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Space

The MEV-2 servicer docked to a live Intelsat spacecraft effectively

The MEV-2 satellite servicer from Northrop Grumman safely docked with the Intelsat’s in-orbit 10-02 spacecraft on April 12. At 1:34 p.m. Eastern, the maneuver was accomplished, making this the very first time a spacecraft servicer has docked with an operational commercial satellite in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The dual spacecraft will remain locked together for a period of five years to prolong the existence of IS-10-02, which has been in orbit since 2004 and is running low on fuel. MEV-2 would then detach from the dock and embark on a new mission.

“The performance of this project opens the path for our second wave of servicing satellites as well as robotics, which will allow completely new groups of missions for commercial as well as government satellite operators,” stated Tom Wilson. He works as the vice president in charge of the strategic space systems at the Northrop Grumman. IS-10-02 supports Intelsat subscribers in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, as well as South America with telecommunications and media delivery networks. Since early March, MEV-2 has been operating in near proximity with the spacecraft, coming close enough to calibrate and evaluate systems before backing off.

On several occasions in the last month, the two firms have come near to docking. Last year, MEV-1, the satellite servicer’s precursor, successfully connected to some other Intelsat satellite, IS-901, raising it out of the GEO graveyard orbit and returning it to operation on April 2, 2020. “Space servicing is a critical asset for Intelsat in expanding the high-quality service experience which our customers rely on,” stated Mike DeMarco, the Intelsat chief services officer.

“Northrop Grumman’s MEV technology has enabled us to prolong the lives of two high-performing satellites while concentrating our engineering resources on Intelsat next-generation network – it’s a ‘win-win’ for us.” Northrop was given a contract by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last year to build a particular-purpose robotic vehicle (MRV).

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has chosen SpaceLogistics LLC, a fully owned company of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), as its commercial collaborator for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) initiative. The first-ever industrial robotic servicing spaceship will be launched as part of the project, which seeks to extend the demand for satellite operation of both commercials as well as government customer satellites using advanced robotics technologies. Improved technologies such as in-orbit maintenance, augmentation, assembly, comprehensive evaluation, and relocation of the client satellites are among the program’s goals. In addition to migrating satellites, Northrop stated the MRV would fly in 2024 to perform maintenance and other in-orbit facilities. The MRV would be used to mount project extension pods (MEPs) that Northrop is designed to help aging satellites last longer.

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Space

In Europe, Orbit Communications signs a deal for a Maritime Terminal

Orbit Communications Systems, a manufacturer of maritime as well as airborne satellite terminals, has secured a $3.1 million contract from an undisclosed European integrator for the OceanTRx4 Mil satellite communications program for the naval military systems. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2022, according to the group.

The OceanTRx 4 Mil terminal is planned to offer maritime end-users uninterrupted satellite broadband connectivity. The “Mil” version is built on Orbit’s OceanTRx4 platform, but with the military features included. It is compatible with antenna systems that have a diameter of 1.15 meters that operate in the Ku, X, and Ka bands, as well as synchronized operation of several frequencies for worldwide operation.  Comsat, which introduced Orbit’s Multi-Purpose Terminals (MPT) as well as OceanTRx hardware to its collection in September 2020, distributes OceanTRx.

Orbit Chief executive Daniel Eshchar stated, “We are confident of this pioneering European defense integrator’s decision to buy one of the Orbit’s leading platforms.” “The OceanTRx4 Mil platform… embraces both military and civilian frequencies, enabling our customers to utilize dual frequency bands on a military system,” according to the company. Orbit’s technical supremacy in maritime satellite communications networks in general, and specialized navies in particular, is enhanced by this order.”

The OceanTRx 4 Mil is commonly known as a Maritime Satcom Terminal focused on the OceanTRx4 platform together with upgraded military capability. A proprietary maritime satellite transmission device that supports a range of 1.15-meter diameter antenna systems as well as works at Ku, X, and Ka frequencies, as well as synchronized operation at various frequencies for global activity. The OceanTRx 4 Mil device is built for simple implementation, servicing, and improvement for protection customers, mixing RF performance with high system availability.

Orbit Communication Systems Ltd. (TASE: ORBI), a major global supplier of airborne messaging, maritime as well as ground-station satellite monitoring technologies, is helping to extend and redefine how we communicate. Orbit devices can be used on commercial airplanes and war jets, cruise ships, and naval submarines, as well as base stations as well as offshore platforms. We provide business carriers, major air forces as well as navies, space agencies, and developing New Space firms with creative, cost-effective, and highly efficient solutions.

For usage in the most challenging situations, Orbit provides extremely efficient and cost-effective communications solutions. Orbit solutions can be used on airliners and the jet fighters, cruise ships as well as navy warships, offshore platforms, and lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – several over 9,000 fielded devices. They come up with creative ways to bind you and keep you hooked. It all starts with an innovative team and clever architecture – as well as a lengthy list of firsts, patents, and honors. They have won the confidence of key aerospace as well as government departments, as well as emerging service providers, thanks to our rigorous quality management, registration, and manufacturing processes. Via unsurpassed efficiency, long-term support, and collective product evolution, they help their customers evolve.

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Space

Jim Bridenstine lands another job with the Viasat board of directors not long after stepping down as NASA administrator

Following the end of former US president Donald Trump’s reign, Jim Bridenstine resigned as the NASA administrator on 20th January. Not long after the resignation, he got a job in Acorn Growth Companies. The privately-owned equity firm assigned him the role of a senior advisor. His latest assignment is serving as one of the board of directors at Viasat. The satellite operator has seen a need to expand its board to accommodate Jim Bridenstine. From now on, it will now have eight members, and Bridenstine will have another corporate role ever since leaving his NASA position as the agency’s administrator.

According to the former NASA administrator, the opportunity to work with Viasat excites him since it gives him a chance to get involved in its commercial capabilities. It consists of increasing connection, bandwidth, and throughput, which is suitable for the human race. He also added that the expected capacity to be provided by ViaSat-3 would be in a better position to compete with other terrestrial networks. As a matter of fact, it would be a satellite constellation in a position to provide a throughput of up to 1 terabit every second.

It is no secret that Viasat-3, a broadband constellation comprising three satellites, has seen the company invest heavily. The end game is rewarding since it would mean the firm is providing its services globally. Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, the first of the three satellites would have been up and running, serving the Americans before the end of 2021. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has affected various sectors, including disrupting the supply chain. Consequently, a delay is inevitable, and the launch can only take place earliest early 2022.

Bridenstine acknowledged that he is the one who approached Viasat less than two months ago. What motivated his move was the company’s efforts to reduce the digital divide using ways such as increasing the bandwidth and reducing costs. As far as Jim is concerned, those measures are necessary since the big digital divide has a share of its disadvantages. Its effect on healthcare, education, and the economy when it comes to consequences makes it a priority. It also has implications on other crucial matters and cuts across the board, affecting the United States and the rest of the world.

Viasat serves the government, enterprises, and consumers. It is banking on Bridenstine’s experience in safety, innovation, and technology associated with space to take the services a notch higher. There is hope for the mission since most things are being done online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Space

Nelson is hopeful that he’ll be nominated for the position of NASA administrator

The Biden administration is planning to nominate Bill Nelson to fill the position of NASA administrator. This move will be considered a token of appreciation because this former senator was among the proponents of the agency on Capitol Hill. Reliable sources indicate that the administration will be announcing the nomination before the end of this week. The process was supposed to take place early but was postponed to prevent interferences with the Green Run engine test of the Space Launch System core stage that was going to happen at the Stennis Space Center. A recent White House briefing by press secretary Jen Psaki was adamant about divulging details concerning the nomination. She explained that she didn’t have anything to add to what they had already said concerning this matter and that they would continue to brief the country as updates arise.

Nelson became the most suitable nominee about a month ago, going with the previous nomination statistics that the Biden administration has encouraged. In this period, Psaki stated that the White House had no plans for selecting an administrator for this vital agency. Speculations about the nomination of Nelson filled the air in March, and there is no announcement related to the truth of the matter. Nelson is not a newbie in the space community after serving as a senator for three terms in Florida, a position that allowed him to be involved in Senate Commerce Committee and its space subcommittee. Additionally, he also led the establishment of the 2010 NASA authorization act that favored the production of Orion and an SLS rocket after halting the Constellation program. This policy allowed NASA to operate the commercial crew program.

Nelson aggressively participated in the election of the two previous NASA administrators. He advocated for the election of former astronaut Charles Bolden as the administrator, thrashing the other candidates proposed by the Obama administration. Bolden then served the agency through to the end of the Obama Era. Nelson again rallied behind Jim Bridenstine, who has served the Trump administration in NASA until its end. Nelson heaped praise upon Bridenstine for not politicizing the role considering he was a Republican congressman. The current senators will remember Nelson after his service, which was ended when he lost his fourth term election.

One commercial space pioneer stated that selecting Nelson for the position will be advantageous considering his previous choice, Bridenstine, has performed effectively. Experts think that Nelson has an eye for talent, and that is why he is the ideal person to head NASA. Another possible selection is a former astronaut Pam Melroy as Nelson’s deputy, although the details of the nomination are still scanty.

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Space

RUAG International becomes a space-centered ‘beyond gravity’ company

RUAG International, the Swiss component manufacturer, sheds its military operations into a space-only operational system that transforms into a ‘beyond gravity’ supplier. The new company is going to invest in news services, with a special focus on the United States and Asia, to broaden internationally

The company moves from a government-owned enterprise mentality to a smart startup with a view to analytical forecasting a space market of $ 1 trillion in the year 2040, stated André Wall, Chief executive of RUAG International. “Access to space was never more appropriate geopolitically,” Wall stated.

Since the parent group RUAG was divided into two independent firms last year, RUAG International has been formed. The Swiss Armed Forces were established to offer services while the RUAG international conducted space, aero-structures, munition, as well as aviation simulation and training activities. The MRO Switzerland supplied services.

General Atomics Europe purchased its activities recently in commercial aircraft and military helicopters. The defense as well as a technology giant. The new plan will allow RUAG International to retreat from military enterprises while optimizing its aero-structural operations ultimately.

Even before the end of 2021, the Swiss company will look for a different owner for its munitions business. However, it was said that the disposal of RUAG Aerostructures could be more difficult due to the impact of COVID-19 on the manufacturing of aircraft. “Not overnight change takes place,” Wall stated.

“We have nevertheless already taken numerous steps to build our present motivated by the upcoming future of us. As a leading tech firm with the highest dependability and attitude for a startup, we contribute greatly to its consistent growth and aim to become an innovation incubator.”

This shift is a major change for a firm that has provided computers, isolation, and processes to Europe’s space missions for over forty years. It follows a modern 5-year strategy by European integration mission manager Telespazio, who is hunting for newspaper purchases as he transforms his business in the next five years.

Telespazio is re-grouping its European space mission integrator after evolving world initiatives that in the 5 years to now are expected to contribute to almost double revenues. In the recent purchase under this strategic plan, the joint venture between the Thales Group of France aerospace giants and the Leonard of Italy acquired the space activities of Vitrociset centereds in Italy in order to improve its support services. Established in 1992, Vitrociset provides a range of defense, safety, space, and transport services by merging its CISET air traffic control company and Vitroselenia, defense logistics provider.

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Space

ISRO expected to launch a “game-changer” satellite on March 28th to monitor India’s borders

Every country on the planet is working on its space industry to ensure that experts can monitor all the happenings like other countries. India is one of the top Asian countries to invest in the space world, with many operational satellites in the earth’s orbit following multiple successful launches. In a recent announcement, India will move a milestone in the country’s security system. Why not when recent reports indicate that ISRA plans on launching a “game-changer” satellite on March 28th. The satellite’s fundamental goal is to deliver real-time images of the countries’ borders while expecting to monitor any suspicious activity or upcoming natural disaster.

This satellite will give India a reliable way of monitoring all the occurrences around its border and taking necessary emergency measures in anything fishy. The GISAT-1 launch date is likely this month on the 28th, and the reports follow after a recent successful launch of another observation satellite, Amazonia-1. It went aboard on the PSLV-C51. After the successful launch, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been interested in launching the GISAT-1.

The mission that GISAT-1 will carry is fast monitoring upcoming natural disasters and giving images of the borders. This observation satellite will lift-off onboard the GSLV-F10 rocket. Its flight area is the Sriharikota Spaceport, Andhra Pradesh Nellore district, whose location is one-hundred kilometres north of Chennai. In an interview with ISRO’S official, the company hopes to launch the GEO Imaging satellite subject to weather conditions. The GSLV-F10 rocket will position the satellite in the geostationary orbit around 36,000 km from the earth’s equator via the onboard propulsion technique.

Initially, the GISAT-1 launch was to take place on March 5th,  2020. However, the development team raised technical reasons leading to its postponement to March 28th. Experts claim that this launch will take India to a higher and better level with the many advantages that come with this launch. The satellite features high-resolution cameras to allow clear images to monitor India’s landmass. With the data, India can prevent natural disasters and quickly respond to desperate situations.

Other than security, the observation satellite aims at getting spectral signatures in the forestry, agriculture, mineralogy and other ministries. The monitoring will occur at frequent intervals to make sure that experts don’t miss out on anything. With the successful launch of Amazonia-1, ISRO is aware of the benefits of an observation satellite. And this second launch of GISAT-1 to space will make the situation better. The initial forward step ISRO must take is to ensure that the launch is successful with no technical errors. Later, experts can follow necessary instructions for a productive venture.

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Space

EchoStar reveals Nanosatellite mistakes and the Jupiter-3 postponement

During a February 23 quarterly results call, EchoStar Corporation announced another setback in the deployment of the Jupiter-3 communications satellite, as well as the malfunction of two nanosatellites to enter their expected orbits. EchoStar executives shared enthusiasm about the launch of Maxar Technologies’ Jupiter-3 satellite, which will improve Ka-band capability in North as well as South America.

The deployment of Jupiter-3 has been pushed back to the second half of the year 2022, ” primarily attributed to COVID-19 constraints that every firm is facing and also in part due to manufacturing problems with some modules,” according to Pradman Kaul, who serves as the president of Hughes Network Systems. “We are working very closely with Maxar to both alleviate these problems and find ways to reclaim the schedule without placing the satellite at risk.”

The launch vehicle for the Jupiter-3 has been chosen by EchoStar, but it has yet to be announced. The large rocket was chosen, according to Kaul, “should restrict the period of time linked to satellite orbit increasing, assisting our in-service plan.” EchoStar also suffered a drawback when the propulsion mechanisms on two nanosatellites it launched into low Earth orbit to utilize spectrum obtained from the internet-of-things company Helios Wire in 2019 malfunctioned.

The two nanosatellites wanted to adjust their altitude as well as inclination after arriving in orbit on different rideshare flights. “The propulsion onboard the spaceship malfunctioned in both cases,” stated Anders Johnson, president of EchoStar Satellite Services. Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems sold EchoStar the two S-band cubesats.

“I can verify that owing to the third-party propulsion platform not working nominally, the vehicles did not exceed the maximum operational altitude,” Marco Villa, president and chief operating officer of Tyvak said via email. In the second or even third quarter of the year, EchoStar aims to deploy another nanosatellite with a unique propulsion system.

In the fourth quarter of the year 2020, EchoStar’s overall financial results, as calculated by Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA), improved by 7% over the fourth quarter of the year 2019.  As a result of the higher operating profits, lower interest costs, increased foreign currency sales, and investment gains, EchoStar posted a $2.6 million net loss from the fourth-quarter continuing operations, relative to a $53.7 million net loss one year ago. Hughes had 1.56 million broadband consumers as of December 31.

Via its Hughes Network Systems as well as EchoStar Satellite Services business divisions, EchoStar Corporation is a multinational provider of the satellite communication as well as Internet services. Just before 2008, it was the parent company of DISH Network, which was spun off as DISH effective from January 1, 2008.

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Space

Virgin Orbit looking to expand its services into adjacent markets

Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of Richard Branson and Nik Powell’s Virgin Group of companies, is looking to expand its services to adjacent markets, such as backing small startups developing satellite systems.

The company’s president and CEO, Dan Hart, gave a detailed presentation during this year’s SmallSat Symposium outlining what Virgin Orbit has been developing. After a successful Launch Demo 2 mission back in January, many potential partners have contacted the British company to inquire about investment opportunities.

Launch Demo 2 placed ten CubeSats in orbit, a project that was funded by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “It went better than anybody could have ever dreamed. Every part of the system came together,” said Hart. “We have a pretty expansive evolution of the company planned. We are evaluating right now, with success, lots of possibilities and, frankly, we’re getting lots of queries,” said Hart.

In 2020, Virgin Orbit came to the rescue of an Australian startup stuck in the development stage due to bankruptcy. The company, Sky and Space Global, develops communication satellites. Virgin Orbit acquired a part of the company, and in return, it would offer launch services and consultations.

“Launch is a cornerstone of space access and the whole space ecosystem. Virgin Orbit is looking to flex into adjacencies like the Sky and Space Global or the SAS deal. There is a plethora of space adjacencies in other aspects of national security or commercial turnkey systems like SAS is going after,” added Hart. Richard Branson echoed Hart’s sentiments. “There will be a lot of people who do approach the company with wonderful ideas to put satellites into space but just can’t afford it,” he said.

Virgin Orbit will help startup smallsat companies to get their projects off the ground. They might acquire some shares in these companies while assisting them to launch their satellites into orbit. “That’s the kind of entrepreneurial thing Virgin Orbit should be doing,” added Branson. Virgin is not another regular Cubesat company. What sets it apart from the rest is its capacity to launch space vehicles from the airport at any inclination. “We want to be able to launch from any part of the world. That includes a launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay, in England in 2022,” noted Branson. The company’s LauncherOne has attracted clients such as the US Air Force to solve their military problems.

“What makes this particularly unique is our capability for the US Air Force, British Air Force, Canadian Air Force, or the French Air Force, all of whom have been encouraging and working with us over the last two or three years,” said Branson. Virgin Orbit ‘could give its clients a powerful deterrent capability in case they were to lose their satellites anywhere globally. The company could ‘replace them incredibly quickly,’ argued Branson. The next launch will occur in a few months and carry payloads for the Dutch air force, United States Air Force and SatRevolution, a satellite manufacturer based in Poland.

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Space

A Pioneering NASA Mini weather Satellite completes its mission

CubeSat has become a trending topic in the latest market trends. This detail follows after a pioneering NASA mini weather satellite completed its mission. RainCube’s design specifies the study of storms in space. It has a unique mark in history since it is the first science instrument to lift off on a CubeSat.

The satellite communicated with its Earth’s management team for the last time on 2020, December 24th, after almost two years in the Earth’s orbit. After the communication, the shoebox-size satellite plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere before burning up. RainCube, in other words, Radar in a CubeSat, was a technology designed to prove that minimizing the size of a weather satellite into a low-cost and small satellite would deliver a high-quality result. Its launch and work demonstrated that CubeSat is legit, and their work is equally good to that of a giant satellite.

RainCube lifts off to the Earth’s orbit in 2018, July 13th, from the International Space Station. From the project plan, the primary mission had a time limit of three months. How did the CubeSat instrument work? The weather satellite saw rain and different precipitation by sending radar signals off snowflakes, ice, and raindrops. Later, it would work out the time taken for a signal to bounce back and its strength on arrival. The scientist on the ground was able to monitor storms globally.

Since it has been in space for almost two and a half years, it has taken up all the storm measurements. RainCube’s principal scientist from NASA Jet Propulsion talked about the significant role behind the launch. He spoke of the weather satellite as an eye-opener to various scientists that a small satellite can do the trick instead of a complete satellite that is ten times bigger. Besides, the two satellites resulted in the same results.

After the initial three months target, the satellite remained in space under its recent destruction. In 2020, it worked alongside another CubeSat, TEMPEST-D, to study storms. The two satellites worked adequately. And although the instruments the CubeSats used were various, the methods were complementary. With that, the monitoring team was able to make better reports on the storms happening globally.

In a statement from RainCube Project manager Shannon Statham, the second phase was a discovery. The team learned that you could use two CubeSats to get better results when studying more about the planet.

In general, a CubeSat is a small instrument with a big mission. The current weather satellites can only view activities in space for a while before recovering. However, with the grand discovery, experts can use multiple CubeSats to work on the same mission. With that, studying the planet is easier and more convenient. Besides, it’s almost impossible to miss something when monitoring is 24-hours.

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Space

A Documentation of the natural disaster resulting from the Uttarakhand Avalanche from New Satellite Images

One would obviously wonder how a disaster that saw 30 people die and left more than 170 missing may have come about. Thanks to a satellite, there are high-resolution images that tell the whole story. They clearly show how it was before the glacier burst and even more interesting events before the actual ordeal. Therefore, one can tell the strength of this particular avalanche clearly. Going by a picture taken on Feb 6, there is a clear ridgeline. It is covered with snow and ice, which is a part of the Trishala glacier. Interestingly, a huge portion of the ice was no more after the avalanche in reference to a photo taken on Feb 8.

Another affected area, besides where the avalanche occurred, is several kilometers from the spot of focus. Just like the other area, it was also covered by snow before the avalanche. However, that changed on the D-day, and again, a huge chunk of snow and ice also went missing. Another area that registered change was the river not far from the Tapovan hydel plant since it was washed away following the avalanche. Before the incident, on Feb 6, it was a stream quite narrow with green water flowing downstream. However, that was different on Feb 8 since it was broader than the day before and instead of green water flows brown mud. The bottom line is that the whole area fell victim to destruction following the avalanche.

Additionally, the Tapovan hydel plant that existed on Feb 6 is no more. That’s all because the avalanche happened the following day when the landslide’s path and dust were hard to go unnoticed. The day after the disaster, Feb 8, dust was no more, but the field of debris left behind was evident.

From experts, there are high chances that it was ice and a block of rock initially. Upon hitting the valley floor but not before rolling for about two kilometers, the end product was an ice avalanche and a huge rock. They rolled down the glacier at a relatively high speed. In the process, a lot of dust was seen and is evident on the valley side as per the satellite images. Then, the unfortunate Uttarakhand disaster happened. It is important to note that the landslide turned out to be a flow of debris, eventually. According to experts, there are high chances the ice was crushed and melted due to the huge amount of heat that the avalanche generated. As a result, the heat triggered fragmentation, and the ice also melted.