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Aurora Insight to launch cubesats for RF sensing

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SAN FRANCISCO – Aurora Insight, a Denver startup that gathers data on terrestrial and satellite communications, plans to launch the first of two cubesats on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission scheduled for liftoff Jan. 21.

Satellite manufacturer NanoAvionics built the six-unit cubesats, Bravo and Charlie, and integrated them with Aurora Insight sensors.

“We deploy sensors at fixed sites like on buildings and in vehicles, on aircraft and on satellites,” Aurora Insight CEO Jennifer Alvarez told SpaceNews. “We continually take trillions of measurements that we process in the cloud. From this, we produce valuable information on RF spectrum and the networks that rely on it.”

Aurora Insight them sells the data and analytics to customers including wireless service providers, tower owners, telecommunications equipment manufacturers and government agencies. The company creates maps, for example, that show the availability of radio frequency spectrum and wireless infrastructure, measuring 5G, LTE, internet-of-things, 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi and TV signals.

Founded in 2016, Aurora Insight launched its first satellite in 2018, a technology demonstration to determine how well the firms proprietary sensor could detect terrestrial communications.

“For cellular base stations like LTE, antennas are tilted toward the ground to maximize signal usage and coverage,” Alvarez said. “The key challenge is receiving sufficient signal in space to sense the RF signal and provide analytics.”

When that initial technology demonstration was successful, Aurora Insight hired NanoAvionics to build Bravo and Charlie. Bravo was expected to launch first but is now scheduled for launch in a couple of months.

“Our Bravo and Charlie satellites have significantly more capabilities” than the first satellite, Alvarez said. “They will unlock new information about the wireless spectrum and the networks that rely on it.”

Aurora Insight plans to establish a constellation of 12 satellites to provide global coverage.

“We’re targeting having that global reach and being able to reach hard-to-monitor places like developing nations,” Alvarez said.

In addition to building the satellites based on its standard M6P bus, NanoAvionics was hired to provide launch and satellite operations.

“We’re here to help Aurora Insight get their instruments to space cost effectively and close their business case,” said NanoAvionics US CEO Brent Abbott.

NanoAvoinics and Aurora Insight began working together in January 2020.

Aurora Insight executives made one trip to NanoAvionics headquarters in Lithuania, before the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel.

Still, the companies were able to work remotely to integrate the Aurora Insight payload with the NanoAvionics bus.

“It has been seamless,” Alvarez said.

Source: https://spacenews.com/aurora-insight-launches-cubesat/

Aerospace

India-Japan Working on Reliable Value Chain, Connectivity in Northeast: Fn Secy Shringla

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Highlighting India-Japan ties which are “Rooted in history and based on Common Values”, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla has said both countries are working together to “Construct Resilient and Reliable value chains in a post-pandemic world.”

The statement comes even as New Delhi and Tokyo have come closer amid an increasingly aggressive China. Japan is the fourth largest investor in India and around 1400 Japanese companies are present in India.

Speaking at an event on Indo-Japan Collaboration in India’s northeast, the foreign secretary said, “It is a valuable partner for us in our efforts to navigate the vagaries of the post-pandemic international system and in generating new opportunities for the cooperative endeavour in all areas of India including the northeast.”

Japan is involved in a number of connectivity projects in India’s northeast. It is involved in four road connectivity projects in part of India, the longest bridge in the country across the Brahmaputra in Dhubri in Assam is being constructed with Japanese support. The country is also helping India modernise the Umiam-Umtru Hydroelectric Power Station in Meghalaya and Guwahati Water Supply and Guwahati Sewerage Project.

The Japanese envoy Satoshi Suzuki was also present at the virtual event and said, “On the ground, Japan has been actively promoting connectivity both within the northeast region and with the neighbouring countries”, adding, “Our national highways projects, be it in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura, will be extended to the border of Bangladesh. Japan and India have been working road connection improvement projects in Bangladesh as well”.
In 2017, Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe established the India-Japan Act East Forum to coordinate joint efforts for the overall development of the region. The key aim of the forum is to enhance connectivity between India’s North East Region and South East Asia and Bangladesh.

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Source: https://www.eletimes.com/india-japan-working-on-reliable-value-chain-connectivity-in-northeast-foreign-secy-shringla

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India is Set to Become a Competitive Exporter in the Global Defence Market

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a target for Indian defence exports: $5 billion by 2024. Recently, the Union cabinet cleared the export of Akash missile systems and formed a high-powered panel to grant swift approval to export military hardware.

Besides Akash, surface-to-air missile systems, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and larger weapon systems can now be sold to “friendly foreign” nations that have a robust system to manage these assets. It will also help improve strategic ties with them. Until now, India has only exported ordnance and smaller armaments.

Experts believe that apart from Akash and BrahMos, other missiles like Prahaar and the air-to-air Astra have huge export potential. Astra, which has a range of 100km, is now entering the production stage after completing successful trials from the Sukhoi Su-30MKI jet.

Two things hampered the sale of indigenously developed missiles: the lack of effort to sell and a strong lobby of First-World nations that dominates defence markets. India also lacked the policy to push defence exports, despite defence scientists seeking export permission since 2005.

Interestingly, from 2015 to 2019, India was the world’s second-largest importer of weapons, after Saudi Arabia. India imported 9.2 per cent of the arms produced globally. India did though manage to export defence equipment worth Rs10,745 crore in 2018-19, seven times the figure in 2016-17.

According to an observer in South Block, efforts are on to fast-track the long-promised sale of BrahMos and Akash to Vietnam. This deal with China’s neighbour is also a clear message to Beijing.

India’s missile programme took off in 1982 when prime minister Indira Gandhi decided to develop indigenous missile systems. She formed a Missile Study Team with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as its head. The team recommended the phased development of five missiles—Trishul and Akash surface-to-air missiles, Nag anti-tank missile, Prithvi short-range ballistic missile and Agni.

Four decades on, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya and Algeria have expressed their interest in the Akash, which is capable of targeting aerial assets within a range of 25km. The missile was inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2014 and the Army in 2015.

Defence officials claim that Akash is around 50 per cent cheaper than its competitors. Other Indian systems like radars and sonars, too, cost only a quarter to one-fifth of similar systems available in the global market. All export versions will be different from the ones inducted into the Indian armed forces, as no country sells the best variant.

The 290-km range BrahMos, which has a range of 290km, is being eyed by Indonesia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Vietnam and the Philippines. All formalities have been completed with the Philippines—including a green light from Russia, as the missile development project was a joint venture—and the matter is awaiting final approval from the cabinet committee for security.

William Selvamurthy, a scientist who served as chief controller of research and development at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, says that India was running First World industries because it has the world’s fourth-largest air force and its requirements are huge.

“There was a lot of pressure on India to not develop missile systems,” said Selvamurthy. “Countries dominating the field of missile technology do not want any other player in the global market. They had put restrictions under non-proliferation treaties.” He said India is now strong enough to make a decision. “With selling missiles, we will be competing with the US, Russia and other European nations,” he said.

Retired Air Vice-Marshal P.K. Srivastava, who served in Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), the manufacturer of the Akash, says that it took close to 20 years for the missile to reach this stage. It took a lot of time to progress from design drawing to production drawing, he said, followed by about 1,000 corrections and modifications before it was finally inducted into the armed forces. So far, the armed forces have ordered Akashs worth Rs24,000 crore; an Rs10,000-crore contract is in the works.

“Initially, we (BDL) wanted to set up the whole supply chain by involving private players and go for bigger numbers later,” said Srivastava. “I feel the time is now ripe for us to (export). We must pitch Akash as the cheapest in its category. We can give Israel a good fight, which also sells cheap military platforms in the segment.”

He added that there was no policy to export as India never intended to sell. “We always had the capacity, but never thought of exploiting it,” he said. As talks are on about upgrading the Akash to the Mk-II variant, the Mk-I can be safely sold.

On the export potential of BrahMos, India is considering multiple options. A. Sivathanu Pillai, the architect of the BrahMos missile, said that the priority was to first meet the requirement of Indian defence forces. During his tenure as chief of BrahMos, nearly 14 countries expressed interested in the missile.

Pillai said that as India is now a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), it can sell missiles with a range beyond 300km. “We are definitely interested in exporting, but not the best systems,” said Pillai. “In the case of exporting the Akash, of which other versions are available, there should not be an issue. But while exporting a BrahMos-type missile, which is a ‘winning weapon’, we need to be careful.”

BrahMos NG, which has a limited range, can be exported, he said. The BrahMos’s range is now being extended to over 400km; efforts are underway to test an 800km variant by the end of this year. The Indian armed forces have placed a Rs 36,000-crore order for the BrahMos.

Pillai also highlighted an additional issue: “If we go in for exports, our priority may be shifted because of multiple government-to-government agreements. Our mind will be diverted if the focus is on selling.”

Former DRDO scientist Ravi Gupta partly blames the armed forces for preventing exports. He said unless a weapons system is inducted in significant numbers at home, external buyers will not trust the platform. “Sadly, we were the only country in the world which was working against its own national interest,” said Gupta. “In India, the induction of a military platform takes more time than its development.” He added that because of huge kickbacks in defence deals, the indigenous sector did not get the desired attention.

The situation is changing fast as many indigenous platforms, including the recently approved Tejas light combat aircraft, have been ordered for the armed forces. There is an effort to cut imports and bring the indigenous defence industries together to meet the demand at home.

Defence scientists have maintained that India is considerably self-reliant and that once we start exporting, a market will be formed outside and private players can also join. “Not only Defence PSUs but private sectors of the Indian Defence Industry, too, have grown,” said Selvamurthy. “The ecosystem has changed and it is time to go in for exports.”

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Source: https://www.eletimes.com/india-is-set-to-become-a-competitive-exporter-in-the-global-defence-market

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Perseverance makes its first drive on Mars

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WASHINGTON — NASA’s Perseverance rover has started moving on the Martian surface as project scientists prepare to send the rover toward the remnants of a river delta in search of signs of past life.

At a March 5 press briefing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, project officials said that the rover made its first movements since landing in Jezero Crater Feb. 18. The rover moved forward four meters, turned 150 degrees to the left, and then went back 2.5 meters.

“Our first drive went incredibly well,” said Anais Zarifian, Perseverance mobility test bed engineer, at the briefing. During the drive, the rover took images that showed the tracks left by its wheels. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks.”

That first drive by the rover is part of ongoing checkouts of the rover and its suite of instruments. “We haven’t had any hardware issues. Everything has been working that we’ve been checking out,” said Robert Hogg, Perseverance deputy mission manager, at the briefing. “It’s actually been amazingly smooth.”

As engineers test the rover’s systems, scientists are planning the rover’s trek to a delta that is a high priority region for the rover to explore. Katie Stack Morgan, Perseverance deputy project scientist, said at the briefing that they’ve mapped two potential paths from the landing site — which the mission has named Octavia E. Butler Landing after the science-fiction author — to the base of the delta.

“We’re right in the middle of conversations” with rover planners on the best route and how long it will take to get to the delta, she said. That includes weighing the terrain against science that can be done along the way: while one route is relatively smooth, it’s less scientifically interesting than the other route goes past some deposits that offer a preview of the delta.

That trip to the delta will take place after Perseverance deploys Ingenuity, the small helicopter attached to the rover’s undercarriage, and observes a series of flight tests Ingenuity performs scheduled to last 30 days. Hogg said engineers are still scouting for a location to perform those flight tests, using images from the rover.

“We’re still analyzing various areas to determine the best place to do that,” he said. “We hope to get the whole helicopter thing going before spring is over.” Once the flight tests are done, the rover will head toward the delta.

Engineers continue to test some of the rover’s systems, including those that will be used to collect samples. Hogg said commissioning of the sample collection system will be completed after the helicopter tests.

One of the primary goals of the Mars 2020 mission is to cache samples for later return to Earth. With Perseverance safely on the surface, NASA is moving ahead with aspects of future missions needed to return those samples. On March 4, NASA awarded Northrop Grumman a contract worth up to $84.5 million to provide the propulsion for the rocket, called the Mars Ascent Vehicle, that will carry the samples from the surface into Mars orbit. That vehicle will be flown to Mars on a lander mission scheduled for launch no earlier than 2026.

“We’ve been thinking on the science team about notional samples to collect in Jezero Crater for years now, and thinking about the potential for Mars sample return,” Stack Morgan said. Now, she said, they can see the actual rocks they may sample through the eyes of the rover. “We’re talking about real rocks now, and that’s so exciting for us on the science team.”

“This is one for the ages for JPL and NASA. We’ve been talking about this for decades,” Hogg said, even though it will still be at least a decade before those samples are back on Earth. “Even though it seems like a long time away, it’s going to pass in a blink of an eye.”

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Source: https://spacenews.com/perseverance-makes-its-first-drive-on-mars/

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Lawmakers ask Biden administration to keep oversight committees in the loop on space activities

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Reps. Frank Lucas and Brian Babin, who oversee civil and commercial space, expressed concerns about the administration’s push for international regulation of space activities.

WASHINGTON — The top House Republicans on the committee that oversees civil and commercial space are asking the Biden administration to update lawmakers on its plans regarding space security and space traffic management.

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology; and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), ranking member of the committee’s space and aeronautics subcommittee, on March 5 asked the Defense and State Department for details on their plans to propose rules and protocols for space activities. 

In letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers noted that their committee has for decades been “significantly involved in the development of rules of behavior in space” and intends to continue that involvement. 

Lucas and Babin asked for details regarding U.S. plans to draft language in response to a United Nations General Assembly resolution that calls for norms of responsible behavior in space. The lawmakers cited a Feb. 24 SpaceNews interview where Maj Gen DeAnna Burt, commander of U.S. Space Command’s Combined Force Component Command, discussed these initiatives. Burt said a code of conduct is necessary to keep space safe for civil, commercial and military operations.

The committee wants to make sure efforts to regulate space activities are coordinated with Congress as they “will have a significant impact on not only the future of U.S. government activities in space, but also the U.S. private space sector’s ability to continue to prosper.”

The letters also mention Biden’s “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” released last week which also expresses support for norms of behavior in space.

“Without coordination with the Congress and specifically the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, any proposal offered to the United Nations could create confusion, complicate the enactment of statutes implementing such proposals, and conflict with existing statutes, policies, and constitutional rights,” Lucas and Babin wrote.

They warned that “failure to keep Congress informed could also be viewed as an attempt to limit private sector activities and undermine the rights of U.S. citizens by using treaties to circumvent Congress’s Article 1 prerogatives.”

The committee asked DoD and State to submit by March 12 any proposed language or draft documents being prepared for formal presentation to the United Nations.

Space traffic management

In a separate letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Lucas and Babin requested updates on the administration’s plans to fund and staff the Office of Space Commerce.

The Trump administration in 2018 directed Commerce to take over space traffic management duties currently performed by the Defense Department, such as tracking the location of satellites and debris, and sharing that data with satellite operators in order to prevent collisions in orbit.

The committee asked Raimondo to provide by March 19 a detailed spending plan for the Office of Space Commerce, a list of the office’s employees and contractors and a description of their duties, a list of Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs employees and contractors, and any documents related to the transfer or potential transfer of employees or contractors between these two offices. 

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Source: https://spacenews.com/lawmakers-ask-biden-administration-to-keep-oversight-committees-in-the-loop-on-space-activities/

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