Space News in Brief 10 December 2021

Airbus, Azure Maps, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NanoAvionics US, Kleos Space

(PHOTO: Rocket Lab)

Airbus imagery, elevation data available in Azure Maps: Airbus has announced that its  premium satellite imagery and elevation data is now available in Microsoft Azure Maps. Customers of Azure Maps can now access a new global reference layer made from high quality Airbus imagery as well as a homogenous elevation dataset covering the entire globe. Azure Maps is a collection of geospatial services and Software Development Kits (SDKs) that use fresh mapping data to provide geographic context to web and mobile applications. Under the agreement between Airbus and Microsoft, Airbus will feed Azure Maps with its SPOT, Pléiades and Pléiades Neo satellite imagery and WorldDEM4Ortho elevation data. These premium data services will empower the Azure Maps users to build location intelligence solutions for Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence and create data visualisations for web and mobile apps. Included in the Azure Maps Imagery service is a new version of Airbus’ OneAtlas Basemap product, which today includes a worldwide 1.5m imagery layer, plus seamless, 50cm orthomosaics over top cities in the world, and will soon include 30cm data from Airbus’ recently launched Pléiades Neo satellites. The Elevation service is powered by WorldDEM4Ortho, a product derived from Airbus’ WorldDEM dataset, which provides a consistent, homogeneous, and accurate elevation model for high-quality image orthorectification on a global scale. “We are thrilled to be a part of the Microsoft Azure community” said François Lombard, Director of the Intelligence business at Airbus Defence and Space. “The extensive Azure Maps user base, who is eager for accurate and top-quality imagery, will be able to rely on Airbus’ premium data services to develop new applications and turn their innovative ideas into reality.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory awards satellite mission contract to NanoAvionics US: Smallsat mission integrator NanoAvionics US has received a mission contract by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world. The 12U (1U equals 10 × 10 × 10 cm3) spacecraft, about the size of a microwave oven, will host the Mini Astrophysical MeV Background Observatory (MAMBO) mission. The goal of MAMBO is to make the best-ever measurement of the cosmic diffuse gamma-ray (CDG) background using its on-board, innovative gamma-ray detector. This will be the first satellite mission hosting a high-energy astrophysics payload developed by LANL in 20 years. The MAMBO detector utilizes Bismuth Germanate (BGO) scintillator detectors and silicon photo-multiplier (SiPM) light sensors arranged in a unique shielding configuration to achieve highly sensitive gamma-ray sensing from low-Earth orbit (LEO). To fit the MAMBO payload into the host spacecraft, NanoAvionics will customise one of its 12U modular buses by making some mechanical and components arrangements before assembling the nanosatellite. To operate the satellite while in orbit, Los Alamos has purchased NanoAvionics’ mission control software, capable of handling multiple satellite missions and compatible with all major commercial ground station providers with antennas in over 200 locations around the globe. For all other mission-related aspects, NanoAvionics will take an advisory role supporting the team at Los Alamos with integration, launch, and operations. The measurement of the CDG background in the difficult “mega electron-volt” (MeV) energy band by the MAMBO mission will help differentiate and clarify the evolution of nuclear (e.g., supernovae) versus accretion (e.g., active galactic nuclei) processes over the history of the Universe. Los Alamos was already part of NASA’s successful Swift and Fermi missions which detected record-setting gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from distant galactic explosions.

Kleos’ Patrol Mission satellites shipped to launch site: Kleos Space announced its Patrol Mission (KSF2) satellites are on track to launch onboard the Transporter-3 SpaceX mission in January 2022, successfully passing the final technical milestone with satellite builder Innovative Solutions In Space (ISISPACE). The Patrol Mission satellites are travelling from the Netherlands to the launch integration facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, where they are being armed for flight, inserted into their dispensers, and integrated into the launch vehicle by Spaceflight Inc. Prior to transport, the satellites successfully completed System Assembly Integration Testing (SAIT) with ISISPACE over a six-week period, including a system checkout and mechanical inspection, battery charging and fuelling. The transport of the Patrol Mission satellites confirms the satellites are mission ready. The launch will increase Kleos’ reconnaissance capability to three clusters of four satellites each, making a total of 12 satellites patrolling against illegal activity such as piracy, drug smuggling and border security challenges. Launching into a 500-600km Sun Synchronous orbit, the four Patrol Mission satellites expand Kleos’ data collection capability by up to an additional 119 million km² per day. They also enable Kleos to increase its average daily revisit rate over a 15-degree latitude area of interest to around five times a day. Kleos Space CEO Andy Bowyer said, “We are rapidly building our constellation to raise the volume of data available to our customers. Each new mission features enhanced hardware and software capability, leveraging the learnings of earlier launches. The improved collection capability of the Patrol Mission is key for our government and commercial data subscribers. The value of our independent geolocation data grows in line with revisit rates, as it enables subscribers to use the data to establish pattern of life behaviour or tip and cue with existing datasets to improve the identification of illegal maritime and land-based activity.” Kleos successfully launched its Scouting Mission satellites into a 37-degree inclination in November 2020 and its Vigilance Mission cluster into a 525km Sun Synchronous orbit in June 2021. Its fourth cluster, the Observer Mission, is scheduled to launch in mid-2022. Flown in a formation of four, Kleos’ nanosatellites detect and geolocate radio frequency transmissions to within 300m, enhancing the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of governments and commercial entities.

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