadre of launch companies looking to slash the cost of sending shoebox-sized satellites to low Earth orbit, building smaller rockets and reinventing traditional production lines to meet a growing payload demand.

Electron, which has flown seven missions so far, can send up to 496 pounds (225kg) into space for roughly $7m. Medium-class launchers such as Los Angeles-based Relativity Space can send up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) into space for $10m while Cedar Park, Texas-based firm Firefly can do it for $15m.

Unlike SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which reignites its engines to land steadily back on Earth “propulsively” after much larger missions costing around $62m, Rocket Lab’s Electron will deploy a series of parachutes to slow its fall through what Beck called “the wall” – the violently fast and burning hot reentry process the booster endures shooting back through Earth’s atmosphere. A helicopter will then hook the booster’s parachute in mid-air as it descends over the ocean and tow it back to a boat for recovery, Beck said.

“The grand goal here is, if we can capture the vehicle in wonderful condition, in theory we should be able to put it back on the pad, recharge the batteries up, and go again,” Beck said.

Some launch companies, such as Boeing-Lockheed venture United Launch Alliance which flies its Atlas V rocket, are skeptical of the economic case for reusing first-stage boosters propulsively, arguing that the fuel spent landing the rocket through the dense atmosphere and back on Earth would be better used to launch heavier payloads.

Beck said propulsive recoveries like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 “don’t scale well” with Electron’s smaller build, anyway. A spokeswoman would not say how much money Rocket Lab expects to save from its foray into hardware reusability, but said “cost reductions could flow from this in time.” (Source: Reuters)

07 Aug 19. Kleos Space signs MOU to support geospatial intelligence capabilities. ASX-listed Kleos Space has announced the signing a binding MOU with EarthLab Luxembourg to examine collaboration opportunities for the use of Kleos RF reconnaissance and geolocation data for the insurance sector and other geospatial intelligence purposes.

Kleos chief executive said the memorandum of understanding with EarthLab was a good example of how Kleos ship tracking data could be used as a valuable confirmation data source.

“This is part of our strategy of commercialising and verifying our satellite data with leading companies over different sectors,” he said.

“Kleos’ geolocation and activity-based intelligence data has the ability to provide EarthLab with highly valuable geolocation verification data that will assist in substantiating the correlation and consistency of their other data sources and analytics platforms.”

EarthLab general manager Thomas Friederich said the MOU with Kleos was an excellent opportunity for EarthLab to collaborate with a local Luxembourger actor on Earth observation data processing.

“It is part of the development strategy of our fast-data AI powered platform to offer advanced analytics and access to new sources of data,” he said.

Kleos, based in Luxembourg and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, plans to launch a constellation of 20 satellites providing global monitoring of maritime radio frequencies.

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

Government agencies can use that information to enhance border and maritime security and safety. It’s also of great interest to port operators and now the insurance sector.

Kleos planned to launch the first four satellites, the Kleos Scouting Mission, aboard the next Rocket Lab launch from new Zealand but that’s now been deferred to October.

EarthLab was the first European centre established for environment monitoring, particularly industrial and environmental risk.

With partners Telespazio France, e-GEOS, the wholly state-owned postal and telecommunications company, POST Luxembourg and the SME HITEC Luxembourg, EarthLab provides Earth observation, geo-spatial information and risk assessment data analytics to improve operational and strategic decision making for the insurance, reinsurance and investment fund industries.

Kleos and EarthLab said they aim to use geolocation and activity-based intelligence data from the Kleos Scouting Mission and further Kleos satellite launches to improve EarthLab’s geospatial intelligence analytics. That will allow EarthLab to verify radar detections and optical observations. (Source: Space Connect)

06 Aug 19. Here’s who will be the US Space Command deputy. Lt. Gen. James Dickinson has been nominated to become the deputy commander of the new U.S. Space Command, sources have confirmed to Defense News. The Congressional Record shows Dickinson has been nominated for a position but does not specify what that position is. He will serve under Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, who breezed through his confirmation hearing in June and was subsequently confirmed. Dickinson has led Space and Missile Defense Command since 2017, directing the creation and implementation of the Army’s air & missile defense strategy, which was released in March. He’s also held senior roles at U.S. Strategic Command, the Missile Defense Agency and on the Army staff. He commanded two Army air and missile defense commands and is a 1985 graduate of Colorado State University. In his current job, he wears two hats as the commander of Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, coordinating all missile defense planning and operations support around the world.

During his tenure at SMDC, he’s overseen a transformation in the Army’s missile defense forces, as the service is expanding their air and missile defense capacity, while adding new technology to the service’s arsenal.

During an August 6 speech at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, Dickinson led with a hefty dose of the Army’s role in space and how that mission is expanding. Typically, the Army is focused on its missile defense mission and outsiders are rarely aware of its space mission. Dickinson highlighted the Army’s space capabilities such as missile warning, command, control and communications, friendly force tracking, situational awareness and position, navigation and timing.

He emphasized the Army’s space training kits that simulate a denied, degraded and disruptive space operational environment and the deployment around the globe of those serving in the 1st Space Brigade based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

But he also made a broader pitch in his speech, advocating for space-based missile defense sensors that would help defeat complex threats “from cradle to grave” and noted that the newly stood-up Space Development Agency would be dedicated to building a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation leveraging the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Black Jack program. Dickinson pushed for a stronger focus on reallocating investment in ways to defeat missile threats before they even launch as well as non-kinetic means to defeat those threats. He said more attention should be paid to developing passive missile defense rather than active defense, which the services have focused on primarily in the past. (Source: Defense News)

06 Aug 19. Northrop Grumman Corporation’s (NYSE: NOC) hemispherical resonator gyro (HRG), a sensor known for its unmatched reliability on commercial, government and civil space missions, has reached 50 million operating hours in space without a single mission failure. Aboard more than 200 spacecraft, the company’s HRG technology has contributed to the success of spacecraft and satellites orbiting Earth, and on interplanetary and deep space missions, for almost 25 years.

Northrop Grumman’s HRG provides reliable inertial technology on the Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite.

The HRG is a key element in Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Space Inertial Reference Unit (SSIRU™), a navigation system providing pointing/stabilization and attitude control. Due to its quartz construction, the HRG is inherently radiation hardened and impervious to aging effects—making it ideal for long missions lasting more than 15 years. Its small size also means it can be featured in multiple spacecraft designs.

“This operational achievement is a testament to the unmatched performance of Northrop Grumman’s HRG technology for strategic and deep space applications,” said Brandon White, vice president, navigation and positioning systems, Northrop Grumman. “The SSIRU featuring the HRG not only has proven its reliability over countless missions, but also provides customers a substantial size, weight and power advantage for critical missions requiring pointing accuracy and platform stability.”

Building on the HRG’s years of proven performance, Northrop Grumman is currently developing the milli-Hemispherical Resonator Gyroscope (mHRG) to be featured in the new LR-450 Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The LR-450 will still provide the trusted HRG technology, though it is designed for smaller platforms requiring a lower weight, lower cost solution.

05 Aug 19. US, Japan To Ink Hosted Payload Pact to Monitor Sats. Japan plans to host an American Space Situational Awareness (SSA) sensor payload on their QZSS satellites. American and Japanese officials are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding by the end of the year. The United States and Japan plan to sign a significant new agreement to place American space monitoring payloads on Japanese satellites for the first time, according to US defense officials. The US space situational awareness (SSA) sensors will hitch a ride on Japan’s regional equivalent of GPS.

Both the US and Japan in recent years have become increasingly concerned about on-orbit testing by China and Russia of maneuverable satellites that, while also having peaceful uses such as satellite servicing, eventually could be designed to attack allied satellites.

Working within the Pentagon’s larger space policy, the Air Force is “pursuing an opportunity for Japan to host a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) sensor payload on their QZSS space vehicles,” Maj. Will Russell, Air Force spokesman, confirmed.

The Quazi-Zenith Satellite System comprises four satellites providing positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) signals to users in Asia. One satellite is in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and three are in highly elliptical orbits.

The joint effort is aimed at expanding the orbital view of the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN) by providing observation data on satellites and space debris in a region now under-covered by US radar and telescopes.

Japan for the past 15 years has been working to develop a modern SSA system of its own, building a new radar facility for monitoring Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at Kamisaibara Space Guard Center (KSGC) and refurbishing a telescope for deep space monitoring at Bisei Space Guard Center.

The timeline of Leonardo DRS’s 50 years of innovation is peppered with notable technologies and capabilities that have given militaries around the world a warfighting edge. Here’s a look.

Under the planned MOU, the US payloads would be orbited in 2023, as Japan replaces its current constellation. In addition, the MOU will cover the sharing of data from Japan’s SSA system.

A DoD official explained: “The US and Japan already have an unclassified space situational awareness sharing agreement through STRATCOM (Strategic Command)  that was signed in 2013 and we’re working through the stages of planning for an operational MOU for PNT, and a classified SSA data sharing agreement.”

The US also is working with Australia on joint SSA observations and data sharing, planning to move the Space Surveillance Telescope, currently located at White Sands, to the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station in Western Australia by 2021. The US is also considering putting one of the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) network of telescopes in Australia. The powerful 1-meter telescopes can see objects the size of a basketball out to 40,000 kilometers.

Speaking Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Gen. Koji Yamazaki, chief of the Joint Staff for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, underscored the increased US/Japan cooperation in space. “It is important for Japan and the United States to make progress in information sharing, and share functions for the use of satellites for information collection, communication, positioning and early warning capabilities,” he said. He added that the rise of China, and continued threats from North Korea make the Pacific region more unstable and unpredictable than it had been in the past.

American and Japanese officials are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the new hosted payloads by the end of the calendar year, one official said. Russell added that it is expected to come no later than the first quarter of 2020.

The news comes as Defense Secretary Mark Esper is en route to Japan, where he’s slated to meet Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya next week, part of a trip that also takes him to South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

At an event Thursday evening at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence here, attended by dozens of military officials and diplomats from both nations, Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command and the new leader of the brand-new Space Command, praised the closer relationship the US and Japan have forged in space.

The general said that the QZSS work “will provide great utility for both of us,” adding “that’s a great pathfinder for developing this cooperation in space between our two countries. The area I would like to take the next step on is partnering with respect to radars, including the new Japanese deep space radar” Tokyo is developing.

Raymond added that he plans to spread his Space Command troops out across the globe, to make sure US military commanders around the world know how to use the assets he’s controlling. “We’re gonna stand up integrated planning elements that will be embedded forward in INDO-PACOM and EUCOM and other combatant commands that will allow us to synchronize our planning,” he said. “There is an absolute requirement to plan together.”

Some of the fretting over keeping everyone on the same page was underscored earlier in the day when Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that in future operations in the Pacific region, “I’m really concerned about our ability to [communicate] in this comms degraded environment,” given Chinese abilities to jam communications links and intel feeds.

In addition to the new MOU, Japan is considering setting up a separate Space Command along the lines of the new Pentagon Space Command, according to a Japanese military officer. The goal would be to expand the already-planned Space Domain Mission Unit assigned with space situational awareness operations.

Japan has over the past several years developed ambitious plans regarding increasing its military space capabilities. Tokyo’s December 2018 National Defense Program commits Tokyo to a significant effort to develop a “Multi-Domain Defense Force that organically fuses capabilities in all domains including space, cyberspace and electromagnetic spectrum.”

The companion “Medium Term Defense Program 2019 – 2023” calls for a new unit to “conduct persistent monitoring of situations in space, and to ensure superiority in use of space at all stages from peacetime to armed contingencies.”

The Japanese press reported in May that the new unit will be operational by 2022 at the Fuchu ASDF base in Western Tokyo, with the Japanese Ministry of Defense having slated 100 billets to launch operations. Further, Japan has plans to send liaison officers to Vandenberg AFB with the US Multinational Space Collaboration Office set up in 2018.

Lt. Gen. David Thompson, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that AFSPC is working on the memorandum of understanding that would open the door to Japanese officers at Vandenberg. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)

05 Aug 19. Positioning Australia to continue SBAS transmissions. Positioning Australia has extended its trial of super accurate satellite positioning for another 12 months. The organisation, part of Geoscience Australia, said it had secured an extension of the SBAS (satellite based augmentation system) test transmission services through to 31 July 2020. Ongoing transmission will provide continuity of SBAS signals to support research and development industry testing and encourage early adoption in Australia and New Zealand, it said.

“Implementation of SBAS is challenging and complex but we are making good progress towards a fully operational capability,” Positioning Australia said.

“The decision to extend the current arrangement does not indicate a preference for the current providers of the test-bed and in no way disadvantages other potential suppliers. We remain committed to an open approach to market for the fully operational capability.”

Positioning services through the use GPS satellite constellations are widely used and provide positioning accuracy of five-10 metres in most locations.

However, new technology can do much better, with positioning accuracy down to a few centimetres. That has a vast range of potential industry applications and benefits with research under way across Australia on how it can be applied.

As an example, Australia Post and Marathon Robotics, a company that makes robotic target systems for Army, are examining how it could be used for autonomous parcel delivery.

In May, Geoscience Australia invited submissions from industry partners to help build and operate the Australian SBAS. In the 2018-19 federal budget, it received funding of $160.9m to support development of an operational SBAS over four years. This was part of $225m allocated for better positioning systems across Australia.

The capability of SBAS is quite well understood, following a two-year trial supported by the Australian and New Zealand governments that concluded in January. That tested two new satellite positioning technologies – next-generation SBAS and Precise Point Positioning (PPP). It involved an L-Band satellite transmitter operated by Inmarsat, satellite uplink capability at Uralla, NSW, operated by Lockheed Martin, a positioning correction service operated by GMV and Geoscience, a GNSS ground tracking infrastructure operated by Geoscience Australia and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), and the development of a testing program delivered in partnership by Geoscience Australia and FrontierSI. LINZ is overseeing the SBAS test-bed program in New Zealand. SBAS capabilities already exist overseas with WAAS in the US and EGNOS in Europe. (Source: Space Connect)

05 Aug 19. Alta Devices Scaling up Solar Production to Disrupt Economics of Small Satellite Manufacturing. Tens of Thousands of LEO SmallSats Expected to Deploy in Constellations Over Next Decade. Alta Devices has announced it is scaling up solar production to meet growing demand for small satellites (SmallSats). Tens of thousands of low-earth orbiting (LEO) SmallSats are expected to be launched over the next decade. They will all rely on the sun for power. Alta Devices solar material has the potential to meet the specific needs of this SmallSat boom.

Solar is the single most expensive hardware component in a small satellite. Alta Devices has developed proprietary equipment to mass produce its thin film gallium arsenide. This equipment is being scaled up to produce at much higher volumes and lower cost than other space solar manufacturers. Alta’s ability to produce at this scale is unique and can substantially lower the cost of each SmallSat.

Furthermore, Alta Devices flexible solar cells provide a new level of mechanical and design flexibility for the satellite industry. Alta’s technology can be mounted to thin, flexible, low-mass deployable structures allowing creative design approaches to maximizing the solar array. These include coiled carbon fiber booms, flat-packed, polymer-based accordioned arrays, or even inflatable structures. This allows more compact design of the high-power solar arrays required to power high-speed LEO communication satellites.

Finally, traditional photovoltaic assemblies (PVAs) are composed of hundreds or thousands of small solar cells, each protected with a tile of glass, connected to each other through individual metallic welds, which are then carefully grouted to prevent electrical arcing and attack from the space environment. In contrast, Alta’s space product will consist of flexible, glass-free units that are 10 to 100 times larger, thus eliminating breakage, lowering cost and having no exposed electrical interconnects. Alta’s space product will enable bonding to customer substrates using a large-area, high-volume vacuum bonding process, as opposed to mounting individual cells or CICs (Coverglass Interconnected Cells).

Overall, Alta’s goal is to provide LEO satellite manufacturers with a better balance of solar conversion efficiency, reduced array weight, cell durability, speed of deployment, and cost compared with conventional space solar cells.

The Small Satellite Market for LEO Constellations

According to filings disclosed by the Federal Communications Commission, over 15,000 LEO SmallSats are planned for deployment in the near future. The applications of these satellites include communications, scientific research, military intelligence, remote sensing, and new technology development. Over the coming years, Alta Devices plans to produce tens of megawatts of solar. Manufacturing will take place at Alta Devices corporate facility in Sunnyvale, California and at an international manufacturing facility. In April this year, Alta Devices solar was used on a successful mission to power over 60 ThinSats launched from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Alta Devices is working with top satellite manufacturers for the deployment of its technology on several upcoming launches.

Alta Devices CEO, Jian Ding stated, “Now that we are established in the HALE UAV/HAPS market, we are committed to enabling LEO satellite projects with our unique technology. We believe our solution will meet the needs of this fast-growing market.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)

31 Jul 19. Hiber Debuts 1U Attitude and Control Systems for the Global Cubesat Market. Backed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Netherlands Space Office via the ARTES program, Hiber’s new HiberDrive offering brings capabilities to cubesats that were previously accessible only to large satellites. HiberDrive is a brand new Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) miniaturized to 1U for the global cubesat market. Hyperion’s Attitude Determination and Control System has been combined with Dawn Aerospace’s high performance green bi-propellant propulsion module which is linked with Hiber’s automated constellation management software.

Space debris is already a serious issue, as there are more than 250,000 pieces under 2 cm. currently untracked in LEO — the risk of the Kessler syndrome is quite real (see: http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/space-debris/kessler-syndrome/). By using high performance green bi-propellant propulsion, Hiber now have complete control of their satellite’s end-of-life, de-orbiting and burning up cubesats in Earth’s atmosphere when they choose. By deciding upon a 3U form factor satellites, Hiber’s launch costs have halved. These savings allow Hiber to create a larger, faster, cheaper IoT network — passing benefits and savings back to customers.

The HiberDrive was developed in partnership with Hyperion Technologies and Dawn Aerospace for Hiber’s next generation low power 3U small satellite IoT constellation. According to the company, the Hiber constellation will come online much faster and with much more capabilities than any other smallsat constellation. The use of high performance green bi-propellant propulsion and miniaturized components has been key.

Although developed for Hiber’s low power IoT SmallSat constellation, HiberDrive is being opened up for use in other smallsat constellations. A demo unit will be on display at the 33rd AIAA/USU SmallSat Conference 2019, August 4th to 8th in Utah.

Frank Zeppenfeldt, Technical Project Manager at ESA, said that as many smallsat constellations target services related to telecommunications, IoT, asset or frequency monitoring, ESA Telecommunications welcomes the development of HiberDrive. This AOCS takes into account emerging regulations related to smallsat deployments and responsible use of orbital resources.

Erik Wienk, Hiber COO, added that being a responsible operator, constellation longevity with minimal impact on the space environment is extremely important for the firm. The new HiberDrive means Hiber can easily avoid space debris, increase cubesat lifetime by raising orbit and performing complex orbital maneuvers with low power usage, all the while keeping the company’s constellation online and guaranteeing high customer service levels.

Maarten Engelen, Hiber CTO, noted that the total size of the integrated AOCS has been brought down to 1U, which is revolutionary to the cubesat market. There are alternatives out there, but nothing that suits a 3U CubeSat like this — the company was lucky to have found good partners with Hyperion Technologies and Dawn Aerospace, who managed to bring down the total size of the integrated ADCS / Propulsion module to 1U.

Bert Monna, Hyperion CEO, stated that the believe the payload should dominate a satellite, and is Hyperion’s business focus. Miniaturized components that deliver high performance, such as miniaturized reaction wheels, sun sensors and magnetorquers, give capabilities to smallsats that the market has never seen before. Similarly, Dawn’s green bi-propellant propulsion system offers thrust ~1,000x higher than electric propulsion based systems for cubesats.

The 2020 SmallSat Symposium starts on February 3, 2020, with workshops, then the Conference runs February 4 to 6 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The SmallSat Symposium is hosted by Satnews Publishers which, since 1983, has been a provider of a satellite news, media and events. This information packed forum was created to enable you and your company to secure a larger portion of market share as well as to take part in the next stages of your company’s or organization’s growth.

The personal connections at the SmallSat Symposium enable attendees to network with established organizations, subject-matter experts as well as ‘New Space’ entrants.

The SmallSat Symposium will focus on new technologies and the business environment that is shaping the implementation of smallsat constellations, smallsat launchers, the challenges facing the smallsat developer and actors as well as the enormous benefits of these advanced technologies that will benefit our world. (Source: Satnews)

31 Jul 19. FCC Plans To Make It Cheaper, Easier To Launch Satellites. The U.S. is about to make it easier and cheaper for people to send satellites into orbit. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the industry, votes Thursday on creating a new category for small satellite companies that dramatically reduces fees.

Small and micro satellites have propelled the industry’s growth, as costs of launch, design and build for a constellation of devices between the size of a fridge and a shoebox are vastly lower than a single, bus-sized satellite. Last year saw $3.25bn in venture capital investment, according to Seraphim Capital, a space focused venture fund.  Amazon, OneWeb and SpaceX have proposed launching a combined 16,000 satellites in coming years to address internet access.  SpaceX launched the first 60 of its Starlink network satellites in late May. Until now the FCC hasn’t adjusted its licensing process to reflect the growing industry arena.

“There’s a big gap,” said Mike Safyan, vice president of launch at Planet, the satellite-based remote imaging company. Planet has more than 120 satellites orbiting Earth, currently the largest commercial fleet.

There are amateur and experimental licenses that are free or extremely cheap, but are extremely restrictive and often don’t apply to commercial efforts. Operational licenses cost around $500,000, which is what Planet pays.

“Right now we have a one size fits all approach,” he said.

For the Amazons or SpaceXs of the world, the licensing cost from the federal communications commission — at hundreds of thousands of dollars — is a drop in the bucket.

But for smaller companies, application fees can eat up funds for research and development or keeping your company going.

“I think that this really helps encourage those newer companies to get going more efficiently or faster so that they don’t have to spend so much of the money they raised immediately on an FCC application fee,” Safyan said. Planet, which has the largest commercial satellite fleet with more than 120 in orbit, doesn’t anticipate it will benefit from the change directly.

Safyan said Planet supports the move because it will spur innovation in the industry. The new small satellite category cuts the cost to $30,000 for a constellation of 10 or less satellites. New rules require operators build in a six-year lifespan and keep the satellites close enough to the Earth to mitigate space debris. The maximum size under the FCC regulation is 180 kilograms or just under 400 pounds, which is reportedly about 100 pounds less than the first set of SpaceX’s starlink satellites. By Paul Flahive, Texas Public Radio. (Source: Satnews)

29 Jul 19. Iranian Satellite is Ready to Launch. According to the Chinese news service. Xinhua, the Iran Space Research Center (ISRC) has completed the development of one satellite and that satellite is now ready for launch — Hadi Rezaei, deputy of research and technology at the ISRC, stated such to the official IRNA news agency on Sunday.

Iran’s advancements in satellite technologies have been achieved despite the sanction pressures by the United States, which bars access to the related technologies in the market, Rezaei said. “Despite all the restrictions, one of the satellites has been completed at the ISRC and it is ready for launch.” Rezaei did not specify the function of satellite.

Also, “a measurement satellite and a telecommunication satellite are in their final preparation stages,” he was quoted as saying. In January, Iran’s minister of information and communications technology said that the domestically-built satellite, Payam, to collect environmental information failed to be launched into orbit over technical problems during the final stage of the launch. Iran is preparing to launch another LEO satellite, Doosti, the minister said at the time. (Source: Satnews)

29 Jul 19. August Launches for Arianespace, Intelsat 39, EDRS-C and Hylas-3 are Ready to Go. For its third flight with Ariane 5 this year, Arianespace will orbit two telecommunications satellites for long-term customers: Intelsat 39, for the operator Intelsat, and the EDRS-C satellite, based on a public–private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus.

Through this mission, Arianespace highlights its ability to be at the service of innovative satellite solutions for commercial and institutional needs. Flight VA248 will be performed from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) in Kourou, French Guiana. The liftoff is planned for Tuesday, August 6, 2019, as early as possible within the following launch window:

  • Between 3:30 p.m. and 5:51 p.m. Washington DC time
  • Between 4:30 p.m. and 6:51 p.m. Kourou, French Guiana time
  • Between 19:30 and 21:51: Universal Time (UTC)
  • Between 9:30 p.m. and 11:51p.m. Paris time

The nominal duration of the mission (from liftoff to separation of the satellites) is 33 minutes, 31 seconds. The targeted, geostationary orbit:

  • Perigee altitude
  • 250km.
  • Apogee altitude
  • 35,786km.
  • Inclination
  • 4.5 degrees

The Launch Readiness Review (LRR) will occur on Friday, August 2, 2019, in Kourou to authorize the start of operations for the final countdown. Intelsat 39 will be the 61st satellite launched by Arianespace for Intelsat since the first mission at its service in 1983. It will replace Intelsat 902 (launched by Arianespace in 2001) at 62 degrees East. The Intelsat 39 telecommunication satellite is designed with both wide and high-powered steerable spot beams to meet the needs of broadband networking, video and government customers across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Indian Ocean region. The steerable spot beams provide flexibility within the payload and enable customers to rapidly and efficiently respond to shifts in geographic or application requirements. The satellite features C- and Ku-band capabilities to provide additional scale for Intelsat’s Flex managed service and enhance mobile connectivity for aero, maritime and government users operating across these regions. Intelsat 39 was built by Maxar in Palo Alto, California.

The EDRS-C satellite is the second node of the SpaceDataHighway network. The SpaceDataHighway is the world’s first “optical fiber” network in the sky based on cutting-edge laser technology. It will help to improve environmental and security monitoring, disaster response and crisis management. To be launched into a geostationary orbit at 31 degrees East, EDRS-C will be able to connect low-orbiting observation satellites via laser at a distance up to 45,000 km., as well as intelligence UAVs or mission aircraft.

The SpaceDataHighway is a public–private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, with the laser terminals developed by Tesat-Spacecom and Germany’s DLR Aerospace Center. Airbus owns, operates and provides services for the SpaceDataHighway.

The EDRS-C satellite platform is supplied by OHB System AG. In addition, a hosted payload — HYLAS 3 — was provided by Avanti Communications under a contract with ESA as a customer-furnished item to OHB. (Source: Satnews)

29 Jul 19. uAvionix tests skyBeacon X ADS-B transponder against space-based data. uAvionix is testing its skyBeacon X wingtip-mounted Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) transponder with signals transmitted from Aireon’s satellite-based global ADS-B network and reports early results which show the wingtip location operates well with both ground and satellite-based surveillance systems. It is an LED position light replacement with an integrated 1090MHz Mode S transponder, GPS position source, barometric altimeter, and LED position and anti-collision lights. uAvionix expects skyBeacon X to be certified and available in 2021 as an affordable solution capable of supporting requirements for all types of aircraft to be ADS-B equipped in controlled airspace, including airspace using space-based signals. (Source: www.unmannedairspace.info)

05 Jul 19. Scottish supercomputer satellites launched into orbit. A pair of Glasgow-built satellites which could revolutionise how data is downloaded from space were successfully. Satellites are essential to modern life due to their application in navigation, finance, telecoms and in monitoring weather, climate change and air pollution. However, the data they collect can be slow to download due to the volume of traffic, with users often having to download very large files they don’t need just to obtain specific elements.

Spire Global operates a network of small satellites, known as nanosatellites, which collect and transmit a range of valuable data. The two new additions, supported by the UK Space Agency, will be able to process and cherry-pick data from other satellites in orbit before transmitting it to Earth, optimising and freeing up bandwidth for other tasks and users.

Graham Turnock, Chief Executive, UK Space Agency said: Over the past five years, Glasgow has become the best place in Europe to build these innovative, small satellites, with Spire Global alone manufacturing more than 100 on the Clyde. These new Glaswegian nanosats were launched from Russia, but we are working hard to ensure that in future we can design, build, test, launch and manage satellites as part of the UK government’s modern Industrial Strategy. We are also a leading member of the European Space Agency which delivers significant economic benefits back to businesses in the UK.

Both satellites, were developed under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) Pioneer programme, which transforms R&D investment into successful commercial products and services by offering varying degrees of support to projects with different levels of operational and commercial maturity.

Khalil Kably, Pioneer Programme Manager for the European Space Agency said: The whole idea of the Pioneer Programme is to give European and Canadian industries access to space, rapidly and at low cost. As soon as they have an innovative idea, such as supercomputing by Spire here, we want people to be able to try it in orbit. It’s the ability to go from a new idea to market very quickly, through in-orbit validation.

Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire Global said: “We see these parallel supercomputing scalable devices as a crucially important next step for a new level of accuracy and timeliness in space data analytics. The UK Space Agency and ESA have been extremely forward-looking and supportive of Spire’s innovative approach to deploying space technology to solve problems here on Earth.”

The UK Space Agency is also supporting a space incubation centre in Glasgow and has provided support to the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, based at the University of Strathclyde and working across the whole of Scotland.

The Centre’s role is to raise awareness of the potential of satellite services and data to be used in new and improved products and services in other “space enabled” markets – including, for example, offshore renewable energy and aquaculture.

The UK Space Agency wants the UK to lead the new space age and is driving growth across the sector as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, with major initiatives including the £50m Spaceflight programme. The UK continues to be a leading member of ESA, which is independent of the EU.


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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