Space & Satellite News in Brief

Airbus, Intelsat, Air Canada, Kleos, Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, Inmarsat, European Space Agency

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Airbus-built MEASAT-3d communications satellite ready for launch: The Airbus built MEASAT-3d telecommunications satellite is in Kourou, French Guiana and is ready for its launch on an Ariane 5 on 22 June. MEASAT-3d is the 57th E3000 satellite built by Airbus and will be positioned at the 91.5°E orbital slot and collocated with MEASAT-3b, also built by Airbus. This new satellite will significantly enhance broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps in areas with limited or no terrestrial connectivity throughout Malaysia while continuing to provide redundancy and additional capacity for video distribution in HD, 4K, and ultimately 8K in the Asia-Pacific region. Francois Gaullier, head of Telecom Satellites at Airbus said: “MEASAT-3d is based on our highly reliable Eurostar satellite platform, including the current E3000 series, with 58 in orbit which have notched up more than 1000 years of successful operations. MEASAT is a key customer for us and we are looking forward to this advanced spacecraft supporting their future business.” Apart from having C and Ku-bands capacity for DTH, video distribution and telecommunication services, it also features an HTS Ka-band mission with multiple user spot beams optimised to deliver high-speed broadband communications over Malaysia to bridge the digital divide in the country; and (ii) a Q/V band payload, first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, allows MEASAT to study the propagation effects in high rainfall regions like Malaysia, to enable the design of its next generation satellites. The satellite also carries an L-band navigation hosted payload for the Korea Augmentation Satellite System (KASS) for KTSAT.

Polar ice and snow monitoring mission CRISTAL on track: The Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimetry mission CRISTAL is on track, according to Airbus. Following an intensive review process the European Space Agency ESA has confirmed that the preliminary design of the satellite meets all system requirements. CRISTAL will carry an advanced multi-frequency altimeter that will measure sea ice thickness and ice sheet elevations – key climate change indicators. The CRISTAL altimeter will for the first time measure snow coverage of the ice sheets which will improve data quality significantly compared to its predecessor CryoSat-2. These data will support maritime operations in polar oceans and contribute to a better understanding of climate processes. The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) was organised using a new more collaborative format. As a first step an extensive review by over 60 ESA engineers of a comprehensive data package, established by more than 100 engineers led by Airbus took place over four weeks. In a second step the major findings were intensively discussed in an interactive way between senior level experts both on ESA and Industry side up to the successful completion of the review. CRISTAL will also support applications related to coastal and inland waters and the observation of ocean topography. The mission will ensure the long-term continuation of radar altimetry ice elevation and topographic change records, following on from previous missions such as ESA’s Earth Explorer CryoSat, also developed by Airbus and working for 12 years, well beyond its design lifetime. Monitoring the cryosphere is essential to fully assess, predict and adapt to climate variability and change.

Intelsat selected by Air Canada for satellite connectivity solutions: Intelsat, operator of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial network and leading provider of inflight connectivity (IFC), has been selected to provide its line-fit 2Ku satellite connectivity solution on Air Canada’s upcoming Airbus A321XLR fleet to be installed on the Airbus production line in Hamburg, Germany. In addition, Air Canada has chosen Intelsat to upgrade all 15 of its existing mainline Airbus A321ceos with Intelsat’s 2Ku satellite connectivity solution. All 15 retrofit installations are scheduled to occur in Canada beginning in early 2023. These installations will include Intelsat’s next-generation modem, delivering industry-leading speeds to support advanced video streaming and superior performance around the globe while significantly reducing costs with Intelsat’s investment in its global 5G software-defined satellite network. “Air Canada’s commitment to delivering an exceptional in-flight experience with quality streaming connectivity is admired throughout the globe,” said Dave Bijur, senior vice president of Commercial for Intelsat Commercial Aviation. “Our continuous launch of satellites over the next several years, starting with Intelsat 40e in early 2023, positions us well in the future to deliver unmatched reliability, redundancy and speed to passengers – all of which maximises guest satisfaction.” “Millions of Intelsat inflight internet sessions have been delivered to Air Canada’s passengers throughout our nine-plus year relationship,” said Senior Vice President of Products, Marketing and e-commerce at Air Canada, Mark Nasr. “We are delighted to grow our satellite connectivity service with Intelsat to provide our passengers with expanded inflight connectivity.”

Intelsat launches electronically steered antenna technology: Intelsat announced the launch of a new IFC solution for use by airline customers. Lighter, and more versatile than previous options, the new ESA-based solution is a first in a new line of ground-breaking multi-orbit terminals developed by Intelsat with the capability to interoperate with Intelsat’s established geostationary satellites (GEO) in addition to new Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) or Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. This important feature will deliver direct benefits to airlines and passengers. GEO satellites, such as Intelsat’s constellation of Epic satellites as well as the new generation of Software Defined Satellites (SDS) provide deep layers of capacity, redundancy, and coverage important in airline hub-cities and across busy oceanic corridors. LEO satellites will deliver improved performance with some cloud-based productivity applications, quicker browsing and interactive experiences on a global basis. Unlike prior airline Wi-Fi solutions, LEOs provide coverage in Polar regions adding hours of additional connectivity to intercontinental polar flights. The new terminal fits a variety of aircraft and mission profiles ranging from the smallest commercial aircraft to international widebody aircraft. Standing just 3.5 inches (90mm) high on the fuselage, it delivers operational savings driven by a low-profile installation that reduces drag, fuel burn and carbon emissions. The antenna’s first-of-its-kind solid state design provides market leading reliability for aircraft operators and relies on mature Electronically Scanned Array Antenna technology from Ball Aerospace, while leveraging design and integration partner, Stellar Blu Solutions,’ modular design that will offer simplified maintenance, access and improved reliability. Intelsat anticipates a first installation on a CRJ-700 in late 2022, with production installations to occur roughly a year later.

Kleos’ fourth cluster manifest to launch on SpaceX: Kleos Space, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Mission-as-a-Service (MaaS) provider, confirmed its Observer Mission (KSF3) satellites are manifested to launch on the Transporter-6 SpaceX mission NET October 2022. The Observer Mission satellites will be deployed into a Sun Synchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Spaceflight Inc. contracted the launch and integration services from ISILAUNCH on behalf of Kleos. Equipped with AIS, VHF, and X-Band payloads, the four satellites will 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 the 15-degree latitude area of interest to around five times a day. Kleos Space CEO Andy Bowyer said, “The upcoming launch brings our low earth orbit constellation to 16 satellites, further increasing our data collection, intelligence, and reconnaissance capabilities. The Observer Mission features VHF and X-Band collection payloads, providing additional value and capabilities to our government and commercial data customers.” As a Spaceflight Inc. customer, Kleos’ KSF3 mission was originally booked for a mid-2022 launch, but was moved to SpaceX’s Transporter-6 mission and will deploy from an ISILAUNCH integrated port after Spaceflight encountered a vibration issue with their original deployment method.

GISTDA and Airbus to cooperate on future Thailand Space missions: Thailand’s GISTDA (Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency) and Airbus have signed a Letter of Intent on cooperation related to future Space missions in Thailand. This cooperation is aimed at preparing the implementation of future Thai satellites and derived services. After the success of the first Earth-Observation satellite system named THEOS-1, built by Airbus, launched in 2008 and still fully operational, and following the award to Airbus of the second Earth-Observation satellite system named THEOS-2 in 2018, GISTDA is currently studying the development of follow-up Space programmes. Those programmes should be built on the foundation of both THEOS-1 and THEOS-2 missions in order to amplify Thai Space capabilities to address the country’s needs and strongly contribute to the nation’s economic development and societal well-being. Airbus will study with GISTDA solutions for the future Thai Earth-Observation system which will be used for supporting the operations in various aspects, including but not limited to, Social and Security management, Cities and Economic Corridors Management, Natural Resources and Ecosystems Management, Water Management, Disaster Management and Agricultural Management.

Inmarsat inks new contract with European Space Agency: The congestion of airspace around the world is increasing rapidly, and pressure is mounting on the aviation industry to seek more sustainable practices. In Europe alone, skies are expected to see a 50 percent increase in flights in the next 20 years – while recent estimates anticipate 40 times more commercial UAVs will be flying beyond visual line-of-sight by 2030 than commercial aircraft. That’s why Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a new contract focusing on the globalisation of their ground-breaking Iris air traffic modernisation programme. This new phase, Iris Global, will focus on the technologies and certification required to share the fuel, CO2, and congestion-saving benefits of Iris with regions far beyond Europe. To further accelerate ATM modernisation, it will also adopt System Wide Information Management (SWIM) applications to facilitate greater sharing of information such as airport operational status, weather information, flight data, and status of any airspace restrictions. In addition, research on future capabilities for the integration of uncrewed aviation into European airspace will be supported. Iris, developed in a public-private partnership launched by ESA, is a service operating on Inmarsat’s SB-S platform. It was created to deliver powerful benefits to airlines and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) by enabling high bandwidth and cost-effective satellite-based datalink communications between air traffic controllers and pilots. Entering commercial and operational service in Europe in 2023, Iris will be the first communication service benefiting from a Pan-European certification from EASA, the European aviation safety agency. It allows aircraft to send and receive live data with ground systems during the entire flight, enabling increased predictability of operations and the ability to adapt to evolving conditions on the air traffic network, thus making Air Traffic Management (ATM) more effective and safer. Iris will be a key enabler for trajectory-based operations to be implemented through the sharing of four dimensional (4D) trajectory data between the aircraft and the ground. Initial 4D trajectories will enable optimised climb and descent pathways – but also allow for en route optimisation of the trajectory, creating fuel and CO2 emissions savings. Iris makes use of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Aeronautical Telecommunication Network (ATN) standards, including those suitable for future ATM and ATN Open Systems Interconnect (ATN OSI) protocols, enabling ground-breaking new ATM functionalities such as 4D trajectory management to be deployed.

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