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Monday, October 31, 2016

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 24 – Oct 31 2016)

This Technology Will Make Missing Planes a Thing of the Past

It’s called ADS-B, and it’s a big deal for aviation.

Of the many questions raised by the vanishing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014, the most vexing was also the most fundamental: How could aviation authorities lose track of an entire Boeing 777 BA -0.01% and the 239 people on board? Many were surprised to learn that across vast swaths of the planet—particularly over oceans—air traffic controllers have only a vague idea of the location of many of the world’s airliners at any given moment.
“Air traffic controllers aren’t tracking you in real time,” says Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon, a partnership between global communications satellite operator Iridium and a handful of air traffic control providers. By early 2018 Aireon intends to change that. Instead of conventional radar, it plans to launch a satellite-based communications network that can precisely track passenger aircraft—and in doing so, trim fuel consumption, shorten flight times, and save airlines hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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Iridium Gains Altitude Despite NEXT Delays

Satellite communications specialist Iridium Communications has aimed its offerings at business customers who need truly global access to wireless networks, with voice and data services that provide vital links to the rest of the world for its users. Yet some recent setbacks related to rocket company SpaceX have threatened to delay Iridium's key NEXT satellite upgrade program, and coming into Thursday's third-quarter financial report, Iridium investors weren't expecting more than flat performance on its bottom line. For its part, Iridium managed to grow its earnings, and although it now believes the NEXT program might not be finished until 2018, it is still optimistic about its long-range plan. Let's look more closely at how Iridium Communications did and what's ahead for the company.

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Harris combat radios get National Security Agency clearance for MUOS upgrade

Harris Corp. said Nov. 1 that the backpack-sized military radios it builds for U.S. troops  to carry into combat were recently certified by the National Security Agency to use the higher-throughput capabilities of the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites.
Having completed testing earlier this year to make the Falcon 3 AN/PRC-117G manpack radio MUOS-compatible via a software patch, Melbourne, Florida-based Harris Corp. anticipates a sizable revenue opportunity upgrading the manpacks to send and receive secure voice, video and data transmissions via the constellation of MUOS satellites that the U.S. began deploying in 2012.

Harris Corp. says that 30,000 of its Falcon 3 AN/PRC-117G manpack radios are currently deployed. Credit:  Harris Corp.
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Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Launch Abort Engine Hot Fire Tests for Starliner

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced it has successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on two Launch Abort Engines (LAE) featuring new propellant valves for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. The tests were conducted in the Mojave Desert in California, and confirmed the ability for the new valves to modulate propellant flow and control peak LAE thrust in the event of a launch abort.
The LAEs, designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, include a fuel valve and oxidizer valve, which were developed and tested under the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) subcontract to Boeing. The Starliner aims to carry humans to the International Space Station (ISS) once again from United States soil.

Hot-fire tests on two Launch Abort Engines for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. Photo: Aerojet Rocketdyne
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Honeywell to Offer Inmarsat Satellite In-Flight Broadband to Military Users

Honeywell has announced it will offer high-speed, high-bandwidth satellite communications capabilities for military use. Inmarsat’s Global Xpress “satcom as a service” in-flight broadband service and Honeywell’s JetWave satellite communications hardware work together to provide a consistent, high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity experience for military users around the world, improving overall situational awareness and safety while allowing troops to communicate more effectively, the company announced.

Inmarsat Global Xpress network, rendering
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An Internet of Things World: Where does Satellite fit in?

One of the big buzz terms at recent satellite events has been the Internet of Things (IoT), where we live in an uber-connected world full of connected devices which can pretty much track everything man and machine do as billions of devices talk to each other. While IoT is great news for the wireless industry, it could also offer some interesting new growth opportunities for satellite companies as they look to secure a role in this hyper-connected state of affairs.
Organizations such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) have already started work on IoT strategies in Europe and Singapore, respectively. Beh Kian Teik, executive director of the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn) at the Singapore Economic Development Board (SEDB), says OSTIn is focused on building up satellite technology capabilities in both its public research institutions and for industry players, particularly through encouraging public-private collaborations.

Image result for Internet of Things satellite
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Cobham To Develop Palletized Aerial Refuelling System For US Marines’ MV-22s Ospreys
Cobham has been awarded a contract by the Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office to develop a palletized aerial refuelling system to give the the US Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft the ability refuel other aircraft while inflight.
Known as V-22 Aerial Refueling System (VARS), the system will utilize Cobham's existing FR300 Hose Drum Unit with some modifications. The roll-on/roll-off kit will enable the Marines to use their land- and carrier-based MV-22B aircraft to refuel F-35B Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, thereby extending their operational range and loiter times, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

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Virgin Galactic set to begin SpaceShipTwo glide flights

Virgin Galactic is planning to begin glide flight tests of its second SpaceShipTwo next Tuesday, almost exactly two years after a fatal test flight of its first suborbital spaceplane.
Virgin Galactic test pilot CJ Sturckow, speaking at a “Space Stories” event at The Explorers Club here Oct. 29, said the company has scheduled the first glide flight of the vehicle, named VSS Unity, on Nov. 1. That flight would come after a single “captive carry” test flight of the vehicle in September, when the vehicle remained attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft for its entire flight.

SpaceShipTwo test flight
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NASA seeks concepts for commercial lunar lander instruments

NASA announced Nov. 1 that it is seeking information regarding instruments that could be flown to the moon on future commercial spacecraft, with one company that is developing a lander offering financial support for their development.
The request for information (RFI) released by NASA seeks details about “small payloads that could be delivered to the moon as early as the 2017–2020 timeframe using U.S. commercial lunar cargo transportation service providers.” The RFI, issued though NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division, is focused on instruments and experiments that address “strategic knowledge gaps” in robotic and human lunar exploration, versus pure science investigations.

Moon Express's MX-1 lander. Credit: Moon Express artist's concept
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Industry committee to start work on human spaceflight safety standards

With the Federal Aviation Administration restricted from developing safety regulations for people flying on commercial human spacecraft, an industry standards organization is moving ahead with plans to establish a committee to develop a voluntary set of standards.
At a meeting here Oct. 24, ASTM International, an organization founded in 1898 that develops voluntary consensus standards for a wide range of industries, agreed to move ahead with the creation of a committee that will work on creating such standards for commercial launch vehicles, spacecraft and spaceports.

SpaceShipTwo test flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic
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