Orbit Logic Awarded AFRL/AFWERX Space Situational Awareness Planning & Analysis Contract

GREENBELT, MD (Orbit Logic PR) – Orbit Logic, a leading provider of planning and scheduling software, announced today that it has been awarded an AFWERX Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The award will enhance the Heimdall Fire Space Situational Awareness (SSA) planning solution. Heimdall Fire is an existing software solution consisting of Orbit Logic COTS software products configured for SSA observation planning.

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EU Space Budget Request Slashed

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Commission (EC) has slashed its space budget for 2021-27 from a proposed €16 billion ($18.8 billion) to €13.2 billion ($15.1 billion) due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU).

Under terms worked out last week by EU leaders, the space budget will devote €8 billion ($9.4 billion) on the Galileo satellite navigation system and €4.8 billion ($5.65 billion) to the Copernicus constellation of environmental satellites.

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LeoLabs Selects Costa Rica as Site for Next Generation Space Radar

Expansion into Equatorial Region Will Protect Satellites from Small Debris and Drive Sustainability in Low Earth Orbit

MENLO PARK, Calif., July 22, 2020 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today announced Costa Rica as the site for its next space radar.  

“We are delighted to be working with an incredible team in Costa Rica, and proud to bring the first commercial phased-array radar to the equatorial region,” said Mike Nicolls, LeoLabs Chief Technology Officer and co-founder. “This improves our coverage of equatorial and low inclination orbits, filling a critical gap for tracking satellites and space debris.” LeoLabs’ Costa Rica radar will be capable of tracking small debris down to 2cm and work in concert with LeoLabs’ other radars.

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DoD Awards $15 Million Contract to LeoLabs

WASHINGTON (Defense Department PR) — As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense entered into a $15 million agreement with LeoLabs, Inc. to ensure the continued viability of space surveillance capability through the operation and maintenance of a world-wide highly capable phased-array radar network.

The ability to surveil and analyze spacecraft in low earth orbit is essential to national defense. LeoLabs, Inc. is the only domestic commercial supplier with demonstrated capability in this critical area.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset direct workforce and financial distress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to a sole-source capability within the defense industrial base and ensure resultant critical capabilities are retained within the U.S.

LeoLabs, Inc. is based in Menlo Park, California, with operating locations throughout the United States.

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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Techstars Allied Space Accelerator Announces Class of 2020

BOULDER, Colo. (Techstars PR) — Techstars is delighted to announce the inaugural class for the Techstars Allied Space Accelerator, a virtual accelerator program in partnership with the U.S. Air Force, the Netherlands Ministry of Defence, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, and the Norwegian Space Agency. 

The virtual program focuses on the next generation of space technologies, with 10 companies in the commercial space industry to include geospatial analytics, satellite servicing, space situational awareness, resilient communications, AI in space, and others. 

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ISRO, ARIES Sign MOU on Space Situational Awareness, Astrophysics Cooperation

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Bengaluru and Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital for cooperation in the field of Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Astrophysics was signed by Shri.R. Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO and Prof. (Dr.) Dipankar Banerjee, Director, ARIES through video at ISRO Headquarters and ARIES Headquarters on 4th June 2020. 

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New DLR Research Observatory Will Track Near-Earth Satellites, Space Debris

Computer visualisation of the DLR research observatory. (Credit: DLR)
  • DLR is building a new research observatory to determine the nature and trajectory of objects in low-Earth orbit quickly, precisely and reliably. Accurate data are important to avoid collisions between satellites and space debris.
  • Construction work will begin at the end of May 2020 at the Empfingen Innovation Campus in Baden-Württemberg. The inauguration is planned for spring 2021.
  • The project focuses on particularly accurate measurement of distances using specialised lasers.
  • The research telescope will be the largest of its kind in Europe.

Baden-Württemberg, Germany (DLR PR) — With the construction of a new research observatory, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is taking the next step in determining the nature and trajectory of objects in low-Earth orbit as quickly, precisely and reliably as possible. This is fundamental for the future of spaceflight as it is the only way to prevent collisions between objects such as space debris and active satellites.

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An Overview of Japan’s Counterspace Strategy

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarize Japan’s counterspace capabilities.

Country Summary

Japan has long been a well-established space actor and its space activities have historically been entirely non-military in nature. In 2008, Japan made a change to its constitution to enable national security-related activities in space and more recently, government officials have begun to publicly speak about developing various counterspace capabilities or developing military SSA capacity.

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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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A Summary of China’s Counterspace Capabilities

China’s 2007 test of its ground-based ASAT missile destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in LEO. The graphic depicts the orbits of trackable debris generated by the test 1 month after the event. The white line represents the International Space Station’s orbit. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes China’s counterspace capabilities.

The evidence strongly indicates that China has a sustained effort to develop a broad range of counterspace capabilities. China has conducted multiple tests of technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) that could lead to a co-orbital ASAT capability.

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A Summary of Russia’s Counterspace Capabilities

In 2009, the defunct Cosmos 2251 satellite and the Iridium 33 satellite collided in Earth’s orbit. A Livermore visualization shows the orbits of the two satellites prior to the collision among the thousands of other satellites in low-Earth orbit. The collision occurred where the two orbital paths cross near the North Pole. (Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpt from the report summarizes Russia’s counterspace capabilities.

There is strong evidence that Russia has embarked on a set of programs over the last decade to regain many of its Cold War-era counterspace capabilities. Since 2010, Russia has been testing technologies for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in both low Earth orbit 9LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) that could lead to or support a co-orbital anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. Evidence suggests at least two active programs: a new co-orbital ASAT program called Burevestnik that is potentially supported by a surveillance and tracking program called Nivelir.

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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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US Space Force Awards Contract to L3Harris to Improve Object Tracking in Space

  • Estimated contract value is $1.2 billion over 10 years
  • Addresses growing threat to critical space assets by enhancing current and introducing new capabilities
  • Continues 17-year collaboration with U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center

MELBOURNE, Fla. (L3Harris PR) — L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has been awarded a $23 million contract to modernize and sustain critical space infrastructure used by the military to keep track of activities and objects in space. The current  estimated contract value with the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center is $1.2 billion over 10 years.

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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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