Xplore’s Major Tom Software Delivers Satellite Operations Testing for NOAA with Microsoft Azure Orbital

Major Tom dashboard showing pass timeline for satellites over ground stations around the world. (Credit: Xplore)

Xplore’s Major Tom ground station solutions utilize the cloud and demonstrate sustainability and resiliency capabilities

REDMOND, Wash., June 23, 2022 (Xplore PR)  — Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a Service®, completed a satellite testing initiative using Microsoft Azure Orbital to conduct satellite operations for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s NOAA-18 satellite. Xplore is operating over a dozen satellites on orbit; the company completed its work with Azure and became one of the first cloud-based ground control software to operate a NOAA satellite.

Xplore integrated Azure Orbital as part of a first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to demonstrate how commercial services and cloud operations can be used to securely control satellites and acquire data with NOAA satellites.

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NASA to Launch 6 Small Satellites to Monitor, Study Tropical Cyclones

An image of Tropical Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar captured by the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite in February of 2022. (Credit: NASA)

Update: The launch aboard an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 booster failed after the vehicle’s second stage shut down prematurely on Sunday. NASA said in an update that the TROPICS constellation can still improve the monitoring of tropical cyclones with four satellites. Astra Space has the contract to launch the four additional TROPICS spacecraft on two launches.

By Sofie Bates
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA is launching the first two of six small satellites no earlier than June 12 that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites. This is the first of three CubeSat launches for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The remaining satellites will be placed into their orbits during two subsequent launches this year. If successful, the TROPICS satellites will be spread across three orbital planes to cover more of the globe more frequently.

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Astra to Launch NASA TROPICS No Earlier Than Sunday

Rocket 3.3 lifts off from Kodiak Island on March 15, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/NASASpaceflight.com webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astra Space Inc. is targeting no earlier than June 12, pending issuance of a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, for the first launch of NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS), a constellation of six CubeSats. Two CubeSats, each about the size of a loaf of bread, will launch aboard Astra’s Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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Rocket Lab selected by Ball Aerospace to Power NASA’s GLIDE Spacecraft

Rocket Lab will supply the Solar Array Panel (SAP) for the GLIDE Heliophysics mission.

Electron launches on May 3, 2022. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, has been selected by Ball Aerospace to manufacture the Solar Array Panel (SAP) to power NASA’s Global Lyman-Alpha Imager of Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE) mission spacecraft planned to launch in 2025. GLIDE is a heliophysics mission intended to study variability in Earth’s atmosphere.

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Experts Say Urgent Action Required on Space Safety as Number of Satellites Soars and Orbital Debris Proliferates

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Urgent action is needed to ensure that Earth orbit continues to be a safe place in which to operate. And industry must take the lead because governments are moving far too slowly to address an increasingly serious problem.

That was the consensus of the panel of experts that debated the issue during last week’s Space Tech Expo. They expressed concerns about the growing number of large satellite constellations and the enormous amount of dangerous debris already in orbit.

Josef Koller, co-founder of the Space Safety Institute, said space is now a fully international arena no longer dominated by a handful of international nations. The figures laid out by Koller and his fellow panelists demonstrated how much more crowded Earth orbit has become:

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NOAA’s JPSS-2 Mission Has New Launch Date

An illustration of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. JPSS-2 is NOAA’s next-generation operational Earth observation program that acquires and distributes global environmental data primarily from multiple polar-orbiting satellites. (Credits: Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA and NASA are now targeting November 1, 2022 as the new launch date for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission. The launch was originally scheduled for September 30, 2022, however, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument, or VIIRS, experienced a test equipment anomaly during thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing.  

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NASA Awards Contracts to Ball Aerospace & Raytheon for NOAA Ocean Color Instrument Phase A Study

Credit: NOAA

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Ocean Color (OCX) instrument Phase A Study. These contracted firms will help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO Program. 

The firms selected are Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado and Raytheon Intelligence & Space, El Segundo, California. The total value of each of these twenty-month firm-fixed-price contracts is approximately $5.2 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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Momentus Reports $26.8 Million First Quarter Net Loss

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc. (NASDAQ: MNTS) (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a U.S.  commercial space company that plans to offer transportation and other in-space infrastructure services, today announced its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022.

“We’re excited to have seen momentum building last quarter as we move toward the first launch of our Vigoride orbital transfer vehicle to low earth orbit,” said Momentus Chief Executive John Rood. “We recently shipped the Vigoride spacecraft to Cape Canaveral, Florida for integration onto a SpaceX rocket. Cape Canaveral has been the site of so many historic firsts in space, and we’re looking forward to a historic first for our company when we put the Vigoride spacecraft in orbit for the first time.”

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NOAA Releases RFP for Commercial Space Weather Data Pilot

SILVER SPRING, Md., May 19, 2022 (NOAA PR) — Today, NOAA released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct a Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) Study of commercial space weather data sources and related capabilities that may help NOAA meet its space weather mission objectives. For this pilot study, NOAA is seeking measurements from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers that will enable NOAA to derive ionospheric products that meet the current and anticipated needs of operational space weather models and applications.  

NOAA’s Commercial Data Program (CDP) supports CWDP studies to demonstrate the quality and impact of commercial data on NOAA’s weather forecast models. Successful CWDP studies subsequently may lead to sustained commercial data purchases by CDP to support NOAA’s operational forecasting endeavors. 

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NASA Selects Ball Aerospace, Raytheon for NOAA Atmospheric Composition Instrument Study

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Atmospheric Composition (ACX) instrument Phase A Study. These firms will provide services to help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO program.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, and Raytheon Intelligence & Space of El Segundo, California will both receive twenty-month firm-fixed-price contracts for approximately $5 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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Richard DalBello Appointed to Head NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce

Rich DalBello (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that Richard DalBello, a venerable figure in government and the private-sector satellite industry, has been appointed to be the new director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC), the coordinator of space commerce policy activities within the U.S. Department of Commerce. DalBello officially will begin his duties on May 9.

OSC’s key mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry, issuing, enforcing and maintaining operating licenses for private remote sensing space systems and positioning the nation as a leader in space. OSC is also responsible for modernizing and managing the U.S. systems for space situational awareness.

DalBello has more than 30 years of public and private sector commercial space experience. In his previous position as Virgin Atlantic’s Vice President of Global Engagement, he managed international business development for the company’s fleet of carrier aircraft and space vehicles.

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NOAA to Study New Technologies for Future Satellite Products, Services

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA plans to release three Broad Agency Announcements, or BAAs, that may lead to a review of advanced technologies for its future satellite and ground architecture, products and services.  

The BAAs – and the studies that will result – are part of NOAA’s Office of System Architecture and Advanced Planning (OSAAP) Joint Venture Program. Joint Venture examines the feasibility of partnering with other federal agencies, the academic community, or the commercial sector to develop promising innovative research and technology to meet NOAA’s future observational, product and service needs.

Specifically, the BAAs will explore technologies for: 

  • Measuring hyper-spectral microwave remote sensing observations;
  • Measuring 3-D atmospheric wind profiles; and 
  • Developing a digital twin system for Earth observations using Artificial Intelligence

These emerging technologies are to be investigated for their value in enhancing a variety of NOAA’s systems including Numerical Weather Prediction and satellite ground processing. The BAAs are a critical first step in assessing possibilities for the future and not tied to a particular mission or end need.

The BAAs will be posted on the federal contracts opportunities website: SAM.gov. Following the release of the BAAs there will be a Community Day for all interested parties as announced in the BAA. Based on the responses to the BAAs, NOAA will choose the best options to pursue.