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(18 August 2020 – Skyrora) Skyrora has successfully launched its two-stage, four-metre tall sub-orbital rocket, Skylark Micro from the company’s mobile launch complex set up within a few days at Langanes Peninsula, Iceland.

The rocket climbed to 26.86km in altitude before both stages were parachuted back down to sea.

Skyrora’s Skylark Micro launching from Iceland (courtesy: Skyrora)

The launch is part of Skyrora’s de-risking program leading up to the building and launching of its orbital vehicle, Skyrora XL, scheduled for 2023. The launch of Skylark Micro was to test onboard electronics and communications that will also be used in the larger Skylark-L and Skyrora XL launch vehicles. Before launch, the team undertook a number of weather procedures to learn more about the mid and upper level wind speeds and altitudes. In addition, the mobile launch complex allowed the team to collect a large amount of data of telemetry, GPS tracking and weather conditions during flight to which they are currently analysing. The test also allowed the Skyrora crew to practice launch procedures and marine recovery operations.

Despite the resolute efforts of the Langanes Search and Rescue and Skyrora Recovery teams, Skyrora has unfortunately been unsuccessful in their efforts of locating the Skylark Micro booster and sustainer stages. However, they are still continuing search operations for the next few days as well as learning how to improve future recovery operations. Creating another test of our suborbital mobile launch complex in a different location, demonstrates the immense speed and flexibility of Skyrora for launching its test rockets.

Until this year, Iceland had no permit procedure to allow rockets to be launched from the country. However, after Skyrora travelled to Iceland in January to meet the relevant government officials and see the launch site, the Icelandic authorities agreed upon and implemented a framework to allow Skyrora to launch its Skylark Micro. The successful launch was closely organised with Space Iceland, only founded in 2019. With their help and within a few months, Skyrora got the operational logistics and governmental documents in place before the launch took place.

Leading up to the launch, Skyrora invited the Mayor of Langanesbyggd, Jonas-Egilsson, Members of Parliament, families and students from the local areas to meet and greet the team as well as having the chance to learn more about the Skylark Micro mission and see the rocket up close before it set off.

Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive officer of Skyrora said: “I am very happy that Iceland has allowed us to launch from their country. This allowed us to continue our developmental and de-risking programme. It is critical that we complete the programme so we can scale up and learn from any mistakes before launching our larger launch vehicles, Skylark L and Skyrora XL.

“These de-risking launches are all about learning and education. The Icelandic launch has allowed us to test our avionics and communications on a smaller and more cost-effective vehicle. I also hope this educational launch promotes the space industry in a positive way and inspires the younger generation.

“I could not be more thankful for Iceland putting the permit framework together in such a short period of time.”

Icelandic government officials and ministers have expressed their delight of Skyrora expanding its business to their country. Thor Fanndal from Space Iceland said: “We congratulate Skyrora on its successful launch. All of us at Space Iceland are immensely proud of our contribution to this. It only took six months to secure all permits which we believe is a testament to the efficiency of Iceland’s public agencies.”

About Skyrora

Skyrora is a leading European private launch vehicle company. It is headquartered in Edinburgh, with a team of more than 120 personnel in facilities throughout the UK and Europe. The company aims to cater for the growing demand to send commercial satellites into space using a combination of proven technology, advanced manufacturing and detailed knowledge. It is in the process of developing cost-effective launch vehicles that will launch from a UK spaceport by 2023.

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ViaLite provides SES with cross-border solution

ViaLite provides SES with cross border solution

(27 November 2020 – ViaLite) Radio frequency over fiber optic links are a great solution for moving high frequency analog signals over a long distance, but solutions need expert planning, design and installation to get the best performance.

When SES needed a long distance link from the European Space Agency Redu station in Belgium to the SES site in Luxembourg, ViaLite’s experience in the market and long distance link solutions made the company a winning choice for the project.

SES, a World Teleport Association (WTA) leading satellite operator, required a long distance link system which provided a high dynamic range in bandwidth and could be controlled remotely by SES operations staff. The distance between the SES site and the Redu station is over 120 km and crosses over the border between Belgium and Luxembourg.

ViaLite’s DWDM long distance link system was the chosen solution; installed at the two sites, with a third site at the border required for signal amplification and interconnect between the two countries. The technology used is capable of connecting sites that can be hundreds of kilometers apart and has full bandwidth capability from 700 MHz through to 2450 MHz. As part of the system, optical amplifiers, optical switches, multiplexers and de-multiplexers were supplied, as well as dispersion compensation module and delay lines; provided to help with optimizing and balancing.

SES’s teleport (courtesy: SES)

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ViaLite long distance link system (courtesy: ViaLite)

Steve Jones, a Senior Systems Engineer at SES, commented on the results: “We are over the moon, we couldn’t ask for more. ViaLite were extremely supportive and most importantly, it works!”

Amair Khan, from ViaLite, said: “It was a great project to work on. It’s rare to have the opportunity to deploy a fiber link across country borders. The solution we provided was adaptable in order to compensate for optical losses throughout the fiber system.”

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Supercapacitors ready to deliver maximum power to space

Supercapacitors ready to deliver maximum power to space

(27 November 2020 – ESA) High-power supercapacitors – already found within terrestrial electric cars, trains, lifts and cranes – are on their way to space.

An ESA-led project with Airbus Defence and Space developed and tested a supercapacitor design able to provide brief bursts of very high power levels to space missions as required. Potential uses might include operation of high-power satellite radar systems, to stabilise overall onboard power during solar eclipses or other such events or launcher thrust vectoring.

Bank of supercapacitors engineering model (courtesy: ESA/Airbus Defence and Space)

“While traditional batteries store electric energy on a chemistry basis, supercapacitors do so on the basis of physics. The energy is stored as electrostatic charge, within an electrochemical double layer at the boundary between an organic electrolyte and activated carbon layers,” explains energy storage engineer Brandon of ESA’s Energy Storage section.

“This means they can both store and discharge power at a very fast rate that batteries cannot match, for many thousands of cycles with almost no internal resistance. However they have the corresponding disadvantage that they possess a lower overall energy density, so are able to store only a fraction the amount of energy of a battery with the same mass.”

Supercapacitors are, for instance, often used within electric and hybrid cars, storing the electric energy generated by braking wheels for later reuse and supplying power boosts for rapid acceleration.

“We performed an initial study of such a ‘Bank of Supercapacitors’ unit through ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems, ARTES, programme,” adds Brandon. “We studied possible applications and which commercial cells could be feasible for the application in space. The results of this study were very promising.

“Then Airbus Defence and Space in France approached us, wanting to finalise and qualify such a design for space. This project proceeded on a co-funded basis through our General Support Technology Programme – preparing promising products for space and the marketplace.”

The first challenge was to design and construct a working prototype ‘Bank of Supercapacitors’ (BOSC), based on 34 supercapacitors in series with three strings in parallel, incorporating thermal sensors to keep it from overheating and degrading.

“To make these prototype BOSCs suitable for space required careful ‘potting’ – meaning the insertion of epoxy between the stacked supercapacitors, connectors and printed circuit boards,” adds Brandon.

“This sealant potting is needed for multiple reasons, firstly to help safeguard these delicate devices from the violent vibration of launch. It also prevents the unwanted interaction of bare wires and to minimise ‘outgassing’ of electrolyte from the supercapacitor can – the release of unwanted gases in the vacuum of space.”

BD Sensors in the Czech Republic– in charge of designing and manufacturing the BOSC – was responsible for developing this critical process.

Mechanical testing – coming down to violent, launcher-strength shaking, as well as exposure to space-quality vacuum and temperature extremes – took place at project partner EGGO Space in the Czech Republic. Radiation testing was also essential, involving kilorads of exposure, to check the bank would go on operating when exposed to the same kind of charged particles experienced in orbit.

Gabriel Beulaguet of Airbus Defence and Space, engineering and project manager for the project, comments: “we have set-up in our laboratory a long life test under relevant electrical, thermal and vacuum conditions. After more than 2.3 million cycles, the performances – especially in terms of fading and balancing – are behaving as expected and the test will continue to run”.

Testing the electrical performance of the BOSC involved millions of charge and discharge cycles, including a dedicated lifetime test campaign to look at ageing effects. In parallel, the BOSC was also subjected to ‘abuse’ testing – involving short circuits, overcharges and physical shock from impacts.

“We found the bank can take a huge amount of current, up to 400 amps, several times without damage,” adds Brandon.

Denis Lacombe of ESA’s Technical Reliability and Quality Division, technical officer for the project, explains: “Now that lifetime testing is about to conclude, after three years of hard work we have a space-qualified product, ready for use by Airbus and added to the European Preferred Parts List so other missions can make use of it as well, enabling high-power space applications of all kinds.”

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Northrop Grumman names Scott Stapp as Chief Technology Officer

Northrop Grumman names Scott Stapp as Chief Technology Officer

(25 November 2020 – Northrop Grumman) Northrop Grumman Corporation has named Scott Stapp chief technology officer (CTO).

Stapp will report to Kathy Warden, chairman, chief executive officer and president and will work closely with the executive leadership team.

Scott Stapp, Chief Technology Officer (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

As CTO, Stapp will lead the company’s technology strategy. He will help to ensure the company continues to leverage current technology and identify new solutions to bring to customers, creating new business opportunities and strengthening the company’s position on existing programs. He will also play a key role in engaging and developing the company’s technical talent.

Previously, Stapp was vice president, resiliency and rapid prototyping, with Space Systems, leading the sector’s rapid prototyping and resiliency programs across critical space missions. Prior to this, he served as vice president, applied research and technology development, with Aeronautics Systems.

Before joining Northrop Grumman in 2014, Stapp led the governance, acquisition and oversight of all DoD special access programs, for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and served as the principal staff assistant to the undersecretary of defense, acquisition, technology and logistics.

Stapp holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wyoming, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in national resource management from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

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