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Monday, January 8, 2018

This Week in Satellite News! (Jan 01 – Jan 08 2018)


SpaceX launches classified payload to kick off busy year

SpaceX successfully launched a classified payload on a Falcon 9 Jan. 7, starting what is planned to be the busiest year yet for the launch provider.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, carrying a classified payload known only as “Zuma.” The rocket’s first stage landed at nearby Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after liftoff. SpaceX ended its coverage of the launch at that point, without confirming that the payload reached orbit.
Little is known about the Zuma payload. The launch was procured by Northrop Grumman, who manufactured the spacecraft, and no U.S. government agency has claimed the payload. Airspace notices for the launch suggest the payload will be going into an orbit of an inclination of about 50 degrees, similar to International Space Station missions as well as USA 276, a National Reconnaissance Office satellite launched on a Falcon 9 in May 2017.

Falcon 9 Zuma
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2017 Proves Potential of Connected Helicopter for Satellite

The integration of newly available satellite and cellular-based data communications technologies, or “connectivity,” is creating new opportunities to improve helicopter offshore support, search and rescue (SAR), medevac and corporate/VIP operations. While the concept of the connected helicopter is not new (Iridium notes that 15,000 helicopters globally are equipped with products that enable its satellite communications service), operators are now realizing the benefits of speedy satellite and cellular LTE connectivity.
When contemplating a business case for investment in new satellite and cellular communications technologies, operators must seriously consider their mission sets. Is investment in new antennas, satcom configuration modules, onboard network routers and the service that enables the use of speedier data rates on board really worth it? Several operator investments and vendor certification announcements in 2017 have shown that the connected helicopter is a concept with great potential.

Connected helicopter. The C150 Global Odyssey’s Bell Helicopter 429, with Honeywell’s Aspire 200 satellite communications system and GoDirect Cabin Connectivity.
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Sierra Nevada clears Dream Chaser test milestone

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced Jan. 5 that NASA has confirmed that the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle passed a key milestone during its November free flight test.
In a statement, SNC said that NASA concluded that the Nov. 11 free flight of the Dream Chaser engineering test article, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, met or exceeded all the requirements of the company’s last remaining funded milestone in its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) award from 2012.
During the flight test, the Dream Chaser was released from a helicopter at an altitude of about 3,750 meters and glided to an autonomous runway landing 60 seconds later, reaching a top speed of 530 kilometers per hour during its descent.

Dream Chaser landing
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How Satellite Can Predict Disease Outbreaks

Clever data mavericks have found a number of ways to leverage the information collected by satellites orbiting above, from calculating income growth profiles for agriculture to tracking the global oil stock. Now, scientists are figuring out how to use satellite data to predict outbreaks of diseases such as cholera weeks in advance.

Vibrio cholerae (cholera) bacteria as seen under electron microscope. Photo: Pixnio.
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SpaceX targeting late January for Falcon Heavy debut

SpaceX is now planning to attempt the first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket around the end of this month, the company’s chief executive said Jan. 4.
In a posting on the social media website Instagram that featured a video of the rocket, Elon Musk said the heavy-lift rocket would launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A after a static-fire test on the pad scheduled for next week.
“Hold-down test fire next week. Launch end of the month,” he wrote.

Falcon Heavy on pad
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ArianeGroup stands up GEOTracker service to watch geostationary arc

An internal research and development program using widely available telescopes has evolved into a space situational awareness business for ArianeGroup.
France’s Joint Space Command on Dec. 14 became ArianeGroup’s first customer for GEOTracker, a network of ground-based telescopes monitoring the geostationary arc some 36,000 kilometers above the Earth, the orbit where most large satellites reside.
December’s deal validated what ArianeGroup CEO Alain Charmeau described as an effort to simulate an entrepreneurial atmosphere inside the European space giant to create new products and services.

GEOtracker ArianeGroup SSA
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Report calls for ISS research transition plan and use of alternative platforms

With utilization of the International Space Station reaching a maximum, and with its long-term future uncertain, a recent report recommends that NASA develop transition plans and make use of alternative platforms, including commercial vehicles, to carry out critical microgravity research.
The midterm assessment of the 2011 decadal survey on life and physical sciences research at NASA, released by a committee of the National Academies Dec. 15, supported efforts by NASA to increase research on the ISS, but warned the agency needed to act soon to develop a transition plan for such research after 2024.

Credit: NASA
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