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SATELLITE SYSTEMS, SATCOM AND SPACE SYSTEMS UPDATE

Sponsored By Viasat

www.viasat.com/gov-uk

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28 Nov 19. Viasat: bringing private-sector innovation into defence. From in-flight Wi-Fi to close air support, Viasat is adapting private-sector technologies for military uses. Harry lye sat down with the company’s president Ken Peterman and UK managing director Steve Beeching at DSEI to hear how the defence sector can benefit from commercial-sector innovation.

Viasat’s work is not primarily in the defence sector, but the company is employing innovations developed for the private sector across the US Armed Forces. While its technology covers everything from satellites and cyber security to tactical data links and communications, some of its more innovative work is on niche products adapting private sector standards into defence equipment.

In-flight Wi-Fi isn’t just for movies

Inflight Wi-Fi is a common feature on commercial flights by now, but military aviation is lagging behind in this area. Imagine boarding a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey: you’ve had your briefing and know everything about your target when you take off, but during the flight you are cut off from data, have no picture of the ground and are expected to jump out the back doors and complete your mission on arrival. How can commercial airliners have access to continuous in-air broadband, but military aircraft don’t?

Viasat president Ken Peterman explains how the idea of adopting this private sector standard into defence equipment came about through communicating with troops. “We had a young Marine who came forward and said: ‘Listen, if you can bring in-flight broadband connectivity to United Airlines, or Virgin aircraft, why can’t you bring it to my V-22?’”.

Peterman explains how the Marine told him the scariest part of a mission was the moment when the Osprey’s doors opened and he didn’t know what to expect. “When I ran out of that aircraft,” the Marine reportedly said, “I did not know what the next ten seconds were going to be like, and the only thing I knew for sure was the situation was a hell of a lot different than four hours ago when I took off.”

Inspired by the notion that a service that brings entertainment and convenience to customers on commercial flights should also be available as a potentially life-saving capability on military flights, Viasat embarked on a project to bring exactly that capability to the US military. The company is outfitting aircraft with the equipment needed to connect them mid-flight, giving them access to constant data up and down links, live feeds of news networks. It enables personnel to hold video conferences with their commanders en-route to a location, and support teams in other aircraft.

While such services are considered standard in the commercial sector, the have been revelation in the defence world. Viasat says within 30 days of receiving in-flight broadband, the military was praising the technology as ‘game-changing’.

Improved connectivity enables operators on the ground to better communicate with fighter jet pilots. Image: Viasat

Bringing close air support into the 21st century

Close air support is both a vital and dangerous endeavour, alleviating immediate threats to boots on the ground but also putting them in harm’s way due to the inherit inaccuracy of radioing in an air strike.

Since the inception of the practice, the way it works has seen little change: radio operators describe a target, often marking it with smoke and pilots do their best to hit it. With so many unknown factors for a pilot entering a space filled with friendlies and enemies in a cocktail of fire, unfortunately fratricide is all too common.

The need to reduce this risk of friendly fire inspired Viasat to build a solution. Peterman explains: “Our veterans and our technologists got together to mourn a friendly fire incident that happened in June 2014. On a back of a napkin, over a beer, they sketched up the architecture to prevent this from happening again.”

What Viasat designed was a means of allowing the tactical controller on the ground to paint a map with friendlies, enemies, and buildings to provide an accurate picture of the battlefield which could then be transmitted to a pilot’s heads-up-display and help them use their weapons with better accuracy.

The air-ground link already existed between pilot and dismounted soldier; Viasat’s aim was to take the accuracy of the system to a more survivable level. Using a handheld radio the solution allows a single soldier to directly communicate with the pilot of a fighter jet, cutting through the battlefield chatter. Viasat says by calling in close air support via its joint terminal attack controllers, the efficiency of air strikes is dramatically increased and the risks of blue-on-fire plummet. According to Viasat it’s a solution the military did actively seek out until the company built it.

Developing these solutions, however, means nothing without establishing a relationship between private sector and the military, as Beeching explains. “Only when we have that truly trusted industry – defence collaboration, do you actually have really honest conversations, because you’re not criticising set process. Then you’re at the Nirvana that starts to deliver things that nobody else can”.

Bridging the private-defence divide

Building this relationship is of critical importance, says Beeching, in order to continue bringing private sector innovation into the defence sector.

In the private sector, he says, there is a prevalent culture of not just developing new technology to replace old systems, but rather looking at how the development process itself can be changed for the better. In the defence industry, with its notoriously long acquisition programmes, this has yet to become the new normal, although Beeching adds that the UK Ministry of Defence appears to be moving towards a more flexible approach to acquisition.

Echoing this, Peterman uses the moon landing as an example of the progress the US Government has made in modernising its acquisition process. Whereas with Apollo 11, he explains, NASA “broke the problem down, and probably let 10,000 contracts out to invent everything from aluminium foil, to the fuel tank, and powdered breakfast drink” and then pieced the rocket shaped jigsaw together. Now the safest, easiest and cheapest way for such a mission is to “issue a one page statement of objective” for the technology required and then let industry handle the rest.

Rather than breaking equipment development down into contracts for individual components, defence departments are increasingly realising that a quicker and more efficient way to develop new equipment may be to present the problem as a whole and let industry work out a full solution. In this regard, military procurement can certainly learn a thing or two from the private sector.  (Source: airforce-technology.com)

28 Nov 19. European Space Agency Approves Record Budget. The ESA is to invest €14.4bn ($15.8bn) in space exploration including a moon mission up to 2022. Germany is now the largest contributor to the agency’s biggest ever budget. European space exploration is getting its biggest financial boost in 25 years. At a conference in Seville, Spain, the 22 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) on Thursday agreed on a €14.4bn ($15.8bn) budget for the next five years.

“It’s a real surprise, it’s more than I proposed, I’m very happy,” ESA Director-General Jan Wörner said.

Germany now contributes the lion’s share of the budget with €3.3bn, which amounts to 22.9%. France follows with 18.5% before Italy with 15.9%.

What will the money be used for?

— Gateway, the first space station to orbit the moon, allowing European astronauts to go to the moon for the first time.

— To develop “the first fully flexible satellite systems to be integrated with 5G networks”

— The Hera mission, in connection with NASA, to protect the earth from asteroids

— The first gravitational wave detector in space, LISA

— The black-hole mission Athena, designed to “enable fundamental advances in our understanding of the basic physics of the Universe.”

— The “Mars Sample Return” mission, also in cooperation with NASA

— Space Rider, “ESA’s new reusable spaceship.”

New agenda

In addition to these projects the ESA agreed on new focuses:

— Strengthening ESA’s leading position in earth observation to monitor the effects of climate change

— Space safety has been approved as a new pillar aimed at keeping space operational

— ESA’s commitment to the International Space Station (ISS) was reaffirmed

— Transitioning to the next generation of launchers, like Ariane-6 and the smaller Vega-C

Moon mission and SMEs

Referring to Germany’s contribution, the government’s coordinator of aerospace policy, Thomas Jarzombek stressed that “we have demonstrated that we are a reliable partner of ESA.”

He said Germany will be able to strengthen the role of small-and medium-sized companies in space exploration and “we managed to help enable the European moon mission with a contribution of €55m.”

ESA is closely watching the US space agency NASA’s Artemis mission, which aims to send astronauts to the moon by 2024. European states are so far merely providing a module for the Orion spacecraft, but ESA chief Wörner on Thursday assured member states that “we will send Europeans to the moon.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German radio)

27 Nov 19. UK to increase funding for ESA. Today, at the end of the Space19+ meeting in Seville, the European Space Agency (ESA) will announce which countries have won participation in which projects under its new five year funding programme.

Earlier this week, the UK said it is increasing the amount it will contribute to the European Space Agency by 15% taking the UK contribution to £374m a year for the next five years, up from £300m a year at present. Germany contributes about £1 bn a year to ESA and France about £800m.

Participants were obliged to divulge their funding contributions ahead of the announcement of the final ESA budget if they were to be chosen to participate in ESA projects.

The largest single portion of the ESA budget for the next five years will be spent on scientific projects with £2.48bn allocated to them.

The next biggest is £2.27bn for space transportation, including the launcher rocket Ariane 6 and the support module for the new NASA moon missions.

This is a project to build a space station orbiting the moon that would monitor the lunar surface and help aid crewed missions to our nearest celestial neighbour.

The UK is hoping to provide communications between the moon and Earth as the plans to build a new space station around the moon get under way.

The UK, which is the fourth largest contributor to ESA’s budget is to play a ‘full part’ in the agency’s future. (Source: News Now/https://www.electronicsweekly.com/)

29 Nov 19. US Space Command accepts latest WGS satellite. US Space Command has accepted the 10th satellite of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation into service.

This is the newest of the WGS series, with the US$424m satellite launched in mid-March on a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 medium rocket.

The manufacturer, Boeing, verified the performance of WGS-10 and handed control to the US Air Force in July.

In-orbit testing was performed by a team of USAF, Army and Navy engineers and operators, who trialled the satellite’s anti-jam capabilities and other cyber security techniques and procedures that will be incorporated across the WGS constellation.

This a big deal for Australia as the WGS constellation is the key component of Australian Defence Force satellite communications capability. Australia is an international partner in the WGS program through funding of satellite WGS-6, which gives us proportional access to the network.

Other international partners are Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand, which contributed to the cost of WGS-9.

The WGS constellation provides fast broadband communications for the US military and allies. The first WGS satellite was launched in 2007, with capability steadily improved such that WGS-10 can deliver download speeds of up to 11 gigabits per second.

Just one WGS satellite has the same capability as the entire legacy 14-satellite DSCS network.

WGS satellites are operated by the US Air Force 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. Soldiers from the US Army 53rd Signal Battalion manage five Wideband Satellite Communication Operations Centers where they control the WGS payloads.

The US Air Force considered the WGS constellation complete with WGS-10 and sought no more satellites. But it’s getting them. In 2018, the US Congress inserted US$605m funding for WGS-11 and WGS-12 into the US defence budget, with the contract with Boeing for WGS-11 announced in April. The USAF and Boeing are still negotiating the terms of the WGS-11 deal. One possibility is a satellite with double the capacity of earlier WGS satellites so that WGS-12 won’t be needed. It’s expected WGS-11 will be completed in late 2023. While Congress provided funding for the satellites, it provided nothing towards the substantial cost of launch. The US Air Force has also asked Boeing to help recruit international partners for WGS-11. So, Australia might be asked to contribute. (Source: Space Connect)

29 Nov 19. PNG adopts Aireon satellite system for air traffic surveillance. Papua New Guinea has chosen a space-based air traffic surveillance system to allow 100 per cent real-time surveillance of aircraft in the Port Moresby Flight Information Region (FIR). Previously, PNG Air Services Limited (PNGASL) relied on ground-based infrastructure for its surveillance capability.

However, because of PNG’s extremely mountainous and difficult terrains and unpredictable inclement weather, it has been a challenge for PNGASL to efficiently install and effectively maintain ground stations.

In an attempt to resolve the geographic constraints on existing ground-based surveillance, PNGASL turned to local third-party communications links but power supply disruption and service outages made that unreliable.

But that’s not a problem for a space-based system.

PNG has now signed an agreement to deploy the Aireon space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) air traffic surveillance service.

Captain Ted Pakii, PNGASL chief executive and managing director, said this was a significant milestone for PNGASL as it continuously strived to provide the highest standards of air traffic safety and efficiency.

“The Aireon surveillance data will strengthen all operations overseeing our FIR, from improving our controller’s workload and broadening their capabilities, to facilitating user-preferred routes for our customers,” he said.

“Additionally, Aireon’s technology will facilitate seamless services for the aviation industry in PNG and within the region and enable more accurate positioning for search and rescue operations among other benefits.”

Within the next few months, PNGASL will have real-time air traffic surveillance over the Port Moresby FIR.

That shares common borders with Brisbane FIR, managed by Airservices Australia, the Oakland Oceanic FIR, managed by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Ujung Pandang FIR, managed by AirNav Indonesia.

Don Thoma, chief executive of Aireon, said deploying space-based ADS-B surveillance technology in the Port Moresby FIR solidified PNGASL’s position as a leader of regional aviation safety and efficiency .

“We are certain that these benefits will extend to the greater Asia Pacific,” he said.

“PNGASL plays a significant geographic role, being a main thoroughfare for traffic going from the north to the south and vice-versa. They are looking to provide the best-in-class services to their customers and stakeholders and real-time oceanic and terrestrial air traffic surveillance will absolutely accomplish that.”

PNGASL is a state-run enterprise that began operations in 2008, providing air navigation services to domestic and international operators using PNG airspace.

Aireon is a US-based company that has deployed a space-based air traffic surveillance system for ADS-B equipped aircraft around the world. That uses the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation. (Source: Space Connect)

28 Nov 19. Trio team up to deliver high-res satellite images to NSW government. Geospatial Intelligence, Geoimage and Airbus Defence and Space have teamed up to provide the NSW government with state-wide, very high resolution satellite image mosaics.

Spatial Services, as part of the NSW Department of Customer Services (previously the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation), requested NSW-wide satellite imagery products and services for temporal analysis at multiple epochs during 2019 and 2020 to determine the rate of change within dynamic regions of the state.

Geospatial Intelligence said its tender win highlights the importance of satellite-derived data to the NSW government, and strengthens the company’s role in the Australian Earth observation community and space sector.

“Using cutting-edge technology and some of the best Earth observation satellites available our company will deliver a product to the NSW government ahead of schedule, an achievement we are very proud of, as customer satisfaction has always been our key company objective,” said Geospatial Intelligence CEO Rob Coorey.

Since June 2019, Geospatial Intelligence has tasked Airbus SPOT 6/7 satellites, capturing more than 1 million square kilometres of near-cloud free 1.5-metre resolution imagery over NSW, and Lord Howe Island, with a second capture of the state-wide imagery to begin in early 2020.

Geoimage is responsible for processing the SPOT6/7 data to provide a state-wide high-quality colour balanced mosaic and tiled product solution for each of the biannual captures.

The supplied products and services will be available to be viewed by NSW state government agencies for internal purposes and for use within public facing web services.

Providing the NSW government with the three-band state-wide mosaic for use in other applications delivers additional value to the data, and supports the government’s use of the data to inform decision-making.

The department also has access to search the entire Airbus satellite archive, with over 100 billion square kilometres of satellite imagery from the Pléiades and SPOT constellations, through its online Geostore. (Source: Space Connect)

28 Nov 19. UNSW Canberra collaborates with Clearbox on study. University of NSW Canberra and Canberra company Clearbox Systems have secured Commonwealth funding for a project to improve space situational awareness (SSA). UNSW and Clearbox will undertake a collaborative research project centred on mitigating the risks associated with the hazard of orbital collisions in the congested near-Earth orbits. The key activities to be undertaken will be determining the most appropriate spacecraft signals to enhance SSA and devising methods to extract information, including spacecraft trajectory information, from those signals.

UNSW Canberra Space director Russell Boyce said that this collaboration will make progress in a priority area for the Australian space research community, and was bringing together academia and industry to deliver real world solutions addressing user needs and opportunities.

“Australia makes an important contribution to global space collision avoidance. This research will raise the bar and enhance that contribution even further,” he said.

Jeremy Hallett, executive director of Clearbox Systems, said the company was excited to be working with UNSW Canberra Space.

He said Clearbox saw this as a major opportunity in the world of SSA.

“We have deep expertise in satellite communications and believe we can adapt this for SSA applications. However, we believe our best chance of success will come through collaboration, which is at the core of our business,” Hallett said.

“By engaging closely and often with institutions like UNSW Canberra, it will enable us to sharpen our focus and accelerate new product development.”

It is expected that there will be at least a 20-fold increase in the number of active low-Earth orbit satellites in the next five years, with a similar increase in the total mass in low-Earth orbit.

The new project aims to enhance tracking and knowledge of the behaviour of these satellites.

The funding was awarded as part of the Innovation Connections grant program. Innovation Connections assists businesses to understand their research needs, connect with the research sector and fund collaborative research projects.

UNSW Canberra Space is a team with facilities to enable end-to-end space mission capability.  From its base at UNSW Canberra, the team plays a leading role in shaping and developing the Australian space industry to meet global challenges. (Source: Space Connect)

27 Nov 19. China launch places satellites in orbit and spent rocket stage on house. Highlighting the very real dangers of uncontrolled return to Earth of spent rocket boosters, a Chinese Long March 3B launch last week resulted in the destruction of a rural building that may have been someone’s house. Video on Chinese social media shows the building in flames with scattered pieces of what appear to be rocket booster debris.

Rising from the wreckage are fumes from residual rocket fuel, which in the case of the Long March 3B are a toxic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. SpaceNews said there had so far been no state media reports of the incident, which occurred soon after the launch on Friday.

Video and social media comments suggested the owners returned to their battered home following the standard evacuation conducted ahead of launches.

The post attracted a large number of comments with many expressing concern for local residents. There was discussion as to why such events occur, along with speculation of possible compensation.

In the launch, the Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, successfully placing two BeiDou satellites into medium-Earth orbit. BeiDou is China’s satellite navigation system.

This mission was China’s 28th orbital attempt for 2019.

The country has long appreciated it has a problem with where space debris may end up. Three of China’s four national launch sites date from the Cold War when strategic considerations led them to be established far inland. But now there are more rockets and more people, with spent rocket components falling near downrange towns and villages, sometimes damaging property.

In February 1996, a Long March rocket carrying the US Intelsat 708 communications satellite veered off course immediately after launch and obliterated a nearby village. The official death toll was six. Unofficial estimates put the toll in the hundreds.

China is looking at re-using key rocket sections, which would minimise risk to those on the ground. In the meantime, it’s seeking to minimise the risk to people downrange by evacuating those in the calculated drop zones. SpaceNews said it had seen notices issuing evacuation orders and closing air space ahead of launches. Residents were also advised against harmful chemicals in wreckage. Another Long March 3B launch is expected in the next month to launch two more BeiDou satellites. (Source: Space Connect)

27 Nov 19. US start-up proposes to launch satellites from balloons. Here’s a neat way to reduce the costs of launching small satellites into low-Earth orbit. First carry them part of the way to space aboard a balloon, then launch using a regular but smaller rocket.

US start-up Leo Aerospace is developing a system that will loft small spacecraft using a rocket dropped from a giant hot-air balloon about 18,000 metres above the Earth surface.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. It was done many times in the 1950s for sub-orbital atmospheric research using large helium balloons but hasn’t been done much since.

However, at least two companies – Virgin Galactic with its SpaceShipTwo and Northrop Grumman with its Pegasus – are launched from aircraft flying at high altitudes. Leo Aerospace has developed an autonomous aerostat called Regulus, which can carry a 10-metre rocket able to carry a 33-kilogram payload to a 550-kilometre sun-synchronous orbit.

Alternatively, it can place a larger 57-kilogram payload in a lower orbit of 300 kilometres. Those rockets are single use only but Regulus is designed for rapid reuse as many as 100 times.

“Our fully reusable, autonomous aerostat carries a rocket to 60,000 feet in altitude prior to launch. By launching at this altitude, aerodynamic and gravitational losses are reduced for the rocket, cutting energy requirements to orbit by over 10 per cent and the overall size of the rocket by more than 50 per cent,” the company said on its website.

Leo Aerospace co-founder Bryce Prior said explained his company’s technology at the first ever US Air Force Space Pitch Day earlier this month.

“We can launch from anywhere that you can fit a cargo container,” Prior said.

He didn’t say just what the company would charge to place a satellite in orbit, but did indicate it would cost one to three times what a customer would now pay for a rideshare on a rocket such as a SpaceX Falcon.

The difference is that rideshare customers have little control over when their satellite will launch.

They have to work on the timetable of the primary payload customer.

Leo Aerospace isn’t alone in proposing satellite launch by balloon. Spanish start-up Zero 2 Infinity is also developing what’s referred to in the industry as a rockoon system. It performed a successful trial in 2017. Prior said the company aims to begin providing suborbital launches in 2021 and orbital missions by the end of the following year. (Source: Space Connect)

27 Nov 19. Square Kilometre Array plans close to finalisation with construction tipped for early 2021. The design of the world’s largest radio telescope, to be located in Western Australia and South Africa, is close to finalisation, with construction likely to start in early 2021.

This is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an international project funded by 13 nations and consisting of thousands of antennas across the world, with central cores of operation in South Africa and Australia.

By combining signals from the large number of small antennas, SKA is in effect a single giant radio telescope capable of extremely high sensitivity and angular resolution, giving it the ability to determine where a signal originates.

SKA will feature a total collecting area of approximately a square kilometre, which will make it 50 times more sensitive than any existing radio telescopes, allowing astronomers to survey vast areas of the sky in parallel for the first time.

In Australia, the core site, comprising some 130,000 individual antennas, will be at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory at Mileura Station near Boolardy in Western Australia and operated by the CSIRO. Construction will begin next year.

Computer processing of data will be performed around the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth.

Sciencemag.org reported this week that SKA officials meeting in Shanghai presented designs for array dishes and antennas that would be reviewed in coming weeks.

Philip Diamond, SKA director-general at the organisation headquarters in the UK said he was feeling confident of construction starting in 2021.

The SKA design review committee was expected to make suggestions but no show-stoppers were expected, he said.

SKA was originally envisaged as containing millions of antennae but high cost prompted a more modest but still substantial plan.

SKA will build on the precursor Murchison Widefield Array in WA adding 130,000 antennas, and the Meerkat Array in South Africa, adding 133 additional dishes.

CSIRO director of astronomy and space science Douglas Bock said the two arrays had distinct scientific cases.

Low frequency antennas in Australia s observe radio emissions from pulsars. The dishes in South Africa are tuned to observe at higher frequencies and could trace flows of hydrogen in star and galaxy formation.

Once the review committee approves the design, the next step will be for member countries to ratify a SKA Treaty to create an international legal entity able to collect funds and award contracts.

The Netherlands has already ratified, with Australia expected to sign on early next year and other nations soon after. (Source: Space Connect)

26 Nov 19. Egypt launches first communication satellite: cabinet. Egypt has launched its first communication satellite into orbit, the Cabinet said late on Tuesday, a step government officials say will improve communications infrastructure, internet services and attract investment.

Tiba-1 was due to launch last Friday but was delayed for technical reasons, the Cabinet said. It did not give details.

The 5.6-tonne satellite was launched on one of Europe’s Arianespace rockets from a space center in French Guiana.

Made by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space (TAS), it will remain in orbit for at least 15 years to provide “every inch” of Egypt with call and internet services, state officials said. (Source: Reuters)

19 Nov 19. European Commission optimistic budget hike will be approved. The European Commission is optimistic its space budget will rise significantly in the next seven-year cycle. The European Commission is recommending a space budget of 16.2bn euros ($17.9bn) for 2021 through 2027, a nearly 50 percent increase over the 11bn euros budgeted for 2014 through 2020.

“This may not be the end of the story,” Matthias Petschke, European Commission director for the European Union space program, said Nov. 19 at the Space Tech Expo Europe here. “There are ongoing discussions at the European parliament.”

In those discussion, European Commission leaders “will argue this is the bare minimum [funding] needed,” adding “member states may have a more critical view,” Petschke said. “We need money to ensure continuity and the appropriate level of technological evolution.”

In the end, the European Commission and member states may reach a compromise. In the past, the Commission has been largely successful in obtaining the funding it sought for space programs, he added.

The European Union also plans to establish a new post: a Directorate-General for Defense and Space. If the plan is approved by member states, the EU space program will no longer report to the European Director General for Growth. Instead, it “will be part of a much more visible, independent, agile” organization, Petschke said. (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)

21 Nov 19. Three teams selected to design Project Blackjack’s brains. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected three teams to design Pit Boss, a system that can take data from satellites in low earth orbit, process that information in space and disseminate that information to users on Earth without any human input or instructions.

The three prime contractors are BAE Systems, SEAKR Engineering, Inc and Scientific Systems Company, Incorporated. SEAKR will work with a team that includes Microsoft, Applied Technology Associates, Advanced Solutions Inc, Kythera Space Solutions and NKrypt. Raytheon announced Nov. 19 that they will work with SSCI. Both SSCI and BAE declined to discuss the details of their contracts.

Pit Boss is an autonomous mission management system that DARPA is building for another of its casino-themed initiatives, Project Blackjack. That program aims to demonstrate the value of a large proliferated constellation of low earth orbit satellites for a variety of military uses. Satellites in low earth orbit appear to be central to the Pentagon’s plans for national security space in the next decade, partly as a way to increase resiliency but also as a way to provide unique capabilities, like tracking hypersonic weapons.

According to a broad agency announcement DARPA issued in April, Pit Boss should be able to “acquire target localization, characterization, and persistent tracking information using” a global LEO constellation. Furthermore, DARPA said Pit Boss should be able to augment PNT capabilities, space-to-surface communications and rapid dissemination of critical data worldwide.

The key innovation Pit Boss should bring will be the capability to process data in orbit, preventing the need to transport it to a ground station for processing. Not only will each Blackjack sensor be capable of performing on-board processing, Pit Boss will be able to take the data from each individual Blackjack sensor, fuse it and get it to the users who need it without commands from human satellite operators.

“Pit Boss connects the brains of each Blackjack satellite, making it one exceptionally smart, networked system,” said Raytheon Space Systems Director Mike Rokaw in a statement Nov. 19. “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.”

This technology could have implication beyond constellations in low earth orbit.

“Self-knowing satellites are the next step in autonomous space-based mission planning,” he said. “And, this isn’t limited to missile warning and defense. Future constellation management systems will migrate to this type of methodology.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/C4ISR & Networks)

19 Nov 19. C-Band Alliance’s Intelsat, SES and Telesat React to FCC’s C-Band Decision. Intelsat, SES and Telesat are likely not delighted with the U.S. Federal Communications decision to hold a public auction of 280 MHz of C-band for 5G development and deployment, rather than go with the aforementioned firms’ desires and offered plan to engage in a private auction of this spectrum.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated the best way to advance the freeing up of significant 5G spectrum and to generate revenues for the federal government, all the while protecting current C-band users, is via a public auction.

The C-Band Alliance (CBA), formed by the aforementioned satellite companies, published the following statement in reaction to this FCC announcement.

“The FCC Chairman’s indication that he intends to pursue a public auction of C-band spectrum is a significant departure from the CBA’s market-based proposal. The announcement does not address the critical involvement of the incumbent satellite operators in executing the complex task of reconfiguring and transitioning their networks.  Nor does the announcement address the fundamental modification of the rights afforded by the existing FCC licenses held by the CBA members which would be required under a public auction approach.

“To ensure U.S. national security interests, U.S. leadership in 5G innovation and the expected accompanying GDP and job growth, the full cooperation of the satellite operators will be required to ensure the successful clearing of the C-band while protecting the incumbent broadcast services enjoyed by millions of U.S. households.

“We will continue to work cooperatively with the FCC to develop an effective alternative plan and achieve the best outcome for the American public while protecting the interests of our users and the rights of our companies.”

The CBA added a proviso that the repurposing of any C-Band spectrum, and any incentive compensation or cost recovery to be received by CBA members, is contingent upon the terms included in a final FCC order.

An FCC order that would approve a public auction certainly seems likely to occur during the agency’s meeting early next year. (Source: Satnews)

25 Nov 19. New study shows significant space sector contribution to New Zealand economy. New Zealand’s space sector contributed NZ$1.69bn to the nation’s economy in 2018-19 and employed 12,000 people, according to a new report commissioned by the NZ government.

The report, prepared by consultants Deloitte Access Economics, said New Zealand is a unique example of a space economy almost entirely driven by commercial activity.

“The New Zealand space economy is New Space driven, characterised by a mix of start-up and well-established, small and large entrepreneur-driven and privately-funded space companies which service both government and non-government customers,” it said.

“This is in contrast with traditional space economies where large-scale government activity has been a major driver.”

It said New Zealand has strong space manufacturing and space applications sub-sectors and cutting-edge research and development capability within several universities across the country.

It also draws on local as well as international talent and has strong connections with the global space economy.

The big player in New Zealand’s space economy is Rocket Lab, a US-based company founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, which manufactures its rockets in New Zealand and conducts commercial launches from its facility on the country’s North Island.

Minister for Economic Development Phil Twyford said the report showed that New Zealand was extremely well-placed to increase its share in the NZ$647bn global space economy.

“The space economy’s NZ$1.69bn contribution in the 2018-19 financial year is significant for New Zealand and there is huge potential for us to grow our share,” he said.

“The development of New Zealand’s space economy hasn’t followed traditional paths and its diversity reflects our innovative spirit.

“Through Rocket Lab, we are home to the world’s leading small-launch provider and we [are] attracting other leading international space companies, such as Silicon Valley start-up LeoLabs who have built their KiwiSpace Radar in central Otago.”

Minister Twyford said there were good reasons why New Zealand was attracting global interest.

“We are adaptable, innovative and the government is committed to supporting the growth of an industry that represents huge opportunities for New Zealand,” he said.

The New Zealand space sector represents 0.27 per cent of global space economy revenues.

The Deloitte report said the big revenue contributor was space applications, worth just over NZ$1bn, followed by space manufacturing (NZ$247m) and space operation (NZ$150m).

The indirect contribution of the space sector to the New Zealand economy in 2018-19 was NZ$789m.

Space directly supported an estimated 5,000 full-time equivalent roles (FTEs) and total employment (including indirect effects), was 12,000 FTE jobs. The study showed some well-established companies earning significant revenue. There were 14 firms earning more than NZ$10m a year and 16 employing more than 200 employees.

So, how does Australia compare? The best information appears to come from the expert group review of Australia’s space industry capability released in March 2018.

It was that report that led to the formation of the Australian Space Agency in July 2018. It outlined the ambition to triple the size of the space industry to $10-$12bn dollars a year by 2030.

That estimated the Australian space sector economy to have been worth $3.94bn in 2015-16, with 88 per cent contributed by the private sector.

Most of this activity came from satellite TV, broadband and communications services. (Source: Space Connect)

19 Nov 19. U.S. Navy’s Successful Comms Tests of Intellian’s Antenna and Telesat Ka-band Satellites. A successful test with the U.S. Navy resulted in Telesat and Intellian demonstrating that a single antenna aperture can deliver outstanding maritime broadband performance while switching between satellites in different orbits.  This testing revealed how the Navy and other USG customers can access high capacity broadband from commercial satellites in different orbits with robust links that provide improved security, flexibility and resiliency.

The U.S. military has shown growing interest in advanced commercial space systems, such as Telesat’s LEO constellation, that can deliver highly secure and reliable broadband anywhere in the world with added benefits of global persistence, ultra-low latency, and rapid technology refresh.

The live testing used Ka-band capacity on Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO and Telstar 19 VANTAGE high throughput GEO. Both satellites were connected to Intellian’s v150NX, described as ‘the first and only 1.5m Ka- convertible VSAT’, a system supporting 2.5GHz wide Ka-band networks operating in GEO and LEO orbits.

A senior official with the U.S. Navy’s Communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation Program Office, Kurt Fiscko, Technical Director, PMW/A 170, PEO C4I, commented that live testing over Telesat Ka-band satellites with Intellian’s 1.5m Ka convertible VSAT confirms that the antenna is an important innovation accessing space-based ‘layers’ of satellites in next-gen space architecture.

Eric Sung, CEO of Intellian added that the industry-leading performance, simplified installation and ensured compatibility with future constellations and networks positions their new 1.5m antenna as one of the most innovative, flexible and cost-effective connectivity platforms available for users on land and at sea. This joint demonstration with Telesat to the U.S. Navy was a complete success and they are pleased to see the capability of the antenna to operate on both Telesat GEO and the Telesat LEO network.

Don Brown, General Manager, Government Services at Telesat concluded saying that in addition to superior capacity, speed, security, resiliency, and low latency of the Telesat LEO system, the U.S. Navy can achieve additional economies of scale and flexibility through this Intellian antenna solution. (Source: Satnews)

18 Nov 19. Gilat Gets Millions from SES. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT) has reached a major landmark with the selection by SES for development and deployment of a global multiple application VSAT platform for the O3b mPOWER Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) communications system. This multi-million-dollar contract establishes Gilat as a significant Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) player through the technological innovation of its multi-orbit GEO/NGSO platform.

Ron Levin, VP Mobility and Global Accounts at Gilat, said the company is honored to be partnering again with SES, this time for their next generation O3b mPOWER system. Gilat was selected due to the firm’s innovative ground segment design that significantly reduces cost per bit, the company’s ability to deliver a step function in modem performance and Gilat’s engineering capabilities to further optimize the platform. Gilat will efficiently support SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system to be at the forefront of ground networks for NGSO constellations with SES, who paved the NGSO path with their O3b constellation and now continue to lead the pack with their O3b mPOWER network. (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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