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(8 September 2020 – IEC Telecom) Demand for faster and cheaper connectivity at sea is set to increase as sailing is recognised as a safer place to work, travel and holiday during the Covid-19 pandemic says satcom specialist IEC Telecom, which is experiencing an increase in enquiries from vessel operators in the maritime leisure sector.

With ‘lockdowns’ and restrictions easing in some parts of the world, yacht owners are now able to enjoy ‘social distancing’ onboard their vessels, which is leading to a boost in demand for high-speed connectivity and increased bandwidth capacity. With the focus on social distancing, yachts are becoming increasingly attractive remote offices for those able to attend to business matters while enjoying the open sea, sunshine and fresh air. During this challenging time, sailors have an increased need to stay connected for both personal and operational purposes as well as to avoid the need to go ashore as much as possible.

(courtesy: IEC Telecom)

The signs are pointing to an upsurge in leisure boating. Yacht chartering is seen one of the safest ways to enjoy a break at present due to the minimal contact charterers have with other people. Yachts are considered to be more hygienic, given the ratio of crew to guests and the exclusivity of being on a private boat. Affluent consumers are looking for getaways with fewer crowds, more privacy and the ability to gather privately with those closest to them. The Boat Affair platform (whose rentals are available in more than 60 countries) has seen a 23% increase in requests from customers who traditionally would opt for a hotel vacation or a seaside resort but are now seeking a safer alternative. And, according to a new survey by LuggageHero, 25% of travellers report they will try to avoid crowded commercial flights and public transportation in a post-coronavirus world.

Meanwhile, in countries where travel is still restricted, many larger leisure boats and super yachts remain fully crewed and operational – also leading to increased need for connectivity as crews try to stay in touch with family and friends while conducting as many ship operations as possible via remote techniques. With crew restricted to remaining on the vessel in many places, higher speeds and larger bandwidth capacity is needed to provide leisure activities too.

The leisure boat sector was initially hit hard by international lockdowns and is now incurring additional costs for deep cleaning, personal protective equipment, virus testing etc which are not generally reflected in the charter fees. As a result, systems which allow to optimize bandwidth consumption in order to reduce expenses on communication are proving popular with consumers looking to install or upgrade yacht connectivity systems.

Gwenael Loheac, CEO Western & Southern Europe for IEC Telecom said: “Data traffic on leisure vessels has increased during this crisis period because crew, vessel operators and passengers need to exchange information on a more regular basis. In response to Covid-19, we are seeing increased demand for flexible tariffs to enable leisure vessel operators to adapt quickly to fluctuating connectivity requirements. Fortunately, we are well-placed to meet these needs, having a wide portfolio of solutions designed to provide best user experience, while keeping communications costs at bay.”

Reacting to the need for enhanced and adaptable connectivity on leisure vessels, IEC Telecom recently launched OneGate Marine Compact – a new lightweight digital solution with a network management system which provides full visibility over on-board network assets (both satellite and GSM) and enables vessel owners to control expenses and optimise consumption via a digital dashboard.

Mr Loheac commented: “OneGate Marine Compact was developed to cater to all major requirements of the leisure boat sector – addressing their needs for speed, bandwidth and cost optimisation. OneGate Marine Compact is an agile, lightweight, highly-adaptable and easy-to-install digital communications system which gives complete access to the benefits of digital connectivity even on smaller vessels. At this challenging time this system is providing many of the answers yacht owners need to enable them to conduct online business and leisure activities safely and securely.”

OneGate Marine Compact is compatible with the Iridium Certus service which provides the only truly global coverage and delivers the fastest L-band speed in the industry. Delivered through Thales VesseLINK for the maritime industry, crew members and passengers on Iridium Certus® equipped vessels enjoy faster web surfing and stable use of social media applications even in the harshest weather condition. Mr Loheac concluded: “Due to its low latency levels, Iridium Certus is the right service for VoIP calls and e-conferencing.”

IEC Telecom Group

IEC Telecom Group is one of the leading international providers of satellite communications services. Renowned for supplying high quality satcom solutions for more than 25 years, IEC Telecom delivers efficient end-to-end voice and data services when and where it matters most.

We enable digitalization for the maritime industry as well as remote units on land, where GSM coverage is not available.

For urban networks, we provide a powerful satellite back up to ensure the business continuity of customer enterprises.

IEC Telecom has long-standing business relationships with all the key satellite operators. As a strategic partner for Inmarsat, Iridium, Thuraya, and Yahsat, we’re in the unique position to support organisations with global operations as well as offer a wide variety of plans for area-by-area use to regional customers.

IEC Telecom’s integrated approach of in-house design and engineering expertise allows us to develop truly unique solutions that enable full control over customer satellite assets.

Our portfolio includes a wide range of satellite products (from handset to VSAT services), solutions, and value-added services. In addition, we offer 24/7 support for satellite-based solutions during their full lifecycle.

IEC Telecom Group has offices across eight countries: Denmark, France, Kazakhstan, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, and UAE.

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Space

International consortium adds hyperspectral imaging and communication payloads to NanoAvionics’ rideshare mission named D-2/AtlaCom-1

International consortium adds hyperspectral imaging and communication payloads to NanoAvionics

(23 October 2020 – NanoAvionics) NanoAvionics has revealed the remaining three payloads of its ‘D-2/AtlaCom-1’ rideshare mission hosted on board its M6P 6U nanosatellite bus.

The additional payloads, a camera for hyperspectral remote sensing, a new high-gain X-band antenna and an upgraded X-Band downlink transmitter, are all part of an international collaboration by an international consortium and its partners called “HyperActive”.

The consortium partners for this international collaboration comprise Dragonfly Aerospace (South Africa), Space JLTZ (Mexico) and NanoAvionics US as a supplier to the consortium, as well as mission contributors Polytechnical University of Atlacomulco (Mexico), and CubeCom (South Africa). Expected to launch in mid-2021, the primary aim of the HyperActive program is a flight demonstration of the hyperspectral imaging and communication payloads. The secondary aim is to evaluate market interest for hyperspectral imaging data captured and processed as part of the program.

Within this collaboration, NanoAvionics will act as the supplier to the HyperActive consortium, taking care of all aspects related to the satellite mission including among others payload integration, performance testing, spacecraft registration and logistics, frequency allocation and payload on-orbit operations.

NanoAvionics engineer preparing 6U satellite for functional tests. (courtesy: NanoAvionics)

“This program shows how important international collaboration can be to the NewSpace sector and how it enables low barrier entry for space data businesses,” said F. Brent Abbott, CEO of NanoAvionics US, “I’m very proud that NanoAvionics is part of this effort as well as stimulating education development and contributing to global social benefits such as ocean and agricultural monitoring. NanoAvionics also values its role as a strategic ally for space development in Mexico.”

A key instrument of the program is the “Mantis imager”, a hyperspectral camera for remote sensing developed by Dragonfly Aerospace, based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Mantis imager has an additional unique software capability allowing it to combine any of the available 148 hyperspectral bands into customizable multispectral bands as required for an individual imaging session – essentially a “software defined” camera. To capture these hyperspectral bands, the camera features a 16-meter native ground sample distance (GSD) and a hyperspectral resolution of 32 meters. Dragonfly Aerospace will also provide an X-band data download ground station for the mission. The high-gain X-band antenna and transmitter to send the data back to Earth, are products of the consortium’s partner CubeCom.

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Mantis Imager (courtesy: Dragonfly Aerospace)

“The team at Dragonfly Aerospace is excited to be working with these great partners on this mission,” said Bryan Dean, CEO of Dragonfly Aerospace. “It fits very well with our plans to team up with leading satellite bus and image processing partners to provide compelling solutions to end users. The Mantis imager is the latest addition to our range of cost-effective hyperspectral imagers which also includes the Chameleon imager that we delivered for flight earlier this year.”

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OSIRIS-REx spacecraft goes for early stow of asteroid sample

OSIRIS REx spacecraft goes for early stow of asteroid sample

(26 October 2020 – NASA) NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is ready to perform an early stow on Tuesday, Oct. 27, of the large sample it collected last week from the surface of the asteroid Bennu to protect and return as much of the sample as possible.

On Oct. 22, the OSIRIS-REx mission team received images that showed the spacecraft’s collector head overflowing with material collected from Bennu’s surface – well over the two-ounce (60-gram) mission requirement – and that some of these particles appeared to be slowly escaping from the collection head, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM).

A mylar flap on the TAGSAM allows material to easily enter the collector head, and should seal shut once the particles pass through. However, larger rocks that didn’t fully pass through the flap into the TAGSAM appear to have wedged this flap open, allowing bits of the sample to leak out.

Because the first sample collection event was so successful, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has given the mission team the go-ahead to expedite sample stowage, originally scheduled for Nov. 2, in the spacecraft’s Sample Return Capsule (SRC) to minimize further sample loss.

This illustration shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft stowing the sample it collected from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. The spacecraft will use its Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm to place the TAGSAM collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC). (courtesy: NASA/University of Arizona, Tucson)

“The abundance of material we collected from Bennu made it possible to expedite our decision to stow,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “The team is now working around the clock to accelerate the stowage timeline, so that we can protect as much of this material as possible for return to Earth.”

Unlike other spacecraft operations where OSIRIS-REx autonomously runs through an entire sequence, stowing the sample is done in stages and requires the team’s oversight and input. The team will send the preliminary commands to the spacecraft to start the stow sequence and, once OSIRIS-REx completes each step in sequence, the spacecraft sends telemetry and images back to the team on Earth and waits for the team’s confirmation to proceed with the next step.

Signals currently take just over 18.5 minutes to travel between Earth and the spacecraft one-way, so each step of the sequence factors in about 37 minutes of communications transit time. Throughout the process, the mission team will continually assess the TAGSAM’s wrist alignment to ensure the collector head is properly placed in the SRC. A new imaging sequence also has been added to the process to observe the material escaping from the collector head and verify that no particles hinder the stowage process. The mission anticipates the entire stowage process will take multiple days, at the end of which the sample will be safely sealed in the SRC for the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth.

“I’m proud of the OSIRIS-REx team’s amazing work and success to this point,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “This mission is well positioned to return a historic and substantial sample of an asteroid to Earth, and they’ve been doing all the right things, on an expedited timetable, to protect that precious cargo.”

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona, Tucson leads the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace, in Tempe, Arizona, are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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Refueling mission completes second set of robotic tool operations in space

Refueling mission completes second set of robotic tool operations in

(23 October 2020 – NASA Goddard) NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) has successfully completed its second set of robotic tool operations on the International Space Station, demonstrating key techniques for transferring cryogenic fluids, used as coolants, propellants, or for life support systems in orbit.

These technologies have applications for extending spacecraft life and facilitating exploration to the Moon and Mars.

Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot 2 (VIPIR2) before launch (top left), and in space during operations (top middle, top right); and Cryogen Servicing Tool (CST) before launch (bottom left), and in space during operations (bottom middle, bottom right). (courtesy: NASA)

From October 19-22, RRM3 – with the help of the station’s Dextre robot – connected an 11-foot long hose to a designated cryogen port while simultaneously using an inspection tool to verify the hose connection. This marks the first time that Dextre has had tools in both arms completing RRM3 operations. RRM3 supplied the hose and robotic tools of a future servicer spacecraft, as well as a piping system representing that of a satellite in need of fueling.

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For the first time, Dextre simultaneously uses its two arms to wield robotic refueling tools. The right arm uses the Cryogen Servicing Tool to maneuver a cryogen hose, and the left uses Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot 2, an inspection camera, to verify placement. (courtesy: NASA)

During the demonstration, Dextre simultaneously operated two RRM3 tools: the Cryogen Servicing Tool (CST) and the Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot 2 (VIPIR2) tool. One of Dextre’s arms held the CST, which was needed to grab and guide the hose into the port. The second arm extended the snake-like VIPIR2 camera into the piping system to ensure the hose was inserted correctly.

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The Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot 2 (VIPIR2), extends its snake-like borescope camera for free-space checkout, to later be inserted into the RRM3 module’s piping system to verify proper cryogen hose placement. (courtesy: NASA)

The mission launched in December 2018 and conducted its first set of robotic operations in August 2019, during which it demonstrated its Multi-Function Tool 2 and a robotic-friendly hose adapter system. This RRM3 demonstration added experience and information to NASA’s knowledge base on transferring cryogenic fuel in space.

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The Cryogen Servicing Tool allows Dextre to maneuver the 11-ft long cryogen hose to a port on the RRM3 module. (courtesy: NASA)

Prior to an April 2019 venting operation, RRM3 stored liquid methane for four months, the longest in-space storage of a cryogen without any loss of fluid. This record had been difficult to achieve previously because cryogens vaporize in a process called boil-off when not maintained at a low enough temperature.

RRM3 was developed and operated by NASA’s Exploration and In-space Services (NExIS) projects division (formerly known as the Satellite Servicing Projects Division) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The demonstration was funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, which is located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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