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Air Force NTS-3 navigation satellite to launch in 2023

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NTS-3 will demonstrate technologies such as phased array antennas, flexible signals and reprogrammable payloads

WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory is planning a 2023 launch of the NTS-3 experimental satellite the U.S. military will use for positioning, navigation and timing.

AFRL previously announced the launch would be in 2022 but the mission will slip into 2023, AFRL Commander Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle told reporters April 28.

NTS-3 is scheduled to fly to a geosynchronous orbit as a secondary payload on USSF-106, a classified mission awarded last year to United Launch Alliance under the National Security Space Launch program run by the Space and Missile Systems Center. Pringle said the delay is a launch scheduling issue not related to NTS-3. “It’s a rideshare with other United States Space Force customers,” she said. “We’re not driving the schedule.”

Pringle said the production and testing of NTS-3 are moving forward as planned.

She said a lot of work is going into the ground system so the launch delay will give AFRL additional time “so when it goes into space we are ready to hit the ground running.” 

NTS-3 is one of AFRL’s most ambitious space experiments. Officials said the satellite could bring significant new capabilities for secure PNT (positioning, navigation and timing) to supplement current GPS satellites that operate from medium Earth orbit.

L3Harris is building the 1,250-kilogram satellite under an $84 million contract AFRL awarded the company in December 2018. 

Joel Mozer, chief scientist of the U.S. Space Force, said NTS-3 will demonstrate technologies such as phased array antennas, flexible signals and reprogrammable payloads that will add “cyber hardness.”

The U.S. military hasn’t launched a “full blown experimental satellite for positioning navigation and timing since 1977,” Mozer told reporters April 28. “The Space Force is very much looking forward to this. This has the potential to open up a lot of new capabilities just as NTS-2 did for GPS.” NTS-2 was the precursor to what later became GPS.

The Space Force will take ownership of the satellite after AFRL completes the experiment, said Mozer. “We plan to develop it and fold it into our regular set of capabilities.” The NTS-3 ground system, for example, will integrate both NTS-3 and GPS signals. 

The director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate Col. Eric Felt called NTS-3 the “China-beating PNT satellite.”

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Source: https://spacenews.com/air-force-nts-3-navigation-satellite-to-launch-in-2023/

Aerospace

NASA urged to avoid space station gap

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WASHINGTON — NASA needs to ensure that commercial space stations are ready before the International Space Station is retired to avoid a “space station gap” with geopolitical consequences, industry officials and other advisers warn.

NASA’s low Earth orbit commercialization strategy calls for the development of one or more commercial space stations by late this decade, allowing NASA to transition research currently done on the ISS to those facilities and then retire the ISS, likely around 2030. NASA is currently evaluating an estimated 10 to 12 proposals submitted by companies seeking one of several Commercial LEO Development (CLD) contracts for initial studies of commercial stations.

That transition “will allow NASA to shift significant financial and personnel resources towards exploration objectives,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters, at a Sept. 21 hearing of the House space subcommittee on the topic. That includes a roughly two-year transition period where NASA will shift activities from the ISS to those commercial stations.

At the hearing, another witness warned of the consequences of retiring the ISS before commercial successors are ready. “The challenge to ensure a seamless transition is more urgent today than with the shuttle time, as our reliance on space assets is far greater today and others seek to fill even the perception of any voids,” said Jeffrey Manber, chief executive of Nanoracks, a company that seeks to develop a commercial space station. “There is no room for error lest we cede leadership to other nations.”

That means in particular China, which had launched the core module of its space station that it plans to build out over the next few years. Manber warned last month that his company had already lost an unnamed customer who decided to fly a payload on that space station rather than on the ISS through Nanoracks.

“I don’t fear cooperation or competition with China,” he said, “but we cannot allow even the perception that we will cede our 20-plus years of humans working in LEO to others.” He asked the committee to support the CLD program “to ensure there is no space station gap.”

Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project of Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China was America’s biggest competitor in space. “The real objective of this race is to see who can build the broadest and strongest coalition,” he said. “Whatever group of nations emerges as the loading coalition in space over the next decade will be the one that sets the de facto norms for space commerce and exploration that follows.”

Funding NASA’s LEO commercialization strategy has been difficult. NASA requested $150 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 but received only $15 million and $17 million, respectively. The agency requested $101.1 million in its fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, but a House spending bill in July offers only $45 million for the program. The Senate has yet to take up its version of a spending bill.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) questioned the pace of NASA’s commercialization program. “Isn’t NASA risking leaving low Earth orbit to the Chinese by setting up development programs to begin in a year or two?” he asked, suggesting that the agency “double down” on its existing agreement with Axiom Space, which will attach a series of commercial modules to the ISS as a step toward its own commercial station.

“We believe we need multiple paths so that we have the greatest chance of success for one or, hopefully, more commercial LEO platforms,” Gatens responded. “The Axiom commercial element on space station is one of those paths.”

She added that NASA is working on an updated version of an ISS transition plan that will be delivered to Congress in the “coming weeks,” addressing congressional concerns about a lack of details. The new report, she said, “is a much more thorough strategic and tactical plan for ISS transition,” including more details on NASA’s requirements in LEO and cost projections.

That transition plan hinges on the ISS continuing operation through the end of the decade. Recent problems on the station, including cracks in a Russian module that caused a small but persistent air leak, as well as problems with the Nauka module during its docking with the station in July, have raised doubts about the station’s long-term viability.

William Shepherd, the former NASA astronaut who commanded the first long-duration ISS expedition more than 20 years ago, said NASA needed to establish a “much more intimate working relationship with our Russian counterparts” to better understand those issues, something he said existed early in the program.

Of the cracks seen in one Russian module, he called for more work to get to the root cause of the issue. “They don’t exactly understand why these cracks are appearing now,” he said of Russian and American engineers. “I don’t think the station is in any immediate danger, but before we clear the station for another so many years of operational use, we should better understand this.”

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, meeting Sept. 23, said it was also monitoring the issues with the air leaks and the Nauka docking. Members called on NASA to make sure, as it plans to extend ISS operations through the end of the decade, that it work to ensure there is no gap with any commercial successors.

“NASA should clearly communicate to industry its expectations regarding requirements and timeline, and make sure we have an overlap with the ISS,” said George Nield, a member of the panel. “Absent appropriate, timely funding, there is a risk of having a gap since the only thing that can give way is the schedule.”


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Source: https://spacenews.com/nasa-urged-to-avoid-space-station-gap/

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NASA urged to avoid space station gap

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WASHINGTON — NASA needs to ensure that commercial space stations are ready before the International Space Station is retired to avoid a “space station gap” with geopolitical consequences, industry officials and other advisers warn.

NASA’s low Earth orbit commercialization strategy calls for the development of one or more commercial space stations by late this decade, allowing NASA to transition research currently done on the ISS to those facilities and then retire the ISS, likely around 2030. NASA is currently evaluating an estimated 10 to 12 proposals submitted by companies seeking one of several Commercial LEO Development (CLD) contracts for initial studies of commercial stations.

That transition “will allow NASA to shift significant financial and personnel resources towards exploration objectives,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the ISS program at NASA Headquarters, at a Sept. 21 hearing of the House space subcommittee on the topic. That includes a roughly two-year transition period where NASA will shift activities from the ISS to those commercial stations.

At the hearing, another witness warned of the consequences of retiring the ISS before commercial successors are ready. “The challenge to ensure a seamless transition is more urgent today than with the shuttle time, as our reliance on space assets is far greater today and others seek to fill even the perception of any voids,” said Jeffrey Manber, chief executive of Nanoracks, a company that seeks to develop a commercial space station. “There is no room for error lest we cede leadership to other nations.”

That means in particular China, which had launched the core module of its space station that it plans to build out over the next few years. Manber warned last month that his company had already lost an unnamed customer who decided to fly a payload on that space station rather than on the ISS through Nanoracks.

“I don’t fear cooperation or competition with China,” he said, “but we cannot allow even the perception that we will cede our 20-plus years of humans working in LEO to others.” He asked the committee to support the CLD program “to ensure there is no space station gap.”

Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project of Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China was America’s biggest competitor in space. “The real objective of this race is to see who can build the broadest and strongest coalition,” he said. “Whatever group of nations emerges as the loading coalition in space over the next decade will be the one that sets the de facto norms for space commerce and exploration that follows.”

Funding NASA’s LEO commercialization strategy has been difficult. NASA requested $150 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 but received only $15 million and $17 million, respectively. The agency requested $101.1 million in its fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, but a House spending bill in July offers only $45 million for the program. The Senate has yet to take up its version of a spending bill.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) questioned the pace of NASA’s commercialization program. “Isn’t NASA risking leaving low Earth orbit to the Chinese by setting up development programs to begin in a year or two?” he asked, suggesting that the agency “double down” on its existing agreement with Axiom Space, which will attach a series of commercial modules to the ISS as a step toward its own commercial station.

“We believe we need multiple paths so that we have the greatest chance of success for one or, hopefully, more commercial LEO platforms,” Gatens responded. “The Axiom commercial element on space station is one of those paths.”

She added that NASA is working on an updated version of an ISS transition plan that will be delivered to Congress in the “coming weeks,” addressing congressional concerns about a lack of details. The new report, she said, “is a much more thorough strategic and tactical plan for ISS transition,” including more details on NASA’s requirements in LEO and cost projections.

That transition plan hinges on the ISS continuing operation through the end of the decade. Recent problems on the station, including cracks in a Russian module that caused a small but persistent air leak, as well as problems with the Nauka module during its docking with the station in July, have raised doubts about the station’s long-term viability.

William Shepherd, the former NASA astronaut who commanded the first long-duration ISS expedition more than 20 years ago, said NASA needed to establish a “much more intimate working relationship with our Russian counterparts” to better understand those issues, something he said existed early in the program.

Of the cracks seen in one Russian module, he called for more work to get to the root cause of the issue. “They don’t exactly understand why these cracks are appearing now,” he said of Russian and American engineers. “I don’t think the station is in any immediate danger, but before we clear the station for another so many years of operational use, we should better understand this.”

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, meeting Sept. 23, said it was also monitoring the issues with the air leaks and the Nauka docking. Members called on NASA to make sure, as it plans to extend ISS operations through the end of the decade, that it work to ensure there is no gap with any commercial successors.

“NASA should clearly communicate to industry its expectations regarding requirements and timeline, and make sure we have an overlap with the ISS,” said George Nield, a member of the panel. “Absent appropriate, timely funding, there is a risk of having a gap since the only thing that can give way is the schedule.”


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Source: https://spacenews.com/nasa-urged-to-avoid-space-station-gap/

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Northrop Grumman to launch new satellite-servicing robot aimed at commercial and government market

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Space Logistics’ Mission Robotic Vehicle has a robotic payload developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman today has two Mission Extension Vehicles in orbit providing station-keeping services for two Intelsat geostationary satellites that were running low on fuel.

The company meanwhile is preparing to launch a new servicing vehicle equipped with a robotic arm that will install propulsion jet packs on dying satellites. 

Six still-undisclosed customers have signed up to get their satellites serviced by the Mission Robotic Vehicle, projected to launch in 2024, Joe Anderson, vice president of operations and business development at Space Logistics, told SpaceNews.

The MRV is the second generation servicing vehicle from Space Logistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. It combines the company’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) that is performing commercial operations with a robotic payload developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

DARPA is sharing its robotic arm with Space Logistics under a partnership that allows the company to use the technology for commercial and government satellite servicing in the geostationary belt. 

“We will be demonstrating some robotic capability for government through the performance of our commercial missions,” Anderson said.

The primary commercial mission of the MRV is to install small propulsion devices known as mission extension pods. One of these units is inserted in the back of a client satellite propulsion system, adding six years of life to most geostationary satellites, he said. 

The six customers have signed term sheets for seven mission extension pods, Anderson said. Once contracts are firmed up the company will be able to disclose their names.

The first MRV launch in 2024 will carry three pods. “With these six customers, the MRV manifest is currently filled through mid-2026,” he said. The MRV is expected to have a 10-year service life. Space Logistics is projecting to install five to six mission extension pods per year, Anderson added.  “We are planning to launch the second set of MEPs in early 2025.”

The installation of MEPs or other devices is likely to become the primary purpose of the MRV. But Northrop Grumman also is looking for opportunities to perform other services like detailed inspections, relocations of client vehicles or simple repairs such as releasing a solar array that is stuck or an antenna that doesn’t deploy properly.

Anderson noted that the commercial MEVs can perform more than just docked station keeping like what they are now doing for Intelsat. They can also dock with satellites in inclined orbit and reduce their inclination, relocate satellites to other orbits or perform remote inspections using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors.

DARPA and Space Logistics recently completed a preliminary design review of the MRV and this week are reviewing the mission extension pod at the company’s assembly facility in Dulles, Virginia.

Because the robotic arm was developed with Defense Department funding, DARPA expects Space Logistics to show the “potential benefit of having a persistent servicing capability in GEO orbit that can serve the needs of the U.S. government through commercial contracts with us,” said Anderson. 

He said Space Logistics already has booked a launch vehicle for the first MRV mission but the contract has not yet been announced. The company’s MEV-1 launched in October 2019 on an International Launch Services Proton rocket. The MEV-2 launched in August 2020 on Arianespace’s Ariane-5. The MRV which carries a U.S. government-designed payload has to launch on a U.S. rocket. 

Servicing satellites in low Earth orbit

Northrop Grumman is focused on geostationary satellite servicing but sees a future market in low Earth orbit. 

Orbit Fab, a startup that developed a fueling port for satellites, announced Sept. 7 that both Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are investing in the company. 

“The LEO market is quite a bit more diverse than the geosynchronous,” said Anderson. Satellites in LEO are smaller and cheaper so servicing or refueling might not be economical, he said. But for higher value assets, extending the service life would be worth considering.  

NASA and Maxar Technologies are developing the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) to robotically refuel the Landsat 7 imaging satellite. 

Not all low-flying satellites are disposable, Anderson said. The U.S. government will be launching expensive satellites that will benefit from servicing, he said.

Beyond the MRV, Space Logistics is eyeing a third-generation system focused on refueling, said Anderson. 

That market will grow as more satellites are designed and built with refueling and docking  ports. “The satellites we are servicing today were launched 20 years ago and were not designed to be refueled. So looking forward into the future we see refueling as a very good market. There is great demand and interest from our customers, especially on the military side. The want to add refueling interfaces on spacecraft. And so that’s why we invested in Orbit Fab.”

Both Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are actively working to shape the standard refueling interface that would help create a market for gas stations in space. 

Anderson said the U.S. Space Force and the Defense Innovation Unit are funding programs to add fueling ports to satellites. “So there’s definitely interest from the U.S. government in those capabilities.”

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, told SpaceNews that the company is motivated to invest in servicing technologies like Orbit Fab’s because customers are pushing the industry in that direction.

Setting standards for docking and refueling ports will be critical, he said. Once the industry agrees on a common standard, the market will boom. Space should be like the internet, Ambrose said. “If you don’t comply, you don’t get to play.”


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Click here to access.

Source: https://spacenews.com/northrop-grumman-to-launch-new-satellite-servicing-robot-aimed-at-commercial-and-government-market/

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Aerospace

Northrop Grumman to launch new satellite-servicing robot aimed at commercial and government market

Published

on

Space Logistics’ Mission Robotic Vehicle has a robotic payload developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman today has two Mission Extension Vehicles in orbit providing station-keeping services for two Intelsat geostationary satellites that were running low on fuel.

The company meanwhile is preparing to launch a new servicing vehicle equipped with a robotic arm that will install propulsion jet packs on dying satellites. 

Six still-undisclosed customers have signed up to get their satellites serviced by the Mission Robotic Vehicle, projected to launch in 2024, Joe Anderson, vice president of operations and business development at Space Logistics, told SpaceNews.

The MRV is the second generation servicing vehicle from Space Logistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. It combines the company’s Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) that is performing commercial operations with a robotic payload developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

DARPA is sharing its robotic arm with Space Logistics under a partnership that allows the company to use the technology for commercial and government satellite servicing in the geostationary belt. 

“We will be demonstrating some robotic capability for government through the performance of our commercial missions,” Anderson said.

The primary commercial mission of the MRV is to install small propulsion devices known as mission extension pods. One of these units is inserted in the back of a client satellite propulsion system, adding six years of life to most geostationary satellites, he said. 

The six customers have signed term sheets for seven mission extension pods, Anderson said. Once contracts are firmed up the company will be able to disclose their names.

The first MRV launch in 2024 will carry three pods. “With these six customers, the MRV manifest is currently filled through mid-2026,” he said. The MRV is expected to have a 10-year service life. Space Logistics is projecting to install five to six mission extension pods per year, Anderson added.  “We are planning to launch the second set of MEPs in early 2025.”

The installation of MEPs or other devices is likely to become the primary purpose of the MRV. But Northrop Grumman also is looking for opportunities to perform other services like detailed inspections, relocations of client vehicles or simple repairs such as releasing a solar array that is stuck or an antenna that doesn’t deploy properly.

Anderson noted that the commercial MEVs can perform more than just docked station keeping like what they are now doing for Intelsat. They can also dock with satellites in inclined orbit and reduce their inclination, relocate satellites to other orbits or perform remote inspections using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors.

DARPA and Space Logistics recently completed a preliminary design review of the MRV and this week are reviewing the mission extension pod at the company’s assembly facility in Dulles, Virginia.

Because the robotic arm was developed with Defense Department funding, DARPA expects Space Logistics to show the “potential benefit of having a persistent servicing capability in GEO orbit that can serve the needs of the U.S. government through commercial contracts with us,” said Anderson. 

He said Space Logistics already has booked a launch vehicle for the first MRV mission but the contract has not yet been announced. The company’s MEV-1 launched in October 2019 on an International Launch Services Proton rocket. The MEV-2 launched in August 2020 on Arianespace’s Ariane-5. The MRV which carries a U.S. government-designed payload has to launch on a U.S. rocket. 

Servicing satellites in low Earth orbit

Northrop Grumman is focused on geostationary satellite servicing but sees a future market in low Earth orbit. 

Orbit Fab, a startup that developed a fueling port for satellites, announced Sept. 7 that both Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are investing in the company. 

“The LEO market is quite a bit more diverse than the geosynchronous,” said Anderson. Satellites in LEO are smaller and cheaper so servicing or refueling might not be economical, he said. But for higher value assets, extending the service life would be worth considering.  

NASA and Maxar Technologies are developing the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) to robotically refuel the Landsat 7 imaging satellite. 

Not all low-flying satellites are disposable, Anderson said. The U.S. government will be launching expensive satellites that will benefit from servicing, he said.

Beyond the MRV, Space Logistics is eyeing a third-generation system focused on refueling, said Anderson. 

That market will grow as more satellites are designed and built with refueling and docking  ports. “The satellites we are servicing today were launched 20 years ago and were not designed to be refueled. So looking forward into the future we see refueling as a very good market. There is great demand and interest from our customers, especially on the military side. The want to add refueling interfaces on spacecraft. And so that’s why we invested in Orbit Fab.”

Both Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are actively working to shape the standard refueling interface that would help create a market for gas stations in space. 

Anderson said the U.S. Space Force and the Defense Innovation Unit are funding programs to add fueling ports to satellites. “So there’s definitely interest from the U.S. government in those capabilities.”

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, told SpaceNews that the company is motivated to invest in servicing technologies like Orbit Fab’s because customers are pushing the industry in that direction.

Setting standards for docking and refueling ports will be critical, he said. Once the industry agrees on a common standard, the market will boom. Space should be like the internet, Ambrose said. “If you don’t comply, you don’t get to play.”


PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spacenews.com/northrop-grumman-to-launch-new-satellite-servicing-robot-aimed-at-commercial-and-government-market/

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