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(30 September 2020 – DLR) The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission will have a German-French rover on board when it is launched in 2024.

The rover will land on the Martian moon Phobos and explore its surface for approximately three months. Initial landing tests are currently underway at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Landing and Mobility Test Facility (Lande- und Mobilitätstest Anlage; LAMA) in Bremen. Using a first preliminary development model, the engineers are determining how robust the design of the approximately 25-kilogram rover must be to withstand an impact on the moon’s surface after a free fall of about 40 to 100 metres.

Preparations for a drop test (courtesy: DLR)

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Assembly of the preliminary MMX Rover model (courtesy: DLR)

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Drop tests in the DLR Land­ing and Mobility Test Facility (courtesy: DLR)

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Model of the MMX Rover undergoing vibration tests (courtesy: DLR)

“Under laboratory conditions, we drop the preliminary model of the MMX Rover from a height of five centimetres onto a changeable surface at various angles,” explains Test Manager Michael Lange from the DLR Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems. “In this way, since Phobos has only approximately two thousandths of Earth’s gravity at its surface, we can simulate the intensity of the impact for the rover structure.” A particular challenge is that the free-falling rover could arrive at the surface in any orientation, possibly also hitting a rock. “To simulate this situation, we are using two hemispheres with diameters of two and nine centimetres that are positioned in a bed of sand, in addition to a flat plate,” says Michael Wrasmann from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. “The exact location of the landing on the surface of Phobos is a matter of chance and we are using these analyses to prepare for the various possible scenarios.”

Cores made of aluminium honeycomb

The preliminary test model in the laboratory already resembles the final MMX Rover, with two mounted wheels and two dummy wheels and a mechanical safety system for launch and landing . It is being used to detect and address potential structural weaknesses in as much detail as possible. The rover’s 47.5-centimetre by 55-centimetre by 27.5-centimetre housing is a lightweight construction comprising precisely stiffened sandwich components with outer layers made of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP) and cores made of aluminium honeycomb. In addition to the laboratory tests, extensive computer simulations are also being carried out to cover a wide range of other landing situations. In order to improve the accuracy of the mechanical simulation model, tests on the vibration behaviour of the rover structure are also being carried out as part of the campaign. The findings of the experiments will help the researchers to define the design of the MMX Rover in more detail. “In 2021, we plan to test a significantly more representative structural model equipped with all the components of the motion system. This consists of four wheels attached to movable legs and a foldable mechanism at the rear of the rover. If the rover lands on its side, this mechanism will bring it into a position where it can autonomously move into the final driving orientation and deploy its solar panels,” explains DLRs overall Project Manager for the MMX Rover, Markus Grebenstein from DLR’s Robotics and Mechatronics Center (RMC) in Oberpfaffenhofen.

In addition to the structural stresses caused by the landing, the rover will be exposed to extreme environmental conditions. Phobos heats up from -150 to +50 degrees Celsius within a day-night cycle that lasts just over seven hours. The interior of the rover must be actively maintained at a comparatively constant temperature to ensure the quality of the scientific measurements. “For this reason, extensive tests of the temperature behaviour of the rover will also be carried out in 2021 using a thermal model,” Grebenstein continues.

The launch of the rover with the JAXA Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission is scheduled for 2024, with insertion into Mars orbit in 2025. The mission’s targets are the two moons Phobos and Deimos, which might be asteroids captured by the Red Planet or may have formed as a result of the collision of a larger body with Mars. The formation mechanism of the Mars, Phobos and Deimos system is one of the keys to a better understanding of planet formation in the Solar System. The landing of the MMX rover as part of the mission is planned for late 2026 or early 2027. It will spend approximately 100 days analysing the surface properties of the Martian moon in detail and thus contribute to solving the scientific puzzle concerning its origin.

Cooperation in partnership

The German-French MMX Rover is being designed and built under the joint management of DLR and CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales). DLR is responsible for the development of the rover structure and the entire locomotion system, which also contributes to the reorientation and enables uprighting, as well as two instruments, a Raman spectrometer and a radiometer, each measuring the composition and properties of the surface. CNES is responsible for the camera systems for spatial orientation and exploration on the surface and for the investigation of mechanical soil properties, as well as development of the central service module including the rover’s on-board computer and the power and communication system. After landing, the rover will be operated by control centres at DLR and CNES.

The MMX mission continues the many years of successful collaboration between the partners JAXA, DLR and CNES. It is following in the footsteps its successful predecessor mission, Hayabusa2, in which JAXA sent a spacecraft to the asteroid Ryugu with the German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander on board. On 3 October 2018 MASCOT sent spectacular images back to Earth showing a landscape with large amounts of debris and rocks, but almost no dust – which scientists had expected to find on Ryugu. Hayabusa2 collected samples from Ryugu and is currently bringing them back to Earth. The asteroid samples are contained in a capsule that is scheduled to land in Australia on 6 December 2020 and will then be examined in the laboratory.

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Globalsat Group successfully tests Iridium Edge Pro

Globalsat Group successfully tests Iridium Edge Pro

(28 October 2020 – Globalsat Group) The Pan-American consortium Globalsat Group, with a multi-country presence throughout the Americas, has been taking part in the successful “beta” tests of the Iridium Edge Pro, the new ultra-compact terminal for Iridium’s SBD service, with on board programmatic capabilities, satellite location signal receiver and various interfaces.

Iridium EDGE Pro Beta Test by Globalsat Group (courtesy: Globalstar Group)

The combination of CANbus and traditional Modbus enhances the flexibility of this satellite IoT device. Iridium partners can also take advantage of the BLE connectivity of Iridium Edge Pro by creating sophisticated solutions which incorporate wireless sensors that collect vital information and deliver it in real time.

By having a built-in GNSS reception module (GPS and other navigation and time systems), it allows resource tracking anywhere in the world, reporting positions and conditions through the Iridium constellation, thus being an extremely easy device to install and link to the resources which need to be monitored or controlled.

Globalsat Group has been able to verify that the multiple functionalities incorporated into this highly adaptive terminal allow it to be part of solutions that will optimize the logistics of operations of any scale, by facilitating very cost-effective and robust and real time data collection, transmission and even decision-making, both autonomous and remote. This can provide huge savings and significant risk reduction for customers, in areas such as:

  • Vessel and fishing monitoring
  • Mission critical electrical component management
  • Long-haul vehicle telematics and fleet management
  • Refrigerated container monitoring
  • Heavy equipment and construction machinery

Marcelo Sturmann, Product Manager of Globalsat Group, commented that “thanks to the opportunity that Iridium offered us, we have managed to understand how the new Iridium Edge Pro device can provide us with new opportunities in markets such as fishing and oil & gas, thanks to the simplicity in its configuration and the characteristics of its interfaces.” Sturmann adds that these qualities “combined with the diversity of resources that the Iridium low orbit constellation offers us and the compatibility with Amazon Web Services through the Iridium CloudConnect service, position Iridium Edge Pro as a product ready to become a success in the M2M and Industrial IoT ecosystem.”

Globalsat Group, in its capacity as a developer of value-added solutions and beta tester of the new device, is testing different applications for several markets, preparing training and live demonstrations for partners and customers in the region.

The consortium, with an extensive presence throughout the Western Hemisphere and the main actor in the MSS (Mobile Satellite Service or Mobile Satellite Service) field in many countries, carries out turnkey projects and also collaborates with other companies which require critical communication systems for sectors such as transport, energy, emergency management, resource monitoring, environment and others. This will facilitate the access of various markets to this technology and the added value necessary for its optimal implementation.

“With Iridium Edge Pro we now have a trio of out-of-the-box asset management products that serve a wide range of customer needs and applications,” said Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Iridium. “As a programmable device with features like BLE connectivity, Java programming and CANbus protocol integration, we have created a smarter, more innovative and developer-friendly device than anything in the market today. Add in our truly global coverage with real-time two-way communications, and it’s clear a new standard has been set for the industry.”

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Gilat successfully demonstrates carrying 5G traffic with over Thaicom’s GEO HTS satellite

Gilat successfully demonstrates carrying 5G traffic with over Thaicoms GEO

(29 October 2020 – Gilat) Gilat Satellite Networks announced today that it successfully demonstrated carrying 5G traffic with outstanding performance over Thaicom’s GEO HTS satellite.

With this successful demonstration, Gilat’s cellular backhaul solution is declared operational and ready for implementation in the 5G architecture.

Superior user experience was recorded using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS VSAT in the live demonstrations last month with two MNOs over Thaicom’s IPSTAR GEO satellite. Using a 5G handset, a large number of applications including: Browsing, Speedtest, Youtube 4K, VoLTE, ViLTE, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and even communication with a drone providing a live video stream, were tested with excellent results.

The tests were done with a number of 5G architecture options, including Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA), using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS with adaptation of its patented GTP acceleration, reaching speeds of 400 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload and at times showing results better than the terrestrial connection.

“We are excited with the results of the close work with our partners in demonstrating the extraordinary capabilities of our flagship VSAT, Capricorn PLUS. We believe that these recorded results of 400/100 Mbps to/from the 5G handset are unique in the industry,” said Alik Shimelmits, Chief Technology and Product Officer at Gilat. “This was successfully demonstrated using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS over Thaicom’s GEO satellite and MNOs are invited to go ahead and deploy Gilat’s solution for their 5G services.”

“I am very pleased that Thaicom and Gilat have jointly achieved such a significant milestone, further proving the strategic long-term relationship between the companies,” said Abhay Kumar, Regional Vice President Asia Pacific and Japan for Gilat. “This strong partnership went a long way in allowing us to demonstrate these remarkable 5G capabilities and positions us well to deliver value to MNOs as they embark on their journey to deliver differentiated 5G services to the people around the world.”

“Thaicom has deployed Gilat’s multi-service platform across many MNOs over the years. Gilat has been a very strong partner for Thaicom and we highly value this relationship,” said Nile Suwansiri, CCO Thaicom. “This demonstration of 5G capabilities in Thailand will enable us to deliver very strong services with our HTS IPSTAR satellite to address the MNOs satellite-based 5G requirements.”

About Thaicom

Thaicom is a leading Asian satellite operator and end-to-end service provider of satellite enabled communications since 1991. With nearly 30 years of experience in providing cost-effective satellite communications and a presence in 10 countries in Asia-Pacific, Thaicom is a partner of choice for many of the region’s leading broadcasters, telecom operators, and government customers. Thaicom’s video and data platforms offer a portfolio of integrated satellite communications that fuel the demand of these customers to connect and grow their markets in the digital era. Thaicom is a true innovator and satellite industry pioneer: with IPSTAR, Thaicom was the first operator in the world to develop and launch a High Throughput Satellite (HTS). Thaicom currently operates a fleet of four high performance satellites covering Asia, Oceania, and Africa.

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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Impact craters reveal details of Titan’s dynamic surface weathering

Impact craters reveal details of Titans dynamic surface weathering

(29 October 2020 – JPL) Scientists have used data from NASA’s Cassini mission to delve into the impact craters on the surface of Titan, revealing more detail than ever before about how the craters evolve and how weather drives changes on the surface of Saturn’s mammoth moon.

Like Earth, Titan has a thick atmosphere that acts as a protective shield from meteoroids; meanwhile, erosion and other geologic processes efficiently erase craters made by meteoroids that do reach the surface. The result is far fewer impacts and craters than on other moons. Even so, because impacts stir up what lies beneath and expose it, Titan’s impact craters reveal a lot.

This composite image shows an infrared view of Saturn’s moon Titan from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, captured in 2015. Several places on the image, visible through the moon’s hazy atmosphere, show more detail because those areas were acquired near closest approach. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho (courtesy: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)

The new examination showed that they can be split into two categories: those in the fields of dunes around Titan’s equator and those in the vast plains at midlatitudes (between the equatorial zone and the poles). Their location and their makeup are connected: The craters among the dunes at the equator consist completely of organic material, while craters in the midlatitude plains are a mix of organic materials, water ice, and a small amount of methane-like ice.

From there, scientists took the connections a step further and found that craters actually evolve differently, depending on where they lie on Titan.

Some of the new results reinforce what scientists knew about the craters – that the mixture of organic material and water ice is created by the heat of impact, and those surfaces are then washed by methane rain. But while researchers found that cleaning process happening in the midlatitude plains, they discovered that it’s not happening in the equatorial region; instead, those impact areas are quickly covered by a thin layer of sand sediment.

That means Titan’s atmosphere and weather aren’t just shaping the surface of Titan; they’re also driving a physical process that affects which materials remain exposed at the surface, the authors found.

“The most exciting part of our results is that we found evidence of Titan’s dynamic surface hidden in the craters, which has allowed us to infer one of the most complete stories of Titan’s surface evolution scenario to date,” said Anezina Solomonidou, a research fellow at ESA (European Space Agency) and the lead author of the new study. “Our analysis offers more evidence that Titan remains a dynamic world in the present day.”

Unveiling Secrets

The new work, published recently in Astronomy & Astrophysics, used data from visible and infrared instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft, which operated between 2004 and 2017 and conducted more than 120 flybys of the Mercury-size moon.

“Locations and latitudes seem to unveil many of Titan’s secrets, showing us that the surface is actively connected with atmospheric processes and possibly with internal ones,” Solomonidou said.

Scientists are eager to learn more about Titan’s potential for astrobiology, which is the study of the origins and evolution of life in the universe. Titan is an ocean world, with a sea of water and ammonia under its crust. And as scientists look for pathways for organic material to travel from the surface to the ocean underneath, impact craters offer a unique window into the subsurface.

The new research also found that one impact site, called Selk Crater, is completely covered with organics and untouched by the rain process that cleans the surface of other craters. Selk is in fact a target of NASA’s Dragonfly mission, set to launch in 2027; the rotorcraft-lander will investigate key astrobiology questions as it searches for biologically important chemistry similar to early Earth before life emerged.

NASA got its first close-up encounter with Titan some 40 years ago, on Nov. 12, 1980, when the agency’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by at a range of just 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers). Voyager images showed a thick, opaque atmosphere, and data revealed that liquid might be present on the surface (it was – in the form of liquid methane and ethane), and indicated that prebiotic chemical reactions might be possible on Titan.

Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Cassini was an orbiter that observed Saturn for more than 13 years before exhausting its fuel supply. The mission plunged it into the planet’s atmosphere in September 2017, in part to protect moons that have the potential of holding conditions suitable for life.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA, and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed, and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

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