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Monday, May 28, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (May 21 – May 28 2018)


Rocket Lab reschedules next Electron launch

Rocket Lab announced May 25 it has rescheduled the next launch of its Electron small rocket for late June after correcting a problem that delayed an April launch attempt.
That launch, dubbed “It’s Business Time” by the company because this is the first commercial Electron launch after two test flights, is now scheduled for no earlier than June 22 (U.S. time) from the company’s New Zealand launch site. Four-hour launch windows, opening at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, are available daily through July 5.

Rocket Lab electron
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Gogo, Iridium Partner to Deliver Global L-band Service

Iridium Communications has announced Gogo as the newest value-added manufacturer for Iridium Certus aviation terminals. As an Iridium Certus service provider, Gogo is the first company to design and manufacture terminals, while also providing the new L-band broadband service for business aviation.
With Iridium Certus service delivered through the Iridium Next Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, Gogo will continue creating small-form-factor, low-latency and cost-effective antennas able to provide broadband service from any airspace, including the poles. Service options will enable a variety of capabilities for cockpit safety and electronic flight bag services to cabin business applications.

Image result for Global L-band Service iridium
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Cobham Ships VSAT Antennas to Connect Workers in Remote Australia

The government of South Australia’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) has selected a solution that features the Cobham Satcom Explorer 8120 VSAT antennas, which will work to enable broadband data connectivity and high quality telephony for workers and communities in remote areas. The Explorer 8120 antennas feature 1.2 meter auto-acquire, drive-away antenna system and Dynamic Pointing Correction technology to improve link uptime, were delivered this month.

Cobham Satcom Explorer 8120 VSAT antenna
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Phase Four wins NASA and commercial deals for electric propulsion system

Phase Four, a company developing an advanced electric propulsion system for use on cubesats and larger spacecraft, announced sales of its thrusters to NASA and Astro Digital May 24.
The company, based in El Segundo, California, said that NASA has purchased one of the company’s electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for testing. That thruster, to be delivered in 2019, will ultimately be used on a spacecraft mission to demonstrate its ability to support future operational small satellite missions.

Phase Four thruster
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Iridium Approved to Provide Global Maritime Distress Safety Services

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) has recognized that the Iridium network meets all the criteria of the IMO needed to provide mobile satellite services in the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), and to adopt the “Statement of Recognition” proposed by the United States as a committee resolution.

Iridium achieves approval to provide GMDSS services
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Former Google Lunar X Prize teams focused on new commercial and government opportunities

Companies that one competed for the Google Lunar X Prize now expect to fly their first lunar landers in the next two years to serve the needs of commercial and government customers, including NASA.
In presentations at the Space Tech Expo here May 24, four companies that, at one time, were vying for a $20 million grand prize for landing a commercial spacecraft on the moon now say they’re motivated by what they see is a growing interest in lunar exploration and commercialization.

Astrobotic Peregrine
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SpaceX launches five Iridium satellites and twin science spacecraft

A SpaceX Falcon 9 still sporting soot from its last mission successfully launched May 22 with five Iridium Next satellites and two science satellites for NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences.
The rocket, reusing a first stage booster that successfully launched Northrop Grumman’s failed Zuma mission in January, took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 3:48 p.m. Eastern.

IRDM GRACE-FO Launch Falcon 9
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Air Force aims for reliable launch services in spite of dramatic changes in commercial, military space

Sending national security satellites into orbit is about to become more complicated.
In the past, launches largely fell into two categories: big, expensive satellites requiring extremely reliable rides and smaller satellites on slightly riskier rockets. In the future, the U.S. Air Force will launch satellites of all different sizes for customers with varying degrees of risk tolerance.
“The space vehicles we are going to be required to lift are going to be across this entire spectrum,” said Col. Jon Strizzi, chief engineer for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Directorate. “We’ll have to adapt.”

Launch of Atlas 5 SBIRS GEO-2 from Cape Canaveral AFS. Credit: United Launch Alliance
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SpaceX achievements generate growing interest in reusable launchers

As SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 with a previously-flown first stage May 22, both the company and its competitors are seeing a growing acceptance of reusable vehicles in the overall market.
The Falcon 9 that launched five Iridium Next satellites and two GRACE-FO Earth science satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base used a first stage that first flew in January, carrying the classified Zuma payload. That booster was the 12th first stage to be reflown, counting the two used as side boosters in the inaugural Falcon Heavy launch in February.

Falcon 9 GRACE-FO launch
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Air Force focus on resilience means big changes for spacecraft manufacturing and testing

The U.S. Air Force’s goal of responding to emerging threats with resilient satellite constellations it can build, launch and refresh quickly has important implications for spacecraft manufacturing and testing.
“The technical practices we employ today will continue to drive high costs,” David Davis, chief systems engineer for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, said at the Space Tech Expo here. “That will be inconsistent with the resiliency and the proliferation. We need technical practices that are balanced with this overall program.”

David Davis, chief systems engineer for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, is exploring the implications the military's focus on resilience will have on satellite building and testing. Credit: Space Tech Expo
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Monday, May 21, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (May 14 – May 21 2018)


Iridium breaks Inmarsat monopoly on maritime safety communications

The UN certified Iridium Communications to provide Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) services, ending Inmarsat’s monopoly on the internationally required service for ships, Iridium said May 21.
The certification, granted by the UN’s International Maritime Organization, marks the culmination of a five-year effort that occasionally turned nasty between fleet operators Iridium and Inmarsat.

Iridium OpenPort Maritime
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Orbital ATK Takes Ohio State First CubeSat to Space

Orbital ATK successfully launched the company’s Antares rocket carrying its Cygnus spacecraft from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The launch marks Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo mission for NASA.
According to Orbital ATK, the Antares medium-class rocket matched its record for the heaviest cargo load carried to date, with approximately 3,350kg of vital supplies and scientific equipment aboard Cygnus that will be delivered to the crew aboard the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft will be grappled on May 24.

A rendering of Ohio State's CubeRRT
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Antares launches Cygnus cargo spacecraft to ISS

An Orbital ATK Antares rocket successfully launched a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station May 21 on a mission that may be the swan song for the company as an independent entity.
The Antares lifted off from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, at 4:44 a.m. Eastern, at the end of its five-minute launch window. Controllers moved the launch from the beginning to the end of the window because of weather constraints, which eased as the countdown progressed.

Antares Cygnus OA-9
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Jeff Bezos: Day One in the Space Industry

Jeff Bezos talks to Via Satellite about his plans for Blue Origin as well as his vision for the space industry and his personal passion for space.
It is not every day you get to interview one of the world’s most celebrated entrepreneurs and businessmen but I got the opportunity last March during the SATELLITE 2018 Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C. Even though I have done many interviews with CEOs all over the world, I still feel the buzz going to interview someone like Jeff Bezos.

Image result for Day One in the Space Industry
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Safety panel considers SpaceX “load-and-go” fueling approach viable

Members of a NASA safety panel said May 17 they believed that a SpaceX approach for fueling its Falcon 9 rockets known as “load-and-go” could be used for future commercial crew missions.
At the meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) at the Kennedy Space Center, panel member Brent Jett said he expected NASA’s commercial crew program would soon make a decision on the sequence of loading propellants and crew for SpaceX commercial crew missions.

Falcon 9 Bangabandhu 1 launch
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Orbit To Showcase Its 12-inch Multi-Purpose Airborne Satcom Terminal

Orbit Communications Systems, a provider of precision tracking-based communications solutions and airborne communications management systems, has announced that it intends to unveil its new 12-inch Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT 30) for airborne SatCom at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida on May 21-24.
The MPT was designed to address the regional and global coverage needs of the military mobile market. With its Radio Frequency (RF) performance and dynamic response under the harshest environmental conditions, it meets the broadband requirements of mission aircraft, unmanned aerial systems and helicopters.

Orbit̢۪s MPT 30
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Satcom companies commit free capacity, equipment to UN for emergency responses

Nine satellite companies agreed May 17 to donate satellite capacity and equipment to the United Nations, seeking to coordinate their responses to natural disasters.
The agreement is the culmination of a three-year effort to band together and avoid being overshadowed by the collective emergency response efforts of the cellular industry, which announced its own “Humanitarian Connectivity Charter” at Mobile World Congress in 2015.

UN WFP Emergency Telecommunications Cluster ETC
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Microsoft, Kymeta Demo On-the-Move Defense Solutions

Microsoft and Kymeta have announced simultaneous land mobile, maritime defense and first responder demonstrations during the 2018 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) and Connectivity Expo (Connect X) from May 21-24. The companies are jointly demonstrating end-to-end communications and network on the edge with Microsoft’s patrol and tactical vehicles featuring hardware, software, Windows Apportals, Azure Cloud integration, and connectivity to the Internet of Things (IOT), all connected using a flat-panel, satellite Kymeta KyWay Terminal.

Kymeta and Microsoft provide always-connected mobility
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Monday, May 14, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (May 7 – May 14 2018)


Iridium to complete next-generation satellite deployment by this fall

Iridium expects to have its next-generation satellite constellation deployed and in service by this fall as it looks to win approvals for new maritime and aviation applications.
In a conference call with reporters May 14, Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch said the remaining three launches of Iridium Next satellites should be completed by the third quarter of this year, with the satellites in the final positions shortly thereafter.

Artist view of an IRIDIUM NEXT satellite. The IRIDIUM NEXT operation is a modernisation programme of Iridium satellites. Iridium is a provider of mobile satellite communications services.
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SpaceX launches Bangladeshi satellite on debut Block 5 Falcon 9 mission

SpaceX on May 11 successfully launched its most modern Falcon 9 rocket, delivering Bangabandhu-1, the first Bangladeshi telecom satellite, into geostationary transfer orbit.
The Falcon 9 rocket, known as the Block 5 version, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base at 4:14 p.m. Eastern. The 3,500-kilogram Bangabandhu-1 satellite separated from the rocket’s upper stage about 34 minutes later.

Falcon 9 Bangabandhu 1 launch
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NASA agrees to fly helicopter demo on Mars 2020

NASA announced May 11 that it will fly a small helicopter as a technology demonstration on its next Mars rover, despite concerns from some on the project that it could be a distraction.
In a statement issued late May 11, the space agency said it will include the Mars Helicopter on the Mars 2020 rover mission, where it will perform a series of test flights over the course of a month.

JPL has been touting its Mars Helicopter since January but has not before linked it to any particular mission. The drone would be solar powered and capable of flying for two to three minutes a day, according to a video JPL uploaded to youtube earlier this year. Credit: NASA artist's concept.
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Spirit Airlines to Offer In-Flight Wi-Fi with Thales

Guests on Spirit Airlines will soon be able to watch, stream, surf and text from 30,000 feet, as the carrier has signed an agreement to install Wi-Fi on all of its planes by summer 2019. Spirit Airlines Wi-Fi technology partner, Thales Group, a global technology provider for aerospace, defense and security, and transportation markets, is bringing the Ka-band High Throughput Satellite (HTS) system onboard the aircraft to provide high-speed web browsing and streaming experiences similar to what passengers would find at home.
Spirit Wi-Fi is projected to provide service coverage immediately for 97 percent of its routes upon entry into service, starting with an average price of $6.50, and a cost range expected to be lower or higher based on the route and demand.

Image result for In-Flight Wi-Fi thales
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How the Fourth Industrial Revolution is Shaping the Satellite Industry

We are now in the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — or “Industry 4.0.” From mechanization of production in the first industrial revolution to mass production in the second, and automation of production in the third, the concept of digitizing everything forms the basis of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is influencing and impacting the world. Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT), and other advanced technologies are rapidly revolutionizing and reshaping infrastructure, global-local economies and possibilities for future generations.

Image result for Satellite Industry revolution
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NASA Makes History with West Coast Launch of InSight

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket carrying NASA‘s InSight Mars lander lifted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 on Saturday. InSight is the first mission launched to another planet from the West Coast, which requires more energy than an East Coast launch that takes advantage of the Earth’s rotation.
The West Coast Mars launch was made possible by the performance of the Atlas 5, an optimized trajectory design to achieve the very exact hyperbolic injection required to deliver the spacecraft to Mars, and Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion systems.

InSight is a robotic lander designed to study the interior of the planet Mars
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Musk details Block 5 improvements to Falcon 9

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk on May 10 went into detail on modifications made to the latest version of the Falcon 9, including redesigning a pressure vessel implicated in the rocket’s 2016 pre-launch explosion.
In a briefing with reporters hours before the scrubbed launch of the first Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket, Musk said the Block 5 is designed to be “the most reliable rocket ever built.”

Falcon 9 Block 5
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Astronomers resist NASA push to delay astrophysics decadal survey

With uncertainty about the future of two large space telescopes, NASA is continuing to suggest that the next decadal survey for astrophysics be postponed, a move opposed by many astronomers.
Recently, the Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group, one of three advisory groups chartered by NASA to support the agency’s astrophysics program, sent out a questionnaire to astronomers asking for their thoughts about delaying the next survey, currently scheduled for release in late 2020.

After much tinkering, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has at last finished the cryogenic cooler that will keep JWST's Mid-Infrared Instrument at its frosty-cool operating temperature of minus 270 Celsius. Credit: NASA artist's concept
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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.

MMRTG
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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.

24760272846_17dd11737d_k
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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.

WFIRST
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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.

ISS
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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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