Scotland’s first satellite promises big mission

UKube-1, the very first satellite of Scotland, will soon take its place in orbit around the Earth. The spacecraft is said to be a forerunner of things to come under the collaborative, national satellite program in the United Kingdom.

Built in Glasgow by Clyde Space, the small Cubesat spacecraft is currently completing final testing for its scheduled launch later this year aboard a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket. The launch will take place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The state-of-the-art UKube-1 nanosatellite has been designed and constructed at the high-tech facility of Clyde Space located at the West of Scotland Science Park.

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Swiss Space Systems introduces low-cost satellite service

swiss-space-systems-unveils-low-cost-satellite-launch-systemSwiss Space Systems is planning to debut low-cost satellite launches at a quarter of the current market rates, aiming for ten million Swiss francs (8.1 million euros, $10.5 million). The company will use unmanned suborbital spaceplanes that has the ability to carry satellites weighing up to 250 kilos (550 pounds).

The Swiss company said that its mission is to give access to space and to democratize space access by giving power to emerging countries, markets, universities and research institutes to perform actions that has not been possible for them up to this day, which is to deploy their own satellites.

Swiss Space Systems added that it has a budget of 225 million Swiss francs and targets to begin test launches four years from now. The company, headed by Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, said that it had already secured technological cooperation deals with companies and agencies such as Dassault Aviation, European Space Agency (ESA), Sonaca and the Von Karman Institute.

Swiss Space Systems added that the plan of launching a low-cost satellite service was rooted in the reusable nature of the spaceplane and other launch facilities, and that the consumption of fuel would be dramatically less compared to conventional systems.

The company plans on opening the spaceport come 2015 at the Payerne airfield in western Switzerland.

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Orion Express looking to install satellite hotspot at 85° East for Russia

Orion Express, a pay-TV operator in Russia, recently unveiled its plans of creating a Hotbird-style satellite hotspot for the country at 85 degrees East orbital position. The Russian company is the anchor tenant at the said position, occupied by the Intelsat-15 and Horizon 2 satellites at present. Orion is also planning to send an invite to various Central Asian channels more widely and elsewhere to broadcast from the orbital position.

Executive Director of Orion Express Maxim Shlygin said in a statement that the company is seeking to serve as “a kind of nucleus” for a broader media platform by using two up-to-date satellites with spare capacity. The slot may work with the existing 80 degrees east slot — where new Express satellite will provide capacity — and the 90 degrees east position occupied by Gazprom’s Yamal satellites. The company was initially forced to move to the 85 degrees east position after Express AM2 satellite’s failure at 80 degrees east.

Shlygin added that Orion Express is prepared to deliver technical support, which includes uplink services, to third-party broadcasters seeking to expand their coverage of the region.

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Thales Alenia Space, ISS Reshetnev enter joint venture for Russian satellite development

Aerospace companies Thales Alenia Space and ISS Reshetnev have expanded their business partnership with a new deal to establish a joint venture that will be based in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

ISS Reshetnev, which was formerly called Applied Mechanics Science-Production Association (NPO PM), will be holding a majority stake in Thales to be included under Russian law. The company’s focal point is the production of equipment at par with international standards for use on Russian telecommunications satellites. ISS will then proceed on developing new products for satellites to meet the requirements of both international and Russian markets.

Thales Alenia Space and ISS Reshetnev both signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the Moscow French-Russian intergovernmental conference back in November of last year. The two companies’ recent agreement marks the first phase of their bilateral collaboration.

Jean Loïc Galle, CEO and President of Thales Alenia Space labeled the joint venture as a huge achievement that strengthens the bonds of both companies in future market strategies.

“We are very proud of continuing to contribute to the development of the Russian space industry,” Loïc Galle said in a company statement. “The partnership with ISS is absolutely a strategic one for Thales Alenia Space. The joint venture we have created today will enable us to assemble, integrate and test telecom satellite equipment that meets the most exacting standards, thus driving a significant increase in our business volume. I am firmly convinced that, through this joint venture, Thales Alenia Space and ISS-Reshetnev will be able to meet our upcoming challenges even more successfully than before.”

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TV5MONDE Afrique joins Amos-5 broadcast offering of SatLink, Spacecom

Satellite fleet operators SatLink Communications and Spacecom are happy to welcome TV5MONDE Afrique as the newest addition to the Amos-5 17 degrees east French-language broadcast assemblage. SatLink Communications delivers TV distribution platform on the satellite through its Multi Channel Per Carrier (MCPC).

Known as the first international French language channel, TV5MONDE Afrique is a general interest channel providing documentaries, entertainment shows, exclusive films, productions and sporting events.

In a statement, SatLink Communications CEO David Hochner said: “The demand for high quality broadcast content in Africa is an area which is seeing exponential growth, particularly within the Francophone communities, as it is one of the most desirable markets for broadcasters as they continue to push their content to all corners of the continent. By provisioning full end-to-end broadcast solutions across three platforms on the AMOS-5 satellite, SatLink is able to provide full coverage across Africa for both international and national broadcasters looking to capitalize on this market opportunity.”

The service is available both on Amos-5 and Pan African C-band coverage in DVB-S and DVBS-2 via SatLink’s Global Satellite and Fibre Network, as well as two additional Ku-Band MCPC platforms to provide for the Sub-Saharan countries. As such, it gives flexibility to broadcasters regarding the distributed video content to and out of Africa for Direct-to-Home (DTH) or using Cable TV, DBS, DTT, MMDS, Mobile TV and IPTV partners all over the continent.

“As the number one brand in Africa, we’re excited to bring our programming to the AMOS-5 French-speaking neighborhood at 17°E,” TV5MONDE Afrique director Denise Epoté said. “With a clear and powerful signal from Dakar in the Northwest all the way to La Réunion in the Southeast, the satellite offers our signal to more French-speaking audiences and in a simple manner.”

Astrotech Space Operations wins task order contract from NASA to develop OCO-2 spacecraft

NASA recently awarded Astrotech Corporation’s subsidiary — Astrotech Space Operations — with a task order contract to supply payload processing services for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory – 2 (OCO-2) satellite at ASO’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, facility.

OCO-2 satellite is the very first mission given by NASA under the current Not-to-Exceed $16 million Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) task order contract which runs through December 2017. Scheduled to be sent into orbit in July 2014, the Jet Propulsion Lab satellite will mark NASA’s first dedicated Earth remote sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from space.

Last month, ASO Florida was assigned a Not-to-Exceed $9.1 million Infinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) task order contract from NASA to supply commercial payload processing services for satellites launched at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Astrotech Space Operations supplies all support needed for commercial and government customers to process their satellite hardware for launch. This includes advance planning, use of unique facilities, encapsulation, spacecraft checkout, fueling and transport.

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Hughes wins $4.5 million contract for EDUSAT Project in India

Hughes Communications, a leading provider of satellite-based communications services, recently received a contract worth $4.5 million to provide comprehensive educational content using INSAT-4CR satellite network to all educational institutions in Punjab, India.

Under the contract, Hughes’ satellite-based network will connect around 2,950 schools and broadcast educational content and lectures, either live or pre-recorded from Mohali-based studios and broadcast it across Punjab.

“The EDUSAT project initiated by the Punjab Government will prove an asset in providing teaching and imparting a quality education at the school level,” director general of school education, secretary and project director for the EDUSAT Project Kahan Singh Pannu said in a statement. “The state government plans to provide that necessary facilities and infrastructure that is required and which will enable the faculty to give their best to the students. This will supplement curriculum-based teaching training, provide greater community participation, increase access, strengthen education efforts and provide access to new technologies.”

Expressing his gratitude for the new contract, Hughes India Vice President Shivaji Chatterjee noted, “We are proud that the Punjab Government has chosen Hughes for this project. India holds a strong position in the knowledge economy today, in large part due to its major investment in education over the years. In this program, we’ll leverage best-of-breed technology and project management practices to ensure the most rapid and economical solution to help close the digital divide across the state.”

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Air Force Research Laboratory taps SSTL to evaluate small satellite approach for GPS constellation

Surrey Satellite Technology LLC (SSTL) has been chosen by the Air Force Research Laboratory to assess the possible impact small satellites can do over the current GPS constellation. The Air Force is currently looking for ways to lessen costs and enhance the performance of the system when it comes to accuracy, coverage and robustness using this approach.

The Surrey-based satellite provider will also do an evaluation of how small satellites can provide alternative architectures and high-powered signals for fast commanding that could support the improvement of system capability. The evaluation is expected to complete the necessary details of implementing the small satellite approach: schedule, concept of operations, definition of the technical and programmatic risks, among others.

For this new project, SSTL will use their past experiences from 39 missions to determine how Medium Earth orbit satellites and various launch configurations could lessen the cost and increase the timescales associated with GPS deployment. The British company is expected to employ a physical demonstration of its technological approaches in the study.

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China ceases satellite images importation


China will no longer be importing satellite images after making an announcement that Ziyuan III, the country’s first high-resolution, stereo mapping satellite, met international standards.

According to reports, China imported more than 90 percent of its remote-sensing data even before Ziyuan III commenced transmitting data. Now, the country is preparing to launch another Ziyuan III satellite in early 2014 and is working on three follow-up spacecraft. The ultimate goal of China is to create a remote-sensing mapping satellite system within a span of ten to fifteen years that allows delivery of real-time data on any point on Earth to be fetched through the day.

The Ziyuan III, a year-old satellite that provides imagery for China’s agricultural development, land resources surveys, natural disaster prevention, urban planning and water resources management, has an approximate operational life of five years.

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Satellite, cable TV providers threatened by planned expansion of Internet TV startup

aereo_logoAereo, the year-old economical Internet TV startup funded by media company headed by billionaire Barry Diller, recently announced its plan to expand their services in 22 U.S cities come spring season. This new development now threatens cable and satellite TV providers.

Since its launch last March, Aereo has only been able to provide Internet TV services to New York residents for $12 a month. But after a recent federal court ruling that temporarily validated its legality, the service now expects to offer its services New York city suburbs, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, and a reported 18 other markets within the boundaries of United States.

Aereo lets subscribers stream live broadcasts of TV channels using their phones, tablet computers and other devices with the help of individual antennas. Users can watch the major broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, the CW, FOX, NBC, PBS, Telemundo and other channels.

Now, the TV industry perceives the inexpensive service from Aereo as a threat to its ability to control subscription fees and generate income from advertising — two of its main sources of revenue.

A federal judge in New York ruled on July that Aereo’s unlicensed use of free, over-the-air broadcasts does not violate copyright law. However, broadcasters including Walt Disney Co’s ABC, CBS Corp, Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal and News Corp’s Fox appealed the ruling and reports indicate that during a hearing on November, appellate judges showed skepticism about the legality of Aereo. The outcome will decide if Aereo will be allowed to carry on with their planned expansion to other cities, or if it will be totally invalidated.

In case the ruling stands, the service might create a significant change in the broadcast industry by offering viewers an affordable way to consume television content, therefore causing a decrease on cable and satellite subscribers. Moreover, it could also lessen licensing fees broadcasters collect from such companies.

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