Hughes Readies for NextGen Satellite Internet with EchoStar 19 LaunchA United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket carrying Hughes Network Systems’ EchoStar 19 satellite successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral, Florida on Dec. 18 at 2:13 p.m. EST. Built by Space Systems Loral (SSL) and designed with Hughes Jupiter System technology, EchoStar 19 is a multi-spot beam, Ka-band satellite which in its final orbit will increase capacity for HughesNet high-speed satellite internet service to homes and businesses in North America, according to the company. Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services procured the Atlas 5 for this mission and SSL confirmed the satellite is successfully performing post-launch maneuvers according to plan.
EchoStar 19 will spend the next two weeks moving into a geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above the earth at 97.1 degrees west longitude. It will go through extensive testing before going live at the end of the first quarter of 2017, when Hughes introduces its HughesNet Gen5 high-speed satellite Internet service in the U.S.
SpaceX delays commercial crew demonstration flightsSpaceX has delayed by several months a pair of test flights of its Crew Dragon spacecraft being developed for NASA’s commercial crew program, in part because of a Falcon 9 pad explosion in September.
A revised schedule released by NASA Dec. 12 stated that an uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft, previously scheduled for May 2017, is now planned for November 2017. A crewed test flight, carrying two NASA astronauts, has been delayed from August 2017 to May 2018.
The NASA statement did not give a reason for the revised schedule other than it reflected a “fourth quarter update” from SpaceX. Kathy Lueders, NASA commercial crew program manager, said at a Nov. 14 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee that schedules are formally changed at quarterly review meetings with commercial crew companies, and that at the time the fourth quarter meeting with SpaceX, the first since the pad explosion, had not yet taken place.
NASA presses ahead with asteroid mission despite ESA funding decisionScientists involved with a proposed NASA mission to a near Earth asteroid say their work is not affected, for now, by a decision by the European Space Agency earlier this month not to fund a companion spacecraft.
NASA and ESA had been cooperating on a joint effort known as the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA). That mission concept involved two spacecraft: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), to be developed by NASA, and ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM).
The AIDA concept involved sending AIM to Didymos, a near Earth asteroid about 800 meters in diameter that has a moonlet, informally known as Didymoon, about 150 meters across orbiting it. AIM, launched in October 2020 and arriving in May 2022, would study Didymos and its moonlet prior to the arrival of DART.
Space Junk Solution? Japan Would Use a Tether to Nab Debris & Destroy ItThe Japanese space agency will soon be testing a new technology that would use a roughly half-mile-long tether to grab large pieces of space debris and dispose of them.
The proposed technology (first announced in 2014) would include a spacecraft that would deploy a 700-meter-long (2,296 feet) electrodynamic tether (EDT) and guide it toward a piece of space junk. The tether would latch onto the orbiting hunk of trash, and the operating spacecraft would then drag the debris down into the incinerator of Earth's atmosphere (causing the operating spacecraft to burn up as well).
A prototype system called the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) arrived at the International Space Station on Dec. 12. That system will allow engineers to test the mechanisms that propel the tether when it is deployed in space..
Thuraya Helps Displaced Syrian Children in Lebanon Get Back to SchoolThuraya has supplied books for classrooms in Lebanon, where displaced Syrian children are being helped to return to structured school life. The telecommunications company is supporting the Ana Aqra Association, a non-profit, non-sectarian, and non-political association that exists to respond to the educational, psychosocial and cultural needs of children in the early years of learning. Since this is especially important in times of upheaval, Ana Aqra is focusing on many of the thousands of Syrian refugee children who are rebuilding their lives in Lebanon.
ULA Backs StellarXplorers STEM ProgramUnited Launch Alliance (ULA) has signed on as the newest sponsor of the Air Force Association’s StellarXplorers Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. StellarXplorers seeks to inspire and attract high school students to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields through a challenging, space system design competition involving all aspects of system development and operation with a spacecraft/payload focus.
An Inflatable SATCOM GATR Takes Innovative New Product (MIP) AwardThis company has taken an award that sets them apart from their competition, but then they really approach their product differently... their satellite communications antenna systems are inflatable, making them the only provider of inflatable satellite communication (SATCOM) antenna solutions. GATR Technologies (GATR), a subsidy of the Cubic Corporation, has received the Most Innovative New Product (MIP) Award in the Defense, Transportation and Cybersecurity category at the 2016 CONNECT MIP Awards that took place at an awards ceremony on December 1, in San Diego. Because of the inflatable antenna technology there are operational and affordability advantages as the antennas are designed for extreme portability, reliability and ease of setup, even in extreme environments.
The antennas can be air dropped to a military unit or transported as commercial baggage, which is a competitive edge that supports the effectiveness of expeditionary missions. With GATR’s portable antennas, customers can now set up communication in less than 60 minutes, without the need of special tools.
Smallsat Technology From Draper Of Benefit To NASANASA’s launch of eight microsatellites in December under the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission promises to be more than just another milestone in the U.S. space and satellite program—once in orbit, these tiny satellites will usher in a new era of improved understanding and forecasting of hurricanes, typhoons and tropical storms all over the globe.
Several institutions collaborated to bring the CYGNSS mission to life. The University of Michigan is directing the CYGNSS mission for NASA, including satellite design and production and science data processing. The CYGNSS constellation will be deployed into low-Earth orbit with successive satellites passing over the same region approximately every 12 minutes. The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio is building and testing the CYGNSS microsatellites and will host the mission operations center at its Boulder, Colorado, location.