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31 Oct 19. Blue Canyon Technologies Joins Forces with the Naval Research Laboratory and the UK Ministry of Defence for Space Weather Demonstration Mission.
Small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) today announced that it has been selected by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to support a combined initiative between the US Department of the Navy and the UK Ministry of Defence for a demonstration mission called CIRCE.
CIRCE, which stands for Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment, will utilize two 6U CubeSats flying in tandem formation in low-Earth orbit (LEO) to measure the ionosphere and radiation environment space from multiple vantage points. The BCT-built CubeSats will also have a low-latency data link to enable operational responsiveness. NRL will provide two ultraviolet photometers per satellite to measure the naturally occurring airglow and determine ionospheric structure. The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, or DSTL, will provide the remaining three payloads per satellite. DSTL’s payload system, known as IRIS, is a combination of three payloads that include a topside GPS receiver to measure electron densities and content, an ion and neutral mass spectrometer and a compact radiation sensor.
The ionosphere, an upper layer of the atmosphere extending from a height of about 50 km to about 1000 km above the earth, acts as a shield around the earth. “The structure and density of the ionosphere can vary quite a bit, day-to-day, depending on what the Sun is doing. Since space weather affects satellite communications and radar, a thorough understanding of the environment is essential to commonly used satellite infrastructure like GPS and communications systems. These low-cost, compact satellites will demonstrate advanced methods for understanding the space environment to benefit systems and users that depend on a reliable space infrastructure,” said Matt Pallas, CIRCE Program Manager at Blue Canyon Technologies.
CIRCE is scheduled to launch in March of 2020. A successful demonstration will provide key insights to the radiation environment, density and composition in the space environment.
Blue Canyon’s diverse spacecraft platform has the proven capability to enable a broad range of missions and technological advances for the New Space economy, further reducing the barriers of space entry.
BCT is currently building more than 60 spacecraft for government, commercial and academic missions. The company has doubled in size over the past 12 months and plans to open its new 80,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility in 2020. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
31 Oct 19. Who will help track hypersonic threats from space? The Missile Defense Agency has selected four companies to develop prototype sensors capable of detecting and tracking hypersonic weapons from space, the agency announced Oct. 29. The four companies selected are Northrop Grumman, Leidos, Harris Corporation and Raytheon. Each of the companies was awarded a $20m contract through the Space Enterprise Consortium, an other transaction authority that fosters rapid prototyping. The agency received 12 proposals in total.
The companies are tasked with developing a prototype payload design and signal-chain processing risk reduction demonstration for the agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, a space-based sensor layer that can track hypersonic weapons. The companies have one year to develop their payload designs, with work expected to be completed Oct. 31, 2020.
Hypersonic weapons pose a problem to the current missile defense architecture’s sensing capabilities. Because hypersonic weapons are dimmer than traditional ballistic weapons, they are difficult to pick up and track from the military’s current sensors in geostationary orbit. Moreover, hypersonic weapons are maneuverable, meaning they can evade ground-based sensors as they traverse the globe toward their target. With both Russia and China developing hypersonic weapons, the U.S. military needs a new sensing capability.
The MDA wants to rectify this situation by fielding HBTSS as a proliferated constellation comprised of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit. The agency is working with the Space Development Agency to build that constellation. Both the House and Senate have worked to include funding for HBTSS — which the agency listed as an unfunded priority in the spring — in their respective defense bills.
Of course, developing the sensors themselves may not be the hardest part of building HBTSS. Designing and building those sensors is a surmountable engineering problem, MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Oct. 7. The bigger challenge will be dealing with the data, from passing track data back and forth between satellites to removing clutter from images in order to pick up hypersonic threats. The MDA is working with the SDA on that data issue, which is also an issue facing the other sensing capabilities that agency is helping to develop. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Oct 19. Bluestaq will help the Air Force expand its library of space objects. The government has awarded Bluestaq a contract worth as much as $37.5m to expand a space situational awareness database that integrates information used for air, space and multi-domain operations, the company announced Oct. 29. The Unified Data Library is a scalable space situational awareness repository stored in a cloud and a combined effort by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the Air Force Space Command. The database is a collection of tracking data of objects in space, from military satellites to space debris. Eventually, the library will fuse data from all types of sensors for Air Force command and control needs, with different levels of data accessible via security classification.
The Unified Data Library is a key part of Air Force Space Command’s new enterprise data strategy. Historically, military data has been stored in stovepiped systems that are cut off from each other, making it difficult for a user to access all of the data needed for a mission. The UDL solves this by providing a single portal where users can access all the data that has already been collected and fused together.
Bluestaq was issued a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research award in 2018 for research and development of the platform. The Phase III sole source contract will continue the company’s efforts on the project and expand the library to integrate data from commercial, foreign, DoD and intelligence community sources to support space, air and multi-domain operations. The Phase III contract is for a 12 month base period with two 12 month options.
“Bluestaq is thrilled to continue supporting SMC’s Special Programs Division and the Data Program Management Office on the Unified Data Library,” said Andy Hofle, Bluestaq’s chief engineer and co-Founder. “It has been exciting to see the growing community interest in the data management platform over the last 18 months, and our team has had a tremendous amount of fun playing a role in the development of the project.”
Bluestaq is a technology start up company based in Colorado Springs, Colorado that launched in 2018. Bluestaq is also on contract with the Air Force to develop the Enterprise Ground Services. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Oct 19. SA rocket launch facility could create big economic benefits. South Australia’s proposed Whalers Way space launch facility has the potential to inject $318m into the SA economy as well as create hundreds of new jobs.
According to an economic analysis of the forecast benefits, the launch site at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula could also create 568 jobs over a decade for each rocket manufacturer who uses the facility.
The report was prepared by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, a research unit of the University of Adelaide, which examined the potential financial and employment impacts of the launch facility operating in various modes.
That included operating as a stand-alone entity, as an assembly and testing facility and in conjunction with a launch vehicle manufacturer.
Projected impacts ranged from 60 jobs and a boost of $35.4m to gross state product over 10 years to 568 jobs and $318.4m.
The facility has been proposed by Southern Launch, which has already signed its first customer, Korean space start-up Perigee Aerospace, which is planning its first launch for next year.
Southern Launch examined a number of possible locations across Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia before settling on the a 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 ocean. The location is well suited to launches into polar or polar-like orbits.
In September, the South Australian government declared the proposed launch facility a major development, opening the way for acceleration of the development process.
Whalers Way’s rival is the proposed Equatorial Launch Australia launch facility in the Northern Territory. Both are planning their first launches for 2020.
Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp told The Port Lincoln Times the report put solid figures on their plans.
“This report details how our operations can act as a catalyst for wider space investment into the economy,” he said.
“There is a great deal of work to be done yet, but we’re excited to be part of the development of a vibrant space industry in South Australia.”
Damp said the agreement with Perigee Aerospace demonstrated the calibre of partners the facility could attract.
“We believe we can continue to attract significant international partners and to exceed the projections laid out in the SACES report,” he said. (Source: Space Connect)
30 Oct 19. Starlink, Kepler, Swarm seek regulatory approval to start operations in Australia. Australia could soon see broadband satellite internet services provided by international operators with three companies seeking approval of the Australian Communications and Media Authority. One is US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX with its Starlink network and the other two are Canada’s Kepler Communications and US firm Swarm Technologies.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said these operators had approached it to commence the regulatory approvals process to eventually obtain space apparatus licences to deliver internet and internet of things (IoT) services in Australia.
All three are seeking access to particular radio frequencies regulated by ACMA.
“As for all other types of radio communications, a space-based radio communications system may not be operated in Australia without a licence,” it said in its consultation paper.
“These operators have approached the ACMA to commence the regulatory approvals process to eventually obtain space apparatus licences to operate in Australia.”
Under the consultation process, anyone can have a say on the various proposals.
ACMA summarised the three proposals.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp, trading as SpaceX, is a private US aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
It plans a constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, known as Starlink, for the purpose of providing broadband connectivity around the world. SpaceX envisages a constellation initially of some 12,000 satellites and maybe more than 40,0000. It launched the first 60 in May.
Starlink should go live for consumers next year.
Kepler Communications Inc. is a private company based in Toronto, Canada. Kepler plans a constellation of 140 LEO satellites providing multiservice infrastructure capable of supporting IoT connectivity.
It will also operate as a real-time relay network for in-space orbital assets.
Swarm Technologies Inc. is a US satellite company based in Mountain View, California, which is planning a constellation of 150 LEO satellites to provide mobile-satellite services that will offer two-way connectivity for IoT and machine-to-machine sensors.
ACMA said that any satellite operator seeking permission to operate in Australia first needed to pass a “prerequisite” step of being added to the foreign space objects determination maintained by the authority.
It is now seeking to amend that determination and has invited comment from industry.
“Inclusion of an entity in the foreign space objects determination does not confer a right on that entity to obtain a licence nor operate in frequency bands identified in the space object class licence,” ACMA said.
“Rather, it is a necessary prerequisite that must be in place before a space apparatus licence can be issued.” (Source: Space Connect)
30 Oct 19. European network of operation centres takes shape. As Australia prepares to develop its own operation centres to support the national space agenda, the European Space Agency and French space agency CNES have signed an agreement that will see the two agencies improve interoperability between their mission control facilities on ground, enhancing the abilities of each organisation in space and providing a model for Australia. The European Network of Operations Centres will enable opportunities for joint action, knowledge sharing and technical interchange, and allow engineers and other professionals to benefit from crossed exchanges and mobility.
This joint approach is expected to generate savings for European taxpayers through avoidance of duplication, and through optimisation of existing capabilities and capacity on a wider European scale.
The role of any mission control centre is to operate spacecraft in orbit, sending commands and downloading status information on the health and functioning of the satellite as well as the vital science data gathered by the craft’s instruments.
Training teams and building, operating and improving the mission control systems and ground stations needed to fly any mission is a complex process. Under the Network of Operations Centres initiative, Europe’s institutional control centres are joining forces, with each benefiting from the expertise and capabilities available at the other while reducing risk and increasing synergies for all missions.
Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations, said, “By sharing our knowledge, ground infrastructure and technologies, we can drive innovation across all of our agencies for the benefit of Europe.
“Joining forces means we can achieve together more than we could on our own, as we increase coordination, share operational tools and infrastructure and maximise the return on investment in ground systems and operations for Europe,” Densing further explained.
ESA’s main mission control centre is located in Darmstadt, Germany, while CNES’ is in Toulouse, France. The two agencies have set a priority on cooperation across the full spectrum of ground systems engineering, from mission control and flight dynamics to laser-based optical communication and enhanced cooperation in the field of international technical standards. By sharing some of the on-the-ground infrastructure, such as spacecraft tracking stations and antennas, agencies in the network of operations centres will enjoy increased robustness and redundancy in their ability to communicate with their spacecraft, reducing risk for costly missions.
The two agencies will also benefit from using engineering knowledge and data systems that can work together, improving interoperability. The ESA-CNES agreement follows a similar agreement made between ESA and DLR, whose control centre is in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich, in December last year.
Frédéric Pradeilles, Director of Digital, Ground Segments and Operations, said, “This Memorandum of Cooperation marks a cornerstone for our agencies, as we develop our complementarity and face the challenges that lie ahead, together.”
As much of the mission control hardware and software used by the three agencies are made in Europe, the network of operations centres effort will also boost opportunities and competitiveness in the world market for European high-tech industry. The agreement was signed on 24 October at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC, US. (Source: Space Connect)
29 Oct 19. NZ Space Agency works towards space strategy. New Zealand has its own space agency but still has work to do on an over-arching strategy to spell out its priorities. Space Agency head Peter Crabtree said his organisation was moving quickly to develop a comprehensive strategy that reflects its priorities, including sustainability, agility and collaboration with others. Much of New Zealand’s success in space stems from firm Rocket Lab, which regularly launches from its site on the Mahia Peninsula on the country’s North Island.
Although now a US company, Rocket Lab was founded in NZ by New Zealander Peter Beck.
“Since we were going to follow on this journey with Rocket Lab and it was going to be heading towards launching once or twice a week, then as the launch state we would be taking on a lot of responsibility,” Crabtree said at the NZ embassy in Washington, where the 2019 International Astronautical Congress was held last week.
“We needed to act as a responsible citizen of the world. We set ourselves the challenge of leading in that area.”
As well as Rocket Lab’s launch facility, New Zealand is also the chosen location for the new LeoLabs space surveillance radar.
LeoLabs chief executive Dan Ceperley said locating the Kiwi Space Radar in New Zealand was a strategic decision for LeoLabs.
“We are excited to become a full-fledged participant in this emerging space sector. Our investment model is aligned with New Zealand’s vision of sustainable development and responsible stewardship of space,” he said.
Crabtree said the New Zealand Space Agency was holding discussions with other space agencies to lay the foundation for science and technology programs to begin participating in global space missions.
He said through those conversations, space agency leaders were beginning to think about national space missions and what New Zealand could do itself.
“We will embrace the power of small and push the frontier of what you can do with small things in space,” Crabtree said.
The New Zealand Space Agency was launched in April 2016 as a part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, with a brief to promote the space sector and reap its economic benefits.
That placed NZ more than two years ahead of Australia.
However, Australia has a space strategy that expounds a bold vision for expansion of the space sector. (Source: Space Connect)
28 Oct 19. Space Development Agency Gets First Permanent Director. Defense Department officials today announced the selection of Derek Tournear as the first permanent director of the Space Development Agency. Established in March, the SDA is responsible for unifying and integrating DOD’s space development efforts, monitoring the department’s threat-driven future space architecture and accelerating the fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantages in space.
To achieve this mission, SDA is defining the National Defense Space Architecture — an integrated, coherent architecture capable of addressing the eight critical, yet unmet, priorities of the DOD Space Vision.
To address these eight priorities, the future National Defense Space Architecture will include a proliferated satellite constellation consisting of six space layers and one ground layer. SDA will orchestrate and unify those efforts across the department, and fill capability gaps while ensuring an integrated architecture.
“Our strategy is to unify efforts across the military services and government agencies to rapidly develop capabilities that are responsive to the threat, are cost-effective, and increase our technological advantage,” said Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. ”Derek will lead our effort to achieve those goals.”
Tournear most recently served as the assistant director for space at DOD’s research and engineering office. He previously served as the senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, and as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He also has professional experience at Los Alamos National Laboratory and spent time working in research and development for the industry. Tournear has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and a bachelor’s from Purdue University. (Source: US DoD)
28 Oct 19. USAF and Northrop develop space-based solar power beaming capability. The US Air Force (USAF) is developing space-based solar power beaming capability to meet the energy needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) missions. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is using high-efficiency solar cells to develop the technology. The process involves collecting the sun’s energy, converting it to radiofrequency and then beaming it to Earth.
AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate director USAF colonel Eric Felt said: “Energy is a strategic enabler and potential vulnerability for our nation and our Department of Defense. To ensure DoD mission success we must have the energy we need at the right place at the right time.”
The capability could enable uninterrupted power to expeditionary forces in unimproved areas, including forward operating bases.
Felt added: “The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project is a very interesting concept that will enable us to capture solar energy in space and precisely beam it to where it is needed. SSPIDR is part of AFRL’s ‘big idea pipeline’ to ensure we continue to develop game-changing technologies for our airforce, DoD, nation, and world.”
Researchers at AFRL will develop and demonstrate technologies that can be incorporated into a conceptual space-based power transmission system.
The AFRL will be assisted in the project by Northrop Grumman, which has been contracted to deliver the critical hardware elements to support space-based experiments for the project. The contract awarded to the company is worth more than $100m. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
28 Oct 19. ASA head identifies signs of positive growth for Aussie space sector. The government and the year-old Australian Space Agency have very ambitious objectives. The aim is to greatly expand Australia’s space sector, tripling its contribution to national GDP to $12bn and creating up to another 20,000 jobs, all by 2030. Space Agency head Dr Megan Clark promised to report progress every two years. In the executive summary to the Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-2028, Clark said the agency also aims to stimulate at least a $1bn pipeline of inbound capital investment in Australia’s civil space industry sector between 2019 and 2028. Plus, it aims to achieve year-on-year growth of the Australian space sector exceeding 8.5 per cent and create a regulatory framework that ensures effective, efficient and safe space activities.
The agency also wants to get the space message out to at least 10 million Australians a year. This year, the Space Agency marked its first birthday. So, how are the plans proceeding? Clark appeared before a Senate inquiry this week, acknowledging they had set ambitious goals.
She said there had already been some very positive signs.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the space industry had grown by some 136 per cent in the past few years and international companies based in Australia had grown by 55 per cent.
“We are projecting greater than global GDP growth and greater than Australian GDP growth for the sector,” she told the committee.
“That is not unreasonable when we set it and certainly with what we are already seeing.” (Source: Space Connect)
28 Oct 19. Korean firm Perigee plans first South Australian rocket launch. Korean space company Perigee Aerospace plans to launch its first rocket from the new Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in South Australia next July. The company, backed by tech giant Samsung, will send its Blue Whale 1 on its maiden flight carrying a dummy payload to prove their two-stage rocket works. The next launch planned for early 2021 will place a 50-kilogram payload into orbit, starting a steady business with the company planning to launch up to 40 times a year, with launches priced at just US$2m. This would be a first for Korea and a number of firsts for Australia. Perigee is Whalers Way operator Southern Launch’s first commercial customer.
Both Southern Launch in South Australia and Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) in the Northern Territory plan their first launches next year. For ELA, that will be a series of NASA sounding rockets.
Both companies are in the process of developing their launch facilities.
Up to now, Perigee has revealed little of its plans.
Perigee Aerospace chief executive Yoon Shin said Blue Whale 1 would be capable of carrying 50 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.
“Up to now, we didn’t feel any need to announce our development plans or launch vehicle operations plans. But I think it’s a great time because we have now almost completed the development of the vehicle,” he told spacenews.com at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington this week.
Shin said Perigee’s team came together in 2012 but the company was only founded last year.
As well as unspecified financial backing from Samsung Venture Investments and other backers, Perigee has other helpful friends.
It’s been able to make use of a substantial amount of engine development work by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute also provided technical assistance.
Perigee now faces the regulatory hurdles to ship its rockets to Australia.
“The problem is exporting the launch vehicle from South Korea to Australian soil. That’s something no one has done before, so it’s taking some time,” Shin said.
Then there’s Australia’s launch regulations, a new process for the Australian Space Agency. Perigee sees South Australia as a favourable launch location because of minimal aviation and shipping traffic. Launching south, rockets don’t overfly any other nation. Australia is also distant from South Korea’s bellicose northern neighbour.
Shin said a rate of 40 launches a year was possible because Blue Whale 1 will be the smallest rocket in the world.
It’s 8.5 metres tall and weighs 1,790 kilograms, half the size and a third the power of Rocket Lab’s Electron, which launches from New Zealand. It’s still capable of placing a 150-kilogram satellite into low-Earth orbit.
“The size really matters in terms of increasing the production rate, so I think that’s the biggest size that we can handle in terms of the mass production facility that we are making,” he said.
Perigee Aerospace already has eight launches in its order book, including an Australian university and a remote sensing package for a South Korean customer. Once Blue Whale 1 is established, Perigee plans a larger rocket capable of placing payloads of up to 300 kilograms. (Source: Space Connect)
26 Oct 19. How the US Army will use satellites to track land threats in real time. The Army has needs. One of those needs is the ability to track and target land threats that are beyond the war fighters’ line of sight. Though much of the focus on space sensing capabilities is directed at missile defense or space situational awareness, the ability to see time-sensitive ground threats like tanks beyond the line of sight of ground forces is essential for the war fighter. To help build this capability, the Army is teaming with the Space Development Agency on a space-based sensor layer dedicated to deep targeting that can feed information to the war fighter on the ground in real time.
The SDA is actually developing a trio of sensing capabilities in space: a layer dedicated to tracking hypersonic weapons and ballistic missiles; a layer dedicated to space situational awareness and investigating objects in cislunar orbit; and a layer dedicated to detecting and maintaining custody of time-sensitive ground threats.
While it’s certainly not as sexy as hypersonics defense, it’s that final sensing capability that the Army is most interested in.
“That’s where the Army is most affected and that’s where we’re working very closely with the Army to make sure that we’re tied together. So this is the ability to detect and track and maintain custody of anything, say, larger than a truck and to be able to actually give a targeting fire control solution to a weapon in the field in real time anywhere on the globe,” said SDA acting-Director Derek Tournear at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference Oct. 16. “That’s the goal. That’s the capability.”
The Army has experimented with providing real-time satellite imagery to the war fighter in recent years with its pathfinder Kestrel Eye program. The small satellite experiment showed how the Army could task a sensor in LEO orbit to take images of the battlefield and then downlink them to the war fighter in real time.
But the Army wants to do more than that. While Kestrel Eye simply produced images and delivered them to the war fighter, the Army needs to be able to detect and track ground level threats automatically. Instead of just delivering images to war fighters, the goal is to deliver targeting solutions to the war fighter based on those satellite images.
To achieve this, the SDA told C4ISRNET in a follow-up email that their “plan is to perform image formation and simple automatic target recognition onboard the custody satellites.”
That data will then be moved to the SDA’s transport layer, which Tournear called the backbone of their architecture. The transport layer will be a satellite capability that facilitates the movement of data between satellites and then between satellites and the ground. Once target recognition is completed in the custody layer, data will be moved to the transport layer, where it will be fused and transformed into targeting solutions.
The SDA did note that based on mission-partner requirements some detailed processing and data fusion will be conducted on the ground, with the resultant targeting solutions then being transmitted back up to the transport layer.
Whether produced in the transport layer or on the ground, once those targeting solutions are ready and in the transport layer they will be downlinked and distributed to the war fighter through a tactical data link like Link-16 or through a ground station like Titan, explained Tournear.
All of this will take place at lightning fast speeds, as the goal is to get targeting solutions for beyond line-of-sight ground threats to the war fighters on the battlefield in real time. In developing this capability, Tournear said that other organizations would be responsible for developing the sensors that will be used, the SDA will develop the transport layer that transforms the sensor data into targeting solutions and delivers it to the war fighter.
“We’re working with our partners to build out those sensing satellites and be able to plug in seamlessly to our transport layer to do that real-time [communication],” said Tournear.
Tournear told reporters in September that a solicitation a transportation layer demo would be issued “imminently.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
27 Oct 19. Secretive military spaceplane lands in Florida after record-long orbital flight. The Pentagon’s secretive X-37B spaceplane landed in Florida on Sunday after a record-long orbital flight lasting more than two years, the U.S. Air Force said, capping the latest test mission for an array of military technologies.
The unpiloted X-37B, built by Boeing Co., touched down on an air strip at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:51 a.m. ET after spending 780 days orbiting Earth as the Air Force’s fifth flight mission under the Orbital Test Vehicle program, the Air Force said.
The spaceplane, roughly the size of a small bus and sharing many design features with NASA’s Space Shuttle, was sent into orbit in 2017 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, embarking on a mission managed by the Washington-based Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office to conduct various classified technology experiments in a long-duration space environment.
“The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spaceplane,” Barbara Barrett, the newly appointed Air Force secretary, said in a statement. “Each successive mission advances our nation’s space capabilities.”
The previous X-37B mission lasted 718 days and landed in 2017. Sunday morning’s landing tallies 2,865 total days for the program overall, the Air Force said.
The Pentagon, increasingly reliant on space technologies, recently created the U.S. Space Command and is asking Congress to approve funding for a proposed Space Force, which would serve as a new branch of the military.
“The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force,” General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said. (Source: Reuters)
24 Oct 19. L3Harris Receives USAF Contract for the PTS SHIELD Program. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has selected L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) to deliver the space hub end cryptographic unit (ECU) for the Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) SHIELD program.
The USAF PTS program will implement Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) over a fully-processed satellite payload, enabling adaptive, anti-jam communications channels, which will provide the greatest level of protection available for tactical U.S. and coalition/international partner warfighting efforts. As the SHIELD contractor, L3Harris will develop an NSA-certified, space-flight qualified, production-ready ECU for future PTS payloads.
The L3Harris ECUs will support 13 space-based communications payload hubs that will serve up to 1,800 simultaneous tactical user terminals. L3Harris’ Modular Open System Architecture (MOSA) approach employs standards-based interfaces that minimize the information security boundary and simplify integration for the multiple payload providers. The ECU incorporates L3Harris’ HMV™ Space Cryptographic processor that supports full on-orbit reprogrammability in a low-power, highly extensible design. The MOSA form factor and innovative technical approach also results in a low SWaP solution for substantial cost savings due to reduced payload weight and hardware costs.
L3Harris was selected by the USAF based on its low-risk innovative solution and extensive experience developing Type 1 hardware for space applications as proven on the AEHF, MUOS and SBIRS programs. The SHIELD solution also benefits from extensive reuse of PTW technology from the PTS Field Demonstration Terminal Program to minimize development risk and support the USAF’s critical deployment schedule.
Don Hairston, President, C5 Systems, L3Harris, said the PTS SHIELD program continues the company’s legacy of delivering cryptography solutions for the nation’s most important missions. It reinforces L3Harris’ position as the leader in providing space-grade MILSATCOM cryptographic solutions and in the implementation of the Protected Tactical Waveform.
24 Oct 19. Effort Targets Satellite Protection Enhancement. Four Star Generals Expect a Space War. Sandia National Laboratories researchers have embarked upon a seven-year campaign focusing upon developing the science, technology, and architecture to aid autonomous satellite protection initiatives.
STARCS (Science and Technology Advancing Resilience for Contested Space) will fund dozens of Laboratory Directed Research and Development projects targeting three critical areas: threat-defended hardware, cognitive analytics, and sensor protection that shields sensors from harm.
“Sandia has a long and successful history in space systems engineering,” Jeff Mercier, one of the campaign’s senior managers, said. “We helped develop Vela in the 1960s and have continued to regularly deliver satellite payloads since then. We need to ensure our payloads survive against emerging threats in space,” he said.
Sandia officials said researchers are seeking to partner with research-based universities involved in threat-defended hardware, cognitive analytics and /or sensor protection.
“Space is important to our everyday lives, and space is important to our national security,” Drew Woodbury, the manager for STARCS, said. “Historically, space has been benign, but now four-star generals expect a space war within my lifetime. When I say space war, I mean satellites attacking satellites.”
Satellite threats include directed or kinetic energy, electronic warfare, robotic mechanisms, chemical sprayers, high-powered microwaves, and radiofrequency jammers. (Source: Satnews)
23 Oct 19. Blue Origin Signs Teaming Agreements for NASA’s Artemis Program. Blue Origin has announced a national team to offer a Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis program to return Americans to the lunar surface by 2024. Blue Origin has signed teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings.
According to the company, Blue Origin’s combined experience is uniquely positioned to meet NASA’s needs for the Artemis program. Each partner will bring their industry leading solutions to the following roles:
- Blue Origin, as prime contractor, leads program management, systems engineering, safety and mission assurance, and mission engineering while providing the Descent Element that is based on the multi-year development of the Blue Moon lunar lander and its BE-7 engine.
- Lockheed Martin develops the reusable Ascent Element vehicle and leads crewed flight operations and training.
- Northrop Grumman provides the Transfer Element vehicle that brings the landing system down towards the Moon.
- Draper leads descent guidance and provides flight avionics.
Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin, said that national challenges call for a national response and the company is inspired to lead this deeply committed team that will land NASA astronauts on the Moon. Combining the partners’ heritage with the firm’s advance work on the Blue Moon lunar lander and its BE-7 engine, the Blue Origin team is looking forward to working with NASA in support of the Artemis program.”
Rick Ambrose, EVP, Lockheed Martin Space, added that Lockheed Martin values Blue Origin’s thoughtful approach to developing human-rated flight systems and is thrilled to be part of a national team with this mix of innovation and experience. The company looks forward to safely and sustainably returning our nation to the surface of the Moon by 2024.
Blake Larson, Corporate VP and President of Innovation Systems at Northrop Grumman, noted that the company’s commitment to put Americans back on the moon dates back more than 50 years with the delivery of the first lunar lander for the historic Apollo Program. In addition to the firm’s ongoing work on the Space Launch System boosters, astronaut escape system, and the Gateway habitat, Northrop Grumman is proud to be a part of the Blue Origin national team to support NASA’s Artemis program and the ambitious goal to return to the moon by 2024.
Kaigham J. Gabriel, President and CEO, Draper, noted that when the nation needs precision guidance, it calls on Draper — the company guided Apollo to the moon and back nearly 50 years ago and Draper is ready to do it again with the Blue Origin team for Artemis. (Source: Satnews)
23 Oct 19. Multi-Orbit Interoperability for Inflight Connectivity Accomplished by SES and Thales. SES and Thales have taken inflight connectivity to a new level, successfully demonstrating uninterrupted access to high-throughput broadband applications for the first time over a platform supporting multi-orbit interoperability, switching seamlessly between SES’s geostationary (GEO) and O3b medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite beams.
SES and Thales have revealed that the demo flight from Melbourne, Florida to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua saw dozens of switches successfully completed between GEO and MEO beams, and between multiple MEO satellites within a beam, using the Hughes JUPITER™44 Aeronautical system high performance airborne modem system
Engineers aboard the test flight were able to simultaneously use a broad range of bandwidth-hungry services demonstrating rates in excess of 265 Mbps via the Thales FlytLIVE connectivity network featuring the Hughes JUPITER System and a Hughes ModMan integrated with the ThinKom Ka2517 phased-array airborne antenna.
Leveraging the same high-powered, low-latency O3b MEO capacity connectivity at sea, the engineers were able to demonstrate delivery of 4K video streaming, super-fast social media networking, e-commerce transactions, audio conferencing, interactive gaming and web browsing on-board the Gulfstream G-III aircraft.
SES’s satellite networks offer customers redundancy, leveraging two diverse systems to ensure uninterrupted service: GEO for network resiliency and proven fiber-like high-performance from O3b MEO. The O3b constellation of 20 MEO satellites is manufactured by Thales Alenia Space. SES expects upcoming GEO/MEO trials to deliver even higher connectivity speeds, a precursor of things to come for both commercial and business aviation as SES nears the scheduled 2021 launch of its O3b mPOWER system.
O3b mPOWER is described by the company as, SES’s fully funded, next-gen, ultra-high-capacity, low-latency, and highly flexible MEO satellite-based data communications system. A scalable terabit-level constellation with 35,000 fully-shapeable and steerable beams, O3b mPOWER is backwards-compatible with the first-generation O3b MEO system and can deliver a whole new level of customization that allows bandwidth to be tailored to specific passenger and operational connectivity requirements over certain travel routes and regions.
SES’s interoperable GEO/MEO platform has been validated in the cruise industry, providing the guest at sea with up to 1 Gpbs per ship to major cruise lines around the world with its managed MEO- and GEO-based connectivity service. The test flight provides SES to redefine the connected air passenger experience by enabling different operational models, including blanketing of large dense traffic routes, bolstering of capacity around major airports, or even following individual aircraft from take-off to landing – all at record speeds and with low latency.
Steve Collar, CEO of SES, said the world’s first low-latency, high performance broadband aero experience is closer than ever before with this tremendously successful demonstration of MEO and GEO interoperability. Driving scale and performance into our customers’ networks is fundamental in delivering the best passenger experience in the skies. The company’s cruise customers have long experienced the benefits of the combined power that low latency MEO- and GEO-based connectivity brings to network performance and resilience. This innovation is now on its way for connected commercial and business air travel. SES is gearing up for the launch of O3b mPOWER and now, with a demonstrated ability to roam seamlessly across the firm’s GEO and MEO networks, customers will enjoy unprecedented speed and performance from our O3b constellation, while also benefiting from the scale and reach of the SES GEO fleet.
Philippe Carette, CEO, Thales InFlyt Experience added that the cutting edge products the company is bringing to the market with both internal developments, as well as leaders in the industry, is exciting for the future of the FlytLIVE connectivity solution. This proof-of-concept demonstration introduces an operational Hybrid network that will provide satellite network redundancy with continuous and seamless high-speed internet in areas otherwise hindered by congestion. The system offers a consistent passenger experience gate-to-gate; Ka-band coverage on routes where GEO satellites do not currently exist; and is fully compatible with the new SES-17 satellite built by Thales Alenia Space that is scheduled to enter commercial service in early 2021. (Source: Satnews)
22 Oct 19. USAF Declares the Enhanced Polar System Operational and is Handed Over to the 4th Space Operations Squadron. The Enhanced Polar System (EPS) was declared operational and handed over to operators at the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, following months of on-orbit check out and the successful completion of a Multi-service Operational Test and Evaluation (MOT&E). EPS is a polar adjunct to the Advanced Extreme High Frequency (AEHF) system providing Military Satellite Communications coverage at latitudes of 65 degrees north and above.
During the MOT&E, a number of criteria and metrics were evaluated including overall system performance. Once the evaluation was completed, the U.S. Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Command (AFOTEC) with support from the U.S. Navy and the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) looked at whether there were any deficiencies in system performance and any liens against system performance that the program office needed to correct. For EPS, both the AFOTEC and the DOT&E reports concluded that EPS was operationally effective and suitable with no identified deficiencies or liens, rare for a system of this type.
On September 19, 4th SOPS officially took command of EPS. A ceremony was held on September 25 with Lt. Col. Kenny Smith, EPS materiel leader and Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, 4th SOPS commander presiding. To commemorate the event a ceremonial “Arctic” key was passed from SMC to 4th SOPS to mark transfer of the satellite’s operational control.
EPS provides coverage north of AEHF’s coverage area. It also makes use of an AEHF Extended Data Rate Wave Form and provides 24/7 protected communications for warfighters operating in the polar region. Compared to legacy systems, EPS provides higher capacity, higher throughput data rates, and enhanced interconnectivity between the EPS satellites and mid-latitude users through the EPS Gateway at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska. Due to EPS’s Highly Elliptical Orbit, one payload is providing coverage over the polar region while the other is swinging around the earth and out of view of the ground station. The recent milestone marks the availability of both EPS payloads for the warfighter to use. (Source: Satnews)
22 Oct 19. Why Russia’s New Anti-Satellite Plane Is Very Bad Idea. Key point: Satellites are needed to help target nuclear weapons and so attacking them might look like part of a surprise nuclear strike.
Russia says it is developing a new aircraft that can disable the electronics on U.S. satellites.
Could this new development trigger a nuclear war?
The electronic warfare aircraft “will be capable of turning off the electronics installed on military satellites,” according to Russia’s Sputnik News. The conceptual work has been completed and design and development will begin soon.
“The work is currently underway to develop an aircraft equipped with jamming systems that will replace Il-22PP Porubshchik [electronic warfare aircraft], which are currently being delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces,” an unnamed Russian defense industry source told Sputnik News. “This machine will receive a fundamentally new on-board equipment, which will allow to conduct electronic suppression of any targets—ground, air, sea—and disable enemy satellites that provide navigation and radio communication on the ground.”
Russia currently operates three electronic warfare aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-22, according to Sputnik News. The Il-22PP versions are variants of the Il-22 (NATO code name Coot B) airborne command post, which is itself derived from the Il-18 airliner, which first flew in the 1950s.
The Il-22PP was first flown publicly in 2016. The aircraft, described as an “escort jammer” to support other aircraft, was intended to disrupt radars, surface-to-air and cruise-missile guidance systems, and tactical data networks such as Link 16.
“The problem of Porubshchik 1 is in the aircraft platform itself, as Russia has about 10 Il-22 planes and this machine cannot be reproduced,” the defense industry source told Sputnik News.
“The new aircraft will be named Porubshchik 2, but most likely, this machine will join the Aerospace Forces under a different name,” the source added. “There definitely will be a new air-frame. There is a possibility of developing such an aircraft on the basis of Tu-214 or Il-76 plane.”
None of this is particularly noteworthy. Electronic-warfare aircraft, such as the EA-18G, have become a fixture of aerial warfare since World War II. Jamming radars, missile-guidance systems and communications networks has become par for the course. For that matter, the Pentagon worries about Russian and Chinese capabilities to jam or spoof GPS links that are key to accurate navigation and targeting.
But disabling the electronics on satellites? This would seem to be a different challenge, and how Russia plans to tackle it is unclear. For example, what does it mean to “turn off” a military satellite? Convince the satellite to shut down its systems, perhaps by spoofing a command signal from ground control? Or does it mean hitting the satellite with some kind of powerful beam that fries its electronics or disrupt its systems? And how powerful a system could be mounted on what is essentially a medium-sized airliner?
However, the most interesting question isn’t about aircraft or satellites. It’s about who is willing to risk nuclear war. The Trump administration’s draft Nuclear Posture Review, released in January, suggests that America could respond with nuclear weapons to a kinetic or cyberattack on U.S. satellites. “The President will have an expanding range of limited and graduated options to credibly deter Russian nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attacks, which could now include attacks against U.S. NC3 [nuclear command, control and communications], in space and cyber space,” states the NPR.
If Russia can in fact disable the electronics on American satellites, and the NPR does reflect U.S. policy, then turning off a satellite could be construed as an act of war sufficient to justify a nuclear response. Whether a U.S. president would in fact risk thermonuclear war over a disabled satellite is another matter. Nonetheless, Russia’s new toy could have dangerous implications. (Source: Satnews/https://nationalinterest.org)
21 Oct 19. The AFRL’s S5 Smallsat is the Focus of an On-Orbit Inspection Mission by the Organization’s Mycroft Satellite. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has started the first-ever inspection mission to support real-time, on-orbit, spacecraft anomaly resolution operations. This effort will be a rendezvous between the experimental Mycroft satellite and a second experimental AFRL satellite called the Small Satellite Space Surveillance System, or S5. The S5, launched on February 22, 2019, is a smallsat designed to test affordable smallsat Space Situational Awareness (SSA) constellation technologies.
AFRL has experienced communication challenges with the S5 satellite and has had no communication with S5 since March 2019. Operators confirm that the spacecraft is alive and maintaining solar power by tracking the sun, but without communications, S5 cannot perform its experiments.
Mycroft is an AFRL-developed smallsat that was launched with the EAGLE (ESPA Augmented Geostationary Laboratory Experiment) satellite on April 14, 2018. Mycroft separated from EAGLE and drifted about 35 kilometers away before transiting carefully back to within a few kilometers of EAGLE. It has performed SSA and satellite inspection experiments over the past 18 months.
The Mycroft experiment is aimed at improving autonomous rendezvous and proximity operations, or RPO, SSA, satellite inspection and characterization, and autonomous navigation technologies.
Mycroft satellite operators will initiate a series of maneuvers to rendezvous with S5 near 6 degrees East longitude at GEO to support anomaly resolution efforts. EAGLE will also maneuver into the vicinity of the RPO to observe the inspection from a safe distance.
Mycroft will inspect the S5 satellite and provide operators with verification of the fully-deployed solar array and of the sun pointing orientation. Mycroft will then examine the exterior of the S5 spacecraft to search for damaged components such as the solar array and antennas.
The Mycroft-S5 RPO will occur in stages over a period of several weeks, demonstrating the utility of inspection and characterization capabilities in a real-world satellite recovery. AFRL is planning to transition operations to Air Force Space Command later this year. (Source: Satnews)
21 Oct 19. Laser Comms from Mynaric Heading Toward Satellite Pathfinder Validation Mission. Mynaric (Frankfurt Stock Exchange: M0Y, ISIN: DE000A0JCY11) will deliver multiple laser communication flight terminals to an undisclosed customer in an initial deal valued at 1.7m euros.
The company’s space products are scheduled to be launched on a product validation mission which will serve as a pathfinder to integrate and qualify Mynaric’s products with the customer’s satellites.
This contract announcement validates that Mynaric’s products for inter-satellite links work well.
Multiple units of Mynaric’s inter-satellite product are to be delivered as part of the deal. The terminal, which is set to become the market’s first available laser inter-satellite link terminal designed for satellite constellations, provides both ultra-high data rates and link distances while meeting rigorous size, weight and power consumption specifications at very competitive price-targets.
Bulent Altan, Member of the Mynaric Executive Board, said this contract win will see the first launch of the company’s constellation terminal into space. As the firm completes the final stages of the terminal’s readiness and prepare for its entry into the market, Mynaric has increased the number of terminals in production to be able to support missions from additional customers, such as the one the company has announced, at short notice.
Markus Knapek, Co-founder of Mynaric, added that the company is delighted to have now secured this first launch opportunity and it’s great to see the firm’s vision of becoming the prime supplier of laser communication technology taking yet another huge leap forward. (Source: Satnews)
21 Oct 19. Vietnam Contracts with Japan for a Satellite. The Vietnamese government on Friday concluded a contract with major Japanese trader Sumitomo Corp. for a Japanese-made satellite to monitor the weather and climate for disaster prevention. The deal, involving about 20bn yen in project costs, will be aided by official development assistance from the Japanese government in the form of low-interest yen loans. Tokyo is looking to support disaster-prevention measures in the Southeast Asian country. Vietnam and other emerging economies with inadequate infrastructure are vulnerable to heavy rains and other natural disasters that are on the increase due to global warming. This will mark the first export of a Japanese-made Earth Observation (EO) satellite. Previously, Japan has exported communication satellites. Under the deal, Sumitomo will supply facilities to launch the satellite, which uses radar technology, and receive data from the satellite, to be produced by NEC Corp. The satellite is planned to be launched from a site in Japan in 2023. The government-affiliated Japan International Cooperation Agency will fully start preparations for the supply of the ODA loans. Including personnel training and other programs, the entire initiative is expected to be valued in the scale of 50bn yen. (Source: Satnews)
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