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(23 September 2020 – NASA Armstrong) It’s no surprise to most of us that regularly eating fresh produce is a great way to support a healthy diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables benefit astronauts on the International Space Station, too – and soon the Moon and beyond.

Scientists are investigating sustainable ways to grow highly nutritious foods in microgravity, to give space explorers a readily available supply of daily greens.

On an upcoming flight facilitated by the Flight Opportunities program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, Space Lab Technologies will test their microgravity LilyPond, a hydroponic chamber for growing edible aquatic plants in space. Along with several other technologies selected for testing, LilyPond will launch on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission. The payloads will fly to space and experience several minutes of microgravity before returning to Earth, giving researchers valuable data about how their technologies perform.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket system lifts off from the company’s launchpad in West Texas in January 2019. (courtesy: Blue Origin)

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The microgravity LilyPond growth chamber uses capillary action to provide a stable water surface on which duckweed (and potentially other veggies, like microgreens) can grow. LED panels provide an efficient light source, and a salad spinner-like sieve helps separate the water from the plants when ready to harvest. (courtesy: Space Lab Technologies)

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Duckweed (also known as water lentils) produce a large amount of nutrients in a small volume – and the water they grow on can be recycled for the next crop. (courtesy: Space Lab Technologies)

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These photos show the progression of duckweed growth over four days in a ground-based lab. The plant growth doubled in area every 1.2 days, on average. This lab experiment was funded by a grant from Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). (courtesy: Jared J. Stewart/University of Colorado at Boulder)

“In space, we need crops that produce a lot of nutritious material with minimal resources and volume – and those that can grow very fast, tolerate environmental extremes, and of course taste good are even better,” said Christine Escobar, vice president of Space Lab and principal investigator for the microgravity LilyPond.

Looking at these parameters, Space Lab zeroed in on duckweed (also known as water lentils) – as their test crop. With its high protein content (up to 45%) and a rich supply of antioxidants, amino acids, and Omega-3s, the crunchy vegetable is sometimes called a superfood. Escobar said these rapidly growing plants are ideal for space because they do not require soil or another growing media – which means fewer materials, less mass, and less waste for resource-intensive space missions. But realizing the promise of such plants requires the right technology.

“The two biggest issues with growing a floating aquatic plant in space are providing a stable water surface that is open to the air, and harvesting the plant,” explained Escobar.

In the absence of gravity, getting water to stay where you put it can be a challenge. To address this issue, Space Lab began developing the microgravity LilyPond in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2017 with funding from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program. Closely stacked shallow growth trays provide a stable water surface on which the plant grows, with water delivered via open capillary channels and LED panels providing an efficient light source. When the plants are ready to eat, a rotary sieve separates them from the water, which can be recycled for the next crop.

“The more we explore, the more we discover that it pays to reuse, recycle, and regenerate consumable resources on board a spacecraft, rather than carrying them all with you and then throwing away the waste,” said Escobar.

Following the upcoming test flight, Space Lab will use video data to verify the performance of their growth chamber, and make any necessary design changes prior to proposing the technology for an orbital test on the space station.

“Suborbital flights facilitated by Flight Opportunities give us the ability to advance our technology at a much lower cost before we move on to that next step,” said Escobar.

Other Technologies Aboard New Shepard

LilyPond and seven other Flight Opportunities payloads will fly to space in New Shepard’s capsule, and another experiment integrated into the rocket booster will test a suite of NASA-developed precision lunar landing technologies. Part of NASA’s Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution (SPLICE) project, many of the innovations have also flown on previous Flight Opportunities-supported missions.

The other innovations being tested aim to provide important capabilities for future NASA missions, including:

  • Monitoring the suborbital environment: Researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) continue to evolve their environment monitoring suite to provide observations and measurements inside and in the vicinity of suborbital launch vehicles.
  • Improving thermal management for spacecraft: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researchers are advancing flow boiling in microgap coolers with embedded cooling to facilitate direct contact between a heat-generating device and coolant flow, which may reduce power requirements and improve temperature uniformity.
  • Using remote sensing for new science: Researchers at APL are maturing the Integrated Remote Imaging System (IRIS) to eventually operate in an external space environment, taking advantage of unique science opportunities this is expected to deliver.
  • Automating radiation measurements for aerospace safety: Researchers from Space Environment Technologies aim to capture the total ionizing dose (TID) from the surface of Earth to low-Earth orbit – a measurement that may inform mitigation strategies in order to protect those exposed to space-based radiation hazards.
  • Enabling regolith collection on small asteroids: Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) technologists are testing an anchoring and sampling device called Box of Rocks II. It aims to magnetically collect planetary surface soil known as regolith, on its petal-like surfaces. It could be used to conduct multiple sample collection maneuvers, reducing mission risk for primary spacecraft.
  • Improving the transfer and delivery of cryogenic fluids: SwRI’s large-scale liquid acquisition device for cryogenic fluid management addresses the need for improved cryogenic fluid management by employing a tapered channel that passively pumps out internally generated vapor bubbles. If successful, the device would substantially improve the efficiency and reliability of critical cryogenic transfer processes. ​
  • Imaging biological changes during gravity shifts: Researchers at University of Florida are working to refine a biological imaging system for suborbital and exploration science that enables autonomous, high-resolution image data collection for a variety of biological payloads during transitions in gravity levels. The technology is expected to give researchers new insights into how quickly and to what extent those shifts impact organisms on the cellular level.

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Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions launches industry’s highest density NAND flash memory module for space applications

Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions launches industrys highest density NAND flash

(21 October 2020 – Cobham) Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES) today announced the industry’s highest density NAND flash memory device for a range of demanding space applications.

The 4 terabit (Tb) triple-level cell (TLC), NAND Flash Memory Module delivers 32 times the density of the closest competing device while fitting into the same industry-standard 12mm x 18mm plastic-encapsulated microcircuit (PEM) package. With access to unparalleled storage capacity, designers can significantly increase sensor and digital signal processing in applications such as solid-state drives and recorders, reconfigurable computing systems, imaging and communications data buffering applications.

New CAES UT81NDQ512G8T delivers highest density NAND flash memory module for space applications (courtesy: Cobham)

“Our 4Tb NAND Flash Memory Module delivers an order of magnitude boost in memory density at lower power and without any increase in package size,” said Kevin Jackson, vice president, space systems, Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions. “This directly improves the performance and capability of spacecraft instruments, for example, by increasing the signal fidelity and resolution of satellite imaging equipment. At the same time, our tightly-controlled supply chain and extensive testing processes mean that designers no longer have to up-screen commercial flash memory solutions in the hope of finding radiation-tolerant components.”

The new module performs up to 667 mega-transfers per second (MT/s) and is compliant with both Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 4.0 and JEDEC NAND Flash Interoperability (JESD230C) specifications. While aerospace designers must screen commercial-grade NAND flash to estimate radiation tolerance and operational lifetime, the new CAES radiation-assured flash modules undergo extensive pre-testing. This includes Total Ionizing Dose (TID) and Single-Event Effects (SEE) characterization on a wafer lot-by-lot basis to ensure optimum radiation hardness. To maximize quality control across its manufacturing supply chain, CAES also applies Parts, Materials and Process (PMaP) failure-mode analysis to monitor for potential variations in the semiconductor fabrication process.

The UT81NDQ512G8T, 4Tb NAND flash module supports NV-DDR3 I/O (667 MT/s), NV-DDR2 I/O (533 MT/s), asynchronous I/O (50 MT/s) speeds and TLC endurance of 3,000 program/erase cycles. The module operates across +2.7 – +3.6V input and +1.14 – +1.26V or +1.7 – +1.95V output voltage ranges and specified to a temperature range of -40°C to +85°C. The 132-ball BGA module is available now in engineering units, with flight models to be released in the second quarter of 2021.

CAES also provides other technologies for commercial, civil, military, and other government spacecraft. With a space pedigree spanning nearly 40 years, CAES offers a full range of solutions for the world’s leading launch vehicles, satellites and space exploration missions. Key capabilities include radiation hardened and high reliability microelectronics, application specific integrated circuits (ASIC), electronic manufacturing services, motion control and positioning, antennas and apertures, radiation effects testing, RF, microwave and millimeter wave microelectronics, motion control devices, power solutions, intellectual property cores, avionic solutions and LEON/SPARC processors.

About Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions

Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions is the largest provider of analog and radiation hardened technology for the United States aerospace and defense industry. With a broad portfolio of off-the-shelf and customized RF, microwave and high reliability microelectronic products and subsystems, CAES offers a complete range of solutions for the entire signal chain from aperture to digital conversion.

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Ovzon introduces Ovzon T6, a new portable satellite terminal

Ovzon introduces Ovzon T6 a new portable satellite terminal

(23 October 2020 – Ovzon) The new Ovzon T6 terminal is based on Ovzon’s satellite terminal expertise and includes new ground-breaking antenna technology, featuring automatic polarization adjustment.

The terminal is lighter and smaller than the present industry standard, Ovzon T5, thus pushing mobility further.

Ovzon’s T6 terminal (courtesy: Ovzon)

With 50 Mbps transmit and receive capabilities in a laptop sized format the new Ovzon T6 is the world smallest and lightest terminal with such performance, with the Ovzon T5 as a close second. The all-in-one rugged design, fully integrated, is compact without sacrificing performance. The weight is only 6 kg and the form factor makes it very easy to hand carry.

The patented Ovzon antenna with its electrical polarization removes the need for third axis mechanical polarization adjustment truly making it is as easy to use as an L-band terminal.

The intuitive graphical interface gives the user complete control through the built-in display or with any smartphone, tablet or laptop.

The terminal, that is IP 67 protected, is designed for use in extreme weather conditions, thus meeting the most demanding user needs.

”The Ovzon T6 is a giant leap forward compared with its successful predecessor, the industry standard Ovzon T5, developed and introduced in 2014. We are excited to bring this new Ovzon T6 terminal to the market as we approach the launch of our own satellite, Ovzon 3, at the end of 2021. New, capable terminals are important to further enhance our coming service and offering on Ovzon 3”, says Magnus René, CEO of Ovzon.

Ovzon is revolutionizing mobile broadband via satellite providing global coverage with the highest bandwidth through the smallest terminals. Founded in 2006, Ovzon develops end-to-end solutions meeting the growing demand of mobile broadband connectivity for customers with high performance requirements.

Ovzon’s combination of advanced proprietary satellite technology and unique ultra-small terminals answers the needs for mobile users to connect anywhere and transmit large amounts of data. Customers include Government, Defense, Media, Maritime, Aviation and NGOs using highly mobile platforms. Our dedicated and experienced team ensures a premium service for our demanding global customers.

The company has offices in Stockholm in Sweden and Bethesda (MD) and Tampa (FL) in the United States. Ovzon is publicly listed on Nasdaq First North Growth Market

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SPAINSAT NG programme successfully passes Preliminary Design Review (PDR)

SPAINSAT NG programme successfully passes Preliminary Design Review PDR

(22 October 2020 – Thales) The SPAINSAT NG programme, owned and operated by Hisdesat, has successfully passed the preliminary design review (PDR) of the payloads and the full satellite, including PDR of Pacis 3 elements.

SPAINSAT NG is being manufactured by a consortium of four co-primes from Airbus in Spain and France, and Thales Alenia Space in Spain and France.

(courtesy: Hisdesat)

This important milestone confirms the soundness of the preliminary design and technical capabilities of the SPAINSAT NG satellite system.

It was achieved in the expected timeframe despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 health crisis, thanks to the commitment of all project teams who have continued to work at full capacity, combining remote work with face-to-face activity in the workplace.

“Successfully passing the satellite and payloads PDR, including Pacis 3, in the planned schedule shows the outstanding commitment and performances of all the teams working in this challenging program. I really much appreciate the efforts of anyone, from our main end customer and partner in the SPAINSAT NG PPP the Spanish Ministry of Defense and the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism as lender of the program, till CDTI, ESA, Hisdesat, Airbus DS, Thales Alenia Space and the rest of the industry working in the program”, said Miguel A. García Primo, Hisdesat CEO.

The SPAINSAT NG programme comprises two satellites, SPAINSAT NG I and II which will be situated in different geostationary positions to operate in X, military Ka and UHF bands.

The communication payloads of both satellites are provided by Spanish industry, including integration of the Communications Module in Spain, a major step forward for Spanish industry. Airbus in Spain is responsible for the X band payload, while Thales Alenia Space in Spain is responsible for the UHF and Ka band payloads. Other companies from Spanish space industry are also involved. The UHF payload is a new development in Spain, positioning the country at the forefront of the few countries in the world with national systems in the military UHF band.

The satellites are based on the Eurostar Neo platform, Airbus’ new geostationary telecommunications satellite product, a significant evolution of the highly reliable and successful Eurostar series with an entire range of major innovations. SPAINSAT NG includes an X band fully flexible payload, employing active antennas with in orbit reconfiguration capability, an onboarddigital processor that will interconnect the X and Ka band payloads for cross-banding, and a dedicated high speed service link enabling fast re-configuration.

“The successful PDR is an important milestone for the development of the SPAINSAT NG programme, which is on-track and on-schedule thanks to the huge professionalism and commitment of the project team,” said Eduardo Bellido, CEO of Thales Alenia Space in Spain. “For the first time we lead in Spain the development and integration of the payloads for a programme like SPAINSAT NG, which positions us at the forefront of space technology with the capacity to integrate large space systems. This will allow us to take the lead of new payloads and instruments in future missions.”

“Spain has always been at the centre of Airbus’ space activities. This milestone represents an extraordinary achievement as it clearly validates we have succeeded in further developing our expertise and capabilities on new technologies,” said Fernando Varela, Head of Airbus Space in Spain. “We are now ready for the next stage and on track with the integration of the communication modules in our clean rooms.”

The development of SPAINSAT NG is supported by the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) in the framework of a Partnership Project (PP) between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the satellite operator Hisdesat, called Pacis 3.

ESA Partnership Project supports the development and integration of innovative satellite payload elements, such as the reconfigurable transmit and receive X-band active antennas, and the deployable pallet with individually steerable Ka-band antennas. The Partnership Project will de-risk the partner’s investments to answer market needs through the development of sustainable end-to-end system up to in-orbit validation. It will also demonstrate novel pooling and sharing concepts to ultimately provide more affordable, flexible and secure communications services for governmental users in Europe.

“The Pacis 3 Partnership Project with Hisdesat is an important step within the Govsatcom Precursor project, part of ESA’s Space Systems for Safety and Security Program” stated Elodie Viau, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications. “Pacis 3 shows how the European space industry can respond to a globally emerging market of secure satellite communications. Partnership Projects, provide an effective and collaborative environment to introduce innovative systems and services, up to in-orbit validation.”

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(courtesy: Thales Alenis Space)

New AIT facility

The construction of a new clean room in Thales Alenia Space site in Madrid is progressing on-schedule to be ready for the SPAINSAT NG payload assembly, integration and test activities. This unique, cutting-edge facility in Spain will add more than 600 m2 clean area to the existing 2000 m2. With a free height of 12.5 meters in the inside, the facility is equipped with bridge cranes with lifting capacity up to 12 tons each, prepared for the integration of payloads and instruments of large dimensions for all type of space missions, spanning telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation and science.

The first of these New Generation SPAINSAT satellites will be launched at the end of 2023 and the second one a year later, guaranteeing the continuity of secure communications services.

The SPAINSAT NG satellites will have an operational lifetime of 15 years, remaining in service up to 2039.

About Airbus

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2019, it generated revenues of € 70 billion and employed a workforce of around 135,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

About Hisdesat

Hisdesat was born in 2001 as an operator of satellite government services to act fundamentally in the areas of defense, security, intelligence and external services. Since 2005, the company provides secure satellite communications services to government agencies in different countries and since September 2018, it provides Earth observation services with radar technology through the PAZ satellite, successfully launched on February 22nd. At present, the company is developing new constellations of maritime Satellite Traffic Information Satellites (AIS).

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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