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SATELLITE SYSTEMS, SATCOM AND SPACE SYSTEMS UPDATE

Sponsored By Viasat

www.viasat.com/gov-uk

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06 Nov 19. Viasat’s Multi-Mission Terminal Begins UK Skynet Satellite Communications Assurance and Certification Process.  Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today its Multi-Mission Terminal (MMT),  the AN/TSC-241, has started the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Skynet satellite communications (SATCOM) architecture assurance and certification process, which will authorize the terminal’s operation on the Skynet X-band system as well as other government and commercial networks. Viasat expects to complete the certification process during December 2019.

Viasat’s MMT, being a tri-band, multi-network software-defined solution, delivers high-quality IP-based voice, video and data networking across multiple networks in both highly contested and benign environments around the world. Using a portable terminal design, the MMT is an ideal networking solution for forward operating bases, as it enables users to securely access networks and establish command post communications quickly and easily. During the 2018 multinational Saber Strike exercise, which trained U.S., NATO and coalition forces on security and threat preparedness, field personnel were able to use the MMT’s integrated smartphone app to easily establish communications with minimal training. Other field-proven performance advantages of the MMT included:

  • Enhanced connectivity with a small footprint: Viasat’s MMT provided forces with enhanced satellite connectivity with a very small logistical footprint. This enabled robust data to be sent to Beyond Line of Sight units, significantly enhancing situational awareness across the battlespace.
  • Resilient, high-quality performance on multiple networks: The MMT, which incorporates Viasat’s CBM-400 software-defined modem capable of TDMA/FDMA, over X-, mil-Ka-, Ku- and commercial Ka-band networks, produced robust throughput on high-capacity Ka-band networks. In addition, Viasat’s MMT, through a simple waveform switch to Viasat’s ArcLight waveform, also demonstrated proven satellite connectivity in the Ku-band with enhanced upload and download performance when compared to other legacy systems.
  • Added flexibility: One of Viasat’s MMTs operated entirely on standard military-use batteries during the Saber Strike exercise, demonstrating its logistical flexibility in an austere environment.
  • Ease of use: Viasat’s MMT was set up three separate times over the course of the 22-hour maneuver, demonstrating its portability and ease of use for U.S. and international coalition forces. When compared to other systems, the Saber Strike report noted improved ease of set-up/tear-down of the MMT, which can be done in 15 minutes or less.

“By certifying Viasat’s MMT on the Skynet architecture, the UK MoD will be able to maintain the operational and information advantage needed in today’s escalating threat environment,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “The MMT will provide the UK MoD with easy access to secure, resilient, high-speed, multi-orbit, multi-frequency band and multi-network SATCOM architectures, which will deliver the advanced connectivity needed to integrate into the battle-network of the future.”

The MMT is designed to switch between both government and private sector assured, resilient, integrated networks (ARIN). In addition, the MMT’s CBM-400 software-defined modem will allow customers to switch between multiple waveforms as well as multiple networks and upgrade to Viasat’s next-generation Ka-band network. The CBM-400 is also the first software-defined, multi-waveform, certified modem available to U.S. and coalition military organizations.

“This software-defined, tri-band, multi-network terminal further exemplifies Viasat’s ability to rapidly deliver cutting-edge technologies suited for MoD and coalition forces’ unique mission requirements,” said Steve Beeching, managing director, Government Systems, Viasat UK. “The MMT builds on our ability to deliver ARIN and the information connectivity needed to power the battle-network of the future. We want the ability for our customer to better connect their forces across today’s rapidly evolving battlespace with the aim to help weaponize information.”

05 Nov 19. Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) has delivered the Wide Area Augmentation System Geosynchronous Earth Orbiting 6 satellite navigation payload to the Federal Aviation Administration to broadcast the WAAS message, which corrects errors in GPS satellite signals, provides expanded coverage, improves accuracy, and increases reliability. The WAAS GEO 6 payload is now operational and fully integrated into the WAAS network, working with two other WAAS satellite payloads already in orbit.

Developed and installed by Raytheon for the FAA, WAAS is a North American satellite-based augmentation system that increases GPS satellite signal accuracy for precision approach at 200 feet altitude to meet strict air navigation performance and safety requirements for all classes of aircraft in all phases of flight.

“Never has a consistent and precise GPS signal been more critical to ensuring safety of flight,” said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “As the airspace increases in complexity, there is absolutely no room for error.”

WAAS contains space and ground equipment that works together to identify GPS satellite corrections. The SES-15 satellite hosting Raytheon’s WAAS GEO 6 payload was launched in 2017 and completed extensive system integration in July 2019. GEO 6 replaces an older WAAS geostationary satellite that had reached its end-of-service life.

Operational since 2003, the WAAS network consists of three geostationary satellites and 49 terrestrial-based stations dispersed across the continental U.S., as well as Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

08 Nov 19. Airbus space CEO says European nations must stand together or fall behind China and US.  European nations need to stand together if they don’t want to fall behind major powers US and China, Dirk Hoke, the head of Airbus Defence and Space, has said.

Dirk Hoke, chief executive officer of Airbus Defence and Space, said each European nation was too small to compete with super nations the US and China in space.

“We believe if we don’t want to fall back behind the US and China on the way forward, we need to get our act together in Europe and define a common approach, not a national approach,” he said.

“We believe we have all the ingredients. We have the engineers, we have the innovation in Europe to be on eye to eye level with these big nations, also on space exploration and the way forward.”

Airbus is a very significant player in the space sector, manufacturing a range of satellites and launch systems. Airbus signed a statement of strategic intent with the Australian Space Agency in September last year.

In a briefing to journalists in Manching in southern Germany, Hoke said the space market was a tough environment.

Sales of new telecommunications satellites were slow with operators uncertain of the impact of large constellations of small satellites providing internet connections.

Hoke said satellite customers wanted flexible payloads.

“They want software programmable satellites. They want to have rather shorter times to put in service and shorter life cycle times than in the past where we constructed satellites over three to four years for deployment over 15 years,” he said.

“We see a drastic change in the market in the behaviour of our customers.”

Hoke said that in this new era of space exploration, there were still great opportunities.

“But also believe it will still take time to accelerate in order to see strong growth rates for civil and defence companies,” he said.

“We see a change in the approach space, very much driven by the US approach to set boots on the moon in 2024.”

He said Europe would be part of the journey to the moon through its contribution of key equipment for the proposed mission.

“We will be part of that story,” he said.

“We believe this needs to be extended and we need to also define further what ambition will take us on the way forward to the moon and Mars and beyond.” (Source: Space Connect)

07 Nov 19. GVF and a group consisting of premier operators of communication satellite networks – AsiaSat, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Intelsat and SES — have collaborated to produce updated guidance to antenna manufacturers regarding the satellite operators’ expectations for new antenna products and how to demonstrate compliance with the Satellite Operator Minimum Performance Specifications (SOMAP).

‌Working Groups

Regulatory Working Group (RWG)

Open only to GVF members, the RWG has for 20 years focused on dialogue with government policy and regulatory administrations, and with inter-governmental organizations, to improve the regulatory and market access conditions that facilitate a cost-effective operating environment for affordable satellite-based services. The Group works to develop consensus-based satellite regulatory guidance for governments, liaising directly with national administrations to facilitate the implementation of effective licensing, landing rights, fees, and other elements of regulatory conditions applied to the industry and its customers. The RWG brings together a non-partisan group of legal and regulatory experts from across the globe with members able to share the collective knowledge and expertise of GVF’s global network of satellite industry contacts to keep abreast of emerging regulatory trends and developments in satellite policy.

Increasing demand for spectrum requires proactive technical and strategic leadership from the satellite industry, and the RWG has led, and partnered with, numerous regional associations and governing bodies regarding the continuing need for viable access to spectrum for satellite services. The RWG coordinates inputs into upcoming industry events and members are frequently invited as speakers and panellists to provide expert analysis, providing presentations, whitepapers, and regulatory comments to help educate regulators, and shape favourable satellite policy decisions.

The RWG continues to leverage its global experience with satellite regulation to provide guidance to regulators on best practices for fair, transparent, and efficient satellite licensing policies, taking every opportunity to urge regulators to adopt streamlined licensing requirements, fair fees, and blanket licensing or registration wherever possible, and continuing its advocacy for a global “Open Skies” policy.

In the preparatory period leading to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) the RWG is the GVF interface within the Global Satellite Coalition. Contact: info@gvf.org.

GVF Americas Working Group

Open only to GVF members, the GVF Americas Working Group focuses its efforts on regulatory developments affecting one or more countries in the Americas region. Comprised of regulatory experts from Member companies doing business in the Americas, the GVF Americas Working Group is a forum for sharing information on regulatory developments within the Americas region, developing common positions on behalf of GVF members, and drafting GVF submissions to regulatory bodies within the Americas region.  Contact: info@gvf.org.

Mutual Recognition Arrangement Working Group (MRA-WG)

A long-term core feature of GVF’s various initiatives has been the development of a consensus-based framework to improve the efficiency of satellite operators’ terminals type-approval procedures.

The Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) was established through the MRA Working Group. Using this framework, once a type approval is provided to a manufacturer by any one of the participating satellite operators, other operators may mutually recognise the results of the tests conducted during the first operator’s type-approval process, so that the tests aren’t repeated unnecessarily.

To achieve this objective, the MRA-WG created the procedure GVF-101, which defines a set of standard tests that an antenna or earth station manufacturer should perform in order to apply for type approval from any satellite operator. Use of this procedure not only improves the quality and completeness of test data but helps reduce the time and cost required to bring new ground-segment technology to the market, thus advancing the competitiveness of satellite communications. The MRA has developed “living documents” which are reviewed for necessary updates and modifications to accommodate advances in technology. It also serves as the foundation for a growing number of specialised technical documents pertaining to selected earth station types. The following are “living” documents and all GVF Members are welcome to participate in the drafting and re-drafting process. To access the documents please click on the links below. For more information on how to participate, please contact the MRA Working Group Chair, Colin Robinson.

The MRA-WG & the European Space Agency (ESA)

GVF, in partnership with GVF member Fraunhofer IIS, successfully concluded a joint project – Standards Preparation for Satcom on the Move Terminals – under the ESA ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunicatons Systems) programme, with the work of the MRA-WG being central to the success of the project, the final report of which received ESA approval in January 2017. The foundation to this joint project – i.e., developing an appropriate test methodology for qualifying COTM terminals – was the terminal performance and test guidelines set-out in document GVF-105.

Earth Station Type Approval

Getting Equipment Tested: Manufacturers interested in having satellite earth station products evaluated may directly approach any one or all of the satellite operators. In cases where testing is carried out in conjunction with more than one satellite operator, the GVF MRA can be applied to eliminate redundancy of testing.

As a complementary service, GVF may also be able to conduct testing and/or evaluation of earth station products. This GVF service is conducted to ascertain product compliance with any industry-recognised specifications. To read about the Type Approval process, and what information is necessary, please read GVF 107 “Application for GVF Type Approval”.

To learn more about engagement with the GVF Product Quality Assurance Programme, contact GVF MRA-WG.

SOMAP – Satellite Operator’s Minimum Antenna Performance

GVF and a group consisting of premier operators of communication satellite networks – AsiaSat, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Intelsat and SES – have collaborated to produce updated guidance to antenna manufacturers regarding the satellite operators’ expectations for new antenna products and how to demonstrate compliance with the Satellite Operator Minimum Performance Specifications (SOMAP) .

The SOMAP requirements and initiative have been undertaken to improve the Quality of Service (QoS) worldwide for the industry and to minimize interference. The availability of quality products, which have demonstrated compliance with satellite operator specifications, will provide manufacturers with a valuable sales tool to differentiate their products. The SOMAP satellite operator group has the final authority for resolving questions regarding the compliance of a particular product.

The SOMAP framework consists:

  1. Minimum Antenna Testing Requirements
  2. Minimum Antenna Performance Requirements
  3. Performance Data on Manufacturer Product Datasheets

The SOMAP objective is to offer consistency across the industry for customers and antenna manufacturers. It does not replace the formal type approval procedures for each of the operators, but rather establishes minimum performance that each of the operators expect when deploying equipment which has not been formally type approved.

GVF Working Group on Sustainable Space Operations

The GVF Working Group on sustainable space operations was established in 2017 out of a concern about the ability to preserve a safe space environment for future exploration and innovation and the need to limit the creation of new space debris, maximize the information available on both debris and spacecraft, and encourage the development of and adherence to community-wide best practices for all space industry stakeholders. The Working Group is comprised of space industry stakeholders and is focused on developing the space industry’s best practices for sustainability of space operations. Through this Working Group, companies and non-profits share ideas and develop best practices as a valuable advancement towards the sustainability of space operations.

GVF Regulatory Positions

Please refer to Position Papers.

Global Satellite Coalition (GSC)

The world’s leading satellite industry associations have established the GSC, an international group of satellite associations which are collaborating to drive industry priorities with one voice, targeting initiatives coordinated and implemented with the combined support of hundreds of member companies based in every world region, and unlocking opportunities for industry growth and ensuring future access to satellite-based solutions for millions of stakeholders who depend on satellite-based solutions. The GSC’s priority is to advocate the role of satellite in achieving complete connectivity from contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Broadband Commission’s connectivity objectives to realising the Network of Networks required for 5G. In addition, it will work on ensuring satellite services are an essential element of national broadband strategies, universal service programmes and disaster preparedness efforts. The GSC Partners are:

  • ABRASAT (Brazil) – Associação Brasileira das Empresas de Telecomunicações por Satélites
  • APSCC (Asia-Pacific) – Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council
  • AVIA (Asia Pacific) – Asia Video Industry Association (formerly CASBAA)
  • Communications Alliance – The Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia
  • ESOA (Europe, Middle East, Africa, CIS) – EMEA Satellite Operators Association
  • SIA (USA) – The Satellite Industry Association
  • GVF (Worldwide)

The SOMAP requirements and initiative have been undertaken to improve the Quality of Service (QoS) worldwide for the industry and to minimize interference. The availability of quality products, which have demonstrated compliance with satellite operator specifications, will provide manufacturers with a valuable sales tool to differentiate their products. The SOMAP satellite operator group has the final authority for resolving questions regarding the compliance of a particular product.

‌The SOMAP framework consists:

‌• Minimum Antenna Testing Requirements

  • Minimum Antenna Performance Requirements
  • Performance Data on Manufacturer Product Datasheets

‌The SOMAP objective is to offer consistency across the industry for customers and antenna manufacturers. It does not replace the formal type approval procedures for each of the operators, but rather establishes minimum performance that each of the operators expect when deploying equipment which has not been formally type approved.

‌Commenting on the release of the updated guidance, GVF’s Secretary General David Meltzer said, “At a time when innovations in the satellite industry have resulted in more powerful satellites, greater flexibility, and a broad array of new services, the new guidance will enable antenna manufacturers to differentiate their products and help assure quality services.” The GVF strongly supports this initiative and stands ready to assist any manufacturer in preparing for adoption of the SOMAP requirements.

07 Nov 19. US Air Force awards funding at Space Pitch Day event.

The US Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has held a Pitch Day in San Francisco, California, US, to enable the quick acquisition of technologies for military use.

Around 60 small companies that hold Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I awards competed for the $50m in contract funding made available by the US Air Force (USAF).

The two-day Air Force Space Pitch Day event provided the opportunity for firms to win a spot contract award to address military space challenges.

Pitch days allow the USAF to move away from the traditional contracting processes to make use of innovations offered by small businesses.

SMC commander and USAF Space programme executive officer lieutenant general John Thompson said: “The airforce is leveraging modern commercial business practices to enable the rapid development of small business ecosystems that have dual-use, cutting-edge technologies to enable the fielding of fast, relevant and affordable solutions that support our airforce.”

The pitch day event saw companies presenting their ideas in space situational awareness, space communications, early missile detection and warning, multi-domain command and control, and data-mining operations within electronically contested environments.

The topics also included responsive launch systems, artificial intelligence, space logistics and protection of critical space assets.

USAF acquisition, technology and logistics assistant secretary Dr William Roper said: “Everything we do is about the warfighter’s mission.

“Space Pitch Day demonstrates the airforce’s willingness and ability to work with non-traditional startups and a great example of us going faster and smarter. It’s not just a tagline; it’s a dead-serious business about keeping the airforce competitive and dominant.”

The event also allows SBIR Phase I contract awardees to pitch their proposals for Phase II funding. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

06 Nov 19. Sigs In Space! The forthcoming IOD-3 Amber satellite will include a SIGINT payload from Horizon Technologies which employs a proprietary geolocation and direction-finding method. Once upon a time, only a handful of nations were capable of building and launching expensive spacecraft for SIGINT gathering. Look at a list of satellites currently orbiting the Earth. Out of 2,061 operational satellites 63 are collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). The vast majority (60 satellites) are owned by just four nations; France, the People’s Republic of China, Russia and the United States. Cost is the major inhibiting factor for a nation to design, produce, launch and operate a SIGINT satellite. As a means of comparison, France’s new CERES SIGINT bird, being jointly developed by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus’ Defence and Space subsidiary, will cost $495.6m and yield three spacecraft, the first of which is expected to be launched in 2021. More details on this programme can be found in Armada Analysis’ ‘French Flare for Space SIGINT’ article. Look a little more closely at the global list of SIGINT satellites and three spacecraft stand out; Hawk-A, Hawk-B and Hawk-C. These were all sent into space on 3 December 2018 sharing the load of a Space-X Falcon-9 rocket launched from Vandenburg airbase, California.

What makes the Hawk constellation remarkable is that it is not owned by any government, but instead by Hawkeye360, a private-sector provider of SIGINT and geospatial intelligence based in Hendon, Virginia. The private sector launch and operation of SIGINT spacecraft is the result of the proliferation of small satellites which help to reduce launch costs: The three Hawk satellites each weigh 15 kilograms (33 pounds), classifying them as microsatellites. This allowed three of them to be lifted in a single launch. By using three satellites the source of a signal can be triangulated: “We believe that formation flying spacecraft are critical to offering accurate signal geolocation,” John Serfini, the chief executive officer of Hawkeye360, told Armada Analysis: “Our sophisticated attitude control and propulsion systems enable us to maintain well-defined formations, so we can conduct trilateration of a very broad range of signals on the ground.” Thus private sector customers can see the location of a transmission, with this information represented on a geospatial image, along with the signal’s parameters. Mr. Serafini continued that “you can manufacture microsatellites faster than traditional satellites, launch them at a lower cost, and deploy a larger constellation for better revisit rates. This makes the approach very attractive when bringing an entirely new data set and new data analytics to market.”

Yet more private sector space SIGINT providers may enter the marketplace in the coming years with the advent of cubesats; spacecraft that weigh no more than 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds). This will reduce launch costs yet further, David Stupples, professor of electronic and radio systems at City University, London stated during the Association of Old Crows EW Asia conference and exhibition held in Singapore this January. He said that cubesat launches can cost as low as $100,000 thanks to the ability of such spacecraft to share rocket space with other payloads. He continued that construction costs are around $400,000. John Beckner, the director and owner of Horizon Technologies, says that such spacecraft are “relatively inexpensive to produce and launch, and the technology is advancing to allow SIGINT receivers to be deployed on relatively small cubesats.” He notes that the ability to launch several cubesats with a single rocket allows a constellation to be rapidly deployed, and as cubesats eventually de-orbit (burn up in the atmosphere) they can be quickly and inexpensively replaced with satellites carrying the latest SIGINT technology each launch.

Horizon Technologies is providing the SIGINT payload for the UK’s IOD-3 Amber cubesat which is expected to be launched in 2020. The satellite will possess an L-band (1.3 gigahertz/GHz to 1.7GHz) and Automatic Identification System (AIS: 161.975 megahertz/MHz to 162.025MHz) SIGINT package. This is derived from Horizon Technologies’ FlyingFish communications intelligence system. AIS is mandated by the International Maritime Organisation for all vessels displacing over 300 tonnes. AIS transponders transmit an array of information on a vessel’s voyage, identity and location. Once aloft, the IOD-3 will provide its SIGINT data directly to government customers, Mr. Beckner adds. He states that the SIGINT to be collected will include electronic intelligence (geolocation and parametric information) from radars and L-band satellite phone communications including geolocation data and content. Crucially, while constellations like the Hawk-A/B/C spacecraft need multiple satellites to perform signal geolocation, Mr. Beckner states that the IOD-3’s SIGINT equipment includes a proprietary technique which allows geolocation to be performed with a single spacecraft.

Mr. Beckner believes that the bandwidth covered by SIGINT cubesats could expand still further in the future: “I think they will eventually be able to do quite a bit of the three gigahertz to 18GHz spectrum,” increasing the number and variety of communications and radar systems they can keep tabs on: “They won’t replace aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles or strategic space-based SIGINT platforms, but they will certainly be a powerful adjunct.” Mr. Serafini concurs: “We consider the technology as augmentative to traditional government systems. We are introducing a commercial capability of geospatial signals data that is easier to access, share, and, very importantly, interpret.” (Source: Armada)

06 Nov 19. US and Finland reach space situational awareness cooperation agreement. The US Space Command (USSPACECOM) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Finnish Air Force to enable mutual cooperation in space situational awareness (SSA).

The US and Finland will exchange public space situational information to ensure protection against space debris and reduce collision risks as part of the agreement, which was signed by the two institutions in Helsinki, Finland.

In a press release, the USSPACECOM stated that the agreement seeks to allow the two countries to work towards transparency and predictability in the space domain.

USSPACECOM plans and policy director rear admiral Marcus Hitchcock said: “Space Situational Awareness requires extensive collaboration, and agreements such as this allow us to partner more effectively.

“As more countries field space capabilities and benefit from the use of space systems, it is in our collective interest to act responsibly, promote transparency and enhance the long-term sustainability, stability, safety and security of the domain.”

A host of countries already signed SSA data-sharing agreements to have greater access to space for security and economic gains.

The countries include the UK, France, Australia, Italy, the US, South Korea, Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Hitchcock added: “The way we defend and protect our way of life is to build alliances and partnerships with countries who also embrace the shared goal of continued peaceful use of space.

“Our international partners have contributed to SSA and have aided our ability to communicate across the globe for years. These strong international alliances and partnerships create opportunity to demonstrate the peaceful use of space while sharing and disaggregating the US space capability.”

The US Government intends to forge international partnerships for space cooperation.

Established in August, USSPACECOM is responsible for reaching agreements with governmental agencies and commercial satellite owners and operators. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

05 Nov 19. Cal Poly wins funding to improve security of satellites in orbit. The California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has received grant funding to develop innovative cybersecurity solutions for space satellites. The $340,091 grant was awarded by the California Advanced Supply Chain Analysis and Diversification Effort (CASCADE), an initiative funded by the US Department of Defense.

Cal Poly will use the funding to conduct a ‘Space Operations Challenge’ series to enable improved safety and security of satellites currently in orbit.

Satellites pose a cybersecurity risk for various stakeholders, including governments, companies and everyday users, making their security a significant challenge.

Cal Poly California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) programme manager Martin Minnich said: “Space, satellites and cybersecurity are at the national forefront of focus for a multitude of reasons, including national defence and commercial applications.

“Cal Poly, with our involvement in the development of CubeSats and our close proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base and the 30th Space Wing, is strategically positioned to help with the national conversation in both civilian and governmental applications.”

Cal Poly will create six specific ‘challenges’ under the programme. Some of the key research areas in the project include secure and reliable space to ground communication, satellite communication design, and secure satellite command and control across a distributed commercial platform.

The programme will also focus on addressing how to enable the quick launch of small and medium satellites.

The university will work in collaboration with a private company or public agency to address these issues.

CASCADE programme director Eileen Sanchez said: “Considering how much of US critical infrastructure relies on connectivity in or through space, the consequences of disrupting or degrading connectivity are prominent and the cybersecurity of space assets remains a top priority for national security.”

The university signed a space situational awareness agreement with US Strategic Command in August to help the command monitor objects in orbit around the Earth. (Source: airforce-technology.com)

05 Nov 19. The MOD has issued its Pre- Qualification Questionnaire today for the Skynet 6 Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) phase, which will ensure successful transition and continuous delivery of service for future Skynet operations. The contract is expected to commence in 2021 with a one year transition phase prior to the end of the current Private Finance Initiative arrangement in 2022, under which both the current satellites and the support services were procured.  MOD is also expected to facilitate future technology upgrades and satcom approaches for a longer-term contract, known as Skynet Enduring Capability (EC).

Contract Title: GB-Corsham: SKYNET SERVICE DELIVERY WRAP

  1. Section (DIO only):

Section II: Identification Numbers

  1. MOD

Contract Notice Nr:700009125

Section III: Relevant Dates

  1. Deadline for Expression of Interest:20/12/2019
  2. Proposed/Estimated ITT Issue Date:02/03/2020
  3. Proposed/Estimated ITT Return Date:03/05/2021
  4. Proposed Issue Date of Contract:01/09/2021
  5. Proposed Completion Date of Contract:31/08/2027

Section IV: Issuing Branch / Organisation Details

  1. Notice Address

Ministry of Defence, Information Systems and Services, Networks Team

Building 405, Spur C2, MOD Corsham, Westwells Road, Corsham, SN13 9NR, United Kingdom

Tel. 0306 770 1009, Email: ISSDev-Net-FBLOS-SDW-GrpMailbox@mod.gov.uk

Contact: Gill Peacock, Attn: Gill Peacock

Section V: Product / Service Descriptor Code

  1. Industry Codes:

32531000 – Satellite communications equipment.

32533000 – Satellite earth stations.

32530000 – Satellite-related communications equipment.

Section VI: Summary of Requirements / Description of Work, Goods and Services

  1. Summary of Requirements / Description of Work: Satellite communications equipment. Satellite earth stations. Satellite-related communications equipment. SDW is a Category A procurement within the SKYNET 6 Project. It will replace the current Skynet 5 contract which currently delivers Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) SATCOM services until its expiry in August 2022.

The SDW supplier is required to deliver an uninterrupted service from the perspective of the end user: this must include a seamless transition from the current contract to the new SDW contract.

The SDW is a complex requirement: the main elements are:

  • Space Operations: Operating and managing the SKYNET spacecraft.
  • Ground Operations: Managing the SATCOM and Ground Communication Network by delivering services and real time network operations that include service planning and configuration, asset management, facilities management, performance management, and customer support.
  • Refreshing end-of-life or obsolete ground assets transferred from the PFI through costed proposal, asset replacement, supply chain and procurement management, whilst demonstrating value for money.
  • Transition from the current Skynet 5 PFI contract to the new SKYNET SDW contract within the required timeframe whilst maintaining extant operational services.
  • Supporting international and commercial collaboration in delivering SATCOM services which helps the MOD build resilience into the SKYNET system.
  • The introduction of improved processes, cost saving opportunities, new technologies and services that provide benefit and value for money to the MOD.

05 Nov 19. Serco, the UK based international services company, announces its intention to bid as Prime Contractor for the future UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) requirement for a successor to the current Skynet 5 support contract, known as ‘Service Delivery Wrap’ (SDW),  and will be leading a team of specialist system integrators and world class  aerospace companies. The Serco led consortium will comprise global defence and aerospace company Lockheed Martin, global IT specialist CGI and UK satellite operator Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, supported by a number of other highly skilled providers from across the domain. Serco and Lockheed Martin have worked together on a number of UK defence programmes over many years, whilst Serco, CGI and Inmarsat have worked closely together on the current Skynet 5 service from the start of its delivery. All the partners have a strong UK presence and track record with the UK MOD and wider space sector.

Kevin Craven Serco Chief Executive, UK & Europe, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the formation of such a strong team, creating great balance between programme transition risk management as well as providing the MOD with access to best of breed capabilities and innovation.

“Our consortium brings many years of experience of working on UK eyes-only critical defence contracts, combined with world leading expertise and technology.  The team has decades of experience of delivering mission critical military communications services to both UK military and ‘5 eyes’ customers.  Together we can guarantee the UK MOD highly credible continuity of service as well as exciting opportunities for innovation.”

The MOD has issued its Pre- Qualification Questionnaire today for the Skynet 6 Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) phase, which will ensure successful transition and continuous delivery of service for future Skynet operations. The contract is expected to commence in 2021 with a one year transition phase prior to the end of the current Private Finance Initiative arrangement in 2022, under which both the current satellites and the support services were procured.  MOD is also expected to facilitate future technology upgrades and satcom approaches for a longer-term contract, known as Skynet Enduring Capability (EC).

BATTLESPACE Comment: This is a smart move by Serco and very unexpected as the company has not been associated with satcom and space in the past. In forming this consortium of bidders Serco has hoovered up many of the major players associated with the Skynet 6 bid. It also signals another move in the bidding process majoring on outsourcing not indigenous sovereign capability. The fact that a services company is Priming this bid, signals to BATTLESPACE that the MoD is looking strongly at a service provision-led bid for Skynet 6, not one of a solely owned government constellation such as the Skynet 5 model. This team also lays down the gauntlet to Airbus who many thought were a shoe-in for Skynet 6 given their position as incumbent manager. We expect further announcements on the technology for the next order of satellites for Skynet 6, which are expected to be ordered on an incremental basis to allow for technology improvements. Airbus should be the winner for these but expect more outsourcing of service contracts on a flexible basis to meet BVLOS Requirements for Skynet 6. (See: Caveat Emptor! Satellite 2019 Shows Huge Sea Change In Technology By Julian Nettlefold, BATTLESPACE Features)

04 Nov 19. What the Air Force can learn from these experimental satellites. The Air Force launched two experimental cubesats Nov. 2 that could provide key insights on the viability of fielding a proliferated constellation of satellites in low earth orbit in the next few years.

“The successful launch of the Aerospace CubeSats marks a huge achievement for SMC and its partners,” Col. Dennis Bythewood, the Space and Missile Systems Center’s program executive officer for space development, said in a Nov. 2 press release. “This mission has set a precedent for speed and will also provide us with much needed data for future space development programs.”

The Air Force has made little secret of its desire to fulfill needed capabilities through a constellation of hundreds of small satellites in low earth orbit. The Pentagon established the Space Development Agency in March to coordinate that effort and help get satellites to orbit as soon as possible. Over the summer, the agency released its vision for that constellation, which included several layers that would provide unique capabilities and be tied together through a data transport layer. While that vision has been refined over the last few months, the core of the concept remains unchanged.

Built by the Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research nonprofit that informs the nation’s national security space efforts, the Rogue cubesats experiment will help the Air Force understand how well commercial off the shelf technology can meet the military’s needs. According to SMC, Rogue has been successful thus far by meeting its 16-month timeline for design, build and testing.

The cubesats will also test out a number of new capabilities, such as a high-speed laser communications system and novel wavelengths for infrared sensing.

The Rogue cubesats launched Nov. 2 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. However, the cubesats will not actually be deployed on orbit until some point in 2020. In the meantime, the satellites will remain docked to the International Space Station. (Source: Defense News)

01 Nov 19. GAO Says Critical Space C2 Effort At Risk. GAO finds that the Space C2 program “is planning to meet previously deferred requirements that proved too complex for prior programs to achieve,” and “also plans to address new and emerging threats to space assets, for which requirements are not yet defined.”

Ellen Lord, the head of Pentagon acquisition, will meet with Air Force officials later this month to decide if service is on the right path with its Space Command and Control program, which will enable Space Command’s critical command and control system known as ESBMC2.

Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, Space C2 program chief at Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), told Breaking D that her office has finished drafting the acquisition strategy recommended by the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) in its Oct. 30 report. The document is in coordination with senior Air Force officials, including acquisition czar Will Roper; and with the Office of Secretary of Defense.

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The congressional watchdog GAO is raising a host of technological, managerial and workforce challenges to the Space C2 effort. GAO finds that the Space C2 program’s “requirements are complex, difficult to address, and some have yet to be defined (emphasis added)”. They also are worried the Air Force can’t find or train enough qualified personnel. Another problem, they note, is that different pieces of the effort are being done by different Air Force organizations, including the Rapid Capabilities Office and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Christina Chaplain, GAO’s acquisition expert, told Breaking D yesterday “the two biggest challenges are getting the right expertise and bringing together the efforts underway by multiple organizations. The first is a key issue for all of DOD’s software intensive projects and the second was a significant problem the last go around.”

According to the GAO report, the software-centric Space C2 program is supposed to deliver on the requirements never met by its ill-fated predecessor, the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) for providing commanders with information about what is happening in space, as well as command and control capabilities for satellites. But Space C2 has a broader scope than the old JMS. It’s not only supposed to integrate traditional space situational awareness (SSA) data tracking satellites and debris, but add in threat assessment capabilities that can tell a commander the function of an adversary spacecraft and whether it is targeting a US satellite. On top of that, Space C2 is using”Agile software development” to field increment after increment of improved capability.

“Color me skeptical,” said Secure World Foundation’s Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer who worked at the former Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), for which the JMS originally was being developed.

“On the positive side,” he added, “I’m glad they’re finally embracing an agile software development approach. That’s a step in the right direction. However, what they are trying to do with Space C2 is much more difficult than JMS Increment 2. At least that was a known, solved problem. Here, they’re trying to create these space C2 linkages and threat assessment applications that no one that I know of has ever really done before. They’re breaking new ground and trying to find a way to tie lots of different data from different systems together. That’s very difficult.”

The Army seeks a next-generation armed scout helicopter with increased speed, range, survivability and even autonomy – not just a conventional helicopter.

The Space C2 program, called Kobayashi Maru after the “Star Trek” exercise with no solution, is developing two different products: Space Domain Awareness (SDA) and ESBMC2,” Krolikowski explained. It “is the overarching effort within which the Space Domain Awareness and ESBMC2 efforts fall under.”

SDA, as newly defined by Air Force Space Command, refers to real-time awareness not just about where satellites are and where they are going (i.e. SSA) but also about what they are doing and if they are a threat. ESBMC2, in turn, integrates SDA data and information into the C2 network so that commanders can avoid (if possible) a threat to a US space asset, or find another way to disable that threat.

Both of those capabilities, she said, “are dependent on the software being developed — via Agile software development — in the Space C2 program.”

ESBMC2 stands for Enterprise Battle Management Command and Control. It is the follow-on what was planned as JMS Increment III that was killed before it ever really took off by Air Force Space Command head (and now also head of Space Command) Gen. Jay Raymond back in August 2018, according to the Air Force.

ESBMC2 is aimed at better integrating data from National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites with SDA data collected by DoD, allied and commercial sensors. That will provide Space Command and Intelligence Community operators on the ground the best possible space operating picture. It is also the core space element of the Air Force’s ambitious, high-priority Multi-Domain Command and Control (MDC2) effort to link air, space and cyber sensor systems together and rapidly funnel that combined information to those who need it.

Krolikowski said that both the SDA and battle management command control capabilities being developed by Space C2 will be provided to Space Command’s National Space Defense Center (NSDC) and the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC).

The NSDC, which sits under Space Command’s new Joint Task Force Space Defense (JTF-SD), commanded by Army Brig. Gen. Tom James, is where military commanders and Intelligence Community officials will work together to “deter aggression, defend space capability, and when directed, defeat adversaries throughout the continuum of conflict,” according to Space Command.

The CSpOC, which is now under Space Command’s Combined Space Force Component Command led by Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, brings in allied commanders.

The Air Force expects to spend between $72m and $108m per year on the Space C2 program, which is managed by the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), through fiscal year 2024.

Technical Requirements Problematic

One of the key GAO worries is that, just as proved true for JMS, the Space C2 may be both too complex and built on vague or non-existent requirements — even while the program is making haste to develop new software increments. The report says: “For example, the program is planning to meet previously deferred requirements that proved too complex for prior programs to achieve. It also plans to address new and emerging threats to space assets, for which requirements are not yet defined (emphasis ours).”

“Please do not think I don’t have any requirements,” Krolikowski said. She explained that not only is the program office working from the old JMS requirements that were revalidated in October, she also has weekly meetings with a users group to talk about requirements. In addition, she holds a meeting with operators every 90 days to review the software features being produced “to make to make sure we’re actually addressing what we need to do to accomplish to provide them the tools they need for space domain awareness and battle management command and control.”

GAO, however, points out that one of the reasons JMS failed is that its technical requirements were both byzantine and not well defined. (GAO has nothing good to say in its three-paragraph review of JMS, noting that after 10 years and more than $1bn the program could barely provide baseline capabilities.)

As of August, GAO found that Space C2 had delivered three related capabilities: “expanding the commercial data available in the data repository; tasking various sensors; and providing a tool for visualization and analytics.” (As Breaking D readers know, the Unified Data Library is the “data repository” being developed to manage SSA data from a wide variety of sources.)

Krolikowski is proud that the Space C2 program can rapidly produce applications and capabilities “with a lot of velocity,” noting that one application was kicked out within 57 days and another within 55 days. Air Force. Roper also has waxed eloquent in his praise of Kobayashi Maru and Krolikowski personally, whose nickname is Col. K.

But, GAO points out, “most capabilities delivered so far are considered to be available for use ‘at your own risk,’ since they have not yet been fully approved for use in operations.” Further, the Air Force has no time frame settled for actually certifying those capabilities; nor has the service put forward a plan to complete the baseline infrastructure and software platform to use them or any other applications being developed.

Doug Loverro, former Defense undersecretary for space policy, said a critical problem is that the Air Force is not clear on exactly what it wants the Space C2 system to do or “how they want Space C2 to occur” because there are “two different concepts of operations – one for space defense and one for space support” that have to be supported. “They have gotten this confused over the years and have failed to adequately differentiate the two,” he said.

Loverro noted that the recent changes put into place by Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command head, “to clearly articulate these differences will help.”

This includes separating the NSDC from the CSpOC — a move that stemmed from Raymond’s overarching Space Warfighting Construct revealed at the 2017 Space Symposium. That construct had a central goal of: “Evolving the space enterprise to to a more robust and resilient architecture underpinned by better space situational awareness and responsive command and control will provide space leaders with tools, decision aids and response options necessary to prevail if conflict extends into space.”

More Oversight Needed For Agile Software Acquisition

As noted above, GAO is seriously worried about what it sees as a lack of a clear acquisition strategy for the “Agile software development” approach being used by Space C2. This, GAO fears, could result in the various pieces of the development program failing to gel.

At the same time, GAO actually praises SMC for trying something new with Space C2, given that one of the many flaws in the JMS program was its traditional acquisition approach that meant what software delivered was always years behind the need.

The core problem, GAO says, is the lack of overarching DoD acquisition guidelines for ‘Agile’ software programs. “According to DOD officials, new software guidance is in development, and this guidance is expected to offer pathways for developing Agile programs. DOD has also developed a draft template to assist Agile programs with developing their acquisition strategies, though the template and associated software guidance are in the early stages of development,” the GAO report says.

But, in the meantime, “Space C2 program officials confirmed that they are currently operating without specific software acquisition guidance.” It is that acquisition plan the Air Force hopes to deliver to Lord in November. DoD also told GAO that the Air Force created a position of Chief Software Officer (currently Nicolas Chaillan, appointed last May) under Roper, who is working with Lord’s special assistant for software acquisition, Jeff Boleng, to help with oversight. Raymond also is personally receiving regular briefings on the program.

In addition, Lord has designated Space C2 as one of the “pathfinder” programs under the “Development Security Operations (DevSecOps) pathfinder program for software, which helps programs define and develop a technical digital roadmap and leverages industry and Office of the Secretary of Defense expertise in developing appropriate infrastructure for software programs,” the GAO report states.

The DevSecOps concept emphasizes rapid prototyping, security and continuous integration and delivery of software products.

For its part, DoD agrees wholeheartedly with GAO’s two big recommendations, and in an Oct. 10 letter from Kevin Fahey, assistant Defense Secretary for acquisition, says it is on a path to implementing them.

First, GAO says that Lord’s office needs to ensure that the strategy for Space C2 includes specific actions that can be monitored by OSD. These range from creating a program management structure with clearly defined roles and authorities, to establishing a plan and timeline for infrastructure/platform development, to creating specific metrics for judging the quality of each software iteration.

The second recommendation is that DoD conduct periodic independent reviews. Fahey says Lord also is assessing that need.

That said, there remains one big problem. For now, as Breaking D readers know, the Air Force is relying on the 1980s Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC) system for both SSA data crunching and C2. GAO finds:

“While work is underway to move SPADOC onto a more modernized platform and infrastructure, the Air Force has not established a schedule for that effort. In the meantime, Air Force officials told us that large amounts of data are going unprocessed as the volume of available sensor data today is greater than ever before—and is expected to increase exponentially in the next year as new DOD sensors come online.”

The Air Force expects its newest SSA sensor, Space Fence, to become operational in November 2019. Space Fence will track some 200,000 space objects (debris and satellites) objects in Low Earth Orbit, many of which have not been tracked before. Air Force officials for a number of years have been warning that the Space Fence data may well overwhelm the current system with false collision warnings.

So there you have the crux of the issue, JMS didn’t work. They need to hammer out clear requirements and quickly develop Space C2 software and related systems to ensure the program doesn’t get bogged down in the problems that killed all preceding efforts dating back to the 1990s. Cross your fingers. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)

04 Nov 19. Quantum Systems Adopts u-blox GNSS Modules. u‑blox, a global provider of leading positioning and wireless communication technologies, has gained another high‑profile endorsement for ZED‑F9P, its high precision GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) module that delivers centimeter‑level accuracy within seconds.

Quantum‑Systems, a German company specialized in the development and production of electric VTOL (Vertical Take‑off and Landing) aircrafts for civilian use, has incorporated the module in its latest electric Tron F90+ fixed‑wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These state‑of‑the‑art 3.5m wingspan drone units, which can travel at speeds of up to 160km/hour and have a 100km flight range, are employed in mission‑critical logistical activities – such as the transporting of emergency blood reserves to remote locations, as well as mining and agriculture related tasks.

The Tron F90+ is the latest addition to the Quantum‑Systems eVTOL UAV platform designed for cargo, inspection, survey and mapping, and reconnaissance in adverse conditions, and consisting also of the Trinity F9, Scorpion, and Vector UAVs. They all feature u‑blox F9 high precision GNSS technology.

The key challenge that the engineering team at Quantum‑Systems faced when developing the Tron F90+ UAV concerned vertical take‑off and landing (VTOL), and having access to accurate enough position data to ensure that these operations would always go smoothly. The valuable payloads being carried could thus be protected from risk of damage.

Through the multi‑band real‑time kinematic (RTK) and raw code and carrier phase data available to the ZED‑F9P, the necessary positioning correction is assured and the pilot can complete even the most difficult of maneuvers. Each of the Tron F90+ UAVs features a ZED‑F9P module. Through either RTK or post‑processing positioning correction absolute position accuracy can also be brought down to 3‑5 cm. This degree of accuracy means that the u‑blox module is about 100 times more accurate than standard meter‑level GNSS solutions, but is still able to present customers with very attractive pricing.

As Dr. Michael Kriegel, Chief Technical Officer at Quantum Systems, explains, “This drone project mandated an accurate, cost‑effective, and ultra‑reliable solution which could provide us with PPK capabilities, and offer RTK capabilities to be utilized in the future. The lightweight but rugged construction, ease of integration and exceptional component quality of the ZED‑F9P modules were all factored into our decision to choose u‑blox.”

“Since we released it earlier this year, our u‑blox F9 platform has gained incredible market traction, with rapid uptake across a broad array of different sectors,” adds Peter Fairhurst, Director Product Line Management (High Precision), Product Center Positioning, u‑blox. “This project with Quantum‑Systems is another great example of where we are bringing industry‑leading position accuracy to applications in which there is simply no room for mistakes, while simultaneously managing to keep the bill‑of‑materials costs involved down.” (Source: UAS VISION)

31 Oct 19. Inmarsat GX5 is prepared for next Ariane 5 launch from the Spaceport. The fifth Global Xpress satellite – Inmarsat GX5 – is getting its first look inside the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation facility as pre-flight activity continues for Arianespace’s Ariane 5 mission in November. Inmarsat GX5 was removed from its protective shipping container after being delivered late last week from France – where the spacecraft was produced by Thales Alenia Space – to French Guiana via cargo jetliner. The satellite subsequently was transferred by road to the Spaceport for payload processing.

The Inmarsat GX5 satellite is one of two passengers to be orbited on Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 flight, joining TIBA-1 – a communications spacecraft for Egypt, developed by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus as co-prime contractors, with Thales Alenia Space acting as lead partner of the contract. TIBA-1 arrived at the Spaceport earlier this month and is advancing through its own pre-flight preparations.

Expanding the Global Xpress network

Inmarsat GX5 is a very high throughput communications satellite that will be fully integrated into Inmarsat’s current Global Xpress high-speed network – with a coverage area that is to include the Middle East, Europe and the Indian sub-continent.

Based on Thales Alenia Space’s upgraded Spacebus 4000 B2 platform, Inmarsat GX5 will deliver double the capacity of the entire existing Global Xpress fleet of satellites. It was designed for an operational lifetime of 16 years and will weigh approximately four metric tons at liftoff.

Arianespace’s launch of TIBA-1 and Inmarsat GX5 – designated Flight VA250 – will be the fourth mission in 2019 with a heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the eighth this year across the company’s family of launchers, which also includes the medium-lift Soyuz and lightweight Vega. (Source: ASD Network)

01 Nov 19. China launches high-res satellite able to provide stereo imagery – CCTVChina launched a new high-resolution remote sensing satellite capable of providing stereoscopic imagery on Sunday, state-run media said, marking another important step as Beijing seeks to reduce reliance on foreign technology in topographic mapping.

A rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 11:22 a.m. local time, carrying the Gaofen-7 high resolution satellite into its designated orbit, the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) said, citing China National Space Administration.

Gaofen-7, a sub-metre resolution optical satellite, boasts the highest mapping accuracy among its domestic peers, and is able to map China and even the world’s lands stereoscopically with a margin of error of less than a metre, according to CCTV. The satellite, which will be used for land surveys, urban planning and statistical investigation, will help end China’s reliance on foreign imports in high-resolution stereo mapping, the CCTV added.

The purpose of China’s satellite remote sensing project – the Gaofen series – is to help build an all-weather, 24-hour, global Earth remote sensing system by 2020 capable of monitoring the ground, atmosphere, and oceans, according to CNSA.

The Gaofen project, one of the 16 major projects that are key to the nation’s scientific development, is also aimed at comprehensively boosting China’s self-reliance in accessing high-resolution earth observation data. (Source: Reuters)

29 Oct 19. FCC Still On Track for C-Band Spectrum Decision. Maxar and Thales Alenia Compete for Telesat. According to journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite, the FCC is still on track for a decision on C-band spectrum this autumn, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles on October 23rd. He spoke of various initiatives to free up extra spectrum for cellular use, including C-band, and stressed that the FCC has its eyes on 300 MHz of spectrum (the C-Band Alliance is initially offering up 200 MHz).

“Next up is the C-Band, where the satellite licensees are willing to relinquish a good portion of the 500 megahertz between 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, while accommodating their customers receiving video and audio content in the remaining satellite spectrum. The Commission is close to completing its review, and an item should be voted in the next month or two to repurpose part of the band.”

O’Rielly continued, “As I set out early in my discussion of this band, we need a sufficient amount of spectrum, around 300 megahertz makes the most sense; a fair and transparent assignment process, which I believe can be accomplished quickly; and safeguards to ensure that current spectrum users – mostly broadcasters and cable providers – continue to get service. While not my priority, it is also possible that an auction can generate money for the US Treasury. To be clear, our primary objective should be to ensure that the spectrum gets into the hands of those who can put it to use as quickly as possible in order to compete not just domestically but internationally as well.”

Chris also noted that, reportedly, Maxar Technologies and Thales Alenia Space have scrubbed their joint-venture plan to bid for Ottawa-based Telesat’s mega-constellation satellite order.

The pair were competing against Airbus Defence & Space for the order.  Now they will bid separately for the order for a 300 satellite LEO constellation, which is said to be worth around $3bn to the winning contractor. Sandrine Bielecki, a spokeswoman for Thales Alenia, said that her company was actively bidding on the contract. Telesat is looking to have its first portion of their planned fleet in orbit by 2022, with a full global service in place by 2023. (Source: Satnews)

26 Oct 19. EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies Fourth Launch of a Reusable Vehicle. The EXOS team was working hard as they prepped for today’s launch with men in jumpsuits climbing ladders and fueling up in an effort to beat Space-X to a fourth launch of a reusable vehicle. EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc., a developer of reusable space launch vehicles based is based in Greenville, Texas. Unfortunately a reusable suborbital sounding rocket launched by EXOS Aerospace malfunctioned shortly after liftoff causing the vehicle to crash back to Earth minutes later. Even though today’s attempt was unsuccessful this EXOS flight was the third time a suborbital-class rocket stage has been reused for a fourth time.

The launch took place at the Spaceport America. Spaceport America which is an FAA-licensed spaceport located on 18,000 acres of State Trust Land in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, directly west and adjacent to U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. It lies 89 miles north of El Paso, 45 miles north of Las Cruces, and 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences.

The four events listed as follows are: August 25, 2018 —  EXOS completed the Pathfinder Launch from Spaceport America.  It was the first step in validating the SARGE SRLV could be flown and recovered for reuse. EXOS gathered critical flight data that enabled advancing the design and setting them up for continued reuse of their SARGE vehicle.  The YouTube video recaps

March 2, 2019 — “Mission 1” test flight of the SARGE reusable system carried commercial payloads. After this flight, EXOS returned the payloads to their customers for analysis and upgrade before re-flight. The successful launch further enforced the company’s plan to use this technology as the design basis of their Jaguar Orbital Launch Vehicle (with reusable first stage) capable of carrying 100kg to Low Earth Orbit (200-400km).

June 29, 2019 — “Mission 3” test flight of the SARGE reusable system carried commercial payloads and demonstrated the third use and recovery; however, a control tuning error resulted in an early abort.

October 26, 2019 — Exos Unsuccessfully launched the SARGE reusable system from Spaceport America.  A successful tethered “rocket hover’ test with a new IMU on October 1, 2019, finalized the requirements for return to launch.

What’s next for EXOS Aerospace?

Shift to Commercial Operations – “With a successful flight, we will move toward commercialization. The SARGE platform will serve customers worldwide through National Charter Enterprise and vehicle Wet and Dry leases.  Frequent suborbital flights will provide rapid worldwide support for research, manufacturing and educational opportunities.  Since the 36-foot tall, 20-inch diameter SARGE rocket is designed for reusability, it is proving to be an excellent risk mitigation platform for their orbital technology development program.

Partnerships – Beyond mobile ground launch, EXOS is partnering with Fenix Space, Inc. We will be conducting airborne launches from Spaceport America to support tow aircraft and autonomous glider operations. Air Launch capability will increase the SARGE and other future vehicle’s capabilities.

Develop Orbital Reuse Life Expectancy – “Once EXOS completes this test, we will start using SARGE to develop live dynamic assessment and prognostic systems. These programs will help us predict vehicle Remaining Useful Life (RUL) to reduce risk in our orbital program.” said John Quinn, EXOS COO.

Quinn says ‘EXOS designed the SARGE rocket system to support up to 200 flights”. They propose to use the clean Lox Ethanol platform as long as it meets performance and financial targets. We will also propose to sell engines and systems as expendable vehicles to MDA as hard-targets as they near the end of their economically viable life. (Source: Satnews)

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

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