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21 Nov 19. To protect GPS satellites, Esper is against private 5G proposal. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants the Federal Communications Commission to reject a proposal by Ligado Networks to use L-Band spectrum for 5G, claiming that the system could jeopardize GPS services.
“I believe there are too many unknowns and the risks are far too great to federal operations to allow Ligado’s proposed system to proceed. All independent and scientifically valid testing and technical data shows the potential for widespread disruption and degradation of GPS services from the proposed Ligado system,” Esper wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated Nov. 18. “This could have a significant negative impact on military operations, both in peacetime and war.”
Esper’s letter is the most recent foray into a battle between the military and Ligado Networks over the use of 40 MHz in the L-Band spectrum, which the company wants to utilize for 5G services.
In October 2018, Ligado Networks announced a multi-year strategic plan to launch a satellite loaded with 5G-enabling technologies and deploy a terrestrial 5G mobile network. That proposal, however, has stalled before the FCC, which needs to approve the plan.
But here’s the hitch: While that spectrum is licensed by the company, L-Band is also how the Air Force’s GPS satellites communicate.
Operated by the Air Force, the GPS satellites provide positioning, navigation and timing data that is essential for modern day life, enabling everything from credit card transactions to real time directions on people’s smartphones. It is also critical to providing the U.S. military the information advantage it believes it needs to stay ahead of adversaries.
Due to the proximity of the 40 MHz spectrum Ligado Networks wants and the spectrum used by GPS, the government has been hesitant to approve the company’s plans to build a new 5G network there.
In December 2018, the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Timing and Navigation recommended against approving Ligado Networks’ request to use the spectrum. And following that decision, then-Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan sent a letter in April recommending the FCC reject the company’s proposal.
Ligado Networks did not respond to a request for comment. In June, Doug Smith, the company’s chief executive, released a statement expressing frustration with the drawn out FCC process.
“For the past three-and-a-half years, Ligado Networks has worked with industry and government stakeholders on a plan that will finally unlock our lower mid-band spectrum for 5G. We have participated in testing, analysis, studies, workshops, reviews, and meetings, and time after time, we have accepted the burden to resolve concerns by modifying our plan. We have patiently waited for an FCC decision allowing our company to make additional investments that industries here in America so desperately need,” he stated.
According to the company’s past statements, major GPS manufacturers have said Ligado Networks’ proposal would not degrade the capabilities of GPS devices.
Despite the company’s efforts, they have not been able to allay the government’s concerns.
“I request that the FCC reject the license modification request and not allow the proposed system to be deployed,” Esper said. (Source: Defense News)
20 Nov 19. European space ministers face pressure to fund planetary defence mission. When European government space ministers meet in Seville, Spain at the end of this month, they will be under pressure to conduct a planetary defence mission to a near-Earth asteroid.
The meeting is the Space19+ ministerial meeting on 27 and 28 November, which will set European Space Agency (ESA) priorities for the next two to three years. What’s proposed is the Hera mission, with 1,200 scientists and other backers signing a letter calling on the ESA member states to fund the mission. Three years ago, the ESA ministerial meeting knocked back a similar proposal.
As currently planned, the Hera mission would follow the 2022 NASA Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission to the asteroid Didymos and its small accompanying moon, aptly named Didymoon.
This will be the first ever purely planetary defence mission with the intention to crash a probe into a (non-threatening) asteroid to determine if its orbit can be altered.
Didymoon is the target and an orbital variation will be readily detected as its path diverges from its companion.
The US government has charged NASA with keeping watch for potentially harmful asteroids. That’s done through a network of ground-based telescopes and a single space-based infra-red telescope.
As now envisaged, Hera would launch in October 2024 and arrive at Didymos and Didymoon in December 2026.
“What Hera wants to do is measure precisely the effect of this impact,” Patrick Michel, principal investigator for Hera, said at a press conference in Berlin.
In particular, Hera will examine the DART impact crater. He said this would be useful for planetary defence and broader planetary science.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu, now on route back to Earth for landing in Australia, showed that some more knowledge would be useful.
Hayabusa2 fired a small impactor weighing only a couple kilograms at Ryugu to uncover internal material for collection. That was predicted to produce a two-metre crater but it was actually much bigger, 10 metres across.
Hera will produce a better appreciation of the asteroid’s mass and whether a threatening asteroid could be deflected.
Michel said understanding the Didymoon crater was important for planetary defence.
“It’s also important for science, because the way we date the surface is by counting the craters and measuring their sizes. This relies on the relationship between the crater size and the projectile size,” he said.
Kai Wünnemann, head of the department of impact and meteorite research at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, said without the Hera mission we could never examine the crater.
“[We] see the properties of the body and wouldn’t know the mass,” said Wünnemann. “All these things that are absolutely crucial for making progress in terms of our modelling predictions.”
ESA itself has acknowledged it didn’t do a very good job at convincing member states to fund the proposed Asteroid Impact Mission three years ago.
This time round it’s been more actively promoting the mission, even releasing a video narrated by astrophysicist Brian May, former lead guitarist of the band Queen.
“This ESA mission will be humanity’s first ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid,” May says on the video.
“This asteroid is typical of the thousands which pose an impact risk to our planet.” (Source: Space Connect)
20 Nov 19. Stratodynamics to Participate in NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. NASA recently selected 25 space technologies for flight tests onboard aircraft, high-altitude balloons and suborbital rockets. Stratodynamics is the flight provider for the University of Kentucky project to assess new methods of turbulence detection with forward sensing technologies in stratospheric flight.
Currently, significant gaps exist in the detection of turbulence, impacting suborbital vehicles and aviation in general.
The flight campaign will utilize Stratodynamics’ HiDRON, an unmanned glider that’s balloon-launched to stratospheric altitudes. Once released from the balloon, the HiDRON will fly semi-autonomously and return home in a controlled descent while collecting and transmitting 200 points of data in real-time to the ground station.
During the Canadian Space Agency’s stratospheric balloon 2019 campaign, Stratodynamics completed a record-setting flight reaching an altitude over 110,000 feet. The flight was a first for unmanned aircraft operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and above 29,000 feet in Class A airspace and demonstrated the company’s ability to customize a solution for their client, the Slovak Academy of Science.
“With vibrant and growing interest in exploration and commercial space across the country, our goal with these selections is to support innovators from industry and academia who are using rapid and affordable commercial opportunities to test their technologies in space,” said Christopher Baker, program executive for Flight Opportunities at NASA Headquarters, in the news release, NASA Selects 25 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests.
“These suborbital flights enable researchers to quickly and iteratively test technologies with the opportunity to make adjustments between flights,” Baker said. “The ultimate goal is to change the pace of technology development and drastically shorten the time it takes to bring an idea from the lab to orbit or to the moon”.
NASA said this year’s awards total nearly $10m. Other flight providers in this cohort include the Blue Origin New Shepard suborbital rocket and Virgin Galactic suborbital spacecraft.
Dr. Sean Bailey, principle investigator with the University of Kentucky, is “excited to work with Stratodynamics on this project. This is a great opportunity to learn more about a rarely explored region of the atmosphere.”
CEO, Gary Pundsack: “This NASA announcement acknowledges Stratodynamics’ position at the frontier of stratospheric exploration. Moreover, the project brings together key interests for us; high altitude flight dynamics, efficient airframes, and turbulence sensing and response. We’re pleased to be collaborating again with our colleagues at the University of Kentucky in the exploration of turbulence and are anticipating a host of commercial outcomes from this series of technology advancement exercises.” (Source: UAS VISION)
20 Nov 19. Arianespace integrates TIBA-1 and Inmarsat GX5 for Ariane 5 launch on November 22. The Ariane 5 for Arianespace’s eighth mission of 2019 is now fully assembled following integration of its two satellite passengers at the Spaceport in French Guiana. During activity in Ariane 5’s Final Assembly Building, the upper payload component – containing TIBA-1, mounted on its SYLDA dispenser system and protected by an ogive-shaped fairing – was lowered into position over Inmarsat GX5, which was previously installed atop the launcher’s central core.
This step clears the way for final checkout, which will enable the launch readiness review to be conducted on November 19, followed by Ariane 5’s rollout to the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone the following Thursday, and an early evening liftoff on Friday, November 22.
The upcoming mission is designated Flight VA250 in Arianespace’s numbering system, and it will deliver the two satellites into geostationary transfer orbit.
To be deployed first during the 34-minute flight sequence is TIBA-1 – a communications spacecraft for the Government of Egypt, developed by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space as co-prime contractors, with Thales Alenia Space acting as lead partner of the contract. It will perform a dual mission in Ka-band for secure and broadband communications, operating from an orbital position at 35.5 deg. East.
The second passenger – Inmarsat GX5, which was produced by Thales Alenia Space – is a very high throughput communications satellite that will be fully integrated into Inmarsat’s current Global Xpress high-speed network. To be located in a geostationary orbit at 11 deg. East, it is equipped 72 Ka-band fixed spot beams and four steerable beams to direct additional capacity where it is needed.
Ariane 5 will deliver a total payload lift performance of approximately 10,495 kg. during the mission – with this combined mass factoring in TIBA-1 and Inmarsat GX5, plus the launch vehicle’s dual-passenger dispenser system and satellite integration hardware. (Source: ASD Network)
21 Nov 19. US intelligence sounds concern over Iran’s space launch rockets. Iran possesses a significant space capability and in 2009 became the ninth country to place a home-built satellite into Earth orbit. However, a new report highlights Iran’s other space activities and its growing missile capability, which could eventually be used to carry atomic warheads.
The report, compiled by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with an unclassified version released this week, examines Iran’s overall military capability.
It follows other recent reports on the armed forces and capabilities of China and Russia.
For the US, the greatest concern is Iran’s development of rockets that could form the basis of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBNs).
“We’re looking at their space program as we determine what could be used for military means,” said an unnamed DIA briefing officer in Washington this week.
He said DIA believes that Iran’s space launch vehicles (SLVs – rockets capable of placing satellites in orbit) could serve as a testbed for the development of ICBM technologies.
In the report, DIA said Iran recognises the strategic value of space and counterspace capabilities.
“Tehran claims to have developed sophisticated capabilities, including SLVs and communications and remote sensing satellites. Iran’s simple SLVs are only able to launch microsatellites into low-Earth orbit and have proven unreliable with few successful satellite launches,” it said.
DIA said Iran initially developed SLVs as an extension of its ballistic missile program but had genuine civilian and military space launch goals.
“Iran has conducted several successful launches of the two-stage Safir SLV since its first attempt in 2008. It has also revealed the larger two-stage Simorgh SLV, which it launched in July 2017 and January 2019 without successfully placing a satellite into orbit,” it said
“The Simorgh could serve as a test bed for developing ICBM technologies.
“Because of the inherent overlap in technology between ICBMs and SLVs, Iran’s development of larger, more capable SLV boosters remains a concern for a future ICBM capability.”
Iran’s civil space program dates back to time of the Shah. In 1958, it was one of the 24 founding members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
In 2005, Iran became a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), which is led by China, in order to access space technology from other countries.
Among Iran’s more curious achievements is a series of sub-orbital launches, variously carrying monkeys, a tortoise and worms.
Iran says it has a manned space program but has yet to send a human into space. Western media has reported that Iran plans to place a human on the moon by 2025, an ambition which would appear well beyond the country’s current capabilities. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Nov 19. US GAO sustains Blue Origin protest of US Air Force launch solicitation. Key Points:
- The US congressional watchdog upheld Blue Origin’s bid protest of a US Air Force launch solicitation
- The USAF wants to award two contracts for commercial launch services
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on 18 November sustained a protest of a recent US Air Force (USAF) launch solicitation, calling it inconsistent with applicable procurement law and regulation and otherwise unreasonable.
Blue Origin on 12 August protested the USAF’s National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, alleging that several terms of the request for proposal (RFP) unduly restricted competition, were ambiguous, or were inconsistent with customary commercial practice. The solicitation seeks to award two contracts for commercial item launch services in support of military space missions.
The USAF, according to the RFP, will make the two awards by deciding which combination of two independently developed proposals offers the best value to the government. Kenneth Patton, GAO managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said in a 18 November statement that this methodology described by the USAF does not provide a reasonable, common basis on which offerors will be expected to compete and have their proposals evaluated. The GAO recommended the USAF amend the solicitation. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Nov 19. The future of space exploration and the impact of tech under the spotlight on day three. Efforts to create a collaborative Arab Space Agency were discussed today, as Dubai Airshow 2019 hosted its first Space Tech Talks conference.
Focusing on the future of space exploration and its impact on the technology sector, the programme featured a host of keynote sessions from speakers including His Excellency Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Chief Executive Officer at Yahsat, and Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director General of the European Commission.
Recognising that collaboration will be key to the success of any future moves into the field of space exploration, from the UAE’s National Space Strategy 2030 to the Mission to Mars project, Dr. Al Ahbabi said any initiative of the UAE’s was an initiative for the whole of the Arab world. With 14 countries already collaborating on plans for a regional space strategy and satellite project, he highlighted examples of the European Space Agency and African Space Agency, saying: “All the space scientific projects cannot be done without collaboration with other countries. We hope to one day have an Arab Space Agency too. We are next, I believe.”
Among the day’s other key events, Colonel Al Worden, who served as the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 15, hosted a keynote session examining the lessons learned from the Apollo 12 moon landing. He also spoke about his new Endeavour Scholarship, launched in collaboration with Kallman Worldwide, which will see four Emirati students and two teachers sent to space camp in the USA. Colonel Worden said: “The UAE is the first and we’re going to do that with eight different countries initially, because these young people are our future. We’re trying to motivate them into space and we want them to understand what science, technology, engineering and maths are all about.”
The Space Tech Talks conference was taking place for the first time amid a Dubai Airshow programme that has this year given increased spotlight to the region’s momentum in the space sector, with Monday featuring a Women in Space programme that looked at the future of diversity in the region.
Commenting on the success of the programme, Rachel Sturgess, Portfolio Director at Airshow organisers Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East, said: “There’s no question that space exploration is a key focus for both the UAE and global aerospace industry, and we have been honoured to welcome some of the field’s leading pioneers to the Dubai Airshow 2019 for this new programme of events.”
20 Nov 19. NIC4 Inc., specializing in the development and delivery of turn-key satcom solutions, and Get SAT, an innovator in small, lightweight satellite communication terminals for airborne, ground and maritime applications, have teamed to provide Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Comms-on-the-Move (COTM) network and equipment services to Special Operations Forces in Europe. NIC4’s MAVERICK VSAT Service brings an exceptional guaranteed bit-rate to meet the high demands of the mission, while Get SAT’s MilliSAT W terminal enables up to 20 Mbps communications for critical on-the-move missions.
Known for developing tailored communication solutions, NIC4’s trusted reputation for providing mission critical communication solutions to U.S. Government Agencies contributes an exceptional level of expertise to this program. NIC4’s highly trained team, strong industry relationships and access to a global network of industry professionals expand access to an ever-growing solutions portfolio. This optimizes U.S. Government Agency objectives, keeping teams connected anywhere.
“For U.S. Government teams on-the-move, the partnership with Get SAT expands NIC4’s solutions portfolio with even more portable and robust antenna capability options,” says Chad Gatlin, CEO, NIC4, Inc. “On-the-move teams have access to a small-form-factor, highly reliable connectivity solution that ensures missions are achieved.”
Get SAT CEO Kfir Benjamin states, “Innovation to enhance secure, on-the-move communications is coming in smaller packages leading to the opening of more markets for Get SAT. Together with NIC4, we are bringing next-generation comms into reality so that our joint customer can perform operations with comms-on-the-move seamlessly and securely.”
Get SAT terminals are based on its patented InterFLAT flat panel antenna, a miniaturized interlaced antenna combining both receive and transmit elements on one panel, and fast-tracking technologies. By miniaturizing components without sacrificing quality, high data-rates and power, Get SAT leads the industry in creating next-generation terminals and solutions specifically engineered to provide fast, reliable communications for on-the-move applications.
About Get SAT
A privately held company located in Rehovot, Israel, Get SAT Communications provides portable and extremely efficient antenna and terminals that offer high-data-rate communications for ground, air, and maritime applications. Get SAT provides services for government and military use, enterprises, first responders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian groups. For more information, visit www.getsat.com.
NIC4 (part of the Network Innovations Group) is a satellite communications integrator focused on the provision and support of systems, which enables the US Government to stay connected anywhere. Incorporated in 2011 as the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) division, NIC4 drives communication and connection solutions capitalizing on a team of industry professionals strategically located throughout the United States and Southwest Asia. NIC4 specializes in the successful development and delivery of turn-key communications solutions for the military, public safety, and government agencies. Integrating terrestrial and satellite communication technologies, NIC4’s value lies in its ability to custom design and deliver agile and secure mission critical connectivity solutions enabling teams to communicate. Anywhere. Please visit www.NIC4.com for more information.
20 Nov 19. Peraton to develop prototype satellite ground terminal for US Army. Peraton has secured a 20-month contract to develop a prototype satellite ground terminal for the US Army. The other transaction authority (OTA) contract was awarded by the US Air Force Space and Missile Center Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC). The army aims to make use of the tactical potential of space systems for integration into the armed forces’ tactical decision-making process.
In a statement, Peraton said: “This prototype will demonstrate flexibility to advance technology and capability insertion, while concurrently reducing programne development cycles and related costs.”
Work under the contract will be primarily performed in Herndon, Virginia.
Peraton National Security Space vice-president Stan Kekauoha said: “This award builds on our extensive experience delivering solutions for highly differentiated space, intelligence, cyber, electronic warfare, and secure communications to the military services and intelligence community.
“Through demonstrated performance and collaboration, Peraton is a trusted partner on missions critical to our nation’s security priorities.”
Peraton will serve as the developer, systems engineer and integrator for the satellite ground terminal prototype system.
The transportable system is meant for future low-Earth orbiting satellites and will be able to operate under challenging orbital conditions.
The SpEC Consortium focuses on developing next-generation space-related technologies. It comprises industry, academic institutions and start-ups.
Established in 2017, the consortium manages the development of prototypes of space technologies. The SpEC OTA is intended to enable faster prototype contract awards to companies and seeks to encourage small businesses and non-traditional defence contractors. (Source: army-technology.com)
19 Nov 19. ASA signs statement of strategic intent and co-operation with Brisbane-based company. The Australian Space Agency has announced it has signed a statement of strategic intent and co-operation with EM Solutions, a developer of high-speed telecommunications products for international supply chains. The agreement between the two stakeholders aligns with areas of strategic growth outlined in the Australian Civil Space Strategy, with EM Solutions leveraging its experience in delivering innovative radiofrequency and SATCOM systems into the emerging Australian space industry.
Dr Megan Clark, AC, head of the Australian Space Agency, said the signing highlights the importance of aligning business with its National Civil Space Priority Areas to grow the industry.
“EM solutions is building on its experience in land and marine satellite terminals to expand its capabilities in space communications,” said Dr Clark. “Australia can play a lead role in emerging technologies that will enable tracking and communicating across these applications in both traditional geostationary satellites, and new space satellites in low- and medium-Earth orbits.”
Dr Rowan Gilmore, CEO of EM Solutions, spoke about the company’s plan to grow the Australian skill base through the design, testing and assembly of new space hardware.
“EM Solutions is a proud supporter of the Australian Space Agency as it works to grow the space sector,” said Dr Gilmore. “I am delighted that our work in space communications is recognised by signing this joint statement of strategic intent and co-operation with the Australian Space Agency. For more than 20 years, EM Solutions has developed fully integrated systems incorporating its own technology to develop products and subsystems used in the space communications value chain. This includes on-the-move ground terminals for satellite communications, and receivers and transmitters now finding use in next-generation satellite systems.”
The agreement will see EM Solutions expand the capabilities of its Brisbane facility with the construction of a new clean room to enable in-house assembly of electronics suitable for space applications, and as a SmartSat CRC partner, it will focus on enhancing space communications and developing test and certification procedures for space communications.
The Australian Space Agency is working to transform and grow the Australian space industry, including growing the Australian space economy from $3.9bn to $12bn and creating 20,000 new jobs by 2030. (Source: Space Connect)
18 Nov 19. Pit Boss brings autonomous mission management to space. Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) is designing Pit Boss, an autonomous mission management system for DARPA’s Blackjack satellite constellation, with prime Scientific Systems Company, Incorporated. The Blackjack constellation will operate in low Earth orbit. It will network sensors together with a goal to provide persistent global coverage for many applications, including missile warning. Pit Boss aims to use an advanced architecture, processors and encryption to autonomously collect and process data from the entire Blackjack constellation. It is also envisioned to be able to incorporate future advanced algorithms, including artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“Pit Boss connects the brains of each Blackjack satellite, making it one exceptionally smart, networked system,” said Mike Rokaw, director for Raytheon Space Systems. “Rather than sending data down to a ground station for processing, which takes time we don’t have, Pit Boss will send data from space straight to the right operator at the right time.”
While each individual Blackjack sensor can perform onboard processing, Pit Boss is the data collection and processing data hub. By fusing the sensor data together, decision-making speeds up, transitioning from what is known as operator-in-the-loop to operator-on-the-loop methodology.
“Self-knowing satellites are the next step in autonomous space-based mission planning,” said Rokaw. “And, this isn’t limited to missile warning and defense. Future constellation management systems will migrate to this type of methodology.”
18 Nov 19. $90m Per Seat? Boeing’s Space Capsule Draws Criticism from Watchdog. A new report from a NASA watchdog says the U.S. is poised to spend $90m per seat for flights on Boeing Co.’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, a price point much higher than NASA spends now using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Boeing, however, is pushing back on the report’s findings, both on the per-seat cost estimates and other concerns.
The report, issued last week by NASA’s Inspector General, states that, by comparison, the estimated average cost per seat is approximately $55m for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which is also a part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The U.S. has spent between $21.3m and $86m for each round trip to transport astronauts via the Soyuz since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. Responding to the report’s cost estimates, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that it doesn’t “seem right” that Boeing is being paid more for the same service.
“Meaning [it’s] not fair that Boeing gets so much more for the same thing,” he said Thursday.
Boeing issued a statement Monday responding to the IG’s claims in detail. Regarding the per-seat cost estimate, the statement said Boeing offered the option of flying an additional passenger or more cargo capacity, at the direction of the customer.
“Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four,” company officials said in the statement. “For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited.”
Jim Chilton, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Launch, said in a statement that Boeing “[owed] it to the space community and the American public” to fact-check the Inspector General’s claims.
“Each member of the Boeing team has a personal stake in the safety, quality and integrity of what we offer our customers, and since day one, the Starliner team has approached this program with a commitment to design, develop and launch a vehicle that we and NASA can be proud of,” he added.
Chilton’s reference to readiness is part of another allegation made by the IG. The report said there are “significant safety and technical challenges” within the parachutes, propulsion and launch abort systems in both the Starliner and the Dragon capsules, which will postpone some crucial milestone certifications for the program.
“The complexity of these issues has already caused at least a 2-year delay in both contractors’ development, testing, and qualification schedules and may further delay certification of the launch vehicles by an additional year,” the IG report said.
The initial crew demonstration flights are currently planned for early 2020, but “final vehicle certification for both contractors will likely be delayed at least until summer 2020 based on the number of ISS and CCP certification requirements that remain to be verified and validated,” it said.
Boeing said it has made “excellent progress” on all outstanding technical challenges since the IG began collecting information for this report.
“We have retired nearly all possible risk ahead of our uncrewed and crewed flight tests,” Boeing said. “We are confident that we have designed and built a safe, quality system that meets NASA’s requirements.”
The companies in 2014 were awarded fixed-price contracts: $4.2bn for Boeing and $2.6bn for SpaceX to certify their respective spacecraft by 2017.
The IG says NASA also overpaid Boeing just to fill the gap in mission sets.
“We found that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2m above Boeing’s fixed prices to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 for the company’s third through sixth crewed missions and to ensure the company continued as a second commercial crew provider,” the report said. “For these four missions, NASA essentially paid Boeing higher prices to address a schedule slippage caused by Boeing’s 13-month delay in completing the ISS Design Certification Review milestone.”
In all, NASA could have saved millions by ordering only those first two missions — three
and four — while delaying orders for the subsequent missions, the IG concluded.
Boeing, meanwhile, said that these negotiations allow for more flexibility down the line.
“Through fair and open negotiations with NASA in a competitive environment, we offered single-mission pricing for post-certification missions (PCMs) 3-6, thus enabling additional flexibility and schedule resiliency to enhance future mission readiness,” it said. “Contrary to the conclusion in the IG report, Boeing contends that the benefits in shorter lead time and flexibility in adjusting launch dates are well worth the higher price in the table.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military.com)
18 Nov 19. US Space Command is here. Now where does it need to go? U.S. Space Command is expected grow by 25 percent in the next two months as the military’s newest combatant command comes into its own, the head of the new organization said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Nov. 18.
It’s been less than three months since U.S. Space Command was reestablished as the United States’ eleventh combatant command at a Rose Garden Ceremony Aug. 29. Now, the organization has taken over responsibility for fighting any potential battle in space from U.S. Strategic Command.
Over the next couple of months, U.S. Space Command is set to grow by 25 percent. Today, the command is made up of about 400 people at headquarters, which Gen. Jay Raymond, the head of the command, expects to increase to about 500 staffers at the beginning of next year.
U.S. Space Command wasn’t stood up overnight. Raymond, who serves as head of U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command, first heard rumblings the Department of Defense was considering a combatant command for space a full year before that picture perfect ceremony at the White House.
He started planning immediately. Along with five others, Raymond flew to San Antonio, Texas, locked everyone in a room and said, “Okay, we have to plan this command.” By the end of that week the team had the blueprints for what would eventually become U.S. Space Command.
“It’s fascinating for me to be given the opportunity to … plan that command and then stand it up and then to get it going and lead —it’s the highlight of my career,” recalled Raymond. “And it started with those five.”
Now, Raymond is focusing on how the new organization can grow in the near term and where it will focus. The highest priority, he said, is planning. Specifically, joint planning with other combatant commands. Raymond said his command is building integrated planning elements to embed with other commands. Lead staffers have already been hired and the command is preparing to establish the first teams at U.S. European Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command.
In public comments in recent months, Raymond has repeatedly said he is looking forward to having more say in requirements for space systems as the head of U.S. Space Command than at Air Force Space Command. Raymond added he is working on building a requirements team.
Another area that needs to be built largely from scratch is the command’s intelligence function.
“Maybe one of the most important things that we do early on is to rebuild that intelligence function, that atrophied once the U.S. Space Command that stood down in 2002 went away,” said Raymond.
Raymond went on to note that U.S. Space Command has already built a solid relationship with the intelligence community that has already produced some results.
“Our relationship with the intelligence community has never been better. The relationship between us and the (National Reconnaissance Office) is at an all time high. We have a shared strategy, a shared concept of operation. We man a C2 center called the National Space Defense Center,” said Raymond. “We’ve made some really, really, really significant gains based on the data sharing that we’re able to do based on having situational awareness tools.”
And as the command grows, Raymond said his team is close to completing U.S. Space Command’s campaign for space, which he said will be ready at the beginning of next year.
All of this, he said, is quite a ways from five people locked in a room in San Antonio.
“It’s pretty unprecedented if you look at doing all this in one year, from planning to standing up in a year is a pretty heroic lift,” said Raymond. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
15 Nov 19. Success in Space Requires Partnerships, Spacecom Official Says. Partnerships are important to achieving superiority in space, a senior official from U.S. Space Command said in Washington today. Speaking at the Space Power Breakfast, Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting said there are three types of partnerships that Spacecom relies on — joint/combined, interagency and private sector.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” Whiting said, referring to the importance of building partnerships in the military domain of space.
Whiting is the Combined Force Space Component commander for Spacecom, and commander, 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Space is defined as 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, and extending into the universe, he noted.
Since Spacecom is a combatant command, that means all services participate, he said.
But Whiting said because it’s also a combined command, the Combined Space Operations Center has integrated its capabilities and personnel with some allied nations, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Whiting said the U.K. has decided to double the size of its presence at the operations center, and will become the first international partner to join Operation Olympic Defender.
The purpose of Operation Olympic Defender is to strengthen deterrence against potentially hostile actors in space and prevent the spread of debris in space.
Whiting said he expects other nations to join Operation Olympic Defender.
Spacecom also has a multinational Space Collaboration Office, which hosts liaison officers from allied nations and increases collaboration and interoperability with allied partners like France and Germany, Whiting said, adding that Japan is planning to join them.
The 2019 Schriever Wargame — conducted to defend space assets — attracted international partners from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K., he said. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, NASA, the intelligence community and a number of Defense Department agencies also participated.
NASA has always been a close partner with DOD and Spacecom, Whiting said. For example, Spacecom supports safe recovery of astronauts as they return to Earth.
Whiting said Spacecom also welcomes commercial partnerships
The objective of Spacecom “is to preserve U.S. and allied interests in space and to win the peace here on terra firma.” And that space superiority is not something that can really be achieved, unless it is achieved together, Whiting said. (Source: US DoD)
15 Nov 19. U.S. Air Force Contracts with Roccor for Antennas for Space Mission. A contract between the U.S. Air Force and Roccor, will support the U.S. Air Force’s resilient space mission and enhance warfighters’ situational awareness. Roccor, developer of mission-critical satellite hardware, shared that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase-2 contract by AFWERX to build a second-generation satellite communications antenna to support the U.S. Air Force’s resilient space mission. According to Roccor’s commercial customer Viasat, the antenna will fly on a mission “intended to enhance warfighters’ situational awareness by extending the range of Link 16 tactical communications networks — using a constellation of these satellites will provide greater access to Link 16 capabilities in contested or congested environments (and) significantly enhancing mission effectiveness.” (Read more here.)
Roccor’s Phase-2 SBIR contract follows Roccor’s demonstrations of small satellite antenna deployment with L3Harris. Together, these programs are rapidly advancing the country’s military capability and preparedness in the global small satellite era.
Chris Pearson, CEO of Roccor said that they are proud to continue their work with AFWERX and Viasat to support a mission that ultimately keeps the peace and saves lives. Launching Link 16 communications capability on small satellite constellations will allow the U.S. military to ensure global connectivity of the fighting forces and provide for their safety while in harm’s way well into the future. (Source: Satnews)
13 Nov 19. NRO’s Smallsats Launched. Two National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) research and development cubesats were successfully launched via rideshare aboard an Antares rocket as part of the Northrop Grumman-12 (NG-12) Cygnus cargo resupply mission from NASA Wallops Space Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, on November 2, 2019.
Led by NRO’s Advanced Systems and Technology (AS&T) directorate, the two cubesats are part of the NRO’s IMPACT project – an R&D effort to provide early evaluation of new technologies in space. Manifested as AeroCube 14, the two, 3U IMPACT cubesats launched use the Aerospace Corporation’s AeroCube for bus and integration support and host 14 technology demonstrations that range from new materials, such as structural materials and thermal straps, to solar cells, star tracker experiments and on-board processors.
These smallsats will first travel to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the cargo resupply and will deploy in about two months from the ISS to their final orbit.
To assist with the NRO’s research and development goal of rapid technology infusion, the IMPACT program offers a regular launch cadence for technology demonstrations; provides an adaptable bus that enables easy onboarding and off-boarding of those technologies, and serves as the front end of the technology for NRO future capabilities.
Four of the experiments that were launched are also part of NRO’s new Greenlighting program, which leverages and evaluates the performance and space survivability of new technologies developed by non-traditional commercial partners in a streamlined fashion on a rapid timeline.
The unclassified Greenlighting program focuses on technology development, not satellite development, by giving vendors supporting NRO’s mission goals the ability to focus on maturation of technologies without having to worry about the logistics of getting to space.
By using a standard circuit board interface on which to host small module technology experiments, the Greenlighting program drives miniaturization of technologies and keeps costs low — all while giving these projects access to space testing that might not be available through traditional means.
Dr. Susan Durham, Director, AS&T, said that with IMPACT, the goal is to take the pioneering research areas being explored to test their survivability and performance in space. The launch of the IMPACT cubesats along with the NRO’s new Greenlighting program represents the best of the agency’s collaboration with commercial research and launch partners. (Source: Satnews)
13 Nov 19. Kepler and Cobham SATCOM Partner Offering ‘User Terminal-as-a-Service.’ Two companies have partnered to combine their assets offering a dynamic service. The companies and their new service was announced to eliminate barriers to widespread adoption of high capacity data services over Kepler Communication’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network.
Kepler Communications and Cobham SATCOM’s new partnership translates that under the new arrangement, organizations that evaluate Kepler’s ability to cost-effectively move multiple gigabytes of data per day around the globe can experience a fully managed trial of the service anywhere with no upfront CAPEX spend, no lengthy service commitment, and certified installation and support executed through Cobham SATCOM’s global Technical Service Partner network.
The ‘User Terminal-as-a-Service’ (UTaaS), the Kepler-Cobham partnership centers on three core principles:
- shifting equipment costs to a monthly operational fee from a more traditional one-time capital expense
- embedding installation, technical support, terminal maintenance, warehousing, and transport services into the monthly fees with future capabilities for add-on services
- exchanging technical know-how to improve the delivery of LEO wideband services going forward.
To further validate the effectiveness of the new UTaaS partnership, recently the two firms confirmed that Cobham’s full range of SAILOR and Sea Tel antenna systems, used in the maritime communications segment, are both fully capable of tracking LEO satellites on land and at sea.
As an example, Kepler and Cobham successfully deployed their system recently utilizing two augmented Sea Tel antennas aboard the Polarstern research vessel. Currently, the network is delivering services in the central Arctic well beyond the range of traditional geostationary satellites and has demonstrated up to 40 Mbps downlink and 120 Mbps uplink.
Kepler’s Global Data Service (GDS), which is currently enabled by Kepler’s first two satellites in orbit, is a high-capacity worldwide data communication service that enables the movement of Gigabytes of data to and from the user’s location at economic rates. The store-and-forward nature of the solution makes it suitable for delay-tolerable data such as large multimedia files, high-resolution videos and imagery, and other bandwidth-intensive data within the maritime, oil & gas, tourism, and scientific communities.
Jeffrey Osborne, Co-founder and VP of Business Development at Kepler and Matt Galston, Sr. Director Global Market Strategy and Development, Cobham SATCOM concluded with comments that include;
Jeffrey Osborne, Co-founder and VP of Business Development at Kepler said that proven, reliable ground segment is a critical piece for delivering wideband services from LEO. The cost of today’s tracking antennas as well as the complexity of coordinating setup, installation, and support are understandable roadblocks for those wishing to test drive their Global Data Service. At Kepler, their goal is to deliver the most frictionless customer experience possible so that anyone with a potential use case for this groundbreaking capability can simply say ‘yes’ and keep their focus on the really important elements of their application. Their partnership with Cobham enables them to create precisely that experience where they can scaleably execute demonstrations anywhere on the planet all for a manageable monthly OPEX fee that includes hardware, setup, support, and airtime.
Matt Galston, Sr. Director Global Market Strategy & Development, Cobham SATCOM commented that Kepler’s approach is unique for their industry. By starting with a small number of satellites in operation, they focus more directly on solving problems for the end-user. Their collaboration demonstrates how some solutions come through partnerships, new commercial models, and a shared goal of delighting end-users while being able to scale that delight to many more in time. It’s exciting to be a part of this journey, and they are confident Kepler’s future is very bright. (Source: Satnews)
11 Nov 19. Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA Demos Advanced Electric Propulsion System Thruster at Full Power. Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA recently demonstrated an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) thruster at full power for the first time, achieving an important program milestone.
Aerojet Rocketdyne-developed AEPS thrusters are slated to be used on the Power and Propulsion Element of NASA’s Gateway, the agency’s orbiting lunar outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space.
The state-of-the-art AEPS Hall thruster operated at 12.5 kilowatts (kW) as part of its final conditioning sequence during testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The thruster demonstrated stable operation at power levels ranging from 4.2 kW to 12.5 kW. Full electric propulsion thruster string integration will take place early next year.
The Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element is a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft capable of producing 60 kW – which is three times more powerful than current capabilities. Two Aerojet Rocketdyne AEPS thruster strings will be employed on the spacecraft. Each string is comprised of a Xenon Hall thruster, a power processing unit that controls the electric power to the thruster, and a Xenon flow controller which controls the flow of Xenon to the thruster.
The AEPS thruster is part of a larger Aerojet Rocketdyne AEPS development effort under contract with NASA’s Glenn Research Center. Early system integration tests for AEPS were successfully conducted last August, proving the system’s ability to successfully convert power at a high efficiency level, producing minimal waste heat. NASA aims to launch the Power and Propulsion Element in late 2022 in support of the Artemis program, which will land the first woman and next man on the Moon. (Source: Satnews)
10 Nov 19. OneWeb’s Delay of Launch of First 34 Satellites. OneWeb will delay the launch of their first batch of 34 satellites until the New Year, the company says that they want to give the craft additional checks, according to a new posting by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite. The satellites will then be flown to the Russian cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for launch — probably in late-January.
OneWeb launched their first 6 debut satellites back in February, and this batch were originally expected to launch in December. It is still expected that OneWeb will be launching about 30 satellites a month for the following 20 months using an Arianespace contract with Roscosmos on Soyuz rockets that includes launches from the new Vostochny launch site in Russia.
Trade newsletter Space Intel Report is saying that OneWeb — and its backer Japanese conglomerate SoftBank — will file a Court application to dismiss the case lodged by Intelsat which alleges fraud by OneWeb and SoftBank, and the alleged theft of trade secrets and breaches of contract. (Source: Satnews)
10 Nov 19. Fractal Antenna Systems Awaits Pending Issuance of a Major Patent for SATCOM. Fractal Antenna Systems (‘FRACTAL’) reports the impending issuance of a key patent for satellite communications and others uses. U.S. Patent 10,483,649 details “aperture engines,” where area is used to collect and convert power, and then receive/transmit radio waves from the same region.
Stacking antennas, especially arrays, on solar cells was previously impractical. Antenna elements and feed system can severely shadow solar cells, cutting down the amount of light. Meanwhile, electrical interactions made acceptable antenna performance difficult.
First conceived by Cohen in 1998, it took fractal antenna elements and resonators to make aperture engines advantageous. Fractal antennas are significantly smaller and more wide/multiband than traditional antenna elements. Additionally, no separate antennas are needed to cover a wide wireless bandwidth. These advantages give minimal shadowing and greater light transfer to the solar cells. Finally, the firm’s proprietary development of transparent antenna/resonator elements produced aperture engines with even higher efficiencies.
The critical advantage of aperture engines is a significant increase in power conveyed for the total area. For example, an area divided between antennas and solar cells sees only about 50 percent of the incoming solar radiation. With an aperture engine, the stacking of the antenna on the solar cells means the full area is available and over 90 percent of the solar radiation of the area is usable for power. That advantage makes aperture engines a near necessity in many future satellite systems.
Additional benefits abound for the antenna as well, with the previously dedicated solar cell area now doubling as an aperture/reflector for antenna elements, increasing gain, yielding higher orders of MIMO, and/or allowing greater beam steering resolution.
FRACTAL is no stranger to SATCOM antennas. For 15 years, the firm has developed Earth-based SATCOM antennas that are smaller and lower profile with better sidelobe response than traditional designs. A trusted provider of aerospace antennas, the firm also designs on-satellite antennas for a myriad of applications.
Aperture engines are also an energy efficient enabler for Earth-based IoT devices. These need to be self-powered, communicate remotely, and have tough size constraints. FRACTAL disclosed the company has IoT customers as well as a portfolio of IP for IoT that includes this new patent issuance.
FRACTAL’s CEO and inventor, Nathan Cohen, noted that before aperture engines, antennas/arrays and power sources were considered separate, a luxury not easily afforded. Satellites are an excellent example where real estate is so limited it needs to be shared. Moving forward, a satellite’s surface area can be used simultaneously for both power generation and RF power transmission/reception as an aperture engine. IoT aperture engine and fractal technology will be widely implemented. You will see them as wireless mesh networks attached to motors, pipelines, heating/cooling systems, generators, and many other infrastructure systems. Aperture engines, with IoT, will realize the long sought self-powered, globally capable wireless sensor.
AJ Shelman, FRACTAL’s VP of Products, noted that competition in the satellite communications and remote sensing market is intensifying, particularly within the LEO domain. The application of the company’s proprietary fractal antenna, fractal metamaterial, and aperture engine technologies creates significant performance and economic advantages for satellite and ground node designers alike. (Source: Satnews)
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.