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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Mar 19 – Mar 26 2018)

SpaceX launch of Iridium NEXT-5 delayed due to issue with satellite

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that had been planned for Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base was postponed early Tuesday afternoon due to an apparent issue with one of the satellites in the rocket's payload.
The launch is now tentatively planned for Saturday but could be pushed to next week if the issue remains, according to Matt Desch, the CEO of Iridium Communications, which plans to send the fifth set of 10 NEXT satellites into orbit with the launch.

Image result for iridium next 5
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Air Force stakes future on privately funded launch vehicles. Will the gamble pay off?

The schedule is getting tight for the U.S. Air Force as a 2022 deadline looms to bid farewell to the Atlas 5 and switch to a different rocket that is not powered by a Russian engine.
The target date was mutually agreed by Congress and the Air Force in 2016, allowing what was considered sufficient time to find alternatives to the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 that uses the Russian RD-180 engine. The solution they settled on was for the Air Force to sign deals with the space industry to co-finance the development of new rocket propulsion systems.
The program known as the Launch Service Agreement (LSA) fits the Air Force’s broader goal to get out of the business of “buying rockets” and instead acquire end-to-end services from companies.

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 6.02.43 AM
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New National Space Strategy emphasizes “America first” policies

A new National Space Strategy announced by the White House March 23 fits into an “America First” theme of the Trump administration, seeking to protect American interests in space through revised military space approaches and commercial regulatory reform.
The strategy was announced in a statement released by the White House. The strategy document itself has not been released, and an administration source says the release is intended to serve as the primary fact sheet for the strategy.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster discussed development of a National Space Strategy at the National Space Council meeting Feb. 21 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The White House formally announced the strategy March 23. Credit: NASA TV
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Scepter Inc. unveils plan for global atmospheric monitoring constellation

Scepter Inc., a Silicon Valley startup, unveiled plans March 22 to launch a constellation of satellites to provide global atmospheric monitoring services for government and commercial customers.
Scepter, which has been in stealth mode for approximately two years, is beginning to reveal plans and solicit investment after receiving a U.S. government patent in mid-March to use space-based sensors to obtain detailed information on various gases in vertical columns of air, combine the information with other data sources, analyze it and present it to customers in visual formats.

Philip Father, Scepter chief executive, and entrepreneur Rafay Khan, discuss plans for a global constellation of atmsopheric-monitoring satellites at Space Systems Loral.
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Exos Aerospace prepares for first suborbital launch

With a key test completed and a launch license in hand, Exos Aerospace is preparing for the first flight of its reusable suborbital rocket in April.
In a statement, the company said it completed a “hover test” of its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, rocket at its Caddo Mills, Texas, facility March 17. In the test, the rocket, suspended from a crane, fired its engine to hover in place, demonstrating the performance of its propulsion, guidance, and other systems.

Exos SARGE hover test
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Belgian court punches hole in Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network

A Belgian court revoked approval for Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network in the country after fleet operator Viasat challenged the legality of its authorization.
The Market Court of the Brussels Court of Appeal on March 14 said it has annulled the Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) approval of Inmarsat’s use of terrestrial towers for the network, designed to provide Wi-Fi inflight for aircraft over Europe. The reversal threatens to rip a hole, albeit a small one, in the network Inmarsat completed just last month.

EAN Tower Inmarsat
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OneWeb asks FCC to authorize 1,200 more satellites

Citing recent reforms that provide more time to orbit a new satellite constellation, satellite broadband-startup OneWeb asked U.S. telecom regulators to nearly triple the size of its authorized low-Earth-orbit constellation.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in June approved OneWeb’s request to serve customers in the United States using a constellation of 720 satellites. Writing to the commission March 19, OneWeb asked that the company be permitted another 1,260 satellites, bringing the total number to 1,980 spacecraft.

oneweb constellation
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NASA to allow nuclear power systems for next Discovery mission

Citing progress in producing plutonium-238, NASA will allow scientists proposing missions for an upcoming planetary science competition to use nuclear power sources.
In a statement issued March 17, Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said the agency was reversing an earlier decision prohibiting the use of radioisotope power systems for spacecraft proposed for the next mission in the agency’s Discovery program.
A “long-range planning information” announcement about plans for the competition, issued Dec. 12, said that the use of such power systems would not be allowed, although missions could use radioisotope heater units, which use a very small amount of plutonium to keep spacecraft elements warm.

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Smallsat launch providers face pricing pressure from Chinese vehicles

Companies that are developing small launch vehicles or who provide rideshare launch services say they expect new Chinese launch vehicles to drive down launch prices, raising concerns among some of unfair competition.
During a panel discussion at the Satellite 2018 conference here March 12, executives of several launch providers said they expected small launchers under development or entering service in China, either by state-owned enterprises or private ventures, to sharply reduce launch prices in the coming years.

Kepler cubesat Kipp Long March 11
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Megaconstellations: Recipe for Disaster or Biggest Opportunity Yet?

A handful of hot, young satellite communications companies harbor big plans to launch super-powerful, smaller satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), creating megaconstellations that will power every broadband application imaginable. But Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of marketing for Iridium, doesn’t seem too worried about competition or the potential for overcrowding.
“We were in LEO before LEO was cool,” says Hartin, who oversees Iridium’s global commercial business. “Today you have these megaconstellations like what SpaceX and OneWeb have planned. And we welcome them. We don’t view ourselves as competitors, but as complementary.”

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Monday, February 19, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 12 – Feb 19 2018)

NASA certifies Falcon 9 for science missions

NASA has certified the current version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 to launch some categories of science missions, a milestone needed for the upcoming, but delayed, launch of an astronomy spacecraft.
NASA disclosed the certification in its full fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, released Feb. 14, in a section about NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP). “In January 2018, SpaceX successfully completed ‘Category 2’ certification of the SpaceX Falcon 9 ‘Full Thrust’ with LSP which supports the launch of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission in March 2018,” it stated.

SpaceX Falcon 9 GovSat-1
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ISS as a Catalyst for New Space Industries

Just as the early railroads transformed the American West and spurred an economic boom across our then young nation, commercial activity in space is blossoming. Expansion of these activities, especially in-space manufacturing, will expand human activity outward and lead to new American economic booms. While the promise of commercial activities in space may be as vast as the promise of the American West, actions must be taken now in order to stay on the path of converting this promise to economic value.

View from the International Space Station (ISS) Cupola
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Air Force and Aerojet Rocketdyne renegotiating AR1 agreement

The U.S. Air Force and Aerojet Rocketdyne are working to revise an agreement to support development of the company’s AR1 rocket engine, as questions continue about the engine’s long-term future.
In a Feb. 14 response to questions submitted by SpaceNews, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) confirmed that Aerojet Rocketdyne is seeking to revise the Rocket Propulsion System (RPS) award the company received in 2016 to reduce the fraction of development costs the company has to pay.

AR1 illustration
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What Does Blockchain and Bitcoin Mean for the Video Industry?

Qtum Foundation announced a collaboration with the SpaceChain Foundation to launch a standardized CubeSat, which will carry Qtum‘s blockchain software technology on a Raspberry Pi device.
The electricity required for cryptocurrency mining — or tallying cryptocurrency transactions in exchange for a small fee — has increased exponentially over the years. According to Digiconomist, Bitcoin mining power consumption had increased 56.2 percent over four months to hit 47.07 TWh, costing $2.3 billion per year and consuming 0.21 percent of the world’s electricity.

Renditon of Qtum's blockchain satellite. Photo; Qtum Foundation.
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FCC chairman urges approval for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants his agency approve SpaceX’s 15-month-old application to serve the U.S. with its proposed megaconstellation.
In a statement released just days before SpaceX launches its first two prototype satellites, Pai urged support of the company’s application within the FCC, saying Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX can help reach rural and isolated parts of the country with high-speed Internet.

FCC Ajit Pai
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Iridium Reveals First Maritime Partners for Certus Service

Iridium Communications announced that Marlink, Speedcast, Applied Satellite Technologies (AST), and Satcom Global are the initial global maritime launch partners for Iridium Certus, a global L-band satellite network. The first regional maritime launch partner, Arion, will focus on delivering Iridium Certus to the Asian market .
According to Iridium, Certus is designed to meet the needs of the “connected ship.” Operating on small form-factor terminals with solid-state, active-array antennas, the service will enable more efficient business operations, cost-effective crew welfare solutions, and safety communications, while providing a pole-to-pole, global grid for Internet of Things (IOT) smart ship applications, the company stated.

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U.S. intelligence: Russia and China will have ‘operational’ anti-satellite weapons in a few years

Experts have warned for some time that wars in space are not just Hollywood fiction. And the scenario appears increasingly more likely, according to the latest analysis by the U.S. intelligence community.
“We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” warns the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

ASAT interception
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Monday, February 12, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 05 – Feb 12 2018)

Air Force to acquire new jam-resistant GPS satellites

The Pentagon plans to spend $2 billion over the next five years on a new constellation of Global Positioning System satellites that will be hardened to withstand electronic interference from hostile nations.
In a solicitation for bids posted Feb. 13, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced it will “conduct a full and open competition” for the production of 22 GPS 3 satellites starting in fiscal year 2019.

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NASA budget proposal seeks to cancel WFIRST

The Trump administration is offering $19.9 billion for NASA in its fiscal year 2019 request, while seeking to cancel a flagship astronomy mission and end NASA funding of the International Space Station in 2025.
A key cut included in the proposal, released Feb. 12, is cancelling the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the agency’s next flagship astrophysics mission after the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA had been in the midst of revising the mission’s design to lower its costs from an estimated $3.9 billion to $3.2 billion.

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NASA budget proposal plans end of NASA funding of ISS, seeks commercial transition

NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal will include plans to end funding for the International Space Station in 2025, but leaves open the possibility of handing part or all of the station over to private operators.
The budget proposal, due to be released Feb. 12, will include a request for $150 million to support the development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit to succeed the ISS, for which NASA could be a customer, according to an internal agency document obtained by SpaceNews.

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Largest cubesat operators say 25-year deorbit guideline a priority

Planet and Spire, operators of the two largest commercial cubesat constellations in orbit, say they manage their fleets to prevent retired spacecraft from lingering in space beyond internationally accepted guidelines.
Speaking at the SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 7, officials from Planet and Spire said the companies have self-imposed rules to ensure their satellites burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years of shutting down, as suggested by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) committee.

Spire Lemurs Clean Room
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NASA studying commercial crew contingency plans

NASA is beginning to study a contingency option for maintaining access to the International Space Station should commercial crew vehicle development experience delays, one that would turn test flights of those vehicles into operational missions.
Speaking at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Feb. 8, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said using the planned crewed test flights as crew rotation missions was one option under consideration should neither Boeing nor SpaceX be certified for regular crew rotation missions by the fall of 2019, when NASA’s access to Russian Soyuz spacecraft ends.

Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing
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Sierra Nevada gets NASA approval for first Dream Chaser ISS cargo mission

NASA has given Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) formal approval for the company’s first cargo mission to the International Space Station in late 2020.
SNC announced Feb. 7 that it had received “authority to proceed” on that mission using the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle. The mission will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in late 2020.

In addition to cargo missions to the ISS, Dream Chaser will fly a dedicated research mission for the United Nations in 2021. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.
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Military certification the next big test for Falcon Heavy

The inaugural launch on Tuesday of the world’s most powerful rocket sets the stage for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to begin the qualification process to compete for lucrative U.S. government contracts.
The U.S. Air Force has already booked the massive rocket for a June launch of a test payload. But the Falcon Heavy may have to nail many more missions before it passes the threshold to be certified by the U.S. Air Force.

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Updated | SpaceX successfully launches Falcon Heavy

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy successfully launched on its inaugural flight here Feb. 6, placing a demonstration payload into orbit and boosting the company’s interplanetary ambitions.
The Falcon Heavy lifted off at 3:45 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A here, after more than two hours of delays due to high upper-level winds. The two side boosters landed at pads designated Landing Zone 1 and 2 at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifts off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A on its inaugural flight Feb. 6. Credit: SpaceNews / Craig Vander Galien
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Monday, February 5, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Jan 29 – Feb 05 2018)

SpaceX no longer planning crewed missions on Falcon Heavy

As SpaceX gears up for the first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the company is backing away from one potential use of the vehicle, launching crewed missions beyond Earth orbit.
In a teleconference with reporters Feb. 5, a day before the scheduled inaugural launch of the rocket, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said the progress the company was making on an even larger vehicle made it unlikely that the Falcon Heavy will ever be used for launching crewed spacecraft.

Falcon Heavy artist's concept
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Inmarsat, Deutsche Telekom complete European Aviation Network

British satellite operator Inmarsat and mobile network operator Deutsche Telekom have finished building the ground infrastructure for the hybrid satellite and cellular European Aviation Network (EAN).
The companies announced Feb. 5 that the network’s 300 LTE towers are set up across the 28 European Union member states, along with Switzerland and Norway, forming the air-to-ground half of the pan-European inflight entertainment and connectivity network. That ground network pairs with an S-band satellite called Inmarsat S EAN, which launched in June on an Ariane 5 rocket.

EAN ATG Deutsche Telekom Inmarsat
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SpaceX and ULA poised to face off in the next round of military launch competition

The U.S. Air Force announced plans to award space launch contracts later this year for five satellites that include some of the military’s most sensitive big-ticket payloads.
The competition comes less than two years since SpaceX became a legitimate competitor in a market that used to be entirely owned by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company.

A National Reconnaissance Office payload on a ULA Atlas 5 rocket, launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Credit: USAF
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NASA to be part of Ariane 5 anomaly investigation

NASA, whose James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 next year, will be included in the European investigation into an anomaly suffered by the rocket on its most recent launch.
Arianespace announced Jan. 26 the formation of an “independent enquiry commission,” to be chaired by the European Space Agency’s inspector general, that will study the anomaly during the Jan. 25 launch that placed two communications satellites into the wrong orbits.

Ariane 5 launch
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SpaceX launches GovSat-1 with previously flown Falcon 9 booster

SpaceX conducted its second mission of the year Jan. 31, launching the GovSat-1 satellite for fleet operator SES and the government of Luxembourg on a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket.
The launch took place at 4:27 p.m. Eastern from the recently opened Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

SpaceX GovSat Falcon 9 SES
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A space corps in the U.S. military a ‘no brainer,’ says former astronaut

With 28 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and 16 years as a NASA astronaut, Terry Virts understands why the Pentagon has fought back proposals to create an independent military space corps.
Virts now believes the momentum is shifting.
“It’s such a no brainer,” Virts told SpaceNews. “Space, air, cyber, those are truly different domains.” Space is becoming a battlefront in a broader competition among world powers, he said, making it more of an imperative to give space forces a bigger voice.

Former astronaut Terry Virts. Credit:
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Monday, January 29, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Jan 22 – Jan 29 2018)

SpaceX sets first Falcon Heavy launch for Feb. 6

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said Jan. 27 that the company will attempt a first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6.
The announcement came three days after the rocket completed a static-fire test at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, a final test milestone before the launch itself. Musk said the test was “good” shortly after the test, but neither he nor the company provided additional details.

Falcon Heavy on pad
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Ariane 5 Narrowly Avoids Disaster in First Launch of 2018

An Ariane 5 rocket managed to orbit two communications satellites and a NASA scientific payload on Jan. 25, despite an anomaly that threatened to tarnish Arianespace’s pristine launch record. Late Thursday evening, Arianespace was unable to acquire the rocket’s telemetry after it slipped under the horizon, but Arianespace Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Stephane Israel later confirmed that SES and YahSat have both made contact with their respective satellites.

Image result for ariane 5 rocket SES and YahSat
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Potential end of the ISS raises concerns, presents opportunities

The White House’s next budget request for NASA will likely include plans to end the agency’s operations of the International Space Station by the mid-2020s, a plan that could create new opportunities for commercial space ventures but has already generated opposition from one key senator.
A draft budget document for the agency’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal calls for “ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025” as one of several items intended to implement Space Policy Directive 1, the executive order signed by President Trump Dec. 11 directing NASA to return humans to the moon. The document, rumors about which had been circulating in the space industry in recent days, was first reported by The Verge Jan. 24.

International Space Station. Credit: NASA
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Reports of National 5G Network Bring Uncertainty to the Industry

The U.S. government is considering building a national 5G network to counter the risks of China interfering on emerging technology such as, self-driving cars, IOT, or spying on phone calls. However, it is unclear of how that network would be built and paid for, as well as how it would affect current telecom operators’ plans and satellite spectrum utilization.

Congress 5G
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Solar panel suppliers adjust to GEO satellite slowdown

Suppliers of solar panels and related equipment for the space industry are pivoting to serve customers planning satellites for low and medium Earth orbits as the slow down in geostationary satellite orders persists.
Commercial satellite operators ordered just seven geostationary telecommunications satellites in 2017 — well below the 20 to 25 orders considered normal in years past. Orders for 2016 and 2015 topped out in the teens (still below average, but better than last year).

Boeing employees extend the solar panels on Intelsat-35e, which launched last July on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: Boeing
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Is the End Near for the Satellite Dish?

During its recent financial results reporting, U.K. broadcaster and Internet Service Provider (ISP) Skyannounced it will launch Sky over fiber in Italy and the company’s first all-IP service in Austria, “both without the need for a satellite dish,” according to Jeremy Darroch, group chief executive at Sky.
The service will include all Sky channels and on-demand content streamed over IP. The question remains: will other broadcasters follow this step? Will this mean the end of the satellite dish?

Eutelsat Dish
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Google Lunar X Prize to end without winner

The foundation running the Google Lunar X Prize announced Jan. 23 that the $20 million grand prize for a commercial lunar lander will expire at the end of March without a winner.
The X Prize Foundation said none of its five finalist teams would be able to launch a mission before the current deadline of March 31. That deadline has been extended several times in the past, but foundation officials previously said there would be no further extensions of the competition.
“This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed,” said a statement by Peter Diamadis, founder and executive chairman of the X Prize Founation, and Marcus Shingles, chief executive of the foundation. The $30 million refers to both the grand prize as well as a $5 million second prize and several ancillary prizes.

SpaceIL lander
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Ariane 6 Gets Closer to Flight with Vulcain Engine Test Firing

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has successfully tested the Vulcain 2.1 engine at its P5 test facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Vulcain 2.1 will power the main stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, which will fly for the first time in 2020.
This is a version of the Ariane 5 Vulcain 2 engine specially adapted for the Ariane 6 main stage to simplify production and to lower costs. To reach these objectives the engine integrates technologies such as a gas generator built using 3D printing, a simplified divergent nozzle, and an oxygen heater for tank pressurization. These adaptations contribute to achieving the cost targets set for the Ariane 6 launcher, while retaining the efficiency and reliability demonstrated on Ariane 5, according to ArianeGroup.

Ariane 6 undergoes its first test firing at DLR's Lampoldshausen site. Photo: DLR.
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Monday, January 22, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Jan 15 – Jan 22 2018)

SpaceX, Iridium set March 18 launch date for fifth Iridium Next mission

WASHINGTON — SpaceX and mobile satellite services provider Iridium, now halfway through deploying the Iridium Next constellation, are preparing for their fifth mission on March 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Falcon 9 launch is expected to kick off a “rapid-cadence launch schedule targeting completion of the Iridium manifest by mid-2018,” according to a Jan. 22 Iridium statement.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch told SpaceNews by email that the rapid cadence equates to “an average of about 5 weeks between launches to ensure we complete launch 8 mid-year.”

Falcon 9 Iridium-3
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Government shutdown offers warning of impacts to government and commercial space

The first federal government shutdown in more than four years came to a swift end Jan. 22 but served as a warning of what a future shutdown could do to both government and commercial space efforts.
The Senate reached an agreement Jan. 22 on a modified version of a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the version that failed to win passage in the Senate late Jan. 19, triggering the shutdown. The House then passed the CR and President Trump signed it into law that evening.

NASA TV shutdown
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How Secure Are In-Flight Connectivity Systems?

The aviation world has come a long way from the days when the extent of connectivity in the cabin revolved around self-contained in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) systems comprising a server, distribution system and seatback displays. Being connected was limited to watching a movie offered by the airline or scanning pre-recorded news broadcasts.
Then came SwiftBroadband service followed by more powerful high-bandwidth satellites and Wi-Fi in the cabin, and with it, a proliferation of passenger smartphones and other devices. It’s not surprising that 81 airlines today offer a full range of IFEC services with the ability for travelers to connect their personal electronic devices (PEDs) to the aircraft’s wireless network.

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NASA 2019 budget expected to include lunar exploration program details

Details about how NASA will implement a space policy directive regarding a human return to the moon will be in the agency’s 2019 budget request, scheduled for release as soon as early February.
NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) civil space forum here Jan. 18, didn’t discuss specifics of those plans, but suggested both international and commercial partnerships would play key roles in NASA’s approach to implementing Space Policy Directive 1. That directive, signed by President Trump Dec. 11, instructed NASA to return humans to the moon “for long-term exploration and utilization” as a step towards later missions to Mars “and other destinations.”

Lightfoot CSIS
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Virgin Orbit to Launch GomSpace Nanosatellites

GomSpace has purchased a launch for several nanosatellites onboard a LauncherOne rocket from the California-based company Virgin Orbit. The flight, which is bound for a low-inclination orbit, is scheduled to occur in early 2019.
GomSpace will use the launch to further build out a constellation of small satellites that will use Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal monitoring to track civilian aircraft and ocean-going vessels. This satellite constellation will provide continuous monitoring between 37 degrees north and 37 degrees south, helping provide global situational awareness for air-traffic controllers and shipping companies, and aiding in the identification and location of wayward or missing planes and ships.

LauncherOne Virgin Galactic Cosmic Girl
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A changing of the guard in NASA’s hunt for exoplanets

Sometime later this year NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, orbiting the sun more than 150 million kilometers from the Earth, will fire its thrusters for the final time. The spacecraft is running out of the hydrazine fuel used by those thrusters to maintain the spacecraft’s orientation. Once the thrusters sputter and shut down, their fuel exhausted, Kepler will no longer be able to control its pointing, and the mission will end.
The project isn’t quite sure exactly when that will happen, since the calculation depends on rates of fuel usage and the challenges of measuring just how much hydrazine is left in the spacecraft’s tanks. “The fuel is expected to last somewhere between the spring and summer of 2018,” said Gary Blackwood, manager of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, at a Jan. 7 meeting of a NASA exoplanet advisory group. He added that the spacecraft’s manufacturer, Ball Aerospace, “has found very creative ways” to stretch out that remaining fuel.

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Rocket Lab Electron reaches orbit on second launch

Rocket Lab announced Jan. 20 that the second launch of its Electron small rocket was a success, reaching orbit and deploying three cubesats.
The Electron lifted off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 8:43 p.m. Eastern (2:43 p.m. local time Jan. 21) on the second day of a nine-day launch window for the mission. A launch attempt a day earlier was scrubbed by a combination of boats in restricted waters off the launch site and a technical issue with the rocket.

Rocket Lab Electron launch
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ULA Launches NRO 47 Payload on Delta 4 Rocket

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 12. Because the mission — designated NROL 47 — is classified, NRO has not released information on what the satellite will be used for, stating only that the mission is in support of national defense.
ULA launched the mission aboard a Delta 4 Medium+ (5, 2) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) powered by one common booster core (powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine) and two solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage. Aerojet Rocketdynemanufactured both the booster and upper stage engines.

Image result for ULA Launches NRO 47 Payload on Delta 4 Rocket
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Monday, January 15, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Jan 08 – Jan 15 2018)

New U.S. missile-warning satellite set for launch at Cape Canaveral

The U.S. military’s newest missile-warning satellite is set to lift off later this week just as tensions continue to mount over North Korea’s ICBM program.
Crews at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, are preparing to launch the SBIRS GEO Flight-4 satellite on Thursday from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
“Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the Space Based Infrared System GEO Flight 4 mission for the U.S. Air Force,” ULA announced on Monday. The forecast shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the planned 7:52PM EST liftoff on Thursday.

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SpaceShipTwo performs glide flight in advance of powered tests

Virgin Galactic conducted its first test flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle in more than five months Jan. 11 as the company prepares to begin powered test flights of the vehicle.
The glide flight, conducted in the skies above the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, was the seventh for the second SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity, dating back to December 2016. Pilots Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci landed the vehicle at the airport after a successful flight.
The glide flight was the first for SpaceShipTwo since one in early August. The company said in a statement that it had spent the intervening months on “extensive analysis, testing and small modifications to ensure vehicle readiness for the higher loads and forces of powered test flight.”

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2018 Could Be a Revolutionary Year for Smallsats

Earmarked by SpaceX’s historic relanding of a first stage booster, 2017 was a banner year for the satellite industry in many respects. 2018 could prove to be even more momentous, as the smallsat megaconstellations that have been under development for years finally emerge — along with the dedicated smallsat launch vehicles that will serve them. In an interview with Via Satellite, Northern Sky Research (NSR) analyst Carolyn Belle laid out her expectations for the year ahead, as well as how these new systems could affect the broader satellite industry as they come online.
Overall, 2017 was a “very good year” for smallsat launch rates, Belle said, with the industry orbiting 329 smallsats (between 1 and 500 kg) in total. This is the highest number launched in one year to date, easily outstripping the mere 130 orbited in 2016. While the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) record-breaking launch of 105 satellites was a bit of an outlier, Belle believes the growing smallsat trend is here to stay.

Rendition of one of OneWeb's broadband nanosatellites. Photo: OneWeb.
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IOT Critical to Gaining a Competitive Edge in Mining

Businesses in the mining industry are backing the Internet of Things (IOT) to help them retain their market share as competition in the sector intensifies, the quality of seams decreases, and profit margins are put under pressure. According to recent research published by Inmarsat, IOT will play a critical role in helping mining businesses increase automation and improve production efficiency, enabling them to compete with rivals operating in lower cost markets.
Market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed respondents from 100 large mining companies across the globe for Inmarsat’s “The Future of IoT in Enterprise” report, and found that 70 percent of mining businesses agreed that IOT would give them a significant edge against their competitors.

Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah, the largest man-made hole in the world. Photo: Inmarsat.
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Air Force launches new project to update missile-warning ground software

Air Force officials are talking to potential vendors this week about an upcoming project to update the software used to control the military’s missile-warning satellites and to analyze the data beamed from space.
The ground-based systems are the less exciting but nonetheless important piece of the SBIRS space-based infrared surveillance satellites that provide initial warning of a ballistic missile attack on the United States, deployed forces and allies.
The plan is to shift the current ground software architecture — a closed system developed by traditional defense contractors that is not compatible with commercial software from competing vendors — to an open-systems platform that the Air Force would own and update with new technology as it becomes available.

Airmen at the Global Strategic Warning and Space Surveillance System Center at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, monitor strategic missile warning systems. (Air Force photo)
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Rocket Lab sets new window for second Electron launch

Rocket Lab announced Jan. 11 it plans to make another attempt to launch its Electron small rocket on its second mission later this month.
Rocket Lab said the nine-day launch window for the mission at its New Zealand launch site will open at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 20 local time (8:30 p.m. Jan. 19 Eastern time). There will be a four-hour window each day, opening at the same time, for the launch.
The company, headquartered in the United States but with launch and other operations in New Zealand, attempted to carry out the launch during a 10-day window in December. However, several attempts were postponed by poor weather. The company came closest to launching Dec. 11, when computers aborted a launch attempt just two seconds before liftoff after sensors detected liquid oxygen temperatures above preset limits in one of the first stage’s nine engines.

Electron on pad
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De Poli Tankers and Marlink Renew Multi-band Satcom Contract

Dutch ship owner De Poli Tankers has extended its contract with Marlink, securing high-bandwidth global communication using the Sealink Plus service for its fleet of eight chemical tankers and two gas tankers. According to De Poli Tankers, it chose to retain the Sealink Plus service for the future as it combines high-bandwidth Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) with unlimited L-band back-up in a single bundle.
De Poli Tankers first migrated to Marlink VSAT from L-band only communications in 2013 to improve fleet and business operations while offering more availability and quality for its crew communication facilities.

A De Poli Tankers vessel crashes over waves at sea. Photo: De Poli Tankers.
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Iceye Successfully Launches SAR Microsatellite on PSLV

Finnish startup Iceye announced the successful launch of its proof-of-concept satellite mission, Iceye X1, on the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) PSLV C40 rocket. The Iceye X1 microsatellite is equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and, according to the company, is Finland’s very first commercial satellite.
Iceye stated it has successfully established communications with the 70 kg satellite now in orbit. The goal of the mission is to validate in-orbit performance of the satellite and begin operations with select Iceye customers. According to Iceye, data received from the satellite in space can be used for a variety of use cases including monitoring changing sea ice for maritime and environmental uses, tracking marine oil spills and helping to prevent illegal fishing.

Iceye's first proof-of-concept satellite, Iceye X1. Photo: Iceye.
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