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Friday, July 29, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 25 – Aug 1 2016)

Atlas 5 launches NRO mission from the Cape

WASHINGTON — A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched July 28 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The launch went into a news blackout typical for NRO missions several minutes after its 8:37 a.m. Eastern liftoff. Almost all missions for the NRO, which buys and operates U.S. spy satellites, are classified, meaning few details are released.
In a July 28 press release, Air Force officials said the mission, known as NROL-61, was successful.

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SpaceX estimated to spend $300 million on Red Dragon mission

WASHINGTON — NASA estimates that SpaceX is spending on the order of $300 million on its Red Dragon Mars lander mission, a down payment on the company’s long-term ambitions for human Mars missions.
At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s technology committee in Cleveland July 26, Jim Reuter, deputy associate administrator for programs in NASA’s space technology mission directorate, provided an overview of NASA’s agreement with SpaceX, announced in April, to support that company’s plans for an uncrewed Mars landing mission that could launch as soon as May 2018.
That agreement, in the form of an unfunded Space Act Agreement, does not include any exchange of funds between NASA and SpaceX. Reuter said NASA estimates it will spend approximately $32 million over four years, primarily in the form of NASA personnel providing technical support for SpaceX. About $6 million of that will be spent this fiscal year, he added.

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New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon

A new company aims to provide the communications capacity required for the ongoing private spaceflight revolution.
Around Aug. 1, California-based Audacy plans to close a Series A fundraising round of at least $15 million to begin creating three satellites and two Earth stations. The goal is to raise four major rounds of funding, build the ground stations and get the satellites launched by 2019. All told, the plan will cost about $750 million — $250 million in funding and $500 million more in government-backed debt, Audacy representatives said.
The three satellites could support perhaps 2,000 tiny cubesats, all working at the same time, anywhere in Earth orbit. Alternatively, Audacy could have up to 12 high-capacity customers and perhaps 1,000 smaller ones sharing the bandwidth simultaneously.

New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon
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Watch SpaceX's 1st Test-Fire of a Used Falcon 9 Rocket

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's private spaceflight company, SpaceX, is another step closer to making its Falcon 9 rockets fully reusable.
Late yesterday (July 28), the company released this video of its first test firing of a used Falcon 9 rocket stage, one that already launched and landed during a mission in May. The burn lasted for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and a brief description of the video said the test was "full duration."
Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability at SpaceX, said on July 16 that the company plans to launch one of its used rockets this fall, assuming it has a customer for the flight. The company also plans to reuse one of its Dragon cargo capsules for a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station, representatives of SpaceX and NASA said earlier this month.

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Inmarsat Approves DataPath QCT90 Man-Pack Terminal for Global Xpress

DataPath’s new QCT90 man-packable antenna has achieved full Inmarsat Type Approval for use on commercial Ka-band frequencies over the operator’s Global Xpress (GX), high-throughput wideband service. Introduced to the market last fall, the QCT90 man-pack terminal employs a 90-cm antenna with a carbon fiber reflector and cast magnesium frame for maximum durability while maintaining a light weight.
The system’s fully integrated design avoids loose cables and includes a GPS-enabled Graphical User Interface (GUI) to allow an operator to take the antenna from case to connection within three minutes. The terminal also fits into a single backpack style case.

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NASA approves Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser plan

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level. 
Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024.  The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 18 – Jul 25 2016)

Weather outlook favorable for Thursday’s national security launch by Atlas 5

CAPE CANAVERAL — Good weather for launching a rocket is forecast for Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast on Thursday morning when a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 is scheduled to take flight.
Meteorologists with the 45th Weather Squadron at the Cape give 80 percent odds of acceptable conditions for the launch at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT).
“On launch day, mid-level dry air remains over Central Florida resulting in favorable weather conditions,” Air Force meteorologists said today. “There will be a slight chance of a coastal shower and weak southerly wind flow with gusts in the 10 to 12 knot range during the window. The primary concern for launch is cumulus clouds.”

File photo. Credit: NASA
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3.9 Billion People Still Unconnected to Internet

An estimated 3.9 billion people — more than half of the global population, remain cut off from Information and Communication Technology (ICT), according to the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) “ICT Facts & Figures 2016” report.
The study finds developing countries now account for the vast majority of internet users, with 2.5 billion users compared with 1 billion in developed countries.
Internet penetration, however, stands at 81 percent in developed countries, compared with 40 percent in developing countries and 15 percent in the Least Developed Countries (LDC). Furthermore, despite falling prices for ICT services, the study finds mobile broadband growth is slowing.
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Thales Alenia Space Finishes Europasat Construction for Inmarsat IFC Network

Thales Alenia Space has completed the construction, integration and associated sub-system tests of Inmarsat’s Europasat satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) solution. The manufacturer finished the satellite on schedule following an extensive two-year build process in Toulouse and Cannes, France. The satellite is now undergoing rigorous system end-to-end testing before it is declared ready for flight in 2017.
Europasat is half of a joint satellite between Inmarsat and Hellas Sat, with Hellas-Sat’s payload, Hellas Sat 3, carrying 44 Ku-band transponders plus one for Ka-band. Along with the space segment, EAN also leverages an Air-to-Ground (ATG) network across the European Union (EU). Inmarsat partner Deutsche Telekom will operate the ATG LTE network of approximately 300 towers. The satellite has been custom-designed to provide Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) to aircraft flying over dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an on–board network communicator.
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Mars 2020 rover mission to cost more than $2 billion

WASHINGTON — As NASA’s next flagship Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover, moves into its next phase of development, agency officials say the mission will cost $2.1 billion, more than originally estimated for a mission that they argue will also be more capable than first planned.
NASA announced July 15 that the Mars 2020 mission passed a development milestone known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), allowing the mission to proceed into Phase C design and development work. The rover is scheduled for launch in mid-2020 and land on Mars in February 2021.
The rover’s primary mission will be to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. “The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Geoff Yoder, NASA’s acting associate administrator for science, in a statement.

Mars 2020
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Euroconsult Forecasts 20 New National Space Programs by 2025

Euroconsult projects 20 countries will invest in their first space program by 2025, with the total number of Emerging Space Programs (ESPs) reaching 47 by the same year. The research firm identified 24 countries as ESPs in 2015 having launched a total of 69 satellites in the last 20 years, based on its recent “Trends and Prospects for Emerging Space Programs” report. As satellite technology has become more accessible and affordable, the number of countries investing in their first satellite system has increased dramatically. Last year set an all-time record with nine satellites launched, by the research firm’s count.
Euroconsult has developed a metric called the ESP Index that seeks to model the probability for a new country to invest in a satellite system. The ESP Index is based on a three-part process consisting of data gathering, analysis, and ranking of 148 countries.

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Facebook reports successful flight of full-scale Internet-delivery drone

PARIS – Facebook on July 21 said the first flight of its full-scale Aquila solar-powered aircraft designed for regional internet connectivity was a success, lasting longer than expected despite an unspecified “structural failure” just before landing.
The 96-minute flight, conducted in Yuma, Arizona, confirmed the validity of Aquila’s structural design and avionics, Facebook said. But the company cautioned that many months of testing – at higher speeds and altitudes, and for longer durations – would be necessary before Aquila can move into industrial-scale production.
“We will push Aquila to the limits in a lengthy series of tests in the coming months and years,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering and infrastructure, said in a statement published July 21 – more than three weeks after the June 28 flight. He said the structural failure, which he did not detail, was still be analyzed.

facebook global mobile connectivity
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SpaceX launches Dragon spacecraft, successfully lands first stage

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully lifted off early July 18 and placed a Dragon cargo spacecraft in orbit, while the vehicle’s first stage landed on land.
The Falcon 9 lifted off on schedule at 12:45 a.m. Eastern July 18 after a routine countdown. The vehicle placed the Dragon spacecraft into orbit nine and half minutes after liftoff.
The first stage, after stage separation, made a series of three burns to return to Cape Canaveral, landing on a pad at the former Launch Complex 13, a decommissioned launch site at Cape Canaveral now known as Landing Zone 1 by the company. The landing was a success, with video showing the first stage standing upright on the pad after landing, about eight minutes after liftoff.
“It’s exciting to have Dragon back in orbit,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS deputy program manager for utilization, at a post-launch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center. “It’s a great day for SpaceX. It’s a great day for NASA.”

SpaceX timelapse
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Satellite sector mulls how to live with FCC’s 5G decision

PARIS – The U.S. regulatory decision that denied protected status to satellite systems that have been investing in Ka-band spectrum, and cast doubt about the viability for satellite systems of other slices radio spectrum, has been met with a curiously muted response by the satellite sector.
The same companies that before the July 14 decision had invested heavily in high-powered legal talent to urge the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse its course had surprisingly little to say once the ruling was announced.
Several industry officials said they would need time to study the implications of the complex ruling, designed to open spectrum above 24 gigahertz to next-generation, or 5G, wireless broadband services.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 11 – Jul 18 2016)

Iridium satellites rolling off assembly line in Arizona

Construction is complete on the first batch of 81 new satellites to overhaul Iridium’s mobile communications network, and the data relay stations will soon head from their factory near Phoenix to California’s hilly Central Coast for launch in September on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellites will be shipped in pairs on a truck to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where they will be fueled and mated with the Falcon 9 launcher for liftoff at 10:33 p.m. PDT on Sept. 11 (0533 GMT; 1:33 a.m. EDT on Sept. 12) from Space Launch Complex 4-East.
The flight will mark the third Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg, and the first launch from there of an upgraded “full-thrust” version of the booster with higher-power Merlin engines and super-chilled propellants. SpaceX is finishing up modifications to the launch pad this summer to support the latest Falcon 9 configuration.

The first two fully-complete Iridium Next satellites. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now
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Inmarsat and VT iDirect form joint R&D partnership to develop next generation services

Inmarsat and VT iDirect today announced an extension of their long-term strategic partnership with the formation of a joint research & development (R&D) team – i2 – to support the development of the next generation satellite communications (satcom) technologies. This venture is a logical next step in the Inmarsat and VT iDirect relationship, having worked successfully together over the past four years to develop the GX programme.
The R&D project team, which will be based at Inmarsat’s headquarters in London, will focus on the proof-of-concept and prototype phases for new satcom technologies. Inmarsat and VT iDirect will jointly assess the commercial potential of each new technology before the decision is taken to deploy it in the form of a new product or service. Both companies’ partners and end-users will enjoy privileged access to the new technologies.

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Hughes Does Testing of HM300 Portable X-band Terminal

The Defense and Intelligence Systems Division (DISD) of Hughes Network Systems has completed successful operational demonstrations of its HM300 terminal. Designed for military applications, the HM300 is a portable X-Band communications system developed in conjunction with partners Airbus Defence and Space of United Kingdom and Tampa Microwave.
During tests in December between a satellite Earth station located in the U.K. and Fort Bragg, North Carolina operating over Airbus’ Xebra service, the HM300 demonstrated Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLoS) capabilities with data rates up to 512kbps symmetrically, transmitting video, voice and data. A second mission scenario demonstrated autonomous operation transmitting to and from a 4-meter Gatr antenna located at Fort Bragg, providing Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and live video using an encoder. In January the HM300 terminal saw use during a combat airborne training operation when a paratrooper jumped the HM300 terminal while another jumped baseband equipment, demonstrating the terminal’s Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) benefits and earning it a “jumpable” designation.
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Moon Express takes over Cape Canaveral Delta 2 launch site

WASHINGTON — Moon Express, a Florida company developing commercial lunar landers, announced July 12 an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to take over a former Delta 2 launch site at Cape Canaveral.
The company said it reached an agreement with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to use Launch Complex 17 as a research and development facility, including tests of the company’s lunar landers. The agreement also covers adjacent Launch Complex 18, used for Vanguard launches in the late 1950s but inactive for the last several decades.
Moon Express also announced an agreement with Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, to renovate building at Launch Complex 17 for use by the company. Space Florida will contribute up to $1.85 million for that work, an amount Moon Express will match.

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Airbus, Boeing Outlooks See Strong Market for Satellite-Connected Aircraft

Airbus and Boeing both released their 20-year global market forecasts on the first day of the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow. Airbus was less optimistic in it’s long term view of global demand for passenger jets, predicting airlines will require 33,000 new aircraft worth $5.2 trillion in the next two decades, while Boeing increased it’s 2016 outlook by 4.1 percent compared to 2015 predictions, projecting a global demand for 39,620 aircraft worth $5.9 trillion. While the two airframers’ expectations over the next 20 years differ, both forecasts — combined with recent moves by Airbus and Boeing as well as activity on the first day of Farnborough — shows that a significant number of the aircraft delivered between now and 2035 will feature advanced forms of cockpit and cabin-based satellite-powered broadband connectivity.
The average between the figures released by the two Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) is equal to a 20-year demand for 36,310 aircraft worth $5.5 trillion. Both companies also expect the global in-service fleet to double from today’s nearly 20,000 to 40,000 new aircraft or more by 2035.

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Longliner first Bering Sea user of Inmarsat Fleet Xpress

Freezer-longliner fishing vessel operator Alaskan Leader Fisheries, Lynden, WA, has chosen Inmarsat's new high-speed broadband maritime communications service Fleet Xpress to support its daily business operations.
Inmarsat partner Network Innovations (NI), together with Fusion Marine Technology, have signed a contract with Alaskan Leader that marks the first commissioning of Fleet Xpress in the remote and hostile waters of the Bering Sea.
Inmarsat says that Fleet Xpress delivers high levels of reliable high speed broadband connectivity and performance across all of the world's oceans and facilitates innovative Connected Ship applications.

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FCC adopts new rules for the foundation of 5G networks

We knew it was coming, and now the FCC has made it official. The commission voted today to adopt new rules that would facilitate the development of 5G wireless networks in the US. More specifically, the guidelines relate to wireless spectrum above 24 GHz and makes the United States the first country in the world to make the spectrum available for so-called next-gen networks.
The FCC said in a press release that it's taking a similar approach that it did when 4G (LTE) networks were developed, a strategy that will "set a strong foundation for the rapid advancement to next-generation 5G."

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Inmarsat Secures Chinese Government Approval For Launch Of IsatPhone 2

Satellite communications provider Inmarsat PLC on Thursday said it has secured approval in China for its IsatPhone 2 technology.
The approval from the government of China will make Inmarsat the only international operator legally allowed to sell handheld satellite phones in the country.
Inmarsat said it is working alongside partners MCN Beijing and China Telecom Satellite on the launch of the phone.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 4 – Jul 11 2016)

Inmarsat, O3b, SES throw support behind ViaSat calls for preserving status of space stations

Satellite companies are adding their support to ViaSat's assertions made earlier this month when it expressed concern about proposals to effectively make new mobile wireless operators the "gatekeepers" over satellite users of the 28 GHz band, signaling continued turmoil between the terrestrial mobile and satellite industries.
Inmarsat, SES Americom and O3b Limited are all throwing their support behind the analysis that ViaSat outlined in its July 1 letter to the FCC, whereby it "conclusively demonstrates that terrestrial wireless interests have blatantly and repeatedly mischaracterized the Commission decisions on which FSS [fixed satellite service] operators have reasonably depended in developing and deploying satellite networks using 28 GHz spectrum," wrote Karis A. Hastings, counsel for SES and O3b, in a July 7 filing.

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Thales Alenia Space Stratobus eyes contract in 2017, radio frequency approval in 2019

TOULOUSE, France – Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space and six partners are investing their own money, plus grants from the French government, into the Stratobus high-altitude platform station (HAPS) on the assumption that the development yields a contract in 2017, the program manager said.
The Stratobus backers are focusing only on Earth observations in the tropical regions for the moment, but expect to add telecommunications payloads once international regulators have authorized HAPS systems to operate in Ka-band.
Current International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rules limit HAPS systems to the Q- and V-bands for fixed services communications, between 47 and 48 GHz. These higher frequencies are not well suited to rainy conditions.

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Kongsberg Norspace wins orders for deliveries to Inmarsat 6

Kongsberg Norspace wins order with Airbus Defence and Space for state-of-the-art converters for two Inmarsat-6 satellites worth up to 300 MNOK
Kongsberg Norspace AS (KONGSBERG) has won a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for providing highly integrated L-band Pre and Post processors for the first two Inmarsat-6 satellites. The contract covers development and delivery of flight hardware with a value of 250 - 300 million NOK. The development is supported by ESA through the ARTES 3-4 program.
This contract comes six months after Inmarsat awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the first two mobile communications satellites for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation fleet. The spacecraft contain the Airbus Defence and Space developed new generation modular digital processor and will provide full routing flexibility over up to 8000 channels and dynamic power allocation to over 200 spot beams in L-band, in addition to a Ka-band co-payload. The SAW-based (Surface Acoustic Wave filters) L-band processors from KONGSBERG will provide the phase coherent down and up-conversion from L-band to the digital processor.

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One year after kickoff, OneWeb says its 700-satellite constellation is on schedule

TOULOUSE, FRANCE – Satellite Internet startup OneWeb Satellites has completed the preliminary design review for its 700-satellite constellation and expects to have its entire satellite subcontractor team committed by by early August, Chief Operating Officer Eric de Saintignon said June 30.
The next step, he said, is a design-to-manufacture period to be followed by production of the first 10 pilot satellites, to be built at Airbus Defence and Space’s production facility here.
The 10 pilots will be launched aboard a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket in late 2017 and then tested in orbit before full-scale production of the remaining 890 satellites is committed.

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Marlink Releases Smalltrack, Iridium-Powered Asset Tracker

Marlink has unveiled Smalltrack, a new compact location-based tracking device operating on the Iridium satellite network. The device can be used in any location without connecting to external power or antenna sources for tracking of personnel, equipment and vehicles.
With embedded battery and antennas, Smalltrack can operate on a single charge for a minimum of one week, with the ability to use external power and antennas if required. The device has manual rescue buttons, automatic alarms based on embedded shock sensors and geo-fencing functions, and comes with a web-based monitoring and management platform to provide deep control of users, devices and data.

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New Crew Launches on Two-Day Journey to Space Station

Three new crewmembers launched toward the International Space Station in an upgraded Russian Soyuz spacecraft today (July 6), beginning a two-day journey to the orbiting lab.
At 9:36 p.m. EDT (0136 on July 7 GMT), the trio — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Takuya Onishi — successfully lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Russian Soyuz rocket. 
The three spaceflyers will spend their two-day trip testing the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft's modified systems before docking with the station early Saturday morning (July 9).

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IoT Set to Overtake Mobile Phones as Largest Connectivity Market

The Internet of Things (IoT) will overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018, a new report by Ericsson finds, creating a burgeoning opportunity for satellite companies.
According to Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing, business unit radio at Ericsson, today there are more than 15 billion connected devices, including smartphones, the connected car and wearable devices, which ultimately bring humans into the IoT web, among others. While mobile phones currently make up the largest segment of connected devices, with 7.2 billion mobile phones currently connected, by 2018 the company predicts that IoT-connected devices, currently at 4.6 billion devices, will dwarf mobile phones as the largest segment.
“Looking forward, we expect mobile phones to grow at an average of 3 percent annually over the next six years, which is vastly overshadowed by the growth we expect in IoT,” said Cerwall. According to the report, between 2015 and 2021, the number of IoT-connected devices is expected to grow 23 percent annually. Of the 28 billion total devices that will be connected by 2021, close to 16 billion will be IoT enabled.

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World Vision International Talks Satellite for Humanitarian Work

Charity organization World Vision International operates in more than 50 countries around the world, providing support for a multitude of humanitarian efforts ranging from combating disease and malnutrition to addressing refugee crises and improving access to education. With efforts in a diverse range of countries and geographies, the nonprofit relies on satellite communications to facilitate programs in hard to reach areas.
Anthony Kimani, IT and business analyst, humanitarian technologies, World Vision International, told Via Satellite that the organization primarily uses VSATs in established office locations that do not have other means of internet access. World Vision also uses portable satellite phones and Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) modems for voice and data communication.
“It is vitally important that our staff are able to communicate, and to be able to access and share information,” he said. “If an office is located in a location without other reliable means of data communication, we would install a VSAT. Secondly, satellite phones are critical in locations without reliable means of secure voice communication,” he said.

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Euroconsult Study Says SmallSat Market Could be Worth $22 Billion Over Next 10 Years

Counting more than 3,600 SmallSats expected to launch over the next 10 years, research firm Euroconsult anticipates the manufacturing and launch market value of SmallSats will total $22 billion from now until 2025. This value constitutes a 76 percent increase over that of the 2006 to 2015 time frame, according to the firm’s “Prospects for the Small Satellite Market” report.
“Earth observation is expected to exhibit the strongest growth in terms of units launched; over 2,100 satellites are anticipated from 2016 to 2025. Four companies plan to launch more than 1,400 satellites during this period alone: Planet, Spire Global, BlackSky and Satellogic,” said Adam Keith, managing director of Euroconsult Canada and editor of the report. “Satellite communication SmallSats will also increase significantly to nearly 800 during the same period of time (discounting SpaceX‘s Steam constellation). There are six constellations foreseen, however OneWeb makes up the bulk of these units.”
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SES Gets Shareholder, Regulatory Approval for O3b Acquisition

SES exercised its call option on July 1 to acquire the remaining shares and warrants of O3b Networks, having received all of the necessary regulatory approvals. The other O3b shareholders have agreed to accept the SES offer. Non-tendering warrant holders will be cashed out, paving the way for the transaction to close on Aug. 1, 2016, according to company expectations.
SES will pay $730 million to directly increase its fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1 percent to 100 percent using proceeds from the company’s recent equity raising. On completion, SES will consolidate $1.2 billion of O3b net debt and will, following completion, refinance a significant proportion of the most expensive debt facilities using the proceeds secured by the recent hybrid bond issuance and the remaining proceeds from the equity raising. According to the company, this move will significantly reduce O3b average cost of debt of 9.5 percent; SES’ current average cost of financing is approximately 4 percent.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Jun 27 – Jul 4 2016)

China completes world’s largest radio telescope and prepares to search for alien life

China on Sunday hoisted the final piece into position on what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use to explore space and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, state media said.
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 football fields and has been hewed out of a mountain in the poor southwestern province of Guizhou.
Scientists will now start debugging and trials of the telescope, Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which built the telescope, told the official Xinhua news agency.
“The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life,” the report paraphrased Zheng as saying.

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Juno enters orbit around Jupiter

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Juno spacecraft, on a mission to study Jupiter’s interior and its magnetic field, successfully entered orbit around the planet late July 4 after completing a critical maneuver.
Juno fired its main engine as planned at 11:18 p.m. Eastern time July 4, slowing down the spacecraft as it made a close approach to Jupiter. The engine shut down 35 minutes later, within one second of its planned duration, placing the spacecraft into a 53-day orbit around the planet.
“We have the tone for burn cutoff on delta-v,” mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced to cheers as they received telemetry from the spacecraft that the engine had shut down at the end of its burn. “Welcome to Jupiter.”

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Thuraya Supports First Telemedicine Expedition to K2

The first telemedicine expedition to the mountain K2 is underway, after successful trials in the Himalayas in March. The WiCis-Sports app, running on Thuraya’s SatSleeve+, will monitor the #K2Adventure16 Madison Mountaineering trip.
The #K2Adventure16 project began June 12, and is set to reach the summit in mid-August. Garrett Madison is leading the team of 10, accompanied by porters from Pakistan and Sherpas from Nepal. One of the most remote places on Earth, with only 46 permits issued in 2016, K2 is the second highest and arguably the world’s most intimidating mountain.

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NASA completes final test of SLS boosters before first launch

WASHINGTON — A successful two-minute test of a five-segment solid rocket booster June 28 is the final development milestone for the shuttle-derived boosters before their use on the first flight of the Space Launch System.
The test, known as Qualification Motor 2 (QM-2), demonstrated the booster’s performance when cooled to approximately 5 degrees Celsius, the lower end of its range of operating temperatures. NASA swiftly declared that the booster firing, conducted at an Orbital ATK test site near Promontory, Utah, was a success.
“It’s not just a test firing, it’s really a qualification motor test firing, which fits into a sequence that essentially says this design is ready to go fly,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, in a media teleconference an hour after the test.

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Canada eyes $2.4 billion Arctic satellite communications constellation

ARLINGTON, Virginia – The Canadian military wants to build a new constellation that would provide 24-hour satellite communications for the Arctic region as early as 2023, one of the country’s top space officers said June 29.
The program would likely include at least two satellites in an elliptical orbit and could cost about $2.4 billion Canadian dollars, said Col. Jeff Dooling, director of space requirements for the Canadian Department for National Defence.
Canada’s Arctic region is often underserved by weather and communications satellites but that area has become a priority for government officials with the advent of climate change, new shipping routes and an increased military presence in the area.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent makes an approach to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean. Credit: Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard
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Sierra Nevada Corp. is working with U.N. on global space program for Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corp. says it’s working with the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs on an arrangement that would give countries around the world the opportunity to fly payloads into orbit and back on the company’s Dream Chaser space plane.
“Beyond the commerce, this represents the global reason and the holistic reason why space is important to us,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president for SNC’s Space Systems business area, told GeekWire today.
A memorandum of understanding with the U.N. office, known by the acronym UNOOSA, was signed last week, Sirangelo said. The pact is meant to lead to a detailed agreement under which UNOOSA and SNC would facilitate affordable access to space for U.N. member states.

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DARPA’s next space project: command and control software

WASHINGTON – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could award contracts worth as much as $21.5 million for industry to develop new software systems meant to improve how the Defense Department visualizes and responds to threats in space.
The contracts are the first part of a DARPA program called Hallmark, which, in the past year, has become one of the agency’s top space priorities. The agency requested $28 million for the program in its 2017 budget.
The Defense Department is already working on a similar effort for the Air Force’s primary space operations nerve center, the Joint Space Operations Center at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. That program, known as the JSpOC Mission System Increment 3, would provide a battle management system to help the Air Force prepare for threats to its satellites and bolster the Defense Department’s monitoring, planning, and tasking of events in space.

DARPA’s new Hallmark program seeks to provide improved capabilities to rapidly plan, assess, and execute the full spectrum of U.S. military operations in space.  Credit: DARPA.
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Hispasat Connects Ruta BBVA 2016 Trip in Mexico

Hispasat is providing satellite connectivity to the organizers of Ruta BBVA 2016 — a cultural exchange program designed to strengthen the ties between young Spaniards and Latin Americans of the Iberoamerican Community of Nations — which begins its trip tomorrow. Ruta BBVA 2016 participants will be travelling through Mexico to visit important archeological sites of the Mayan civilization, as well as to learn about some of the social policies that address major problems currently faced by Yucatan society.
There, Hispasat will provide the organization and journalists with broadband internet access via satellite and IP telephone service, allowing them to broadcast information and transmit radio and video signals from Mexico.

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GX Aviation Certified for Airbus A320

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has certified Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) service for the Airbus A320 aircraft family. The satellite service provider sees the certification as bringing GX one step closer to being available as a linefit or retrofit option on every major Airbus and Boeing airframe.
The Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) authorizes GX Aviation’s Ka-band antenna to be installed on Airbus A319, A320 and A321 aircraft, which form the backbone for around half of the world’s aircraft fleets. In total, more than 6,500 Airbus A320 family aircraft are currently in operation, representing more than three quarters of the overall Airbus aircraft currently being flown worldwide.

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