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Monday, September 25, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 18 – Sep 25 2017)

Cubic Deploys Antennas for Hurricane Response Efforts

Cubic has deployed its Gatr satellite antennas as well as personnel to support hurricane disaster recovery operations in the Caribbean. Working with several of its global disaster relief customers, Cubic’s deployed antennas on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Martin.
On the island of St. John, for example, the Gatr antenna is providing communications, networking and high-bandwidth internet connectivity via satellite for a local clinic, hospital and pharmacy to ensure medications are refilled for patients on and off the island, according to the company.

GATR antennas currently deployed in St. John. Photo: Cubic.
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Long March 5 failure to postpone China’s lunar exploration program

A leading official of China’s space program confirmed Sept. 25 that the July failure of the country’s largest launch vehicle will lead to delays to upcoming lunar missions, including one to return samples.
Tian Yulong, secretary general of the China National Space Administration, said at a press conference during the 68th International Astronautical Congress here that the investigation into the July 2 failure of the Long March 5 on its second mission was ongoing, with no updates on the cause of the failure.

Long March 5
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SpaceX Picks Name for its Satellite Broadband Network

aceX filed a trademark application in August to secure the name “StarLink” for its future satellite broadband network in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). According to GeekWire, the trademark also hinted at SpaceX’s plans to include satellite photography capabilities in the megaconstellation for remote sensing services. SpaceX intends to combine technological advancements such as dynamic beam forming and Phased Array Antennas (PAAs) to bring internet to underserved locations both in the U.S. and outside of it.

SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Photo: Pixabay.
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International partners in no rush regarding future of ISS

The partner space agencies of the International Space Station said Sept. 25 they have had discussions about the future of the station beyond 2024, but indicated no urgency in making a decision.
At a press conference during the 68th International Astronautical Congress here, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he has talked with the other partners about both an extension of the ISS as well as cooperation on the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, although no decisions on either were imminent.

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Inmarsat to Offer Rolls-Royce Ship Management System

Inmarsat and Rolls-Royce have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to have the option to make the Rolls-Royce Energy Management system available via Inmarsat Maritime’s Fleet Xpress high-speed broadband service to reduce energy consumption and support environmental compliance. With data collected from a multitude of ship control systems and equipment sensors, Energy Management 2.0 also benchmarks efficiency against historical performance.
Vessels equipped with Rolls-Royce Energy Management software can operate within the Inmarsat Certified Application Provider (CAP) program, connected via Fleet Xpress and hosted on the Inmarsat Gateway platform; and are then able to maximize their efficiency in a way that is constantly verifiable and compliant with European Union (EU) Monitoring Reporting and Verification and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan.

Rendition of Rolls Royce's fleet management system. Photo: Rolls Royce.
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Australia to establish national space agency

The government of Australia announced Sept. 25 that it plans to formally establish a national space agency, a milestone sought for decades by the country’s space industry and other space advocates.
Sen. Simon Birmingham, the Minister of Education for the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, formally announced plans to establish the agency in a speech during the opening ceremonies of the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here.
Birmingham said the government was announcing plans to establish a space agency even though a review of the country’s space capabilities is ongoing and not scheduled to be completed for several months.

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Inmarsat to Demo SwiftBroadband-Safety with Flyht

Inmarsat will demonstrate its new SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) solution in a flight trial with Flyht. The evaluation will commence later this year using an experimental trial aircraft that enables a range of conditions to be assessed.
The evaluation will test the capabilities of Inmarsat’s SB-S solution to provide secure, high-speed global connectivity to enhance airline safety, security and operations. Flyht will provide equipment and software, including its Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) product and UpTime Cloud flight management server, together with technical support for the flight trial.

Flyht's AFIRS product. Photo: Flyht.
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Kymeta ships first 400 flat-panel antennas, confirms talks with OneWeb

The first 400 flat-panel antennas developed by Redmond, Washington-based Kymeta Corp. have been shipped to customers in the past months as the company predicts 2018 to be the year when the long-awaited technology starts making impacts across a range of sectors that have not used satellite links before.
Speaking at the VSAT Global conference in here Sept. 20, Kymeta’s chief commercial officer Bill Marks said the company has received thousands of orders of its 70-centimeter Ku antennas and will start mass production next week on an assembly line in California.

Kymeta mTenna
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Globalstar Extends Tracking Support for Marathon Des Sables

Globalstar announced that it has extended its support of the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) for an additional three years. As part of the deal, more than 1,450 athletes competing in all MDS events and sister events, such as Raid Amazones, will carry Spot Gen3 devices for safety and tracking.
Since 2015, MDS organizers have used Spot Gen3 to track and safeguard participants competing in the world-famous footrace across the Sahara desert in Morocco. This year, MDS has expanded its reach beyond this flagship race to a series of international events. MDS will use Spot Gen3 at its new events in Fuerteventura and Peru. According to the organization, over the last three MDS races in Morocco, no fewer than 45 competitors were rescued within minutes thanks to Spot.

Three Raid Amazones competitors prepare for the next leg of the race. Photo: Raid Amazones.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 11 – Sep 18 2017)

Inmarsat picks MHI’s H2-A to launch its first sixth-gen satellite

Global satellite fleet operator Inmarsat said Sept. 12 that it has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to launch Inmarsat-6 F1 in 2020 aboard an H-2A rocket.
“Inmarsat is delighted to select MHI and its H-IIA launch vehicle for the first of our sixth generation satellites,” Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said in a statement. “Inmarsat is continually seeking to extend and diversify its ecosystem of partners, particularly in the strategically important area of launch providers.  We believe that MHI and its H-IIA launch vehicle offers a world-class service.

Image result for MHI’s H2-A
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This Startup Wants to Be the Airbnb for Satellite Antennas

Japan-based Infostellar has raised $7.3 million in a funding round led by Airbus Ventures to develop an antenna sharing platform that it describes as being similar to Airbnb. Essentially, Infostellar will allow satellite operators to rent hardware, thus minimizing resources wasted on unused inventory and opening additional options for windows to communicate with satellites.

Image result for Infostellar
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Analysts see red flags in Northrop’s acquisition of Orbital ATK

News of the $9.2 billion acquisition by Northrop Grumman of Orbital ATK has been met with mixed reactions on what it could mean for the Pentagon’s space business.
In a conference call on Monday executives from both firms described the combination of both companies as a “complementary fit.”
Industry analysts see the merger as a natural consequence of constrained government spending and pressure on corporations to reduce costs. But they also are raising potential red flags such as the possibility that a larger, more vertically integrated company would leave the military with fewer choices in certain sectors of the market.

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, during a February 2016 test.  Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos
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PhotoSat Research Breakthrough Improves Satellite Surveying Resolution

PhotoSat announced that an ongoing research program has produced a breakthrough in their satellite image processing, considerably enhancing the visibility of fine topographic details.
PhotoSat produces satellite surveys of mine sites and engineering projects around the world. The company’s geophysicists apply signal enhancement, noise attenuation, and image matching from seismic data processing to automatically produce elevation grids from stereo satellite photos. While most of these surveys are accurate to better than 20cm in elevation, with the recent breakthrough in image processing, the horizontal resolution of small 3D ground features has been greatly improved. These small features, such as mine site haul road berms, are now clearly resolved on PhotoSat survey grids, according to the company.

Left: Stereo WorldView satellite photo of a mine site access road and utility corridor. Right: 50cm PhotoSat survey grid. The new PhotoSat processing shows fine topographic details. Photo: PhotoSat.
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Cassini mission ends with plunge into Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended a nearly 20-year mission Sept. 15 with a plunge into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn intended to protect the planet’s potentially habitable moons from contamination.
The last signals from the Cassini spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas near Canberra, Australia, at 7:55 a.m. Eastern, 83 minutes after the spacecraft transmitted them as it dived into Saturn’s atmosphere. The loss of signal was within half a minute of predictions made in the days leading up to the encounter.

Cassini Saturn Enceladus
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ISRO Will Launch Again in December After Failed PSLV Mission

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman Kiran Kumar announced on Sept. 15 that ISRO will resume launching satellites by “November or December.” According to Kumar, the organization will schedule its next launch mission after the submission of a committee report studying the cause of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’s (PSLV) mission failure on Aug. 31.

PSLV-C39 liquid stage at the Vehicle Assembly Building during vehicle integration. Photo: ISRO.
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Space Act Agreement to support private space telescope project

NASA has signed a Space Act Agreement with a private organization currently raising funds for studies of a space telescope designed to look for habitable planets around a nearby star.
New York-based BoldlyGo Institute announced Sept. 13 the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to support development of Project Blue, a small space telescope intended to search for any Earth-like planets that may be orbiting Alpha Centauri, the star system closest to our sun.

Project Blue
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ILS Proton launches Hispasat satellite

International Launch Services last night conducted the second of three commercial Proton launches planned for this year, completing a nine hour and 12-minute mission carrying Hispasat’s Amazonas-5 satellite.
Proton lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:23 p.m. Eastern, using its first three stages to reach a suborbital trajectory, followed by five burns of the Breeze M upper stage to reach geostationary transfer orbit.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 04 – Sep 11 2017)

Iridium Is Pursuing Opportunities in NewSpace Satellite IoT

Iridium Communications has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Magnitude Space, an emerging small satellite company. According to Iridium, the MoU reflects the company’s interest in exploring collaborative partnerships with complementary NewSpace players, particularly those in the SmallSat low-power arena.
As part of this MoU, the companies will begin discussions on how to collaboratively expand opportunities for space-based Internet of Things (IoT) services with the development of reliable, Low Power Global Area Network (LPGAN) technologies.

Image result for Magnitude Space iridium
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US Forest Service Turns to Satellite to Monitor Wildfires

As the southern United States recovers from two monstrous back-to-back hurricanes, states in the Pacific Northwest continue to battle ash and smoke drifting from wildfires raging nearby. Almost 1.5 million acres are currently ablaze in the region — and the U.S. Forest Service, a small, arguably underfunded agency, is seeking more efficient ways to monitor and respond to such large-scale events. Could optical satellites be the solution?

NASA's Suomi NPP satellite collected this natural-color image of smoke crossing the U.S. on a jet stream. Photo: NASA.
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New Horizons planning additional extended missions

While still more than a year away from a flyby of a distant object in the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, the team running NASA’s New Horizons mission is already looking ahead to future extended missions that could include another flyby.
In a Sept. 6 presentation to the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) in La Jolla, California, Alan Stern, principal investigator on the New Horizons mission, said there was a “fighting chance” the spacecraft would be able to fly past another object in the Kuiper Belt.

New Horizons KBO flyby
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Cobham Satcom Releases New Antenna for Inmarsat Global Xpress

Cobham Satcom has announced that an Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) variant of its Explorer 8100 stabilized, auto-acquire, drive-away antenna system will be available for broadcast users before the end of this year. The new Explorer 8100GX expands Cobham Satcom’s Explorer 8000 series, which already includes 1 and 1.2 meter antennas for global Ku-band satellite services and Eutelsat’s Ka-band NewsSpotter solution.
Currently undergoing Inmarsat Type Approval testing, Explorer 8100GX features dynamic pointing correction technology, which enables a high degree of pointing accuracy. According to Cobham, it can adjust in milliseconds to compensate for the vehicle it is installed on rocking on its suspension, giving broadcasters the ability to transmit live, High Definition (HD) multimedia without interruption from anywhere in the world and in almost any weather conditions.

Image result for Explorer 8100GX
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SpaceX launches X-37B ahead of Hurricane Irma

With Hurricane Irma looming off the Florida coast, SpaceX beat unfavorable weather odds Thursday morning to send the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B reusable spaceplane back into orbit for its fifth classified mission.
A Falcon 9 carrying the Boeing-built X-37B hidden inside its protective shroud lifted off a 10:00 a.m. Eastern from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.
By noon, the Air Force had declared the launch a success.

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Megaconstellations Debate Kicks Off World Satellite Business Week

With so much interest in new megaconstellations, one of the ongoing themes at Euroconsult’sSummit for Satellite Financing is whether there will be enough demand for all of this capacity coming online. During the first day of the event, speakers from SES, LeoSat, Iridium and OneWeb discussed the question as part of the “Constellations in the Ecosystem: More Slices or a Bigger Pie?” panel.
Mark Rigolle, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LeoSat, is optimistic that the new operator could play a significant role in new markets moving forward. The company, which has a strategic partner in Sky Perfect JSAT, aims to begin service in 2021 and have the full constellation in place by 2022. He believes the satellite industry will have to think less technically and more about the markets to be successful going forward.

Image result for Megaconstellations
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NASA studying less expensive options for Europa lander mission

NASA is continuing to examine various, potentially less expensive options for a mission to land on Jupiter’s moon Europa even after completing a recent review, postponing a call for instruments for the spacecraft.
At a meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) Sept. 6 in La Jolla, California, Curt Niebur, a program scientist in the planetary science division at NASA Headquarters, said mission planners are continuing to examine several factors, including mission cost and science return, as they evaluate the design of the mission.

Europa lander
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Kymeta Forms New Business Unit Ahead of Kalo Launch

Kymeta has spun out a new division, the Kalo Business Unit, in preparation for the launch of commercial availability of the service. The company joined forces with Intelsat in Q1 2017 to offer a new High Throughput Satellite (HTS) access service. Kalo leverages fully integrated KyWay terminals and mTenna Antenna Subsystem Modules (ASMs) to provide wireless mobile connectivity. The service uses the IntelsatOne Flex managed services platform, and will soon commercially offer a by-the-gigabyte pricing plan under the management of the Kalo Business Unit.

Kymeta mTenna at the Monaco Yacht Show 2016.
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Monday, September 4, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Aug 28 – Sep 04 2017)


SpaceX to launch shared EchoStar, SES satellite in October

SpaceX intends to launch EchoStar-105/SES-11 on a partially reused Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than October, the company said Aug. 31. The mission will be SpaceX’s third launch to use a previously flown Falcon 9 booster. The first was the March launch of SES-10 followed by the June launch of BulgariaSat-1.
Luxembourg-based SES and EchoStar of Englewood, Colorado, ordered the satellite from Airbus Defence and Space in August 2014 as a replacement for AMC-15, which is now 13 years old. EchoStar will lease the Ku-band payload on SES-11, rebranding it as EchoStar-105.

Falcon 9 will make a fifth attempt Friday to launch the SES-9 satellite. Credit: SpaceX
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Universal Switching, General Dynamics Canada Support Mercury Global Project

General Dynamics Canada has selected Universal Switching Corporation to support the Canadian Mercury Global project. The Mercury Global project is the name given to Canada’s participation in, and leverage of, the Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) constellation. WGS will provide high-capacity, assured and secure satellite access for communications that are vital to the Government of Canada. Universal Switching Corporation will supply the critical data distribution for the satellite command and control systems.

WGS graphic. Photo: General Dynamics Canada.
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Spire, 40 cubesats in orbit, competing more directly in space-based ship-tracking market

Spire is wading deeper into the ship-tracking business, challenging established competitors operating fleets of much bigger satellites. The startup has come a long way since the crowdfunded launch of its first cubesat four years ago. Today, Spire’s constellation numbers 40 cubesats — with more on the way. As its fleet grows, so does its ambition.
The San Francisco-based company debuted two maritime products Aug. 29, a ship-tracking analytics platform called Sense Vessels, and a vessel-location forecaster called Predict, while making thinly veiled jabs at competitors Orbcomm, whose newly launched second-generation constellation has lost six out of 18 satellites, and exactEarth, which lost a satellite in April.

Ship-Traffic-Pacific Spire
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Emergency Comms Show Improvement from Katrina Era

Although Hurricane Harvey surprised everyone — including meteorologists — with unprecedented rainfall, the disaster has exemplified a marked improvement in the resiliency of emergency communications. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has published an ongoing update of cell tower outages, reported just 4.7 percent of the cell sites in Harvey’s path have been affected.

An aerial view shows significant damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 28, 2017. Photo: Army National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon.
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PSLV launch of navigation satellite fails

An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) failed to place a navigation satellite into its planned orbit Aug. 31 when the rocket’s payload fairing failed to deploy.
The PSLV, flying a mission designated PSLV-C39, lifted off on schedule at 9:30 a.m. Eastern from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the east coast of India. Initial phases of the launch appeared to go as planned, but observers noted that, as the flight progressed, the vehicle appeared to deviate from its planned trajectory according to telemetry displays shown during the webcast.

PSLV launch June 23 2017
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The Race Toward 5G Is Afoot — But Are We Ready?

With 5G set to arrive within the next five years, accounting for as many as 1.1 billion connections by 2025, the telecoms industry has a lot of work to do in keeping up with the 5G overhaul. The industry has yet to fully implement a working and reliable 4G experience for users, which begs the question: can operators ensure 5G works sufficiently to provide a good consumer experience whilst making a profit?
The evolution through 2G to 4G has prompted rapidly increasing use of services and applications that are data heavy. Mobile data use has rocketed over the past five years — increasing 74 percent alone in 2015 — taking the overall global figure to around 3.7 exabytes per month. Behind this data explosion is the growth of streaming services, such as Netflix, and consumer’s growing use of apps — all underpinned by the expectation of having a high-speed data connection at all times.

Image result for 5g
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Dream Chaser completes captive carry test flight

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) carried out a successful captive carry test Aug. 30 of its Dream Chaser vehicle, a key step towards a glide flight of the lifting body spacecraft later this year.
The Dream Chaser engineering test article, slung underneath a civilian variant of the Chinook helicopter, took off here at 10:21 a.m. Eastern. It landed at 12:02 p.m. Eastern, with the company declaring the flight a success.

Dream Chaser captive carry
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Boeing warns aviation safety program could interfere with Globalstar satellites

An aeronautical communications service meant to improve aircraft safety while on the ground at airports could cause unacceptable interference to Globalstar’s satellite system, according to Boeing.
In an Aug. 18 filing to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Boeing cautioned that the service rules for the Aeronautical Mobile Airport Communications System, or AeroMACS, as proposed by the WiMAX Forum don’t adequately ensure protection of transmissions from Globalstar’s Earth-to-space satellite links.

Boeing 787
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