Numerica Tackles Growing Space Debris, Satellite Protection Problem

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Numerica PR) — Numerica is working on five contracts for the Air Force, worth more than $3.3 million, to provide state-of-the-art algorithms for improved space situational awareness (SSA). SSA involves the detection, cataloging and ongoing tracking of all space objects orbiting the Earth, and the prediction of events, threats and activities in space.

In the late 1950s, there were only a few satellites orbiting the Earth. In September 2011, the National Research Council reported there is so much government and commercial “space junk” in orbit that the debris could cause spacecraft collisions or destroy valuable communication satellites.

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Xplore Receives USAF Award for Innovative Commercial Capabilities Around the Moon

Lunar orbiting satellite. (Credit: Xplore)

SEATTLE, April 6, 2020 (Xplore PR) – Xplore Inc., a commercial space company has announced they have won an Air Force award to study positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions for cislunar space. The award category, for commercial and technical innovations between the Earth and the Moon — is entirely new for the Air Force, which is investigating the capabilities necessary to extend operations beyond geosynchronous orbit to now include cislunar space.

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Space Force Identifies USAF Missions for Transfer to Newest Service

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — In a significant step that enhances the U.S. Space Force’s capabilities and development, the Department of the Air Force has identified 23 U.S. Air Force organizations whose space-related missions will soon transfer to the Space Force.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, in conjunction with Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, directed the transfer which entails shifting space missions from Air Force organizations into the newest military branch.

Currently, Space Force is comprised primarily of units which previously fell under the former Air Force Space Command prior to the service’s establishment on Dec. 20, 2019.  

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Raytheon, L3Harris Each Awarded $500 Million Contracts for Military Satcom Modems

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The Space and Missile Systems Center awarded Raytheon Company – Space and Airborne Systems and L3 Technologies Inc. two indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multi-award contracts with ceiling values of $500 million each, totaling $1 billion, for development and production of Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW)-capable modems, over 120 days ahead of schedule, March 27.

SMC teamed with the Army Program Executive Office Command Control Communications – Tactical, Product Manager Satellite Communications to leverage commonality and gain efficiencies to execute the Air Force and Army Anti-Jam Modem (A3M) program. A3M directly supports Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) and is a critical capability to increase anti-jam and communications capacity for joint tactical warfighters in contested environments. A3M will benefit all DoD SATCOM and national security efforts and ultimately keep the nation and its allies operating safely from anywhere at any time.

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Phase Four Wins USAF to Adapt Maxwell In-space Engine for Defense Needs

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., March 17, 2020 (Phase Four PR) — Phase Four, makers of radio frequency (RF) plasma engines for in-space propulsion, has been awarded an SBIR Phase I contract by Air Force tech accelerator AFWERX, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Security Innovation Network.

As part of this partnership, beginning in March 2020, Phase Four will work with the Air Force to adapt its revolutionary Maxwell in-space propulsion system to meet the needs of defense users.

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Report: New Space Force Will Need Resources, Clear Definition of Warfighting Mission

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (RAND Corporation PR) — To meet the goals of the U.S. Space Force most space activities in the Department of Defense should be moved into the new service, according to a new report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Moreover, it will be critical that the Space Force clearly define and clarify its space warfighting mission.

As the United States stands up the Space Force as a service within the Department of the Air Force, RAND was asked to assess which units to bring into the Space Force, analyze its career field sustainability and draw lessons from other defense organizations. The report focuses on effectiveness, efficiency, independence and sense of identity for the new service—the first created in the United States in 72 years.

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Trump Administration Proposes Deep Cuts to NOAA Budget

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration is proposing a 13.57 percent reduction in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021, according to budget documents.

The $4.63 billion proposal would cut NOAA spending by $727.64 million below the FY 2020 budget. Although key satellite and commercial data purchasing programs would received increases, dozens of other programs would see their funding reduced or eliminated completely.

NOAA’s climate change research programs would be reduced by more than half from $169.5 million to $83.2 million. President Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese government to destroy the American economy.

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Report: Pentagon Needs to Do Better Job Protecting Space Assets

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As space has become a war-fighting domain, the Defense Department (DOD) faces challenges in assessing how its satellites can survive threats against them, erecting a Space Fence to better track satellites and debris in Earth orbit, and upgrading the Global Positioning System (GPS), according to a new report from the director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).

“The DOD intends to invest at least $100 billion in space systems over the next decade, and we are not alone,” the report stated. “We therefore must thoroughly understand how our systems will perform in space, particularly when facing manmade threats,” Robert F. Behler wrote in the 2019 annual report.

“Yet, the DOD currently has no real means to assess adequately the operational effectiveness, suitability, and survivability of space-based systems in a representative environment,” he added. (Download full report)

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Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.

The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.

“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.

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U.S. Air Force Requests $169 Billion, Funding for Space Force

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — The Department of the Air Force released a $169 billion budget proposal Feb. 10, which for the first time includes funding for the newly created U.S. Space Force while also focusing funds to help both services modernize, address threats from Russia and China, and sustain readiness.

The spending plan for fiscal year 2021 carries a $900 million increase from the previous year. But unlike 2020, funding for 2021 is apportioned differently, with $153.6 billion directed to the Air Force and $15.4 billion for the Space Force.

“Our fiscal year ‘21 budget proposal helps drive irreversible momentum as we implement the National Defense Strategy,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “The strategic advantages the Air Force and the Space Force bring to our nation are vital. This budget allows us to meet today’s national security challenges while taking important steps toward the Air and Space Forces we need in 2030.”

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L3Harris Technologies Passes Preliminary Design Review for Experimental Satellite Navigation Program

U.S. Air Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) satellite. (Photo: L3Harris Technologies)
  • Defines design baseline for U.S. Air Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite-3
  • Demonstrates ability to move quickly for rapid acquisition prototype programs
  • Allows L3Harris to continue development of newly named Air Force vanguard program

MELBOURNE, Fla. (L3Harris Technologies PR) — L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has reached a major milestone in the U.S. Air Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) project – passing the preliminary design review that defines the spacecraft’s path to delivery and allows the program to move to the next phase of development.

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SMC, Mission Partners Successfully Deploy Aerospace Rogue CubeSats from ISS

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners successfully deployed Aerospace’s Rogue Alpha and Rogue Beta CubeSats from the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule at 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. respectively, Jan. 31, 2020.

This marks the beginning of the program’s mission experiment plan, where the two satellites will use their short-wave infrared sensors to create a baseline for processing cloud backgrounds and inform future low Earth orbit satellites. The Air Force will also utilize this program’s unclassified data to investigate potential uses of the capability.

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Satellite Host Named for NASA Air Pollution Sensor

Maxar will build the Intelsat 40e geostationary communications satellite and integrate NASA’s TEMPO payload with it. (Credit: Maxar Technologies)

A NASA instrument that will measure air quality over North America in unprecedented detail during daylight hours now has a satellite host.

Maxar Technologies and Intelsat recently agreed to partner to host NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument onboard the Intelsat 40e mission. In 2019, NASA selected Maxar to host the TEMPO instrument utilizing the U.S. Air Force Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) contract vehicle.

Intelsat 40e is based on Maxar’s 1300-class satellite platform and will provide commercial satellite communications for Intelsat customers in North and Central America. The satellite is scheduled to launch into geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator in 2022.

TEMPO will make hourly measurements of atmospheric gases — including ozone, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde as well as aerosols — across North America and provide air quality products that will be made publicly available and help improve air quality forecasting.

“We are excited about this important step required to lay the operational framework for TEMPO’s critical air quality measurements. We look forward to working closely with both Maxar and Intelsat for the successful integration, launch and deployment of TEMPO,” said Stephen Hall, TEMPO project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The TEMPO instrument project is led by Principal Investigator Kelly Chance from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The instrument was developed by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, and is in storage awaiting shipment to Maxar’s satellite manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California.

TEMPO will be part of a constellation of instruments measuring air quality over the Northern Hemisphere that will also include the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4, currently in development, and South Korea’s Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, scheduled to launch later this month.

SMC, NASA Deploy DoD’s STPSat-4 From ISS

Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat-4) reaches its final orbit after deploying from the International Space Station, Jan. 28, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF SMC PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and its mission partner, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), successfully deployed the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat‑4) from the International Space Station at 11:20 p.m., Jan. 28, 2020.   

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U.S. Air Force Awards Viasat $90 Million to Expand Tactical Data Networking Capabilities

CARLSBAD, Calif., January 21, 2020 (ViaSat PR) -– Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, announced today it was recently awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract worth a maximum ceiling of $90 million, to provide special warfare operators of the United States Air Force (USAF) with Viasat’s Battlefield Awareness Targeting System—Dismounted (BATS-D) handheld Link 16 radios (also known in the U.S. Department of Defense nomenclature as the AN/PRC-161 radio). In addition to equipment, the IDIQ award covers associated operator training and maintenance.

BATS-D is the world’s first and only handheld Link 16 radio. It bridges a critical gap between air and ground forces by providing warfighters at the tactical edge with real-time, secure, reliable access to integrated air and ground information for improved situational awareness and enhanced close air support communications.

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