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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 21 – Aug 28 2017)

Ursa uses radar imagery to reveal extent of Texas flooding

Ursa Space Systems, a geospatial data and analytics company, is using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery to monitor flooding along the Texas Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Harvey.
On Aug. 27, Ursa released images of Corpus Christi, Texas, showing the impact of the hurricane. Through its partnership with Italy’s e-Geos, the company owned by Telespazio and the Italian space agency ASI that operates four Cosmos-SkyMed SAR satellites, Ursa compared images of Corpus Christi taken in June with images of the same area taken on Aug. 26.

A footprint of the area that was captured the morning Aug. 26 as Hurricane Harvey was underway. Credit: Ursa
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Iridium Automates ‘NEXT’ Satellite Positioning at Network Ops Facility in Virginia

Iridium Communications has begun to replace old satellites with Iridium NEXT satellites through its Leesburg, Virginia-based facility that works to automate the process of moving the new satellites into their positions, Space News reported Monday.
The personnel at the company’s satellite network operations center in Virginia have written new commands to automate “slot swaps” in which NEXT satellites are inserted into old ones’ slots and linked to the constellation’s communications crosslinks.

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The High-Altitude Fight for Wi-Fi in Europe

In the race to corner the market for in-flight Internet, the friendly skies have become anything but. Rivals of British satellite operator Inmarsat are going to court in a bid to block the launch of its European Aviation Network.
The plaintiffs — which include electronics giant Panasonic as well as France’s Eutelsat and its US counterpart, Viasat — are seeking an injunction from the European Court of Justice as they race to develop their own in-flight connectivity system.

Image result for in-flight Internet inmarsat
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NASA proposes rapid Mars sample return architecture

NASA is studying a “lean” architecture for Mars sample return that could allow the agency to bring back Martian rocks as soon as the end of the 2020s.
The concept, discussed at an Aug. 28 meeting of a National Academies committee performing a midterm review of the 2011 planetary science decadal survey, would focus on getting samples cached by the upcoming Mars 2020 mission off the planet and back to Earth as soon as possible.

Mars ascent vehicle
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Orbital ATK Launches ORS 5 Satellite for US Air Force

Orbital ATK has successfully launched and placed into orbit the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space 5 (ORS 5) spacecraft on Aug. 26. Its Minotaur 4 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46), which is operated under license by Space Florida.
The rocket’s first stage ignited at 2:04 a.m. EDT. Approximately 28 minutes later, the Minotaur 4 deployed the ORS 5 satellite into its targeted low inclination orbit 372 miles (599 kilometers) above Earth. From this orbit, ORS 5 will deliver timely, reliable and accurate Space Situational Awareness (SSA) information to the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) through the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), according to the U.S. Air Force.

Minotaur 4 lifts off from Cape Canaveral carrying the OSR 5 satellite. Photo: Orbital ATK.
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SpaceX notches 15th landing after launching overdue Formosat-5

A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched a long-delayed remote sensing satellite for the government of Taiwan Aug. 24, executing another first stage landing in the process.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 2:51 p.m. Eastern, at the beginning of a 42-minute launch window. SpaceX reported no technical issues during the countdown, and foggy conditions at the launch site earlier in the morning partially cleared by launch time.

Image result for SpaceX 15th landing
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Researchers Successfully Perform First 4D Quantum Encryption

For the first time, researchers have sent a quantum-secured message containing more than one bit of information per photon through the air above a city. The demonstration showed that it could one day be practical to use high-capacity, free-space quantum communication to create a highly secure link between ground-based networks and satellites, a requirement for creating a global quantum encryption network.
Quantum encryption uses photons to encode information in the form of quantum bits. In its simplest form, known as 2D encryption, each photon encodes one bit: either a one or a zero. Scientists have shown that a single photon can encode even more information — a concept known as high-dimensional quantum encryption — but until now this has never been demonstrated with free-space optical communication in real-world conditions. With eight bits necessary to encode just one letter, for example, packing more information into each photon would significantly speed up data transmission.

University of Ottawa, Canada, campus. Photo: University of Ottawa.
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All-electric satellites halfway to becoming half of all satellites

On March 1, 2015, Boeing inaugurated the all-electric satellite with the launch of the ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B geostationary spacecraft on a single SpaceX Falcon 9. Eight days later, the French space agency CNES committed $30 million to spark Europe’s all-electric propulsion efforts.
The CNES investment was influenced by industry forecasts predicting 50 percent of commercial telecommunications satellites will be all-electric by 2020.

Image result for All-electric satellites
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3-D printing and in-orbit manufacturing promise to transform space missions

At Made In Space, the Silicon Valley startup that sent the first 3-D printer to the International Space Station, employees joke about the ways their technology would take the suspense out of popular space movies.
Apollo 13, for example, would be a pretty boring film if the astronauts had a 3-D printer to create adapters for their carbon dioxide scrubbers. Likewise, The Martian would have been a much different story if Mark Watney had access to additive manufacturing on Mars.

Made In Space is working with Northrop Grumman and Oceaneering space Systems as subcontractors to develop the Archinaut in-space manufacturing capabilities. Credit: Made In Space
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Global Smallsat Market to Reach $7.66 billion by 2023

The global small satellite market is expected to grow from $2.28 billion in 2016 to reach $7.66 billion by 2023 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18 percent, according to Stratistics MRC’ latest global market outlook report. Rising demand for high-resolution imaging services, favorable costs, modified scope of applications and new technological advancements are some of the factors driving the market.
On the other hand, shortage of small satellite launch vehicles remains one of the major restraints restricting the market. However, Stratistics expects growing demand for small satellite in emerging countries to result in huge growth rate during the forecast period.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 14 – Aug 21 2017)

Check Out The Solar Eclipse Through the Eyes of NASA

On Monday, Aug. 21, North America was treated to an eclipse of the Sun. The eclipse's path stretched from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. NASA covered it live from coast to coast from unique vantage points on the ground and from aircraft and spacecraft, including the International Space Station. Check out some of the amazing video and images captured during the event:

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TDRS launch marks end of an era

The successful launch of a NASA communications satellite Aug. 18 is the final flight of the current generation of data relay spacecraft as well as for a venerable satellite bus.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 401 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:29 a.m. Eastern. The launch was delayed by 26 minutes because of an issue with the temperature on the Centaur upper stage detected during the standard T-4 minute hold.

Atlas 5 TDRS-M launch
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Google Lunar X Prize teams get extra time to win competition

After months of stating that it would offer no further extensions of the Google Lunar X Prize competition, the X Prize Foundation announced Aug. 16 it was effectively giving the five remaining teams a little extra time.
In a statement, the foundation, which administers the lunar landing competition, said that teams now had until March 31, 2018, to complete all the requirements of the prize, which include landing on the lunar surface, traveling at least 500 meters, and returning video and other data.

MX-1E Moon Express
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Options grow for smallsats seeking secondary payload opportunities

As the number of small satellites seeking launch continues to grow, new opportunities are emerging fly those satellites as secondary payloads on other launches as well as tools to identify those opportunities.
The latest entrant in the field is Precious Payload, a company that seeks to provide a global reservation service for smallsat secondary payloads analogous to booking airline tickets or hotel rooms.

An ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off Feb. 14 carrying 104 satellites on a single rocket. Credit: ISRO
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Smallsat developers propose self-regulation to address orbital debris concerns

As the number of cubesats and other small satellites grows, experts advise that some degree of industry self-regulation will be needed to avoid collisions that could lead to more restrictive government regulations.
During a panel session at the 31st Annual Conference on Small Satellites here Aug. 6, representatives from across the smallsat community said that while the odds of a collision involving a smallsat remained low, such an event could trigger an overreaction of government regulations if the community isn’t prepared.

NASA CubeSats Heading into Orbit (Artist's Concept) Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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NSR Projects Satellite Ground Segment to Reach $158 Billion by 2026

Analysts at Northern Sky Research (NSR) have forecast 2016 to 2026 revenues for commercial satellite ground equipment to surpass $158 billion, according to the second edition of its Commercial Satellite Ground Segment report.
In the report, NSR states satellite TV continues to be the largest segment by shipments and revenues, with Set-Top Boxes (STBs) and antennas generating the largest shares. However, in terms of growth, Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) platforms driven by verticals such as consumer broadband and mobility represent the highest opportunity.

L-band antenna at Redu ground station. Photo: ESA.
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Beyond HAL: How artificial intelligence is changing space systems

Mars 2020 is an ambitious mission. NASA plans to gather 20 rock cores and soil samples within 1.25 Mars years, or about 28 Earth months — a task that would be impossible without artificial intelligence because the rover would waste too much time waiting for instructions.
It currently takes the Mars Science Laboratory team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory eight hours to plan daily activities for the Curiosity rover before sending instructions through NASA’s over-subscribed Deep Space Network. Program managers tell the rover when to wake up, how long to warm up its instruments and how to steer clear of rocks that damage its already beat-up wheels.

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light. Curiosity was delivered in 2012 to Gale crater, a 155-kilometer-wide crater that contains a record of environmental changes in its sedimentary rock. Credit: NASA JPL-CALTECH
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North Korea puts spotlight on U.S. space-based missile defense

North Korea’s threat to strike Guam with a salvo of ballistic missiles has raised the stakes for a U.S. missile shield some see as compromised by potentially exploitable seams in its all-important space layer.
Years of program changes, delays and cancellations have created gaps in parts of the space-based layer of the missile defense shield meant to protect the United States and some allies from ballistic missile attacks, say military space analysts, although U.S. missile defense officials dispute such claims.

North Korea launches the Hwasong-14 in July on a lofted trajectory that demonstrated sufficient range to hit the continental United States. Credit: Korean Central News Agency
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Monday, August 14, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 07 – Aug 14 2017)

RigNet, Inmarsat disputing cancelled $65 million Global Xpress contract

RigNet, a supplier of telecommunications services to the oil and gas industry, has pulled out of a $65 million capacity lease on Inmarsat’s Global Xpress satellite constellation, triggering a legal dispute between the two companies.
In an Aug. 8 filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, RigNet said it gave Inmarsat a “notice of termination” for the contract, “pursuant to its contractual rights under the agreement.”

Inmarsat 5 F1 and F2 Global Xpress satellites at Boeing's El Segundo, California-facility. Credit: Inmarsat
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Falcon 9 launches Dragon with heavy science payload

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft Aug. 14 with a diverse payload of science experiments for the International Space Station.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. Eastern, and deployed the Dragon spacecraft into low Earth orbit 10 minutes later. Neither NASA nor SpaceX reported any issues during the countdown or liftoff. The Dragon, flying a mission designated SpX-12, will arrive at the ISS early Aug. 16.

Falcon 9 CRS-12 launch
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Addvalue, Inmarsat Jointly Launch Inter-satellite Data Relay Service

As a follow-through of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) announced in February, Addvalue Technologies has formalized an agreement with Inmarsat to jointly offer a commercial on-demand communications service specifically designed to address the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite market. According to the companies, the service, termed Inter-Satellite Data Relay Service (IDRS), will enhance and improve the operational efficiency of LEO satellite operations globally and could be of particular interest to operators of scientific, weather forecasting, Earth observation and imaging missions.

Addvalue produced the terminal for Inmarsat's Inter-Satellite Data Relay System, which was tested in orbit on the Velox-11 satellite built by Nanyang Technological University's Satellite Research Center in Singapore. Credit: AVI
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Researchers Send Quantum “Hack-Proof” Message Via Satellite

Chinese researchers have been experimenting with laser technology in hopes of unlocking a new way to securely transmit data via satellite using quantum technology. Now, researchers have announced some progress using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to communicate with the Micius satellite, which beamed messages to two mountain-top receiving stations.

Rendition of satellite laser communications. Photo: NASA.
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U.S. Army prepares to launch Kestrel Eye satellite atop Falcon 9

The U.S. Army is set to launch its Kestrel Eye electro-optical microsatellite Aug. 14 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, service officials said last week at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium.
The Kestrel Eye satellite, built by Adcole Maryland Aerospace, is due to launch from Cape Canaveral as part of a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, said during the symposium.

Kestrel Eye
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Smallsat industry seen as robust enough to survive any bubble

Is the smallsat industry in the midst of a bubble? Yes and no, according to one group of experts.
A panel discussion about smallsat business and finance issues during the 31st Annual Conference on Small Satellites here Aug. 8 argued that while the recent surge of investment in small satellite ventures will likely lead to future consolidation, the underlying industry itself is not in danger of collapse.
“I think the trend is absolutely to smallsats,” said Randy Segal, senior partner at law firm Hogan and Lovells. “I think the existence of smallsats, going from big sats to smallsats, is not a bubble. It’s going to stay.”

Tyvak cubesat
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Smallsat market forecast to exceed $30 billion in coming decade

French consultancy Euroconsult forecasts that significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market.
More than 6,200 smallsats are to be launched in the next 10 years, with the market value expected to reach up to $30.1 billion, compared with $8.9 billion in the previous decade, according to a report Euroconsult released last month.

Walter Ballheimer, the CEO of German Orbital Systems, said the company considers Euroconsult’s estimates realistic, but space “is a risky and expensive business.”

The forecast is “based on estimations of a successful deployment of OneWeb and SpaceX megaconstellations which technically are also small satellites,” he said. Credit: German Orbital Systems
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Inmarsat says business largely immune to current capacity oversupply

British satellite operator Inmarsat says the mobility markets where it does the most business are largely unaffected by today’s oversupply of capacity, and in some cases might need even more.
London-based Inmarsat placed one of the only three geostationary satellite orders awarded industry-wide this year as other operators continue to hold on new investments.
Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s CEO, told investors Aug. 3 that it’s arguably not a surprise that operators who do worry about oversupply “are beginning to sit on their hands and let the supply play out” rather than worsen their predicament, but that burden is not Inmarsat’s.

Inmarsat EAN satellite
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Monday, August 7, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Jul 31 – Aug 07 2017)

Clyde Space joins Teledyne e2v to explore quantum technology in space

Scotland’s Clyde Space Ltd. is joining forces with industrial conglomerate Teledyne e2v to develop a free-flying nanosatellite to demonstrate the unique quantum properties of cold atoms.
The Cold Atom Space Payload mission “will create a new wave of space applications,” Craig Clark, Clyde Space chief executive, said in a statement.

A view of the clean room at Clyde Space's Glasgow facility. Credit: Clyde Space
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SES agrees to launch another satellite on previously-flown Falcon 9 booster

Six months after sending one of its communications satellites to orbit on the first re-flight of a SpaceX rocket, SES intends to launch a hybrid television broadcasting satellite owned in partnership with EchoStar on another previously-used Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Space Coast as soon as late September, industry officials told Spaceflight Now.
The launch of the SES 11 spacecraft, also named EchoStar 105, will be the third time SpaceX has sent a customer’s satellite into orbit with the help of a reused rocket stage. Industry officials said SES, EchoStar and SpaceX agreed in recent weeks to shift the satellite from an all-new rocket to one with a previously-flown first stage.

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Telemetry glitch kept first Electron rocket from reaching orbit

Rocket Lab blamed the failure of its first Electron rocket to reach orbit on a telemetry glitch in ground equipment that can be easily corrected, keeping the company on track to begin commercial launches by the end of this year.
In a statement released late Aug. 6, the U.S.-New Zealand company said its Electron rocket was flying as planned on its May 25 inaugural launch when a dropout of telemetry from the vehicle required range safety officials to terminate the flight four minutes after liftoff, at an altitude of 224 kilometers.

Electron launch
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Virgin Galactic carries out “dry run” for powered SpaceShipTwo flights

Virgin Galactic performed the latest glide flight of its second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane Aug. 4, calling it a “dry run” for upcoming powered test flights.
SpaceShipTwo, carried aloft by its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, separated from the plane about an hour after its 11:58 a.m. Eastern takeoff from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The spaceplane landed back in Mojave ten minutes later.

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Phasor sets 2018 release for electronically steered antenna

Satellite antenna startup Phasor Solutions has completed full system testing of its electronically steered, phased-array antenna, and is now preparing for commercial release next year.
David Helfgott, CEO of Phasor, told SpaceNews field testing remains as the only major milestone, which involves partners trialing the antennas in various mobile environments.

Phasor 6 panel aero ESA
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Rocket Crafters Exec on the Advantages of Hybrid Rocket Engines

Rocket Crafters Inc. (RCI) has developed a new hybrid rocket engine that is both safer and less expensive than its liquid and solid chemical engine counterparts, according to the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sid Gutierrez. Following a research contract awarded in late July, RCI will build and test a new large-scale engine based on its Direct-Digital Advanced Rocket Technology (D-DART) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Rocket Crafters Inc. conducts a hot-fire test of its hybrid rocket engine. Photo: RCI.
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Vector Launches First Ever Rocket from Spaceport Camden

Vector, a NewSpace microsatellite launch provider, conducted a successful suborbital flight of its B0.002 test vehicle, a full-scale prototype of the company’s Vector-R launch vehicle. The launch is the first out of Spaceport Camden in Georgia, which was originally used by NASA in the 1960s for ground-based static fire testing of large solid rocket motors.

Vector's test flight vehicle takes off from Spaceport Camden. Photo: Vector Space Systems.
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Inmarsat Demonstrates Seamless Global Xpress Connectivity

Inmarsat has successfully completed its Global Xpress “Around the World” test flight. The exercise, conducted on a Gulfstream 4 aircraft between June 5 and June 11, covered more than 25,000 miles and demonstrated Global Xpress’ ability to deliver seamless, worldwide coverage across multiple spot beams and satellites. The flight route spanned the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, beginning in the United States with stops in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Australia and Fiji.

Inmarsat's Gulfstream 4 aircraft used for its "Around the World" test flight. Photo: Inmarsat.
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