Satellites

June 24, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Kurs Orbital is integrating its established rendezvous and docking technology with computer vision, radar capabilities and robotics to create an on-orbit servicing spacecraft fleet for satellites in different orbits. Credit: Kurs Orbital

Entrepreneurs pushing the edge of technological advancement are offering solutions in technical data management software, decentralized identity, aircraft digital parking assistance, spacecraft on-orbit servicing and travel technology. In 10-minute intervals, company representatives pitched their emerging, aerospace-related technologies at Starburst Accelerator’s Paris Selection Committee meeting on June 23, which was held virtually.

June 23, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Space X’s Falcon 9 first stage rocket returns to Earth on June 21, landing on the Just Read the Instructions droneship after launch of the military’s GPS III-5. Space X is preparing for a June 25 launch of key satellite and experimental equipment for the Space Development Agency, as part of a greater Transporter 2 mission set. Credit: SpaceX

The Space Development Agency is progressing in its promise to quickly build and operate advanced space systems that address urgent communication and mission needs for the military. The agency, known as SDA, has a plan as part of its Tranche 0 effort to provide proliferated low-earth-orbit constellation of satellites and sensors that will connect to the military’s tactical legacy datalinks and weapons systems to deter against advanced threats. As part of this effort, SDA is ready on June 25 to launch via Space X's Falcon 9 rocket three optical communication-based experiments across multiple satellites.

April 19, 2021
Posted by George I. Seffers
The U.S. Army's Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team has approved the rapid development and deployment of the Tactical Space Layer, which is expected to shorten the sensor-to-shooter timeline and help equip the Army for multi-domain operations. Credit: U.S. Army photo

The Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team announced today the approval of the Tactical Space Layer (TSL) abbreviated capability development document.

The document validates the need and provides the source for desired capabilities to execute rapid experimentation and prototyping efforts for tactical space-based sensors with supporting ground-based equipment. The accelerated TSL will deliver solutions necessary to shorten the sensor-to-shooter timeline and equip the Army multidomain operations (MDO)-capable force by 2028 to the MDO-ready force by 2035.

December 21, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
Members of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Technical Center watch as Kestrel Eye is able to take its first images from space in April. Kestrel Eye is a small, low-cost, visible-imagery satellite prototype designed to provide near real-time images to the tactical-level ground Soldier in the field, rapidly and inexpensively. (Photo by Jason B. Cutshaw)

Operational assets once available largely to commanders now are being delivered to individuals in the foxhole. Coupled with new technologies, the U.S. Army is tapping into the ultimate high ground for cutting-edge capabilities not only empowering warfighters but also giving commanders more information for decision making.

Despite the benefits orbital assets provide, drawbacks remain. Fiscal uncertainty lurks throughout the future planning process. Adversaries have increased their efforts to overcome the lead position U.S. forces traditionally held in space. In addition, cultural and architectural barriers inhibit Army space forces from realizing their full potential.

November 10, 2020
 

On November 10, Arlington, Virginia-based Raytheon Technologies announced that it would acquire Blue Canyon Technologies. The Boulder, Colorado-based company
manufacturers small satellites and spacecraft systems components. Blue Canyon Technologies will fold into Raytheon 's current Intelligence and Space division after the purcahse closes, which is expected in early 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

September 3, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
Photo credit: Pixabay

The global economy—and especially more technologically advanced countries like the United States—are increasingly dependent on space-based capabilities like GPS and satellite communications.

“When considering our daily lives,” explained retired Canadian Gen. Robert Mazzolin, now chief cybersecurity strategist for the Rhea Group, a global engineering firm. “There’s not an operation or activity that’s conducted anywhere at any level that’s not somehow dependent on space capabilities,” he went on.

September 9, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
A GPS III satellite circles the earth. Photo Credit: United States Government, GPS.Gov

​​On both sides of the Atlantic, NATO and European leaders are struggling to address the threat posed to vital space systems by foreign hackers, cyber warfare and online espionage. Huge swathes of the global economy are utterly dependent on orbital capabilities like GPS that look increasingly fragile as space becomes more crowded and contested.

September 1, 2020
By Carine Claeys
An artist’s concept shows the full operational capability Galileo satellite on station above the Earth. With the constellation forming the backbone of Europe’s positioning, navigation and timing assets in space, Europe has geared up to address the growing threat picture confronting its space systems.  ESA

The European Union has established the basis of an organizational structure to safeguard its important satellite assets, particularly those that provide vital positioning, navigation and timing data. As its Galileo constellation has grown in size and significance, the European Union is establishing the necessary organizational infrastructure to build and coordinate a collective effort to secure space against a broad range of threats.

August 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off, carrying the company’s StarLink low-earth-orbit networking satellites. Flooding near-earth space with hundreds of satellites is the future of orbital activities as satellite construction expenses and launch costs continue to come down.  SpaceX

The next era of satellite communications is upon us in the form of low-earth-orbit constellations aiming to revolutionize personal connectivity, according to satellite experts. These new satellite swarms are being driven by technology innovations simultaneously with the growth of less-expensive launch services. The result will be an explosion in the number and type of orbiters serving their earthbound hosts while raising the bar for support technologies on the ground.

August 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
The Naval Research Lab’s Blossom Point satellite tracking facility is fully automated, reducing manpower and costs. Now, the research lab is extending those capabilities with autonomous antennas in California and Hawaii.   Emanuel Cavalarro

By year’s end, U.S. Navy researchers intend to add one of two remote autonomous antennas to its satellite tracking architecture, enhancing its ability to collect strategic satellite data and support space-related research and development.

The first antenna will be located at a secure, undisclosed and unmanned site in California and will extend the tracking capabilities from Blossom Point, Maryland. The second is planned for Hawaii.

Blossom Point is located south of Washington, D.C., and is owned and operated by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). It is considered a state-of-the-art command and control facility capable of supporting satellite spaceflight missions from launch through end-of-life.

July 1, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
Lockheed Martin engineers work on the GPS IIR satellites for the U.S. Air Force. Lockheed Martin designed and built 21 GPS IIR satellites and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-M, to enhance operations and navigation signal performance.   Courtesy Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Defense Department is increasingly using digital replicas to make predictions about the performance of complex weapons systems such as satellites or jet engines and to train artificial intelligence how to fly high-performance aircraft.

Last year, the U.S. Air Force used this digital twin technology to assess the cyber vulnerabilities of global positioning system (GPS) satellites for the first time. Advocates say the same approach can be used in training artificial intelligence (AI) and can be employed for predictive maintenance to determine when vital parts of an engine might be at risk of failure.

February 28, 2020
By Maryann Lawlor
Squadron Leader Jamiee Maika, Royal Australian Air Force, observes operations at the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. This multinational space force includes a strategic defense partnership between the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Additional nations collaborating on space operations with the center include Germany, France and New Zealand. U.S. Space Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong

Aggressive Chinese and Russian counterspace capabilities have fundamentally changed threats in the space domain, and the United States must now make some transformational changes to its strategic warfare in this new environment. The U.S. Defense Department overall, and the U.S. Space Force and unified Space Command in particular, face three critical challenges that will be fundamental to using space to warfighters’ advantage and remaining a world military leader.

March 1, 2020
By Jim Mazzei
Sgt. April Vance, USMC, a field radio operator with Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, adjusts the communications network during a field training exercise at Camp Pendleton, California. Field radio operators employ a range of frequencies to establish communications, including ultrahigh frequencies, upper-very-high frequencies and high frequencies.  U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Staff Sgt. Rubin J. Tan, USMC

As the components of the celestial network that ties commanders to troops enter into middle age and in many cases retirement, the U.S. Defense Department must take quick action to protect warfighters’ safety and homeland security. The challenge military leaders and procurement officers face is the urgency of the need. After all, communications satellites aren’t cellphones or drones and can’t be bought at the local tech store. Instead, meeting U.S. military communications capabilities needs by 2025 will require changing the location of a satellite already in orbit.

October 21, 2019
Posted by George I. Seffers
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories search for ways to protect satellites from a variety of threats, including missiles, lasers and electronic warfare. Credit: Shutterstock/Andrey Armyagov

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories launched a seven-year mission campaign this month to develop the science, technology and architecture needed for autonomous satellite protection systems.

July 2, 2019
By Robert K. Ackerman
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has selected 10 innovative projects to help the agency measure the Earth’s magnetic field as part of its MagQuest competition. Credit: Shutterstock/Andrey VP

Magnetometer locations ranging from on the bottom of the sea to orbiting in space constitute the first round winners of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA's) MagQuest open innovation challenge. Designed to generate novel ways of measuring Earth’s magnetic field, MagQuest is offering prizes totaling $1.2 million for novel geomagnetic data collection methodologies.

March 11, 2019
 

SRI International, Menlo Park, California, is awarded an $11,312,731 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for low frequency high power satellite calibration research and development. The contract contains options, which if exercised, will bring the contract value to a total of $63,482,059. The places of performance will be at the contractor’s facility located in Menlo Park, California (65 percent); and at the Bluestar Antenna Facility in Stanford, California (35 percent). Work is expected to be completed March 7, 2020.  If all options are exercised, work will continue through March 2024.

January 7, 2019
 

Northrop Grumman Corp., Aerospace Systems, Azusa, California, has been awarded a $7,688,550 contract option modification (P00029) to contract FA8810-15-C-0001 for Defense Support Program (DSP) on-orbit satellite and anomaly resolution support. This support provides root-cause analysis as a key component of the lifetime extension of DSP.  Work will be performed in Azusa, California; Aurora, Colorado; and Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2019. Fiscal year 2019 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $7,688,550 are being obligated at the time of award. Total cumulative face value is $108,244,260.

January 1, 2019
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Air Force is facing a strategic inflection point in terms of how it pursues satellite communications in an increasingly contested space environment. The service launched its fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency mission aboard the Atlas V rocket by the United Launch Alliance on October 17, 2018, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Space Launch Complex-41.  United Launch Alliance

Known as the SMC, the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, part of the service’s Space Command, is at the helm of the military’s satellite communications. Confronting a contested space environment and the need to innovate faster, the SMC is pursuing a reorganization involving its contracting and decision-making approaches to improve the nation’s defense-related satellite communications.

January 5, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
NASA’s new GOLD mission, launching on January 25, will provide important observations of the ionosphere, and how it impacts technologies operating in near-space. NASA photo

During the last several years, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has been developing a mission to explore near-space, where the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere meets space. The effort, known as the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, will come to initial fruition with the launch of observation equipment on January 25.

October 31, 2017
 

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, California, has been awarded a $21,097,084 modification (P00043) for advanced extremely high frequency satellites (Vehicles 5 and 6). The company will implement operational resiliency for satellite Vehicle 6 and Atlas 551 capability for Vehicles 5 and 6. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, California, and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2021. Fiscal 2017 missile procurement funds in the amount of $21,097,084 is being obligated at the time of award. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8808-12-C-0010).

August 14, 2017
 

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Littleton, Colorado, has been awarded a $45,482,492 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification (P00450) for military code (M-Code) early use software. The contract will enable M-Code tasking, monitoring and signal in space for current and future global positioning system satellites. Work will be performed in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Colorado, and is expected to be completed by December 2019. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2017 research and development funds in the amount of $15,300,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity (FA8807-08-C-0010).

April 17, 2017
By Sandra Jontz

The cannonade of small satellites hovering above the Earth is creating a dilemma for government and industry alike: how to process enormous amounts of data sent to the ground. 

Collecting information isn’t the hard part, nor is transmitting it, experts say. What vexes intelligence analysts the most is not being able to make heads or tails of petabyte upon petabyte of data. But the government seeks help from the commercial world to make that happen.

February 1, 2017
By Carl Morris and James Christophersen
A new state-of-the-art Satellite Earth Terminal Station (SETS) in Landstuhl, Germany, provides improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning and power distribution as well as additional floor space to better accommodate increased systems and subsystems. Photo courtesy U.S. Army-PM DCATS

U.S. Army satellite ground stations are getting a much-needed total makeover—considering that several hail from the same era as the Vietnam War, the Kennedy presidency and the space race. 

Their high-tech moniker—Satellite Earth Terminal Stations, or SETS—belies the actual nature of these facilities. The structures appear to more closely resemble corrugated steel warehouses for auto parts than suitable environments for cutting-edge satellite communications (SATCOM) equipment. During the 1960s, digital SATCOM was hardly a twinkle in the eye of technologists. SATCOM speed, volume and complexity would increase by many orders of magnitude over the next five decades.

December 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, has selected its winners from its crowd-sourced Multi-View Stereo 3-D Mapping Challenge—a contest to see who could best convert satellite photos into 3-D models to create more accurate maps.

The top challenge solvers demonstrated their solutions during an all-day workshop Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The open source solutions were released during the event and will be made available to the public on an IARPA website.

November 29, 2016
 

Recent technological advances have brought the on-orbit robotic servicing of satellites closer to reality. Now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has kicked off the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS) to tackle the lack of clear, widely accepted technical and safety standards for responsible performance of on-orbit activities involving commercial satellites.

September 1, 2016
by Raymond Guzman and N.A. Chu

When Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, nearly 59 years ago, the orb hurtled uncontrollably through space, transmitting basic broadcast radio pulses for a mere three weeks before its batteries were exhausted.

How times have changed.

Experts have developed satellite resiliency at an exponential rate, enhancing capabilities by leaps and bounds since the novel one-way signals of Sputnik were heard around the world.

June 17, 2016
By Tony Bardo

Recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have demonstrated the importance of improving the nation’s emergency communications infrastructure at all levels of government. Ensuring consistent, uninterrupted communications during a disaster, and the days immediately following, is essential to an organization’s ability to meet mission-critical response requirements. Unfortunately, communications infrastructures easily fall victim to physical damage, leaving personnel and emergency responders unable to effectively communicate.

June 9, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
NATO officials highlight several business initiatives to meet future needs during the NITEC 2016 cyber conference in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Marcos Fernandez Marin, NCI Agency

Industry said, “Show me the money,” and NATO obliged.

Officials shared several key business initiatives to meet future NATO needs during the three-day NITEC 2016 cyber conference, informing industry members about 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) worth of upcoming business opportunities and contract work.

March 24, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, USAF, director of space programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition for the U.S. Air Force, discusses future programs at AFCEA's TechNet Air symposium.

Every military operation conducted around the world is enabled by space as well as cyber operations, domains closely linked and threatened alike. “As it is with cyber, and as the world is certainly witness to, our space domain is critically important,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, USAF, director of space programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition for the U.S. Air Force.

March 1, 2016
By Rory Welch
Operators staff the East Coast Satellite Operation Center (ESOC) in Northern Virginia. The ESOC flies the majority of Intelsat’s global satellite fleet, which provides mission critical support for the full range of the company’s government and commercial customers.

Growing threats to national security in the space domain have prompted U.S. Air Force leaders to revamp plans and programs to adapt to a new reality of reinforcing system and network resiliency and shifting its people and resources to focus on warfighting functions. Government space capabilities, augmented by commercial systems, will play critical and active roles to secure U.S. and allied interests in and through the increasingly contested domain of space, requiring the Air Force and the Defense Department to proactively plan how to enable more coordinated and integrated space enterprise operations.

December 3, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The third Inmarsat Inc., Global Xpress satellite is now fully operational after reaching its final orbital position. Activation of the third satellite in a fleet of three provides complete global coverage of the company’s program to heighten global communication capabilities on land, at sea and in the air, according to a company statement.

September 30, 2015
By Rebecca M. Cowen-Hirsch

The Defense Department has reached a turning point in satellite communications (SATCOM) acquisition and deployment. On one hand, it is transitioning SATCOM from narrowband to wideband to keep up with ever-accumulating voice, video and data consumption. On the other, the budget forecast for the foreseeable future does not cover the replacement or addition of military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) systems, except for those within existing programs of record.

August 17, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

Inmarsat Incorporated plans to launch the anticipated third satellite of its Global Xpress network August 28 from Kazakhstan, a re-do launch after a previous attempt had been delayed.

The third satellite is needed for complete coverage of the international company’s program to heighten global communication capabilities on land, at sea and in the air.

Inmarsat-5 (I-5) F3, which will provide satellite communications coverage from its position over the Pacific Ocean, had been scheduled to launch in early June but was delayed following the failure in May of the Khrunichev-International Launch Services Russian Proton rocket as it dispatched a Mexican communications satellite.

July 2, 2015
By Sandra Jontz

The mobile craze and the shift to constant connectivity—even if it means paying steep prices for slow Internet speeds—have paid off for both airlines offering onboard Wi-Fi hot spots and satellite communications providers.

July 1, 2015
By Robert Demers
A U.S. Army soldier works with a power unit supplying a satellite antenna during an exercise. Military and civilian governments increasingly will benefit from future satellite network systems that are smaller, lighter and simpler and use less power.

Anyone who ever has switched to a new smartphone or computer knows that the transition is rarely smooth. Software never seems to load easily; printer connections need adjusting; passwords must be found; and online accounts have to be set up all over again.

December 13, 2013
 

Lockheed Martin Corp, Newton, Pa., has been awarded a $200,700,415 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification (P00276) on an existing contract (FA8807-08-C-0010) for GPS III space vehicles 05 and 06. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Contracting Directorate, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity.

October 25, 2013
George I. Seffers

Iridium Satellite LLC, McLean, Va. was awarded a $7,241,112 sole-source contract for hardware and software repairs, maintenance, Gateway Technical Assistance Center support and Information Assurance Vulnerability Alert services for the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services Defense Department Gateway Iridium components. The total potential contract term is for five years to include a one-year base period and four one-year options. The total potential value of this contract is $38,000,004, with the base and each option year period including both firm-fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contract line items.

February 22, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Lockheed Martin Corp., Space Systems, Newton, Pa., is being awarded a $58,237,713 contract modification for Global Positioning System III Space Vehicles 7 and 8 long lead items. The contracting activity is the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.   

December 26, 2012
George I. Seffers

The Boeing Co., Seal Beach, Calif., is being awarded a $12,487,949 cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for maintenance and operations services for the development and delivery of the logistics infrastructure for the Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 System. The contracting activity is the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

February 6, 2012
 

Got a good idea for a small satellite? NASA has issued a broad agency announcement seeking low-cost flight demonstration proposals for small satellites, which generally weigh less than 400 pounds and are usually launched as secondary payloads. The NASA Edison SmallSat Demonstration Program says this solicitation will focus on the communications capabilities of these small spacecraft. Executive summaries of these proposals are due no later than March 4, 2012. For more information, visit: www.nasa.gov/oct.

August 23, 2011
By George Seffers

Boeing Satellite Systems Incorporated, El Segundo, California, is being awarded an almost $9 million fixed-price contract modification to retrofit the Block II space vehicles with radio frequency bypass out-of-band cascading filter solutions. Space and Missile Systems Center, El Segundo, California, is the contracting activity.

March 25, 2011
By Beverly Schaeffer

With limited land mass, the country of Israel must look to space to help gird its defensive capabilities. The nation's interest in military space is obvious-to optimize battlefield and security effectiveness using space-based assets. The head of the Israeli Air Force Space Branch is Lt. Col. Oren Barda, IAF. He notes why Israel considers space to be critical to international security:

First, we must stand guard for any possible threats. Space enables long-range surveillance, space enables working in neutral territory, and space is a technology and economic booster to industry.

October 29, 2010
By Beverly Schaeffer

The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) isn't merely polishing the lenses of its legacy space assets to improve its satellite communications (SATCOM)-it's also ordering a new pair of glasses to see its future capabilities. Not only does the command have three Wideband Global System (WGS) satellites currently in orbit, it's also looking at ways the commercial sector can support its endeavors. These efforts-along with STRATCOM's revamping of its Joint Space Operations Center-are in the sights of Executive Editor Maryann Lawlor in this month's issue of SIGNAL Magazine.

April 16, 2009
 

Commercial satellite support for U.S. military forces in the Middle East and Asia is being boosted by an Intelsat orbiter that is being moved halfway around the world to cover the region. The international satellite consortium, responding to a U.S. Defense Department request in February, is repositioning its Galaxy 26 U.S. domestic satellite from its 93°W slot over the Western Hemisphere to a new location over the Indian Ocean. The Galaxy 26 orbiter will provide vital bandwidth for unmanned aerial vehicles conducting surveillance operations throughout its area of coverage, which ranges from Germany to Southeast Asia.