AAV Space News in Brief 6 December 2021

Airbus, Fleet Space Technologies, NASA, Liebherr-Aerospace, Thales Alenia Space

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Airbus completes second ocean satellite Sentinel-6B: Airbus has completed Sentinel-6B, the second ocean monitoring satellite of the European Copernicus programme, and is now testing it extensively over the next six months in preparation for its use in space. “Copernicus Sentinel-6” mission is already delivering high-precision measurement of the topography of ocean surfaces through the first of two satellites, “Sentinel-6A”, launched in November 2020. The mission’s two satellites are built to measure the distance to the sea surface to an accuracy of a few centimetres and map it in a 10-day rhythm over a mission duration of up to seven years. Their purpose is to record changes in the height of the sea surfaces, variations in sea levels and analyse and observe ocean currents. Accurate observation of sea surface height changes provides information about global sea levels, the speed and direction of ocean currents and the heat stored in the oceans. The measurements – obtained from 1336 km above the Earth – are crucial for ocean modelling and predicting sea level rise. Part of Europe’s Copernicus, Sentinel-6 is also an international collaboration between ESA, NASA, NOAA and Eumetsat.

Fleet Space announces 3D printed satellites: Fleet Space Technologies recently announced its future strategy, led by the development of a new constellation of 3D-printed small satellites named Alpha, with the first satellites ready for launch in 12 months. This will sit alongside the existing Centauri constellation. Leveraging experience and learnings from the successful operation of the company’s growing constellation of small satellites Fleet Space will be able to expand its coverage reach and provide down to sub-second latency, providing an extremely cost-effective means to unlock unprecedented connectivity more quickly and in more locations, however remote. The Alpha constellation represents a fundamental shift for Fleet Space. Empowered by a recent US$26.4 million Series B investment, the start-up has expanded the scope of its dedicated research and development arm to create the Alpha small satellite. The creation of the world’s first entirely 3D printed satellite, integrates Fleet’s advanced beamforming technology and patented antennas.  The existing Centauri constellation is among the world’s most advanced space communications systems. Like Alpha, Fleet Space’s latest Centauri 4 small satellite, developed in collaboration with Tyvak, has been integrated with Fleet Space’s breakthrough smallsat digital beamforming technology that uses an array of multiple 3D printed all-metal antennas along with cutting edge Digital Signal Processing. This beamforming technology provides a substantial increase in throughput of customer IoT data and can service a higher number of customer terminals at once. It does this by generating a high number of highly-directional low-interfering beams in point-to-point satellite communications.

NASA expands data acquisition program with Airbus: NASA has expanded the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program (CSDAP) to include Airbus as the first radar data provider to NASA’s community of researchers and scientists for evaluation to determine the utility for advancing NASA’s science and application goals. Airbus will provide them with a comprehensive catalog of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation data products to help address various research challenges. The CSDAP strives to identify, evaluate and acquire data from commercial sources that support NASA’s Earth science research and application activities. The Radar Constellation will offer unmatched geometric accuracy, with high temporal and spatial resolution to provide precise information on any point on Earth – independent of cloud cover and weather conditions. “We are honoured to provide our unique radar datasets and services to the NASA research community to support their activities”, said François Lombard, Head of Intelligence business at Airbus Defence and Space. “We are looking forward to seeing how this will support the research work of some of the top-minded scientists in the world.” Radar data provides unique value to various applications such as: monitoring drift ice in regions without daylight, detecting surface movement information in oil and gas fields, monitoring ship traffic, and providing detection and identification of objects.

Liebherr-Aerospace to supply heat exchangers for satellites: Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS, based in Toulouse (France), and Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, have signed a contract in which Liebherr will be the supplier of exchangers for Space Inspire.  Space Inspire is Thales Alenia Space’s new product line of telecommunications satellites, developed with the support of French and European space agencies CNES and ESA that will allow seamless telecommunication mission and services reconfiguration, instant in-orbit adjustment to the demand, unprecedented flexibility for video broadcasting and broadband connectivity services. Space Inspire is part of the new satellite family of Software Defined Satellites (SDS). Onboard Space Inspire is an innovative thermal control concept using several types of exchangers. With the support of the French Plan d’Investissements d’Avenir (PIA) led by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales and in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space, Liebherr-Aerospace has been investing in research and development of brand-new heat exchangers that meet the extreme demands of Space Inspire. Such demands include the ability to operate for at least 15 years without any type of maintenance while in space. This means that they must be completely free from leakage, extremely reliable – even during a rocket launch – and be able to operate flawlessly during this long period at high heat-exchange performances. The thermal control sub-system function on a satellite is to maintain electronics payload installed in the satellite in a specific temperature range. Exchangers ensure the collection of the electronics power and its distribution to thermal radiators.

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