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Monday, November 6, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 30 – Nov 06 2017)

Iridium’s time sequencing solution may be a player in 5G to augment GPS

Iridium Communications doesn’t discuss 5G all that much, but its time sequencing solution could be of interest to mobile carriers that rely on the GPS clock in urban canyons, where GPS doesn’t perform well inside buildings.
“We right now are a backup to IoT, to LTE,” said Iridium CFO Thomas Fitzpatrick during the Wells Fargo 2017 Media & Telecom Conference in New York. “We’ll be the same thing with 5G.”

Iridium user (Iridium)
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NASA issues study contracts for Deep Space Gateway element

NASA awarded contracts Nov. 1 to five companies to examine how they could develop a power and propulsion module that could become the initial element of the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway.
NASA issued the contracts, part of the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, program, to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Space Systems and Space Systems Loral. The contracts, which run for four months, have a combined value of approximately $2.4 million.

Lockheed Martin gateway
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SpaceX to First Launch Prototype Satellite This Year

SpaceX is on track to begin launching its broadband constellation as early as 2019, and aims to have the full system on orbit by 2024. In an Oct. 25 testimony delivered to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, SpaceX Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs Patricia Cooper reaffirmed the company’s plans to launch the first prototype of its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband constellation before the end of the year and an additional prototype in the early months of 2018.

A Falcon 9 rocket launches the SES 10 satellite on March 30, 2017. Photo: SpaceX.
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Air Force ‘hopeful’ Congress will support new strategy to phase out Russian rocket engines

As the House and Senate move to wrap up negotiations on the 2018 defense policy bill, the Air Force’s “launch systems enterprise” anxiously is waiting to see the final language in the National Defense Authorization Act. One of the concerns: Will Congress limit the options available to the Air Force to phase out Russian engines from U.S. military space launch vehicles?
The political battle over the next-generation evolved expendable launch vehicle started about three years ago when Congress set a deadline for the Air Force to stop funding the Russian RD-180 heavy rocket engine. The Air Force last month issued a request for vendor proposals and expects to have at least three options to choose from. With the completion of the NDAA just days away, Air Force officials worry that the House language, if adopted, would restrict the path forward to end U.S. dependence on Russian engines.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket (Courtesy photo/United Launch Alliance)
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Morocco to Orbit Earth Observation Satellite Next Week

Morocco is set to join a select group of countries in Africa that have a satellite in orbit with the launch on Nov. 8 of its Earth Observation satellite. An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch the satellite, Mohammed 6-A, from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. The launch will mark the North African country’s major breakthrough in mastering space technology, an official statement said.
The Mohammed 6-A satellite is an EO satellite built for the Kingdom of Morocco by Thales Alenia Space as system prime contractor and Airbus as co-prime. The satellite will be used for mapping and land surveying activities, regional development, agricultural monitoring, the prevention and management of natural disasters, monitoring changes in the environment and desertification, as well as border and coastal surveillance, according to an Arianespace statement. A three-axis stabilized satellite, the Mohammed 6-A will weigh approximately 1,110 kg.

Image taken of Fez, Morocco from space in August 2016. Photo: Planet.
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Minotaur launches 10 satellites for Planet

An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket successfully launched two sets of satellites for Earth observation company Planet Oct. 31 in what was effectively the return to flight of a vehicle that failed in its two previous missions.
The Minotaur-C lifted off from Space Launch Complex 576E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on schedule at 5:37 p.m. Eastern. The rocket deployed its payload of six SkySat spacecraft and four Dove cubesats between 13 and 19 minutes after liftoff, but a lack of real-time telemetry meant that confirmation of the successful launch did not come until more than two hours after liftoff, once Planet made contact with all 10 satellites via its ground stations.

Minotaur-C launch
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Marlink Adds Satellite Capacity for Luxury Vessels

Marlink has added satellite capacity for its yachting customers in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. The additional capacity comes as yachts are preparing to head south after this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS).
The additional  capacity builds on the existing High Speed Zones service for luxury vessels, which launched in November 2016. Extra capacity ensures higher availability and greater redundancy with a new satellite and a new beam joining the Sealink network, ensuring even higher Quality of Service (QOS) for reliable internet access, 4K TV streaming, voice calling, and high-end IP applications in the most popular yachting destinations year-round. The newly added capacity increases diversity in Marlink’s network covering the key yachting regions, ensuring that a link is always available and that communication services work seamlessly.

Abeking & Rasmussen's Cloudbreak vessel. Photo: FLIBS.
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Iridium, its satellites & launches on track, now focusing on cash-flow stability

Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications has changed the terms of its loan from the French export-credit agency and won payment extensions from its satellite prime contractor as it pivots from building a $3 billion network to paying the debt associated with it.
As it does so, it is providing a window on the French agency’s risk tolerance to other low-orbiting constellations trying to cut their own deals.
Formerly called Coface, Bpifrance Assurance Export is reviewing solicitations from the multibillion-dollar OneWebsatellite constellation and from startup LeoSat in addition to managing existing facilities with Iridium and Globalstar.

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