Sponsored By Viasat
09 Oct 19. Viasat establishes two facilities to support Australian Defence Force. Viasat has established two maintenance and testing facilities in Australia to support the needs of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Maintenance, Test and Integration Facilities (MTIF) are located in Canberra and Newcastle. Located within the Canberra airport precinct, the first MTIF will support military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) products. The services offered by the facility will include technical support, product demonstrations and repairs. The second facility, located near the Williamtown airbase, will deliver training, technical support and repair capabilities for Viasat’s Link 16 products.
According to the company, the two MTIFs will be able to enable faster repair capabilities through intermediate level depot support.
Viasat Australia Government Systems general manager Colin Cooper said: “Viasat is investing heavily in sovereign capabilities across Australia to significantly enhance mission effectiveness for ADF personnel.
“Over the last year, our team has invested resources toward acquiring top talent, obtaining quality certifications, advancing our technical training, and systematic and technical processes.
“These efforts combined will provide an increased level of in-country support for Viasat’s narrowband and wideband MILSATCOM systems, information assurance solutions and Link 16 offerings.”
The company added that its expertise in satellite communications, tactical networks and cybersecurity will benefit Australia to upgrade its ‘military connectivity and security architectures’.
Viasat Government Systems president Ken Peterman said: “We continue to bring additional technology capabilities and sovereign resources to our Five Eyes (FVEY) partner nations, of which Australia is a member.
“We believe that by establishing multiple sovereign MTIF locations in Australia, we will be able to more effectively and efficiently serve the satellite communications, cybersecurity, tactical networking and information assurance needs of the ADF, and any FVEY partner they may fight alongside.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
11 Oct 19. Defense Official Builds Case for Creating Space Force. The U.S. military and the commercial sector rely heavily on space-enabled capabilities, and the Defense Department must protect those assets and maintain U.S. superiority in the space domain, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy said.
Stephen L. Kitay spoke as part of a panel discussion at an AFCEA luncheon in Arlington, Va. AFCEA is a nonprofit organization that serves as a forum for advancing professional knowledge and relationships in communications, information technology, intelligence and security.
”U.S. interest in space is expanding, and the threats are correspondingly expanding,” Kitay said, noting that China launched an anti-satellite weapon against one of its own satellites in 2007 to demonstrate that it can knock out satellites. In December, he noted, Russia boasted that it has a ground-based laser that can take out satellites. Cyber threats also figure into the equation. ”The threat is real and here,” he said.
DOD is no longer viewing space as a support function, but as a warfighting domain — a domain of potential crisis and conflict, he said. The department advocates for the creation of a sixth branch of the armed forces to meet that mission, he added. ”We believe we have a strategic imperative to create a Space Force,” he said. The Space Force would unify space-related activities within DOD, he explained.
Kitay noted that the Air Force, which used to be part of the Army, became a separate service in 1947 because it had become clear that in addition to supporting ground forces, air power also is necessary to maintaining air superiority.
In similar fashion, he said, the nation needs to maintain space superiority and protect freedom of operations in that domain. ”Future operations will likely start or extend into space,” he added, ”and we have to be ready for that.” A space-centric identity and culture would be another important aspect of creating a sixth military branch, Kitay said.
Funding legislation for creating a Space Force is pending in Congress. Kitay said additional money would go toward supporting the warfighter from the space domain, not toward adding more layers of bureaucracy.
Much of the Space Force could be built from existing structure within the services and DOD, he said. For example, the Space Development Agency most likely would be merged into the new service at an appropriate time after the Space Force is stood up. Some space assets residing in each of the services and the department would not be incorporated into the Space Force, he said, citing the National Reconnaissance Office as an example.
U.S. Space Command, which activated in August, would remain as a combatant command, focused on warfighting aspects, he said. (Source: US DoD)
10 Oct 19. The Canadian Space Agency Selects VuWall for Control Room Operations. VuWall VuScape Controller Manages and Shares Incoming Satellite Data to Control Room and Boardroom Video Walls.
VuWall, leader in video wall control and AV network management, today announced that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) successfully deployed VuWall’s VuScape processor to monitor the launch of the satellites and their trajectory for the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). Installed by Applied Electronics, VuScape video wall controller shares and manages incoming content to the control rooms’ video walls.
“The RCM will collect information from multiple satellites that is critical to maritime management, disaster management, and ecosystem monitoring in Canada,” said Paul Vander Plaetse, CEO at VuWall. “From a single VuScape processor, the CSA can manage multiple surfaces and streams of information, cutting down on the amount of cabling. This is an excellent example of how our affordable visualization solutions can be scaled and tailored to meet the needs of any organization — from the smallest to the largest and most mission-critical deployments — while adding capabilities that further the value of the system.”
For the project, VuWall’s VuScape processor shares the incoming information on the video wall in both mission control rooms and meeting rooms. Control room operators can easily configure and update the layouts as needed on each of the video walls, providing them with at-a-glance information that’s vital for performing maintenance and control operations on the satellites that they are mandated to monitor. With a single VuScape processor driving multiple video walls in multiple rooms, the CSA is able to manage the access and control of each individual surface with user profile management, limiting access to view and/or manage video wall content only to authorized personnel.
More information on VuWall and its full line of solutions is available at www.vuwall.com.
09 Oct 19. Pacific 2019 innovation success for EM Solutions. EM Solutions has been awarded the Pacific 2019 SME Innovation Grant and highly commended in the Pacific 2019 National Innovation Award at the Pacific Exhibition in Sydney. Both awards are associated with the Cobra X/Ka Tri-Band Maritime Satellite Communications Terminal, which has recently been deployed on numerous vessel platforms by the Royal Australian Navy.
The Cobra terminal was developed by EM Solutions in collaboration with the Australian Department of Defence and provides enhanced capability through its ability to operate on both military and commercial satellite systems and use of proprietary satellite tracking technology that ensures robust operation in the harshest of conditions.
The award was presented to EM Solutions by Melissa Price, Australian Minister for Defence Industry, on the opening day of the Pacific 2019 in Sydney and accepted by Gary Shmith, EM Solutions global director of sales.
CEO Rowan Gilmore commented, “This is further, well deserved acknowledgement, to the engineering and operations teams at EM Solutions in Brisbane who have continued to strive for innovation excellence during the design, trialing and now operational deployment of our world leading mobile satellite terminals for defence and government users. The support of our end customer, the Australian Navy, has been critical to ensure the capability delivered is aligned with requirements and that the outcome is leading-edge technology that is globally competitive.”
On the same day as the Pacific 2019 Innovation Award, EM Solutions was further honoured to have been showcased as an example of “transformational partnerships in action” in the release of the Navy Industry Engagement Strategy.
EM Solutions is showcasing the Cobra terminal during the Exhibition on the Queensland government stand.
EM Solutions designs and manufactures products that assist in the delivery of real-time voice, data and multimedia anywhere in the world.
Employing a team of specialist engineers at its head office in Brisbane, EM Solutions designs and supplies leading-edge satellite and microwave communication technology for customers in the global defence and maritime industries, as well as broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.
Over the last 15 years, EM Solutions has built a customer base of more than 200 of the world’s largest system integrators and telecommunication companies, delivering high-quality products and service. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Oct 19. Kleos secures South American market growth. ASX-listed Kleos Space has confirmed two additional South American pre-orders for the company’s space-powered radio-frequency reconnaissance data-as-a-service. Kleos has secured pre-orders with leading Chilean organisation GEOCIENCIAS E.I.R.L and Brazilian HEX Geospatial Technologies, and have been priced at the integrator level.
The pre-orders were secured by the company’s South American representative, Pierre Duquesne, and follow in quick succession of the original South American sale announced by Kleos in mid-September.
That program of delivery will see Kleos provide processed data delivery through its Guardian LOCATE product as part of its Guardian suite of products, which includes:
- Guardian RF: Guardian RF is data from Kleos’ satellites and is, at its most fundamental, unprocessed by its geolocation algorithms and is suited to customers who have their own geolocation analysis/signals intelligence capability.
- Guardian LOCATE: Guardian LOCATE is a data set that Kleos has 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, “These additional sales into South America demonstrate the global acceptance of the Kleos RF data solution.”
Duquesne was the former managing director for Airbus Intelligence in South America and has over 20 years of experience in the regional space industry.
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)
09 Oct 19. The data challenge of space-based hypersonics defense. Managing data is the biggest challenge to developing a new space-based sensor layer that would help detect hypersonic weapons, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said Oct. 7.
The agency is working toward building the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, a layer of sensors on orbit that would be capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons that the nation’s current missile defense architecture was not designed to handle. The new system will be built into the Space Development Agency’s constellation of low earth orbit satellites.
For Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the director of the agency, designing the sensors for the system is a surmountable engineering issue and evolving commercial launch capabilities mean it will be easy to get the technology to space once its ready. The real challenge is “the passing of track data between different space vehicles and maintaining track and dealing with clutter.”
Hypersonic weapons are dimmer than traditional ballistic missiles, making them harder to detect. The sensors will have to be able to remove that clutter, detect the threat and then pass their data to the next LEO sensor, which will pick up the object as it travels around the globe at hypersonic speed. Allowing for that data flow from sensor to sensor is essential to the effective operation of the system.
Hill compared the complexity of that data transfer to his time in the Navy, where information had to go between moving vessels, but the data issue with satellites is magnitudes of order more difficult.
“When you put yourself on a moving body that’s moving, not at 30 knots but at a much higher speed, you know, maintaining the stability of that track, being able to pull the clutter out of it, determining how much you want to process up on orbit versus how much you want to feed down and process on the ground, then how you distribute. Do you distribute directly from the sensor? Do you control the weapon from space? Or do you take it to the ground station and do it there? There [are] different trades, and we’ll probably do it differently in a lot of different ways because that adds to the overall resilience of the system,” Hill said speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event October 7.
Finding the right answers to those questions will be a priority for the MDA as it works to works to get the system on orbit quickly.
“It’s going to be a great capability. We just need to get it up there as soon as we can and rapidly proliferate,” Hill said. (Source: Defense News)
08 Oct 19. Operators urged to decommission non-functioning satellites in narrow time frame. In order to minimise space congestion, satellites should be directed to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up as soon as their mission is completed. If not straight away, that should be done as soon as responsibly possible, said Carine Claeys, head of the Space Task Force for the European External Action Service, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Right now, the mandated time for decommissioning of defunct satellites is 25 years, which needs to be updated, Claeys told the World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris last month.
“The de-orbiting capability in low-Earth orbit should be as soon as or in a very responsible time period after that satellite is no longer operational,” she said.
The current rules were established in 2002 with the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee guidelines, which say operators are expected to de-orbit their satellites within 25 years of the end of their missions.
That was perhaps OK when space was a lot less crowded but increasingly, space industry and government officials say a period of 25 years no longer makes sense considering operators are planning new constellations of hundreds or thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Current discussion is on whether five years is an acceptable time period.
Claeys said even that’s a long time and the timeline should be months not years.
“The de-orbiting capability for low-Earth orbit should be as soon or in a very reasonable time period after that satellite has stopped being operational, not waiting for years,” she said.
The new UN Guidelines for the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, approved in June, don’t specify a time period.
They call for national and international organisations to “encourage spacecraft manufacturers and operators to adhere to national and international space debris mitigation standards”.
Most satellites in low-Earth orbit will de-orbit of their own accord because of atmospheric drag. At 400 kilometres, nominal life is a year while at 500 kilometres that goes out to 10 years and at 900 kilometres it is 1,000 years.
Claeys said any satellite launched now should carry a de-orbiting capability so end of life can be conducted in a timely and safe manner.
She said de-orbiting requirements should not be imposed on operators by governments but created through new norms of responsible behaviour in outer space.
Putting the problem in perspective, there are now some 4,000 satellites in Earth orbit, of which about 1,800 are currently functioning.
Claeys said that is nothing compared with what is expected with the announced mega-constellations of small satellites.
In the worst case, a collision between satellites in low-Earth orbit could create a chain reaction, unleashing debris that causes additional collisions. That’s the so-called Kessler effect, and the worst outcome would be to render Earth orbit inaccessible to everyone for decades or longer. (Source: Space Connect)
08 Oct 19. Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) will develop new space systems and flight software, and provide engineering, training and operations support for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech, under a five-year, $150m contract. The contract could potentially be worth $300m over 10 years if all options are exercised.
“JPL’s pioneering spacecraft and rovers have led to groundbreaking discoveries of our solar system and beyond,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “This is an incredible opportunity to continue enabling the future of space exploration.”
Work on the new contract is expected to begin in October, though Raytheon has supported JPL since the 1960s, when the company developed the Mars Infrared Radiometer for the Mariner missions. The company currently manages the lab’s data systems, testing and developing software and providing on-call technical support during critical events like Mars rover landings.
“For the past 20 years, we’ve worked side-by-side with JPL’s engineers and scientists,” said Todd Probert, vice president of Raytheon IIS. “Helping JPL explore the mysteries of our universe is something most of our team literally dreamed about when they were kids.”
As part of the new contract, Raytheon will also be supporting a number of classified missions.
In addition to supporting JPL, Raytheon IIS manages a large portfolio of space programs for the U.S. government, including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, a 6.2 million gallon instrumented pool at NASA Johnson Space Center where astronauts learn to work in space and train on a submerged full-size mockup of the International Space Station.
The company manages NASA’s earth science data network — which makes critical climate data available to researchers — and developed and sustains the Joint Polar Satellite System ground station, which tracks storms. Raytheon IIS also operates the United States’ two primary space launch facilities.
08 Oct 19. Boeing [NYSE: BA] is investing $20m in Virgin Galactic, a vertically integrated human spaceflight company. The companies will work together to broaden commercial space access and transform global travel technologies.
“Boeing’s strategic investment facilitates our effort to drive the commercialization of space and broaden consumer access to safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible new forms of transportation,” said Brian Schettler, senior managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures. “Our work with Virgin Galactic, and others, will help unlock the future of space travel and high-speed mobility.”
To date, Virgin Galactic has invested $1bn of capital to build reusable human spaceflight systems designed to enable significantly more people to experience and utilize space. In July, the company announced its intent to become a publicly-listed entity via a business combination with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. The Boeing investment will be in return for new shares in Virgin Galactic and is therefore contingent on the closing of that transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, and any such investment will be in the post-business combination company.
This investment brings together two companies with extensive experience in the space industry. Virgin Galactic is a pioneer of commercial human space flight and is the first and only company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, having built and flown a Mach 3 passenger vehicle. Through its manufacturing and development capabilities, Virgin Galactic can design, build, test, and operate a fleet of advanced aerospace vehicles. Boeing has unsurpassed experience transporting people to orbit and building and operating large structures in that challenging environment. A part of every U.S. manned space program, Boeing serves as NASA’s prime contractor for the International Space Station (ISS) and is preparing the new, reusable, Starliner space capsule for launch to the ISS.
“This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight program,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. “Virgin Galactic and Boeing share a vision of opening access to the world and space, to more people, in safe and environmentally responsible ways.”
Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret, said “the unique expertise of our companies stretches from points all around the world to the deepest reaches of space. Together we will change how people travel on Earth, and among the stars, for generations to come.”
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted: “we are excited to partner with Boeing to develop something that can truly change how people move around the planet and connect with one another. As a Virgin company, our focus will be on a safe and unparalleled customer experience, with environmental responsibility to the fore.”
Additional information on specific projects to be pursued will be shared in the future.
07 Oct 19. Virgin Galactic to launch crewed research flight for Italian Air Force. Virgin Galactic has signed a contract to fly a crewed research flight for the Italian Air Force as early as next year. Under the contract, Virgin Galactic will launch the flight on its SpaceShipTwo spaceflight. The research mission will see a team of Italian researchers conduct experiments during their time in space. It will include three people and a set of research payloads.
As part of the project, the Italian Air Force and Virgin Galactic are working with the Italian National Research Centre to design the experimental payloads.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said: “We’re delighted to work with the Italian Air Force to further space-based research and technology development through this historic mission.
“The experiments they plan to test on SpaceShipTwo will expand our understanding of space science, and the researchers’ active participation will demonstrate an important new avenue for space research. We are proud that Virgin Galactic is able to provide frequent access to space for this important work.”
The spaceflight will allow the researchers to unclip from their seats and perform experiments while being exposed to zero gravity.
The research payloads will include medical instrumentation to study the ‘biological effects of the transitional phase from gravity to microgravity on the human body’.
In addition, the mission will include other testing equipment for research on the chemistry of green fuels.
Italy Defence and Defence Cooperation Attachè Gen Stefano Cont said: “The skills and contributions of the airforce, when combined with those of other national institutions are helping to maintain Italian leadership in the aerospace domain.
“Our interest in this programme ties directly to the airforce main mission, which is at its core national airspace defence.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
03 Oct 19. RFI Published by DARPA for Contractor Support of Launch Services. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Request For Information (RFI) that seeks information for contractor support in the area of launch services, with the following characteristics:
- Launch is anticipated to take place in calendar year 2022.
- Desired orbit is circular, at 450 km +250/-150 km altitude, with an inclination of 125 degrees +/- 20 degrees or an inclination of 45 degrees +15 / -0 degrees.
- Upper stage will mechanically and electronically interface with a Government furnished payload. The launch vehicle interface specifications are in development and are anticipated to be finalized in first quarter calendar year 2020. The upper stage will be required to have its own electrical power system, guidance and control system, ground support communications, and attitude determination and control system. Preliminary requirements for the upper stage are as follows:
- The upper stage will mechanically interface with the payload using an interface similar to a lower ring for a 24 inch diameter Mark II Motorized Lightband (36 equally spaced UNF 1/4 -28 bolts on a 24 inch bolt center diameter)
- Electrical interfaces with the payload will be jointly designed with an associate payload contractor after contract award. It is envisioned that data interfaces will initiate power up of the payload, communication of power up built in test (BIT) results and initiation of payload deployment.
- The upper stage will have sensors capable of providing position knowledge within 100m.
- The upper stage will have sensors and attitude control propulsion capable of providing attitude control to within +/- 0.1 degrees in all axes.
- Nominal payload mass is 325kg, +150 / -125kg.
- Maximum payload volume is 1m x 1m x 2m.
- Payload may be classified and may include sight sensitive components.
- The payload separation system will be provided by the Government.
Submission instructions are contained within a PDF that may be viewed at http:/// (Source: Satnews)
04 Oct 19. Orbit Fab Raises $3m to Make Orbital Refueling Easier, Cheaper and More Accessible. Orbit Fab, one of the companies competing in this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco this week, has closed a seed round of $3m. The funding comes from Type 1 Ventures, TechStars and others, and will help Orbit Fab continue to build on the great momentum it has already bootstrapped with its space-based robotic refueling technology.
You might remember the name Orbit Fab from a milestone accomplishment the young company achieved earlier this year: Becoming the first startup to supply water to the International Space Station, itself an achievement but also a key demonstration of the viability of its technology for use in orbital satellite refueling. Refueling satellites could have tremendous impact on the commercial satellite business, extending the operating life of expensive satellites considerably, which translates to better margins and more profitable businesses.
Thanks to co-founders Daniel Faber and Jeremy Schiel’s connections in the space industry, from more than 15 years working in space technology businesses in a leadership capacity, the company was able to demonstrate its technology working in space less than a year after Orbit Fab was actually founded. Faber, Orbit Fab’s CEO, and Schiel, the startup’s CMO, met when both were working at Deep Space Industries — Faber as CEO and Schiel as a contractor.
“We ended up reconnecting later on and really looking at a few different business models on how to push the industry forward,” Schiel said in an interview. “The one that really landed with customers, and the one that resonated with the industry was refueling satellites. Elon [Musk] has been making rockets reusable — we thought it’s time that we make satellites reusable as well.”
Starting from this realization, the pair founded the company in January 2018. They then secured their first round of pre-seed investment from Bolt in San Francisco in June that year, and also landed two contracts — including one with NASA, and one with the International Space Station National Laboratory.
“Basically in four-and-a-half months, we got flight-qualified and human-rated from NASA our two tanker test beds that we flew to the International Space Station in December 2018, and March of 2019,” Shield said.
How did they do it with that speed? Faber credits their rapid progress largely to lead engineer James Bultitude, an accomplished space engineer with five payloads on the International Space Station already.
“He took [the project] from a napkin through to flight hardware in four-and-a-half months,” Faber said. “All qualified to NASA human-rated safety standards, which was quite the feat. We really had to push hard on NASA.”
Faber said that the company’s ability to spur the U.S. space agency into action has been a key driver of its success. In fact, he relayed a story in which their National Lab demonstration payload was actually left off of its intended flight, but the team was able to get its cargo approved by top NASA decision-makers over the course of a weekend and just barely made the cut as a result.
As for working with NASA as a startup, Faber said that it’s become a very different affair, with the agency eager and adapting to working more with younger companies and startups bringing a different pace of innovation to the field.
“The change is almost palpable on the phone with NASA – you can almost hear them changing,” he said.
At Disrupt, Orbit Fab demonstrated their robotic connector for refueling on stage for the first time. The idea is that satellite makers will build their standard nozzles into their designs, and then a robotic refueler will be able to seek out the nozzle, open and then close on to the coupler, forming a solid connection to allow propellant transfer.
Already, Orbit Fab is talking to partners, including Northrop Grumman, and it’s a member of the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), an industry group that aims to make robotic service and maintenance of satellites a viable reality. (Source: Satnews)
04 Oct 19. New Chinese rocket prepares for take-off. Galactic Energy (Beijing Xinghe Dongli Space Technology) has successfully carried out hot fire tests for its first launch vehicle. The test went for just over a minute and was the second hot fire test of the second stage for its launch vehicle, and included a separation test of the first and second stage. The company is aiming to carry out its maiden launch of the solid propellant vehicle ‘Ceres-1’ in March next year, and is currently advertising nearly 80 kilograms of payload space for its first mission.
A main satellite and two smaller payloads are currently booked for the planned launch from Jiuquan, one of four national launch centres in China, and will contain a launcher consisting of three solid stages with a liquid upper stage, and has been compared to the ‘Kuaizhou-1a’, a separate Chinese rocket.
That vehicle is developed by Chinese defence contractor CASIC.
Galactic Energy was established in February last year, and is also making progress on an an RP-1/liquid oxygen launch vehicle named ‘Pallas-1’, which will reportedly be capable of launching four tonnes to low-Earth orbit or two tons to sun synchronous orbit. That particular vehicle is not anticipated to have a test flight before 2022. (Source: Space Connect)
04 Oct 19. Australia needs to develop sovereign space capabilities to avoid using other’s tech. In an increasingly uncertain world, Australia needs to develop a sovereign space capability rather than just buying products and services from other people.
Professor Andy Koronios, chief executive designate of the new SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), said that especially applied to agriculture where China understands Australian crop yields sooner than Australian farmers because of its satellite and advanced modelling capability.
In an opinion piece in the Adelaide news website InDaily coinciding with the Space Forum, Professor Koronios said recent global events pointed to a more uncertain and unpredictable world and illustrated the importance of a sovereign technological capability, especially in defence and national security.
A no-deal Brexit could see the UK depart the EU, which could shut UK scientists out of space work with Europe in which they are currently involved in and for which they have paid.
That includes programs like the Galileo satellite navigation system and the Copernicus Earth observation system.
“By developing our own capabilities, Australia will not only protect its national security from unforeseeable future events like Brexit but also improve the economic outlook in a range of important industries,” he said.
“When people talk about Industry 4.0 you cannot achieve much of that without some space-mediated technology.
“That’s why we have to provide and help build an Australian sovereign capability in that area. At the moment, we are just simply buying external products and Earth observation services but we need to control our own satellite applications, especially in agriculture.”
Professor Koronios said Australia collaborated well on crop yields with the Chinese Academy of Science as the Chinese had advanced modelling and their own satellites, which gave them a good understanding of our crop yields.
“They give us that information but we receive it late: they use it first and then give it to us,” he said.
“This means Australian agriculture relies on estimated yields from mobile ground inspectors for future trading, which isn’t as accurate as satellite information.
“This gives the Chinese an advantage in future price negotiations because they know more about our yields than our farmers know and that’s not a good thing.”
Professor Koronios said without our own space science capability, Australia would become reliant on other people’s technology and what they charged to access it.
“For example, if someone sells us a satellite technology, say, at 15 per cent profit and, let’s say, another 10 per cent goes towards R&D to improve the next generation of their satellites. This means we are paying an extra 25 per cent for them to become smarter than us. That’s dumb,” he said.
The same argument applies to those questioning why the Americans want to go back to the moon. By going to the moon, you are getting the know-how and building that technology that you can actually apply on Earth and make our lives easier, healthier and more comfortable, he said.
Professor Koronios said the SmartSat CRC would tackle these sovereignty issues by bringing together experts in advanced satellite technologies around communications and IoT connectivity, sensors and intelligence, and next-generation Earth observation data services. Five advisory boards have now been established and will begin satellite technology projects by January 2020 in the specific areas of defence, mining, agriculture, logistics and transport and telecommunications. (Source: Space Connect)
03 Oct 19. Amazon’s Project Kuiper and OneWeb Raise the Curtain Higher on their Satellite Plans. Filings with the Federal Communications Commission are providing fresh details about the plans being laid by Amazon and OneWeb to set up networks of satellites for global broadband internet access. OneWeb, for example, is seeking FCC approval for up to 1.5 million ground terminals that customers would use to receive and transmit satellite data. Amazon, meanwhile, is answering questions from the FCC about how the satellites in its Project Kuiper constellation would be maneuvered and deorbited. The answers make clear that Project Kuiper’s satellite design is still very much in flux.
That’s in contrast to SpaceX, which has already launched 60 of its Starlink satellites and is expected to send another batch into orbit as early as this month.
SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are considered the leading competitors in the nascent market to offer high-speed internet access from low Earth orbit, or LEO, to the billions of people who are currently underserved. Other players in the LEO broadband market include Telesat and LeoSat.
In a recent FCC filing, SpaceX suggested that it could begin providing limited service to parts of the United States by the end of next year.
OneWeb launched the first six satellites of its constellation in February and is expected to launch about 30 more in December. The London-based consortium says it’s planning to offer satellite internet access starting in late 2020 — with the world’s Arctic regions as its initial focus.
OneWeb’s request for authority to operate 1.5 million user terminals in the United States was filed on Sunday. The terminals, which would be equipped with 18-inch-wide antennas, would work with OneWeb’s gateway facilities to process the signals beamed down from its constellation.
It typically takes months for the FCC to gather comment and make its decision about such a request. SpaceX filed a similar application for 1 million user terminals back in February, and that application is still pending.
Amazon isn’t as far along in its plans. It hasn’t said exactly when it intends to start building, launching or operating Project Kuiper’s satellites, and it hasn’t yet settled on a launch provider. But the Seattle-based company is nevertheless making a big commitment to Project Kuiper, which CEO Jeff Bezos called “a very good business for Amazon” during a Las Vegas conference in June. Amazon is listing about 100 job openings for the satellite project, virtually all based in Bellevue, Wash.
One recent FCC filing relating to Project Kuiper is a September 18 letter from C. Andrew Keisner, lead counsel to Amazon’s Kuiper Systems subsidiary. The letter addresses a series of questions from the FCC asking about the project’s status.
Keisner told the FCC that the system’s “constellation design and implementation plan are well-developed, and Amazon continues to mature its satellite design and operational procedures.”
He provided a recap of the specifications for the satellite constellation, which were first laid out in April. The plan calls for putting 3,236 satellites into three sets of orbits, at 590, 610 and 630 kilometers (367, 379 and 391 miles) in altitude.
Keisner said the satellites would be deployed into an initial orbit that’s below the altitude of the International Space Station (roughly 250 miles or 400 kilometers). They’d be given a “comprehensive in-orbit performance verification” at the lower altitude, and only then would be raised to their operational orbits.
He said Amazon was working on a satellite design and a system for space situational awareness that would minimize the hazards associated with orbital debris.
“Amazon is designing sub-systems to withstand impact from non-trackable debris without major fragmentation risk,” Keisner said. “For example, Amazon intends to use a propulsion system with a chemically inert propellant and is exploring innovative propellant solutions that can be unpressurized.”
Keisner said Project Kuiper’s engineers were still weighing exactly what kind of propulsion system to use. The options range from “conventional designs using pressurized noble gas propellant to designs using liquid ionic propellant that can be non-pressurized,” he wrote.
Amazon is conducting tests to decide which system to go with, he said.
If a satellite loses contact with ground stations, an automated deorbit procedure would kick in. The procedure calls for lowering the orbit below the height of the International Space Station in two stages, and then sending down the satellite to burn up during atmospheric re-entry.
“Amazon will coordinate its satellite deorbit activities with NASA generally, and for ISS operations specifically,” Keisner said.
Other filings note that Amazon representatives have been meeting with the FCC as recently as late last month to discuss issues relating to the Project Kuiper application, including Keisner’s letter as well as the International Telecommunication Union’s procedures for satellite constellations.
For what it’s worth, SpaceX weighed in on Amazon’s application in July, saying that the FCC should open a new processing round to consider all of the constellation applications that target the same Ku/Ka-band that SpaceX has already been authorized to use. (Source: Satnews)
01 Oct 19. “Big, Fat, Juicy Targets”— The Problem with Existing Early-Warning Satellites. And a Solution. In 2018, the US Air Force announced its intention to cancel the seventh and eighth space vehicles in the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program—a collection of satellites that provides early warning of incoming missiles—and declared its desire to transition over to the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program, which will serve the same purpose but which proponents say will be less expensive and more robust. Indeed, it was the escalating costs and vulnerability to countermeasures that seem to have motivated the decision to terminate the SBIRS program. In recent congressional testimony, Cristina Chaplain, the Government Accountability Office’s director for contracting and national security acquisitions, pointed out that SBIRS was “exceedingly ambitious, which in turn increased technology, design, and engineering risks. While SBIRS and other satellite programs provide users with important and useful capabilities, their cost growth has significantly limited the department’s buying power at a time when more resources may be needed to protect space systems and recapitalize the space portfolio.”
What went wrong with the SBIRS program, and what advantages might the Next Generation satellites have? To answer those questions, we first have to be brought up to speed.
A little history. The SBIRS program was conceived as a two-tiered system to warn US leaders of incoming nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. The first tier, SBIRS High, was to include four satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit, situated above the equator and moving perfectly in synch with the rotation of the earth, and two satellites in highly elliptical orbits, giving them the ability to cover the higher latitudes of earth. For both sets of satellites, their primary mission was to detect and track missiles during their boost phase—that all-critical moment early in a missile’s flight just after lift-off, when it is slower, easier to track, most vulnerable to interception. The second tier, SBIRS Low, was to be comprised of a constellation of 24 satellites in low orbit to handle “the daunting job of distinguishing real warheads from decoys,” at a point in the missile’s trajectory known as “post-boost,” when the missile releases its payload and individual warheads begin on their separate trajectories—and consequently become much harder to deal with. As the program unfolded, SBIRS Low became too complex and costly to implement and was eventually cancelled.
The SBIRS program had many schedule delays and cost overruns. The launch of the first satellite was delayed by nine years, and the net cost grew to $19.9bn, or 265 percent more than the initial estimate. One reason for these difficulties was repeated bureaucratic tweaking, with the consequence of conflicting requirements. Missile defense proponents wanted it “to provide quicker launch warnings, and to analyze missile trajectory and other factors to determine whether a rocket was carrying a benign satellite or a warhead.” Intelligence agencies required it to “provide data about activities on the ground, including rocket-engine tests.” And the Army wanted “information about Scud and other short-range missile launches during combat.” Of course, such “requirements creep” was not the only issue; SBIRS was also beset with contractor and congressional in-fighting. These myriad requirements drove the program in multiple directions without a clear and coherent agenda.
Can the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program avoid similar problems? The early debate offers hope that the program could be more streamlined. And there are also indications that it could capitalize on the advances made in recent years by the makers of small satellites that could reduce cost and decrease vulnerability. Indeed, a preliminary analysis reveals that small satellites can be useful in bolstering missile early-warning systems, but the United States must continue to experiment further.
Who’s in charge of national security in space? The requirements creep that afflicted the SBIRS program was caused by the absence of a single, overarching agency with sole responsibility for the program—echoing a problem that many space programs have encountered. In 2008, the congressionally mandated Allard Commission found that, when it comes to matters of space and national security, “no one’s in charge.” The commission report further noted that, “leadership for strategy, budgets, requirements, and acquisition across National Security Space is fragmented, resulting in an absence of clear accountability and authority.”
Various recent structural and policy changes have attempted to mitigate the lack of focused leadership. The Space Development Agency, for instance, was created precisely to address the aforementioned shortfalls. In the memo chartering its establishment, former acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote: “a national security space architecture that provides the persistent, resilient, global, low-latency surveillance needed to deter, or if deterrence fails, defeat adversary action is a prerequisite to maintain our long-term competitive advantage. We cannot achieve these goals, and we cannot match the pace our adversaries are setting, if we remain bound by legacy methods and culture.”
Similarly, Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, argued that while existing organizations such as the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles “have a very important function to oversee the legacy space architecture,” he insisted that, with respect to the establishment of the new agency, “what we’re doing is a new thing, to meet known mission requirements.”
The Space Development Agency is now responsible “for overall programmatic policy development and execution for next generation military space capabilities” and is expected to be deeply involved in the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program. The newly created agency, which is housed within the Pentagon, hopes to develop, among other things, a constellation of small satellites in low-earth orbit based on commercially produced designs “that would be more resilient to disruptions or attacks than traditional, larger and more expensive military spacecraft” traditionally used in mission such as missile early warning.
The SDA also has certain special acquisition and contracting authority that will “allow projects to move fast without getting bogged down in reviews and Pentagon bureaucracy.” The Air Force hopes that the newly empowered agency might help in “reducing the time to develop and field the first satellite” in the next generation program from nine years to five.
Small satellites and early warning. The emergence of new competitors and regional adversaries with advanced ballistic missile capabilities motivated a quick transition to the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program. A consensus has emerged in the US defense community that more varied and complex dangers exist to nuclear early-warning satellites than during the Cold War. One reason for this assessment is the increasing capabilities for anti-satellite attacks by Russia and China.
While much remains unknown about the specifications of the new system, a primary expectation is that it should be more survivable against emerging threats. In the memorable words of Gen. John Hyten, former head of US Strategic Command and now vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we should move away from procuring a handful of “exquisite” costly satellites that make for “large, big, fat, juicy targets.” Instead of these “fragile, undefendable” devices, he advocated in favor of “more resilient, more distributed capabilities,” such as cheaper, small satellites. A constellation of such small satellites is likely to enable both greater dispersion of our space assets, and the ability to rapidly recover in the event of an attack.
But will small-satellite constellations be able to provide effective early warning of incoming missiles? If so, how many will be needed to replace the coverage provided by one traditional satellite situated in geosynchronous orbit? There is some evidence that small satellites in low-earth orbit could at least provide some capabilities. In 2001, SBIRS Low was taken over by the Missile Defense Agency and repurposed as an experimental program—the Space Tracking and Surveillance System—to evaluate the capability of small satellites to provide early warning of an incoming missile attack. During the test phase, two low-earth orbit Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites “tracked multiple missiles in the early boost and post-boost phases”—providing proof of concept.
A preliminary technical simulation further supports the idea that satellites like those of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System could provide reasonable ballistic missile early warning. Using the country of China as an example, the figure below shows the number of minutes of coverage a single small satellite could provide over that country for such a task. Most Chinese silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles are located in a band between 25 degrees and 35 degrees north latitude. Therefore, the satellite could be inclined at an angle of 30 degrees to maximize coverage over the latitude band. The figure shows a range of possibilities based on satellite altitude and various sensor limitations. Assuming a capability akin to that of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, a single small satellite operating at an altitude of 1,350 kilometers and with a horizon field-of-regard (that is, with a wide-angle sensor that can see from horizon to horizon) would provide approximately 140 minutes of daily coverage.
Thus, continuous monitoring for ballistic missile launches from China would require only about 10 satellites. Operating at an altitude of 1,350 kilometers, however, may require satellites to be hardened against radiation from the Van Allen belt—the zone of tiny, magnetically charged particles that hover around earth and are held there by its magnetic field. It may also require very large rockets, in the form of heavy-lift space launch vehicles. Both requirements tend to increase the cost. Reducing the satellite altitude to 500 kilometers would limit the need for radiation hardening and heavy-lift launch. If the altitude is set at 500 kilometers with a horizon field-of-regard, a single satellite would provide approximately 70 minutes of daily monitoring over China. Consequently, to secure round-the-clock ballistic missile early warning at this altitude for the country of China alone, a total of around 20 satellites would be needed.
This preliminary analysis shows that it may be possible to use small satellites to provide ballistic missile early warning, particularly if these satellites could be developed at the same low costs of other small satellites. Overall, an auxiliary small-satellite constellation operating in tandem with other traditional early-warning satellites would certainly complicate an adversary’s attempt to blind the United States, offering redundancy and the ability to reconstitute a constellation quickly in a contingency.
The time to experiment is now. The small-satellite revolution and its successes offer many possibilities for imitation. Still, the technology gains made by the commercial small-satellite industry need to be carefully examined further before presuming that these advances can be scaled up to replace traditional national defense mission satellites. Small satellites have several limitations. They are constrained not only in terms of complexity or number of instruments that can be placed on a satellite, but also as regards their orbit lifetime, power generation and storage, data transmission rate, and platform stability. Given these limitations, the value of small satellites might lie in performing niche aspects of missile early warning, particularly during a contingency when traditional satellite capabilities have been compromised.
The early phases of the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program may provide a narrow time window to test whether small satellites can provide limited but relevant capabilities for missile early warning. While the United States’ adversaries are acquiring anti-satellite and other denial capabilities, the present threat should not be overstated. In an interview, Gen. Hyten said that “because of the vast amount that we’ve invested over the years, our overhead architectures are well beyond anything our adversaries can counter.” He also said it would be a mistake to “think that we are vulnerable today and that our entire overhead architecture can somehow disappear tomorrow.” Experimenting now, while the threat is limited, may help us to understand both the benefits and limits of small satellites, and develop the proper balance between traditional and small satellites to ensure the stability of nuclear deterrence. (Source: Satnews)
30 Sep 19. Russia Postpones Launch Of Three Communication Satellites to 2020. As per reports, the launch of three Russian Gonets-M communication satellites on Soyuz 2.1b carrier rocket from Plesetsk spaceport has been delayed to 2020. The satellites are made to ensure communication and data transmission services. It can also be used for ecological, industrial and scientific monitoring purposes.
Delayed launch and other expected launches
As per reports, in September an unnamed official had revealed that three Gonets-M satellites will be launched on the Rocket carrier rocket this November but now it has been postponed to 2020. Another three satellites were supposed to launch atop Soyuz 2.1b rocket later this year. In 2020, another launch of Soyuz 2.1b with three Gonet-M was scheduled and in 2021-22 6 satellites are scheduled to be launched into space by two Angara 1.2 rockets. However, reports suggest that Russian state corporation Roscosmos has not remarked on the development yet.
About the satellite
Reports indicate that the Gonets satellite communication system is made to ensure communication and data transmission services. It can also be used for ecological, industrial and scientific monitoring purposes. The manufacturer states that satellite of this generation shall make telephone and fax communication services available to users as long as it available to users within the satellite’s network coverage area as well as facilitate user’s geopositioning by using GPS and GLONASS technologies.
Russia had cut funding to its space program
As per reports, The Russian space budget has been cut from 2016 to 2025 from $29bn to $20bn. But the space program is facing problems with regards to an ageing fleet of rockets which dates back to 1960s Soyuz and Proton vessels. Apart from the participation in the International Space station program, there is a much-besieged science vision. Russia has not done any successful interplanetary expedition in more than 30 years since 1984’s launch of Vega 2 which was an expedition to Venus and Halley’s Comet. (Source: Satnews/RepublicWorld.com)
30 Sep 19. Australian Space Experts Focus on Small Sat Technology. Australia’s rebooted space industry is positioning itself as a world leader in the development of smart satellites and associated technologies that will streamline communication, drive the Internet of Things, enhance Earth Observation and shape the defense forces of the future.
The Australian Government backed SmartSat CRC — or Cooperative Research Centre — is playing a leading role during “Space Week” in the South Australian capital, which includes the 8th Space Forum (formerly South Australia Space Forum) and the 19th Australian Space Research Conference.
Supported by the Australian Space Agency and the SmartSat CRC, the week began on Thursday. The 8th Space Forum is on at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Monday, September 30 and includes a panel session hosted by SmartSat CRC Industry Director Peter Nikoloff about the opportunities and challenges facing Australia’s newest major space organization.
The 19th Australian Space Research Conference will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday (October 1 & 2). The A$245m SmartSat CRC was awarded in April and has established a headquarters in Adelaide to co-ordinate its 99 industry and research partners.
Nikoloff, who is also a co-founder of Adelaide-based defense and space company Nova Systems, said the panel discussion would focus on highlighting the research and application of intelligent technologies to space systems and opportunity for Australia’s growing space industry.
He said the panel will seek to identify niche areas of autonomous systems and how the participating universities, industry and defense members could potentially exploit those opportunities.
“The intelligent systems from our perspective aren’t just what’s on a spacecraft, we’re looking at the whole chain that goes from the spacecraft down to the ground stations and the applications of how that information is being presented,” Nikoloff said.
Nikoloff said developing applications to process data and streamlining data transfer before sending it to Earth is critical as the sensing capabilities aboard satellites became more complex and data intensive.
“We need to look at processing data on board the satellite through the integration of big data and AI systems rather than sending all of the data down and then deciding what’s useful,” he said. This is important as data download via the Radio Frequency Spectrum is the bottleneck as the majority of the spectrum is licenced to big business and governments.
“The smaller spacecraft are very constrained on power availability and have numerous technical challenges such as heat dissipation, limited space availability and suitable space qualified processors. These are the areas we need to consider in developing advanced intelligent processing in orbit for smaller class spacecraft and a number of our partners are already starting to look at those areas of applications.”
“With the announcement of the program with NASA going to the moon, one of the areas of strong interest from the (Australian) space agency is around autonomous/intelligent and off-planet mining and the benefits that technology improvements would have for the Australian mining sector, which is already a world leader in autonomous mining. The SmartSat CRC will be working with the space agency to ensure we maximize Australia’s space research activities across the Australian space sector. ”
The panellists for Monday’s SmartSat CRC — Building Australia’s Space Industry session include Australian Space Agency Executive Director Aude Vignelles, BAE Systems Australia Chief Technology Officer Brad Yelland and UNSW Canberra Chief Engineer Dr Doug Griffin.
Australia aims to grow the space market segment from AU$3.9bn to AU$12bn by 2030 and double space industry employment to 30,000.
The Australian Space Agency was officially launched in Adelaide in July 2018. (Source: Satnews/NewsLeads)
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