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20 Sep 19. South Australian government supports local launch site with development announcement. The South Australian government has declared the proposed Southern Launch space launch facility a major development, opening the way for development of the site at the bottom of Eyre Peninsula. Although well south for the most efficient equatorial launches, the location is well suited to launches into polar or polar-like orbits.
Its development could eventually give Australia two space launch sites – the other is the Equatorial Launch Australia facility in the Northern Territory – maybe three if proposals for Queensland proceed.
The Port Lincoln Times said this declaration would allow for proper assessment of the scheme and allow Southern Launch to make a development application.
Southern Launch chief executive officer Lloyd Damp told the paper the declaration recognised the economic significance of this project to South Australia.
“The proposed facility is being designed to compete globally on rocket launch schedule availability, launch window flexibility and launch site accessibility,” he said.
“Southern Launch believes the step to major project status says something about South Australia’s preparedness to engage in futuristic industries and the exciting opportunities they will bring.”
Southern Launch examined a large number of possible locations for its launch site across Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia before settling on the 1,190 hectare site at Whalers Way.
That had the advantages of proximity to a nearby town, Port Lincoln, as well as an airport and harbour for delivery of rockets and components. The site is also clear of major air traffic routes and launching south, rockets pass over the ocean.
The launch infrastructure will handle rockets able to carry small satellite payloads of 50-400 kilograms.
Damp told the Port Lincoln Times there was no fixed launch timetable but the major project declaration was in line with its ambition to get start next year.
With the major development declaration, Southern Launch will enter in-depth community consultation with stakeholders.
Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula (RDAWEP) is now looking to assemble a Space Taskforce to speed the development.
“The development of space launch, assembly and niche manufacturing in Eyre Peninsula represents an unparalleled opportunity for the region to lead Australia’s space launch capabilities and benefit from the resultant economic benefit and job opportunities,” said RDAWEP regional development deputy director Brad Riddle.
The task force will comprise representatives from Southern Launch and other state and federal organisations as well as Port Lincoln, Lower Eyre Peninsula, Ceduna and Koonibba Aboriginal Community council chief executive officers.
It will provide a forum for government, communities, industry and councils, as well as promote the region as a preferred destination for space capability, and enhance local space industry capability and promote supply chain opportunities. (Source: Space Connect)
20 Sep 19. Lockheed Martin launches new space training, simulation and development facility. Pulsar Guardian is a new, state-of-the-art facility built by Lockheed Martin in Colorado Springs that lets the US Air Force and other warfighters simulate, test and train in a multidomain environment that reflects today’s complex space environment.
For the first time, warfighters can bring in any tool from any company to simulate, test and train in a realistic synthetic space environment without disrupting real missions. Pulsar Guardian follows the US Air Force Universal Command and Control Interface standard and is fully compliant.
“Pulsar Guardian reflects a new way for space operators to evaluate new systems, changes to existing ones, or train on the platforms they use every day,” said Maria Demaree, Lockheed Martin Space vice president and general manager of Mission Solutions. “Wargaming and training have never been as immersive – it’s a game changer.”
Multidomain operations require new, agile spaces that the military can use to integrate, synchronize and simulate battle conditions without interrupting present-day operations.
Pulsar Guardian can simulate what an air-space-integration looks like by showing how an unmanned aircraft or fighter jet could interface directly with a satellite and get the right data at the right time to take action. Cyber attacks and mitigations can be tested in a sandboxed, collaborative environment.
Pulsar Guardian is a new class of collaborative space that links into a network of fully immersive workspaces across Lockheed Martin Space.
Pulsar facilities reduce travel time and costs for customers and Lockheed Martin employees through being able to quickly bring subject matter experts and engineers from around the globe into the conversation to quickly diagnose a problem, brainstorm a tough problem in real time, or make changes to a product on the fly using virtual and augmented reality.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. (Source: Space Connect)
19 Sep 19. Space Force price tag clouds decision to formally launch, despite White House push. A key legal change the Trump administration is seeking would enshrine a U.S. Space Force as a separate branch of the military next year ― but it could cost billions more upfront than what the Senate had planned.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., an ally of the president, indicated Tuesday he was leaning toward the move after Vice President Mike Pence personally lobbied him to include the new force under Title 10, the section of United States code that organizes the U.S. military.
“The president is very strong on wanting to have it and wanting to do it immediately and wanting to do it, obviously, before the election ― and we’re going to try and get that done,” Inhofe said about legislation to create a new Space Force.
On Tuesday, Pence spoke at the Senate Republican caucus’ weekly lunch and met with Inhofe afterward ― ahead of the formal start of negotiations Thursday between the House and Senate over their competing versions of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, a massive defense policy bill.
But Inhofe remained concerned with the potential for massive added costs and how they would be absorbed by the bill because of how the costs are scored by the Congressional Budget Office, the agency tasked with estimating costs associated with legislative proposals.
CBO estimated the administration’s Space Force proposal would add $800 million to $1.3 billion in annual costs, and between $1.1 billion and $3 billion in one-time costs.
But, according to CBO’s analysis, the Senate bill doesn’t incur those costs because it doesn’t take a key step: declaring the new service into being. Instead, the Senate set a number of conditions and a one-year timeline for the Pentagon to start building the Space Force, all aimed at cutting costs and requiring the Pentagon prove it has a vision for the new branch.
Crucially, the Senate proposal would restructure certain organizations and personnel of the Air Force into the Space Force and would not authorize new military billets or civilian hires. That’s not a distinction made by the House bill.
“The problem we have with that is if [the NDAA amends] Title 10, you have a CBO scoring problem of $3.9bn. We’re not very excited about that figure,” Inhofe said. “It’s not going to cost that, we all know that, so what’s the rush? But there seems to be one.”
“The president wants to [establish a Space Force] that leaves no doubt in anybody’s mind that we’re ahead of Russia and China, we’re concerned about space, and we are at the top,” Inhofe said. “If we have [the Title 10 change] as part of the bill, it will accomplish that ― but it’s my problem to make that part of the bill.”
For Trump, Space Force has grown from an aside in a 2018 speech to a serious push ― which military leaders say is needed to protect the U.S. space assets vital to military communications, navigation and intelligence. Trump in August reestablished the combatant command U.S. Space Command, with approval from Congress.
Space Force, if approved by the legislative body, would be the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947. It would be the smallest service by far, with between 15,000 and 20,000 members.
To Todd Harrison, an influential space and budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the focus on Title 10 and the cost differences are overblown because they’re difficult to accurately extrapolate from the legislative language. Plus, a compromise bill might add the new service under Title 10 but easily skirt costs by keeping the Senate’s ban on new civilian and military hires, he said.
“The ramp-up rate is not well-defined in either bill,” Harrison said. “The Senate bill makes Air Force Space Command into Space Force with other elements to be added later, and the [House bill] creates a Space Force, but it’s not well-defined what goes in it either. It think it’s an academic distinction in terms of how they are scored.” (Source: Defense News)
19 Sep 19. ASPI identifies cislunar space as new strategic high ground for Australia. The emerging strategic high ground is what’s called cislunar space, that region around the moon from where it’s much easier to go elsewhere in space. In a new report, the US Air Force Space Command examines the future of space beyond mid-century and those regions beyond areas of traditional strategic interest, low Earth out to geo-stationary orbit. In cislunar space, gravity is low enough to make it easier to access other locations such as near-Earth asteroids, with their potentially abundant resources. Any power which could dominate this region would have a strategic advantage.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis said China was also interested in this new high ground, and some commentators pointed to an emerging space space race between China and the US.
“That might include a race to determine a new order in space, in addition to establishing control over key regions of cislunar space,” he said in an article on the ASPI The Strategist blog.
“As our perspective on space terrain expands to encompass the cislunar region, it becomes more challenging for the US and its allies to develop strategies for defending their security interests, and commercial advantage, by ensuring access and presence.”
The Space Command report outlines eight scenarios for a long-term national space strategy.
That starts at the most optimistic – called the Star Trek scenario – with the US retaining leadership and maintaining laws and regulatory processes to support global civil, commercial and military activities for peace and prosperity.
Least optimistic is where China dominates space and shapes the rules to benefit itself at the expense of the US.
The report does make some assumptions, including that the US will succeed in its goal of returning to the moon in 2024, which seems achievable.
Dr Davis said Australia as a new space entrant had a valuable opportunity to think boldly about how it can play a role across the cislunar region.
“Space competition on the high ground of cislunar space may in part depend on who establishes the rules and regulatory foundations for human space activity out to the 2060s first,” he said.
“It’s better for Australia if a coalition of Western liberal democratic states, led by the US, shapes this new domain. The alternative is that others will make key decisions to our disadvantage.”
Dr Davis said that in space, location is everything. “We need to think strategically about space,” he said. “From a civil and commercial space perspective, it’s important for Australia to play a visible role in US-led space activities in cislunar space and on the lunar surface,” he said.
“Such an Australian ‘moonshot’ goal would be consistent with the Australian Space Agency’s civil space strategy, and would directly draw on Australia’s space industry sector, in areas such as robotics and automation, access to space, and other ‘leapfrog’ research and development efforts.”
Dr Davis said that would also allow Australia to directly support the primary recommendations of the Space Command 2060 report, which includes shaping the cislunar region’s rules-based order from the outset. (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Sep 19. U.S. builds alliances in ‘wild, wild west’ of space – general. The new U.S. Space Command is working with allies in the “wild, wild west” of space and will harden future satellite networks against attacks, the unit’s top general said, as the Trump administration reorganises its military space bureaucracy.
General John Raymond, head of the Space Force created in August, said Washington would work with the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, composed of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We’re working really hard with our Five Eyes partners and with France, Germany and Japan,” he said, adding the United States has agreements to share data and services “with many, many more countries.”
In a speech to an annual conference of the Air Force Association in Maryland late on Tuesday, his first public address since taking on his post, Raymond said he also plans to help secure hundreds of small broadband satellites now in development from interception, part of an effort to counter Russian and Chinese space technologies. He did not give details about the classified project.
“The Outer Space Treaty says you can’t have nuclear weapons. That’s about what it says. The rest is the wild, wild west,” Raymond said, referring to an international agreement signed decades ago by the United States, China and Russia. The treaty doesn’t mention anti-satellite weapons and communication-jamming technologies.
“You have to have a satellite that is defendable. U.S. Space Command will put a sharp focus on that,” Raymond said.
He later told reporters he has met with several companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite project, Starlink, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, whose modified Boeing 747 is being offered as a platform to launch satellites into space within 24 hours, should an enemy knock one out of orbit.
SpaceX has won hundreds of millions of dollars in Pentagon launch contracts, using its huge Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is building a heavy-lift New Glenn rocket that it pitched to the Air Force’s next multibillion dollar national security launch programme.
The U.S. military is increasingly dependent on satellites to determine what it does on the ground, guiding munitions with space-based lasers and satellites as well as using such assets to monitor for missile launches and track its forces.
Raymond said Space Command and the Space Force, planned as a new branch of the military, will work in harmony to “dominate” what the Pentagon considers the latest military domain in order to fend off an outbreak of war in space.
The United States hopes that forging closer ties to its allies in space and talking openly about the steps it is taking to prepare for conflict in space will deter adversaries from attacking U.S. satellites, said Brian Weeden, a space policy director the Secure World Foundation, a group that advocates sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.
“However, I’m not sure if that will be enough,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
18 Sep 19. The Air Force wants satellites that grow fast, die young. As the U.S. Air Force considers moving to a Century Series-style process for building its next fighter jet, with new designs constantly being produced, the service’s Space and Missile Systems Center has a process already underway for building satellites.
Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the commander at SMC, said his goal is to get satellites from conception to orbit in three to four years, as opposed to what he sees as a more standard six year timeframe. And to get to that point, he said, those new systems need to be designed to have shorter lifespans.
“Our goal going into the future is to get more on a three to four year cycle for our satellites, not just in production, but also in terms of their amount of usable time on orbit,” Thompson said during the Air Force Association’s annual conference Wednesday.
“We’re not trying to build super exquisite satellites anymore that will last 20 or 25 years on orbit. I think we’re more positioned now to emphasize programs that deliver faster capability that the war fighter needs, but don’t need to last a generation on orbit; perhaps [they] are only viable on orbit for four, five or maybe as much as eight years.”
Shrinking those timelines is part of a plan known as “continuous production ability,” according to Col. Dennis Bythewood, program executive for space development at SMC.
A key component is building a common ground system as a “solid foundation,” Bythewood said. After that, it’s about keeping new technologies developing concurrent with production of the satellites.
“It is hard to move fast if you haven’t done the underlying prototyping technology development that allows those systems to go forward,” he said.
In the case of the next generation missile warning constellation, formally known as the Overhead Persistent Infrared Infrared system, development shrunk from what would have been 108 months into the five-year timeline. That was doable in part, because of the work done on focal plane development.
“I think you’ll consistently see that,” Blythewood said. “By doing the front end work, that allows us to move fast once we’ve got those things done… we can take a sensor being developed by [Air Force Research Lab], through work with DARPA, through work with international partners, and bring those into the architecture. Those are the types of things we can move relatively fast on while continuing to work all of that modernization underneath.”
The other aspect to the plan, said Cordell DeLaPena, program executive for space production, is driving commonalities among future space systems.
“If we can have a common bus and have an open architecture and find all the interfaces, the intent is very similar to the airplane world where capabilities like a new payload could be rapidly inserted into open architecture,” DeLaPena said. “In order to do that we have to develop a common bus, common processes, and then we also are going to drive commonality all the way down to the part level in which, for a common mission, we will certify the parts, certify common process to reduce the time in production.” (Source: Defense News)
17 Sep 19. Should the Air Force spend even more on missile warning satellites? Senate appropriators have a message for the Air Force: Make early warning missile satellites a priority.
The Senate Appropriations Committee expressed concern over the Air Force’s plan for funding the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system in a report on their annual defense spending bill. While the Pentagon requested $1.4bn for the program in fiscal year 2020, the Senate spending committee noted that the request was $630m short of what the program needs. With such a gap, senators questioned whether OPIR was a priority for the Air Force.
OPIR is the next-generation early warning missile defense satellite system that will ultimately replace the Space Based Infrared System. The Pentagon has contracts with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to build three satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two covering the polar regions, respectively.
In order to close the funding gap, the Air Force has made a number of reprogramming requests. But according to Senate appropriators, that’s not a responsible path forward.
“If the program is to have any chance of success, the department cannot continue to rely on reprogramming requests for its funding,” the committee’s report read.
Instead, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a far larger budget of $1.9bn for OPIR. While that is still less than the program need, it represents an increase of $535.5m. Those funds are in addition to reprogramming requests that could meet the more than $2bn program need.
Lockheed Martin representatives told reporters at the annual Air Force Association conference Sept. 17 that the requested increase in fiscal year 2020 funding doesn’t represent a growth in costs for the program, but is the result of the rapid acquisition approach to the OPIR program.
“This shouldn’t be perceived as cost growth,” said Kay Sears, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager for military space. “But it is an accelerated schedule, so it comes with an accelerated budget.” “Next Gen is an absolutely critical capability. We’ve been asked to deliver that capability in a ‘go fast’ environment by 2025 and we are planning to do that. That comes with a funding profile that is a little bit different than a traditional defense program,” she added.
Part of that go fast approach, which Sears says results in higher up front costs, includes a payload competition between a Northrop Grumman/Ball team and a Raytheon team.
“There’s a lot of spending that can happen at all of those companies at the same time,” explained Sears. “That is what is driving the funding profile ― it’s the payload development and the fact that (…) we have two payload developers and two capabilities that we’re going to have to choose from in that critical mission area.”
Senate appropriators noted in their report that OPIR is breaking ground for how to provide rapid prototypes for programs in the future and needs to be fully funded as an example.
“The Committee believes the program will be an exemplar for rapid acquisition of space programs, whether the program succeeds or fails,” read the report. “Failure will have implications for Congress’s willingness to fund future programs using the National Defense Authorization Act section 804 rapid prototyping and fielding authorities for similarly large, or even middle tier programs, for years to come.”
OPIR has been a point of contention between the House and Senate as they work through the two annual defense bills. Earlier in the summer the House balked at the massive increase in what the Pentagon wanted for OPIR in fiscal year 2020. While the $1.4bn Pentagon request is $630m below what the program needs, it’s $459m above what the Pentagon projected it would need for the program in fiscal year 2020 in the previous years’ budget.
The House Armed Services Committee ultimately authorized just $1bn for the program in their National Defense Authorization Act citing unexplained growth, prompting a letter from the White House arguing that a failure to fund the Pentagon’s full budget request now would lead to delays and higher costs over time. (Source: Defense News)
18 Sep 19. South American success for ASX-listed Kleos Space. ASX-listed Kelos Space has announced its first South American pre-order secured by regional expert Pierre Duquesne, who was engaged in July 2019.
Kleos will start the processed data delivery through its Guardian LOCATE product as part of it’s Guardian suite of products, which includes:
- Guardian RF: Guardian RF is data from our satellites and is, at its most fundamental, unprocessed by our geolocation algorithms and is suited to our customers who have their own geolocation analysis/signals intelligence capability.
- Guardian LOCATE: Guardian LOCATE is a data set that we have processed to deliver geolocated RF activity. This data is ready for further analytics by the customer within GEOINT and data fusion programs.
- Guardian UDT: Guardian UDT (user-defined data type) is a user-defined, customised data set. This bespoke data set allows the selection of specific areas of interest, ground station, level of security and level of processing by the customer.
Andy Bowyer, CEO of Kleos Space, welcomed the announcement, saying, “We are really pleased at the rapid progress Pierre Duquesne has made in the short amount of time since his engagement as our representative for the South American market.”
Pierre was the former managing director for Airbus Intelligence in South America and has over 20 years of experience in the regional space industry.
“We continue to pursue pre-orders as we eagerly anticipate launch of the Kleos’ Scouting Mission in Q4 this year,” Mr Bowyer added.
The company’s independent data solutions will provide defence, security and commercial users with access to a cost-effective daily geolocation and intelligence resource to guard borders, protect assets and save lives.
The Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF), the Latin American Development Bank, suggests the outlook by 2040 for the maritime and port sector in Latin America and the Caribbean will serve as an attractive environment for growth, with planned investments valued at over €45 billion in the coming decades.
Kleos Space is a space-enabled, activity-based intelligence, data-as-a-service company and innovative in-space manufacturing technology developer based in Luxembourg.
The first Kleos Space satellite system, known as Kleos Scouting Mission (KSM), will deliver commercially available data and perform as a technology demonstration. KSM will be the keystone for a later global high-capacity constellation. The Scouting Mission will deliver targeted daily services with the full constellation delivering near-real-time global observation. (Source: Space Connect)
17 Sep 19. ST Engineering Acquires Satcom Anti-Jamming Capabilities. Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (ST Engineering) today announced that its U.S. subsidiary iDirect Government, LLC (iDirectGov) has acquired 100% ownership in Glowlink Communications Technology, Inc (Glowlink) (the “acquisition”). This acquisition was carried out by way of a merger through a newly-incorporated special purpose vehicle, Intrepid Merger Sub, Inc. and Glowlink, with Glowlink being the surviving entity. The aggregate purchase consideration was US$20m (approximately S$28m) (the “consideration”) on a cash-free and debt-free basis plus employment based retention payment of up to US$5m (approximately S$6.9m) subject to fulfilment of certain conditions.
Based in Mountain View, CA, U.S., Glowlink delivers innovative solutions that mitigate satellite interferences and improve the quality of satellite communications (satcom). Its satellite network management solutions are able to detect and remove satellite signal interferences in an increasingly dense satellite space. As more satellites are launched in the coming years to meet the exponentially growing demand for connectivity in smart cities, there will be a significant increase in demand for anti-jam capabilities. Glowlink’s products span carrier and spectrum monitoring, interference detection and mitigation, geolocation, and satellite capacity planning which will augment iDirectGov’s advanced bandwidth-efficient, scalable and highly secure satellite solutions.
“This acquisition builds off the strengths of both teams to expand our satcom offerings with technology tailored to protect mission-critical communications, especially in an increasingly dense signal environment with the advent of many small satellites and 5G. The complementary product suite provides immediate benefit to iDirectGov’s user community as it enhances product resilience against signal interference,” said Ravinder Singh, President of Electronics sector, ST Engineering.
Complementary Fit to ST Engineering’s High-Growth Satcom Business
Radio frequency interference in satcom is a growing concern for military and commercial users alike. Glowlink’s patented Communication Signal Interference Removal (CSIR™) algorithm provides real-time isolation and removal of satellite interferences. It delivers an effective and robust solution that does not require additional bandwidth compared to existing technologies, which helps customers save costs while overcoming interference threats.
The acquisition also offers opportunities to leverage market adjacencies by harnessing Glowlink’s advanced technologies to deliver add-on features in ST Engineering’s existing satcom products and solutions for commercial customers.
This acquisition of Glowlink is timely as it complements the proposed acquisition of Newtec Group NV, announced on 27 March 2019. These acquisitions align with ST Engineering’s strategy to enhance its core satcom business, and strengthen its position as a leading global satcom business group.
Details of the Acquisition
The consideration was arrived at after negotiations between the parties taking into account, among other factors, Glowlink’s financial performance, technology and future growth prospects. After adjusting for cash, debt and working capital at closing, the net consideration of US$24.3m (approximately S$33.5m) was paid in cash.
The acquisition is not expected to have any material impact on the financials of ST Engineering for the current financial year. As at 31 March 2019, Glowlink has unaudited net assets of US$7.8m (approximately S$10.8m).
17 Sep 19. ESA prepares first Earth observation satellite with AI ready for launch. A few months from now will see the launch of the first European satellite to demonstrate how onboard artificial intelligence can improve the efficiency of sending Earth observation data back to Earth.
Dubbed ɸ-Sat, or PhiSat, this revolutionary artificial intelligence technology will fly on one of the two CubeSats that make up the FSSCat mission – a Copernicus Masters winning idea.
As the overall 2017 Copernicus Masters winner, FSSCat was proposed by Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and developed by a consortium of European companies and institutes.
The two CubeSats, each about the size of a shoebox, will collect data, which will be made available through the Copernicus Land and Marine Environment services, using state-of-the-art dual microwave and hyperspectral optical instruments. They also carry a set of intersatellite communication technology experiments.
To demonstrate the potential of artificial intelligence in space, ESA has been working with partners to develop ɸ-Sat to take the mission to the next level.
During ɸ-week, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “We see that there is huge interest in ɸ-Sat, and thanks to our partners, it is ready to be launched. We live in exciting times, the pace at which digital technology is developing, coupled with the wealth of satellite information being delivered and, indeed, the growing demand for such data, means there are many opportunities to make a step change for the future of Earth observation.”
The hyperspectral camera on one of the CubeSats will collect an enormous number of images of Earth, some of which will not be suitable for use because of cloud cover.
To avoid downlinking these less than perfect images back to Earth, the ɸ-Sat artificial intelligence chip will filter them out so that only usable data are returned.
Marco Esposito, from cosine Remote Sensing, the company that led the development of the artificial intelligence algorithm, explained, “While compact, the instrument – which covers the visible and near infrared with hyperspectral capability, enhanced with bands in the thermal infrared – is very powerful and will acquire terabytes of data that can be used to monitor vegetation changes and to assess water quality, for example.”
ESA’s Massimiliano Pastena, noted, “Indeed, this will be the first satellite to demonstrate the use of artificial intelligence in orbit, and we are very much looking forward to it being launched in the coming months.”
Aschbacher added, “We fully expect ɸ-Sat to be an important step forward for Earth observation satellite missions. We acquire huge amounts of data every day, and it all has to be sent back to Earth and processed, so having some of this processing done by the satellite in orbit is clearly an efficient way forward.”
“I am very proud that we at ESA and our partners are putting Europe at the forefront of this new approach for Earth observation. And, as I announced at the opening of ɸ-week, our efforts are not stopping at ɸ-Sat-1 – we are also soon going to release a new challenge to develop ɸ-Sat-2,” Aschbacher added. (Source: Space Connect)
12 Sep 19. Mission Microwave Enables Intellian Ka-Band Terminals for HTS and LEO Satellite Networks. Mission Microwave Technologies, LLC and Intellian have confirmed their progress in building extremely high throughput terminals for newly launched Ka-band capacity and the completion of early deployment trials on a LEO constellation.
Intellian has designed high capacity mobile terminals for the rapidly growing Ka-band HTS (High Throughput Satellite) market and needed to be able to offer high power Ka-band solutions to support wide bandwidths and up to 32-ary advance modulation schemes. Based on Intellian’s prior and on ongoing work with Mission Microwave the companies have aligned their engineering efforts to create an exceptional product offer for maritime, mobile and LEO/MEO satellite operators.
Mission Microwave is providing a range of Ka- and Ku-band Block Upconverters to Intellian with power levels up to 400 watts. Mission’s core capabilities in designing compact and highly efficient amplifiers have enabled Intellian to produce high performance terminals with industry leading efficiency and reliability that are now operating over HTS and LEO networks.
The terminal systems provided by Intellian will provide connectivity to new generation networks operating beyond the reach of high capacity terrestrial and traditional satellite services. Intellian’s terminals rely on Mission’s BUCs providing reliable high performance in a compact and efficient package with state-of-the-art monitor and control capabilities to assure terminal performance in a range of challenging environments.
Mission Microwave continues to be at the forefront of the satellite terminal industry in shipping high power Ku- and Ka-Band BUCs for mobile applications in ground, maritime and other applications for both government and commercial industry sectors that require high efficiency, reliability and performance. Mission Microwave is exhibiting September 13-16 at the International Broadcasting Convention at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Steve Richeson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Mission Microwave, said the company has has developed a working relationship with Intellian that is beneficial to the firm’s joint customer base of satellite operators, service providers and end-users. Both companies have found a common goal in building a loyal and successful customer base using the most advanced technology available and providing those technologies in a commercial product with a proven long-term value. Intellian’s engineers have a thorough understanding of the requirements for mobile and tracking terminals and their team enjoyed working with them to overcome the challenges for this demanding commercial application of the company’s products.
Jim Hatcher, Senior Director of Product Management, said customers demand that they be provided with optimal solutions in terms of reliability, price and performance. The Mission Microwave products have inspired the industry with their dramatic increases in performance and reliability in an efficient and elegantly designed package. Intellian has found the Mission Microwave BUCs to be an enabling technology to help serve the firm’s customers better and to expand into new market segments. (Source: Satnews)
09 Sep 19. Airbus and Telespazio Enlist Syracuse IV Satellites to Provide MILSATCOM Services. Airbus and Telespazio (Leonardo/Thales) have established a partnership to market military telecommunications services using the upcoming Syracuse IV satellites. This partnership will lead to the creation of France’s leading private operator of military satellite telecommunications. It demonstrates the desire for cooperation by European industrial prime contractors Airbus, Thales and Leonardo, as well as the French State, in marketing Syracuse IV satellite capacity for the benefit of armed and security forces in Europe and around the world.
The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), Airbus, Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio have put together an innovative financing initiative, enabling any excess satellite capacity to be sold to third-party customers, thereby bringing down the total cost of ownership of the Syracuse IV system. These sales contracts, scheduled for a 10-year period, will enable allied countries or organizations to be offered simple, flexible and reactive access to a strategic resource, thus strengthening France’s international cooperation arrangements in the field of defense and security.
With this partnership, Airbus and Telespazio will be able to sell Syracuse IV satellite capacity and various high-added-value services such as anchor capacity (connection of satellite communications to the ground networks of third-party customers), end-to-end services with capacity and throughput guarantees, engineering and maintenance services.
These services will be accessible over a broad area ranging from French Guiana to the Straits of Malacca and will be deployed for maritime, terrestrial and air uses.
Allied forces will thus have access to communication capacity in X-band, military Ka-band and X-/Ka dual-band mode, offering unique flexibility while benefiting from the highest levels of protection and hardening provided for in the NATO standards. Their units deployed in the field will be able to exchange video, voice and data via all-IP (Internet Protocol) communications at rates of up to several hundred Mbit/s.
Syracuse IV is a telecommunication system consisting of two military satellites, Syracuse 4A and 4B, plus ground stations to ensure communications in the operational areas and with mainland France. These two 3.5 ton class, electric-propulsion geostationary satellites are being built by an industrial group consisting of Thales Alenia Space and Airbus, with launch planned for 2022. They will be supplemented in around 2030 by a third satellite in order to meet growing needs, in particular the specific needs of air vehicles (aircraft, UAVs).
These new-generation satellites will be the first to offer a completely flexible reconfiguration of the X- and Ka-band military payload as well as the means of protection and hardening against cyber, jamming, intercept and EMP-type threats.
Eric Souleres, Head of Communications, Intelligence & Security Engineering at Airbus Defence and Space, stated the company is capitalizing on the unique experience of satellite services for the armed forces to enhance its range with a system equipped with the most advanced space and terrestrial telecommunication technologies.
Jean-Marc Gardin, CEO of Telespazio France and Deputy CEO of the Telespazio Group, added that building on its expertise in the field, Telespazio is proud to consolidate its role as a trusted operator of French military telecommunications satellites and contribute to an innovative operation which will round out its world-class range of government capacity services. (Source: Satnews)
10 Sep 19. Xenesis’ $212.5m Contract to ‘Win the Battle’ to Revolutionize Space Communications + USAF Contract. Xenesis, Inc., an innovator in communications technology for the space industry, announced the firm’s $212.5m, four year agreement with Hartwell Capitol Consulting, LLC. (HHC), for HHC’s global distribution of the Xen-Hub®, Xenesis’ optical communications laser terminal that’s capable of transporting data at volumes five to ten times greater than other commercial solutions currently available for space to ground communications.
The agreement solidifies Xenesis’ entry into several international markets where the need for data transport is underserved and provides HHC with exclusive rights to market, distribute, and sell the Xen-Hub® in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Israel, India, Australia, Nigeria, Mexico, Singapore, and Brazil.
The CEO of Xenesis, Mark LaPenna, said the company is to satellite communications what broadband was to dial-up 30 years ago, which is at the very heart of why we are going to ‘win the battle’ for revolutionizing space communications. This multi-year deal is a significant step toward achieving that goal. For Xenesis, it establishes a physical presence for the foreseeable future in countries where there is an abundance of opportunity for our technology to make a substantial impact. Their [HHC’s] ability and experience with working within the private and government sectors, both here [in the United States] and abroad, makes them a perfect fit for developing Xenesis’ clientele and proliferating the adoption of our hardware and services.
Hans Mumm, Ph.D., a Lead Consultant with HHC, echoed LaPenna’s sentiment and stated that Xenesis is changing the playing field.” Commenting on the deal between Xenesis and HHC, Mumm — whose credentials include staff positions within the National Security Council (NSC), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) — provided his assessment of what the agreement means for secure and reliable, high-speed communications and stated that, quite frankly, for the future of the nation, its military, government, and the high-tech sector, the implications are profound.
Recently, Xenesis received a contract from the Department of the Air Force for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The award, administered by the U.S. Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Broad Agency, was sent to Xenesis for its feasibility study for a Space based Global Optical Multi-Layered Mesh Network System (GOMMNS).
Xenesis’ bid was one of more than 1,000 entries vetted through the application process. This contract is hailed as clear market validation for Xenesis and the innovative technology it is developing. The contract for Xenesis’ feasibility study of GOMMNS was in response to the company’s submission to the SBIR’s topic AF192-001, “Open Call for Innovative Defense-Related Dual-Purpose Technologies/Solutions with a Clear Air Force Stakeholder Need.” The contract proposal includes an upcoming Space flight demonstration that is of high interest for multiple DoD stakeholders, and for which Xenesis already has several interested program offices.
Mark LaPenna noted that the world is in the middle of an epic paradigm shift with global communications. Conservative estimates indicate there are more than 10,000 satellites planned for launch over the next seven years. With a traffic-jam in space data/communications being all but imminent, this contract is a tremendous opportunity for Xenesis to display the firm’s capabilities for facilitating a stabilizing, reliable, and cost-effective solution.
Sue Payton, the former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) commented that earning this competitively awarded [SBIR] contract relays the magnitude of confidence the U.S. Air Force has in Xenesis’ leadership in this critically important area of technology. Resiliency is key for the U.S. to retain its superiority in Space, and optical communications — like what’s being developed by Xenesis — is a crucial component to [the United States military] achieving and maintaining an infrastructure capable of sustaining the proliferation of Free Space LEO small sat constellations and rapidly expanding networks of space-to-ground architecture.”
The company also appointed R. Kent Buchanan to the Xenesis Board of Directors. Buchanan, who — since April of 2018 — served as an independent advisor to Xenesis, said he was proud to be part of the talented team at Xenesis. Radio frequency bandwidth has been exploited for many, many years, and its capacity has been reached. The next major data-transport evolution is on the horizon, and optically based, satellite communications are an inevitability.
Buchanan currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and his pedigree in leadership is well established with previous Board of Director experience including taking AuthenTec, a technology company based in Melbourne, Florida, from its initial private-equity funding through being publicly traded on NASDAQ, where it was ultimately purchased by Apple in 2012 for $365m, and Terion, a wireless data and communications based in Plano, Texas, from being a private equity funded enterprise to its acquisition by General Electric in 2011 for an undisclosed amount. (Source: Satnews)
10 Sep 19. SES Selects SpaceX for O3b mPOWER Launch + SES Provides Global Connectivity of Microsoft’s Azure. SES has selected SpaceX as their launch partner to deliver its nexgen MEO satellite constellation into space on board Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral. The two companies have gained the attention of the industry in the past when SES became the first to launch a commercial GEO satellite with SpaceX, and later as the first ever payload on a SpaceX reusable rocket.
Their next launch, in 2021, will be another noteworthy event as the revolutionary terabit-scale capabilities of SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system garner the industry’s attention again.
The global O3b mPOWER system comprises an initial constellation of seven high-throughput, low-latency MEO satellites, each capable of generating thousands of electronically-steered beams that can be dynamically adjusted to serve customers in various markets including telecom and cloud, communications-on-the-move and government. O3b mPOWER also will include a variety of intelligent, application-specific Customer Edge Terminals integrated with SES’s terrestrial network and optimized using the recently announced Adaptive Resource Control (ARC) software system, further boosting O3b mPOWER’s flexibility.
The O3b mPOWER system leverages the current O3b MEO constellation and the delivering of the fiber-equivalent connectivity services to customers operating in nearly 50 countries. O3b claims their system is the only technically-, operationally- and commercially-proven non-geostationary system for delivering low-latency data communications today.
Steve Collar, CEO of SES, said momentum in the O3b mPOWER ecosystem is accelerating quickly as the company continues to build the correct partnerships to bring this massively innovative communications system to market. Working with SpaceX as the launch provider is fitting because, during the last seven years, the companies have already jointly made multiple revolutionary industry advancements that make access to space innovation more cost-efficient and unlock new opportunities in critical markets. SES is delighted to have SpaceX as partners for this historic O3b mPOWER launch, and together, high-performance connectivity will be extended to all who have limited access to it today.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and CEO at SpaceX, added that the company is pleased that SES has once again selected Falcon 9 to launch their powerful, groundbreaking communications system. SES has been an important partner for SpaceX — fully supporting the SpaceX efforts to make rocket reusability a reality. The company is proud to play a part in SES bringing revolutionary connectivity solutions to the market.
Additionally, SES will provide dedicated, private network connectivity from any vessel, airplane, enterprise, energy or government site in the world to Microsoft Azure via the firm’s multi-orbit satellite systems.
As a partner of Azure ExpressRoute, SES will provide global reach and fiber-like high-performance to Azure customers via its complete portfolio of GEO satellites, MEO O3b constellation, global gateway network, and core terrestrial network infrastructure around the world. SES will offer Azure customers opportunities to leverage its satellite-enabled managed services to connect locations and sites in rural, remote and underserved locations, as well as vessels and airplanes out at sea and in the skies that previously did not have access to cloud services.
In addition to its global fleet of more than 50 GEO satellites, SES also delivers managed data services over its proven O3b MEO satellite system, the only successful non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) broadband constellation. SES’s 20 O3b satellites comprise the only operational system today that can deliver fiber-equivalent, MEF-certified data connectivity services, and certified cloud connectivity services. The systems’ intelligent GEO and MEO-orbit resilience are key enablers in the seamless integration of high performance satellite connectivity into Microsoft’s and their customers’ sites.
In addition, Azure customers also will be able to tap into SES’s O3b mPOWER. Launching in 2021, O3b mPOWER will deliver 10 times the throughput of the existing O3b constellation with unprecedented flexibility and dynamic control to help drive global cloud adoption everywhere.
SES also announced an expanded collaboration with Microsoft to benefit from Azure’s extensive cloud and AI capabilities to deliver one of the first broadcast-grade cloud services for media delivery. This builds on the broader strategic work between SES and Microsoft, as well as their shared common vision to reach everyone with intelligent cloud, media and network solutions.
JP Hemingway, CEO of SES Networks, said that the company believes the economic and productivity benefits of the cloud should be easily available to all enterprise, maritime and aeronautical customers as well as government organisations, regardless of location. Now, as a Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute connectivity partner, SES is expanding this strategic collaboration with Microsoft and extending intelligent cloud and edge services from Azure to the most underserved end points on the planet. As the only satellite network services provider to operate a global, multi-orbit fleet using an extensive fleet of GEO and MEO satellites, SES stands ready to help Azure customers connect to any site at cloud scale, supporting critical enterprise workloads and offering an end-to-end network solution for emerging AI, IoT, video content services, and future applications to come.
Ross Ortega, Partner, Product Manager of Azure Networking, Microsoft Corp. added that the company is collaborating with SES across a range of initiatives to build upon their expertise in satellite communications and increase connectivity to critical services and applications for customers in remote and underserved areas. This new collaboration between SES and Microsoft Azure Express Route further enables the company to bring Azure to any business or government site. (Source: Satnews)
10 Sep 19. This Is What Happens When Two Satellites Collide In Space. The first-ever collision between artificial satellites changed how the world looked at space. Now, low-Earth orbit is about to get a lot more crowded.
More than 1,300 active human-made satellites are flying in low orbit right now. They ceaselessly glide, boosting up and down to avoid bits of space junk and occasionally each other in a robotic ballet hundreds of miles above their human controllers.
In a few years, there could be ten times as many artificial satellites in low-Earth orbit alone (the band of space where the International Space Station resides) thanks to private companies that have proposed launching spacecraft to deliver services such as beaming the internet down from space. That huge influx of corporate satellites is going to complicate things in space, where there are effectively no traffic rules—like a highway with no cops and everyone driving blindfolded.
Already, stress fractures have appeared in the global system that keeps satellites from colliding. Last week, the European Space Agency announced that it boosted its Aeolus satellite into a higher orbit to avoid a collision with a recently-launched SpaceX satellite, Starlink 44, just one of a possible 12,000 satellitesthat could fly under Elon Musk’s banner by 2020. SpaceX initially rebuffed the agency’s warning of a possible collision, and blamed a software bug for not receiving updated figures from the U.S. military that might have spurred the American company to coordinate with the European agency.
“This example shows that in the absence of traffic rules and communication protocols, collision avoidance depends entirely on the pragmatism of the operators involved,” said Holger Krag, Head of Space Safety at ESA, in a statement.
Although the possibility of two satellites colliding above our heads seems new and rather frightening, it has happened before. The first-ever recorded collision between two human-made satellites occurred 10 years ago, in 2009, and drastically changed how the world approaches space traffic management and debris mitigation.
With even more urgent shifts on the horizon, a writhing rat-king of deeply human issues need to be worked out to avoid an anthropogenic tragedy in the void: a cascading band of debris that renders a swath of space effectively unusable.
What happens when two satellites collide?
On the evening of February 13, 2009, the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky received calls from people reporting possible explosions and earthquakes.
According to a bulletin from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the feds advised local law enforcement that the loud booms and flashes of light in the sky in Kentucky were likely the result of debris from a collision between two satellites 500 miles above Siberia three days prior, on February 10. It was the first recorded incident involving two artificial satellites slamming into each other in orbit.
The spacecraft in question were an active Iridium 33 satellite—operated by U.S.-based Iridium Communications LLC—and Kosmos 2251, a decommissioned Russian satellite. According to a 2009 article by Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation and former instructor in the Air Force’s orbital analyst training program, the satellites were travelling at slightly different inclinations but their orbits intersected at a nearly 90-degree angle close to the North Pole. Orbits intersecting isn’t uncommon, Weeden said in an interview, but satellites colliding is incredibly rare.
“We tend to think of the probability as astronomically low, and it is pretty low, but given enough rolls of the dice it will eventually happen.”
The finer details of what led to the collision are still unclear a decade later, Weeden said, which speaks to the messy realities of observing and controlling objects hundreds of miles away using math (playing “billiards in space,” as Weeden put it in his article). The uncertainties and communication breakdown that led to the ESA thrusting out of the way of a Starlink satellite is a reflection of these difficulties.
“On the one hand, I was fully aware that this was a potential problem and people were looking at it, but I was still pretty shocked that it happened.” Weeden said in an interview. “We tend to think of the probability as astronomically low, and it is pretty low, but given enough rolls of the dice it will eventually happen.”
As for the consequences of the 2009 collision, the world had a dry run two years prior, in 2007, when China destroyed one of its own satellites in low-Earth orbit as part of a test. (The U.S. had conducted its own version of this military experiment in 1985). That 2007 explosion, and the Iridium-Kosmos collision, threw clouds of debris into space that could threaten other satellites or spacecraft. And they did.
“Those two events caused a lot of debris in space and the satellites we had at the time were frequently getting close [approaches] or had alerts with respect to those three satellites,” said Michel Doyon, who manages the Canadian Space Agency’s satellites from Earth and started the year following the Iridium-Kosmos collision.
Space debris is the real risk of satellite collisions in orbit, other than a possible loss of service planetside. To be clear: these are robots, essentially, fancy dishwashers. When they slam into each other, nobody gets killed in space or on Earth. But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk. According to NASA, space debris “is the No. 1 threat to spacecraft, satellites, and astronauts.” In space, a 10-centimetre projectile packs the same punch as 7 pounds of TNT on Earth. This debris moves fast, and unlike satellites it cannot be maneuvered—all we can do is track it and try to get out of its way if it appears catastrophic.
The worst-case scenario for space debris is known as Kessler Syndrome, named for astrophysicist Donald Kessler. The idea is that eventually low-Earth orbit may reach a “critical mass” of debris. After that, collisions will begin to cascade—more collisions create more debris, which means more collisions with debris, and so on—even without new spacecraft joining the orbital party. Eventually, a “belt” of debris will form and the junk-choked orbit will become very dangerous for new satellites or space stations, and possibly unusable.
For a future space station, Kessler and co-author Burton G. Cour-Palais wrote, this situation would mean more shielding, accepting a much higher risk of impact damage, or being restricted to a lower orbit.
According to NASA’s summation of Kessler Syndrome, some experts believe we’re already at the point of critical mass in low-Earth orbit, and thousands more satellites are expected to launch into space in coming years.
“Kessler Syndrome is global warming; it’s not a nuclear reaction—it’s this relatively slow accumulation that has accelerating negative effects in the future,” Weeden said.
How do we stop satellites from colliding?
The 2009 Iridium-Kosmos collision was a wake-up call for the world and kicked off important shifts in how humanity collectively manages spacecraft and debris.
“That triggered something very major in the world,” Doyon said. “As you may know, space has no borders, it’s everyone’s property, and debris is a global problem that affects operators all over the world.”
Before the collision, Weeden said, the U.S. military tracked a priority list of objects in space and screened them against known space debris. If a collision seemed possible, the military reached out to the satellite operator and warned them. The military also had two lists: a public catalog of object positions, and a more accurate internal catalog. “They were concerned that publicizing a better catalog would reveal their capabilities to adversaries,” Weeden said.
“[The U.S.] was not sharing as much information as they are now, so we had to make decisions with fairly limited information,” Doyon said.
This meant that operators would receive some imperfect information about objects in orbit—for example, a measurement from one direction but not others—crunch the numbers manually, and make a decision about whether the possibility of a collision warrants thrusting out of the way. Operators have a roughly 10-minute window every 90 minutes to “talk” to their spacecraft.
After the Iridium-Kosmos collision the U.S. military started doing collision assessment for every satellite in the world, Weeden said, and bolstered its space situational awareness data-sharing program. By the end of 2010, the U.S. had signed 17 data sharing agreements with commercial partners. By 2012, the military had signed similar agreements with other nations, including a multi-year deal with Canada.
“We now have a lot more information and we can make more sound decisions,” Doyon said, “or decisions supported by a lot more observations and calculations.” Besides better data, satellite operators now also have software to help do the math, he said.
Ideally, satellite operators will share information and coordinate their actions for the functional life of their craft, before moving them into disposal orbits where they will eventually burn up in the atmosphere. Debris mitigation plans are part of the approval process for satellites in the U.S.—for satellites delivering broadband, for example, such plans are reviewed by the FCC.
To prep spacecraft for inevitable debris collisions in space, NASA (sometimes for itself, sometimes under contract to commercial operators) literally shoots projectiles at satellite shielding using light-gas guns. This is called hypervelocity impact testing and it’s carried out at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico.
According to Eric Christiansen, NASA’s lead for Micrometeoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) protection, a shielded satellite returning from orbit may have 30,000 small debris impacts visible to the naked eye. To mimic these impacts, the scientists at the White Sands facility use pressurized hydrogen to shoot small projectiles down a firing range at nearly 10 times the speed of a bullet.
“If we didn’t have something at the far end of the gun, and we didn’t have atmosphere on Earth, it’d almost go all the way around the world; it’s going that fast,” Christiansen said.
“They have propellant tanks. They need shielding, and it requires more testing”
According to Christiansen, NASA and commercial operators are not all that interested in testing for collisions with large objects such as other satellites. “It doesn’t happen very often, so NASA chooses to spend their money on things that happen more often than not,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen only knows of two hypervelocity impact tests that NASA has done involving larger projectiles. “We had to use the biggest gun that we know of in the United States to do those two tests,” he said. The firing range for these tests is 1,000 feet long, he said, and scientists use bicycles to get from one end to the other. “It’s a big operation, and it’s very expensive to do those tests.”
The smaller light-gas guns that fire projectiles satellites are more likely to come into contact with get fired several times a day at White Sands. “It’s just a lot cheaper to operate those guns,” Christiansen said.
Although direct collisions contribute to the spread of space debris, the real risk to satellites lies in these smaller objects. With thousands more satellites expected to go into orbit in the coming years, more testing is needed.
“There’s so many of them that if you look at the total surface area of the satellites, it’s like putting a space station or more above the [existing] space station—that’s what these satellites represent,” Christiansen said. “They have propellant tanks. They need shielding, and it requires more testing.”
The military-industrial space complex
More satellites isn’t the only big change coming to low-Earth orbit. In June, NASA announced that the International Space Station will be open for commercial activities including manufacturing and tourism.
“If a satellite blows up, that’s bad but nobody dies,” said Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and an expert in space law. “Everybody expects government astronauts to run a certain amount of risk. But if tourists get killed because somebody’s dead satellite crashes into their spacecraft, people will be a lot more upset.”
International cooperation around mitigating space debris has ticked up in recent years and continues under the auspices of organizations such as the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee and the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the latter of which sets international guidelines.
Big and complex changes are already coming in the U.S., however—a critical faucet of space data for the world. The U.S. military will surely play a smaller role in tracking satellites and space debris, and alerting operators to possible collisions.
Per Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3), issued last year by the Trump administration, that responsibility will largely fall to the Commerce Department, reflecting the highly commercial nature of future activity in low-Earth orbit. That shift has already started, and the Commerce Department announced in June that it was expecting the “imminent” transfer of a trove of space data from the Air Force.
According to the directive, this shift in responsibilities will leave the Department of Defense open to focusing on “protecting and defending U.S. space assets and interests” in the future. The Air Force spelled out how debris tracking aligns with military goals in a 2018 blog post that states, “[Space situational awareness] enables the continuous preparation of the battlespace in order to fight and win a war in space.”
At the same time, the private sector is expected to bolster its debris-tracking and mitigation capabilities to complement the government’s efforts. SPD-3 states that one of its goals is to “encourage and facilitate U.S. commercial leadership” in space traffic management and situational awareness. This trend has already started to take off. In 2009, satellite communications companies formed the Space Data Association to share information and best practices. Since 2014, Analytical Graphics Inc. has operated the Commercial Space Operations Center, which uses measurements from commercial sensors to deliver a space catalog.
Junk removal could also be part of the picture going forward, and the private sector could take the lead there, too. A Japanese company called Astroscale has been developing a system for several years and was recently given a shout-out by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for establishing a U.S. footprint.
“Space situational awareness is an amalgam of so many issues,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, director of the independent International Institute of Space Law. “Most of that is evolving, but far from settled.”
The question of who’s to blame if something goes wrong in corporatized low-Earth orbit is also a concern. “In space the liability is based on fault, and this raises some very difficult questions,” Reynolds said. “The standard for what counts as negligence for controlling spacecraft is not very well established yet and proving fault is difficult…if it’s a paint chip, or a bolt, or fragment of satellite that’s disintegrated, it’s often difficult to know who’s to blame.”
Still, Reynolds said, the mere possibility of financial penalties on Earth—and the fact that an unusable band of space isn’t good for anybody—will be enough to force private actors to behave well in orbit. (Source: Satnews)
10 Sep 19. SpaceX’s Request to Modify Plans for Starlink. In a posting by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in an application filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is asking if it can dramatically modify its previously approved orbital plans.
Musk wants the SpaceX’s fleet of ‘Starlink’ satellites to triple the number of orbital planes, each at 550 kms. high. In essence, the plan is for 72 orbital rings circling the Earth instead of the approved 24. This will have, says SpaceX, the effect of achieving greater launch efficiency and an improved spread beam coverage.
The company said, “The proposed respacing would require fewer launches of satellites — perhaps as few as half — to initiate service to the entire contiguous U.S. Globally, the modification would enable more rapid coverage of all longitudes to grow toward the Equator, as well as bolstering capacity over in areas of greater population density.”
SpaceX in May orbited one batch of 60 satellites — not all of which are working. Five are being deorbited, and the company now says that it expects to make “several more” launches this year. SpaceX has plans for four more launch flights this year according to the FCC filing, with the first probably later in October.
If approved, SpaceX will have just 22 satellites in each ring instead of the 66 per orbital ring initially envisioned. The scheme is then to have the system up and working in time for next year’s hurricane season over the U.S. The FCC has approved SpaceX’s plans for almost 12,000 satellites, with 1,600 of them operating from 550kms. high. The other plans approved include 7,500 satellites to orbit at between 335 to 346 kms. and another 2,800 at heights of between 1,100 and 1,325kms. (Source: Satnews)
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