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Monday, December 28, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 21 – Dec 28 2015)

NASA Orders Second Commercial Crew Mission from Boeing
NASA took an important step Friday to establish regular crew missions that will launch from the United States to the International Space Station with the order of its second post-certification mission from Boeing Space Exploration of Houston.
"Once certified by NASA, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon each will be capable of two crew launches to the station per year," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "Placing orders for those missions now really sets us up for a sustainable future aboard the International Space Station."
This is the third in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. Boeing and SpaceX received their first orders in May and November, respectively, and have started planning for, building and procuring the necessary hardware and assets to carry out their first missions for the agency. NASA will identify at a later time which company will fly a mission to the station first.

Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing
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Falcon 9 Launches Orbcomm Satellites, Lands First Stage
OMAHA, Neb. — A SpaceX upgraded Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Dec. 21 and placed 11 Orbcomm satellites in orbit, while the first stage successfully landed back near the launch site at Cape Canaveral.
The upgraded Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:29 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Deployment of the 11 Orbcomm satellites started about 14 minutes after liftoff, and Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc Eisenberg said on Twitter that all 11 satellites had checked in after deployment.
While the Falcon 9’s second stage ascended towards orbit, the first stage started a series of burns to head back to a decommissioned launch site called Landing Zone 1, several kilometers south of the launch site. The first stage touched down on the pad there nearly 10 minutes after liftoff and remained upright, according to webcast video of the landing attempt.

A Falcon 9 first stage moments for touching down in the dead center of Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after launching 11 Orbcomm satellites Dec. 21. Credit: SpaceX webcast
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Japan Approves ISS Extension through 2024
The government signed an agreement Tuesday with the U.S. government to continue to be part of the station program through 2024.
Japan operates the Kibo laboratory module and provides cargo through its HTV spacecraft, which will continue to fly during the station’s extension.
JAXA said in a statement it will be “promoting unprecedented utilization” of the Kibo module.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this month that Japan would sign onto an extension of the ISS, but the formal agreement for that was still being finalized at the time.

Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of  JAXAtalks on a satellite phone in a chair outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, landed in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in Kazakhstan in May 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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Mars InSight Lander Won’t Launch until 2018 — If it Launches at All
WASHINGTON — If it isn’t canceled altogether, NASA’s Mars InSight lander will now launch more than two years later than planned, thanks to a balky seismometer, the agency’s top science official told reporters Dec. 22.
“We’re looking at some time in the May 2018 timeframe,” John Gunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science, said during a Dec. 22 conference call.
InSight was supposed to launch in March, but a series of leaks in a mission-critical instrument, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) provided by the French space agency, CNES, will keep the mission grounded well past a 26-day Mars launch window that opens March 4, Grunsfeld said.
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Inmarsat Orders Two Sixth-Generation Satellites from Airbus Defence and Space

Inmarsat has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the first two mobile communications satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation fleet (I-6). The contract, valued in the region of $600 million for construction of the two satellites, will see Airbus deliver the first satellite, Inmarsat 6 F1 (I-6 F1), by 2020.
Inmarsat’s I-6 fleet will feature dual payloads that support L-band and Ka-band services. The operator is using an all-electric design to take advantage of the reduction in fuel mass to pack in a larger payload. Based on the Eurostar E3000e variant, I-6 F1 and F2 will carry a large 9-meter aperture L-band antenna and nine multibeam Ka-band antennas. A new generation modular digital processor will provide full routing flexibility over up to 8,000 channels and dynamic power allocation to more than 200 spot beams in L-band. Ka-band spot beams will be steerable over the full Earth disk, with flexible channel to beam allocation.  The satellites will take four to six months to reach orbit, depending on the type of launcher used. Each satellite is designed to remain in service for more than 15 years.

Earth, Space, Satellites, Tracking, Satellite, Symbol
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Etisalat and Thuraya Partner to Offer Mobile Telecommunications via Satellite

Etisalat has partnered with Thuraya Telecommunications to launch its new AnA Emarati mobile proposition, offering its mobile post-paid customers a bundle of Thuraya Telecommunication’s satellite-enabled calling minutes and Short Message Service (SMS) from anywhere in the world.
Customers opting for the AnA Emarati mobile post-paid satellite bundles can continue to place both GSM and satellite calls using their same, existing mobile number and phone. They benefit from an additional free SIM card with the same number to be inserted in the satellite Hotspot device. To make a satellite call, users need to have a clear line of sight to the satellite, which means outdoor areas with no trees or obstacles.

Tower, Antennas, Technology, Communication, Mobile
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Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space to Supply Comsat NG Satellite to French Defense Ministry

The French defense procurement agency Direction Generale de l’Armement (DGA), part of the French Defense Ministry, has selected the consortium formed by Thales Alenia Space (65 percent) and Airbus Defence and Space (35 percent) to build and deliver the military satellite communications system, Comsat NG.
The Comsat NG contract covers the construction and launch of two military communications satellites for the French armed forces, to replace the Syracuse 3A and Syracuse 3B satellites, launched in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The new satellites will enter in service in 2021 and will give France a higher performance system featuring new services.
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Monday, December 21, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 14 – Dec 21 2015)

Soyuz Crew Enroute to International Space Station
Two experienced fliers and a space newbie — the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station — launched spaceward on a Russian rocket today (Dec. 15) to begin a six-month science mission on the laboratory in orbit.
At 6:03 a.m. EST (1103 GMT) today, American astronaut Tim Kopra of NASA, British astronaut Tim Peake (of the European Space Agency) and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a 6-hour journey to the space station. Malenchenko, a veteran of six spaceflights (including trips to the station as well as to Russia's Mir space station), is commanding the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft. The crewmembers are part of Expedition 46 mission to the International Space Station, and will remain onboard for Expedition 47.

Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and  flight engineers Tim Kopra of NASA, center, and  Tim Peake of ESA farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket for launch Dec. 15 from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky     Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
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Thales Alenia Inks Deal To Build 2 More Sentinel Satellites for ESA
ROME — The European Space Agency on Dec. 15 contracted with Thales Alenia Space to build two C-band radar satellites, Sentinel-1C and Sentinel-1D, as part of the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation system.
The contract, valued at 402 million euros ($441 million), will help guarantee the promised data continuity of the multibillion-euro Copernicus effort, which includes 15 satellites performing a range of Earth observation missions.
The Sentinel-1A satellite was launched in 2014 and the identical Sentinel-1B is scheduled for launch in April aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket. Each is designed to operate for at least seven years in polar low Earth orbit, with sufficient fuel to last for 12 years.

Satellite, Soyuz, Spaceship, Space Station, Aviation
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FAA Advisory Group Endorses “Moon Village” Concept
WASHINGTON — A Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee has recommended that the FAA start discussions with the European Space Agency about commercial participation in an international lunar base concept promoted by the agency’s leader.
The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what’s known as “Moon Village.” The vote was conducted by email after COMSTAC held a meeting via teleconference on the topic Dec. 10, committee chairman Mike Gold said Dec. 15.
The recommendation states that the FAA, “after consulting with the appropriate U.S. agencies, engage directly with ESA in support of the ‘Moon Village’ concept, with the goal of fostering the participation of U.S.-based commercial entities in the planning and creation of the ‘Moon Village.’”

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SpaceX Preparing for Launch of “Significantly Improved” Falcon 9
WASHINGTON — SpaceX is gearing up for both the first launch of its Falcon 9 rocket since a June launch failure and the first flight of a “significantly improved” version of the vehicle, but questions remain about the company’s plans to attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage.
SpaceX is planning a static fire test of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Dec. 16. If successful, that test would clear the way for a launch attempt “about three days later,” or Dec. 19, between 8 and 9 p.m. Eastern, according to a Dec. 10 press release from Orbcomm, the launch’s customer.
SpaceX has released few details about launch preparations, but Orbcomm said in a Dec. 14 statement that the 11 second-generation spacecraft being launched had been attached to the satellite dispenser and placed inside the rocket’s payload fairing. That statement indicated that the static fire test was still scheduled for Dec. 16. SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said Dec. 15 that the company was not disclosing when during the day the test would take place.

Rocket, Flight, Spacex
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NASA Receives $19.3 Billion in Final 2016 Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — The final version of a fiscal year 2016 spending bill will provide NASA with nearly $19.3 billion, funding most agency programs at or above the administration’s original request.
The omnibus spending bill, released by House and Senate appropriators early Dec. 16 after extended negotiations, allocates $19.285 billion to NASA for fiscal year 2016. That total is $756 million above the administration’s requested budget and the total provided the agency in a House spending bill passed in August. It is nearly $1 billion above a Senate bill that appropriators approved in June but was never passed by the full Senate.
That increased spending, enabled by a budget bill passed in October that raised overall spending caps for discretionary programs, allowed appropriators to avoid long-standing debates about agency spending priorities by funding most programs at, or in some cases well above, the administration’s request.

Nasa, Usa, Kennedy Space Center
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NASA Reviving Effort To Put Spare Orbiting Carbon Observatory Sensor on ISS
SAN FRANCISCO — With funding in the 2016 omnibus spending bill approved by House and Senate appropriators, NASA will be able to revive Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, a dormant effort to measure carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.
The OCO-3 program,  using an instrument leftover from NASA’s campaign to build the free-flying Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 launched in 2014, will track carbon dioxide from its perch on the exterior of the International Space Station.
The project, which was on hold due to a lack of funding, is back in the budget because NASA’s Earth Science Division will receive nearly eight percent more money in 2016 than it did in 2015 if the congressional budget pact is signed by President Barack Obama. “We hopefully will launch OCO-3 in the 2018 timeframe,” Michael Freilich, NASA’s Earth Science Division director said Dec. 16 during his annual Town Hall meeting at the American Geophysical Union conference here.

Satellite, Iss, Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis
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Monday, December 14, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Dec 7 – Dec 14 2015)

SpaceX Shooting for a Dec. 19 Falcon Return-to-flight Launch

Elon Musk said SpaceX will launch its Falcon 9 rocket late next week on its first mission since a June launch failure.
Musk, in a tweet early Thursday, said a static fire test of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for Dec. 16 and, if successful, launch would take place “about three days later.”
There had been rumors that SpaceX was planning to launch Dec. 19, but no official word from the company. The launch, when it does occur, will place 11 Orbcomm satellites into orbit on the first flight of the upgraded “full thrust” Falcon 9.

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Inmarsat and Turksat Enter Collaborative Partnership

U.K.-based Inmarsat and Turkish state-owned satellite operator Turksat have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore opportunities through the formation of a strategic partnership, initially focused on the defense and aviation sectors.
Under the MoU, Inmarsat would be Turksat’s preferred mobile satellite communications provider. Inmarsat expects Turksat’s strong links across the Caucasus and Central Asia will enable the operator to increase its penetration in this region of the world.

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Japan Seeks To Become Full Partner with U.S. in Space

WASHINGTON — As American and Japanese officials praised the strong relationship the two countries share in civil and military space activities, one Japanese officials at a recent forum said he sought to elevate his country’s role in that partnership.
In a speech at a Dec. 10 event here on the U.S.-Japan alliance in space organized by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, Takeo Kawamura, a member of the House of Representatives of the National Diet of Japan with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said his country should become “equal partners” with the U.S. in space.
“The main idea I have here is to move from dependency to coexistence with the U.S.,” said Kawamura, speaking through an interpreter. “That’s my challenge today, to establish a more equal relationship.”

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Inmarsat and EM Solutions to develop world’s first MilSatCom/GX maritime terminal

Inmarsat has announced a new partnership with EM Solutions to develop the world’s first combined MilSatCom/Global Xpress (GX) maritime satcom terminal. The new terminal is scheduled to receive full Inmarsat accreditation during Q2 2016 and will be submitted for Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) certification.
The new terminal, which is initially being created for an Australian Government customer, will contain a number of innovative features, including tracking via monopulse technology and easy switching between GX and MilSatCom systems. The terminal will also be substantially lighter, lower cost and faster than any comparable MilSatCom device.

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Soyuz Spacecraft Crew Lands on Earth After 141 Days on Space Station

Three space station crewmembers made a rare nighttime return to Earth on Friday (Dec. 11), safely landing in Kazakhstan after 141 days in orbit.
Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) touched down at about 8:12 a.m. EST (1312 GMT or 7:12 p.m. local time) on board their Russian Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft. The parachute and thruster-assisted landing put the trio down northeast of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan about two hours after sunset.
The return marked only the sixth time that a Soyuz crew came home from the International Space Station at night, after more than 40 such landings. The returns are usually targeted for daylight to assist in recovery operations but a change in the launch schedule for an upcoming upgraded Russian cargo ship resulted in the post-sunset timing.

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Spectacular Video Shows Test Launch of New Earth-Return Capsule

A small rocket carried four technology experiments to suborbital space last month, and onboard cameras captured the flight in breathtaking detail.
The rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace, launched Sunday (Nov. 6) from Spaceport America in New Mexico carrying four separate payloads, including a capsule called Maraia that NASA is developing to return science gear from the International Space Station to Earth. You can watch an amazing video of the rocket launch and Maraia deployment, courtesy of UP Aerospace.
The video includes footage of the rocket — which reached a maximum altitude of 75 miles (120 kilometers) — separating from the Maraia capsule, and then the capsule returning to Earth. The cameras were mounted on the launch vehicle and in the rocket's nose fairing.

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Orbital ATK Looks Ahead as Cygnus Arrives at ISS

WASHINGTON — As the first Cygnus mission launched on an Atlas rocket arrived at the International Space Station, Orbital ATK was already looking ahead to the second such mission, as well as resuming flights in 2016 of an updated version of the company’s own Antares launch vehicle.
The Cygnus spacecraft, flying a mission designated OA-4, arrived at the ISS early Dec. 9, two and a half days after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The station’s robotic arm grappled the spacecraft and berthed it to the Unity module, where it will remain until January.
Cygnus brought to the station more than 3,500 kilograms of cargo, such as crew supplies, space parts for the station, and experiments that include satellites that will later be deployed from the ISS. That is the most cargo ferried to the station since commercial cargo missions by Orbital and SpaceX began in 2012.

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Get ready for Li-Fi, a technology 100 times faster than Wi-Fi

In the next few years we might be hearing a lot more about LiFi (sometimes also called “Li-Fi”), an alternative to Wi-Fi in some circumstances that uses light as the transmission medium, and is supposedly capable of 1 Gbps speeds. That’s much faster than the average Wi-Fi speed that most of us have today. With such high throughput, it would be possible to download content such as movies in a fraction of the time it takes now.
LiFi (which in fact stands for Light Fidelity) is a two-way communication technology that sends data using light, via LED bulbs which flicker on and off at a frequency not even noticeable to our eyes. The technology was invented in 2011 by Harald Haas and has supposedly already been demonstrated (in lab conditions) at an amazing 224 Gbps. LiFi is now an international standard, opening the door for lots of new and exciting products in the near future.
LiFi has also recently been put to practical use outside the lab, being trialled in offices in Tallinn, Estonia, where speeds did indeed reach 1 Gbps.  “We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilise the VLC (visible light communication) technology,” Deepak Solanki, CEO of Estonian firm Velmenni recently told IBTimes UK.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 30 – Dec 7 2015)

Atlas Launches Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft to Space Station

WASHINGTON — An Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft Dec. 6 after three days of delays, resuming deliveries of essential supplies and experiments to the International Space Station by U.S. companies.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 401 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 4:44 p.m. Eastern time. The Cygnus spacecraft, on a mission designated OA-4, separated from the rocket’s upper stage 21 minutes after liftoff after entering orbit 230 kilometers above the Earth.
The Cygnus spacecraft, named the S.S. Deke Slayton II by Orbital ATK, deployed its solar arrays shortly after entering orbit, and company officials said the spacecraft was in good health as it began a two-and-a-half-day approach to the ISS.

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How Satellite Made a Difference in Nepal

When the April 2015 earthquake rattled Nepal, it destroyed sobering amounts of infrastructure, took lives, and displaced millions. Everyone affected was forced to adapt to the new environment. Himalayan Life, an organization already on the ground in Nepal doing projects in education, protection and caretaking for children, challenged itself to address the needs of those who had lost nearly everything. To reach those impacted, satellite technology played a critical role in providing much needed communications.
For the second article in a two-part series, Via Satellite interviewed Daniel Burgi, CEO of Himalayan Life, about his organization’s involvement as a surrogate first responder.

How hundreds of volunteer mappers are helping to keep Nepal earthquake aid from getting lost
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Russian Military Satellite Suffers Launch Failure, Will Crash Soon

An advanced Russian military satellite was doomed by a setback during launch Saturday (Dec. 5) and could come crashing back to Earth in the next day or so, according to media reports.
The Kanopus-ST remote-sensing spacecraft failed to separate from the upper stage of its uncrewed Soyuz-2-1v rocket as planned during Saturday's liftoff from Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia, Russia's TASS news agency reported today (Dec. 7).
"One of the four locks holding onto the satellite malfunctioned," TASS reported, citing an unnamed source in the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces

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Inmarsat Global Xpress Now Provides Full Global Coverage

The third Inmarsat Inc., Global Xpress satellite is now fully operational after reaching its final orbital position. Activation of the third satellite in a fleet of three provides complete global coverage of the company’s program to heighten global communication capabilities on land, at sea and in the air, according to a company statement.
Inmarsat-5 (I-5) F3 provides satellite communications coverage from its position over the Pacific Ocean. It launched in August after a two-month delay caused by the failure in May of the Khrunichev-International Launch Services Russian Proton rocket as it dispatched a Mexican communications satellite.

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How Inertia Saved LISA Pathfinder Mission

LONDON — Europe’s LISA Pathfinder fundamental-physics satellite was successfully launched Dec. 3 on a mission to help prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but it has already demonstrated – once more – Newton’s law of inertia as applied to government programs.
The launch, from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, also marked the end of the long demonstration phase for Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher, which has now posted six successes in six launch attempts.
The Italian-led Vega rocket has completed its European Space Agency-financed test phase, which included multiple missions to showcase Vega’s versatility.

In this  ESA image, taken with an ultra-wide angle fisheye lens Nov. 19, the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft is hidden from view, encapsulated in the upper stage of its Vega rocket.
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Washington Weighs an FAA Role in Managing Space Traffic

WASHINGTON – The White House and members of U.S. Congress are in early discussions about how to give the Federal Aviation Administration a role in monitoring the space environment and heading off collisions between commercial satellites, a task currently handled by the U.S. Air Force, sources tell SpaceNews.
The discussion has a sense of urgency, sources said, as several new businesses, many with ties to Silicon Valley, have plans to launch hundreds of satellites in the coming years. With that in mind, proponents are asking Congress to move quickly to find a home for space traffic management.
Any such shift likely would have the blessing of the Pentagon. Leaders from Air Force Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command have said they would like to lessen the burden on military space operators so they can concentrate on preparing for potential conflicts in space.

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Virgin Galactic Acquires Boeing 747 for LauncherOne Missions

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Virgin Galactic announced Dec. 3 that it has purchased a Boeing 747 jetliner to serve as the new carrier aircraft for its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle.
The aircraft, unveiled during an event at the San Antonio, Texas, facility where the plane is being modified, will allow LauncherOne to carry heavier payloads than if it was launched from the company’s WhiteKnightTwo airplane, as originally planned.
“We basically wanted to maximize the productive capacity of the Newton engines we were developing” for LauncherOne, said George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, in a Dec. 3 phone interview. The company studied how big they could make LauncherOne if not constrained by how much WhiteKnightTwo could carry, then looked at what aircraft could handle that vehicle.

Using a Boeing 747 as the launch platform for LauncherOne will allow Virgin Galactic to double the vehicle's payload performance, increasing the size of the market it can serve, according to company officials. Credit: Virgin Galactic
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New Law Unlikely To Settle Debate on Space Resource Rights

WASHINGTON — Language in a new commercial space law that grants companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other solar system bodies provides them with some certainty, but they acknowledge that the law is likely not the last word on the issue.
President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 25 the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the final version of a commercial space bill approved by the House and Senate earlier in the month. Most of the bill is devoted to issues regarding commercial space transportation, including extensions of third-party launch indemnification and restrictions on regulations regarding safety of commercial spaceflight participants.
One section of the new law, though, that has received a large amount of attention is the part about space resources. That section states that U.S. citizens shall have rights to any resources they extract from asteroids, moons or other bodies, “including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell” those resources.

A Deep Space Industries concept for a spacecraft that could retrieve space resources from the surface of an asteroid. Credit: Bryan Versteeg / DSI
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Monday, November 30, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 23 – Nov 30 2015)

Developers Are Invited By Inmarsat To Attend IDC 16

Inmarsat will convene the firm's second annual Inmarsat Developer Conference (IDC 16) at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on February 29 to March 1, 2016, following a highly successful inaugural event.
Software, hardware and application developers are invited to attend and hear from prominent industry experts, including Ford and SpaceX, and to discover more about the latest development opportunities for the creation of innovative solutions using Inmarsat’s L-band and Global Xpress (Ka-band) networks.
Inmarsat’s open technology strategy, announced in January of this year at the first IDC, has given the growing developer community the freedom to use Inmarsat technologies to develop innovative and bespoke applications, based on cutting edge technology. The latest development opportunities are set to be unveiled at the industry event next year.

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Turkey and Football: How Astronauts Celebrate Thanksgiving in Space

Thanksgiving in space will be a lot like the holiday down here on the ground — minus the gravity, of course.
Like most Americans, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren have Thanksgiving (Nov. 26) off, and they'll spend the day aboard the International Space Station (ISS) watching football and enjoying a turkey-centric feast, agency officials said.
Kelly and Lindgren gave viewers a look at that feast in a special Thanksgiving video this week, breaking out bags of smoked turkey, rehydratable corn, candied yams and potatoes au gratin. Lindgren tore off a chunk of turkey and took a bite on camera.

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NOAA Weather Satellite Breaks Up in Orbit

LONDON — A U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite retired in 2014 has suffered an apparent breakup, the second time in less than a year that a polar-orbiting weather satellite has generated orbital debris.
The Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) announced Nov. 25 that it had identified a possible breakup of the NOAA 16 satellite. The center, which tracks objects in orbit and warns of potential collisions, said it first detected the breakup at 3:41 a.m. Eastern time and was tracking an unspecified number of “associated objects” in the orbit of NOAA 16.
JSpOC said later Nov. 25 that the debris from NOAA 16 posed no current threat to other satellites in orbit. It added that it did not believe the debris resulted from a collision with another object, suggesting that NOAA 16 broke up on its own.

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Could Iridium Communications Inc Rise Even More? The Stock Had Another Big Increase Today

The stock of Iridium Communications Inc (NASDAQ:IRDM) is a huge mover today! The stock increased 5.15% or $0.4 during the last trading session, hitting $8.17. About 1.55M shares traded hands or 96.67% up from the average. Iridium Communications Inc (NASDAQ:IRDM) has declined 27.59% since April 27, 2015 and is downtrending. It has underperformed by 26.69% the S&P500.
The move comes after 7 months positive chart setup for the $737.76M company. It was reported on Dec, 1 by We have $12.66 PT which if reached, will make NASDAQ:IRDM worth $405.77M more.

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Lebanese Red Cross Equips Volunteers with Globalstar Spot Gen3 Safety Devices

The Lebanese Red Cross, the sole provider of emergency medical services in Lebanon, is deploying 125 handheld Spot Gen3 safety devices from Globalstar subsidiary Globalstar Europe Satellite Services to enhance the safety of its workers.
The humanitarian organization will be using Spot Gen3 to track the location of its volunteers and search and rescue teams as they respond to emergencies. Spot devices can be quickly set up to automatically report the user’s location at regular intervals using a “check-in” button, which sends a prepared message to Lebanese Red Cross headquarters indicating that all is fine. Red Cross managers can also install the Spot app on their smartphones and tablets to read messages and see where each volunteer is located using Google Maps.

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Blue Origin Makes Historic Reusable Rocket Landing in Epic Test Flight

The private spaceflight company Blue Origin just launched itself into the history books by successfully flying and landing a reusable rocket.
Powered by the company's own BE-3 engine, the rocket kicked off the launchpad yesterday (Nov. 23) at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, carrying the New Shepard space vehicle. The stunning feat was captured in an amazing test flight video released by the company.
Shortly after liftoff, the rocket separated from the vehicle. In the past, a spent rocket would fall back to Earth like a stone, having completed its one and only flight.

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ExoMars Work at Frenzied Pace To Make 2016 Launch Date
CANNES, France — Europe’s two-launch ExoMars mission to Mars in 2016 and 2018, which has run a budgetary obstacle course from the start, remains in deadlined-stressed mode with triple-shift work days on the eve of first mission’s shipment to Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to prepare for a March launch, government and industry officials said Nov. 24.
Contrary to what several European Space Agency governments thought as they reluctantly financed the 1.2 billion-euro ($1.28 billion) ExoMars project — Europe’s principal space exploration mission — the industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space has been able to keep to the schedule and save the 2016 launch date.
A component defect discovered only this summer forced a slip in the schedule and the loss of the January launch window. But a backup date of March 14-25 has been secured on a Russian Proton rocket. Russia is ESA’s partner in ExoMars and is providing two Proton rockets for the launches, plus considerable scientific hardware for the 2018 mission.

ExoMars module
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Satellite Sensors Would Deliver Global Fire Coverage

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., is working on a concept for a network of space-based sensors called FireSat in collaboration with Quadra Pi R2E, form San Francisco, Calif. FireSat would be a constellation of more than 200 thermal infrared imaging sensors on satellites designed to quickly locate wildfires around the globe. Once operational, FireSat would represent the most complete monitoring coverage of wildfires ever from space, according to NASA.
“While many wildfires are reported by 911 calls soon after ignition, some are not, and delays in detection can lead to rapid escalation of a fire, and dramatic growth of the cost of suppression. The system we envision will work day and night for fires anywhere in the world,” said Robert Staehle, lead designer of FireSat at JPL.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 16 – Nov 23 2015)

Ericsson gives shipping a boost with Inmarsat connectivity

Mobile communications technology and services supplier Ericsson is to offer Inmarsat’s combined L-band and Ku-band VSAT network communications service, XpressLink, to customers operating in the maritime shipping sector.
The two companies have signed an agreement to facilitate the sharing of cargo, logistics and vessel operational data to develop new services that establish and drive standards for satellite communications and application integration among shipping companies.
Providing XpressLink to users at sea will be the first step in this relationship, the two companies said, and also opens up an upgrade path to Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service, which will become available in the next few months.

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SpaceX Gets First Commercial Crew Order
SpaceX, Hawthorne, California, will launch astronauts to the International Space Station in late 2017 under a Commercial Crew order NASA announced Nov. 20.
SpaceX netted its first order some six months after Boeing, NASA’s other provider of astronaut transportation services under Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded in September 2014. SpaceX’s umbrella contract is worth $2.6 billion, while Boeing’s deal is worth $4.2 billion.
Under the CCtCap contracts, NASA pledged to order at least two missions from each company. Assuming Congress funds the program at the levels the White House has requested — which Congress never has — both companies would start launching in late 2017.

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Foxcom Opens Defense, Security and Aeronautics Division

Foxcom, a Global Invacom company, has launched a new division called Foxcom DSA to focus on the Defense, Security and Aeronautics (DSA) markets. The division’s offerings include Iridium and GPS repeaters, military radio links, and timing and reference distribution.
Foxcom’s capabilities cover 1KHz to 18GHz, and have been deployed around the world for a variety of military platforms, including fixed applications, mobile, land-based, airborne or maritime. The company has more than 20 years of RF-over-fiber experience and is a supplier to satellite operators, broadcasters and integrators.

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New Space Mining Legislation Is 'History in the Making'

Space mining just got a big boost.
The U.S. Congress' passage of a bill that allows American companies to own and sell materials they extract from the moon, asteroids or other celestial bodies should help spur the development of off-Earth mining, representatives of the nascent industry say.
"It sets up a firm foundation for the next phase of our business," said Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, which plans to mine water and metals from near-Earth asteroids.

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Inflight internet on Australian airlines in near future: Inmarsat

Australian airline passengers can expect inflight internet in the near future as new satellite systems provide greatly improved data streaming at reduced costs, predicts a senior executive with satellite company Inmarsat.
Inmarsat vice-president, aviation, Asia-Pacific Bill Peltola said Australian carriers were very interested in the British company’s Global Xpress inflight connectivity service, which now had global coverage after the successful launch in August of its third satellite.
GX uses the higher-frequency Ka band to provide connection speeds of up to 50 megabits per second to aircraft, compared with the 426 kilobits per second provided by Inmarsat’s older L-band.

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Space Companies Seek Closer Ties with Other Industries
HOUSTON — As NASA plans to increasingly rely on commercial space companies, those companies are, in turn, looking to build partnerships with other industries to access new markets and technologies.
The inaugural Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or SpaceCom, here sought to bring together representatives of the space industry with those from several others, including medicine, energy, and maritime. Conference organizers said about a fifth of the more than 1,700 attendees came from non-aerospace industries.
NASA, a conference partner, used the event to provide another reminder of the importance of commercial space activities to the agency’s long-term plans to send humans to Mars. Commercial cargo and crew “has freed up NASA to focus on the farther horizons,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a keynote address at the conference Nov. 17.

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ViaSat Planning Global Ka-band Constellation

Communication services provider ViaSat Inc. is still a year away from the launch of its Ka-band high-throughput ViaSat-2 satellite. But the Carlsbad, California-based company is not waiting for that before starting work on ViaSat-3, another behemoth spacecraft that will almost triple the broadband capacity of its successor. Delivering a staggering 1 terabits per second of throughput, ViaSat-3 will also be the first spacecraft in a three-satellite constellation designed to provide global ...

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ULA to Launch Academic CubeSats for Free

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is kicking off a new program providing free launches to academia for CubeSat missions on the Atlas 5 rocket. The program signals a major commitment to ensuring academic CubeSats, which have ceded space to commercial ventures in recent years, are not crowded out of the launch market.
President and CEO of ULA Tory Bruno said Nov. 19 during a press conference that the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture would start placing a standard CubeSat carrier on the Atlas 5 starting a year and a half from now with the ability to deploy as many as 24 individual CubeSats. This, he said, would relieve the fast but still stunted progress of CubeSat missions in getting to orbit.
“My vision is that we will transition to a point where nearly every Atlas rocket is carrying this standard carrier with these CubeSats. We fly Atlas 10 times a year or more. We are going to more than double the entire worldwide capacity for a CubeSat to get to space. It will completely transform that environment,” said Bruno.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 9 – Nov 16 2015)

First Iridium NEXT Satellites to Launch in April

TYSONS CORNER, VA, November 13, 2015 — Iridium Communications (Nasdaq: IRDM) has moved back the launch schedule for the first two Iridium NEXT satellites in order to fix an issue discovered on the Ka-band transmit-receive modules, ExecutiveBiz reported Thursday.
Spaceflight Now reported Tuesday the satellites will launch instead in April after prime contractor Thales Alenia Space discovered the “bug” during tests.
“[A] resistor needs to be changed in the circuitry, and then the component can be re-installed on the first two [spacecraft] and certified through another round of testing,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch.

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Strategic Command Issues Statement on Trident Missile Test that Freaked Out the West Coast

With images like these, it's no wonder California — not to mention the Twittersphere — freaked out Saturday evening when an unannounced test of a submarine-launched Trident missile lit up the evening sky.
Photographer Porter Tinsley and her wife were on the shore of California's desolate Salton Sea taking long exposures and time lapses with three different cameras when they witnessed what they thought at the time was a chemical or nuclear weapon detonating over Los Angeles two and a half hours to the west.
The pyrotechnics Tinsley and thousands of other casual skywatchers observed Saturday were due to the first of two Trident 2 D5 missiles with dummy warheads the U.S. Navy test fired between Saturday evening and Monday afternoon. The big, bright flash some mistook Saturday for a detonation, missile intercept or UFO is actually the result of the solid-fueled Trident missile jettisoning one of its three stages. 

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Space Junk Meets Fiery Demise as Scientists Watch (Video)

This footage was collected by a team of scientists working with SETI, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, the InterActiveCorp, and other institutions.
To get such a close look, some of the team members hopped on a plane so they could be in the air at the time WT1190F entered the atmosphere. Of course, they were flying at a safe enough distance from the object that it posed no threat to their aircraft.
WT1190F re-entered Earth's atmosphere over a patch of Indian Ocean off the Sri Lankan coast, which meant that only people located in the southern province of Sri Lanka had a chance to spot it.

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Fidelity Raises Estimate of SpaceX Stake
Fidelity's downgrading of Snapchat and other investments has understandably drawn a lot of attention, but not every company that Fidelity is invested in has had its value cut. Fidelity has actually boosted its valuation of Elon Musk's SpaceX, in which Fidelity invested $7.54 million in January.
SpaceX was valued at about $12 billion in that January round, which also included a major investment from Google. Now Fidelity has written up their own investment by 15 percent—as Fortune notes in a chart here—suggesting that SpaceX's valuation is even higher than previously reported.
As to why SpaceX would see its value go up amid a drop by other companies, it likely has a lot to do with Musk himself and how he has outlined his plans for SpaceX. While Musk has made pitches for long-term things like exploring Mars, it's ideas like a network of Internet-providing satellites that likely keep Fidelity feeling optimistic. The possible revenue from a network of satellites capable of providing high-speed Internet access anywhere on Earth is enormous. And now that the factory for building satellites is coming together, it may be relatively soon that Fidelity starts seeing some return on its investment.

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Air Force Funds 3-D Printing Study for Rocket Engines
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force awarded the Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering a $545,000 contract to study additive manufacturing techniques to make cooling chambers for liquid rocket engines, according to a Nov. 4 press release from the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
The contract is part of a broader effort to end reliance on a Russian rocket engine that powers United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is used to launch a majority of U.S. national security satellites.
In 2014, Congress banned the future use of Russian engines as tensions with Moscow escalated over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine. Congress also allocated funding to develop a U.S. alternative to the RD-180, but the Air Force hopes to fund work on a brand new rocket as part of its broader strategy to have competition in military launches.

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Watch SpaceX Fire Up Its Crew Dragon Capsule's Escape Engines

This week, SpaceX successfully tested the engines it will use in its Crew Dragon, the spacecraft it's building to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The engines, called SuperDracos, were fired up 27 times at the company's test stand in McGregor, Texas. The SuperDracos are meant to help to carry the spacecraft to safety in case something goes wrong during launch.
SpaceX is building the Crew Dragon for NASA through the agency's Commercial Crew Program, which tasks private companies with shuttling astronauts to and from the ISS. The Crew Dragon, which can hold up to seven passengers, is designed to travel to the station on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX has successfully flown its Falcon 9 to the ISS many times before, but sometimes accidents happen. This past June, for example, one of the company's rockets exploded en route to space. If a Falcon 9 were to explode during launch with people on board, both NASA and SpaceX want to make sure the astronauts can escape the rocket as quickly as possible.

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Ariane 5 Lofts Arabsat, ISRO Satellites in Rocket’s Final Launch of 2015

PARIS — Europe's heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket on Nov. 10 successfully placed telecommunications for Arabsat of Saudi Arabia and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the vehicle's sixth and final launch for 2015 and its 69th consecutive success.
Builders of the Arabsat 6B/Badr-7 and GSAT-15 satellites said the spacecraft were healthy in orbit and sending signals.
The launch, from Europe's Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America, kept launch-service provider Arianespace on track to conduct a record 12 missions this year. Two more campaigns, one with the light-lift Vega rocket and one with the medium-lift Europeanized Soyuz vehicle, are scheduled in November and December.

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U.S. Senate Passes Compromise Commercial Space Bill
WASHINGTON — The Senate passed Nov. 10 the final version of a commercial space bill that extends two key regulatory provisions and provides limited property rights for resources extracted from asteroids.
The Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The bill reconciles a House bill, originally known as the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015, passed in May with a Senate bill approved in August.
The final bill includes lengthy extensions of two provisions of commercial launch law that were scheduled to expire next year. It extends through September 2025 government indemnification of third-party damages from commercial launches beyond a “maximum probable loss” amount launch providers must ensure against. That indemnification was scheduled to expire at the end of 2016.

DSI Dragonfly
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Friday, November 6, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Nov 2 – Nov 9 2015)

Inmarsat Sees Solid Growth Driven By Commercial Aviation Connectivity

Inmarsat, the satellite communications provider, has reported a 7.5% increase in revenues for the third quarter to $323.1m (£213.4m, €297.2m), up from $300.6m (£198.5m, €276.4m) for the same period last year. The sturdy results were driven by a 57.7% increase from the firm's aviation division, which was up $11.9m to $32.6m, for the three months to 30 September.
Inmarsat is developing the European Aviation Network, an LTE-based hybrid satellite and ground network for commercial passenger connectivity. To this end, it has established a strategic partnership with Deutsche Telekom. It has also signed an MOU signed with Lufthansa, regarding a 10-year contract to provide inflight connectivity services initially to 150 of its aircrafts.
Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat's chief executive officer, said in a statement: "Our aviation business also took two major steps forward, when we joined in a strategic partnership with Deutsche Telekom to develop the ground component of our European Aviation Network.

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Spacewalking Astronauts Tackle 'High-Flying Plumbing' Job on Space Station

Two American astronauts took a marathon spacewalk on Friday, spending nearly eight hours outside the International Space Station on a truly out-of-this-world plumbing job.
NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindrgren spent seven hours and 48 minutes working outside the station to perform the vital maintenance on their spacecraft. It was their second spacewalk in nine days.
The duo's first-ever spacewalk last week, commanded by Kelly, had the two on separate tracks as they performed a variety of long-term maintenance tasks outside the station. This time around, commanded by Lindgren, they worked together, synchronizing their actions to reconfigure and add ammonia to the port-side station cooling systems — "high-flying plumbing," as NASA officials called it via Twitter.

 Scott Kelly Spacewalk
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GSMA Report Claims Urgent Need for C-band

Released coinciding with the long-awaited 2015 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-15), the GSM Association (GSMA) shared a study on the use of C-band spectrum, 3400MHz to 4200MHz, that says the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) industry needs access to this spectrum soon or it could face oversaturation in growing markets. The “Use of C-Band Spectrum for Mobile Broadband in Cities: London and Shenzhen” study, conducted by Plum Consulting with analysis from the GSMA and Huawei, evaluates the potential benefits of C-band for mobile use in the cities of London, U.K., and Shenzhen, China, as well as the repercussions of not opening up the band.
Plum Consulting’s study suggests London will experience a “capacity crunch” around 2022 if IMT is denied access to C-band, leading to slower download speeds and greater latency, subsequently resulting in poor Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE). Shenzhen reaches this crunch even sooner, according to the study, around 2020. Furthermore, the study states that these results are based on “conservative mobile data traffic demand forecasts.” Should demand climb by 30 percent more than predicted, London would reach its capacity crunch in 2020, and Shenzhen in 2018.

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How to Make History as a NASA Astronaut Without Walking on Mars

NASA this week announced it would soon begin accepting applicants for its next class of astronauts, enticing potential candidates with the chance to "advance a future human mission to Mars."
But with the space agency's schedules pegging a journey to the Red Planet in the mid-2030s timeframe, it may fall to even more future recruits to become the first astronauts to walk on Mars.
That's not to say there aren't opportunities to make history as a new NASA astronaut. Although there have been more than 365 NASA astronauts to date, there remains firsts to be achieved and all that you have to do to claim them is get chosen for the corps.

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Industry Looking To Government For Commercial Satellite Cues

With no current government manned space programs and heavy reliance on industry to meet space and satellite needs, the landscape in the U.S. today is changing with regard to how satellite communications are provided. As competition heats up in industry, particularly outside of the U.S., private companies are looking to the government for a framework of requirements for where satcom is headed next.
Industry’s search for guidance comes as the Defense Department grapples with challenges to its space and satcom programs, including aging hardware and systems as well as resiliency needs and evolving security concerns.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said as much in a September internal memo outlining the findings of a Space Strategic Portfolio Review that revealed space’s role as a war domain, not a sanctuary.

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Musk's SpaceX Faces Competition for $3.5 Billion NASA Cargo Flights

Less than a decade after its first rocket launch, Elon Musk’s SpaceX finds itself in an unfamiliar position.
The upstart venture is the incumbent vying to win the bulk of a $3.5 billion U.S. contract renewal while facing rivals that include Boeing Co., whose spaceflight roots date to the 1950s. At stake: a seven-year agreement to haul supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.
SpaceX is pushing the only made-in-the-USA entry in a four-way derby with Boeing, Orbital ATK Inc. and Sierra Nevada Corp., each of which relies to some extent on rockets with Russian engines. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will award the work as soon as Thursday as it juggles support for commercial missions while Congress clamors to end U.S. dependence on the imported motors.

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It’s not rocket science: we need a better way to get to space

Human beings will always be explorers. We’ve pretty well surveyed our planet, our tiny blue dot, for answers and only found more questions. Why are we here? How did we get here? What does it mean?
We’ve already taken baby steps out into the solar system. But cheap, affordable space travel would be revolutionary, heralding in technologies we haven’t even yet imagined. Social and economic changes introduced by the internet would pale in comparison.
But here’s the thing: we won’t be heading to the stars in a rocket. Rockets are a terrible way of getting to space.

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Hughes Rolls Out New HM Satellite System for Mobility and Portability Applications

Hughes Networks Systems has unveiled its new HM System, engineered around its Software-Definable Modem (SDM) technology and Scrambled Code Multiple Access (SCMA) waveform. Hughes is launching with three Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products for government applications.
The new HM System employs a commercially based, open standards architecture and band-agnostic platform that enables solutions to meet a variety of mobility and portability requirements for government users. In addition to supporting fixed applications, the HM System provides satellite-on-the-move capabilities for airborne, maritime and land mobility solutions, including a complete, ultra-compact and portable terminal for small teams reliant on quick-deploy connectivity. With the first gateway installed and fully operational in September, the COTS products are now ready for market rollout.
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 26 – Nov 2 2015)

Night Sky: Visible Planets, Moon Phases & Events, November 2015

The night sky tonight and on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, often the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers. Observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment, although a sky map can be very useful, and a good beginner telescope or binoculars will enhance some experiences and bring some otherwise invisible objects into view. You can also use astronomy accessories to make your observing easier. Below, find out what’s up in the night sky tonight (Planets Visible Now, Moon Phases, Observing Highlights This Month) plus other resources (Skywatching Terms, Night Sky Observing Tips and Further Reading)

Monthly skywatching information is provided to by Geoff Gaherty of Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu
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Skull-Shaped Halloween Asteroid Zips by Earth, a Treat for Scientists

On Halloween night, while ghouls and goblins did their trick-or-treating, an asteroid that is most likely a dead comet made a close flyby of Earth, with radar images revealing its eerie skull shape.
On Saturday (Oct. 31), the asteroid 2015 TB145 passed by Earth at a range of just over 300,000 miles (480,000 kilometers), placing it just outside the orbit of the moon, where it posed no threat to the planet. The timing of the flyby earned the asteroid - which is about 2,000 feet (600 meters) across - the nickname "Spooky" and "Great Pumpkin."
Unfortunately for skywatching hobbyists, 2015 TB145 was extremely difficult to see from the ground, but the online Slooh Community Observatory hosted a webcast Saturday afternoon that featured updates on the asteroid's path, and discussions about the dangers of near-Earth asteroids.

This radar image of asteroid 2015 TB145, which NASA says is likely a dead comet, was captured using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Oct. 30, 2015 with a resolution of 25 feet per pixel. The skull shaped asteroid flew by Earth on Halloween (Oct.
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Halloween in Space: A Vampire Astronaut and Nightmare in Orbit

You might masquerade as an astronaut for Halloween, but what about when astronauts dress up? Here's how one spacefarer celebrated the spooky season.
In search of eerie holiday cheer, caught up with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson to hear about his dedication to Halloween garb. (We also checked in with NASA for any current space station celebration plans and uncovered one terrifying tweet.)
"It was Halloween," Anderson recounted. The year was 2007, and Anderson was in the midst of a 5-month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the ISS Expedition 15 crew. "My wife had sent a vampire cape up with Pam Melroy and the STS-120 crew, and on Halloween day, when I found out I had a cape like that, I said, 'Oh, I know what I'm doing today.'"

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'Be the Astronaut' and 'Journey to Space' in New Museum Exhibits

Two museums' new exhibits offer the public a chance to "Be the Astronaut" as they "Journey to Space."
In Los Angeles, the California Science Center has debuted "Journey to Space," a hands-on, climb-aboard experience at what it takes to live and work off the Earth.
And in Texas, Space Center Houston recently opened "Be the Astronaut," a multimedia exhibit that takes visitors on trips to the moon, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter and beyond. From exploring the International Space Station to landing on multiple worlds, these new, separate attractionsfeature authentic artifacts, replica space hardware and interactive displays to entertain and educate children and the general public about the physics, science and technology needed to support human space exploration, both now and in the future.

'Be the Astronaut' Exhibit
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Search for Life: Where Should a Europa Lander Touch Down?

If humanity ever launches a life-hunting mission to the icy surface of Europa, the probe should probably touch down on the "chaos terrain" of the ocean-harboring Jupiter moon, a new study suggests.
Europa's complex chaos regions — which feature numerous cracks, ridges and other signs of geological activity — may offer a way to sample the moon's huge subsurface ocean of liquid water, which is buried beneath an estimated 60 miles (100 kilometers) of ice, researchers said.
"If you had to suggest an area on Europa where ocean water had recently melted through and dumped its chemicals on the surface, this would be it," study co-author Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), said in a statement

Jupiter's Moon Europa
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Virgin Galactic on Road to Recovery After Fatal SpaceShipTwo Crash

It's been one year since Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo space plane broke apart during a test flight, a tragic accident that killed the copilot and seriously injured the pilot. Now, the commercial spaceflight company is moving forward on construction of its next SpaceShipTwo passenger spaceliner as it pursues other projects to become a global competitor in the new frontier of commercial space.
Founded in 2004 by billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic has made headlines for pre-selling tickets for its private SpaceShipTwo spaceplane at $250,000 a passenger. Nearly 700 people have signed up, despite there being no specific timeframe for when the flights will become available. The company is also branching into other space-related ventures, including the development of the reusable LauncherOne vehicle, which will deliver small satellites into orbit at relatively low cost.
At an industry meeting earlier this month, the company's CEO George Whitesides said, "The accident that we had on Oct. 31 last year was a tough blow for Galactic but it was one that will not define the company. It was one that we must move past and we are moving past with determination and with spirit."

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo
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Star Ships: New Science Cruises Offer Pristine Cosmic Views

A new line of science-themed cruises lets passengers stargaze from the open ocean, a unique location far away from city lights.
Princes Cruises and Discovery Channel have created a line of science-themed cruises called "Discovery at Sea." The excursions feature activities like diving with sharks, spending time with exotic wildlife, looking at auroras and stargazing.
Viewing the night sky from a location far away from city lights can be a magical experience, but it usually requires traveling to very remote locations (which, for some people, is part of the fun). But stargazing on a cruise ship is unique, because the vessel can travel to locations completely devoid of light pollution, and yet viewers are never more than a few steps away from the ship's accommodations.

Discovery at Sea Cruise
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Rookie Spacewalkers Perform Critical Space Station Work

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren successfully completed their first-ever spacewalks today (Oct. 28), completing a handful of tasks vital to the International Space Station's longterm endurance.
NASA's 32nd International Space Station (ISS) spacewalk officially started at 8:03 a.m. ET (1203 GMT) and lasted for 7 hours and 16 minutes as Kelly and Lindgren performed a handful of important maintenance tasks, including putting additional shielding over a science experiment, lubricating the station's robotic arm and rerouting cables to a future docking site for commercial spacecraft.
Kelly, who commanded the spacewalk and is on day 214 of his yearlong stay on the ISS, went out first, and Lindgren followed several minutes later. For their next spacewalk, on Nov. 6, Lindgren will take the lead.

Lindgren Spacewalks
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'Alien Megastructure' Mystery May Soon Be Solved

The mystery behind a strangely dimming star could soon be solved.
Astronomers around the world are keeping a close eye on the star KIC 8462852, which has dimmed dramatically numerous times over the past few years, dropping in brightness by up to 22 percent. These big dips have spurred speculation that the star may be surrounded by some type of alien megastructure — a hypothesis that will be put to the test if and when KIC 8462852 dims again.
"As long as one of those events occurs again, we should be able to catch it in the act, and then we'll definitely be able to figure out what we're seeing," said Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University.

Kepler Space Telescope Artist's Illustration
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