GPS III SV03 Receives Operational Acceptance

Falcon 9 lifts off with GPS III satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

LOS ANGELES (Space and Missile Systems Center Public PR) — The United States Space Force (USSF) and the Space and the Missile Systems Center achieved another major Global Positioning System (GPS) milestone on July 27 when the GPS III Space Vehicle (SV) 03 received USSF’s Operational Acceptance approval.

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Space Force Awards National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Contracts to SpaceX & ULA

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), competitively awarded two Firm-Fixed-Price, Indefinite Delivery Requirement contracts for National Security Space launch services today to ULA and SpaceX.

“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO, and our launch service industry partners,” said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

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Trump Withdraws Nomination of O’Rielly to Serve as FCC Commissioner

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Michael P. O’Rielly for another five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

SpaceNews reports the White House withdrew the nomination because O’Rielly opposed a petition by the Trump Administration asking the FCC to re-examine section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 provides free speech protections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Conservatives have accused the companies of censoring their views and want the immunity removed.

O’Rielly’s nomination was already on hold in the Senate at the time it was withdrawn. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced on July 28 that he had put a hold on the nomination until O’Rielly publicly committed to overturning the FCC’s Ligado order.

In April, FCC commissioners approved a modification to Ligado’s license to operate L-band communications services. The approval was opposed by the Trump Administration, the Defense Department, and other agencies that believe it will interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals.

“I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’ – but that isn’t enough,” Inhofe said in a statement. “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”   

OneWeb – The Opportunity for the UK

OneWeb satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

HARWELL, UK (Satellite Applications Catapult PR) — According to press reports, the UK government is a partner in a bid for OneWeb, the UK- headquartered satellite communications company which, following the well-publicised financial difficulties of a major investor, entered Chapter 11 in March. If these reports are true, and the bid is successful, then it is great news for the UK space sector and UK citizens.

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China Completes Beidou Satellite Navigation System

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.

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Keep GPS Working Coalition Launched Following FCC’s Controversial Ligardo Approval

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

Coalition’s first action is to endorse Inhofe-Reed legislation forcing Ligado to provide financial relief to consumers, industries and other end users

WASHINGTON (June 23)—Five organizations representing thousands of companies and millions of Americans have launched a new coalition to protect end users of GPS following the Federal Communications Commission’s April 22 decision to permit Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network using its satellite spectrum.

Ligado’s planned use of its so called “L-Band”spectrum, which is closely adjacent to bands used by GPS, would threaten the reception capability of hundreds of millions of GPS devices.

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Australia Provides $11 Million in Space Grants to Boost Businesses and Local Jobs

CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is backing a series of projects designed to grow Australia’s space sector and create local jobs, including improving GPS technology and the design of innovative spacesuits that will make spacewalking easier.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the 10 projects sharing in $11 million [USD $7.6 million] would boost jobs and skills in the space sector, and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Future Space Travelers May Follow Cosmic Lighthouses

An image of NICER on the exterior of the space station with one of the station’s solar panels in the background. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — For centuries, lighthouses helped sailors navigate safely into harbor. Their lights swept across the water, cutting through fog and darkness, guiding mariners around dangerous obstacles and keeping them on the right path. In the future, space explorers may receive similar guidance from the steady signals created by pulsars.

Scientists and engineers are using the International Space Station to develop pulsar-based navigation using these cosmic lighthouses to assist with wayfinding on trips to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis  program and on future human missions to Mars.

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SpaceX Launches 58 Starlink Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off on June 13, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX launched its ninth Starlink mission on Saturday, lofting 58 Starlink and three Planet SkySat Earth observation satellites into orbit.

Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the pre-dawn darkness.

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NOAA Harnessing Power of New Satellite Data this Hurricane Season

Hurricane Humberto (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — With predictions for an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA forecasters have added meteorological muscle from a new  combination of satellite data flowing into its computer models. 

The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC-2) is a new fleet of six small satellites launched last June. Since May 26, the constellation has begun feeding more than 4,000 vertical sets of measurements of atmospheric temperature and humidity in the tropics and subtropics daily into our forecast models. Measuring the moisture in and around tropical cyclones is important because it is a key ingredient for their development and intensification.

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Astrobotic Awarded NASA Contract to Develop UltraNav Smart Camera for Next-Gen Space Missions

Astrobotic’s UltraNav Aims to make Advanced Vision-Based Navigation Accessible to the Broader Space Industry

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) – NASA has selected Astrobotic for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to continue its development of UltraNav, a low-cost, autonomous, visual navigation system for spacecraft. The system has wide-ranging applications, from the servicing of Earth satellites to journeys to challenging space destinations such as the lunar poles or Martian mountains.

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Trump Administration Formally Asks FCC to Reconsider Ligado Decision

The Trump Administration has formally requested that the Federal Communications Commission reconsider its approval to Ligado to construct a nationwide mobile broadband network that it says “will cause irreparable harms to federal government users of the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) filed the appeal to rescind the approval on behalf of the Trump Administration, particularly the departments of Defense (DOD) and Transportation (DOT).

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Defense Department Tries to Undo FCC Approval of Ligado Cell Network

The Department of Defense plans to appeal the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of a plan by Ligado to establish a cellular network that military officials believe will interfere with signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS).

SpaceNews reports:

“One avenue could be legislative action,” Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy told reporters May 6 following a lengthy Senate Armed Services Committee hearing where he testified along with other Pentagon officials.

Another channel to try to get the decision reversed would be to petition to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said Deasy. The NTIA is an interagency organization that oversees the government’s spectrum policies.

The deadline for the Pentagon to file an appeal is May 29….

“We were surprised,” said Deasy. DoD for years was able to work through tough contentious issues with the FCC, he said, but on this one the process broke down.

In approving the application, FCC commissioners said restrictions placed on Ligado’s 5G cellular network would prevent interference with signals from the GPS satellite navigation system.

In the order approving Ligado’s application, the Commission included stringent conditions to ensure that incumbents would not experience harmful interference. For example, the Commission mandated that Ligado provide a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation. Moreover, Ligado is required to limit the power levels of its base stations to 9.8 dBW, a reduction of 99.3% from the power levels proposed in Ligado’s 2015 application.

The order also requires Ligado to protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted.

FCC Unanimously Approves Ligado’s Application to Facilitate 5G and Internet of Things Services

Conditions Will Protect Incumbents from Harmful Interference

WASHINGTON (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission announced that it has approved with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services.

The order approving Ligado’s application was adopted without dissent and will promote more efficient and effective use of our nation’s spectrum resources and ensure that adjacent band operations, including the Global Positioning System (GPS), are protected from harmful interference.

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A Summary of U.S. Counterspace Capabilities

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes U.S. counterspace capabilities.

The United States has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), along with tracking, targeting, and intercept technologies that could lead to a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability.

These tests and demonstrations were conducted for other non-offensive missions, such as missile defense, on-orbit inspections, and satellite servicing, and the United States does not have an acknowledged program to develop co-orbital capabilities. However, the United States possesses the technological capability to develop a co-orbital capability in a short period of time if it chooses to.

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