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03 Jan 20. United Kingdom Teaming With United States in Space. The United Kingdom is pursuing ambitious plans for new satellite launch capabilities while increasing collaboration with its U.S. ally in space.
The desire for closer ties was made clear on a chilly day in November when the Royal Navy hosted its second annual Atlantic Future Forum onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was anchored off the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The forum brings together government leaders, members of the military, industry and the media to discuss the growing challenges of warfighting and partnerships between allied nations.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is the United Kingdom’s first 5th-generation warship and the largest one ever built for the Royal Navy. It was designed to accommodate the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet. Britain is purchasing the short takeoff/vertical landing B variant.
The ship recently completed trials with the aircraft. Trials were also conducted with joint strike fighters from the U.S. Marine Corps — which will deploy as a detachment with the ship in 2021.
U.K. officials would like to see similar cooperation in space.
“If the U.K. and U.S. can foster even deeper cooperations, our world-class armed and security forces can work together to withstand the threats of today and tomorrow,” Mark Sedwill, cabinet secretary and national security adviser for the United Kingdom, said in a Ministry of Defence document that was handed out at the event.
Air Vice-Marshal Johnny Stringer, chief of staff for the U.K. Joint Forces Command, during a panel discussion onboard the vessel noted the increasing challenges Britain is facing in space.
When asked about the implications of not engaging in space as a warfighting domain, he replied: “It’s really tempting to say, ‘we lose,’ and then … just walk away.”
The “ability to innovate, to imagine, to get ahead of problems, to conduct research and look at how we are actually going to fight in the future is as important as recognizing how vital space is to us,” he added.
Some of the issues the United Kingdom and its allies face include increased congestion in space and threats of anti-satellite weapons from adversaries.
Meanwhile, the nation is boosting its space capabilities. The Royal Air Force is investing more than $33 million over the next year to launch a constellation of small satellites into low-Earth orbit. The systems will relay high resolution video and data to fighter jets to increase pilot awareness.
The initiative — dubbed Team Artemis — is comprised of a transatlantic group of U.S. and U.K. defense personnel brought together by Britain’s space program, said Air Vice-Marshal “Rocky” Rochelle, chief of staff capability for the Royal Air Force.
The effort is a follow-on to the Carbonite-2 spacecraft, which is a small satellite that was made by Airbus-owned company Surrey Satellite Technology. The space system was put on contract and launched within the span of 10 months, Rochelle said. It was designed to provide commercial Earth observation capabilities, according to the company.
The next two satellites — which are from the family of the Carbonite series — will be put on orbit in the next 12 months, Rochelle said.
The satellites will use a launch system manufactured by Virgin Orbit. The company is partnering with the Royal Air Force to support the initiative, Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Orbit, said in a video message recorded for the forum.
“Security will be vital if we are to have a stable and growing space economy,” Branson said.
Dan Hart, president and CEO of Virgin Orbit, said the small satellite launch system — known formally as the LauncherOne — will utilize a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft as an airborne launch pad. A two-stage liquid-propellant rocket will be fired from the wing of the aircraft.
Utilizing the upgraded 747, which is known as Cosmic Girl, puts the satellite about two-thirds of the way to the edge of the atmosphere before launch, Hart said. The system is expected to place around 300 kilograms of payload into low-Earth orbit.
Virgin Orbit’s approach offers a unique advantage that allows users to fly and launch from anywhere to any orbit at any time.
As discussions have progressed about the various tensions in space and what kind of architectures are needed to support activities on Earth, the capability to launch from anywhere in the world to any orbit is becoming more important, Hart said.
LauncherOne technology could deter adversaries from investing in counter-space capabilities because it would make it easier to replace damaged satellites, he said.
“If you can make getting to space inexpensive, then the cost of counter-space becomes a burden that you don’t want to spend money on because there is no upside,” he noted.
In his conversations with military officials, Hart said he has seen thoughtful discussion and a strong desire to cooperate across the U.K.-U.S. alliance.
A key discussion is what a global launch capability looks like and how to arrive at a point where at a moment’s notice, from a location that adversaries are not necessarily expecting, satellites can be launched into any orbit, he said.
Virgin Orbit plans to use LauncherOne to send a satellite into space by the end of 2020, according to a company press release.
Pending approval by the United States government, the company will support Team Artemis as a member of the partnership between a coalition of allied nations and commercial companies, the press release said.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom recently became the first international partner to join Operation Olympic Defender, a coalition that was started to strengthen deterrence against potential hostile actors and reduce the spread of debris in space.
“This is about a … collective response to the congested and contested operational environment,” Rochelle said. So far, five nations have agreed to join the coalition.
The decision to join comes as U.S. Space Command is working to increase its collaboration for military space operations. The Pentagon is also concerned about adversaries such as Russia and China continuing to develop anti-satellite capabilities. President Donald Trump officially reestablished U.S. Space Command in August and designated it a combatant command.
“We are making a deliberate effort to widen our support to international, interagency and commercial partners,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, deputy commander of Air Force Space Command.
The military’s joint space operations center — which was stood up in 2007 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California — served as a location for the Air Force to work with allies such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, Whiting said. Last year, the service transitioned the Joint Space Operations Center into the Combined Space Operations Center, or CSpOC, to improve integration of assets with foreign partners who now hold leadership positions there, Whiting said during a breakfast event held in Washington, D.C., in November.
The United Kingdom, for example, will increase the size of its presence at the CSpOC to support its decision to formally join Operation Olympic Defender, he said.
Space Command also has a multinational collaboration office to host liaison officers from allied nations at Vandenberg. France and Germany were the first two countries to embed officers, he noted.
Wallis Laughrey, vice president of space and airborne systems at Raytheon, said the United Kingdom is readily taking on the challenges associated with warfighting in space.
“The U.K. made a conscious decision that it needs to engage in a renaissance of its national space capabilities and it has aggressively moved in that direction in a way that really is sort of stunning in a positive sense,” Laughrey said. “It’s 360 degrees of activity and every space sector is based on collaboration.” (Source: glstrade.com/NDIA)
02 Jan 20. Commerce Department to develop new estimate of the size of the space economy. An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce is developing its own estimate of the size of the space industry, the most authoritative effort to date to measure space’s role in the broader economy.
In an article published in the December issue of its journal, the Survey of Current Business, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said it’s starting development of a Space Economy Satellite Account to measure the size of the space industry in the United States.
BEA has a number of such “satellite accounts,” which analyze specific sectors of the U.S. economy. This particular satellite account, the article notes, “will provide an estimate of the space economy’s contribution to current-dollar gross domestic product” as well as estimates of gross output, compensation and employment for industries within the space economy.
The account is a joint effort of the BEA, part of the Commerce Department, and the department’s Office of Space Commerce. The goal is to have a prototype version of the account ready in late 2020, “pursuant to available resources.”
One challenge BEA notes in the article is defining what constitutes the “space economy.” Various studies and reports have offered a range of definitions of what industries are included, as well as how to account for government versus commercial space activities. The article included an initial list of industry sectors it plans to include in its analysis, based on a space economy definition promulgated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, but added it is seeking input on how to tailor that list.
A number of estimates exist on the size of the space economy, which vary depending on what is included. A May 2019 report prepared for the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) by Bryce Space and Technology estimated the global space economy to be $360bn, of which the satellite industry accounted for $277bn and the rest primarily by government space budgets. The Space Foundation, in its annual Space Report published in July 2019, estimated the global space economy to be nearly $415bn in 2018. The two reports also differed in estimated growth: the SIA report saw growth of 3% in 2018, versus 8% in the Space Foundation report.
Those estimates, and projections for future growth, have led some to predict the space economy, however it is defined, to be worth at least $1 trillion within 20 years. U.S. government officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, have frequently talked about efforts to create a trillion-dollar space economy.
However, others have criticized both the current estimates of the size of the space economy and its growth projections. At a June 2019 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing in Washington, Bhavya Lal of the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) argued that studies like those published by SIA and the Space Foundation may significantly overestimate the size of the space economy.
Lal said those studies suffer several problems, from double-counting between categories to including products and services not directly related to space. By STPI’s estimate, removing the double-counting and unrelated revenues can cut the estimated size of the space economy in half.
Lal also questioned growth rates of as high as 11% per year needed to achieve the trillion-dollar goal by 2040. “They don’t seem consistent with some of the trends that we are seeing,” she said, noting much smaller growth rates, particularly in the SIA report, as well as a dependence on markets yet to emerge, like space tourism and point-to-point suborbital travel.
Speaking at the International Space Development Conference later that month, Patrick Sullivan, deputy director of the Office of Space Commerce, acknowledged the need for better data about the size of the space economy. “We are working really closely with a number of bureaus about really analyzing what the value is,” he said. “If it’s going to help advance a policy perspective, we’d love to either develop or get the data from the private sector.” (Source: glstrade.com/Space News)
01 Jan 20. More than a testbed: How an experimental satellite will help the war fighter. An experimental satellite in geostationary orbit will serve as a testbed for future GPS technology and could also augment the current GPS constellation by providing advanced position, navigation and timing data to the war fighter.
The GPS constellation, made up of dozens of satellites in medium earth orbit, is the U.S. military’s primary source of PNT data. But war fighters aren’t the only users of GPS. The satellite system helps fuel the modern economy, creating billions of dollars in value by enabling everything from credit card transactions to telecommunications to modern agriculture. But it is too valuable to be switched off for a few weeks for testing and experimentation.
“You can’t get rid of the mainline GPS 3 constellation because so many people in the world are dependent on it.” said Bill Gattle, the chief executive of L3Harris Technologies’ space systems. “That constellation is secure. It’s going to be there for years. But the question is, what do you do about these military things that could be a little different?”
Enter the navigation technology satellite program. Run by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the NTS program launches experimental satellites that test future GPS technology, allowing the military to ensure that future space vehicles have the most advanced technology. NTS-3, the third iteration of this concept, is slated for launch in 2022. The Air Force awarded L3Harris an $84m contract in late 2018 for the satellite.
L3Harris officials are excited NTS-3 will be software defined, meaning the Air Force can reprogram it at the payload level while on orbit. For example, one day it could provide a GPS signal, then the next it could be tasked to provide secure communications. While that software defined feature has been used in commercial markets, it still hasn’t been incorporated into the Air Force’s exquisite satellite systems to the same degree.
“That basically allows the entire satellite to change its mission on orbit,” he said.
Because of the lengthy process for developing and acquiring DoD satellites, the NTS-3 won’t have an immediate impact on the GPS satellites launched in the next couple of years. However, lessons learned and technology developed could be incorporated with the next generation of GPS 3F satellites, specifically space vehicles 14, 15 and 16 which are expected to launch in the late 2020s.
In addition, NTS-3 has been designated a Vanguard program by the Air Force, although what that means isn’t exactly clear. What it means in the near term is credibility for an experimental program, said Gattle.
NTS-3 will be more than just a testbed, however.
“But what’s unique about NTS 3 is it’s not just a testbed but it actually could be an augmentation for the mainline GPS constellation,” said Gattle. “It will have an immediate impact to the warfighter, which is unusual. And that’s why it’s called a Vanguard program.”
Whereas the GPS satellites operate in middle earth orbit, NTS 3 operates in geostationary orbit. The GPS satellites provide global coverage as space vehicles traverse through orbit, never staying in one spot for long. Because there are so many GPS satellites, the constellation can provide continuous coverage even as the satellites above any single location are constantly coming into view or departing for another location.
NTS 3, on the other hand, doesn’t move once it’s in orbit. It’s a geographically focused capability.
That could provide a unique advantage for providing an emerging capability like M-Code—a highly secure military version of the GPS signal that is years behind schedule.
Take a region like the Middle East. In order for war fighters on the ground to use M-Code persistently, every GPS 3 satellite that passes overhead that they rely on needs to have full M-Code capability, otherwise it could lead to coverage gaps.
Because NTS-3 is geostationary, one or two M-Code capable satellites can provide that capability instead of having to upgrade the entire constellation. In that way, the NTS-3 satellite could theoretically provide emerging capabilities to the war fighter even as the military works toward achieving full M-Code capability with the actual GPS program.
The military won’t have to wait long to begin testing NTS-3. The program is under a tight schedule to be put on orbit and has already passed its requirements review and preliminary design review.
“NTS 3 will be put on orbit within 40 months of the time it was put under contract, which was (…) February 2019,” said Gattle. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Dec 19. Is It Terminal? Mess Threatens DoD SATCOM & Multi-Domain. DoD currently maintains 17,000 terminals with “approximately 135 different designs,” GAO said. Those terminals operate across diverse platforms—such as ships, backpacks, vehicles — all with differing system requirements. The third GPS III satellite sporting the jam-proof, spoof-proof military signal called M-Code is due to be launched next month. Sadly, troops won’t be able to use that encrypted signal until at least 2021 (if then, given the program’s history of delays) because there aren’t any receivers for it yet fielded.
Even though satellite communications are critical to future multi-domain operations (MDO), the Pentagon seems incapable of fixing long-standing problems with ground terminals and mobile receivers that stop users in the field and weapons platforms from communicating efficiently.
What’s the problem? Some satellite terminals/receivers link to only one frequency or one type of satellite; ships and Humvees use outdated terminals that would be too expensive to replace; and sometimes new satellites end up orbiting the Earth for years without any users because the terminals to make them useful weren’t built on time. (For example, the first Navy’s Mobile Objective User System, or MUOS, satellite was launched in 2012 and the constellation of five sats was declared fully operational in November, but according to GAO “the user community still cannot monitor and manage MUOS.”)
“Satellite communications is like the air we breathe. Absent that inherent capability, missions cannot be executed, whatever that mission may be,” says Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, senior vice president for government strategy and policy at Inmarsat Government.
As Breaking D readers know, satellite communications are central to the Pentagon’s vision for Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), which in turn is central to enabling the MDO strategy and allowing linkages across all five domains of warfare (air, land, sea, space and cyber) and integrating all sensors with all shooters.
But DoD lacks a coherent strategy for acquiring satcom terminals necessary to access even its own military satellites, as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in its Dec. 19 review of the Pentagon’s June 2018 analysis of alternatives (AoA) for optimizing wideband satellite communications.
“The sheer number and types of wideband terminals DOD currently uses presents a very large challenge for changing how DoD acquires wideband SATCOM capabilities,” GAO’s Cristina Chaplain told me. “Additionally, DoD faces questions on how to govern terminal acquisitions, which currently take place in many programs spread across the services.”
DoD currently maintains 17,000 terminals that use “approximately 135 different designs,” GAO said. Those terminals operate across diverse platforms—such as ships, backpacks, vehicles — and all have differing system requirements. Many can talk to only one type of satellite. Further, while the Air Force builds satellites, terminals/receivers are usually bought by the service or command that will use the data — resulting in mismatches in timing.
GAO warned that “both our past work and the Wideband AoA found that DoD faces ongoing risks in aligning its satellite and ground control systems.”
DoD “officials estimate spending an average of $4bn each year to acquire and sustain wideband satellite communications capabilities, including developing and fielding military satellite systems, contracting for commercial satellite communications services, and acquiring and operating satellite ground terminals,” GAO said. Note the word estimate, because in reality the Pentagon doesn’t quite have its arms around current satcom usage by the services and combatant commands — all of which have their fingers in the satcom acquisition pie.
Wideband communications satellites provide DoD with fast and reliable voice, video, and data communications to support critical military operations around the globe. Wideband satellites operate in different radio frequency spectrum bands. DoD typically relies on C, X, Ku, and Ka-bands to provide wideband connectivity, depending on where and how users are operating.
Each of these frequency bands has advantages and disadvantages for various applications. Satellite transponders operating at the lower C-band frequencies are more robust, especially when it rains (water degrades some RF signals.) Under US law, X-band usage is limited to the US government and NATO. The Ku-band can communicate with smaller antennas and is useful for mobile operations. Ka-band satellites can transmit more data, including high-speed video, than satellites using the other frequencies, but their signals are more susceptible to rain and fog.
Commercial satcom providers traditionally have used the Ku-band, but many are now expanding services to Ka-band to offer customers higher data rates.
Currently, DoD relies on the aging Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system for much of its milcoms, along with buying commercial satellite bandwidth on a piecemeal basis. The WGS satellites, built by Boeing, can provide full-motion video in the Ka- and X-bands. There are 10 in the current constellation, and Congress in 2018 added funds for two more, overturning Air Force plans to stop procurement.
Boeing announced on Dec. 26 that it has completed development of WGS 11, to be delivered to the Air Force in 2024. According to the company, this new satellite will “deliver hundreds of coverage beams and provide a more flexible and efficient use of bandwidth. These innovations will enable the spacecraft to support more users in theater and allow dedicated beams to follow aircraft in flight.”
And, as I reported in October, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of SPACECOM and at the time also head of Air Force Space Command, is mulling a new SATCOM Enterprise Vision. That effort is aimed at creating a seamless network of military and commercial communications satellites in all orbits, accessible to troops, vehicles, ships and aircraft via ground terminals and mobile receivers that would automatically “hop” from one satellite network to another.
In addition, “DoD concluded in the Wideband AoA that integrating purpose-built satellite systems and commercially provided systems into a hybrid architecture would be more cost effective and capable than any single purpose-built or commercial system alone,” the GAO report said.
As Breaking D readers know, major commercial satcom providers, such as Inmarsat, have been pushing DoD to move toward buying so-called “managed services” (kinda like your average mobile phone or cable TV/Internet plan) rather than leasing commercial bandwidth in fits and starts for short periods of time. This, they argue, will substantially reduce the high costs of pay-as-you-go rental of commercial bandwidth.
Congress has agreed with this argument, and included $49.5m in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for DoD to pursue commercial satcom-as-a-service acquisition. However, DoD has been slow to allocate the funds as it continues to study the broader issues, and did not request new funding in 2020. Congress, however, forced another $5m into Air Force’s budget for commercial satcom service buys in the 2020 NDAA.
Indeed, the AoA study determined that DoD needs more information about industry capabilities before pulling the trigger on buying satcom as a service. The AoA also found that buying new terminals to work with commercial systems can be expensive, due to development and integration costs.
One of the cost-drivers is that vehicles like Humvees or ships have maintenance periods that are scheduled years in advance. Thus, putting in new satcom terminals can require unscheduled maintenance that incurs not just direct costs, but also indirect costs in personnel and mission delays.
At the same time, the GAO report explains that a separate DoD study found that some terminals can be modified to operate with more types of satellites by adding new modems or software, thus reducing replacement costs. “This capability, aligned with regular terminal recapitalization schedules, can help improve terminal affordability, according to officials,” the GAO report said.
GAO welcomed the Wideband SATCOM AoA recommendation that DoD develop an “Enterprise Satellite Communications Terminal Strategy” to “reduce complexity of terminal diversity and governance; facilitate rapid modernization through flexible terminals that can use new waveforms; and optimize cost, schedule, performance, and interoperability.”
But, the watchdog agency worries, the Pentagon does not yet have a plan for implementing the AoA’s findings. One key concern is that the ongoing musical chairs regarding space acquisition is complicating decision-making. This includes the establishment of Space Command, the launch of the Space Development Agency and the new Space Force. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
27 Dec 19. Apple Considering iSats. SATCOM continues to draw increased interest by major technology actors, in the case of Apple, this interest is, according to several reports by major news outlets, to drive comms directly to the firm’s devices from on-orbit satellites and the project has apparently been in the firm’s development pipeline since 2017.
This is definitely becoming a somewhat crowded market, with the Amazons and SpaceXs of the world driving new LEO constellations to service the entire globe and bathe the previously unconnected with beams of cyberspace connectivity.
With the numerous reports now filtering to the internet, Apple’s secret is “out”… Bloomberg News reporters, apparently infiltrating the hallowed halls of the computer, device and services company, indicated around 12 engineers have joined the form to work on this technology. Whether or not these folk are developing satellite to device beam technology, or Apple satellite builds, is unknown as of this writing. However, given the firm’s astounding monetary wherewithal, none of these arenas are outside the realm of possibility.
Bloomberg News filed a story also indicated that the former head of satellite engineer at Google and the founder of Ettus Research have been taken aboard the Apple ship in Cupertino, California. According to Fox Business, former technologists that worked at Skybox Images, prior to its acquisition by Google, are heading up this Apple mission, those being John Fenwick (the former head of Google’s spacecraft operations) and Michael Trela. Additionally, the company has allegedly been involved in a number of conversations regarding LEO satellite launches with Boeing.
Key motivation for these moves by the company could certainly be with the aim to reduce the influence of service providers to reduce consumer as well as Apple dependency on those firms as well as to increase Apple’s ability to provide better maps and location tracking. Mix in the burgeoning 5G environs for wireless connectivity and realize Apple, even if somewhat late to the game, has the capability to surmount numerous challenges to provide products that will be eagerly consumed.
SATCOM and 5G services provisioning are certainly within the firm’s technology purview and, if successful, could easily please consumers with advanced products, all the while generating higher atmospheric streams of revenue for Apple. (Source: Satnews)
27 Dec 19. Brazil and China’s EO Satellite and Smallsats Driven into Orbit. An Earth Observation (EO) satellite that was jointly developed by China and Brazil was launched into space on Friday, December 20, under a bilateral program that is seen as a template for broader cooperation among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations.
The China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite 4A was launched via a Long March 4B rocket from the northern Chinese province of Shanxi, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
This satellite was the sixth developed under the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program that began in 1988. The satellites are designed for EO from orbit for non-military use. The CBERS 4A will support the Brazilian government’s monitoring of the Amazon rainforest and changes in the country’s environment, according to Xinhua.
An additional eight satellites were also placed into orbit by the same rocket, including a wide-range, multi-spectral, remote-sensing smallsat donated to Ethiopia.
The BRICS nations have been in talks on a framework agreement to create a constellation of satellites for Earth remote-sensing and to enable the sharing of data obtained by each others’ satellites. Each country will provide one to two satellites to the constellation, according to the China National Space Administration. The CBERS satellites would be included in the constellation program. Currently, only South Africa in the BRICS bloc does not have satellites of its own on-orbit. (Source: Satnews)
27 Dec 19. China’s Largest Carrier Rocket Lifts Experimental Satellite to Orbit + BDS-3 Completion. China has launched their third Long March-5, the largest carrier rocket of the country, from Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province on the evening of December 27, 2019. The success of the flight lays the foundation for a series of future space projects for the country that include exploring Mars, returning moon samples and constructing the nation’s own space station, Wu said. The Shijian-20 satellite will be used to test the key technologies of the DFH-5 platform, China’s new-generation large satellite platform, as well as offer communication and broadcasting service, Wu added.
The Long March-5 is a large, two-stage rocket, capable of carrying a payload of 25 tons, equivalent to the weight of 16 cars, to LEO, 14 tons to GEO, eight tons to Earth-Moon transfer orbit, or five tons to Earth-Mars transfer orbit, more than twice the capacity of the current main Long March series rockets. Combined with an upper stage, the rocket is capable of sending probes to explore Jupiter and other planets in the solar system, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
Compared with the Long March-5 Y2, the new rocket has more than 200 technological improvements, said Yang Hujun, deputy chief designer of the rocket. The modified engine has undergone more than 10 ground tests lasting over 3,000 seconds in total.
Wang Jue, Chief Commander of the research team, noted that over the past two years, the research team has solved the problem of the engine and improved the reliability of the rocket.
The rocket is about 57 meters long, equivalent to the height of a 20 story building, with a 5 meter diameter core stage and four, 3.35 meter diameter boosters. The Long March-5 has a takeoff weight of about 870 tons and a thrust of more than 1,000 tons.
The carrying capacity of the Long March-5 rocket equals that of other mainstream large-scale rockets in the global industry, greatly improving China’s ability to launch spacecraft and laying the foundation for developing new-generation carrier rockets and heavy-lift launch vehicles, said Wang Xiaojun, head of the CALT.
Of additional interest is the Xinhua posting that reports China will finish the construction of the BeiDou-3 Navigation Satellite System (BDS-3), with another two geostationary orbit satellites to be launched, before June 2020, said BDS Spokesperson Ran Chengqi on Friday.
Ran said at a press conference of the State Council Information Office that with the BDS as the core, a more ubiquitous, integrated and intelligent navigation and timing system with comprehensive national positioning is scheduled to be established by 2035.
China sent 10 BDS satellites into space during 2019. The deployment of the core BDS-3 constellation system has been completed with all of the BDS-3 system’s medium earth orbit satellites being networked. With the system’s upgraded intelligent operation and maintenance capabilities, the BDS-3 has provided stable and accurate services, boasting a positioning accuracy of better than five meters.
The BDS system has multiple service capabilities, including satellite-based augmentation, short message communication, ground augmentation as well as international search and rescue. It will provide more diversified services with better performance and higher accuracy in 2020, Ran said.
A series of documents on the BDS system were also released to promote the understanding of the system and facilitate its use. The documents were published on the official website of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System. The BDS system has seen thriving applications in many areas and has fostered an industrial ecosystem, Ran said.
The 22nm process navigation and positioning chip supporting BDS-3’s new signal has a smaller volume, lower power consumption and higher accuracy, and has realized large-scale application. The new generation of BDS system-related products including high-precision antennas, boards, and broadband radio frequency chips has been developed.
The BDS system has also seen increasing applications in emerging fields such as the industrial Internet and Internet of Things, as well as autonomous driving, parking and logistics. With the arrival of the 5G commercial era, BDS is accelerating the integration with new technologies such as the next generation of mobile communication, blockchain and artificial intelligence, Ran said.
The BDS system is playing an important role in many industries including transportation, agriculture, forestry and energy. It supports China’s dynamic monitoring system for more than 6.5 million vehicles. It will further facilitate railway transportation, inland river shipping, ocean navigation and the management of transportation infrastructure construction, Ran said, adding thaty China is continuously promoting the development of a legal system for satellite navigation.
China’s applications for satellite navigation patents have increased rapidly and the number has reached 70,000, ranking first in the world.
More BDS-related national standards and special standards will be released to ensure a sound environment for its industrial application, Ran added. (Source: Satnews)
27 Dec 19. ATK—Prime Push For Operational Cost + Data Delay Reduction (SATCOM). ATK (NYSE: ATK) announced that it successfully completed the last major technical milestone in its contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Defense Weather Systems Directorate. ATK’s year-long study of network-centric small satellites as an element of future weather satellite systems culminated on November 14, 2013, in a comprehensive end-to-end, ground-based demonstration of an architecture that could eventually be implemented in a next-generation operational system. The end result would leverage existing commercial satellite infrastructure to reduce operational costs and shorten delays in transmitting data used for military, scientific or disaster recovery exercises.
The demonstration, led by prime contractor ATK and subcontractors Hughes Network Systems, LLC and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, used technological resources from California to Maryland. The demo displayed final data products on a hand-held device and validated the impact of a more nimble configuration of networked systems that can meet the needs of new missions.
“ATK is excited to lead this very capable team in demonstrating the key concepts that need to be mastered to realize future affordable and resilient space system architectures,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Armor USAF (Ret.) and vice president, Strategy and Business Development at ATK Space Systems division. “We enthusiastically endorse the vision of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in their quest to gain performance and reduce cost through disaggregation. This is truly a hallmark of delivering affordable innovation, which is our goal in all we do at ATK.”
The concept of using small, affordable, disaggregated satellites to replace the current generation of complex and costly multi-sensor weather satellites is being embraced by both the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office. To establish the utility of such architectures, ATK studied the capability of its A200 small satellite bus used in ORS-1 and TacSat-3 missions for the Department of Defense to accommodate a wide variety of weather sensors as a part of the study.
Another key objective of the study, as shown in the demonstration, characterized the advantages of transferring data from a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite to a Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) communications satellite for direct insertion into a commercial data network and cloud-based information environment, in accordance with the Department of Defense’s Information Assurance guidelines. Such an approach will provide for the rapid delivery of data to mobile end users while simultaneously reducing the workload on the Air Force Satellite Control Network.
ATK is an aerospace, defense and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally. For further details regarding ATK, please head over to their website at this direct link. (Source: Satnews)
27 Dec 19. FCC Gives OK To SpaceX for More Satellites. On December 19, 2019, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the application1 of Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (SpaceX) to further modify their previously authorized 4,425 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) fixed-satellite service (FSS) satellite constellation using Ku- and Ka-band spectrum2.
Specifically, the agency has now authorized SpaceX to increase the number of orbital planes authorized for operations of SpaceX’s satellites at the 550 kilometer (km.) orbital shell, to reduce the number of satellites in each orbital plane and to reconfigure existing satellites in its constellation accordingly. In doing so, the FCC denies petitions to deny or defer SpaceX’s application3.
Grant of this application will allow SpaceX to accelerate the deployment of their satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, especially to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems.
On April 26, 2019, the FCC’s International Bureau (Bureau) granted SpaceX’s request to modify its initial authorization and allowed SpaceX to: (1) reduce the number of satellites in the constellation from 4,425 to 4,409; (2) operate 1,584 satellites previously authorized to operate at an altitude of 1,150 km. at the lower altitude of 550 km.; and (3) make related changes to the operations of the satellites in this new lower shell of the constellation.
1Space Exploration Holdings, LLC, Request for Modification of the Authorization for the SpaceX NGSO Satellite System, IBFS File No. SAT−MOD−20190830−00087, filed August 30, 2019 (SpaceX Second Modification Application).
2See Space Exploration Holdings, LLC, Application for Approval for Orbital Deployment and Operating Authority for the SpaceX NGSO Satellite System, Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization, 33 FCC Rcd 3391 (2018) (SpaceX Authorization).
3Petition to Defer of SES Americom and O3b Limited (filed Oct. 15, 2019) (SES/O3b Petition); Letter from Nickolas G. Spina, Counsel to Kepler Communications, Inc., to Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary, FCC (filed Oct. 15, 2019) (Kepler Letter). Kepler’s Letter comprises (1) a petition for reconsideration of the SpaceX First Modification Order (as defined in n.4 below) (Kepler Letter, Recon Petition) (2) a petition to defer or deny this SpaceX Second Modification Application (Kepler Letter, Second Mod Petition), and (3) a petition to defer or deny SpaceX’s request for special temporary authority to launch its second tranche of satellites (Kepler Letter, STA Petition). (Source: Satnews)
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