space

Eutelsat, freed by Paris court ruling, pays Russia’s RSCC long-due $424 million

eutelsat-36c-larger

PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat has paid its Russian counterpart, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RCSS) a long-overdue bill of more than 400 million euros ($424 million) despite an ongoing legal battle between the Russian government and the shareholders of the former Yukos oil company.

The payment followed a ruling by the Paris Court of Appeal concluding that RSCC should not be considered an arm of the Russian government and thus liable for the government’s debts.

Moscow-based RSCC and Eutelsat confirmed on Nov. 24 confirmed that the payment had been made, ending an uncomfortable chapter in the the fleet operators’ dealings. The Eutelsat and RSCC satellite fleets have overlapping coverage and the two companies have used each other’s capacity on occasion.

The former Yukos shareholders are continuing to battle in French courts for the right to seize payments by French companies to Russian government entities following an international arbitration body’s 2014 decision saying the Russian government illegally appropriated the Yukos assets and dissolved the company.

Among the Yukos shareholders left holding worthless Yukos equity were Hulley Enterprises Ltd. of Cyprus, which has devoted considerable energy to use French law to claw back some of the funds.

Still unresolved: Arianespace’s debt to Roscosmos for Soyuz rockets

The Nov. 23 Paris Appeals Court ruling has no effect on a parallel appeal dealing with around 300 million euros that launch service provider Arianespace, of Evry, France, owes to the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

Roscosmos is Arianespace’s counterparty to the contract under which Russian companies provide medium-lift Russian Soyuz rockets for use by Arianespace from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in French Guiana.

The Russian government on Oct. 21 sent formal warning to the French government that it wanted a resolution of the Roscosmos payment by March 2017 or it would take France to court for violation of a 1989 bilateral treaty. The warning included references to unspecified other Euro-Russian space projects, suggesting that these might suffer if the legal stalemate continued past March.

The letter, sent to the French prime minister’s office, said Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing network, now being assembled in space thanks to the Europeanized Soyuz vehicle, is an example of Russia’s assistance to Europe.

Hulley Enterprises had grouped together more than a dozen Russian entities, including RSCC and Roscosmos, arguing that for all intents and purposes they are part of the Russian government. As such they are legitimate targets for collection of Russian government debt.

RSCC countered that it operates its business as a private-sector company and does not distribute its cash to the government or seek government aid to pay the company’s debts.

An earlier Paris court had agreed with the RSCC argument but its judgment had come with an order that no money be disbursed until a further court ruling. The Nov. 23 decision by the Paris Court of Appeal included no such payment-suspension order, and Eutelsat apparently transferred the money the same day.

“The positive ruling was achieved thanks to professional efforts of RSCC specialists and French lawyers acting on behalf of RSCC,” RSCC said in a …read more

Bolden praises continued cooperation with Russia on ISS

Bolden

WASHINGTON — As he prepares to leave office, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that the agency’s relationship with its Russian counterpart remains strong despite continued, broader geopolitical tensions.

Speaking at a press conference in Russia Nov. 19 after the successful docking of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new crew members for the International Space Station, Bolden and Igor Komarov, head of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said they had discussed continued cooperation, including crew exchanges once NASA starts flying commercial crew vehicles designed to end its reliance on Soyuz vehicles for access to the station.

“We should each have a crew member on whatever vehicle is flying. The details for that still remain to be worked out,” Bolden said about continuing to fly NASA astronauts on Soyuz vehicles as Russian cosmonauts fly on commercial crew vehicles. “I do not expect that you’ll find an all-American vehicle or an all-Russian vehicle ever again.”

“I believe that it is very important for all participations of the program to have alternative transportation means to the station,” Komarov said, speaking through an interpreter. That meant, he said, flying Russian cosmonauts on U.S. commercial vehicles, with some NASA astronauts continuing to fly on Soyuz vehicles.

While NASA has been developing commercial crew vehicles for several years to end reliance on the Russian Soyuz for access to the station, NASA officials had previously discussed the possibility that astronauts would continue to use Soyuz while Russian cosmonauts flew on commercial vehicles. How those exchanges would take place, and whether any exchange of funds would be required, is not clear.

Bolden, in an interview after the press conference broadcast on NASA TV, said that the space station program has demonstrated the ability of the United States and Russia, along with other international partners, to cooperate on a complex project. “We on the International Space Station are a model for the rest of the world to follow,” he said.

That has continued despite, he acknowledged, problems on Earth. “The political and diplomatic changes and trauma that goes on down here on Earth, I think we can survive that,” he said. “As we have demonstrated, looking at incursions by one of our partners into other countries, that has not deterred or slowed work we have done on the International Space Station.”

While not explicitly stating it, Bolden was referring to the crisis between Russia and Ukraine triggered in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Although sanctions limited other space-related cooperation between the United States and Russia, operations of the International Space Station remained normal.

Bolden is nearing the end of his tenure as NASA administrator, and is expected to step down by the end of the Obama administration in January. In his NASA TV interview, he made clear he believed he was leaving on a high note. “The state of NASA today is strong,” he said. “It’s stronger than it’s ever been, I believe.”

At the press conference, which also features representatives of the European Space Agency and the French space agency CNES, Komarov mentioned an ongoing …read more

Thuraya joins Internet of Things industry group

Dubai John Karwoski Cityscape

WASHINGTON — Mobile satellite services operator Thuraya announced Nov. 21 that it is joining an industry group that develops standards for the “Internet of Things” (IoT), a market that has the potential to generate significant demand for satellite services in the coming years.

The Dubai-based company has become the second satellite operator to join the LoRa Alliance, a nonprofit that creates IoT standards. It follows Inmarsat, which became a member in February this year, helping the organization factor in the capabilities of satellite technology when creating new standards.

IoT is a somewhat misunderstood term used to describe networks of connected sensors and devices. As a market, IoT devices have become a frequently cited new opportunity for both terrestrial and space-based telecommunications providers. Tellingly, communications company Ericsson reported in June that it now expects IoT devices to eclipse mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018. Satellite operators, many of which provide backhaul services for cellular data, are eyeing IoT as a potentially lucrative new source of revenue, though many are not yet sure how to enter this market.

The LoRa Alliance believes satellite telecommunications companies can provide backhaul services for IoT devices using the organization’s LoRaWAN standard for connecting low power wide area (LPWA) networks. These networks are frequently used in rural or isolated areas often outside the reach of mobile network operators, thus creating an opportunity for satellite operators to fill the connectivity gap.

Users of the LoRaWAN specification can now connect their devices over Thuraya’s network. “Standardization generates volume, and the methodology and approach of the LoRa Alliance will help us develop long-term opportunities on a significant scale,” said Thuraya product manager Marwan Joudeh in a Nov. 21 statement.

Thuraya’s decision to join the organization comes as it is planning its next-generation satellite system, known as Futura. Thuraya is currently raising capital for the geostationary orbit system and expects IoT demand to shape its development.

Since forming in March 2015, the LoRa Alliance has grown its ranks to more than 400 members. Aside from Thuraya and Inmarsat, other notable members that provide satellite services and technology include Swisscom, du, and Globalsat Worldcom Group.

The LoRa Alliance’s LoRaWAN is one of many standards competing for dominance in the IoT market. Others include random phase multiple access (RPMA), ultra narrow band (UNB), and Sigfox, who is a customer of Eutelsat. Sigfox, based in Labege, France, closed a 150 million euro ($160 million) Series E funding round on Nov. 18 to fast-track the expansion of its network to soon reach global coverage.

SpaceNews.com

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ViaSat and O3b, now distant neighbors, eye confrontation in medium-Earth orbit

o3b_inclined_largest

PARIS — ViaSat Inc and SES-owned O3b Ltd., two satellite fleet operators providing commercial Ka-band broadband from different orbital vantage points, look to become direct competitors based on new satellite constellations both are proposing to U.S. regulators.

ViaSat wants augment its planned global network of three ViaSat-3 satellites in geostationary orbit, each with an advertised 1 terabit per second of throughput, with a constellation of 24 medium-Earth-orbit satellites operating in three orbital plans inclined at 87 degrees relative to the equator.

According to Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat’s Nov. 15 proposal to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the ViaSat constellation would be placed in circular orbit at 8,200 kilometers in altitude.

The system, which is registered in The Netherlands, would use both Ka- and the higher V-band frequency. ViaSat said it would seek a waiver of current FCC restrictions on the use of V-band spectrum by guaranteeing that it would not interfere with terrestrial wireless operators in the same frequency.

ViaSat also said it will not interfere with O3b’s network of medium-Earth-orbit satellites, operating in an unusual equatorial orbit but at the same 8,200-kilometer altitude as the ViaSat system.

ViaSat did not provide a cost estimate in its proposal but the FCC has said any system would need to be in service within six years of receipt of its U.S. license.

ViaSat is already building two of the planned three ViaSat-3 satellites, with launches planned for the end of this decade. Whether the company’s shareholders will accept the large investment in a constellation at the same time is unclear. ViaSat said that, once in orbit, its satellites would operate for 20 years.

The same day that ViaSat submitted its proposal, O3b asked the U.S. regulatory for a license to operate a network that adds new frequencies and a new orbit to the existing 12-satellite O3b network.

O3b wants three separate constellations

O3b, owned by Luxembourg-based SES, which has a 50-satellite fleet in geostationary orbit, is asking the FCC for three separate approvals. The first is an amendment to a previous modification to its network to permit the addition of eight new satellites into the same equatorial, 8,200-kilometer orbit. O3b now wants to add additional frequencies on four of those eight satellites.

The eight spacecraft are under construction at Thales Alenia Space of France Italy and are scheduled for launches, four at a time, on two Europeanized Russian Soyuz rockets operated by Europe’s Arianespace launch-service provider in 2017 and 2018.

A second request is that O3b be allowed to operate a constellation of up to 24 satellites, called O3bN, also in circular equatorial orbit, but using a wider range of Ka-band radio frequencies.

O3b’s third request is for a license to operate up to 16 satellites in inclined orbit and flying at an altitude of 8,062 kilometers and inclined 70 degrees relative to the equator. The constellation, called O3bI, would be deployed in two orbital planes of eight satellites each and would also use Ka-band.

O3b said that from its equatorial orbit its service is assured from between 63 degrees north and 63 degrees south …read more

Next-generation weather satellite launches to begin forecasting “revolution”

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches the advanced new GOES-R weather satellite into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.
Credit: United Launch Alliance
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches the advanced new GOES-R weather satellite into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Nov. 19, 2016.
Credit: United Launch Alliance

A powerful new satellite that will give forecasters their best-ever looks at storms and other severe weather has taken to the skies.

The GOES-R weather satellite lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Nov. 19 at 6:42 p.m. EST (2342 GMT), riding a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket to orbit. The spectacular launch, which lit up the Florida evening sky, occurred about one hour later than planned due to issues with the rocket and launch range that were swiftly resolved.

GOES-R is the first of four new advanced weather satellites that are, somewhat confusingly, collectively known as GOES-R. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages the GOES-R program, is expecting big things from all four of these spacecraft.

“Without a doubt, GOES-R will revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it,” Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Services division, said during a pre-launch news conference on Thursday (Nov. 17).

“For weather forecasters, GOES-R will be similar to going from a black-and-white TV to super-high-definition TV,” Volz added. “For the American public, that will mean faster, more accurate weather forecasts and warnings. That also will mean more lives saved and better environmental intelligence for state and local officials and all decision makers.”

Famed NBC Today Show weather man Al Roker, one of many TV meteorologists who attended the GOES satellite launch, agreed with Volz.

“What’s so exciting is that we’re going to be getting more data, more often, with much more detail and higher resolution,” Roker told NASA’s Stephanie Martin during live launch commentary today. The new GOES satellite will help improve not only weather forecasts but hurricane and tornado predictions as well, Roker added.

“If we can give people another 10, 15 or 20 minutes, we’re talking about lives being saved,” Roker said.

GOES-R is the 16th GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) craft to make it to space — and the satellite will be renamed GOES-16 when it reaches its final orbit, about two weeks from now. GOES satellites have been studying weather patterns from above for more than four decades; GOES-1 launched way back in October 1975. Two GOES craft, known as GOES-East and GOES-West based on their orbital positions, are doing this work now; a third GOES spacecraft is also aloft and serves as an on-orbit spare.

The GOES satellites operate from geostationary orbit, about 22,300 miles (35,890 kilometers) above Earth’s surface along the equator. At this altitude, their orbital speeds match the rotational speed of Earth, so the spacecraft can keep continuous tabs on the same stretch of land. In this case, that means the United States and much of the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

NOAA officials said that GOES-R’s six-instrument suite represents a …read more

Kilmer: Congress should collaborate with space industry on regulatory issues

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.). Credit: Port of Tacoma

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee and co-sponsor of space resources legislation that passed last year, said Nov. 17 he wants the government to do a better job collaborating with the space industry on making new regulations that affect the industry’s growth.

Speaking at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon, Kilmer emphasized the need for policymakers to take advantage of the fact that it is dealing with an industry that doesn’t automatically shun regulation.

“You’re very unique,” Kilmer said. “It’s very rare where I sit down with folks from an industry who say we want to plus-up the regulatory bodies who regulate us.”

Kilmer said it is important for government agencies, namely the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce, to get adequate funding to make regulations well suited for the industry. Earlier this year he, along with Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), secured a $1 million increase for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) in a House appropriations bill.

Kilmer said he wanted to continue a cooperative, rather than adversarial, approach to industry regulation. “I think when it comes to our regulatory agencies, there’s an opportunity to have an approach that’s done more with the industry rather than to the industry,” Kilmer said. “My hope is that there is a greater focus on that going forward.”

Kilmer’s interest in the industry is linked to a number of space companies based in his home state, including Blue Origin, Planetary Resources and Vulcan Aerospace. Kilmer co-sponsored legislation, incorporated into the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act signed into law one year ago, which gives U.S. companies rights to resources they obtain from asteroids or other celestial bodies.

In his speech, Kilmer listed several space policy priorities for Congress, including creating a civil authority for space situational awareness (SSA) data. He argued that it doesn’t make sense for the Department of Defense, which currently provides conjunction assessments and other SSA data through the Joint Space Operations Center, to “play space mediator.” He called for having FAA/AST handle this responsibility instead, a position that office itself has been advocating for several months.

Kilmer said he has heard from several companies that export control remains a challenge for them, despite reforms that removed many commercial satellites and related components from the control of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) in 2014.

“We should reconsider regulatory environments, including U.S. export controls, which really affect this industry and the profitability of this industry,” he said.

Kilmer had mixed perceptions of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. He said it is a positive that Trump’s administration has so far offered a consistent agenda around trying to empower the commercial sector. “When it comes to those rules, there may be an opportunity for being on the same page,” he said.

However, Kilmer voiced concern about Trump’s desire to cut government spending, and what that could mean for the country’s presence in space.

“Probably the biggest threat when it comes to funding …read more

“Standards and norms” needed in space, Pentagon experts say

Winston Beauchamp, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, talks with SpaceNews about the issues the Defense Department is studying this summer as part of the Space Portfolio Review, what the Pentagon has learned from a new joint space operations center with the intelligence community and the role of hosted payloads. Credit: SpaceNews video still

WASHINGTON — The international community needs to establish expected patterns of behavior in space, despite ongoing worldwide political tension, top Pentagon space experts said.

“There is an erosion of some of the commonly accepted standards and norms, and there’s concern about that as folks around the world have tried to find advantage, find seams,” said Winston Beauchamp, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space. “That’s part of the reason why we want to codify our norms and behavior in space because it is such an important domain, not just for us but for humanity.”

Speaking at a Nov. 17 summit hosted by the Defense One website, Beauchamp said that the danger of collision and debris in orbit means that nations must work together to avoid those risks, even if they have somewhat tense relations – such as between the U.S. and Russia or U.S. and China.

“We need to be able to operate in space both to advance our state of technology and eventually get the human race off this planet onto another planet,” he said. “We can’t do that if we have to try to fly through a shell of debris.”

Rear Adm. Brian Brown, head of the Navy Space Cadre, said that norms often develop overtime, and that the U.S. is leading on developing them.

“Much like the maritime laws that we have, they established over time by safe and responsible behaviors and patterns of life,” he said. “That is something we are pushing for in a lot of different areas, so we don’t have miscalculations in space.”

Because of the long-lasting effects that could come from destroyed satellites and the resulting debris, the U.S. military is taking a defensive mindset, said Brown, the deputy commander for the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at U.S. Strategic Command.

“Everything is about not having a war extend to space,” he said.

Even in peacetime, to avoid collisions the U.S. is warning satellite companies and other nations when there’s a risk of collision, Brown said.

“There are norms and behaviors that are already out there that the U.S. is leading on,” he said. “If you look at basic safety of flight things that we do today, there are specific standards for low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit where we provide conjunction warnings if two satellites ,or a satellite and a piece of debris, come within proximity.”

Were another nation to attack U.S. assets in space, Beauchamp said the Pentagon wouldn’t automatically respond in kind.

“It’s important to note that if something were to happen in space, our response wouldn’t necessarily be in space,” he said. “If someone were to do something, we would respond in a time and place of our choosing, primarily because we wouldn’t expect something to happen in space in isolation. It would be an extension of some conflict that would be occurring terrestrially.”

SpaceNews.com

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“Standards and norms” needed in space, Pentagon experts say

Winston Beauchamp, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, talks with SpaceNews about the issues the Defense Department is studying this summer as part of the Space Portfolio Review, what the Pentagon has learned from a new joint space operations center with the intelligence community and the role of hosted payloads. Credit: SpaceNews video still

WASHINGTON — The international community needs to establish expected patterns of behavior in space, despite ongoing worldwide political tension, top Pentagon space experts said.

“There is an erosion of some of the commonly accepted standards and norms, and there’s concern about that as folks around the world have tried to find advantage, find seams,” said Winston Beauchamp, the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space. “That’s part of the reason why we want to codify our norms and behavior in space because it is such an important domain, not just for us but for humanity.”

Speaking at a Nov. 17 summit hosted by the Defense One website, Beauchamp said that the danger of collision and debris in orbit means that nations must work together to avoid those risks, even if they have somewhat tense relations – such as between the U.S. and Russia or U.S. and China.

“We need to be able to operate in space both to advance our state of technology and eventually get the human race off this planet onto another planet,” he said. “We can’t do that if we have to try to fly through a shell of debris.”

Rear Adm. Brian Brown, head of the Navy Space Cadre, said that norms often develop overtime, and that the U.S. is leading on developing them.

“Much like the maritime laws that we have, they established over time by safe and responsible behaviors and patterns of life,” he said. “That is something we are pushing for in a lot of different areas, so we don’t have miscalculations in space.”

Because of the long-lasting effects that could come from destroyed satellites and the resulting debris, the U.S. military is taking a defensive mindset, said Brown, the deputy commander for the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at U.S. Strategic Command.

“Everything is about not having a war extend to space,” he said.

Even in peacetime, to avoid collisions the U.S. is warning satellite companies and other nations when there’s a risk of collision, Brown said.

“There are norms and behaviors that are already out there that the U.S. is leading on,” he said. “If you look at basic safety of flight things that we do today, there are specific standards for low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit where we provide conjunction warnings if two satellites ,or a satellite and a piece of debris, come within proximity.”

Were another nation to attack U.S. assets in space, Beauchamp said the Pentagon wouldn’t automatically respond in kind.

“It’s important to note that if something were to happen in space, our response wouldn’t necessarily be in space,” he said. “If someone were to do something, we would respond in a time and place of our choosing, primarily because we wouldn’t expect something to happen in space in isolation. It would be an extension of some conflict that would be occurring terrestrially.”

SpaceNews.com

…read more

Vector Space raises additional funds to support 2017 first launch

Vector-R rocket

WASHINGTON — Vector Space Systems said Nov. 18 that it has raised $1.25 million in funding to support development of its small launch vehicle, with a goal of a first launch by the end of next year.

The seed investment into the Tucson, Arizona-based company is led by Space Angels Network, a group of individual angel investors that make early-stage investments in space companies. While Space Angels Network has invested in a number of space startups, including Astrobotic Technology, Planetary Resources, and World View Enterprises, this is its first investment in a launch company.

“We see endless opportunity in Vector’s vision to build affordable and reliable launch vehicles for microsatellites and are committed to working with them to make that vision a reality,” Chad Anderson, chief executive of Space Angels Network, said in a statement.

The new round brings the total raised by the company to $2.25 million. The company also has Small Business Innovation Research contracts from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency valued at an additional $2.5 million to work on vehicle technologies.

“We are honored by the continued support of our existing angel investors and by this new infusion of capital from Space Angels Network,” Jim Cantrell, chief executive and co-founder of Vector Space, said in a statement. “This investment, by experienced space industry investors, helps to further validate the market and demand for a dedicated micro satellite launch vehicle.”

Cantrell said Vector Space plans to follow up this seed investment with a larger Series A round it expects to close in early 2017. The company declined to say how large the Series A round would be, but a company spokesperson said it would be enough to fund the company through the first launch of its Vector-R rocket, planned before the end of 2017.

The Vector-R is designed to place payloads weighing up to 60 kilograms into low Earth orbit. It’s one of a number of vehicles under development to serve a growing small satellite market that currently relies primarily on launches as secondary payloads on larger vehicles.

“Rideshare works. It’s helped the industry grow, so it’s not a bad thing,” Cantrell said during a panel Nov. 16 at the Spacecom conference in Houston. “But what we’re starting to see as the numbers of small satellites proliferate is a demand for tailored services.”

SpaceNews.com

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Bigelow calls on Trump to sharply increase NASA spending

Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, apparently had second thoughts about his first tweet. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

HOUSTON — Space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow said Nov. 17 that he believes that the Trump administration should as much as double NASA’s budget in the coming years and make plans for a human return to the moon.

Bigelow, the founder of commercial space habitat developer Bigelow Aerospace, argued in a speech at the Spacecom conference here Nov. 17 that such a dramatic, and arguably long-shot, increase in NASA funding was essential to the future of both the agency’s exploration efforts and business plans of commercial ventures, as well as affordable to the nation.

“I propose that NASA should have, beginning in fiscal year 2019, an annual budget equal to at least one percent of total yearly federal spending,” Bigelow said. The Obama administration, in its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, requested $19 billion for NASA, less than half a percent of the overall request of more than $4 trillion.

Part of the reason for the additional funding, he said, is to deal with inefficiencies with some of NASA’s programs. “It is no surprise that NASA needs a greater allowance just to offset the politics, much less what’s needed to really get going,” he said.

The increase would also be used to support more ambitious space exploration efforts by NASA, such as lunar exploration. “The new White House needs to make a real commitment to this nation’s space future,” he said, specifically citing lunar bases and industrial activity. “The reason I’m focusing on the moon is because the business case for the moon is potentially substantial compared to the business case for Mars, and the financial requirements are of no comparison.”

Bigelow said he believed the nation could afford that jump in NASA’s budget because he expects economic growth in the country overall to increase significantly after Trump takes office, although he did not elaborate on how he reached that conclusion. “With this increase, the United States can easily afford NASA’s one percent, and even more,” he said.

In comments after his talk, he said he hadn’t been in direct discussions with anyone on the Trump transition team about his proposal. He was also optimistic that the next administration could increase NASA’s budget despite dealing with competing priorities, such as infrastructure redevelopment. “If you have a growing economy, it lifts all boats,” he said.

Bigelow’s support of Trump — he called Trump’s election an early Christmas present for the country and for NASA — is not surprising. In January, Bigelow joined the social network Twitter and immediately expressed his support for Trump. “What this country needs is an inspirational space program. I’ll bet @realDonaldTrump could do it,” he tweeted.

Bigelow was not the only person at the conference to support significantly increasing NASA’s budget. “NASA receives a pittance of the federal budget,” said Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the House space subcommittee, in remarks delivered by video at the conference Nov. 15.

Babin, though, was not optimistic about a doubling or any other large increase for the agency. “As much as I would be thrilled to see NASA’s budget …read more

Commercial space industry seeks regulatory reforms in the Trump administration

An Orbital ATK Mission Extension Vehicle (left) approaches a commercial communications satellite. Credit: Orbital ATK illustration.

HOUSTON — The commercial space industry hopes the administration of President-elect Donald Trump pursues regulatory reforms and continues existing efforts to support its growth.

A panel at the Spacecom conference here Nov. 16 offered a wish list of issues they hope the next administration addresses in the next two years, largely following ongoing discussion on topics such as regulatory oversight of new commercial space activities and space traffic management.

George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, said a major issue for him was shifting space traffic management work from the U.S. Air Force to a civil agency such as his. “That would focus on enhancing the safety of space operations and preserving the space environment,” he said.

A recent report prepared by the Department of Transportation at the request of Congress concluded that it would be feasible to hand over safety-related space situational awareness work for non-military satellites to the FAA. The agency also held an industry day in October to discuss how that transition might take place, provided both the administration and Congress approved that shift.

Another current issue the industry hopes the new administration will take up is oversight of so-called “non-traditional” commercial space activities, such as lunar landers, satellite servicing and commercial space stations. The Outer Space Treaty requires the U.S. government to provide “authorization and continuing supervision” of space activities, but no agency has clear authority today to handle those non-traditional missions.

Jim Muncy of PoliSpace suggested the new administration take a light-touch approach to such oversight except in cases where those missions might interfere with other activities. “People who are launching satellite refurbishment or other things that are going to be in the busier areas of low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit should have a slightly more muscular” regulation, he said. “But if you’re going beyond Earth orbit, it could be just a registry.”

Others hope that regulatory reform, one overall policy there from the Trump campaign, is also applied to commercial space. “It is time to modernize and upgrade regulations” in areas like commercial remote sensing, said Courtney Stadd, who dealt with space policy at the White House and several agencies and now works for TIP Technologies.

Caryn Schenewerk, senior counsel and director of government affairs at SpaceX, agreed, saying that any effort to update regulations is a long-term process that should start sooner rather than later. “If we don’t start that process today, every day we don’t start it is a day longer that companies are trying to fit square pegs into round holes,” he said.

A related issue, she said, was ensuring FAA’s commercial space transportation office, whose budget is less than $20 million a year, has sufficient resources to oversee the industry without delaying launches and related activities. “I plan on spending some my time explaining to people in D.C. why Dr. Nield’s team needs increased resources to undertake these activities,” she said.

While some seek reforms and new initiatives, others want the new administration to maintain current efforts in other areas, such as …read more

Telesat prepares shareholder payday, outlines 117-satellite constellation

telesat_leo_3

PARIS — Canadian satellite fleet operator Telesat expects to raise more than $3 billion in several transactions in the coming weeks to payoff existing debt and to make a $400 million cash distribution to shareholders still at loggerheads over a Telesat IPO.

Ottawa-based Telesat said it expects to close on Nov. 17 an offering of $500 million in notes due in 2024 and carrying an interest rate of 8.875 percent.

The company also announced a new credit facility including a term loan of $2.43 billion, and a revolving credit line of $200 million. These funds are to be used to redeem $900 million in debt due in May of next year, and to fund the distribution to shareholders.

Telesat is one of the world’s top five commercial satellite operators when measured by revenue, with a fleet of 15 satellites, plus two more on order. The company is also launching in 2017 two small low-orbiting spacecraft to secure frequencies, and retire technical risks, associated with a global Ka-band constellation of satellites for internet connectivity.

A low-orbit constellation of at least 117 Ka-band satellites

Telesat is one of several companies planning internet constellations. How such a constellation, likely to cost several billion dollars, would be financed is unclear as the company’s two owners appear to disagree on a strategy.

Telesat’s low-Earth-orbit constellation was disclosed on Nov. 15 in a filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the filing, Telesat said its system would be comprised of at least 117 satellites in two orbits. A polar orbit, inclined at 99.5 degrees relative to the equator, would use at least 12 satellites in each of six orbital planes would operate at 1,000 kilometers in altitude.

The second, inclined orbit, 37.4 degrees relative to the equator at 1,248 kilometers in altitude, would include 45 satellites spread over five orbital planes.

In its FCC filing, Telesat stresses that it designed its combined polar-/inclined-orbit system, for which a patent is pending, with U.S. military users in mind. The orbital architecture also appears to be in line with the Canadian government’s proposed — but still not funded — Enhanced Satellite Constellation Project – Polar. This system requires continuous narrowband connectivity at 65-90 degrees north latitude, and wideband connectivity between 55 and 90 degrees north.

Shareholder stalemate continues

Telesat is owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York and Canada’s PSP Investments pension fund. Loral has a 62.7 percent economic ownership of Telesat but just 32.7 percent of the voting rights.

Loral and PSP several years ago agreed in principle to sell Telesat but their price floor was viewed as too high by the interested buyers.

Since then, Loral has sought an initial public offering of stock and in July 2015 exercised its rights under the Telesat shareholder agreement, calling for an IPO of a maximum of 25 million shares.

As part of the IPO process, Loral sought PSP agreement to terminate their existing shareholder agreement to permit Loral to transform its non-voting shares into voting shares. In this Loral-backed scenario, a post-IPO Telesat would find Loral with …read more

OHB, still growing, focused on German, European government hardware programs

160823_kuenstlerische_darstellung_des_heinrich-hertz-satelliten

PARIS — Satellite and rocket hardware builder OHB of Germany on Nov. 16 said delays in its supply chain had put pressure on its revenue in recent months but that the company’s full-year profitability would be unaffected.

Bremen-based OHB said that after several years of hesitation on the part of its German government customer, the company expects to receive the full development contract for Germany’s Heinrich Hertz telecommunications demonstration satellite by next spring.

Heinrich Hertz will use OHB’s SmallGeo satellite platform to test numerous telecommunications technologies for civil and military applications.

Heinrich Hertz satellite development contract early 2017

In a conference call with investors, OHB said it expected the Heinrich Hertz contract to be valued at around 300 million euros ($330 million). The company has already won a small contract to oversee development of the satellite’s diverse payload instruments.

The recent signing of a contract for full development of Europe’s future Ariane 6 heavy-lift rocket between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Safran Launchers is expected to yield a 300-million-euro contract to MT Aerospace of Augsburg, Germany, which is 70 percent owned by OHB.

MT Aerospace has already been awarded a 23-million-euro contract with the French space agency, CNES, to provide Ariane 6 launch pad components. CNES is managing the Ariane 6 launch installation under a separate contract with ESA.

The recent agreement between Italy and Germany to divide production of the Ariane 6 solid-fueled strap-on boosters, which also serve as the first stage of the Italian-led Vega small satellite launcher, will mean more work for MT Aerospace and more revenue from OHB. The subject was not brought up during the conference call, however.

OHB and Galileo: 14 down (assuming Nov. 17 launch), eight to go

OHB’s biggest ongoing contract is for the provision of 22 Galileo positioning, navigation and timing contracts to the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union.

After early delivery delays, Galileo satellite production at OHB is now on schedule.

Four OHB-built Galileo satellites are scheduled for launch Nov. 17 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. Once these are in operation, OHB will have eight more spacecraft to deliver under its contract. Five of these have already been sent to ESA’s Estec test facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands, and three others are in OHB’s final integration facility.

OHB is one of several companies bidding to win a third batch of Galileo spacecraft. Bids were submitted in July. ESA and the European Commission are expected to make a selection in the coming months.

OHB is prime contractor for the second generation of German radar reconnaissance satellites, called SARah, and has encountered no delays there, the company said.

Multiple issues at Dec. 1-2 ESA ministerial conference

OHB is awaiting several decisions by ESA governments expected during a Dec. 1-2 conference of European government ministers in Lucerne, Switzerland.

OHB Chief Executive Marco R. Fuchs said during the conference call that the company’s focus for the ESA conference will be on the Earth observation, science and telecommunications missions that ESA will decide, and well as on the final budget needed …read more

Babin backs Pence-led National Space Council

Pence

HOUSTON — The chairman of the House space subcommittee said Nov. 15 that he believes Vice President-elect Mike Pence would do a good job running a reconstituted National Space Council, a key element of the Trump campaign’s proposed space policy.

In a video address given at the Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or Spacecom, here, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) also endorsed other elements of the Trump space policy, including a greater focus on human spaceflight versus Earth science research.

Babin, whose Houston-area district includes NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said he met Pence during a campaign stop Oct. 31 in Cocoa, Florida. “I was very impressed with him, and I’m very pleased that he’s going to chair a newly-resurrected National Space Council,” he said of Pence. “This should give space the attention and focus that has been missing for far too many years.”

One element of the space policy outlined by the Trump campaign in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election was to recreate the National Space Council, which last operated during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. That council has been formally chaired by the vice president in the past.

Pence, in that Oct. 31 speech, outlined the elements of the campaign’s space policy, including restoring the National Space Council as well as a greater focus on human space exploration and increased use of public-private partnerships. “Our space program needs new leadership, and a new vision,” he said, adding he would work with people in Congress like Babin to implement those plans.

Pence, who spent 12 years in the House before being elected governor of Indiana in 2012, was not active on space issues during his time in Congress. From 2005 to 2007 he was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative members that offered proposals for reducing federal spending. Those proposals included, at the time Pence led the committee, cutting funding for human missions to the moon and Mars under President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration.

Babin, in his address at Spacecom, said he did not expect the next administration to provide major increases in funding to NASA. “As much as I would be thrilled to see NASA’s budget doubled, we have to be realistic, and ensure that the tax dollars we currently receive are focused on the right missions,” he said.

Babin said those “right missions” include work to achieve a long-term goal of human missions to Mars, “with a focus on the moon or cislunar [space] as an important step in that direction.” He also supported more partnerships with the private sector along those lines.

The Trump policy also calls for an emphasis on human space exploration at NASA in favor of research on climate change, a position aligned with Babin’s views. “The agency has gotten a bit distracted over the years with significant funding being siphoned off to support climate change research efforts,” he argued, noting that other agencies could handle that work instead. “NASA is the only federal agency that does human spaceflight, and …read more

UrtheCast takes $7.8M impairment charge on ISS-mounted cameras

UrtheCast Iris Camera ISS

WASHINGTON — UrtheCast said Nov. 10 it expects to record a $7.8 million impairment charge on two Earth-observing cameras attached to the Russian side of the International Space Station.

The Vancouver-based company said its was writing off some of the cameras’ value because of strained relations with their Russian hosts, who recently approached UrtheCast with a request to renegotiate their deal.

Russian cosmonauts installed two UrtheCast cameras on the exterior of space station in 2014. The medium-resolution camera, called Theia, captures 50-kilometer swaths of multispectral imagery sharp enough to discern features 5-meters across. The high-resolution camera, called Iris, records ultra-high-def-quality, full-color video of the Earth and still images at a resolution of one meter per pixel. Iris entered service only last year due to technical issues.

Wade Larson, UrtheCast’s co-founder and chief executive, told investors during a Nov. 10 conference call that tensions between Russia and the U.S. and its allies are spilling over into UrtheCast’s agreement with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and Russia’s lead space station contractor RSC Energia.

“There’s been some geopolitical challenges that have influenced this relationship and candidly … that has impacted our ability to task these cameras operationally,” Larson said.

Larson said UrtheCast’s Russian partners sent a letter indicating intent to renegotiate their agreement come 2017. That letter prompted the non-cash impairment on the cameras, though Larson admitted it was not much of a surprise.

“I think we all know that we’ve seen this coming in some way, shape or form,” he said.

While UrtheCast might have expected Russia to seek to reopen negotiations, the company doesn’t pretend to know what to expect when it sits down at the bargaining table. Larson said negotiations “could involve basically anything.” Among the potential outcomes Larson laid out for investors: an ongoing partnership, new licensing, a joint venture, or even selling off infrastructure on the station.

Russia’s relationship with Western countries has been shaky in recent years, and Larson said it is entirely unclear if Donald Trump becoming U.S. president in January will change that.

At one point UrtheCast’s business was more closely tied to these cameras, but Larson said now that the company has the Deimos-1 and 2 satellites it obtained through the purchase of Deimos Imaging from Elecnor in 2015, the station cameras now constitute a smaller amount of overall business.

Imagery from the Iris and Theia cameras are still in UrtheCast’s product offering, Larson said. He added that the cameras both still work, and that the company has sold some Iris video in recent months despite operational challenges.

Jeff Rath, UrtheCast’s executive vice president of corporate finance and strategy, said the cameras are still generating revenue. Given that UrtheCast now has multiple assets in space, he downplayed the significance of gaining Earth observation data from any one specific source.

“Increasingly, we are actually seeing that we are winning proposals on multiple levels, but with multiple sensors, so to the customer, it’s increasingly not significant which sensor. It’s really about us delivering a unique offering,” he …read more

Commercial space’s era of transition at the heart of SpaceCom

spacecom-presentation

WASHINGTON — It’s a time for transition for the commercial space industry, and not just because of a change of presidential administrations.

The second annual Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, or SpaceCom, convenes in Houston Nov. 15 for three days of discussions about future directions for companies and markets as new capabilities, from small satellites to commercial crew vehicles, get closer to entering service or find wider acceptance in the market.

The conference’s first day will take a broad look at the overall commercial space industry and prospects for growth. Panelists from the space industry as well as other industries that make use of space technologies will discuss the state of the commercial space and how close it may be to a “tipping point” that could greatly increase demand for, and investment in, space companies and technologies.

The conference’s second day Nov. 16 will examine in greater detail some of those emerging markets and applications. Parallel sessions will discuss the growth in “big data” applications in Earth observation, use of the International Space Station in general and microgravity research there in particular, other commercial applications of low Earth orbit, and even space resource utilization on the moon or asteroids.

As the inaugural SpaceCom did last year, other sessions Nov. 16 will examine the interplay between the space industry and other markets that can either make use of space capabilities, or offer technologies for use in space. Those sessions include discussions of space in materials science, climate research, natural resources and remote medicine.

Other panels that day will examine more underlying issues, like the use of commercial spaceports to support space ventures. Another timely panel will discuss public policy issues as the Trump administration — whose policy statements have indicated at least continued, if not enhanced, support for commercialization — prepares to take office.

The conference’s final day Nov. 17 looks at both markets and investment opportunities. Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, will discuss his company’s plans to develop commercial habitats in low Earth orbit, either as standalone space stations or attached to the ISS. Boeing Vice President John Elbon will also give a keynote, looking ahead to the human exploration of Mars, a topic discussed in other panels earlier in the conference.

SpaceCom will not be focused entirely on the near term. On Nov. 16, Dan Collins, chief operating officer of United Launch Alliance, will discuss his company’s “Cislunar 1000” 30-year plan to commercialization of cislunar space between the Earth and moon.

Collins will speak immediately after Pete Worden, the former director NASA’s Ames Research Center and current chairman of the Breakthough Prize Foundation, which is funding efforts like the Breakthrough Listen project to search for signals for alien civilizations. Worden will speak about his work promoting the space resources initiative in Luxembourg as well as new models for funding “high-risk” space initiatives.

SpaceNews.com

…read more

NASA awaits transition and budget details

fancyARRM

WASHINGTON — Nearly a week after Donald Trump was elected president, his campaign has yet to send a team to NASA to prepare for the upcoming transition in administrations, an agency official said Nov. 14.

Speaking at a meeting of a NASA advisory committee, Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for policy and plans in the human exploration and operations mission directorate, said the agency had not yet been informed by the Trump campaign’s transition team who the individuals are that will deal with NASA.

“The new administration has not yet named its transition team members that interface with NASA, so we don’t yet know who we’ll be talking to,” Williams told the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee, meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We are prepared to talk with them when they arrive.”

Sources said immediately after the Nov. 8 election that Mark Albrecht, the former executive secretary of the National Space Council during the administration of George H.W. Bush and, later, president of International Launch Services, would lead up the NASA transition efforts. However, there has been no formal announcement from the campaign about that selection, nor other names to work with him on NASA transition issues.

The Trump campaign has been slow to ramp up its transition efforts, in large part because of limited planning prior to the election. Much larger agencies have yet to meet transition teams that are typically in place within a few days after an election. At a Nov. 14 forum organized by The Atlantic magazine, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said he had not yet heard from the Trump transition team for the Defense Department, but expected them to arrive at the Pentagon this week.

Despite the uncertainty about what a Trump administration will do in space, Williams said at the advisory committee meeting that he hoped the next administration and next Congress would maintain the agency’s current exploration plans, collectively known as Journey to Mars. “We hope to be building on the consensus we’ve achieved on the phases of exploration, the progression of human exploration from the ISS all the way to the surface of Mars,” he said.

He added that NASA expects to know more in the next week about its budget for fiscal year 2017. The agency, along with the rest of the federal government, is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that funds programs at 2016 levels through Dec. 9. Congress reconvenes this week for a lame duck session whose top priority will be passing some kind of appropriations bill.

Williams said he did not know if Congress would be able to pass a full-fledged appropriations bill, perhaps in the form of an “omnibus” or “minibus” that combines several appropriations bills into a single package. If not, Congress could instead pass another short-term CR and allow the new Congress in January to take up appropriations bills. Another, but less likely, option is for Congress to pass a CR for all of fiscal year 2017.

At a Nov. 14 webinar on science policy …read more

WorldView-4 launches successfully after two-month fire delay

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket stands ready for launch early Friday morning, carrying DigitalGlobe's WorldView-4 advanced imaging satellite. Credit: ULA

WASHINGTON — After nearly two months of delay due to wildfires, United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas 5 rocket Nov. 11 carrying an important imaging satellite for DigitalGlobe.

The Atlas 5 lifted off at 1:30 p.m. Eastern from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying the Worldview-4 satellite. DigitalGlobe later confirmed that it received signals from the spacecraft 45 minutes after launch, confirming it was in good health after separation from the rocket’s upper stage.

“This morning’s Atlas 5 launch delivered the WorldView-4 satellite into near sun-synchronous orbit during a flawless flight,” Gary Wentz, ULA’s vice president of human and commercial services, said in a press release. “ULA is proud to have launched the entire constellation of DigitalGobe’s satellites and served in an essential role to get this revolutionary capability to orbit.”

The WorldView-4 launch had been scheduled for Sept. 18. Indeed, the countdown was already underway when it was halted due to a wildfire in the vicinity of the launch pad at Vandenberg.

It took weeks for firefighters to put out the blaze and then repair any damage that had been done. Although the rocket and payload itself were not damaged, ULA and DigitalGlobe delayed the launch to confirm that all systems were unaffected. DigitalGlobe said it used some of its satellites already in orbit to image the wildfire and share that information with firefighters.

“The 30th Mission Support Group, Operations Group, Launch Group, and many other units across the base have been working hard since the fire to get their systems back to a launch configuration,” said Capt. Sean Kelly, the Fourth Space Launch Squadron system infrastructure and facilities engineering chief at Vandenberg.

“Power lines had to be washed by the 30th [Civil Engineer Squadron], fiber paths had to be repaired or replaced by the 30th Space Communications Squadron, and we, the 30th [Launch Group, assessed the launch facilities and associated launch infrastructure, ensuring a safe and stable power and environmental condition for satellites and the Atlas 5 booster,” he added.

WorldView-4 is an advanced imaging satellite built by Lockheed Martin. According to DigitalGlobe, it can capture details with a resolution of 30 centimeters. It will operate in conjunction with WorldView-3, which has been in orbit for nearly three years.

In addition to WorldView-4, the Centaur upper-stage rocket carried 10 experimental cubesats from the National Reconnaissance Office, collectively named “Enterprise.” They include satellites to aid in climate change prediction, test out new forms of satellite propulsion, and determine the survivability of low-cost spacecraft.

SpaceNews.com

…read more

Trump’s defense priorities should give military space a boost — provided Congress goes along

Donald Trump delivers his victory speech on Election Night 2016. Credit: CSPAN

WASHINGTON — U.S. defense stocks rode Donald Trump’s unexpected victory to solid gains, a sign Wall Street thinks the president-elect will make good on his campaign promise to boost defense spending. Analysts say some of that increase, presumably, would find its way into military space programs.

While Trump did not say much about space on the campaign trail, his space policy advisers have flagged Chinese and Russian “military-focused space initiatives” as cause for concern.

Writing in SpaceNews, former U.S. congressman Robert Walker and Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, promised Trump would increase military space spending to “reduce our current vulnerabilities and assure that our military commands have the space tools they need.”

Trump in 2013 endorsed mandatory across-the-board spending cuts that took effect that year as a way to rein in government spending. The cuts, known as sequestration, remain in effect until 2021 unless repealed by Congress.

Trump has since said the defense cuts have gone too far and — supported by Republican hawks in Congress — is looking to pour renewed resources into the Pentagon.

In a September campaign speech in Philadelphia, Trump blamed President Barack Obama for “oversee[ing] deep cuts in our military, which only invite more aggression” from U.S. adversaries.

Trump hasn’t given many specifics, but has indicated he wants to put military spending back on a growth path.

So what does that mean for military space?

A lot will depend on who Trump appoints as his defense secretary and national security adviser, said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Among the names making the rounds for these posts are U.S. Sens. Jeff Session (R-Ala.) and Jim Talent (R-Mont.), former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn. Trump’s transition team for defense agencies is being led in part by Mira Ricardel, a former senior Defense Department official, who has spent the better part of the last 10 years working for Boeing’s Network and Space Systems and Strategic Missile and Defense Systems units.

Harrison said while Trump might want to undo sequestration, it won’t be easy.

“I think it is important to remember that the [Budget Control Act] budget caps are existing law,” Harrison said. “To increase spending for defense or non-defense, Congress has to pass a law altering the budget caps or reclassify funding as being war-related. Either way, these measures are going to have a hard time getting through the Senate and House with such narrow Republican majorities, especially given the number of fiscal hawks in the Republican caucus.”

That could “effectively limit whatever space ambitions the Trump administration will have for both civil and military space,” Harrison continued.

Brian Weeden, a former U.S. Air Force captain specializing in space surveillance, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a Boulder, Colorado-based think tank, said Trump hasn’t outlined his space policy thinking in much detail.

“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty on that question, just like everything else,” he said. “As far as …read more

NASA Administrator Bridenstine? His name’s in the mix for Trump’s space team

U.S. Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) discussed his American Space Renaissance Act during an industry breakfast at the Space Symposium in April 2016. Credit: Tom Kimmell

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a member of Congress active on a wide range of space issues, is being considered for key posts in the Trump administration, including NASA administrator.

Sources familiar with the transition planning for the Trump administration say that Bridenstine is being considered for both the NASA administrator post as well as Secretary of the Air Force. Bridenstine, in addition to being a member of Congress, serves in the Oklahoma Air National Guard after previously being a pilot in the U.S. Navy.

Bridenstine has been active on space issues since first being elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, serving on the House Science Committee and House Armed Services Committee. Those posts have given him a voice on both civil and national security space policy issues.

He is best known for the introduction in April of the American Space Renaissance Act, a comprehensive space policy bill that covered topics in national security, civil and commercial space. The bill was designed to provide what he called a “holistic” approach to space policy, rather that treating those topics separately.

“What we’re trying to do is to bring a lot of elements together and make sure that in the end, the technologies being advanced are relevant to all the different enterprises that exist,” he said in a SpaceNews interview prior to the introduction of the act.

The bill has not advanced in Congress since its introduction, but Bridenstine said from the beginning he did not expect the legislation to pass as a standalone bill. “This bill will serve as a repository for the best space reform ideas,” he said in a speech at the 31st Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in April. “Many of its policies can be inserted into other bills that will pass.”

In a Nov. 2 speech at a meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group in Columbia, Maryland, Bridenstine endorsed exploration of the moon by NASA, as well as regulatory changes to make it easier for commercial ventures to mount their own missions. He has supported a concept called “enhanced payload review,” modeled on the Federal Aviation Administration’s existing payload review process for commercial launch licenses, as a way to eliminate regulatory uncertainty about government oversight of non-traditional commercial space ventures.

“The United States of America is the only nation that can protect space for the free world and for responsible entities, and preserves space for generations to come,” he said in that speech. “This is our Sputnik moment. America must forever be the preeminent spacefaring nation, and the moon is our path to being so.”

While Bridenstine is seen as a rising star on space issues in Congress, his influence there may be limited. When first elected in 2012, he said he would serve no more than three terms, a pledge he reiterated during this year’s campaign for a third term.

Bridenstine originally backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for the Republican nomination for president. He switched to Trump when Cruz dropped out the race earlier this year.

Bridenstine remained a …read more

U.S. defense agency encourages allied nations to join unlimited-use Iridium program

iridium-emss

LONDON — The agency providing U.S. government access to Iridium’s global constellation of mobile communications satellites on Nov. 9 urged other nations to join the program to take advantage of its fixed-price, unlimited-access feature.

Clare Grason, who manages the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) program at the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, said allied nations are welcome to join the other “Five Eyes” nations — Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand — which have already joined the program as EMSS Fair Share members in addition to the United States.

“They have the same privileges as the U.S. Department of Defense,” Grason said at the Global Milsatcom conference here, organized by SMi Group.

“By that I mean they have unlimited access to the Iridium constellation through our gateway. Like Department of Defense agencies, they pay us a fixed rate. In return, they can add as many devices as they want to the network, provisioned by us.”

DISA, which is Iridium Communications’ biggest customer, is midway through a five-year, $400 million contract providing unlimited access to Iridium for U.S. government agencies that in turn pay DISA for the service.

Under the contract, all U.S. government communications are routed through the government-operated Iridium gateway in Hawaii. None of the traffic is routed through Iridium’s commercial gateway in Arizona or to the recently inaugurated gateway in Russia.

The Iridium constellation uses radio links to permit communications to be routed from satellite to satellite before landing at their destination without the need to touch down anywhere else.

The U.S. government, for security reasons, insisted on its own gateway. “Iridium has no insight into our usage trends, who are users are or where they are located,” she said.

Grason said 85,000 Iridium subscriber units have been activated under the contract, most for military users but about 15 percent for non-military U.S. government agencies.

The contract includes foreign nations’ access to Iridium insofar as these users are approved by DISA after clearing U.S. Foreign Military Sales approval.

“We charge our customers the same way Iridium charges us, on a fixed-prices basis,” Grason said. “Rates do not change no matter what the volume, so obviously maximum participation is encouraged.”

Government hardware not identical to commercial hardware

DISA has created firewalls that mean a government purchasing a commercial Iridium phone cannot simply apply the hardware to the DISA contract. For example, Iridium’s commercial push-to-talk feature, also called netted Iridium, is not usable on the DISA network.

Instead, government agencies seeking this feature must purchase equipment that can access the military version, called the Distributed Tactical Communications System.

The current range of this secure push-to-talk feature is about 160 kilometers, and up to 400 kilometers in certain cases. Grason said an upgrade is under way that will give this feature a global reach.

DISA customers must purchase secure Iridium handsets, which starting in mid-2017 will come with a new version of the Iridium Security Module and retail at about $4,000.

Equipment can be purchased directly through DISA or through a number of commercial Iridium value-added resellers.

DISA confident of signing new Iridium contract in …read more

NASA emphasizes importance of Earth science given concerns about budget cuts

CYGNSS

WASHINGTON — NASA used a briefing about the agency’s next Earth science mission to also emphasize the importance of that research in general, given concerns the next administration may seek to slash funding for it.

A Nov. 10 briefing at NASA Headquarters about the upcoming launch of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission featured an introduction by Thomas Zurbuchen, the new associate administrator for science, who talked not about the mission itself but about NASA’s Earth science work in general.

“NASA’s work on Earth science is making a difference in people’s lives all around the world every day,” he said. “Earth science helps save lives. It also helps grow companies and creates an awareness of environmental challenges that affect our lives today and tomorrow.”

While making no direct reference to politics, he made those comments less than 36 hours after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump’s space policy platform, which came into focus only in the final weeks of the campaign, called for reducing funding for Earth science in favor of exploration missions.

A space policy framework laid out by Robert Walker, a former congressman and the Trump campaign’s space policy adviser, at an Oct. 26 meeting of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) included plans to “redirect NASA budgets towards deep space achievements rather than Earth-centric climate change spending.”

“NASA should be focused primarily on deep space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” Walker and Peter Navarro, another campaign adviser, wrote in an Oct. 19 commentary, saying that NASA has been “reduced” since the Apollo era into an agency that focuses on space station operations and “politically correct environmental monitoring.”

That campaign position is shared by a number of Republican members of Congress, who in recent years have criticized what they believe is an overemphasis on Earth science work that could be done by other agencies.

“Since the end of the last administration, we have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated to the Earth science program, at the expense of, and in comparison to, exploration and space operations, planetary science, heliophysics, and astrophysics,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate space subcommittee and a former 2016 presidential candidate, in a March 2015 hearing about NASA’s budget.

Appropriators in the House in particular have sought to cut spending on NASA’s Earth science programs. In its fiscal year 2017 budget request, NASA sought $2.03 billion for Earth sciences, an increase of more than $100 million from what it received in 2016. While a Senate bill would provide NASA with nearly all that amount, House appropriators cut Earth science funding by nearly 20 percent in their bill. A final 2017 appropriations bill has not been passed by Congress, but could be taken up during a lame duck session that begins Nov. 14.

However, Congressional efforts to cut Earth science funding have been largely unsuccessful in recent years. Appropriations for Earth science …read more

NATO behind schedule on satellite capacity order, now hopes for 2017 decision

sicral-2

LONDON — The NATO alliance is so far behind schedule in contracting for next-generation satellite communications capacity that it now must consider extending its current contract beyond the scheduled end in 2019, a senior NATO official said Nov. 10.

The official, Gregory B. Edwards, director of infrastructure services at the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA), said the agency would prefer not to continue the current contract because it no longer satisfies NATO’s growing satellite bandwidth requirements.

Among other disadvantages, the contract that began in 2005 with Britain, France and Italy, which leases capacity on their national military satellites, does not include EHF-/Ka-band bandwidth, which will be central to NATO’s future satcom needs.

The current contract delivers UHF narrowband capacity, still in high demand by NATO; and SHF-/X-band links, which constitute the majority of the current bandwidth used by NATO.

The 28-nation NATO — to become 29 nations in 2017 with the accession of Montenegro — wants to add EHF bandwidth for highly protected services to provide higher-speed connectivity to smaller terminals.

With Luxembourg added, eight NATO nations have military satcom

Eight NATO nations either have or are building satellite capacity for military communications: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

All presumably would compete to lease capacity to the NATO alliance, either to generate revenue or to offset their other NATO obligations.

The newest member of the satellite providers club, Luxembourg, is building a military telecommunications satellite with commercial satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg expressly for that reason. GovSat-1 is scheduled for launch in 2017.

The Luxembourg-SES GovSat joint venture on Nov. 8 announced that it had won a contract to provide Ku-band satellite capacity from the current SES fleet for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance system even before its satellite is launched. The multi-year contract includes capacity-management services to support NATO Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles over the contract’s operational region.

NATO has been preparing for several years the contract to succeed the current agreement with Britain, France and Italy. The alliance secured from its governments a commitment of some 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for the period from 2020 to 2034, including 400 million euros for ground infrastructure, including ground terminals, modems and network control equipment.

But pulling the trigger on the contract has proved complicated and now will not occur before some time in 2017, which in long-term satellite-procurement terms is the 11th hour.

Addressing the Global Milsatcom conference here, organized by SMi Group, Edwards acknowledged the problem.

Many hurdles to clear before a NATO invitation to tender

“It all has to start before the end of 2019,” Edwards said. “Some would say NATO is already late. Our strategy is to commit to CP 130 in the first part of next year.”

CP 130 is the document that sets out NATO’s bandwidth, coverage and power requirements.

Also required is what NATO terms a Type-B Cost Estimate, which lays out the overall acquisition strategy and gives “all milsatcom-capable nations with suitable space programs and payloads a chance to contribute, and finds consensus for the procurement on the …read more

RigNet connecting fewer offshore rigs as energy market languishes

Oil rig energy

WASHINGTON — Oil-and-gas telecommunications service provider RigNet says more than 90 offshore rigs it helped link to land have shut down since late 2014, with more to follow as the energy sector continues to feel the global pressure of too much production.

Oversupply of fossil fuels has created a prolonged economic downturn in the energy sector — RigNet’s core market — forcing the Houston-based company to restructure and shed employees to cope with market conditions.

RigNet president and chief executive Stephen Pickett told investors Nov. 8 that number of customer rigs that will soon shut down grew by seven during the last quarter, bringing the two-year total to 102. The Houston, Texas-based company still provides telecom services to 194 offshore rigs, down from the 210 it served at mid-year.

RigNet relies extensively, though not exclusively, on satellites to provide communications services to the energy sector, using capacity from operators including Inmarsat, O3b and Optus. For the three months ended Sept. 30, the company reported revenues of $50.6 million, down $4.3 million from the previous quarter and $15.7 million year over year.

As a result of market conditions, RigNet embarked on a restructuring program in July to reduce its headcount by 12 percent and shrink operating costs by $3.5 million. Pickett said the company should complete its restructuring e complete by the end of the year.

Excluding rigs under construction, shuttered, or operating in countries subject to U.S. sanctions, RigNet estimates it serves 27.5 percent of the total addressable market, down two percent from the previous quarter. Pickett said this decline stems principally from “rig-stacking,” or the closing of rig activities, and the addition of rigs by state-owned entities. The company tallied a net decline of 16 offshore rigs during its third quarter.

Facing a now multiyear enervated market, RigNet has begun diversifying its customer base beyond just the energy sector into markets where connectivity needs are largely similar, namely maritime and mining. Pickett said RigNet is targeting maritime customers not necessarily tied to drilling activity.

“Our work to organically grow our business in maritime and in the mining market have resulted in new orders valued at approximately $200,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) just this quarter,” he said.

Chip Schneider, RigNet’s chief financial officer, said that mining hasn’t had a material impact on the company’s financial results yet, but the company’s sales team is making progress lining up business.

Other new revenue-generating steps include regularly offering new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions previously done only as one-off engagements, and providing cybersecurity solutions.

RigNet is seeking to reduce its cost by, for example, streamlining network operations centers and reducing fixed network costs. It has also sharply reduced capital expenditures, spending $1.9 million last quarter, down from the $4.7 million in spent during the second quarter.

Pickett said RigNet isn’t finished wringing out savings.

“We do see the potential to address costs in our fixed network as well as staffing. There continue to be efficiences we can harvest from the realignment of our …read more

Canada says military satcom negotiations with U.S. are much improved

GG01-2016-0141-009 April 29, 2016 Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Canada.  Lieutenant-Colonel Abderrahim Bellahnid, M.S.M., C.D.  His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presented Meritorious Service Decorations (Military Division) and Bravery Decorations to members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and allied forces at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, on Friday, April 29, 2016.  On this occasion, the Governor General presented 5 Meritorious Service Crosses (Military Division) and 18 Meritorious Service Medals (Military Division) to individuals whose specific achievements have brought honour to the CAF and to Canada. He also presented 1 Medal of Bravery to a CAF member who has performed an act of bravery in hazardous circumstances.  His Excellency presents the Meritorious Service Medal (Military Division) to Lieutenant-Colonel Abderrahim Bellahnid, M.S.M., C.D.  Credit: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall, OSGG

LONDON — The Canadian official who negotiated Canada’s entry into the U.S. Wideband Global System (WGS) on Nov. 10 said the U.S. Defense Department has become much more open to international partnerships than it used to be.

Lt. Col. Abde Bellahnid, whose work on WGS was recognized by a meritorious service award from the Canadian government, said his U.S. counterparts have become increasingly willing to take allied opinions into account.

He said he was particularly impressed by the U.S. Defense Department’s willingness to allow allies a seat at the table as the Pentagon evaluates next-generation satellite communications requirements and the future involvement of the commercial sector and U.S. allies. The process, known as an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), has included an invitation to 16 allies to take part.

Canada is one of them.

“I have been doing this job for eight years, that’s a lot,” Bellahnid said here during the Global Milsatcom conference, organized by SMi Group. “I can tell you that the U.S. team has improved. They are doing extremely well. They are listening to us. Take the example of the participation of the allies in the AoA. We are sitting at the table and making decisions and making recommendations. Just the fact that we have been invited into the AoA is amazing.

“It’s not just that I have been working with them for so many years. They are listening. There has been a lot of improvement,” Bellahnid said.

The half-dozen nations participating in the WGS system, which by 2018 will include 10 satellites in geostationary orbit, have not always been unanimous in their praise of the system.

They have notably complained that while, in principle, having access to a global constellation for a fraction of the cost is a good deal, in practice the bandwidth available to them over a given geographic area at a given time is not aways assured because the capacity had been reserved by U.S. forces.

Bellahnid did not mention any of these issues. He has long said that Canada got access to an $11 billion constellation for about a half-billion dollars; a good deal by any measure especially considering what Canada’s alternative sources of military Ka-band capacity would have cost.

A four-nation polar satcom system, but with Canada leading

Bellahnid may be transferring to another service in mid-2017. Before he leaves he said he would attempt to carry forward the four-nation Enhanced Satellite Communications Project- Polar (ESCP).

Canada is leading the early studies of the project, with the United States, Denmark and Norway as partners. ESCP would require more than one satellite, perhaps in an elliptical orbit, to provide narrowband communications between 65 degrees and 90 degrees north latitude; and wideband coverage between 55 and 90 degrees north latitude.

The system would be interoperable with U.S. and NATO systems in geostationary orbit over the equator.

But its high cost makes it challenging. “ESCP is still not funded,” Bellahnid said. “We have been working on the business case for over a year now. We hope to have a proposed business case finished within six months.”

Being studied …read more

U.S. defense officials say partnership with allied satcom systems is a priority

WGS-7 on Delta 4

LONDON — U.S. Air Force satellite communications experts on Nov. 9 deployed to London to persuade an international audience that the U.S. Defense Department, despite a painful slowness, is making progress on bringing international partners into the design and operation of military telecommunications satellites.

Deanna Ryals, chief of the international military satellite communication division at the U.S. Air Force’s MilSatCom Systems Directorate, said the U.S. Defense Department fully understands that when it says it wants “resilience” as a feature in its assets, international partnerships are part of the equation.

Ryals: Military + commercial + allies = improved resilience

Addressing the Global Milsatcom conference here organized by SMi Group, Ryals said the 10th Schriever Wargame 2016 exercise at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, this year, run by the U.S. Air Force Space Command, concluded that supply diversity improves resilience.

“If we can move between our own milsatcom capabilities, commercial capabilities and allied capabilities, it makes it difficult for our adversaries to know where we are,” Ryals said.

She said a half-dozen allied nations participated in this year’s exercise.

In another example of U.S. willingness to engage internationally, she said the U.S. Defense Department has sent letters to 16 allied governments asking them to take part in the Wideband Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) being prepared to assess how the U.S. military will address an expected shortfall in wideband capacity.

The study is looking at both ground terminal and gateway technologies as well as the satellite segment.

Ryals said around half of these governments had responded positively to the invitation, while the others had asked for further information before confirming they would take part.

As expected, Ryals stepped gingerly around the elephant in the room here Nov. 9, which was the policy implications of the election of Donald J. Trump as U.S. president. She said she could only presume that the logic of international collaboration was so strong that the current U.S. policy favoring it would not be changed.

Antony Allen Vraa, wideband satcom subject matter expert for the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the shortfall in wideband capacity was already showing up.

Military commercial demand declining but still $1 billion a year

Vraa said the U.S. Department of Defense in fiscal-year 2012 leased some $1.16 billion in commercial satellite communications capacity. That is down from previous years with the shrinking U.S. military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, but even today the annual purchase remains high.

Vraa said bandwidth requirements, notably for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, is expected to increase by at lest 68 percent between 2016 and 2025.

That will help drive a total wideband requirement from 19 gigabits per second in 2016 to an estimated 32 gigabits per second in 2025 — “and that doesn’t even include about 3 gigabits that is in protected satcom that should be in wideband,” Vraa said. “So we have a huge gap. We’re actually running at the red line right now. We’re going to reach that gap much sooner.”

Funding for commercial capacity during that period remains uncertain with the likely shrinking of the …read more

EchoStar 19 reaches Cape Canaveral for mid-December Atlas 5 launch

Echostar 19/Jupiter 2 — which reached Cape Canaveral Nov. 4 — is a Ka-band satellite that will use high-throughput spot beams to provide consumer broadband under the HughesNet brand. Credit: SSL

WASHINGTON — Hughes’ latest high-throughput satellite, Echostar 19, reached Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last week in preparation for a Dec. 16 launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket.

Echostar, the parent company of Hughes, switched launch providers last year after it became evident that the satellite, also known as Jupiter 2, would be too large to launch as a co-passenger on an Ariane 5 rocket as originally planned.

Echostar 19/Jupiter 2 — which reached Cape Canaveral Nov. 4 — is a Ka-band satellite that will use high-throughput spot beams to provide consumer broadband under the HughesNet brand. Credit: SSL

Echostar 19/Jupiter 2 — which reached Cape Canaveral Nov. 4 — is a Ka-band satellite that will use high-throughput spot beams to provide consumer broadband under the HughesNet brand. The satellite will join Echostar 17/Jupiter 1, launched in July 2012, and Spaceway 3, launched in 2007 — both on Ariane 5s — providing deeper coverage of North America. Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California, built both satellites.

Once in orbit and providing service, Echostar 19/Jupiter 2 will enable Hughes of Germantown, Maryland, to grow its currently constrained satellite consumer broadband business, which has almost completely run out of marketable capacity in North America.

“EchoStar 19 will provide us with added capacity to meet the burgeoning demand for HughesNet high-speed satellite Internet service and we look forward to next month’s launch with great anticipation,” Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes, said in a Nov. 7 press release.

Denver-based United Launch Alliance, which has performed eight launches this year, will conduct the Echostar mission under a contract Echostar booked through Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services.

United Launch Alliance has three other missions in the queue before EchoStar 19/Jupiter 2, including the commercial launch of DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 4, slated for Nov. 11. Two other missions, the Atlas 5 launch of NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) and the Delta 4 launch of the U.S. Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom 8 (WGS-8) satellite, also precede EchoStar 19/Jupiter 2.

EchoStar 19/Jupiter 2 is the ninth GEO satellite Space Systems Loral has shipped this year for launch. Barring delays, the satellite manufacturer is on course to see a record 13 of its GEO spacecraft launched this year, which along with four low-Earth orbit smallsats for Google-owned Terra Bella, would bring the total number to 17 spacecraft produced and orbited by year’s end.

SpaceNews.com

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Kratos enlists in STRATCOM’s RF interference fight

Kratos' current network of RF monitoring and interference detection sensors and geolocation systems. Credit: Kratos

New contract by U.S. Strategic Command’s space organization shows the U.S. military’s attention to a growing problem for government and commercial satellite operators: radio-frequency interference.

On Oct. 24, the Joint Functional Component Command for Space awarded Kratos Defense and Security Solutions of San Diego a $6.2-million contract to expand its satellite radio-frequency monitoring service to cover all the commercial Ku-band and C-band communications bandwidth U.S. military combatant commands lease in addition to helping the military pinpoint the cause of X-band interference in specific locations. Currently, Kratos monitors radio-frequency signals, detects interference, and finds the culprit for U.S. Central Command and Pacific Command. Under the new contract, Kratos will provide similar services for the U.S. European, Africa, Northern and Southern Commands.

Every discussion of space situational awareness begins with a definition. For many government and commercial satellite operators, the term refers to anything that can degrade or disrupt service, including radio-frequency interference, a problem that is growing due to increasingly congested orbits and the popularity of high- throughput satellites capable of communicating with very-small-aperture terminals.

“All these things lead to increased opportunities for interference, so understanding your radio frequency environment and managing it becomes critical,” said Stuart Daughtridge, vice president for advanced technology at Kratos Defense and Security Solutions of San Diego.

High-throughput satellites concentrate their transmissions through powerful spot beams designed to communicate with small and mobile antennas on the ground. “As a result, when something is off pointed, or a piece of equipment is broken and putting out a signal at the wrong frequency, the interference challenge is that much greater,” Daughtridge said.

Another interference problem stems from changes in the way ground terminals are being installed. Small, inexpensive ground antennas often are installed around the world by technicians without extensive training. “As a result, you have more installation problems that result in interference,” Daughtridge said.

To address the changing radio frequency environment, Kratos is turning to data analysis. “We analyze trends, indications and warning to predict where you are going to have more problems and when you are not,” Daughtridge said.

Kratos operates a global network of sensors to monitor radio frequency signals, detect interference and geolocate the cause of the interference for government and commercial customers. As a result of the new contract with the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, Kratos plans to install seven new monitoring sites, housing more than 60 antennas to focus on more than 50 satellites.

SpaceNews.com

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Canadian Forces seeks bids for portable Wideband Global Satcom terminals

WGS satellites Air Force

VICTORIA, British Columbia – The Canadian military will buy portable satellite communications terminals to allow its commanders on overseas mission to make use of the U.S. Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military satellite communications system.

The Canadian Forces wants to buy three types of strategic deployable terminals, Royal Canadian Air Force spokesman Maj. Scott Spurr said.

WGS satellites. Credit: Boeing

One type would be capable of being operated by an individual and would be small enough to be able to be transported as carry-on luggage on an aircraft. A second type would be the size of check-in luggage, and have an increased ability to transmit information to the digital battlefield.

The third type, called the Heavy Strategic Deployable Terminal, would be able to provide a deployable very high data throughput capability and would be operated by a small team at headquarters level.

Spurr said the terminals will allow the Canadian Forces to deliver voice, image and data between deployed headquarters and commanders back in Canada. “The participants on these missions, at home and abroad, greatly benefit from this robust, high bandwidth satellite communications system,” he added.

Interested companies have until Dec. 8 to submit their bids.

The Canadian military has set aside up to 20 million Canadian dollars ($15 million) for the project to acquire the deployable terminals.

Canada announced in late 2011 it was joining the WGS program, contributing $337 million for construction of the ninth satellite as well as operational support costs. Canada is investing as part of a consortium that includes four other countries, all of which will gain access to the system in proportion to their individual contributions: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In exchange for its financial contribution, the Canadian Forces will have access to the Wideband Global Satellite system until 2031.

The Canadian military has already been using the WGS network through interim satellite ground terminals or through allied systems. That use began in May 2012.

In addition it is spending another $59 million to construct three anchor stations in Canada for the WGS system. In 2014 General Dynamics Canada Ltd. of Ottawa, Ontario was awarded the contact to build those stations. The anchor stations will allow communication with the Wideband Global satellite constellation and link that to the existing Canadian Forces communications infrastructure.

Spurr said the strategic deployable terminals to be purchased would provide seamless interoperability via the Wideband Global satellites to the anchor stations as well as allied WGS-certified stations.

The Canadian military was spending approximately $25 million per year on satellite communications capacity acquired from commercial operators. The cost to maintain that status quo was expected to increase significantly during the next 20 years, according to military officers.

The Canadian government has said it decided to take part in WGS because its military needed assured access to satellite communications instead of relying on commercial capacity. In addition, participation in WGS is cheaper than using commercial services, government officials added.

The Canadian Forces spends approximately $25 million per year on its satcom requirements, which are achieved through the as-required lease of commercial …read more

ViaSat reports big airline connectivity order and robust government growth

viasat_5-yr_larger

LONDON — Satellite broadband hardware and services provider ViaSat Inc. on Nov. 8 said it had contracted with a U.S.-based commercial airline to retrofit more than 500 aircraft with ViaSat’s Ka-band airline connectivity system.

In a conference call with investors, ViaSat Chief Executive Mark D. Dankberg declined to disclose the customer’s identity, saying the airline would make an announcement in short order.

ViaSat President Richard A. Baldridge said installations would begin in mid-2017 and would occur over a period of about 18 months.

Southwest Airlines, or someone else?

Speculation was rife in the hours after the announcement about what customer — American Airlines and Southwest Airlines were mentioned as possibilities — had delivered such a sizable endorsement to ViaSat, and which ViaSat competitor — Gogo or Global Eagle Entertainment — might be affected by the decision.

The order will about double the fleet of aircraft using ViaSat’s Exede in the Air WiFi system. The company said that as of Sept. 30, it had 533 aircraft in service using ViaSat’s system. Including the 500-aircraft order from the undisclosed customer, ViaSat said it had booked orders for 650 aircraft since Sept. 30.

Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat’s consumer and commercial airline broadband satellite networks have been perhaps the most dynamic of the company’s businesses. But ViaSat’s sale of broadband mobility hardware and services to the U.S. government has also shown remarkable growth.

Double-digit growth in government revenue, led by broadband mobility

ViaSat’s Government Systems division reported revenue of $323 million for the three months ending Sept. 30, up 10 percent from the same period a year ago. New orders during the period totaled $517 million, up 45 percent.

Dankberg said that hardware for tactical radio links and secure communications networks played a role in the growth but that mobile broadband is the division’s real growth engine.

Consumer subscriber count down, but monthly revenue up

ViaSat’s consumer satellite broadband service in the United States lost 10,000 net subscribers in the three months ending Sept. 30, ending at 686,000, in part because capacity on the company’s ViaSat-1 satellite has filled up in high-demand regions of the United States.

But per-subscriber revenue, at $61.55 per month, was up 9 percent from a year ago, continuing a steady growth over the past year as ViaSat introduced higher-speed subscription plans to consumers ready to pay more for more bandwidth.

In the five years since the launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite, ViaSat said its average monthly subscriber revenue had increased by an average of 7 percent per year.

The ViaSat-2 satellite, much bigger than ViaSat-1 and intended to return the consumer service to growth, is scheduled for launch between late March and April aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

After some two months of in-orbit checkout, service is scheduled to start by next summer.

ViaSat’s ViaSat-3 system is intended to provide 1 terabit per second of bandwidth. ViaSat has ordered two ViaSat-3 platforms from Boeing but, in a departure from past practice, is developing the payloads itself.

ViaSat-3: global ambitions, but only 2 satellites for now

The company said a preliminary design review of ViaSat-3 was scheduled to …read more

What a Trump administration means for space

donald_trump_signs_the_pledge_18

WASHINGTON — A space policy of the administration of President-elect Donald Trump is likely to focus more on human spaceflight, technology development and commercialization, and less on Earth science.

Trump, the Republican nominee, claimed victory in a speech in New York shortly before 3 a.m. Eastern Nov. 9, after the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called to concede. The outcome shocked many, given polls generally projected a modest but clear Clinton victory.

For most of his campaign, which formally started in June 2015, Trump said little about space, and offered only terse responses to questions about his positions on civil or military space issues. In the final weeks before the election, though, the campaign took space more seriously, bringing on Robert Walker, a former congressman, as its space policy advisor.

“I’ve been that for about two weeks,” Walker said of his advisory position in comments at an Oct. 26 meeting of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) here. “I think the campaign figured out, at one point there, that they actually did need a space policy.”

Walker said he developed a policy that, at the request of the the Trump campaign, offered “real change” in space. “I would describe what we came up with in four terms: it’s visionary, it’s disruptive, it’s coordinating and it’s resilient.”

He further described the campaign’s space framework by listing nine key aspects of its proposed implementation:

1. A “commitment to global space leadership” that Walker said would produce the “technology, security and jobs” needed for the United States in the 21st century.

2. A reinstitution of the National Space Council, headed by the vice president, to oversee all government space efforts to seek efficiencies and eliminate redundancies. The council was last in operation during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.

3. A goal of “human exploration of the solar system by the end of the century,” which Walker said would serve as a “stretch goal” to drive technology developments to a stronger degree than simply a goal of humans to Mars.

4. Shifting NASA budgets to “deep space achievements” rather than Earth science and climate research. Walker said that some, unspecified NASA Earth science missions might be better handled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but “there would have to be some budget adjustments” to transfer those missions from NASA to NOAA.

5. Development of small satellite technologies that in particular can provide resiliency for the military, and also develop satellite servicing technologies.

6. Seek world leadership in hypersonics technology, including for military applications.

7. Hand over access to and operations in low Earth orbit to the commercial sector.

8. Start discussions about including more “private and public partners” in operations and financing of the International Space Station, including extending the station’s lifetime. Walker also left open the possibility of including China as one of those new partners.

9. Require that all federal agencies develop plans for how they would use “space assets and space developments” to carry out their missions.

One issue that Walker did not directly raise in his …read more

NASA seeks to purchase Earth science data from smallsats

Planet Labs Doves ISS

WASHINGTON — NASA is planning to purchase tens of millions of dollars of Earth science data from constellations of small satellites in 2017 to determine how well that data can meet its needs.

At a Nov. 7 media briefing about NASA’s efforts to use small satellites to serve Earth science needs, Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth science division, said that the agency was awaiting the outcome of the agency’s fiscal year 2017 budget request before moving ahead with plans to purchase data from companies operating smallsat constellations.

“If it’s funded by Congress, NASA intends to allocate several tens of millions of dollars to purchase and evaluate the research utility of data products from private sector developed and private sector launched small satellite constellations,” he said.

The effort was included in NASA’s 2017 budget request in February as the Small Satellite Constellation Initiative, with a request for $30 million. NASA said at the time that the initiative could include a variety of activities, including validating technology for use on smallsats and fostering commercial launch services for smallsats, but the budget request did not explicitly include data purchases.

In July, however, NASA issued a request for information (RFI) stating that the agency was considering data purchases from smallsat systems for use by NASA-funded scientists and the general public. “NASA is considering the feasibility of purchasing from the private sector, and evaluating, small-satellite data products that might augment or in the future even replace NASA-collected data,” the RFI stated.

“We put out this summer a request for information that had strong response from many different private sector companies,” Freilich said.

He did not disclose which companies responded, but the RFI stated that NASA was particularly interested in “global, high-quality atmospheric profiling” data provided through GPS radio occultation measurements, as well as “moderate resolution, multi-spectral land imaging information.” Several companies, including GeoOptics, PlanetiQ and Spire, are developing smallsat constellation to provide GPS radio occultation data, while Planet operates dozens of smallsats that provide medium-resolution imagery.

Freilich said that the data purchases under this program would be demonstrations to see how useful they are, with no commitment to make continued use of the data either to augment or replace its own satellites. Various issues about their use, he said, “are the sorts of things we intend to spend the next year or so, if appropriated, working out with the private sector.”

He didn’t give additional details about their plans, but the RFI stated that NASA anticipates awarding up to $25 million in two or more data purchase agreements that it would award by the end of fiscal year 2017. That amount is consistent with the “Harnessing the Smallsat Revolution Initiative” announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Oct. 21, which also stated that the $25 million would go towards data purchases from smallsats, such as moderate-resolution land imaging and radio occultation data.

Freilich said that it was the goal of the initiative to make use of data also available to other customers, rather than request customized data. “Our objective …read more

Microsoft frags Globalstar’s TLPS Wi-Fi plan over Xbox interference claim

Microsoft submitted a study to the FCC showing TLPS signals can disrupt the connection between wireless controllers and the company's Xbox 360S game console, which was introduced in 2010 and discontinued earlier this year. Credit: Microsoft

WASHINGTON — Mobile satellite-service provider Globalstar is still trying to convince the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to let it convert a portion of its satellite spectrum into a terrestrial Wi-Fi network. However, the proposal was dealt another setback when Microsoft complained to the FCC last month that Globalstar’s so-called Terrestrial Lower Power Solution could create interference problems for the Xbox 360S gaming console.

Globalstar has sought since 2012 to create a new Wi-Fi service using a 22 MHz-wide swath of spectrum known as Channel 14, located at 2.4 GHz. The company has said opening up this spectrum for its TLPS service could provide more capacity for congested public wireless networks.

In 2015, Globalstar successfully demonstrated the service to the FCC, and has since performed other demonstrations of the service, including providing internet connectivity to a Washington school last year. The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, a Washington non-profit focused on improving broadband, has supported TLPS.

While having supporters, Globalstar has run into significant opposition to TLPS from the cable television industry’s CableLabs, the Consumer Electronics Association, mobile satellite-service competitor Iridium Communications, and others. Most recently, Microsoft submitted a study to the FCC showing TLPS signals can disrupt the connection between wireless controllers and the company’s Xbox 360S game console, which was introduced in 2010 and discontinued earlier this year.

Globalstar has sought since 2012 to create a new Wi-Fi service using a 22 MHz-wide swath of spectrum known as Channel 14, located at 2.4 GHz. The company has said opening up this spectrum for its TLPS service could provide more capacity for congested public wireless networks. Credit: Globalstar

Following the study, video-game-console makers Sony and Nintendo echoed Microsoft’s concerns, stating through the Entertainment Software Association that TLPS is “likely to have a profound negative impact on consumers’ use and enjoyment of video game consoles by interfering with communication signals between the controller and the game console.” The companies further claimed that “TLPS could also cause significant harm to other consumer uses of the 2.4 GHz band, including hearing aids with Bluetooth and similar wireless features.”

In response to Microsoft’s claims, Globalstar filed a brief with the FCC that accuses Microsoft of using “flawed methodology” to reach its interference conclusions.

“The opposition’s methodology included an extreme test setup and technical parameters that would never occur in any real world deployment” Globalstar Chief Executive Jay Monroe told investors during a Nov. 3 conference call. “On the contrary, when interference testing is conducted using accurate real world designs as we did and [as] we submitted in our Ex Parte, [coexistence] has been confirmed in multiple tests and various environments in the past, which are also on the record.”

In Globalstar’s filing, submitted to the FCC Oct. 14, the satellite operator claims that Microsoft’s tests “appear to have been expressly designed to generate such harmful effects.” Globalstar described Microsoft’s test environment, arrangement of equipment, and choice of operating parameters as highly unrealistic and unrepresentative of real-world operating scenarios. The company went on to claim …read more

Q&A | Intelsat General’s Skot Butler on EpicNG and selling bandwidth to DoD

A Q&A with Skot Butler, President, Intelsat General Corp.

A decade after leaving a business development job at a defense contractor to join Intelsat General Corp., Skot Butler was promoted in March to president of IGC. A wholly owned subsidiary of satellite-fleet operator Intelsat, IGC provides satellite-communications solutions to military, commercial and government customers.

Butler replaced the plain-spoken Kay Sears, who finished her 10-year tenure at the tail end of a decline in U.S. government bandwidth spending that tracks the military’s shrinking footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Butler now gets a chance to come in at a trough and build, rather than manage a decline, as Sears had to do.

He’s also taking over just as Intelsat’s Epic-generation of Ku-band high-throughput satellites begin to enter service. Intelsat 29e launched in late January and entered service over North and South America at the end of March. Intelsat 33e launched in August, but is not expected to enter service over Africa and Asia until early 2017 due to a thruster malfunction that will delay its arrival on station.

Butler spoke with SpaceNews editor-in-chief Brian Berger a week before heading to London for the Global Milsatcom conference.

A satellite’s projected capabilities and demonstrated capabilities aren’t always the same. Have there been any surprises in what the EpicNG satellite can deliver?

Generally, Intelsat 29e has over-performed based on projections. We are very pleased. Nothing about the technology is disappointing or problematic.

What has your testing to date entailed?

Intelsat General has tested more than 10 small, tactical terminals, ranging in size from 45 centimeters to 1.3 meters on IS-29e, and achieved efficiencies up to 2.8 bps/Hz. This is an improvement of two- to three-times over what we have seen on typical wide-beam satellites. Next-generation ground modems being rolled out in 2017 are expected to achieve efficiencies up to 3.5 bps/Hz on EpicNG-class satellites.

We have also tested a 15-centimeter terminal on a Class 3 unmanned aerial vehicle -— think remotely piloted aircraft small enough to fit it a shipping container — and achieved 3.9 Mbps, a more than threefold increase. Finally, we’ve successfully tested the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) on IS-29e. The next challenge is defining the cost and concept of operations for commercial service. The Global Hawk satcom package was coupled with a PTW modem and operated in real time across multiple transponders on Intelsat H-1 satellite. This test validated that PTW — on existing, wideband Ku-band satellites — can provide up to 500 MHz of jamming protection. That’s a significant improvement over the standard 36 or 72 MHz provided in the single transponder mode of operation.

We also have both transition and new services coming online with Intelsat 33e once it is ready for service in the first quarter of 2017. These are both fixed-ground and mobility applications.

Coverage map for Intelsat’s first two EpicNG satellites. Credit: Intelsat

Are there any milestones coming up that will show us the extent of the Defense Department’s appetite for EpicNG bandwidth?

We do not publicize projections based on market segments we serve. We do have some …read more

U.S. military 
rebounding as a commercial satellite customer

Eutelsat reported a sharply improved environment for U.S. Defense Department contracting of commercial-satellite capacity during the most recent renewal period. Credit: SpaceNews graphic/Lance Marburger

The sighting of a nightingale is no proof that spring has arrived. But what about four of them?

Satellite fleet operators Inmarsat, Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat all say the long-awaited rebound in U.S. government (translation: mainly the U.S. Department of Defense) demand for bandwidth now looks to be underway.

There’s nothing dramatic so far, and the numbers for these companies’ most recent financial quarters still show figures that are mediocre at best. But backlog is building, and in the current market for satellite bandwidth sales, any hint of a recovery is a good thing.

Commercial satellite operators have flung themselves at the Pentagon for years trying for increased business. For the fixed satellite services operators, one of the main arguments has been: We can save you money if you’ll agree to longer-term contracts.

That has proved a rough sell for lots of reasons, as has the idea that the military should place a payload on just about every Intelsat, Eutelsat or SES satellite being launched. The fizzling of the hosted-payload idea has been especially disappointing to these companies.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s use of Overseas Contingency Operations funding as a way to buy satellite bandwidth “off the books” has become more tricky as this budget line shrinks.

What’s left is the nuts-and-bolts business of the government buying capacity under short-term contracts.

Inmarsat adds Ka- band to L-band, and a side order of Ku-band

For mobile operator Inmarsat, the situation is more complicated. Inmarsat has sold a five-year, $200 million-plus take-or-pay contract to Boeing, leaving Boeing with the responsibility of selling Inmarsat’s Ka-band Global Xpress service to government users.

“Take-or-pay” means what it says, and there’s no way of assessing Boeing’s ability to close deals with military customers for Global Xpress. Suffice it to say that Boeing is fully incentivized to pitch Global Xpress to the U.S. military.

Global Xpress is now operational worldwide, with three spacecraft in orbit. A fourth is set to launch in early 2017. Boeing’s payments to Inmarsat surpassed $10 million for the three months ending Sept. 30 for the first time. They will increase slightly from there, to between $40 million and $50 million a year, for the next couple of years before trending down.

Inmarsat and Boeing, which built the satellites, are relying on Global Xpress as a gapfiller for the military’s Wideband Global System of Ka-band spacecraft. Boeing built those, too, and Global Xpress is interoperable with the WGS fleet.

The ultimate success of Global Xpress will depending on whether Inmarsat is correct in its assessment that the Pentagon will gradually move most of its mobile platforms from Ku- to Ka-band.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Inmarsat reported $84.8 million in government revenue, up nearly 10 percent from a year ago, saying the growth came from the U.S. and non-U.S. militaries.

Inmarsat’s desire for more U.S. government work was obvious in the recent Commercial Satellite Broadband Program (CSBP) contract for the U.S. Navy. It’s mainly Ku-band, which Inmarsat doesn’t sell. Inmarsat won the contract from incumbent Intelsat with a bid that was remarkably low-priced, especially given …read more

U.S. military rebounding as a commercial satellite customer

Eutelsat reported a sharply improved environment for U.S. Defense Department contracting of commercial-satellite capacity during the most recent renewal period. Credit: SpaceNews graphic/Lance Marburger

The sighting of a nightingale is no proof that spring has arrived. But what about four of them?

Satellite fleet operators Inmarsat, Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat all say the long-awaited rebound in U.S. government (translation: mainly the U.S. Department of Defense) demand for bandwidth now looks to be underway.

There’s nothing dramatic so far, and the numbers for these companies’ most recent financial quarters still show figures that are mediocre at best. But backlog is building, and in the current market for satellite bandwidth sales, any hint of a recovery is a good thing.

Commercial satellite operators have flung themselves at the Pentagon for years trying for increased business. For the fixed satellite services operators, one of the main arguments has been: We can save you money if you’ll agree to longer-term contracts.

That has proved a rough sell for lots of reasons, as has the idea that the military should place a payload on just about every Intelsat, Eutelsat or SES satellite being launched. The fizzling of the hosted-payload idea has been especially disappointing to these companies.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s use of Overseas Contingency Operations funding as a way to buy satellite bandwidth “off the books” has become more tricky as this budget line shrinks.

What’s left is the nuts-and-bolts business of the government buying capacity under short-term contracts.

Inmarsat adds Ka- band to L-band, and a side order of Ku-band

For mobile operator Inmarsat, the situation is more complicated. Inmarsat has sold a five-year, $200 million-plus take-or-pay contract to Boeing, leaving Boeing with the responsibility of selling Inmarsat’s Ka-band Global Xpress service to government users.

“Take-or-pay” means what it says, and there’s no way of assessing Boeing’s ability to close deals with military customers for Global Xpress. Suffice it to say that Boeing is fully incentivized to pitch Global Xpress to the U.S. military.

Global Xpress is now operational worldwide, with three spacecraft in orbit. A fourth is set to launch in early 2017. Boeing’s payments to Inmarsat surpassed $10 million for the three months ending Sept. 30 for the first time. They will increase slightly from there, to between $40 million and $50 million a year, for the next couple of years before trending down.

Inmarsat and Boeing, which built the satellites, are relying on Global Xpress as a gapfiller for the military’s Wideband Global System of Ka-band spacecraft. Boeing built those, too, and Global Xpress is interoperable with the WGS fleet.

The ultimate success of Global Xpress will depending on whether Inmarsat is correct in its assessment that the Pentagon will gradually move most of its mobile platforms from Ku- to Ka-band.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Inmarsat reported $84.8 million in government revenue, up nearly 10 percent from a year ago, saying the growth came from the U.S. and non-U.S. militaries.

Inmarsat’s desire for more U.S. government work was obvious in the recent Commercial Satellite Broadband Program (CSBP) contract for the U.S. Navy. It’s mainly Ku-band, which Inmarsat doesn’t sell. Inmarsat won the contract from incumbent Intelsat with a bid that was remarkably low-priced, especially given …read more

Letter raises questions about SpaceX fueling plans and committee roles

Crew Dragon Falcon 9 Pad 39A

WASHINGTON — Criticism by one NASA advisory committee of SpaceX’s plans to conduct commercial crew missions has also raised questions about the roles and responsibilities of those advisory committees.

On Nov. 4, NASA released a letter submitted to the agency last December by Thomas Stafford, the former astronaut who is chairman of the agency’s International Space Station Advisory Committee. That letter, addressed to Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, expressed concern about SpaceX’s plans to have astronauts board its crewed Dragon spacecraft prior to fueling the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch it.

“There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that has been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally,” Stafford wrote in the Dec. 9 letter.

Stafford, in the letter, noted that it has been the policy on all previous NASA crewed missions to fuel the rocket when the pad is cleared of personnel. “Only after the booster is fully fueled and stabilized are the few essential people allowed near it,” he wrote.

The break in precedent is required because of changes to the Falcon 9. The upgraded version of the rocket, introduced less than two weeks after Stafford’s original letter, uses “supercooled” liquid oxygen that is denser and provides greater performance. Maintaining those low temperatures requires fueling the rocket much closer to the scheduled launch time than is the case for other vehicles, which means that, for crewed missions, astronauts would have to board the rocket prior to fueling rather than after it is complete.

Stafford’s letter got new attention after the Sept. 1 explosion of a Falcon 9 on the pad during preparations for a static-fire test. At an Oct. 31 meeting of the committee, Stafford said he had not yet received a response to his original letter, despite several statements from agency officials that a response was forthcoming. He said he now expected a response by the time of the next committee meeting in December.

In a statement, NASA said is was still examining SpaceX’s concept of operations for crewed Dragon missions, including plans to fuel the Falcon 9 after astronauts boarded the Dragon. “NASA is continuing its evaluation of the SpaceX concept for fueling the Falcon 9 for commercial crew launches,” it stated. “The results of the company’s Sept. 1 mishap investigation will be incorporated into NASA’s evaluation.”

That statement also suggested that Stafford’s committee was out of its jurisdiction in inquiring about SpaceX’s fueling plans.

“Independent advisory groups provide input on commercial crew safety considerations, among which the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel is the primary independent adviser for commercial crew activity,” the agency said. “The ISS Advisory Committee focuses on the International Space Station and international systems.”

The charter of the ISS Advisory Committee, approved and signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in September, states that the committee’s objective is to “provide advice and recommendations to NASA …read more

Innovation a priority for new NASA science chief

NASA CubeSats Heading into Orbit (Artist's Concept) Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — The new head of NASA’s science directorate says he wants to incorporate more innovation into its various missions, but acknowledges that there are limited opportunities to do so in the near future with current missions.

In an Oct. 31 roundtable with reporters at NASA Headquarters, Thomas Zurbuchen, named the agency’s associate administrator for science Sept. 27, said he would seek opportunities to incorporate so-called “disruptive” technologies, like small satellites, into the agency’s portfolio of science missions, while making sure it successfully carried out larger missions.

Zurbuchen came from the University of Michigan, where he worked on instruments for several space science missions. He also a professor of aerospace engineering there and did research on innovation, a topic he addressed in a discussion about his plans and priorities.

“One of the things I used to worry about is whether NASA is innovative enough,” he said. “Are we doing enough? I don’t know. There’s a lot of innovation happening already.”

One potential arena for additional innovation is in small satellites. Prior to joining NASA, Zurbuchen chaired a National Academies study on the potential use of cubesats for science missions. The report concluded that there were a number of missions in a “broad range of science disciplines” that could be served by cubesats, particularly when flown in large numbers.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science. Credit: NASA

“I’m really interested in figuring out how we diversify our portfolio of tools,” he said when asked how he might implement the recommendations of his committee’s report. “There’s a number of amazing opportunities that uses that kind of technology.”

One example of the benefits of smallsats he cited was NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission, scheduled for launch in December. CYGNSS consists of a constellation of eight smallsats that will collect ocean surface wind data that can support hurricane predictions. Other spacecraft are able to make similar measurements, he said, but the network of CYGNSS satellites will allow them to collect the data more frequently.

“This kind of disruption is what I’m looking for,” he said. “How can we develop new technologies, how can we invent new architectures of missions that can go in and really do science that otherwise we can’t do?”

Zurbuchen acknowledged, though, that there are limitations to that approach, in large part because NASA’s science programs already have a large number of missions in progress that account for most of the agency’s budget for the next few years.

“What we’re going to do in the next three years we’re already working on, to 90 percent, roughly,” he said. “What we’re working on right now is what we’re going to work on to a large extent next year. So, for me, excellence in execution is how we earn our future.”

He also indicated he had no plans for shaking up the science directorate, praising the people working on its various programs. “For me, that’s the highest priority, to get to know the team,” he said. “The team is already successful. I did not come in to a whole bunch …read more

Global Milsatcom to address multiple strategy questions

SkyNet5C_Navy4X3.jpg

PARIS — The annual Global Milsatcom conference opens Nov. 8 in London amid a host of questions about what the allied nations of North America, Europe and Asia wish to do together and apart in the coming years.

The U.S. presidential elections on the first day and by the start of the conference’s second day, Nov. 9, it should be known whether the U.S.-led military alliance, in NATO and with Asian nations, should brace for a radical shakeup.

Even assuming business as more-or-less usual with the new U.S. administration, there are changes afoot and little clarity about what the next 10 years looks like.

U.S. milsatcom recapitalization

The United States is preparing for what’s expected to be a large recapitalization of is military telecommunications satellite infrastructure. While almost everyone agree it’s coming, there is no consensus over what the new assets will look like.

Just as unknown is whether the internationalization of certain milsatcom programs such as the broadband Wideband Global System and, to a lesser extent, the narrowband Mobile User Objective system, will decelerate, accelerate or stay about where they are.

Things in Europe are just as go-it-alone as ever. Despite a severe recession following the global financial crisis, European governments have been unable to come together on a single, more-cost-effective satellite telecommunications program.

Can that last? It’s unclear. For now, Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany operate their own systems and France — whose current-generation satellites are nearing retirement — is already moving forward on its next generation.

The 28-nation European Union is expected to release a defense strategy in December, following on from the overall space strategy published on Oct. 26.

Will the EU be allowed to federate European milisatcom?

The EU has long harbored ambitions of federating Europe’s milsatcom sector, promising hundreds of millions of euros in savings to European taxpayers.

But sovereignty still trumps solidarity and cost-effectiveness in Europe, especially when it comes to military satellites. The EU’s proposed Govsatcom program is nonetheless part of the new strategy.

The NATO alliance is a highly interested bystander to all this. NATO’s most likely move is to sign on to one or more member nation efforts to fulfill NATO’s satcom needs once the current contract, leasing capacity on satellites owned by France, Britain and Italy, comes to an end.

Since Global Milsatcom, organized by SMi Group, is held in London, Brexit will be a topic. Will the EU’s proposed Govsatcom effort be more or less likely to be realized with Britain out of the European Union?

Britain’s Skynet 5 military satellite telecommunications system, managed by Airbus Defence and Space, expires in 2020 and the satellites — which were financed and built by Airbus — return to British government ownership.

A year ago, British military officials hinted that they might want to modify the Skynet 5 Private Finance Initiative by procuring at least one next-generation satellite on its own, without industry ownership.

SpaceNews.com

…read more

ESA to ask its governments in December for $12 billion

Johann-Dietrich Woerner

PARIS — The European Space Agency will ask its 22 member governments in December for a multi-year financial commitment of around 11 billion euros ($12.2 billion) including a billion-euro telecommunications research effort to be conducted in partnership with the private sector and around 1.4 billion euros in new Earth observation missions, ESA Director-General Jan Woerner said Nov. 7.

Addressing a press briefing here, Woerner said multiple elements of the agency’s proposal remain unsettled and are likely to be negotiated at the last minute during the Dec. 1-2 conference of ESA ministers, scheduled to occur in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Notable among the issues to be settled are the Norwegian government’s proposed 75 percent reduction in its contribution to ESA’s optional program, where 80 percent of the agency’s work is done; and the British government’s difficulties related to the drop in the value of the British pound relative to the euro.

Woerner said he was confident that issues related directly to Britain’s expected withdrawal from the 28-nation European Union would not constitute an obstacle to a continued U.K. role at ESA, which is an international organization that is not part of the EU.

But the Brexit debate could have an effect on non-British citizens working for ESA in Britain, and for British nationals working for ESA outside the UK, he said.

Norway proposes 75 percent reduction in ESA contribution

Woerner conceded that the situation in Norway was worrisome, but he said the Norwegian parliament may yet resist the government’s proposal to slash Norway’s contributions to ESA’s optional programs.

Geir Hovmork, deputy director of the Norwegian Space Centre, said the current proposal is to cut to about 50 million euros the total Norwegian involvement in all ESA efforts not related to space science and ESA’s over head charges, which are part of the mandatory contribution required of all ESA members based on their gross domestic product.

In an Oct. 27 interview, Hovmork said the government’s move is not intended as a critique of ESA as a part of a broader effort to reign in government spending and focus on Norwegian programs.

“Of course this makes us very nervous,” Woerner said of the Norwegian plan. “It’s not good if a member state is reducing its contribution, regardless of the size of the member state.

“We have to face it: In several member states right now we have some complicated situations. We have immigration and internal security issues, and some financial problems. But I hope the value of space is understood at the end of the day.”

Continuing ISS to 2024 with NASA and a 2nd Orion service module

Here are the key budget takeaways from the briefing:

— ESA will ask for 800 million euros to continue work on the International Space Station until 2024. The amount to be solicited will continue ESA’s role at the orbital outpost until 2021, meaning further funding will be needed at the next ESA ministerial conference in about three years.

Woerner said a commitment to 2024 was needed to permit the agency to start work on a second service module for NASA”s Orion …read more

Gogo views network upgrades as bulwark against in-flight-connectivity newcomers

Gogo plane static

WASHINGTON — In-flight connectivity provider Gogo told investors Nov. 3 that emerging aeronautical connectivity providers won’t be able to catch up with its market position, especially once its next generation air-to-ground network is operational in 2018.

Over time, the Chicago, Illinois-based company has gradually increased the throughput of its air-to-ground (ATG) network, which comprises more than 250 towers across North America, from single-digit Mbps to around 10 Mbps. The upgrade, announced in September, aims to put the company’s ground network on par with its satellite network. Among the improvements, tapping into 60MHz of additional, unlicensed spectrum at 2.4GHz is arguably the most significant.

On a conference call with investors, Gogo president and chief executive Michael Small said Gogo’s established infrastructure and customer base will make it tough for other in-flight connectivity providers to steal market share.

“We are feeling great about the competitive landscape,” Small said. “It’s a real risk to put something unproven on your plane. We have 6,500 planes flying on our ATG network and we will only enhance that proven network with the 2.4GHz upgrade to the network. This is dramatically less risky. It’s going to be way lower cost for us to do it, [and] it’s going to be way lower cost for our existing customers who want to upgrade [rather] than to go to a totally new system.”

Small said Gogo has to upgrade its cell sites with new antennas, radio equipment and network equipment, but that the cost per tower would not be high. Adding new antennas and radios to aircraft will also be simpler, he said, thanks to pre-existing servers and wireless access points already installed on customers’ planes.

Along with a rising number of satellite aeronautical connectivity providers, two companies — Inmarsat and SmartSky — are developing new regional ATG networks. Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network is a hybrid ground- and satellite-based connectivity system employing an ATG network spread across the European Union and the S-band half of a jointly owned satellite with coverage over Europe. Inmarsat refers to the S-band half of the “condo-sat” as Europasat, while partner Arabsat calls its half Hellas-sat 3, which carries a 44-transponder Ku-band payload for its subsidiary Hellas Sat of Greece, designed mainly to provide direct-to-home broadcast television services.

Gogo and Inmarsat are already partners in the in-flight connectivity space, having partnered on the use of the London-based operator’s Global Xpress Ka-band satellite system before it was fully launched. Charlotte, North Carolina-based SmartSky, on the other hand, is building a competing ATG network across the contiguous United States using 60MHz of spectrum — essentially Gogo’s backyard. Though not naming SmartSky specifically, Small said it would be very challenging for a new ATG network to establish itself in Gogo’s territory.

“Imagine a new competitor trying to support an ATG network. Even if they claim they might have a possible intention to get to 300 aircraft, it does take thousands of aircraft to support a regional ATG network, and we have them,” he said.

SmartSky’s service relies on unlicensed spectrum …read more

Musk predicts mid-December return to flight for Falcon 9

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes Sept. 1 during fueling  operation in preparation for a static-fire test. 
Credit: USLaunchReport.com video
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes Sept. 1 during fueling  operation in preparation for a static-fire test. 
Credit: USLaunchReport.com video

WASHINGTON — SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said Nov. 4 he expects the Falcon 9 rocket to return to flight in the middle of December after overcoming a problem he claimed was unprecedented in the history of spaceflight.

Musk, briefly discussing the status of SpaceX during a half-hour interview on the cable news network CNBC Nov. 4, said that investigators had determined what caused the Sept. 1 pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 and its satellite payload during fueling for a static-fire test.

“I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of the problem,” he said. “It was a really surprising problem. It’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.”

Musk, confirming earlier discussion about the investigation, said the failure involved liquid helium being loaded into bottles made of carbon composite materials within the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s upper stage. This created solid oxygen, which Musk previously said could have ignited with the carbon composite materials. However, he did not go into that level of detail in his CNBC comments.

“It’s never happened before in history, so that’s why it took us a while to sort it out,” Musk said, adding that SpaceX has been working with NASA, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and commercial customers on the accident investigation. “This was the toughest puzzle to solve that we’ve ever had to solve.”

Musk, though, suggested that the puzzle is now solved and that launches can resume in December. “It looks like we’re going to be back to launching around mid-December,” he said. He did not disclose what payload would fly on that return-to-flight mission, or from where the launch would take place.

SpaceX’s last public statement about the accident investigation, published on its web site Oct. 28, said that the company had narrowed its focus to one of three helium bottles inside the liquid oxygen tank that burst, noting it was able to replicate the tank failure with helium loading conditions. “The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed,” the company said at the time.

Musk’s statement echoes comments made Nov. 3 by Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce, whose company has three satellites awaiting launches on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles. “We believe they now have found a root cause that is fixable quite easily and quite quickly,” he said in a conference call with investors. “So they should be able to return to flight in December.”

SpaceNews.com

…read more

Orbital to launch next Cygnus mission on Atlas 5

OA-6 launch

WASHINGTON — Citing a desire to both maximize the cargo delivered to the International Space Station and ensure it stays on schedule, Orbital ATK said Nov. 4 it will launch its next Cygnus mission on an Atlas 5 rather than its own Antares rocket.

Orbital ATK said that the OA-7 Cygnus mission, previously planned to launch on an Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, will instead launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the spring of 2017. The company said this is a one-time arrangement, with future Cygnus launches returning to the Antares.

The shift in launch vehicles for OA-7 was a “collaborative effort” between NASA and Orbital ATK, said Frank DeMauro, vice president of human space systems in the company’s Space Systems Group. “We jointly realized that getting a little more cargo on OA-7 in the spring was in NASA’s interest,” he said in a Nov. 4 interview. “We jointly realized that having the highest assurance that we could meet the schedule was also in NASA’s interest.”

Launching on an Atlas, DeMauro said, allows the Cygnus to carry more than 300 kilograms of additional cargo versus using an Antares. The OA-7 mission will be able to accommodate more than 3,500 kilograms of cargo in its pressurized module, as well as an external cubesat deployer from NanoRacks, bringing its total capacity to about 3,600 kilograms.

DeMauro said there were no issues with the upgraded version of the Antares that launched for the first time Oct. 17 on the OA-5 Cygnus mission. However, moving the launch to the Atlas does give the company’s workforce “margin flexibility” to prepare for the next launch, which now is likely to take place in the middle of 2017. “It is fair to say that the Atlas will have a higher probability of supporting that mission in the spring, even though we do believe Antares would have done that,” he said.

An Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft is encapsulated inside the payload fairing for a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center prior to a December 2015 launch. Credit: United Launch Alliance

That additional performance and schedule assurance comes as two other cargo spacecraft that support the ISS suffer delays. Launches of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft are on hold as the company continues an investigation into a Sept. 1 explosion of a Falcon 9 during preparations for a static-fire test. The next Dragon mission, previously scheduled for November, is now expected to take place no earlier than January, depending on when the Falcon 9 returns to service.

A Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle mission also experienced delays because of a spacecraft leak found during launch preparations. That mission, originally planned to launch in early October, is now scheduled for Dec. 9.

DeMauro said Orbital ATK’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA gives the company flexibility to switch launch vehicles for Cygnus missions. He declined, though, to discuss any increased costs to Orbital ATK by switching launch vehicles or if NASA will pay more for this mission …read more

Air Force picks ADS to demo an all-commercial alternative to Space-Track catalog

Earth orbital debris

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory recently selected Applied Defense Solutions to spend a year cataloging human-made objects in geostationary orbit using data solely derived from commercial space-surveillance sources.

Tom Kubancik, vice president of advanced programs at Columbia, Maryland-based Applied Defense Solutions (ADS), said the Air Force will compare the company’s cataloging effort against the current gold standard, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network’s Space-Track catalog, to see how the commercially compiled database compares. Kubancik declined to say how much the contract will be worth.

The cataloging project is the second piece of space situational awareness work ADS has picked up from the Air Force in recent days. The Air Force confirmed earlier this week that it awarded a $24.3 million contract to ADS to bring commercially sourced space situational awareness data into the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, to support experiments, exercises and contingency operations.

For the cataloging effort, ADS and teammates Lockheed Martin, Pacific Defense Solutions, and the University of Arizona will “initiate a catalog from a zero starting point,” relying on non-government space surveillance capabilities, such as passive radio-frequency receivers, radar, and ground-based optical telescopes, to populate a database of orbital objects.

Air Force Space Command spokeswoman 1Lt. Sarah Burnett, told SpaceNews via email that commercial space situational awareness capabilities have the potential to supplement the government’s capabilities by, for example, providing geographical coverage of “areas where the government does not have assets (radars, telescopes, etc.).

“Non-governmental SSA providers can also demonstrate new techniques, phenomenologies, and technologies, to collect, and exploit SSA more quickly than the government,” Burnett wrote. “The breadth of non-governmental SSA providers, including industry and academia, allows for multiple approaches to detection, tracking, identification, and characterization that will help guide future government SSA investments.”

Burnett referred specific questions about the catalog effort to the Air Force Research Laboratory, which did not immediately respond to a SpaceNews query.

Moriba Jah, director of Space Object Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona, where some of the work will be performed, said commercial space-tracking capabilities can provide flexibility to government programs, and could also serve as a back-up in the event of an emergency.

Moriba Jah Credit: UA

“If, for whatever reason, you have defense-related services that stop working [or are] degraded or disrupted, commercial companies can come to the table, hopefully rapidly, with a variety of sensors and modalities of data collection that could supplement or augment government systems,” he said

The commercially derived data could also be more easily shared with U.S. partners than government-derived data, which can come from classified capabilities.

“The data and information is not derived from government sources, so it’s ultimately much more shareable,” Kubancik said.

But the private sector is also investing in the area for their own commercial interests. If companies are sending up multi-million dollar satellites, they want to make sure the craft aren’t going to bump into anything.

“People [who] want to make a profit from space services and capabilities have a vested interest in …read more

ESA decision frees up full funding for Ariane 6 rocket

neuenschwander_2

PARIS — The European Space Agency’s ruling council on Nov. 3 gave what should be the final endorsement needed to free up development funds for the next-generation Ariane 6 launch after a compromise on work shares between Italy and Germany.

The decision, which makes certain that both Germany and Italy will have production lines for the Ariane 6 solid-fueled strap-on booster segments — which also serve as the first stage of Europe’s Vega C rocket in development — was unanimously adopted by the 12 nations participating in the Ariane 6 program.

With this decision, there should be nothing standing in the way of approval by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee, the last step before Airbus Safran Launchers, the company managing Ariane 6, receives a check from ESA for about 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion). That decision is expected on Nov. 8.

“I am very happy about this decision, which required a double two-thirds majority of the participating states,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s director of launchers. “You can imagine there was a long discussion over the P120C motor casing work.”

Booster casing issue with Italy and Germany

The P120C is the segment to be used as the Ariane 6 strap-on boosters and as the Vega C rocket’s first stage.

As majority shareholder in the Vega program, Italy had been given the P120C production award, which is now handled by Avio SpA of Colleferro, Italy.

But Germany had said in 2014, when ESA governments gave their initial go-ahead for Ariane 6, that MT Aerospace of Augsburg, Germany — majority-owned by OHB SE of Bremen, Germany — was working on a better composite production technology for the casing.

ESA governments had agreed to consider a second P120 production line pending validation of the German claims.

Since then, Germany has pressured ESA governments to accept the second production line even without confirmation that the technology would deliver on its cost-saving promise.

Germany is the second-largest contributor to the Ariane 6 program, after France, but does not have a major share in the Vega program. It was therefore up to ESA to stitch together an agreement taking account of Germany’s rights in Ariane 6, and Italy’s rights in Vega, which are both tied to the P120C program.

In a Nov. 4 interview, Neuenschwander said the Nov. 3 agreement was reached on the assumption that the production cost savings of the German technology will compensate for the increased costs of opening a second production facility.

Neuenschwander agreed that “there is an element of redundancy” in setting up a second facility, but that this is not necessarily a bad thing. If the promised savings from the German production technology do not materialize, he said, “We will reassess this in 2018.”

Final go-head on development funds set for Nov. 8

Neuenschwander said the Industrial Policy Committee decision on Nov. 8 is all but a foregone conclusion given the unanimity of the ESA council on Nov. 3.

In addition to the Ariane 6 development program and the P120C agreement, ESA’s council approved the full development of the Ariane 6 launched installation at Europe’s Guiana …read more

MUOS-5 finally reaches operational orbit, Navy says

The U.S. Navy's fourth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, encapsulated in a 5-meter payload fairing, is attached to an Atlas 5 booster at Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex-41, Aug. 19, 2015. Though the fourth satellite was launched successfully, the fifth satellite experienced problems while attempting to gain orbit. The Navy announced Nov. 3 that they have finally succeeded in getting MUOS-5 to an operational orbit. Credit:  Rick Naystatt/U.S. Navy

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy announced that its MUOS-5 satellite has finally reached operational orbit following a problem with the main propulsion system in June.

“We are happy to announce today that MUOS-5 has reached its operational orbit, and has successfully deployed its arrays and antennas,” said a statement from Steve Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. “The satellite has begun its on-orbit testing in preparation for acceptance by the Navy and handover for operational use.”

The fifth MUOS satellite – which stands for Mobile User Objective System – launched June 24 and was expected to reach a geosynchronous orbit 35,000 kilometers above Hawaii by July 3, according to the Navy.

But the main orbit-raising propulsion system failed during the maneuvers, leaving the Lockheed Martin Space Systems-built satellite stuck in limbo in a “stable intermediate orbit.” Launch operators weren’t too concerned about the orbit degrading; yet the satellite wasn’t at an optimal position for use.

Davis said MUOS operators performed a series of 26 orbit-raising burns over six weeks using thrusters intended for station keeping and relocation. The new orbit — which MUOS-5 reached Oct. 22 — is slightly less circular and more inclined than the original intended orbit. However, the Navy does not expect operations of the satellite’s onboard communications systems to be affected by the change.

Any effects from the new orbit, Davis said, have been mitigated through ground and waveform software changes.

“Subject to results of normal satellite testing currently in progress, the satellite is expected to fully perform its mission in its current orbital location,” he said. “The satellite will not be relocated to another orbital location.”

The fifth satellite in the constellation was designed to be a backup, and Navy officials said the problems did not affect operation of the MUOS network of UHF communication systems and ground stations.

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NASA investigating possible link between Juno and Intelsat thruster problems

Juno at Jupiter

COLUMBIA, Md. — An ongoing investigation into a thruster problem on NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter is looking into a possible connection with a malfunction of a similar thruster on a recently launched Intelsat satellite.

Speaking Nov. 1 at the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) meeting here, James Green, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said spacecraft engineers are taking a “very slow” approach into studying the problem before rescheduling a maneuver to lower the spacecraft into its final science orbit.

That maneuver was scheduled for Oct. 19, when the spacecraft made its latest close approach to Jupiter in its current 53-day elliptical orbit. However, five days earlier NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced it was postponing the maneuver after a pair of helium valves on the spacecraft opened more slowly than expected.

Green said one part of the investigation is studying any connection to a similar malfunctioning thruster. “It was made known to us that the rocket we currently have on Juno, the retrorocket that gets us into orbit, is in the same family as one that has been malfunctioning on the Intelsats,” he said.

He was referring to Intelsat 33e, a Boeing 702MP satellite launched in August. On Sept. 9, Intelsat announced that the spacecraft’s entry into service in geostationary orbit would be delayed from fourth quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017 because of a thruster malfunction. That model of satellite uses a Leros engine, manufactured by Moog, to raise its orbit after deployment.

While Juno uses a different version of the Leros engine than the one on Intelsat 33e, and launched five years earlier, Green said engineers were investigating whether there may be any links between the two. “Whenever that happens, we step back and take a good look at what we have, how it’s implemented, look at the failure modes for these similar things,” he said, “and then do an analysis on what we’re going to do next and what the probability is of what we have on our spacecraft failing.”

Green didn’t give a schedule for performing that review, but indicated NASA was not in a hurry. “We’re going very slow in that process,” he said. “We’re going to take another cycle around Jupiter and really study what’s happening before we make a decision on what to do next.”

Neither Intelsat nor Boeing has disclosed details about the thruster malfunction that Intelsat 33e suffered. Boeing spokeswoman Joanna Climer said Nov. 1 that the company had no additional details to share about the thruster problem.

Likewise, JPL has released no additional details about the problem noticed with Juno’s engine in October, when valves that should have opened in seconds instead took several minutes. “We need to better understand this issue before moving forward with a burn of the main engine,” Juno project manager Rick Nybakken said in an Oct. 14 statement that said the maneuver would delayed at least one orbit, to Dec. 11.

JPL spokesman D.C. Agle said Nov. 2 there were no updates on the Juno thruster investigation. He added, …read more