Terra Bella’s SkySat 3 Sends Back First Pictures
SkySat 3, the third satellite of Terra Bella (formerly Skybox Imaging) has downlinked its first images following its June 22 launch aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The satellite launched with 19 other co-passengers and was released into a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.
Terra Bella received the first image less than 72 hours after launch, which shows Chicago on June 25, 2016 at 10:40AM local time. SkySat 3 is a prototype for Terra Bella’s SkySat C series of spacecraft that SSL is building. Terra Bella has 18 more SkySat C satellites planned, of which 11 have launches already booked.
SSTL Creating New LEO platform for Honeywell and UK Space Agency
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has signed a contract with Honeywell Aerospace to provide a variant of its SSTL 12 satellite platform for a technology demonstration mission. The platform, called Vesta, will test a new two-way Very High Frequency (VHF) Data Exchange System (VDES) payload for the exactEarth maritime satellite constellation. SSTL is providing the platform as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Honeywell and the U.K. Space Agency.
Vesta is a flagship project of the U.K.’s National Space Technology Program, funded through the U.K. Space Agency and managed via the Center for Earth Observation Instrumentation and Space Technology (CEOI-ST). The platform is a new configuration of the SSTL 12 bus, optimized for missions of between 3kg and 25kg. SSTL is manufacturing Vesta in its new NanoLab at the company’s Guildford facility under a rapid-build schedule to meet a 2017 launch date.
The Vesta platform will have three-axis pointing capability, a Single Event Upset (SEU) tolerant on-board computer, VxWorks operating system, and an S-band transmitter and receiver. The design is compatible with a range of launch deployment systems for injection into orbit by Orbital ATK’s Antares, Russia’s Soyuz, Russia and Ukraine’s Dnepr, SpaceX’s Falcon 9, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Atlas and Delta, and Arianespace’s Vega rockets.
Advantech Wireless Releases WideSAT Product for GEO, MEO and LEO HTS
Advantech Wireless is now offering WideSAT, a new High Throughput Satellite (HTS) widebeam technology for Geostationary, Medium and Low Earth Orbits (GEO, MEO and LEO) to increase density, versatility, and efficiency when using wide transponders from 250MHz to 2GHz for data links. WideSAT technology will be incorporated in Advantech Wireless’ A-SAT-2 multi-waveform satellite networking platform as well as future products.
“Our new WideSAT technology has been designed specifically for better handling of the new HTS GEO/MEO/LEO widebeam transponders that can typically be seven to 15 times larger than the traditional 36MHz GEO transponders. WideSAT is planned to enhance our leading A-SAT-2 multi-waveform satellite networking platform to dramatically improve point-to-multipoint broadband applications,” said Oscar Glottman, Advantech Wireless’ CMO for satellite networks.
Atlas Space Operations Commercial Deep Space Network Pathfinder to Launch on NASA’s First SLS Mission
Atlas Space Operations has commissioned a pathfinder space mission to demonstrate its Interplanetary Satellite Communications Network (ISCN). The 6U Atlas ISCN pathfinder CubeSat is scheduled to launch in 2018 aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Exploration Mission 1 (EM1), as a participant in the Cube Quest Challenge with Miles Space.
After completing the challenge objectives, the satellite will move to a storage orbit that coincides with the 2016HO3 asteroid — Earth’s newly discovered quasi-moon. The spacecraft will communicate via the Atlas ISCN at distances reaching 30 million kilometers to prove deep space capabilities are commercially available using Atlas.
Atlas touts the ISCN as the world’s first commercially available deep space communications network, capable of providing an affordable, commercially available alternative to the established deep space communications capabilities of the world. The company chose Phoenix Arizona for the first ISCN antenna site, with more to follow. Using advances in phased-array technology, Atlas is installing a large array of electronically steered apertures to achieve the performance required to detect and track the faint radio frequency signals typical of deep space missions. The ISCN will have the similar performance attributes as NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), according to the company. Plans are in motion to establish operational deep space capability from Phoenix by July of 2017.
Leaf Space Raises $1.1 Million for Dedicated SmallSat Ground Station Network
Italian startup Leaf Space has raised $1.1 million to fund a telecommunication service dedicated specifically for small satellite operators. RedSeed Ventures, an Italian venture capital firm, led the investment round, along with a pool of private and institutional investors including Como Venture, Key Capital and PoliHub.
Leaf Space formed in 2014 with the aim of simplifying access to space for micro-satellites operators. The company is currently involved in developing Leaf Line: a centralized satellite communication service to consist of 20 ground stations around the world. The service is designed to grant access to space data in a simpler, faster and cheaper way than the solutions currently available, according to the company. Leaf Line is only the first step of a service pipeline that the company plans develop.
“Our investors are already supporting us in the business development and in structuring the company. We have already installed the first ground station of the network and we are already receiving the first data from space. Many micro-satellite operators from all over the world have already contacted us and shown a great interest for our telecommunication services. We are working to grant easier and cheaper access to the information coming from space,” said Jonata Puglia, CEO of Leaf Space.
Euroconsult Study Says SmallSat Market Could be Worth $22 Billion Over Next 10 Years
Counting more than 3,600 SmallSats expected to launch over the next 10 years, research firm Euroconsult anticipates the manufacturing and launch market value of SmallSats will total $22 billion from now until 2025. This value constitutes a 76 percent increase over that of the 2006 to 2015 time frame, according to the firm’s “Prospects for the Small Satellite Market” report.
“Earth observation is expected to exhibit the strongest growth in terms of units launched; over 2,100 satellites are anticipated from 2016 to 2025. Four companies plan to launch more than 1,400 satellites during this period alone: Planet, Spire Global, BlackSky and Satellogic,” said Adam Keith, managing director of Euroconsult Canada and editor of the report. “Satellite communication SmallSats will also increase significantly to nearly 800 during the same period of time (discounting SpaceX‘s Steam constellation). There are six constellations foreseen, however OneWeb makes up the bulk of these units.”
In the next decade, Euroconsult expects launch services to generate $5.3 billion. Small-lift vehicles in development will add further specialized supply. Prices from Firefly, Rocket Lab and Virgin Galactic are not expected to undercut existing supply prices. However, with SmallSat operators impacted by the launch bottleneck and affected by delays in ridesharing and the like, the report finds that the benefit of quicker and dedicated access to space could be attractive for operators despite the higher price per kg.
Rocket Lab Turns 10, Plans First Electron Launch This Year
Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab reached its 10-year anniversary this June and is now months away from the first launch of its Electron rocket. Founded in June 2006, Rocket Lab has launched more than 80 sounding rockets and in 2009 became the first private company to reach space from the Southern Hemisphere.
Operations in Auckland, New Zealand continue to support the private orbital launch site Rocket Lab is currently constructing on the country’s Mahia Peninsula. According to the company, its Mahia launch site will reach the widest range of orbital azimuths of any launch site globally, and will have the ability to conduct rocket launches at “an unprecedented frequency” thanks to its remote location.
Electron’s test program is scheduled to run throughout the second half of 2016. The launch vehicle is capable of lifting a 150 kg payload to a nominal 500 km sun- synchronous orbit. This year Rocket Lab qualified both the second stage of the vehicle and the oxygen/hydrocarbon Rutherford Engine. Founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, Rocket Lab got its start in New Zealand, but established its headquarters in Los Angeles, California in the US in 2013.
NanoRacks Integrates First Payload on Blue Origin’s New Shepard
NanoRacks manifested and integrated the company’s first payload on Blue Origin’s most recent New Shepard flight, which occurred on June 19. The suborbital mission is the fourth launch and landing of the same New Shepard space vehicle. NanoRacks intends to use Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle to extend the research it supports in microgravity today through the International Space Station (ISS).
“The New Shepard space vehicle is the perfect stepping stone to ISS research” said NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “The flight frequency they are working toward means researchers can test experiments two or three times, or even more, before committing to long-term microgravity exposure in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).”
NanoRacks facilitated the three main steps of launching with Blue Origin: preliminary data package, payload safety package, and the launch site integration process. The NanoRacks team served as the primary interface for the researchers using Blue Origin’s vehicle.
“The ability to load research payloads into this rocket as late as four hours prior to flight is priceless,” added Ajeeth Ibrahim, NanoRacks account manager.
Orbital Insight Raises $20 Million from Venture Capital Firms
Geospatial big data startup Orbital Insight has raised $20 million in funding through a $15 million Series B round and an investment and development agreement from In-Q-Tel. GV, formerly Google Ventures, led the round, with participation from CME Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta.
With this new round of funding, Orbital Insight plans to continue refining its ability to extract analysis from satellite imagery. The company will also work to expand its range of detectable signals, and hire more experts in the machine vision and data science fields.
Orbital Insight works at the intersection of big data and the commercialization of space. To obtain its imagery, the company has developed partnerships with DigitalGlobe, Airbus, Planet Labs, Rapid Eye, and UrtheCast. According to the company, these contracts enable testing and development of algorithms on a higher volume of imagery than almost any organization in history.
Orbital Insight has developed algorithms to count and measure cars, roads, airplanes, clouds, haze, freshwater lakes, agricultural fields, buildings, and oil tanks using satellite and drone imagery to provide a big-picture understanding of the world. To date the startup has worked with more than 60 asset management firms, several U.S. government agencies, and two global non-profit organizations.
Spaceflight Industries Closes Financing Round, Acquires OpenWhere
Spaceflight Industries has secured $18 million of Series B financing led by technology growth investor Mithril Capital Management of San Francisco, in a round that is expected to raise up to $25 million. The company also announced it has acquired Herndon, Virginia-based OpenWhere to further enhance and execute on its BlackSky geospatial data platform for satellite imagery.
Previous investors in Spaceflight Industries, including RRE Venture Capital, Vulcan Capital and Razor’s Edge Ventures, all reinvested in the round, bringing the company’s total funding to $53.5 million. As part of the financing, Ajay Royan, co-founder and managing general partner of Mithril, has joined the Spaceflight Industries board of directors.
“The additional financing will help us execute on additional strategic initiatives, including this acquisition of OpenWhere. Not only does it further differentiate BlackSky, it vastly expands the community of who can benefit from monitoring our planet in near real time to all commercial industries, academics, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. We welcome them all to join the growing network on the platform,” said Jason Andrews, CEO of Spaceflight Industries.
Initially launched in June 2015, the BlackSky geospatial data platform will deliver near-real-time images of the planet to customers. With a planned constellation of 60 imaging satellites orbiting the Earth, BlackSky has the ability to pass over key zones hourly — instead of daily or weekly — making the images fresher to provide a more comprehensive story. BlackSky is on track to deploy six satellites by 2017 and complete the 60-satellite imaging constellation by 2020. The first two Pathfinder satellites will launch this year as key demonstration models for the platform.
“One of our core value propositions is the ease of use of the BlackSky platform and this is where OpenWhere shines,” said Andrews. “Customers are looking for a modern and intuitive system that they can operate with ease to receive high-quality images, and OpenWhere’s platform offers a compelling user experience that reimagines interaction with satellite imaging.”