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Thursday, April 23, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Apr 17 – Apr 24 2015)


Fly Through A 3D City Of Stars To Honor Hubble | Video

Based on Hubble Telescope data, Space Telescope Science Institute’s (STSci) astrovisualization team produced this awe-inspiring journey through the heart of the star Westerlund 2 cluster. 20,000 light years from Earth, this busy stellar community hosts some of the hottest and bright stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.


Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Risinger (, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI), Digitized Sky Survey 2, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), Westerlund 2 Science Team

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Construction of Turksat’s 1st Domestic Satellite Now Underway

PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Turksat on April 19 said construction of its first domestically produced satellite, Turksat 6A, has formally begun four months after the project was approved and that the satellite would not be in orbit before 2020.

In a statement to Turkey’s government-owned press service, Turksat Chief Executive Ensar Gul said the Turksat 6A program development budget remains 548 million Turkish lira, or $203 million at current exchange rates.

The assembly, integration and test activities of Turksat 6A Satellite will be performed at the Turkish Aerospace Industries' Assembly, Integration and Test Center in Ankara. Credit: TAI

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Thales Alenia Space Details Elaborate Tech Transfer Deal with Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO — Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space of Europe, as part of what may be the most elaborate satellite technology-transfer contract ever signed, will be joining forces with Brazilian companies to develop local expertise in satellite thermal control, onboard propulsion, solar arrays and ground support, the company’s chief representative in Brazil said.

Other areas to be a focus of contracts include onboard optical instruments and optical instrument base plates.

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NASA Mulls Spy Agency's Telescopes for Dark-Energy Mission

NASA is considering requesting money in next year's budget to eventually start using two space telescopes it received from the United States' spy satellite agency, a senior official told

NASA received the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2012. They have the same resolution as the agency's famous Hubble Space Telescope, but a field of view 200 times wider.

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Blue Origin To Begin Test Flights Within Weeks

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin, the commercial spaceflight company backed by founder Jeff Bezos, will soon start flight tests of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, a Federal Aviation Administration official said April 21.

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said at a meeting of the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board here April 21 that he expected Blue Origin to begin test flights in a “couple of weeks.”

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Canada’s New Space Budget Extends ISS Commitment to 2024

PARIS — The Canadian government budget issued April 21 includes a commitment to increase Canada’s spending on satellite telecommunications at the European Space Agency and to continue as a partner in the international space station to 2024.

The Economic Action Plan, as announced, would direct an additional 30 million Canadian dollars ($24.6 million at current exchange rates) to ESA’s Advanced Resarch in Telecommunications Systems, or ARTES, program over four years starting in 2016. ARTES includes a range of projects, many of them co-financed by industry, relating to satellite telecommunications.

The International Space Station's robotic Canadarm2 shown moving the HTV-3 Exposed Pallet for installation on JAXA's HTV cargo vehicle. Credit: NASA

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DLR Renews Cooperation with SNC on Dream Chaser

PARIS — The German Space Center, DLR, and Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) have renewed for another two years their cooperation on SNC’s Dream Chaser lifting-body spacecraft to focus on both crewed and uncrewed mission applications.

The agreement, which stretches through 2017, follows a 2013 no-exchange-of-funds arrangement in which DLR, which is Germany’s space agency, and Sparks, Nevada-based SNC investigated possible European contributions to the Dream Chaser. OHB SE of Bremen, Germany, was part of the original study called Dream Chaser for European Utilization.

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Congress Questions Balance of NASA’s Proposed Budget

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden faced strong criticism of his proposed 2016 budget during a pair of congressional hearings in Washington April 16, including questions about the future of the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program.

At a hearing of the House Science space subcommittee on the morning of April 16, Bolden was forced to defend decisions in the agency’s budget request to increase funding for commercial crew, Earth science and space technology, while decreasing funding for the Space Launch System and Orion programs compared to 2015.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Apr 10 – Apr 17 2015)


SpaceX Rocket's First Stage Crashes During Landing Attempt | Video

Those of you who wanted to see the explosive last seconds of SpaceX's daring rocket-landing attempt Tuesday (April 14) are in luck.

A new video shows the first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket crashing and burning after nearly pulling off an unprecedented touchdown on an unmanned "drone ship" in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster stage attempted the landing after successfully launching SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station on a cargo mission for NASA.

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On Mars, Liquid Water Appears at Night, Study Suggests

Liquid water lurks just below the surface of Mars on cold winter nights, according to new research.

The Mars Curiosity rover has found evidence that when temperatures drop on cold winter nights, trace amounts of water from the atmosphere can turn to frost, which can then be absorbed into the upper layers of the Martian soil and liquefied. The liquid water evaporates back into the atmosphere after sunrise, when temperatures start to go up again.

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SES Satellite Chosen To Host NASA Solar Science Payload

PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES on April 13 said it would fly a U.S. solar-science mission as a hosted payload on the company’s SES-14 satellite to launch in 2017 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Luxembourg-based SES said its Government Solutions division of Reston, Virginia, had contracted with the University of Colorado to fly NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) sensor aboard the SES-14, which will be stationed at 47.5-48 degrees west in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers over the equator.

The contract is for five years, a period that apparently starts now and includes a University of Colorado payment to offset SES’s satellite construction, launch and orbit-raising, plus two years of operations. The contract includes options to extend the mission on an annual basis.


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ULA’s Next Rocket To Be Named Vulcan

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — United Launch Alliance’s next rocket will be named Vulcan. The name was selected from an online vote that ULA said  received more than a million ballots.

“As the company currently responsible for more than 70 percent of the nation’s space launches, it is only fitting that America got to name the country’s rocket of the future,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive, said April 13 during a press conference coinciding with the start of the 31st Space Symposium.

ULA employees from across the United States submitted more than 400 names. ULA opened voting on the vehicle, currently known as the Next Generation Launch System, March 23 and received more than one million votes online through April 6.

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General: Russian, Chinese Launches Demonstrate Growing Space Threat

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Russia has launched two satellites in the last year, including one “a few weeks ago,” that are viewed as suspicious and potentially threatening, a senior U.S. Air Force officer said.

These launches, coupled with China’s launch in July of what U.S. military officials said was an antisatellite missile, are hard indicators that the threat to U.S. satellites is only increasing, said Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command’s 14th Air Force and of Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space.

Speaking April 14 at a luncheon here at the 31st Space Symposium, Raymond said the growing threats revalidate several national imperatives including enhancing U.S. space domain awareness, more closely integrating U.S. military and intelligence space operations, and strengthening space-related ties with U.S. allies and commercial space operators.

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Spacewalk Sights and Sounds Captured By GoPro | Video

NASA astronaut Terry Virts took a GoPro camera with him on an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) outside the International Space Station on February 25th, 2015. The spacewalk was necessary to prepare the Space Station for the installation of two International Docking Adapters.

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Globalstar Unveils New Satcom Antenna for Experimental Aviation Market

Globalstar announced its new aviation antenna is now available for use with Experimental Category Aircraft (STC for Part 23 aircraft approval pending), offering pilots fast and affordable satellite communication. Paired with the Globalstar Satellite Phone (GSP-1700) or the Globalstar Sat-Fi satellite hotspot, the new aviation antenna allows for voice and data communication while in-flight and completely independent of cellular coverage. Currently, the GSP-1700 is free with select airtime plans.

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California Senate Votes to Honor Astronaut Sally Ride with Statue in US Capitol

A statue of the late astronaut Sally Ride, the United States' first woman in space, could stand in the Capitol, if a lawmaker's proposal continues to advance.

The California State Senate on Monday (April 13) narrowly passed Joint Resolution 4, a "measure [memorializing] the Congress of the United States to place a statue of Sally Ride next to the statue of former President Ronald Reagan in the Congressional collection representing California."

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Friday, April 10, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Apr 03 – Apr 10 2015)


Iridium Next Seen as Likely Host For MDA’s Kill Assessment Sensors

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has been careful not to identify the satellites that would host its planned network of experimental kill assessment sensors, but industry sources say the likeliest candidate is the Iridium Next constellation of mobile communications satellites.

To be clear, the MDA has not even confirmed that the host satellites would be commercial, and in fact there are publicly disclosed examples of military payloads operating aboard classified satellites. But industry sources say the MDA’s host satellites are indeed privately owned, and the agency itself has said the Spacebased Kill Assessment program is modeled after the Air Force’s successful Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload experiment, which featured a missile warning sensor hosted aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite.

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Blue Origin Completes BE-3 Engine as BE-4 Work Continues

Blue Origin has completed testing of one engine it is developing for its own suborbital vehicle as it continues work on a second, much larger engine for United Launch Alliance’s new orbital launch vehicle, the company announced April 7.

The company said it had recently completed acceptance testing of the BE-3 engine after several years of work, allowing the company to move forward with test flights of its New Shepard vehicle later this year from its test site in West Texas. Those flight tests will ultimately lead to commercial suborbital flights later this decade.

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"Globalstar seeks a final ruling from the FCC on its pending application for terrestrial use of its S-band spectrum"

Spectrum is also returning to the center of the MSS agenda, as LightSquared finally moves towards an exit from bankruptcy, after 3 years, and Globalstar seeks a final ruling from the FCC on its pending application for terrestrial use of its S-band spectrum, known as TLPS (Terrestrial Low Power Service). MSUA has maintained a keen interest in both projects, and in recent years has filed comments at the FCC, seeking to ensure that MSS users are protected from interference from any new uses of the spectrum, and that sufficient capacity is available to support the strong growth in demand for mobile satellite services. We will continue to emphasize these goals, which complement the fight that the wider satellite industry is undertaking at the moment, to ensure balance between the demands of cellular and satellite interests for access to spectrum at WRC-15 later this year.

More MSUA news here


Asteroid Early-Warning System for Potential Impacts Makes Progress

Scientists working to help safeguard the Earth from potential asteroid strikes are moving forward with a novel Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS, to provide advance warning of potentially dangerous space rocks.

The ATLAS project is an asteroid impact early-warning system being developed by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA. The project is dedicated to providing a one-day warning in the event of a potential  30-kiloton "town killer" asteroid strike; a week's warning for a 5-megaton "city killer"; and three weeks' notice for a potential 100-megaton "county killer" impact.

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Signs of Alien Life Will Be Found by 2025, NASA's Chief Scientist Predicts

Humanity is on the verge of discovering alien life, high-ranking NASA scientists say.

"I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said Tuesday (April 7) during a panel discussion that focused on the space agency's efforts to search for habitable worlds and alien life.

"We know where to look. We know how to look," Stofan added during the event, which was webcast live. "In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road." [5 Bold Claims of Alien Life]

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Week in Satellite News! (Mar 27 - Apr 03 2015)


GIT Satellite Communications: Maritime visibility

Austin: Last week GIT Satellite Communications and Globe Tracker International, a pioneer of asset tracking and end-to-end cargo monitoring solutions, announced a strategic collaboration to integrate hardened satellite connectivity into the Globe Tracker Solution. The pair said the move was in response to increasing customer demand for continuous global visibility of intermodal containers and real-time cargo alarms even outside the scope of cellular communications coverage in remote areas.
GIT Satellite Communications provides design, integration, and specialty solutions to global markets. The company’s president and CEO, Ginger Washburn says, “The maritime industry growth rate has been moderate over the last few years and we expect to see the growth rate continue to climb. Global logistics and the ever increasing need for real time alert mechanisms will fuel this growth.”

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First Total Lunar Eclipse of 2015 on Saturday: A Skywatching Guide

There will be a total eclipse of the moon on Saturday (April 4), and it will be visible over all of the Pacific Ocean and much of the adjacent mainland.
Skywatchers in Asia and Australia will see the first total lunar eclipse of 2015 on Friday evening (April 3) after sunset, while observers in North and South America will see it Saturday morning just before sunrise.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth's shadow. Because the moon's orbit is tilted, most of the time the moon passes above or below the Earth’s shadow, and no eclipse occurs.

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United Launch Alliance Wants Your Vote to Name New Rocket

Here's your chance to name a rocket.
United Launch Alliance — the rocket company that launched NASA's New Horizons probe to Pluto — is asking people around the world to help name a new kind of booster. People have until April 6 to vote on three names — Eagle, Freedom or GalaxyOne — for the ULA rocket that the company plans to use for most of its future launches.
The three names are finalists from more than 400 suggestions submitted by ULA employees and space enthusiasts earlier this year. The rocket's first flight is planned for 2019.

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NASA Astronaut Already Feels at Home in Space as 1-Year Journey Begins

NASA's Scott Kelly — one of two people spending a year on the International Space Station — already feels like the orbiting outpost is home.
"It's great to be up here," veteran astronaut Kelly said during a live interview from the space station with NASA administrator Charles Bolden today (March 30). "It's like coming to my old home."
Kelly has been to the station multiple times, but his current mission is unlike anything attempted on the space laboratory before. Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (who launched to orbit on March 27) will spend about a year on the space station, the longest amount of time anyone has ever spent living and working on the lab.

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WATCH LIVE NOW: HD Views From the International Space Station

HD Views from the International Space Station

NASA is now live-streaming views of Earth from space captured by four commercial high-definition video cameras installed on the exterior of the International Space Station. The project, known as the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment, aims to test how cameras perform in the space environment.

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NASA Says No Plans for ISS Replacement with Russia

NASA said March 28 it welcomed a Russian commitment to continue operations of the International Space Station beyond 2020, but indicated there were no firm plans to work together on a successor space station.
The agency responded to comments made by the head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, earlier in the day that suggested the two space agencies had not only agreed to extend operations of the ISS to 2024, but also to replace the ISS with a new station of some kind after 2024.
“Roscosmos and NASA will fulfill the program of building a future orbital station,” Komarov said at a briefing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, as quoted by the Russian news service Sputnik.

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Report Highlights Misunderstandings Between SpaceX, Air Force on Certification

By the first week of January, when U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James called SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the relationship between their two camps was already knotted and tense.
The Air Force and SpaceX were still tangled in a lawsuit over the service’s sole-source contract to the company’s archrival, United Launch Alliance, for a large batch of rockets. Meanwhile, the Air Force still had yet to certify SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to carry national security satellites despite pledging to do so by the end of 2014.
Now, James had bad news. She told Musk that it would take another six months to certify the Falcon 9, effectively taking SpaceX out of the running for a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launch contract worth more than $100 million.

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