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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 3 – Oct 10 2016)


Hurricane damage at Florida launch facilities not as bad as feared

A powerful hurricane moving up Florida’s east coast Oct. 7 caused some damage to NASA, military and commercial facilities at Cape Canaveral, but far less than what some had feared prior to the storm’s arrival.
Hurricane Matthew had sustained winds of nearly 200 kilometers per hour when is passed just off the coast from Cape Canaveral on the morning of Oct. 7. The hurricane’s track kept the strongest part of the storm offshore, but weather stations in the area did report hurricane-force winds for several hours during the storm’s closest approach.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center closed midday Oct. 5 as the hurricane approached, with only a small “rideout” crew in place at the center as the hurricane passed. By Oct. 8, a damage assessment crew had started initial checks of the center’s launch facilities and other buildings.

VAB after Hurricane Matthew
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Shotwell says SpaceX “homing in” on cause of Falcon 9 pad explosion

SpaceX is getting closer to finding the cause of a September pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9, and the company’s president remains confident the vehicle will return to flight later this year.
In an Oct. 9 speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Engineering here, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell suggested that the Sept. 1 accident prior to a planned static-fire test on the company’s Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch pad was not a flaw in the vehicle’s design.
“We’re homing in on what happened,” she said. “I think it’s going to point not to a vehicle issue or an engineering design issue but more of a business process issue.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes Sept. 1 during fueling  operation in preparation for a static-fire test. 
Credit: videoCredit:
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NASA plans for Mars missions beyond 2020 remain uncertain

Despite concerns that aging spacecraft currently at Mars will fail in the next several years, NASA has yet to formally approve plans for any Mars missions beyond a 2020 rover, such as a new orbiter.
At a teleconference held by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group Oct. 6, Jim Watzin, director of the agency’s Mars Exploration Program, said he had made little progress on future missions beyond the Mars 2020 Rover mission, currently under development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Somewhat disappointingly, we are still in a situation where we have no missions beyond 2020 on the books that are approved or budgeted,” he said. “It’s a difficult environment to get new missions into the program right now, and so we continue to work hard to try to build the advocacy necessary to get some missions.”

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DigitalGlobe Planning WorldView 4 Satellite Launch for Late October/Early November

DigitalGlobe is working with the U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to identify a new launch date for its WorldView 4 satellite after California wildfires resulted in an unexpected delay. The Earth Observation (EO) company and partners are now targeting late October or early November for the launch.
Vandenberg Air Force Base, the launch site for WorldView 4, took damage during the wildfires last month. The military needs additional time to finish ongoing efforts to restore and test infrastructure at the facility.

WorldView 4 DigitalGlobe
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Japan Resets Next ISS Mission Launch Date to December 9

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have pushed back the sixth H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) to Dec. 9, Japan Standard Time (JST), after discovering a leak in the vehicle back in August. The company and space agency team discovered the leak during an air tightness test as part of preparations for a previously anticipated Oct. 1, launch. At the time, MHI and JAXA said they would “disband the HTV-6 module and take necessary measures,” to fix the leak.

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General Dynamics Taps Newtec for Canadian Defense Aero Project

General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada has selected Newtecto supply MDM9000 satellite modems to the Canadian Department of National Defence(DND) for use in the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Aurora Incremental Modernization Project Block 4 upgrades.
The CP-140 Aurora is a long-range patrol aircraft the Royal Canadian Air Force operates for domestic and international defense missions. They are used in a wide variety of operations, including strategic airborne surface and subsurface missions, as well as maritime, overland Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.

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Antares return to flight now scheduled for Oct. 13

NASA and Orbital ATK have set a new launch date of Oct. 13 for the return to flight of the company’s Antares launch vehicle on a mission to the International Space Station, the organizations announced Oct. 4.
The launch of the Antares 230 rocket, carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft, is scheduled for 9:13 p.m. Eastern Oct. 13 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. The launch was previously scheduled for a window between Oct. 9 and 13.
Orbital ATK said in a statement that it set the launch date after completing a flight readiness review, but didn’t disclose why they were now targeting the end of the original window versus the beginning. One potential factor, regardless of the technical readiness of the launch vehicle and spacecraft, is the weather: forecasts project Hurricane Matthew will travel up the East Coast in the next several days, passing Wallops Island Oct. 8.

Antares hotfire test
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Blue Origin successfully tests New Shepard abort system

Blue Origin carried out a successful test of the abort system of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Oct. 5, managing to safely land both the vehicle’s crew capsule and propulsion module.
The New Shepard vehicle lifted off from its test site in West Texas at 11:36 a.m. Eastern. The launch was delayed by more than a half-hour because of an unspecified problem with the vehicle discovered a little more than one minute before the original liftoff time, causing the countdown to hold and they recycle before restarting.
Approximately 45 seconds after liftoff, the vehicle’s crew capsule fired its solid-fuel abort motor, sending it away from the propulsion module. The capsule then descended under parachutes as it would on a typical flight after separating from the booster, landing four minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff.

new shepard propulsion module landing
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Stratolaunch to launch Pegasus rockets

Stratolaunch Systems will use the giant aircraft the company is currently developing to launch Pegasus rockets from Orbital ATK as part of a “multi-year” partnership, the two companies announced Oct. 6.
Under the agreement, Orbital ATK will provide “multiple” Pegasus XL rockets, currently launched by its own Lockheed L-1011 aircraft, to Stratolaunch Systems, which will launch them from its own aircraft. An illustration released by Stratolaunch showed three Peagsus XL rockets suspended under the wing of the aircraft.

stratolaunch pegasus
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Ariane 5, in 74th straight success, launches Australian, Indian telecom satellites

Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket on Oct. 5 successfully placed telecommunications satellites for Australia and India into geostationary-transfer orbit.
Both satellites were reported healthy in orbit by their builders.
Operating from the Guiana Space Center, a French overseas department on the northeast cost of South America, the Ariane 5 vehicle posted its 74th consecutive success, equaling the record of its predecessor, Ariane 4, which was retired in 2003.

decollage Toucan le 05/10/2016Credit: Arianespace
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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 26 – Oct 3 2016)

United Nations to fly first space mission on Dream Chaser

The United Nations plans to purchase a dedicated mission on a Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft in 2021 to give developing nations an opportunity to fly experiments in space.
At a press conference during the International Astronautical Congress here Sept. 27, the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) said the agreement to fly the dedicated Dream Chaser mission is part of a broader effort by the office to increase access to space to emerging nations.
“Our project is the first-ever United Nations space mission,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, director of UNOOSA. “The mission has one very important goal: to allow United Nations member states to conduct research that cannot be done on Earth.”

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Inmarsat and Honeywell take ‘GX Aviation’ on global flight tour to complete system integration
Inmarsat (ISAT.L) and Honeywell (NYSE: HON) have successfully completed the first GX Aviation Global Flight Tour, in preparation for launching the ground-breaking new broadband solution for airline passengers later this year.
The tour covered more than 10 locations across North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, logging over 120 flight hours and 45,000 miles onboard the Honeywell Boeing 757 test aircraft – almost equivalent to flying twice around the globe.
The 38-day tour focused on complete system integration and fine-tuning in a wide range of operational circumstances and locations, including over land and in the middle of the ocean.

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SpaceX’s Mars plans call for massive 42-engine reusable rocket

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced plans by his company to develop a large new launch vehicle and reusable spacecraft that could be ready to take large numbers of people to Mars as soon as the mid-2020s.
Musk, in a highly-anticipated speech at the International Astronautical Congress here that attracted an unusually raucous audience for a professional conference, said that SpaceX had made initial progress on those plans despite only a small fraction of the company working on the effort.
The “Interplanetary Transport System” announced by Musk involves the development of a large reusable booster that will launch a spaceship into low Earth orbit. That spaceship will be fueled by later booster launchers of tanker vehicles, then fly to Mars.

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Airbus Defence and Space Gets First Customer for ISS Bartolomeo Platform

Airbus Defence and Space has gained its first hosted payload customer for the Bartolomeo platform, a planned attachment to the European Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS). Neumann Space, an Australian Space technology company, plans to use an allotted volume of more than 50 liters of payload space on Bartolomeo for the Facility for Australian Space Testing (FAST) program.
“The FAST program provides a unique opportunity for the in-orbit demonstration of technology for small and medium enterprises, schools and universities filling a gap in the current market,” said Patrick Neumann, chief scientist and co-founder of Neumann Space. “With FAST, a collection of payloads starting at just 1 kg mass will be sent together with our Neumann Drive to be operated in space for up to 12 months.”

Bartolomeo platform
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GlobalStar Says NASA Completes Test Flight Using ALAS Aviation Tracking Solution

Globalstar, Inc. and its partner, ADS-B Technologies, announced the completion of the NASA Langley Research Center research flight with the Cirrus SR22 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Surrogate designed to test the operation of the ADS-B Link Augmentation System (ALAS). Initial results indicated continuous communication between the aircraft and Globalstar’s satellite system with only brief interruptions during extreme maneuvering, which reconnected quickly.
The Cirrus SR22 test flights focused on testing the ability of ALAS to continuously pass two-way data between the aircraft and NASA’s ground control station using remote control capabilities. The first of two 40 minute flights included extreme maneuvering with two 60 degree bank angle turns specifically designed to test the ALAS connection. The second flight produced similar results during a series of maneuvers involving heading and altitude changes.

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NanoRacks to Deploy RemoveDebris Mission from ISS in 2017

NanoRacks has received a launch contract from the RemoveDebris consortium to deploy an Active Debris Removal (ADR) experiment from International Space Station (ISS) in June 2017. The launch sequence will involve the satellites on the Kaber platform being launched in a box to the ISS on-board a cargo resupply mission, unpacked by astronauts on the ISS, then attached to a slide table in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), and finally deployed into space.
The RemoveDebris mission started in 2013 and has more than 60 people assigned to the mission. The European Commission and partners have co-funded the project, with earlier program research funded through the European Union Seventh Framework Program.

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Firefly Alpha Rocket Combustor Completes Full Mission Duty Cycle Test

Firefly Space Systems has successfully completed more than 50 hot fire tests, including multiple full Mission Duty Cycle (MDC) tests, of the combustor for the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle. The combustor is designed for both stages of the smallsat launcher; the upper stage will use an engine with a single combustor, while the first stage engine will use an array of 12 identical combustors arranged in an annular aerospike configuration.
Firefly rocket engines operate using LOx/RP-1 propellants. The basic combustor design can use either methane or RP-1 fuels. The FRE-1 upper stage variant of the engine will produce 7,000 lbf thrust, and the first stage cluster used in FRE-2 will produce 125,000 lbf thrust.

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ULA Launches Rocket Hardware Design Challenge with GrabCAD

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has kicked off the 3-2-1 Liftoff! ULA Rocket Hardware Challenge via GrabCAD Community Challenges, inviting participants to design a launch support attachment bracket — to be produced using additive manufacturing technology — for ULA’s current Atlas 5 rocket. The design will subsequently be evaluated for application on ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket. GrabCAD, a division of Stratasys, is a digital manufacturing hub helping designers and engineers build products faster.
Participants will design a support bracket used during ground processing at the base of the Atlas 5 payload fairing. It is used at numerous locations around the vehicle’s Centaur upper stage, acting as a support point for work platforms on the days leading up to launch. The bracket remains with the upper stage of the rocket during flight.

ULA OA-6 Atlas 5
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Launch contract deadline looms for lunar lander teams

The organization running the Google Lunar X Prize said Sept. 27 it has no plans to extend an impending deadline for launch contracts that most teams are currently in danger of missing.
The competition offers a $20 million prize for the first team to land on the moon, travel at least 500 meters and return video “mooncasts” and other data. It requires teams to have a launch contract, verified by the X Prize Foundation, in place by the end of this year in order to remain in the competition. The prize itself has a deadline of the end of 2017.
Andrew Barton, director of technical operations for the prize at the X Prize Foundation, said in a talk at the International Astronautical Congress here that three teams out of the 16 still in the competition have launch contracts verified by the foundation. Two of those teams, SpaceIL and Moon Express, had their launch contracts verified last year.

SpaceIL lander
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DataPath in Need of 200 Field Services Experts after Major Contract Win

DataPath is seeking to expand its field services division by nearly 200 new positions following the receipt of a massive U.S. government contract to provide all four branches of the U.S. military with remote communications support. The company is actively hiring field engineers and technicians with significant experience supporting deployed satellite communications and Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) networking systems for the U.S. military.
Under the award, DataPath’s field personnel will support a complete range of fielded satellite communications equipment from man-pack antennas to trailer-based earth terminals to large-scale earth terminals. The company is seeking in-theater personnel to help provide services in 20 countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Djibouti, Germany, the United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Japan, and the United States.

datapath deployable earth stations
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 19 – Sep 26 2016)

SpaceX performs first test of Raptor engine

On the eve of a major presentation outlining his Mars exploration plans, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced early Sept. 26 the first test of a rocket engine believed to be a key element in those plans.
Musk, in a series of tweets, disclosed the test of the Raptor engine, which uses methane and liquid oxygen propellants rather than the refined kerosene and liquid oxygen of the company’s Merlin engines. Musk did not disclose details about the test, including when it took place and how long it fired.
A company executive recently that SpaceX would soon begin Raptor tests. In An Aug. 9 speech at the Conference on Small Satellites in Logan, Utah, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company had just shipped the first Raptor engine to the company’s Texas test site. “We should be firing it soon,” she said then.

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Satellite tracking could prevent airliner disappearances, developers say

Two U.S. companies have developed an airline tracking system that they say would prevent planes disappearing in the manner of the Malaysia Airlines MH370.
Instead of sending tracking signals to ground stations - which means planes' locations can be lost over oceans or remote areas - the new system would beam them to satellites.
"It doesn't matter if they're flying over the ocean, desert, or North Pole, we'll know where the plane is," said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, the internet flight tracking service which is working with Aireon LLC, which has developed the satellite technology.

Top 10 Aircraft crashes and disappearances
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Inmarsat launches search for its next generation of ‘space pioneers’

Inmarsat launches its 3rd Technology Development Programme at New Scientist Live in London with British ESA astronaut Tim Peake.
A career in the rapidly expanding space industry is not just about launching and flying spacecraft according to Inmarsat, a world leader in mobile satellite communications.
Announcing the company’s search for its next generation of ‘space pioneers’, the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Michele Franci, emphasised that to remain a global leader, Inmarsat is focused on attracting world-class engineering talent.

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Falcon accident investigation points to breach in rocket’s helium system

Investigators have traced the explosion that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 on the pad Sept. 1 to a “large breach” in the helium system in the rocket’s second stage, although the root cause of the accident remains unknown.
In a Sept. 23 update, the first released by the company in nearly three weeks, SpaceX said that an accident investigation team continues to study evidence from the explosion that took place while the rocket was being fueled for a static-fire test.
“At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place,” the company said in a statement. What caused that breach, though, is still a mystery.

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ESA, CNES Test Fire Ariane 5 Booster

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the French space agency CNEScompleted a test firing of the Ariane 5’s solid-propellant booster on Sept. 8 in Kourou, French Guiana. The burn lasted 128 seconds with the motor delivering a mean thrust of more than 500 tons, simulating the firing time of an Ariane 5 flight.
ESA and CNES conducted the burn to ensure that the launcher’s qualification, reliability and performance levels are maintained. The test demonstrated the motor’s capabilities and qualified improvements in design resulting from obsolescence or changes in technology.

ESA Ariane 5 solid propellant booster       Photo credit: ESA
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Air Force Base Wildfire Postpones Hi-Res Satellite Launch

A wildfire burning at a central California Air Force base on Sunday forced the postponement of a satellite launch, officials said. An Atlas 5 rocket was to carry a satellite known as WorldView-4 into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The satellite is designed to produce high-resolution images of Earth from space.
The fire burning in a remote canyon didn't immediately threaten the space launch complex, Col. Paul Nosek said on the base's Facebook page. But he said the blaze required firefighters to be redeployed from standing by at the launch.
Nearly 800 firefighters were trying to corral the fire that was nearly 2 square miles in size.

Imaging Satellite Launch
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SES Reveals Balloon-lifted Tactical Persistent Surveillance Product

SES has unveiled its first Government+ product offering: Tactical Persistent Surveillance (TPS), an inflatable aerostat-technology capable of hosting a variety of advanced Electro-Optical (E/O) sensor and communications payload options at altitudes up to 1,000 feet.
TPS is a portable, modular solution capable of quick global deployment and operations for surveillance and communications activities, designed to provide enhanced situational awareness for border security, special event monitoring and disaster response missions around the world. The sensor payload can transmit or backhaul Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) video and data via satellite to a centralized monitoring and control center using small aperture and quick deploy flyaway Ku-band antennas.

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Roscosmos confirms plans to reduce space station crew

Officials with the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said Sept. 26 they planned to reduce the size of their crew on the International Space Station next year from three to two.
The comments, by Roscosmos head Igor Komarov during a press conference at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here, confirmed Russian media reports dating back to August that Russia would reduce its crew to save money.
“We checked and found that we can complete all of our programs with two cosmonauts,” Komarov said. “That’s when we decided to optimize our crew to two for the next year.”

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft being prepared for launch in September. A problem with the spacecraft found only after it was placed inside its payload fairing has delayed its launch until the end of October. Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
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DOD Heightens Importance of Cybersecurity in Future Ground Systems

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) wants to make sure its future ground system for government satellites, known as the Enterprise Ground Segment (EGS), makes cybersecurity a much bigger priority compared to the approach taken with ground systems currently in use. Today, DOD ground systems for military satellite programs all run separate from each other. EGS will seek to unify ground segment operations onto a single comprehensive system, but DOD does not want to make that system into a jackpot hack for intruders who could see it as an opportunity to get into every military satellite system at once.
Speaking Sept. 22 at a Mitchell Institute event, Colonel Brian Bracey, chief architect at the Advanced Systems and Development Directorate of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), said all of today’s DOD programs of record have the same problems in regard to cyber, and that the current defense strategy relies heavily on what DOD perceives to be the system’s greatness weakness: dissimilarity.

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NASA bill calls for hard look at Asteroid Redirect Mission

A bipartisan NASA authorization bill introduced by several senators Sept. 15 would require NASA to evaluate alternatives to its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and develop a plan to transition activities currently performed on the International Space Station to commercial platforms.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, is intended to address policy issues and give the agency some degree of certainty as a new administration takes office in January.
“This NASA reauthorization bill brings us one step closer to reasserting American leadership in space by ensuring NASA has the certainty it needs to continue to grow and improve upon what it does best: lead the world in space exploration,” Cruz said in a Sept. 16 statement announcing the bill.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 12 – Sep 19 2016)

Inmarsat Sponsorship for safety H.E.R.O.

Inmarsat will commemorate the untimely passing earlier this year of one of the architects of its Maritime Safety Operations network by sponsoring the first International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) H.E.R.O. Award for outstanding service to maritime search and rescue, 'The Vladimir Maksimov Award'.
The sponsorship is seen as a fitting tribute to Vladimir Maksimov, Inmarsat Director of SOLAS Services, who died on 4th May 2016 after a short illness, following 25 years with Inmarsat. Mr Maksimov played a central role in the Inmarsat safety team. 
The H.E.R.O. (Honouring Excellence in Rescue Operations) Awards, launched by the IMRF in April this year, have been developed to draw attention to the extraordinary work done to save lives in maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) across the world.

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Iridium Waits For SpaceX

Next-generation satellites are ready, but SpaceX is not
In 1998, Iridium switched on the world’s first global telephone service, utilizing a constellation of 66 interconnected satellites operating in six low-Earth-orbit planes. Less than a year later, the company went bankrupt and took its place in history as one of the worst business blunders of the 1990s. But Iridium’s satellites have proven more resilient than its original business plan. Designed by Motorola to last five years, most of the spacecraft are still operating or have ...

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Kymeta and TECOM Bring New, Cutting Edge Antenna Technology to the Aviation Market

Partnership seeks to provide inflight entertainment and communications (IFEC) providers and airlines better efficiency and cost savings, through metamaterials based flat panel technology.
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Kymeta, the company delivering on the promise of global, mobile connectivity and TECOM, a Smiths Microwave brand and a leader in innovative design and manufacturing of high-performance antenna systems, today announced a Partner Development Program Agreement for the aviation market. Under the terms of the agreement, TECOM will incorporate Kymeta® mTenna® technology into an aviation grade terminal to demonstrate connectivity to a Ku-band satellite.

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Globalstar Prepares for Release of the Next Generation Sat-Fi® Satellite Wi-Fi Hotspot
COVINGTON, La., Sept. 13, 2016 -- Globalstar Inc. (NYSE:GSAT) announced today that alpha testing of its next generation duplex device, Sat-Fi2, has commenced in preparation to fully launch the highly anticipated mass consumer and enterprise product in early 2017. Building upon its predecessor, Sat-Fi2 allows customers to use their smartphones and tablets to stay connected when beyond cellular.
With the newest model and second-generation satellites and ground infrastructure in place, businesses and recreationalists will experience affordable, seamless connectivity unprecedented within the MSS industry. The smaller, more portable Hughes-based form factor will enable a wide range of enterprise and individual customers to economically leverage the benefits of Globalstar’s newest mobile satellite network.

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Cubic’s GATR Technologies and Intelsat General Achieve High-Throughput Link via Ultra-Portable Satellite Terminal

SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cubic Corporation today announced that its subsidiary GATR Technologies(GATR), which operates within the Cubic Mission Solutions (CMS) business division, and Intelsat General Corporation (IGC) successfully established a 26-megabits per second (mbps) downlink and a 10+ mbps uplink, carrying multiple data streams during performance testing of GATR’s prototype GATR-FLEX® sub-meter Ku-band, ultra-portable terminal.
GATR and IGC performed a series of tests using the open architecture, high-performance Intelsat EpicNG satellite IS-29e, GATR-FLEX antenna and GATR’s e850 ruggedized iDirect satellite modem, which maximized the throughput of the iDirect Evolution series modems. The tests measured throughput while taxing a single satellite link with data, voice and high-definition (HD) streaming video, which is normally done by two separate terminals over separate networks.

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ITC Global to Provide Connectivity for World’s Largest Semi-Submersible Rig

ITC Global has been awarded a three-year contract to provide broadband connectivity to the world’s largest semi-submersible drilling rig. The end-to-end service will enable the newly built rig to manage essential business communications and monitor and maintain operations through ITC Global’s Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) solution. The ultra-deepwater, harsh environment rig has been commissioned by a major petroleum exploration and production company to begin operations in October in the Great Australian Bight, positioned on the coastline of southern and western Australia.

Ocean Greatwhite Rig
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Inmarsat is named Global Satellite Operator of the Year

Inmarsat is proud to announce that it has been awarded the ‘Global Satellite Operator of the Year’ title at Euroconsult’s 13th Annual Awards for Excellence in Satellite Communications.
Euroconsult, the leading global consulting firm specialising in space markets, announced the winning recipients during World Satellite Business Week in Paris on 14 September.
The annual awards recognise companies and their management for outstanding accomplishments in the satellite sector.

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5G and IoT: Big winners of CTIA Super Mobility 2016

This year’s CTIA Super Mobility show, held Sept. 7-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada, shone the spotlight most brightly on 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). The killer app use case for 5G is IoT and, symbiotically, IoT cannot be fully realized without the higher capacity of 5G.
IoT is the world of interconnected devices and includes smart cities, connected vehicles, smart homes, wearables, enterprise and healthcare solutions. The magnitude of growth forecast in connected devices is staggering; 23 billion in 2020 and increasing to 75 billion five years later, and will dwarf the number of smartphones, say analysts at Frost & Sullivan.

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Antares return to flight now planned for early October
The first launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket with a new first stage engine is now planned for early October, a company official said Sept. 13.
Speaking on a launch systems panel during the AIAA Space 2016 conference here, John Steinmeyer, director of business development at Orbital ATK’s Launch Vehicle Division, said the company was working with NASA to finalize a date for the launch, which will carry a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.
“We’re targeting an initial launch capability in early October. We’re working with NASA to select an optimal launch date,” he said. “We’re very diligent in our preparations for that launch, and making sure we completely validate the system and the RD-181 engines.”

Antares hotfire test
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Inmarsat, Hughes and SpeedCast Become Skynet Partners

Airbus Defence and Space, owner and operator of the Skynet X-band satellite system, has struck up partnerships with Inmarsat Government, Hughes Network Systems, and SpeedCast to offer Skynet military satellite communication services. The three companies are able to offer Skynet services to Australian, New Zealand and U.S. forces operating across the globe.
Inmarsat Government will include Skynet services as part of its portfolio offer to U.S. government customers. Hughes will use the partnership for U.S. government tactical missions, primarily using the Xebra service, which uses the Hughes HM300 lightweight X-band satellite terminal and Airbus Defence and Space’s Skynet capacity. SpeedCast will be offering the tactical secure communications services to the Australian and New Zealand government. In addition, Airbus Defence and Space has recently appointed SpeedCast to manage a new anchor station facility for the Skynet 5A military satellite, which is based at SpeedCast’s existing teleport in Adelaide, Australia.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 5 – Sep 12 2016)

Iridium remains fully behind SpaceX as Musk hints at difficult investigation

PARIS — The commercial company with arguably the most at stake in a quick and successful return to flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Sept. 8 gave a ringing endorsement of the launch-service provider even as SpaceX founder Elon Musk issued statements saying the investigation will be complicated.
The comments from Iridium Chief Financial Officer Thomas J. Fitzpatrick at an investor conference came just hours before SpaceX founder Elon Musk, in a series of statements on Twitter, suggested the company does not yet know what happened.
“Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation,” Musk said in the first of three tweets whose time stamp implied that he was burning the midnight oil. “Turning out to be the most difficult and complex we have ever had in 14 years.”

Artist view of an IRIDIUM NEXT satellite. The IRIDIUM NEXT operation is a modernisation programme of Iridium satellites. Iridium is a provider of mobile satellite communications services.
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Inmarsat successfully demonstrates Global Xpress ‘SATCOM as a Service’ capability for U.S. government aero connectivity

Inmarsat the leading provider of global mobile satellite communication services, today announced that its Global Xpress ‘SATCOM as a Service’ capability is ready for U.S. Government aero applications worldwide. Supported by the only commercial worldwide Ka-band constellation built for mobility, Global Xpress represents the first and only globally available high-throughput communication solution for aero connectivity.
The service was successfully demonstrated in multiple user scenarios with U.S. government end users and in close cooperation with Inmarsat’s Value Added Reseller (VAR) and Value Added Manufacturer (VAM) partners. During CONUS and OCONUS world tour airborne and ground demonstrations, the Honeywell JetWave™ SATCOM terminals in the Fuselage Mount Antenna (FMA) and Tail Mount Antenna (TMA) configurations seamlessly connected with the Global Xpress network.

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Atlas 5 launches NASA asteroid sample return mission

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — An Atlas 5 successfully launched a NASA mission to visit a near Earth asteroid and return samples of it to Earth Sept. 8.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 411 lifted off at 7:05 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. No significant problems were reported during the countdown, and weather remained favorable throughout the day leading up to launch.
The Atlas 5 launched NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft. The spacecraft separated from the Atlas nearly one hour after liftoff.

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Thuraya Announces Plans for L-Band Network Evolution, New Constellation

Thuraya Telecommunications Company has finalized its next generation constellation plans to extend its geographical reach, move into new market sectors and launch new services and devices. The company announced its L-band network will undergo extensive evolution. While continuity is assured with both existing satellites Thuraya 2 and Thuraya 3 continuing to operate as planned, the current satellite footprint will be enhanced significantly with the planned launch of next generation satellites from 2020.
The next generation system will focus on delivering high mobility services in core and new markets. These will be complemented with High Throughput Satellite (HTS) services for bandwidth-hungry applications in land, maritime and aeronautical markets. The constellation will be supported by highly advanced platforms for the provision of “new wave” Internet of Things (IoT) and content services, with multicasting and broadcasting capabilities.

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After SpaceX-Amos 6 Loss, Arianespace Sees Demand Surge

Following the explosion of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with Spacecom’s Amos 6 satellite, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said satellite operators have reached out to the company to inquire about launch services. However, the European launch services provider has only one launch slot for a large satellite available between now and the end of 2018. Speaking Sept. 12 at a press conference, Israel said the Arianespace manifest is the fullest it’s ever been, and the company is trying to create room for more launches to accommodate near-term demand.
“We are almost full up to 2018 with one opportunity for a big satellite in 2018,” he said, adding that Arianespace is endeavoring to offer additional launch slots “with Soyuz as a backup for small satellites, and by introducing one more Ariane next year and the year after.”

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Iridium Leads Maritime Market with High-Performing Numbers

Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today that over the last 12 months, ending June 30, 2016, the company shipped over 2,200 Iridium Pilot® units, concluding with one of the best quarters in company history. Iridium Pilot, which is powered by Iridium OpenPort®, Iridium’s current global broadband service, is one of the fastest growing maritime products in the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) industry today. Over the same 12-month period, Iridium OpenPort subscriber base increased by 9 percent across the company’s vast partner network and customer base.
“We equip our customers’ fleets with the most reliable solutions, not only to ensure business continuity, but also so personnel feel safe and connected to life on land,” said Tore Morten Olsen, president maritime, Marlink.“We are pleased to work with Iridium to provide truly global back up coverage which we pair with our best-in-class Marlink Sealink VSAT. By combining VSAT and MSS we are able to offer a broader range of connectivity solutions for ship owners to choose from. Therefore, Iridium is an important partner for Marlink to provide the highest levels of flexibility for ship owners across all maritime segments and vessel sizes.”

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Blue Origin Introduces New Glenn, its Reusable, Vertical-Landing Booster

Blue Origin has introduced New Glenn, its new reusable, vertical-landing booster. Named in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines. Burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, these are the same BE-4 engines that will power United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new Vulcan rocket.
The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine powers its second stage. The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall, powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants.

Comparison of Blue Origin's New Glenn rockets with other launch vehicles in the market.
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Army Weighs Ring of CubeSats in Next Satellite Demonstration

The United States Army is considering a demonstration constellation comprised of a ring of small satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for telecommunications services. The potential constellation, known as the Army Global on the Move Satcom (ARGOS) system, would prove out an Army science and technology experiment, determining if such a system would be practical for filling telecommunications infrastructure gaps for U.S. ground forces.
The Army has conducted two other satellite demonstrations in the recent past. In 2010, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) flew the SMDC Operational Nanosatellite Effect (SMDC-ONE) — the Army’s first satellite in 50 years — which demonstrated the viability of using CubeSats to relay and exfiltrate data from isolated ground sensors. SMDC flew five satellites as part of SMDC-ONE, showcasing over-the-horizon communications including voice, text message and data. The organization followed this with the SMDC Nanosatellite Program (SNaP-3), a trio of CubeSats that are still functioning today as a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

MDC-ONE rendition. Photo: U.S. Army illustration
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 29 – Sep 5 2016)

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Amos-6 satellite destroyed during static-fire test

WASHINGTON — An explosion on a Florida launch pad early Sept. 1 destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload, the Amos-6 communications satellite, being prepared for an upcoming launch there.
Authorities said the explosion occurred at approximately 9:07 a.m. Eastern at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where SpaceX was preparing to conduct a static fire test of the Falcon 9 in advance of a scheduled Sept. 3 launch. The test, which entails briefly firing the rocket’s first stage, is a routine pre-launch procedure for Falcon 9 missions.
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a tweet four hours after the incident, said the explosion originated around the Falcon 9’s the upper stage liquid oxygen tank while it was being loaded in the minutes before the scheduled static fire test. He said there was no information yet on the cause of the explosion.

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Launch of NASA asteroid mission unaffected by SpaceX failure

WASHINGTON — NASA said Sept. 1 that the launch of an asteroid sample return mission from Florida remained on schedule for next week despite the explosion of SpaceX Falcon 9 at a neighboring launch pad.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft was inside its payload fairing atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 when the Falcon 9 at the neighboring Space Launch Complex 40, less than two kilometers away, exploded during preparations for a static-fire test on the morning of Sept. 1.
Mike Curie, a NASA spokesman at the Kennedy Space Center, said a few hours after the SpaceX incident that he was not aware of any effects the explosion had on OSIRIS-REx. The agency confirmed that assessment later in the day.

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InSight delay adds $150 million to mission’s cost

WASHINGTON — NASA announced Sept. 2 that it has approved plans to launch a delayed Mars lander mission in 2018, although at an additional cost that could affect plans for later planetary missions.
The InSight Mars lander, originally scheduled for launch in March, will now launch no earlier than May 5, 2018, after NASA’s Science Mission Directorate formally approved the revised mission plan this week. That launch will allow a landing on Mars in November 2018.
NASA postponed the launch in December 2015 after a series of problems with one of its primary instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), provided by the French space agency CNES. The instrument suffered a series of vacuum leaks that NASA concluded could not be fixed in time to permit a launch during a window that lasted about a month.

Concept art of InSight Lander drilling beneath Mars' surface. Credit: NASA
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Falcon 9 pad explosion highlights unique aspect of SpaceX launch campaigns

WASHINGTON — The explosion Sept. 1 that destroyed a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload took place not during a launch attempt but instead in a pre-launch test that is all but unique to SpaceX.
The explosion at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred while the Falcon 9 was being filled with liquid oxygen and kerosene in preparation for a static-fire test, where the rocket’s nine first stage engines are briefly ignited on the pad a few days before the scheduled launch.
The static-fire tests have been a standard part of pre-launch preparations for Falcon 9 launches throughout the vehicle’s history. They are intended to serve as full dress rehearsals for launches and also verify the performance of the first stage engine.

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Cobham Expands Explorer 8000 VSAT Family with 1.2-Meter Version

Cobham Satcomis releasing the Explorer 8120 VSAT at IBC 2016 next week. The 1.2-meter stabilized, auto-acquire, drive-away antenna system harnesses the same “dynamic pointing correction” technology and carbon fiber construction introduced with the 1-meter Explorer 8100 model released last year.
The Explorer 8120 is available in Ku-band configuration and works with most major satellite networks. The VSAT’s larger reflector dish provides for improved service availability and higher throughput across more of the satellite footprint.

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Carmanah Technologies and Globalstar Forge Pact on IoT, Solar M2M Devices

Carmanah, a Canada-based producer of energy-optimized LED solutions for infrastructure, has signed a far-reaching agreement with Globalstar to collaborate on the design and manufacture of new solar-powered M2M satellite solutions as well as use of the operator’s satellite constellation for remote connectivity for all strategic Carmanah products. As part of the multi-year supply agreement, Carmanah will design, develop, and supply the next generation of Globalstar devices incorporating solar power charging capabilities.
“Many of our customers are interested in broadening the data capture and increasing the frequency of data transmissions from their mobile assets. When available, our new solar powered devices will support larger and more frequent data transmission capability and, most importantly, have a much longer field life than our current devices” said Dave Kagan, president and COO of Globalstar.

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Marlink Increases Data Speeds for Sealink VSAT

Marlink has doubled the burst speed on its Sealink VSAT services, enabling up to 3 Mbps for users on its data allowance packages. New 40, 60 and 80 Gigabyte (GB) data allowances have been introduced in parallel to the burst speed increase, enabling users with high bandwidth requirements to extend their smart shipping and crew welfare strategies.
Combined with the potential for faster internet access, the new Sealink allowances enable significantly more capacity for smarter operational efficiency and enhance crew data communications while providing access to social media and web browsing. Sealink allowances combine up to four voice lines with eight data allowance plans available from 1 GB up to 80 GB per month.

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Startup to Use CubeSats for IoT and Inter-Satellite Communications

Kepler Communications, a small satellite startup, is designing a constellation of CubeSats for Internet of Things (IoT) and inter-satellite communications services. The company last month announced $5 million in capital raised through an oversubscribed seed round, along with plans to potentially deploy an initial service in the second half of 2017.
Kepler’s goals are to provide a vastly improved IoT backhaul for customers on the ground, as well as real time access to satellites in the same orbit. In an interview with Via Satellite, Co-Founder and CTO Wen Cheng Chong said the fresh capital has given the company the means to start building out its system.
“This $5 million allows us to launch our pilot service,” he said. “This means two satellites will go up by the end of next year. In the meantime we’re securing contracts with launch providers, signing with bus suppliers and ground station suppliers so that we get to roll out a full network.”

Wen Cheng Chong Kepler
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SES Becomes First Reusable Rocket Customer for SpaceX

SES and SpaceX have reached an agreement to launch SES 10 on a previously flown Falcon 9 orbital rocket booster later this year. The mission is currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2016 to put the satellite on its way to geosynchronous orbit for telecommunications services over Latin America.
“Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,” Gwynne Shotwell, president and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SpaceX, said in an Aug. 30 press release.
SpaceX previously announced intentions of reusing a rocket with a commercial customer earlier this year at the SATELLITE 2016 Conference & Exhibition. Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX,made similar comments in a NASA press conference this spring following the landing of the company’s second booster after launching a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station for the Commercial Resupply Services 8 (CRS-8) mission. SpaceX tweeted Aug 30 that the SES 10 mission will use that same booster from CRS-8. The NASA mission delivered roughly 3,200 kilograms, or 7,000 lbs of cargo to the ISS in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

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Juno completes first orbit of Jupiter

Braving intense radiation, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully completed its first low-altitude swing around Jupiter early Saturday, passing within about 2,600 miles of the giant planet’s cloud tops at a velocity of some 130,000 mph, the space agency said.
A single image posted on NASA’s Juno web page showed a half-lighted Jupiter and its great red spot, along with numerous atmospheric bands and swirls. Much higher resolution images are expected to be posted in the next few weeks as mission scientists process downlinked data and telemetry.

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