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(10 September 2020 – Lockheed Martin) The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin will soon lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids.

These bodies are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other in space, much like the Earth and Moon. In a project review on Sept. 3, NASA gave the official go-ahead to the Janus mission, named after the two-faced Roman god. The mission will study these asteroid couplets in never-before-seen detail. Known as Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C), this review and approval from NASA allows for the project to begin implementation, and baselines the project’s official schedule and budget.

The twin-spacecraft Janus project will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” binary asteroids. (courtesy: Lockheed Martin)

It will be a moment for twos: In 2022, the Janus team will launch two identical spacecraft that will travel millions of miles to individually fly close to two pairs of binary asteroids. Their observations could open up a new window into how these diverse bodies evolve and even burst apart over time, said Daniel Scheeres, the principle investigator for Janus.

“Binary asteroids are one class of objects for which we don’t have high-resolution scientific data,” said Scheeres, distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. “Everything we have on them is based on ground observations, which don’t give you as much detail as being up close.”

The mission, which will cost less than $55 million under NASA’s SIMPLEx program, may also help to usher in a new era of space exploration, said Lockheed Martin’s Janus Project Manager Josh Wood. He explained that Janus’ twin spacecraft are designed to be small and nimble, each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase.

“We see an advantage to be able to shrink our spacecraft,” said Wood. “With technology advancements, we can now explore our solar system and address important science questions with smaller spacecraft.”

Janus is led by the University of Colorado Boulder, where Scheeres is based, which will also undertake the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission. Lockheed Martin will manage, build and operate the spacecraft.

The mission will rendezvous with two binary pairs—named 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH—each showcasing a different kind of orbital pattern. The pair called 1991 VH, for example, has a “moon” that whips around a much bigger “primary” asteroid following a hard-to-predict pattern.

The team will use a suite of cameras to track the dynamical motion in unprecedented detail. Among other goals, Scheeres and his colleagues hope to learn more about how binary asteroids move—both around each other and through space.

“Once we see them up close up, there will be a lot of questions we can answer, but these will raise new questions as well,” Scheeres said. “We think Janus will motivate additional missions to binary asteroids.”

Wood added that the mission’s twin spacecraft, each of which weigh just about 80 pounds, will travel farther than any small satellite to date.

After blasting off in 2022, they’ll first complete an orbit around the sun, before heading back toward Earth and sling-shotting their way far into space and beyond the orbit of Mars.

“I think it’s a great test for what is achievable from the aerospace community,” Wood said. “And the Colorado-centric development for this mission, combining the space talent of both CU Boulder and Lockheed Martin, is a testament to the skills available in the state.”

About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 110,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

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Thales Alenia Space selected by Airbus as partner to the Mars Sample Return Mission

Thales Alenia Space selected by Airbus as partner to the

(14 October 2020 – Thales) Thales Alenia Space has signed an Authorization To Proceed (ATP) with Airbus Defence and Space, prime contractor of the program, to contribute to the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO), the key element of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Mission, which will be carried out through an international cooperation led by NASA.

A first tranche, worth around €11 million, will be related to the B2 phase for a global contract value of around €130 million.

(courtesy: ESA)

Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for:

  • supplying the Communication System, consisting of the elements allowing the data transmission between Earth and ERO and Mars
  • designing the crucial Orbit Insertion Module (OIM) and related thermo-mechanical, propulsion and electrical architectures
  • the Assembly Integration and Test (AIT) phase for the Proto-Flight model of the ERO Spacecraft composing elements in its test facilities of Turin and Toulouse.

The Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft is composed by the Return Module and the Orbit Insertion Module. The Return Module (RM) hosts the NASA payload devoted to the capture of the Martian samples orbiting around Mars, of their containment and delivery to Earth. The Orbit Insertion Module (OIM) is an additional chemical propulsive stage, for inserting the spacecraft into Mars orbit. This module is crucial as he will allow to reduce the spacecraft velocity enabling the Martian gravity to capture ERO in a stable orbit. After the maneuver successfully completed, IOM will be separated from RM in order to save mass prior to the return to Earth.

Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space stated: “We are enthusiastic to be part of the core team on this revolutionary mission of bringing Mars to Earth, that will open a new frontier in Mars exploration missions. Mars Sample Return has an immense scientific importance, that could lead to new findings regarding Martian geology, climate and life itself. Our involvement in this new mission is not only reflecting our Space for Life aspiration but will take advantage of all we already have developed in term of technologies including the planetary protection duty.”

Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space, added: “Thales Alenia Space will bring its expertise in the Mars exploration domain, leading the ExoMars 2016 and 2022 missions to search for life on the Red Planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter launched in 2016 in orbit around Mars is analyzing the Martian atmosphere before becoming the communication relay for all the upcoming missions landing on Mars”.

Leonardo is also widely involved in Mars exploration missions, from the ExoMars 2016 and 2022 missions to the Mars Sample Return program. On this latter program, Leonardo is studying and designing the two robotic arms that will collect and transfer the Martian samples on the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

About the Mars Sample Return mission

By 2031, the Mars Sample Return mission will collect in situ Mars surface samples and bring them back for study in terrestrial laboratories. Firstly, the MSR Sample Retrieval Lander will descend to the planet’s surface carrying the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) and the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). SFR will collect the samples from the Martian surface that have been cached by the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and the SFR will transfer these samples into Mars Ascent Vehicle, a mini-rocket developed by NASA, which will launch them into Mars orbit. In that moment, the ERO spacecraft, that will be launched in 2026, will be ready to locate and capture the samples released by the MAV. After the capture, the samples will then be sealed in a biological containment system and placed inside an Earth Entry Vehicle. ERO will then leave Martian orbit and head back to Earth. When it arrives back in Earth orbit, it will release the Earth Entry vehicle that will be recovered on ground and the sample analyzed.

About Thales Alenia Space

Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.

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Gilat Satellite Networks chosen by Southern Linc for 4G cellular backhaul services

Gilat Satellite Networks chosen by Southern Linc for 4G cellular

(19 October 2020 – Gilat) Gilat Satellite Networks has been awarded by three-year managed service contract for cellular backhaul by Southern Linc.

Gilat met Southern Linc’s requirements of enabling embedded accelerated MPLS traffic, coupled with cellular 4G with GTP acceleration, a major technological innovation in satellite transmission.

The agreement will enable Southern Linc to use satellite transmission for backhaul services when established networks are unavailable. Gilat satellite installations will be used to extend cellular coverage for voice and high-speed data services in remote and terrestrially challenged areas and in areas affected by severe weather. Gilat will also provide backup for terrestrial aggregation sites and an underlining level of monitoring and support for Southern Linc’s large-scale LTE network.

Gilat services met Southern Linc’s challenge to provide high reliability with very strict requirements, including MPLS support. Gilat services will provide transparent and simplified accelerated backhauling over satellite and enterprise and 4G cellular traffic over MPLS. These services, coupled with Gilat’s patented GTP acceleration technology are delivered with Gilat’s SkyEdge II-c platform.

“We are happy to award the managed service cellular backhaul over satellite contract to Gilat, who was really the only vendor that could meet Southern Linc’s demanding requirements,” said Southern Linc Director of Engineering Alan McIntyre. “Gilat services can help us improve service reliability and coverage particularly in more remote areas, and they will be a great support in times of emergency for our fleet of deployable network assets.”

“Gilat is honored to have been selected by Southern Linc for the managed service 4G CBH project and is proud to have been the sole vendor to meet their stringent requirements,” said Gilat Global Broadband Networks Vice President Michal Aharonov. “This achievement further validates Gilat’s proven technological superiority and testifies to our industry leadership in cellular backhaul.”

About Southern Linc

Southern Linc is a wireless communications company and wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company. Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is a leading energy company serving 9 million customers with clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy. Southern Linc delivers highly reliable, highly secure wireless voice and data services via the CriticalLinc™ 4G LTE Advanced network to Southern Company electric utilities as well as to a wide range of businesses and public sector agencies across Alabama, Georgia, southeastern Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle. The CriticalLinc network provides over-the-air encryption from devices to towers and supports encryption from towers to the network’s core data centers. This mission-critical network design conveys a highly reliable suite of LTE services that will support the most critical business processes.

About Gilat

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ: GILT, TASE: GILT) is a leading global provider of satellite-based broadband communications. With 30 years of experience, we design and manufacture cutting-edge ground segment equipment, and provide comprehensive solutions and end-to-end services, powered by our innovative technology. Delivering high value competitive solutions, our portfolio comprises of a cloud based VSAT network platform, high-speed modems, high performance on-the-move antennas and high efficiency, high power Solid State Amplifiers (SSPA) and Block Upconverters (BUC).

Gilat’s comprehensive solutions support multiple applications with a full portfolio of products to address key applications including broadband access, cellular backhaul, enterprise, in-flight connectivity, maritime, trains, defense and public safety, all while meeting the most stringent service level requirements. Gilat controlling shareholders are the FIMI Private Equity Funds.

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NASA selects Intuitive Machines to deliver lunar ice drill in 2022

NASA selects Intuitive Machines to deliver lunar ice drill in

(16 October 2020 – Intuitive Machines) NASA has selected Intuitive Machines to deliver the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) drill, combined with a mass spectrometer, to the Moon by December 2022.

The ice drilling mission is the Houston-based company’s second Moon contract award under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

(courtesy: Intuitive Machines)

“Laying the foundation to return humans to the Moon is an incredible honor and even greater challenge,” said Steve Altemus, President and CEO of Intuitive Machines. “At Intuitive Machines, we’re hungry for the pursuit of these audacious missions that will redefine what a small business is capable of.”

Intuitive Machines, a leading provider and supplier of space products and services, will deliver the approximately 88-pound payload to the Moon’s South Pole as a precursor to the TRIDENT drill and the MSOLO that will fly on VIPER, a mobile robot that will search for water and ice at the Moon’s South Pole.

PRIME-1 will drill into the lunar surface, harvest and bring ice to the Moon’s surface, and use a mass spectrometer to measure

how much is lost to sublimination as it turns from solid into vapor in a vacuum. The data from the PRIME-1 mission will help scientists understand how VIPER can search for water at the Moon’s pole, and how much water may be available to use as NASA plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.

“Establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon requires the success of the CLPS initiative,” said Altemus. “We have a tremendous responsibility to NASA and opportunity to animate humankind’s pursuit of knowledge through exploration.”

About Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines is a premier provider and supplier of space products and services that enable sustained robotic and human exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond. We drive markets with competitive world-class offerings synonymous with innovation, high quality, and precision. Whether leveraging state-of-the-art engineering tools and practices or integrating research and advanced technologies, our solutions are insightful and have a positive impact on the world.

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