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Monday, February 19, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 12 – Feb 19 2018)

NASA certifies Falcon 9 for science missions

NASA has certified the current version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch some categories of science missions, a milestone needed for the upcoming, but delayed, launch of an astronomy spacecraft.
NASA disclosed the certification in its full fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, released Feb. 14, in a section about NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP). “In January 2018, SpaceX successfully completed ‘Category 2’ certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 ‘Full Thrust’ with LSP which supports the launch of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission in March 2018,” it stated.

SpaceX Falcon 9 GovSat-1
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ISS as a Catalyst for New Space Industries

Just as the early railroads transformed the American West and spurred an economic boom across our then young nation, commercial activity in space is blossoming. Expansion of these activities, especially in-space manufacturing, will expand human activity outward and lead to new American economic booms. While the promise of commercial activities in space may be as vast as the promise of the American West, actions must be taken now in order to stay on the path of converting this promise to economic value.

View from the International Space Station (ISS) Cupola
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Air Force and Aerojet Rocketdyne renegotiating AR1 agreement

The U.S. Air Force and Aerojet Rocketdyne are working to revise an agreement to support development of the company’s AR1 rocket engine, as questions continue about the engine’s long-term future.
In a Feb. 14 response to questions submitted by SpaceNews, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) confirmed that Aerojet Rocketdyne is seeking to revise the Rocket Propulsion System (RPS) award the company received in 2016 to reduce the fraction of development costs the company has to pay.

AR1 illustration
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What Does Blockchain and Bitcoin Mean for the Video Industry?

Qtum Foundation announced a collaboration with the SpaceChain Foundation to launch a standardized CubeSat, which will carry Qtum‘s blockchain software technology on a Raspberry Pi device.
The electricity required for cryptocurrency mining — or tallying cryptocurrency transactions in exchange for a small fee — has increased exponentially over the years. According to Digiconomist, Bitcoin mining power consumption had increased 56.2 percent over four months to hit 47.07 TWh, costing $2.3 billion per year and consuming 0.21 percent of the world’s electricity.

Renditon of Qtum's blockchain satellite. Photo; Qtum Foundation.
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FCC chairman urges approval for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants his agency approve SpaceX’s 15-month-old application to serve the U.S. with its proposed megaconstellation.
In a statement released just days before SpaceX launches its first two prototype satellites, Pai urged support of the company’s application within the FCC, saying Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX can help reach rural and isolated parts of the country with high-speed Internet.

FCC Ajit Pai
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Iridium Reveals First Maritime Partners for Certus Service

Iridium Communications announced that Marlink, Speedcast, Applied Satellite Technologies (AST), and Satcom Global are the initial global maritime launch partners for Iridium Certus, a global L-band satellite network. The first regional maritime launch partner, Arion, will focus on delivering Iridium Certus to the Asian market .
According to Iridium, Certus is designed to meet the needs of the “connected ship.” Operating on small form-factor terminals with solid-state, active-array antennas, the service will enable more efficient business operations, cost-effective crew welfare solutions, and safety communications, while providing a pole-to-pole, global grid for Internet of Things (IOT) smart ship applications, the company stated.

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U.S. intelligence: Russia and China will have ‘operational’ anti-satellite weapons in a few years

Experts have warned for some time that wars in space are not just Hollywood fiction. And the scenario appears increasingly more likely, according to the latest analysis by the U.S. intelligence community.
“We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” warns the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

ASAT interception
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Monday, February 12, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 05 – Feb 12 2018)

Air Force to acquire new jam-resistant GPS satellites

The Pentagon plans to spend $2 billion over the next five years on a new constellation of Global Positioning System satellites that will be hardened to withstand electronic interference from hostile nations.
In a solicitation for bids posted Feb. 13, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced it will “conduct a full and open competition” for the production of 22 GPS 3 satellites starting in fiscal year 2019.

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NASA budget proposal seeks to cancel WFIRST

The Trump administration is offering $19.9 billion for NASA in its fiscal year 2019 request, while seeking to cancel a flagship astronomy mission and end NASA funding of the International Space Station in 2025.
A key cut included in the proposal, released Feb. 12, is cancelling the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the agency’s next flagship astrophysics mission after the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA had been in the midst of revising the mission’s design to lower its costs from an estimated $3.9 billion to $3.2 billion.

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NASA budget proposal plans end of NASA funding of ISS, seeks commercial transition

NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal will include plans to end funding for the International Space Station in 2025, but leaves open the possibility of handing part or all of the station over to private operators.
The budget proposal, due to be released Feb. 12, will include a request for $150 million to support the development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit to succeed the ISS, for which NASA could be a customer, according to an internal agency document obtained by SpaceNews.

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Largest cubesat operators say 25-year deorbit guideline a priority

Planet and Spire, operators of the two largest commercial cubesat constellations in orbit, say they manage their fleets to prevent retired spacecraft from lingering in space beyond internationally accepted guidelines.
Speaking at the SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 7, officials from Planet and Spire said the companies have self-imposed rules to ensure their satellites burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years of shutting down, as suggested by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) committee.

Spire Lemurs Clean Room
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NASA studying commercial crew contingency plans

NASA is beginning to study a contingency option for maintaining access to the International Space Station should commercial crew vehicle development experience delays, one that would turn test flights of those vehicles into operational missions.
Speaking at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Feb. 8, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said using the planned crewed test flights as crew rotation missions was one option under consideration should neither Boeing nor SpaceX be certified for regular crew rotation missions by the fall of 2019, when NASA’s access to Russian Soyuz spacecraft ends.

Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing
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Sierra Nevada gets NASA approval for first Dream Chaser ISS cargo mission

NASA has given Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) formal approval for the company’s first cargo mission to the International Space Station in late 2020.
SNC announced Feb. 7 that it had received “authority to proceed” on that mission using the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle. The mission will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in late 2020.

In addition to cargo missions to the ISS, Dream Chaser will fly a dedicated research mission for the United Nations in 2021. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.
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Military certification the next big test for Falcon Heavy

The inaugural launch on Tuesday of the world’s most powerful rocket sets the stage for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to begin the qualification process to compete for lucrative U.S. government contracts.
The U.S. Air Force has already booked the massive rocket for a June launch of a test payload. But the Falcon Heavy may have to nail many more missions before it passes the threshold to be certified by the U.S. Air Force.

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Updated | SpaceX successfully launches Falcon Heavy

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy successfully launched on its inaugural flight here Feb. 6, placing a demonstration payload into orbit and boosting the company’s interplanetary ambitions.
The Falcon Heavy lifted off at 3:45 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A here, after more than two hours of delays due to high upper-level winds. The two side boosters landed at pads designated Landing Zone 1 and 2 at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifts off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A on its inaugural flight Feb. 6. Credit: SpaceNews / Craig Vander Galien
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